Because it was on the new premium portion of our website, some of you probably didn't see the column that Jim Souhan wrote about Vikings coach Brad Childress on Wednesday. The piece dealt with Childress' popularity, or lack of it, and how he felt about that.
This is especially interesting this morning because it was announced Thursday that Childress had signed a contract extension -- the new deal will start with this year and run through 2013 -- and immediately many Vikings fans expressed their displeasure with the decision made by owner Zygi Wilf.
The feeling among the disgruntled was that Childress should have had to win in the postseason before he was rewarded. Of course, some simply don't like Childress because of his demeanor and were holding out hope Wilf would show him the door before his first five-year contract expired.
While fans are entitled to their opinion -- and I can see the argument from the group who felt Childress should win a playoff game or two to be rewarded -- I've got news for everyone. Childress really doesn't care what you think. And for that matter he doesn't care what I think. And that isn't a bad thing. Given the nature of Childress' job, if he concerned himself with criticism he probably couldn't function.
Asked if he wanted to be popular, Childress told Souhan: "You can't worry about that. It's kind of like I tell my kids -- it's not a popularity contest. I'm your Dad. I'm not trying to be your friend."
Although it's easy to get the impression that Childress is the "my way or the highway" type with no patience for others, that simply isn't the case. I think everyone would agree that Childress' first season with the Vikings in 2006 was difficult on many. Coaches, players, ownership, fans, media. You name it. It was a year of adjustment for Childress and given a second chance he would probably do things a bit differently. But so would everyone else who was given a second chance to do something for the first time.
Now in his fourth season, Childress seems far more comfortable in his own skin. He certainly has his quirks and there are things about him that aren't going to change, but he seems far more willing to listen to ideas (from all sides) and if you get him on a subject he finds interesting he will talk for a half-hour without giving it a second thought. And that goes way beyond football. Childress' best thoughts often have nothing to do with his 'A' job. Then there is that extremely dry sense of humor that was suppressed in 2006 but now can be heard in many of his news conferences.
Childress, who is from the Chicago area, admits he grew thick skin working as an assistant coach with the Eagles in the hard-nosed Philadelphia market from 1999 to 2005. In some ways that has probably served him well as an NFL coach and in some ways maybe it hurt him early on because he was so guarded. This summer I visited with Childress and his wife, Dru-Ann, to write a story about them that didn't center around the football environment in which we so often see Childress working.
At one point the conversation turned to the perception of Childress in Minnesota and if anything could be done to change it. Childress made no attempt to dodge the question and gave an extremely insightful answer.
"I'm not Bud Grant; Bud Grant is not coming back," he said. "He's all the way at the other end of the hall [at Winter Park]. I love Bud Grant. But I'm not Minnesotan, I'm Midwestern. Do Minnesotans look at us like we're short-timers? The Minnesota nice thing is real. The flip side of it is, 'You're just passing through here,' and it's very austere and it's got kind of a hard backside. I don't think I'm misstating anything here. I'm not saying it in a bad kind of way. It just is what it is."
And that is something Childress seems to have accepted, even if many Vikings fans haven't accepted him.