Vikings coach loses cred in locker room
Even as Minnesota coach Brad Childress was getting what he desperately wanted, he couldn't help but further undermine himself in the eyes of his players.
On Tuesday, as Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson(notes), defensive end Jared Allen(notes) and kicker Ryan Longwell(notes) were flying back and forth between Minnesota and Mississippi to bring quarterback Brett Favre(notes) back for another season, Childress tried to cover up a fact that was widely reported. Childress, who wasn't scheduled to talk to media Tuesday, had special teams coach Brian Murphy and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell tell reporters that the three players were actually at the team facility rather than aboard a private jet.
Murphy went so far as to say that Longwell was kicking inside the team's indoor facility. "We were kicking inside," Murphy said. When asked directly if Longwell was at practice, Murphy said: "He was here, he was around."
Bevell couldn't quite go along with the charade, pushing the explanation on Childress.
[Photos: See Favre in action at Vikings camp]
"I came out here and [Childress] told me he had the other guys inside," Bevell said, referring to the three players. "They were in the building. I came out to practice, Coach said they were inside."
That little bit of misdirection didn't get much attention, but it raised a lot of eyebrows inside the Vikings' locker room.
"Chilly can't even tell the truth about that," the player said. "I mean, how ridiculous is that? What's the big deal that he has to lie? Worse, he has to tell other guys to lie for him?"
In short, even as Minnesota's best hope to win a Super Bowl this season was rejoining the team, Childress was losing more ground with his team in the battle for respect. One of the biggest issues playing out behind the scenes in Minnesota is that many players, particularly on offense, have no respect for Childress. Among those players is Favre, who officially returned to the team Wednesday. According to multiple team sources, Favre's disdain for Childress is deep.
"Brett thinks Childress has no clue about offense," a Vikings player said.
Childress' presence, not Favre's ankle injury, was one of the biggest reasons Favre was hesitating about playing again, sources said. In early July, Favre had indicated to one player that he was likely to play. However, after Childress visited Favre on July 19, Favre's desire to return declined.
"Brett just doesn't trust him," a player said.
Both Childress and Favre declined to address the issue Wednesday, but the problems run deeper than events from last season. It goes beyond the incident in the Dec. 20 game against Carolina when Favre refused to come out of an eventual loss when Childress wanted to pull him. It's beyond the Nov. 15 win against Detroit when Childress got angry with a play Favre changed in the second half.
[Related: The seven most revealing quotes from Favre's press conference]
One of the biggest problems in this situation is that Childress is allowed to run free within the organization. Because owner Zygi Wilf and team president Mark Wilf both live in New York, Childress doesn't have to answer to anyone on a day-to-day basis. In the power structure between Childress, vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman and vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski, Childress has the final say. He has taken that final say to mean that he can basically act as he pleases.
The heart of the conflict is Childress' perceived lack of football savvy. Some players believe that most of the offensive coaching staff is made up of yes-men like Bevell. Furthermore, Childress is the type who doesn't take outside ideas very well.
"He has his way of doing things and that's it," a player said.
This season, Childress almost didn't get Favre as a result.