Analysis: Coach Brad Childress, aging players like Brett Favre all have a hand in Minnesota Vikings’ downfall : Packers Insider

Analysis: Coach Brad Childress, aging players like Brett Favre all have a hand in Minnesota Vikings’ downfall

November 17, 2010 by  
Filed under News

Nov 17, 2010 ~ by Pete Dougherty, Press-Gazette

~The Minnesota Vikings are showing how fast a team can blow up in the NFL.

There’s a good argument they were the league’s best team last season. Yes, they lost to New Orleans in the NFC championship game, and that’s all that matters. But the better team doesn’t always win.

The Vikings outplayed the Saints that day — they had 475 total yards to New Orleans’ 257 — and were done in by two fumbles in the red zone, including a botched handoff inside New Orleans’ 5, as well as Brett Favre’s incomprehensible interception when he was only a few yards from a possible game-winning field goal at the end of regulation.

The point is, the Vikings were elite, maybe the elite team. And now, less than a year later, they are 3-6 and essentially out of the playoff race barely more than halfway through the season.

There’s no way coach Brad Childress gets out of this with his job, if he even lasts the season. The front office could be in for an overhaul as well.

So how did this happen so fast?

Favre hasn't been the Vikings only problem. Combined with the declining pass rush of Kevin Williams and defensive end Jared Allen — Allen has 4½ sacks in nine games after leading the NFL with 14½ last year — and the Vikings’ defensive line in 2010 has been good but not great. Add a pedestrian secondary, and the Vikings have quickly fallen off the top of the heap.

A lot has to do with age. The Vikings got old almost overnight at quarterback and on the defensive line. Those two areas were the strength of the team last year. The drop-off, while not cataclysmic, is showing up in the Vikings’ record.

They also had a tough early schedule, which helped land them in a quick hole. And they simply aren’t the same team on the road (0-5 this year, 0-8 going back to last season) as at home.

How much of it falls on the coach? At least some, and maybe even most. Judging by reports of anonymous quotes the last couple weeks, some, maybe many, players not only don’t like Childress, which doesn’t matter much, they also don’t respect or fear him. That is a big deal.

You get the sense respect and fear were similar problems in Dallas, where a country-club atmosphere under recently fired Wade Phillips was the major reason the Cowboys were one of the NFL’s great underachievers in recent memory. The Cowboys’ win over the New York Giants last week under interim coach Jason Garrett was only one game, but it’s hard to dismiss it entirely considering it came on the road against one of the NFC’s top three teams.

Would the Vikings benefit similarly by dropping Childress in favor of defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier? Who knows? But the Packers should be glad owner Zygi Wilf didn’t make the change this week.

Aside from problems at the top, the Vikings’ decision to beg Favre to return at age 41 rather than find another quarterback in the offseason has been a bust. To belabor the obvious, Favre doesn’t have much mobility left playing behind a declining offensive line, and his battered body no longer functions at a high level week after week. He’s been a turnover machine (a league-high 16 interceptions, five lost fumbles) and has suffered greatly without his favorite target from last year, receiver Sidney Rice, who has been out since having hip surgery in August.

Favre still has some of his magic, as he showed in almost bringing the Vikings back for a miraculous win against the Packers, and then actually pulling it off two weeks ago against Arizona. He still poses a significant threat to the Packers this week because of his iron will and desire to stick to it General Manager Ted Thompson. But pretty much everybody who follows the NFL knows he’s done.

“Favre has passed the wall now, this needs to be the last campaign,” said a longtime scout in the NFC and Favre admirer. “I know last year was lightning in the bottle, (but) he really needs to take a step back and say, ‘I can no longer do this like I thought I could.’”

There’s been at least as big a problem on defense, where the line no longer is dominant and the secondary is a liability.

The core of the Vikings’ defense the past four years was Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, who formed one of the NFL’s premier defensive tackle tandems. Kevin Williams was elite against the run and rushing the passer; Pat Williams was elite against the run. From 2006 through last year, the Vikings ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in fewest rushing yards allowed, and in all but one of those seasons were No. 1 or No. 2 in fewest yards allowed per carry.

According to several scouts interviewed this week, Kevin Williams at age 30 is a good all-around defensive tackle, but no longer a premier one. Pat Williams, 38, finally started showing decline last year and a little more this season.

Help Us! Comment about this Packer Article

This is a community of fanatical Packer fans. Please tell us what you think about this post....