It's worth remembering that Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf hired Brad Childress in January of 2006 after the embarrassment of the "Love Boat" scandal; the biggest black eye in the history of a franchise dating back to 1961. The former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator increased the team's win totals by two every year from 2006 through 2009, and came very close to a Super Bowl near the end of the 2009 season. The team's current 3-5 record is a disappointment, but under normal circumstances, a coach with a short-term downturn would not be embroiled in controversy, or reportedly very near to the termination of his contract -- especially when that contract was extended through the 2013 season just last November.
As we're already well aware, Brad Childress does not live under normal circumstances. He and Brett Favre(notes), his Hall of Fame quarterback, have been squabbling back and forth for the better part of two seasons. The coach's dictatorial and contradictory nature has driven many of his players to distraction, and most in the know believe that if the Vikings hadn't pulled out a huge comeback win against the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday, Childress would already be gone; riding out on the Wade Phillips Express.
The real source and level of that invective from players to coach was laid bare by Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times in a Wednesday story. After the win over Arizona, several Vikings players made their feelings very clear on the condition of anonymity. Childress' penchant for publicly rebuking his own players and openly questioning the efforts of those players in various practices (which recently led to a near-dustup between Childress and receiver Percy Harvin(notes)) has led to a situation in which, as one player told Jensen, "We know that Childress doesn't have our backs, so why should we have his? We're playing for us, and we're winning despite him.''
The indictment from one team source that Childress "has absolutely no people skills" became clear in the opinion of another unnamed player, who said that "as much as I hate Childress, I will keep playing.''
That's an important distinction -- coaches like Vince Lombardi, Bill Parcells and Tom Coughlin have been able to balance a no-nonsense approach with the kind of schematic and motivational brilliance which always made it very clear that the object of that attitude was to produce winning teams with absolutely no compromise. In Childress' case, it seems that his players believe the act is purely for the coach's benefit.
Perhaps most damning to Childress' future was the comment made by one player about Vikings' defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier: "Guys trust him. He's going to treat you a certain way. He doesn't single people out.''
In the week before the Cardinals game, when Wilf was already furious about Childress' decision to release receiver Randy Moss(notes) without the owner's knowledge or consent, Wilf performed an informal audit of his team by talking to many people in the inner circle, including coaches and players.
If this was how the players felt after a win, one wonders what they said to Wilf when the team was 2-5. Perhaps the players have been put in the torturous position of knowing that if they continue winning, the coach they appear to hate will stay in his position, and the one they respect will be denied the opportunity they want him to have. And if the Vikings' players are torn between trying and not trying under those circumstances, Childress should be fired immediately.
If the picture is as bad as Jensen's story paints it -- and Jensen covered the Vikings for years before moving his beat to the Windy City -- it's a weird miracle that Childress has managed to hold on this long.