Desperate act may just work out for Vikings
So let me get this straight: A coach who is feuding with a legendary quarterback and is dangerously close to losing his locker room just got dealt a star wideout who plays when he wants to play, sulks when he doesn’t get the football and once ran roughshod over the coach’s predecessor?
Or, as one Minnesota Vikings player put it after learning that Randy Moss(notes) had been acquired Wednesday morning from the New England Patriots for a third-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft: “You think Chilly picks him up at the airport?”
That, of course, was a joke: Vikings coach Brad Childress may have given Brett Favre(notes) the limo-driver treatment the summer before last, when the newly signed quarterback arrived for the final 12 seconds of training camp, but those days are long gone.
Locker-room sources say the frost between Childress and Favre is palpable right now, a bad situation obviously exacerbated by the Vikings’ disappointing 1-2 start. The surprising trade that brings Moss back to Minneapolis, on the heels of a failed attempt to land disgruntled San Diego Chargers wideout Vincent Jackson(notes), is a last-ditch effort to salvage an increasingly volatile situation – one which could take down virtually all of the leading figures if things break the wrong way.
Oddly enough, I kind of love the move. Though I can see disaster unfolding the way you can 10 minutes into a bad action thriller, another part of me believes it’s just crazy enough to work.
As the previously quoted Vikings player added: “I think it’s all or nothing. It’s either the missing piece and we go all the way, or Moss takes on Chilly and this thing blows up by the end of October. There’s no C grade on this one. It’ll either be an A or an F.”
[Shutdown Corner: The 10 most memorable Randy Moss moments with the Vikings]
I completely agree. And I swear I was about to write that (albeit in slightly more flowery fashion, if only to justify my existence) before he summed it up so swimmingly.
Either way, it’s a smart move by Zygi Wilf. The Vikings owner is already all-in on the 2010 season, from the extra $7 million he gave Favre after the quarterback flinched slightly before making his second annual post-training-camp pilgrimage, to the desperate push for a new stadium he’s hoping to commence next spring.
This will almost certainly be Favre’s last year (yeah, I know, we’ve heard that before), and his top wideout from last season, Sidney Rice(notes), is on the Physically Unable to Perform list after undergoing hip surgery before the season. Though Rice is eligible to return a few weeks from now, he may not make it back at all in 2010.
Rice is one of many Vikings looking to get paid after this season, and some of them won’t be accommodated. As Childress pointed out so eloquently in a short and strange team meeting two weeks ago, many Vikings players won’t be with the team in 2011 – so they’d better have an urgency to win now.
The Vikings’ passing game, which looked so potent last season as Favre was leading the team within a field goal of the Super Bowl, has struggled perceptibly with Rice out and second-year speedster Percy Harvin(notes) battling hip and migraine issues. Favre, who has expressed dissatisfaction with soon-to-be demoted starter (and, before Moss, designated deep threat) Bernard Berrian(notes), was privately upset by the team’s decision to release newly signed Javon Walker(notes), his ex-Packers teammate, in early September. Some in the organization viewed the move as Childress pushing back at Favre.
The growing tension between Favre and Childress, and the sense that the quarterback doesn’t have much respect for the coach as an offensive strategist, has been well-documented since last season – most thoroughly by Y! Sports’ Jason Cole in August. The aforementioned team sources say things have remained strained in recent weeks, with Childress questioning Favre for having altered some plays at the line of scrimmage and questioning his commitment to the team.
Before the Vikings scored their first victory of the season two Sundays ago against the Lions, the previously quoted source says, the two men went nearly a week without speaking. This is a war that, in my opinion, Childress does not want to wage. Yes, he got a contract extension last season, mostly on the strength of Favre’s brilliance. No, he’s not viewed as indispensable by ownership – especially if things degenerate rapidly over the next few months.
Now, be it through the grace of Wilf’s chutzpah or Childress’ own sense of self-preservation, Favre has been handed the most potent deep threat of this era, or perhaps any era. Beginning with his suddenly scintillating return to New Jersey to face the Jets next Monday night, Favre will be throwing to Moss, a player he unsuccessfully lobbied the Packers to acquire before it all blew up for him in Green Bay.
When Moss – after a pathetically disengaged stint with the Oakland Raiders – was shipped to New England before the ’07 season, I foresaw disaster and wasn’t shy about sharing this view. I was wrong, at least in the short term: Moss swallowed his inner diva and set an NFL record with 23 touchdown receptions in 2007 as the Pats went 16-0 and reached the Super Bowl, then re-signed with the team after the season and didn’t become a true pain in the butt until 2009, his third year in a Pats uniform.
I’m guessing Moss, whose contract is up after the season and who wants to get paid, will be on his best behavior upon his return to Minnesota and will help revitalize a struggling offense. He’s not going to get coddled the way he was when Mike Tice was the Vikings’ head coach, but as long as Childress doesn’t go out of his way to antagonize Moss, the two might be able to coexist.
All of that presumes that the Vikings will throw downfield to Moss early and often (count on it) and that the team will get its mojo back and contend for a championship (this is much trickier). If all of that happens, this trade will have been a bold and shrewd move by an owner trying to salvage what’s left of an unlikely alliance with a former Packers legend.
And if things turn ugly? Well, let’s just say Favre, Moss and Childress will all be departing for the airport in separate vehicles as they make their respective trips out of town.
As you ponder which outcome is more likely, here’s our weekly, query-laced trip through the NFL landscape, beginning with a new team at the top:
1. Baltimore Ravens: Was it just me, or are there others of you out there who just knew Ray Lewis(notes) would end up with the ball in his hands after T.J. Houshmandzadeh(notes) scored that game-winning touchdown in Pittsburgh?
2. Pittsburgh Steelers: When Ben Roethlisberger(notes) described himself as the Steelers’ “biggest supporter” during his four-game suspension, how many people in Pittsburgh wanted to put “athletic” between the two words?
6. New England Patriots: Is Bill Belichick so smart that instead of showcasing Randy Moss on Monday night, he somehow found a way to jack up the receiver’s trade value by ignoring him?
7. Green Bay Packers: Hey, Ted Thompson – did you really think a fourth-round pick, and a conditional sixth-rounder, were too much to give up for Marshawn Lynch(notes), or are you just convinced your rushing attack is that awesome?
13. Dallas Cowboys: Given that 10 other backs from the 2008 draft class have gained more yards than Felix Jones, is it fair to assume the Cowboys would like to have a do-over on that 22nd overall pick?
18. Minnesota Vikings: Are they feeling Randy, baby?
19. San Diego Chargers: If a team has the league’s No. 1 offense and defense four games into the season, how much does it have to screw up to go 2-2?
23. Detroit Lions: After the Lions closed to within two points of the Packers on Sunday, and coach Jim Schwartz passed up a 54-yard field-goal attempt, how disheartening was it watching Detroit’s defense allow Green Bay to kill the last 6½ minutes?
28. Arizona Cardinals: When Kurt Warner(notes) shows up at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday, will he find Ken Whisenhunt, a uniform and a giant suitcase full of unmarked bills waiting for him in the Fox broadcast booth?
29. San Francisco 49ers: How hard is Mike Singletary rooting for the Giants to win the World Series?
30. Oakland Raiders: To celebrate the release of “Badasses,” a book which chronicles the Raiders’ glory days of the ’70s, should author Peter Richmond pitch a 21st century sequel entitled “Badlosses”?