Childress needs to be honest with the fans

Published 9:45 am Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tim Engstrom, Pothole Prairie

The controversy is the cover-up. The reason so many Vikings fans distrust Brad Childress is he doesn’t tell the truth when making public statements. Who does he think we are?

Doubting the intelligence of the general public is what gets so many people — from politicians to sports figures — in trouble when they are standing in front of a camera, a microphone or a reporter scribbling on a notepad.

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I particularly enjoyed the “Fired Up!” segment of “NFL on Fox” on Sunday. Host Curt Menefee was dead-on right when he said, “Speaking as a fan, there is one thing I know is that we hate to be taken as idiots. That is exactly what Mike Shanahan and Brad Childress took us all for this week. With Shanahan’s three different excuses in three days and Childress saying in a press conference that all was good with Randy Moss 15 minutes before telling his team to cut him, either they thought we were idiots or were intentionally deceiving us as part of a cover-up — or worse yet, both.”

Menefee gave an example of pitcher Andy Pettitte admitting the use of human growth hormone as making a story go away. But lying or covering up the truth the way Barry Bonds did on banned-substance use makes an issue stick around. People want the truth.

“You see, it’s not the action that’s despised. Everyone knows Shanahan has the right to bench his quarterback and Childress can cut whoever he wants. It’s the deception, and the cover-up, that landed each in the fans’ bull’s-eye. Look, it’s simple. Don’t treat us like idiots. No matter how you try to spin it. Fans know better. Both those guys should, too.”

Let me add this: It’s not the authoritative approach that Childress uses that Vikings fans dislike. This is a fan base that loves Bud Grant, who clearly was the hard-nosed leader when he coached the Vikes to four Super Bowls and a pre-merger NFL title. When Grant addressed the public, the fans took him at his word. If there was something Grant didn’t want the public to know, he wouldn’t lie; he declined to speak on it. It is deceit that makes Childress lose the respect of fans. It likely is why the coach lacks the respect in the locker room.

Fire Chilly?

The big talk last week was whether owner Zygi Wilf should fire Childress for his failures and the lagging performance of the team. Should he be fired?

No. Not if we fans want to keep our hopes of turning this season around. History shows firing a coach mid-season doesn’t produce wins. If you fire Childress, do it in the off-season.

That gives Childress some time to turn this ship around and save his job. Childress and the Vikings’ front office need to examine their relationship with the fans, with each other and with the players. Let’s drop the big egos. Let’s tell truths. Let’s do things the right way, the upfront way.

As for quarterback Brett Favre, defensive end Jared Allen and the Vikings’ poor performance this season, here is what I think: The Vikings players perform better when they need to prove something.

It’s about mind-sets and motivators. Last season, they felt they were good but they needed to prove it to the league, to the fans, to the sports writers and to themselves. They played hard and wanted those wins. At the start of this season, the league and its followers already knew they were a good team. So players seemed to play as if the guy next to him would get the job done. We’re so good, we don’t have to try as hard.

How else do you explain so many players being stellar one year and not the next?

Favre especially falls into that model. Last year, he had to prove he could still be a great NFL quarterback. He was safe with the football and was careful with selecting the times he didn’t follow the plays the coaches called. He disagreed with Chilly sometimes, yet they managed to find their groove.

This year is his final as a quarterback. Period. Favre proved the old man can play last year. This year, with nothing to prove, we get the gun-slinging cowboy — loose with the football, throwing interceptions, altering plays and waving the field goal unit off the field, things like that. It is the same problem he had near the end of his time with the Packers.

As a leader, Favre’s behavior, of course, lends itself to other players disregarding the coach, too. Favre openly bucks the leader; so can we.

Prove you can play level-headed football and lead a locker room, Favre.

Prove you can lead a team of football players and be honest with them and their fans, Childress.

Prove you want to win football games, Vikings.

And Adrian Peterson, just keep on trucking.

Quarterback of the future

Every Vikings fan I know was surprised the team didn’t draft a quarterback of the future in the 2010 draft, which was rich in quarterback choices. No fan I know thinks Tavaris Jackson should be the 2011 starter. Every fan I know is tired of having quarterbacks other teams no longer want: Favre, Gus Frerotte, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon. We are like the NFL retirement home for quarterbacks.

Other teams get to have young star quarterbacks, those go-to guys who stay with their teams while other players come and go. They get to have quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Vince Young, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and, yes, Aaron Rodgers.

Donovan McNabb is having troubles this season in D.C., but he played for the Philadelphia Eagles for 11 seasons and was the main starter for 10 seasons.

Imagine having a starting quarterback for the good-old Vikes for 10 years? Wow! It’s unfathomable to the new fans.

The old-school fans know the Vikings haven’t had franchise quarterbacks since Tommy Kramer (seven seasons as starter) and Fran Tarkenton (13 seasons). Daunte Culpepper was an attempt at a franchise quarterback but turned out to be a bust that the coaches and owners embraced for far too long.

Maybe this losing season will have the silver lining of a good draft spot. Please, Minnesota Vikings, draft us a long-term quarterback. We are tired of stop-gap castoffs.

Video replay

Did you watch the Green Bay Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys? With a little more than two minutes left in the first half, a Cowboys receiver caught a pass and went down. He fumbled not only after his knee was down but after his entire body had touched the ground, too. Therefore, it was not a fumble. Still, a Packers player grabbed the ball in mid-air and ran it into the end zone for a touchdown.

Officials aren’t as quick to blow whistles to signal a player is down because, after all, it leaves all options of the play on the table when looking at the video replay. Blowing a whistle does not. (That explains why they first let the Shiancoe and Harvin catches be touchdowns in the Green Bay game before overruling them.)

However, Dallas could not challenge this bad call because it was out of timeouts. Six free points for Green Bay.

Something is wrong with a system when it requires the coaches to make sure the referees do their job.

The solution is simple. Let the coaches coach and the players play. Have the booth be in charge of reviewing calls, just like it does with two minutes left in the half or during the overtime period.

Tribune Managing Editor Tim Engstrom has been a Minnesota Vikings fan since he was a young boy in the 1970s.

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About Tim Engstrom

Tim Engstrom is the editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. He resides in Albert Lea with his wife, two sons and dog.

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