Gus Frerotte's strong arm has made his coach's game plans look a lot better.
The clamoring of Vikings fans for the head of Brad Childress -- and why would you want that head, with the baldness, and the '70s mustache? -- proves that in sports as in politics, the virulence of the attack is often inversely proportional to the intelligence of the attacker.
For just a moment, stop typing on message boards in capital letters (it hurts my ears) and hit the refresh button on reality.
It's fine to question whether the Wilfs should have hired Childress. Given his record and the success of other recent hires, that's fair, and I've suggested he has been ripe for replacement at various junctures of his stay here.
It's fine to question the way Childress assembled his "kick-ass" offense -- he made mistakes in personnel and for much of his tenure has installed overly conservative and predictable game plans, leaving him looking unimaginative.
It's just that, as with most tidal waves of public opinion, the public's disgust for Childress has become so irrational that it ignores the current reality.
Which is that lately, Childress' offense has actually kicked a few rear ends, and his assertion that he just needed a quarterback who could run his offense has been proved by, of all people, Gus Frerotte.
The entire Vikings braintrust deserves blame for placing too much faith in Tarvaris Jackson. Jackson was not ready to quarterback this team in September.
Childress, though, might have saved the season -- or at least extended his team's window of competitiveness -- by having the guts to make a quarterback change after two games. He recognized that he could have lost a veteran lockerroom that has experienced too little success since his arrival, and he installed a quarterback who has proved to be inspirational in terms of toughness and leadership, even if he is older than Joe Kapp.
Since Frerotte assumed the position, he ranks fourth in the NFL in yards per completion (12.88), and is tied for third in most completions of 25 yards or more (13, along with Donovan McNabb.)
In two games with Jackson, the Vikings averaged 154 passing yards and 17 points per game while going 0-2.
In six games with Frerotte, the Vikings have averaged 246.7 passing yards and 24.7 points while going 4-2.
With Frerotte's big arm stretching defenses, the Vikings finally have begun capitalizing on the big plays available against defenses obsessed with stopping Adrian Peterson. Whether by cause or effect, receiver Bernard Berrian has thrived since Frerotte began playing.
Berrian, slowed by a sore foot and perhaps limited by Jackson, caught three passes for 38 yards in the first two games. Since then, he has caught 27 passes for 583 yards, with a catch of at least 28 yards in each of those games, and touchdowns in his last four games.
Berrian is doing what Troy Williamson could have done for this offense last year, if Williamson could actually catch airborne footballs.
In the past three weeks, the Vikings have gained 392, 439 and 345 yards. Against the Texans on Sunday, the Vikings scored on both of their drives inside the red zone -- not counting their last drive, when Childress properly decided to take a knee.
More important, they scored on pass plays of 49 and 25 yards. "There are a lot of factors, but Gus is definitely the major factor, because he's the only major change we've had," said receiver Bobby Wade. "He's come in and played extremely well. He's allowed our offense to open up.
"He's allowed the coaches to be confident in him, which allows us to play a little more worry-free. You see us making plays down the field, moving the chains, it has a lot to do with the plays they call because of how they feel about Gus."
Everyone's familiar with Childress' flaws. Over the last six weeks, realists have become familiar with some of his strengths.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. • firstname.lastname@example.org