Column: Childress putting his stamp on team purple

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 17, 2006

Jon Laging, Talking Sports

As we watch the third cutting of alfalfa, the Minnesota Vikings are sweating in Mankato under the direction of their new head coach Brad Childress.

The Tonight Show prior to Johnny Carson starred Jack Parr. Parr was a controversial figure and was able to do to Walter Winchell what Winchell had done to others with his New York newspaper column. Jack Parr destroyed Winchell and proved that this black and white tube in our living room was more powerful than any newspaper column.

During Parr’s reign a question was asked over and over. &8220;What was Jack Parr really like?&8221; It turned out that the question was unnecessary, that Jack Parr was exactly the person you saw night after night.

The same question is now being asked about Brad Childress. &8220;What is Brad Childress really like?&8221; The answer is the same. What you see is what you get. He is here to win football games and not necessarily during the pre-season (exhibitions), but during the season and hopefully beyond.

Ordinarily one would expect a new coach to win preseason games to show the team and fans

success and to get the team off to a positive start. I’m not too sure about Childress, he seems to be focused on one thing. The season. He is not Mike Tice. Childress is in charge and things will not be done to meet other people’s needs. Changes both big and small will not be done by an assistant coach, but rather done the Childress way.

I have thought about Culpepper’s departure wondering why Childress gave away the pro-bowler for little or nothing. I think I have found the answers. It was not primarily because of Culpepper’s knee. That just made it easier. It was because Childress wanted one team leader and that was to be Brad Childress. He did not want a freelancing quarterback. He wanted the west coast offense. It may also be that Childress spied what many of us suspected: That Culpepper had a great arm but his decision-making was suspect. To add a few more reasons for Culpepper’s departure: Half of Culpepper’s offense was gone. He would no longer be able to run with his bad knee. In addition the focus of the team in pre-season would be on Culpepper, or at least Culpepper’s knee. Not on winning games as a team.

It has taken me a few months, but I now agree with Childress’ decision. Not that he cares what I or any other sportswriter thinks.

Childress is absolutely right. It doesn’t matter if the fans are given the same autograph opportunities at Mankato. What matters is the team’s record. If the Vikings win, all will be forgiven. If the team gets to the Super Bowl and (Heavens to Betsy) wins the thing, all will not only be forgiven, but Bud Grant’s stature will be toppled.

We know that heading into the season, the offense will be better with line additions of all-pro Steve Hutchinson and the return of pro-bowler Matt Birk. Quarterback Brad Johnson returns at the helm. Some of you may sneer at 37-year-old Johnson. But ask yourself, how many Super Bowls have the Vikings won? Has Brad Johnson won a Super Bowl? Yes. In addition it appears the Vikings have added a good pro running back in Chester Taylor.

The team’s success may ultimately rest on its defense. The Vikings have continued to upgrade on both offense and defense, adding 31 million in free agents, but the difference between an average defense and good defense may rest with the coaching staff’s ability to do its job.

All in all it looks like an interesting year as we hang our hats and hopes on Brad Childress.

(Jon Laging writes about regional sports issues from his home in Preston.)