The Pro Football Notebook

November 2, 2010 5:58 AM

What Is Childress Thinking?

WhatIsBradChildressThinking.jpgI like Brad Childress. His name became familiar to me in the early 1990s, when he as offensive coordinator of the Wisconsin Badgers' 1993 Rose Bowl winner. A native Wisconsinite, I'm convinced that participation on that team merits a pardon from pretty much any crimes committed before or after. When Childress got the Minnesota Vikings' head coaching job I liked what he did--the Vikes at that time were putting more players on the police blotter and the gossip columns than they were in the Pro Bowl and Childress made a commitment to rebuilding with character. His first step was to ship Randy Moss out of town and by 2008 he had a division championship team. This year he brings Moss back. Now, after a bizarre postgame press conference Sunday, in which Moss sung the praises of the Patriots and criticized his current coaches, Childress put him on waivers. What is the coach thinking?

Make no mistake about it--Moss' news conference was completely unprofessional, uncalled for and really inexcusable. But that's Randy Moss. I have no idea what he's like behind the scenes, but this sort of public behavior has long been his staple. It was one of the reasons Childress got rid of him in the first place. Moss comes with a package--if you want his extraordinary big-play capability, you have to put up with the nonsense.

The handling of Moss is similar to the head coach's latest public dustup with Brett Favre. In a loss at Green Bay the Sunday before last, Favre threw three interceptions--one of them a completely inexplicable throw to a defensive lineman when Favre was on the run, trying to avoid pressure and make a play. The ball was taken back for a touchdown and the Vikings lost 28-24.

Make no mistake about it--Favre's throw was completely ill-advised and dumb. But that's Brett Favre. I'm a Favre fan, and there are a lot of great words I would use to describe him. "Disciplined" or "high-percentage" will never be one of them. If Childress wants a quarterback who plays it safe and doesn't make mistakes, you don't go get Brett Favre. He comes with a package--if you want his extraordinary big-play capability you have to put up with some foolish decision-making along the way.

All of this leaves one concerned with Childress' grip on the consequences of his decisions--an understanding of which is an essential element of leadership. There's nothing wrong with a coach wanting high-character guys off the field who don't make mistakes on it. Indeed, there's something appealing about it. But you can't get players who contradict that philosophy and think you're going to mold them into your image. Not high-profile veterans anyway. Childress seems to think he can have his cake and eat it too. He's acting like a man who's hit the panic button. I've written here before that the way the schedule flows, the Vikings have a realistic chance of getting back in the race--win at Chicago this week and home against Green Bay the following week and they're up to 4-5, a game out in the North and right in the middle of the wild-card race. But if the head coach can't figure out which way he wants to go, it's not going to happen. Which, unfortunately for Childress, means the only way he's going to go is out.

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Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily MLB playoff coverage and game analysis in college football and the NFL. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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