Time to stop tantalizing fans and take advantage of talent

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 27, 2009 - 12:15 AM
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Brad Childress talks about the Vikings fist round draft Percy Harvin of the University of Florida during NFL draft day party at Winter Park.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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Since draft day 2007, the Vikings have acquired Adrian Peterson, Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin, three players faster than rumor and more elusive than the truth. Now we have to hope Brad Childress isn't lying awake at night, wondering, "How am I going to get the ball to Tahi?"

Tahi is the Vikings' blocking fullback. His first name is Naufahu, which means "1-yard reception" in Tonga.

On the first offensive play of the 2009 season, Childress will have the option of handing or throwing the ball to Peterson or Harvin, of lining Harvin up in the Wildcat formation, of throwing deep to Berrian, of creating a formation that includes Peterson, Harvin and Chester Taylor. What we fear is the always scintillating swing pass to Tahi, who gains the same number of yards whether he catches the ball or not.

The arrival of Harvin and Oklahoma tackle Phil Loadholt continues a remarkable influx of talent since Childress and Rick Spielman started running the Vikings football operation.

Here's the list of exceptional, above-average and intriguing talents who have arrived since Zygi Wilf fired Mike Tice: Berrian, Ray Edwards, Chad Greenway, Cedric Griffin, Harvin, Steve Hutchinson, Ben Leber, Loadholt, Ryan Longwell, Peterson, Taylor, Sidney Rice, Visanthe Shiancoe and Madieu Williams.

When Tice beat an uninterested Bears team at the end of the 2005 season, his underfunded roster lacked a true, NFL-caliber starting quarterback, running back or receiver. Since that day, the Vikings have added an All-Pro running back, two sprint-relay receivers, an All-Pro defensive end, an All-Pro guard, and depth throughout the roster.

While they haven't necessarily solved their quarterback problem, they have upgraded in terms of athletic ability, from Beat-Up Brad Johnson to the mobile and athletic Tarvaris Jackson and newly acquired Sage Rosenfels.

In 2009, the Vikings will play a remarkably easy schedule. They will play in a mediocre division. They will be in their fourth year under Childress' guidance, and will have maintained continuity on their coaching staff and throughout their football operation.

Childress has proved himself an adept judge of NFL talent. He discerned that NFL backups Taylor and Shiancoe had the talent to be productive starters, and that Berrian would be the deep threat his offense needed.

He and Spielman wisely didn't allow injury or character questions to dissuade them from taking Peterson and Harvin, two of the most explosive players in recent college football history.

Childress and Spielman -- with a financial assist from Wilf -- have built something close to a championship-caliber roster. If, that is, Childress and his quarterbacks are ready to take advantage of their advantages.

After three years of watching him on the sideline, what we know about Childress is that he runs a good meeting. Give him credit for earnestness, organization, intensity and doing his due diligence. Not many NFL head coaches would have flown to Florida to meet with Harvin and driven to his house.

"It did shock me," Harvin said Sunday. "When we got to the house, my sister looked at him and said, 'What position do you coach?' He said, 'I'm the head coach,' and she said, 'Huh?' When we knew they sent the head man down, we knew they were interested."

Childress has helped build a quality team. His quarterbacks possess obvious physical skills.

Rare is the NFL team that wins big without dynamic leadership from its coach and quarterback. For the Vikings to become a playoff threat, and not just a playoff participant, Childress will have to prove as adept at leading talented players as he is at acquiring them.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. jsouhan@startribune.com

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