Vikings coach Brad Childress talked about the progress his team made in going 8-8 this season after a 6-10 record in 2006.

"I mean the progress is just a couple more wins, but we'd have loved to been in the playoffs; that, to me, would have been a sign of progress," Childress said.

"Sometimes it's hard to quantify ... figures lie and liars figure. I guess we made progress just in terms of understanding the system, players trusting each other, coaches trusting players, players trusting coaches."

Childress and his staff did an outstanding job, considering they were playing what you had to classify as a rookie quarterback in Tarvaris Jackson.

They lost 20-17 at Detroit in part because of a winning field goal attempt at the end of regulation that hit the upright, 13-10 at Kansas City when a couple of receivers dropped some key passes and 22-19 at Denver when the quarterback fumbled in overtime.

Childress is a head coach who listens to his assistants, and there is no doubt that offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers have a lot of confidence in Jackson and believe he will show a lot of improvement next season.

"From the time he came back from being injured, I thought he made progress, took a couple steps back and I thought the positives far outweighed the negatives," Childress said of Jackson, the 2006 second-round pick who didn't see any action as a rookie until December.

Talking about Jackson's fourth-quarter performance in the season finale at Denver, when he led the Vikings to two touchdowns and two two-point conversions to force OT, Childress said: "Obviously it gives our team confidence that you can lead maybe a game-winning drive. I've been asked that question before: 'Can he? Is he able to do that?' ... That's often the marks of the great quarterbacks, is they can do that."

Childress looked back at the 1999 NFL draft, which saw five quarterbacks taken in the top 12 picks. Of that group, only Donovan McNabb is still a star today; Daunte Culpepper has suffered injuries, and Tim Couch, Akili Smith and Cade McNown were complete busts. "So, it's a hard position to play," Childress said.

The million-dollar question is why NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Adrian Peterson wound up with only 144 yards on 54 carries over the final four games.

"Well, I don't think he snuck up on anything," Childress said. "He wasn't a secret after some of those record-setting days. I think people made a much more concerted effort to say, 'If you're going to beat us, you're going to beat us with the pass.' And so that'd probably be the biggest thing."

Regarding Chester Taylor, who had another good year running the football, Childress said: "He did keep on going and one thing, obviously, that he needs to a better job of is holding on to the football. That's a huge thing. You don't want to keep on going without it."

Childress is optimistic about the future.

"We need more good, solid football players that are good people," he said. "And add to the young kids that we had in this class. [We've] got a pretty good base, and I hope we're able to keep that base together."

Tice involved

Childress' predecessor as Vikings coach, Mike Tice, is a dark horse to be the next Miami Dolphins coach if Dallas Cowboys assistant Tony Sparano doesn't get the job. Sparano has an edge because he worked for new Dolphins Executive Vice President Bill Parcells at Dallas.

But don't disregard Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who will be interviewed in Miami. Jeff Ireland, new general manager of the Dolphins, was a ball boy for the Bears when Frazier was a Chicago cornerback in the 1980s and Ireland's grandfather Jim Parmer was a longtime Bears personnel man.

Tice is now an assistant with former Vikings linebacker Jack Del Rio for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who played the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs on Saturday night. The Steelers are coached by Frazier's predecessor as Vikings defensive coordinator, Mike Tomlin.

Mauer healthy

Twins catcher Joe Mauer said the minor surgery he had recently was a complete success and that he will report to spring training in perfect health ready for a big year.

This past week, Baseball America listed the top Red Sox prospects, names that have been mentioned in trade talks with the Twins for pitcher Johan Santana. Pitcher Clay Buchholz was No. 1, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury No. 2, pitcher Justin Masterson No. 4 and infielder Jed Lowrie No. 5.

The hot rumor is that the Mets are back in the Santana trade talks, but it is unlikely the other New York team, the Yankees, will give up the players the Twins want.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has appointed a committee to include the Twins' Terry Ryan, Atlanta's John Schuerholz, Oakland's Billy Beane and Boston's Theo Epstein to review the amateur draft process.

This week's USA Today Sports Weekly ranked the Twins as the seventh-best team in the American League. The publication ranked the Indians second, the Tigers fourth, the White Sox 10th and the Royals 12th. ... The Twins' season opener March 31 against the Angels and Torii Hunter will be televised nationally on ESPN at 6:05 p.m. ... Legendary Twins employee Tom Mee will be the recipient of the Herb Carneal Lifetime Achievement Award at the third annual Diamonds Award Dinner Jan. 24 at the Depot in Minneapolis.

Jottings

Viking center Matt Birk and defensive tackle Pat Williams were named to ESPN.com's NFL All-Pro team. Of course, former Vikings receiver Randy Moss was a unanimous choice. ... Peterson received a $250,000 bonus for being named Rookie of the Year. ... The word in Pittsburgh is that Tomlin would like to add Vikings secondary coach Joe Woods to his staff. ... In response to speculation that receiver Troy Williamson won't be back next year, Childress said, "He is under contract."

In the IIHF World Junior Championships at the Czech Republic, which ended Saturday, Gophers recruit Jordan Schroeder was the United States' second-leading scorer, with one goal and eight assists in six games. Former Gopher Kyle Okposo had one goal and five assists. Gophers winger Mike Carman had two goals and an assist, and defenseman Cade Fairchild finished with one assist. Winger Ryan Flynn did not register a point. ... Colton Gillies, the Wild's 2007 first-round pick, had one goal in seven games for gold medalist Canada.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast twice a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com