When the dust settled Friday morning, the Vikings had zero playoff hopes and almost no offense. That unfortunate set of circumstances arrived with little surprise, but it nevertheless provoked an inspired and defiant response from its coach and chief architect.
A day after the Vikings managed three first downs and 104 total yards in a 9-7 loss to Green Bay, coach Brad Childress defended his version of the West Coast scheme and suggested that poor execution -- and not philosophy -- has limited its effectiveness. Childress indicated that not all of his players are well-suited for the system and responded in neutral terms when asked whether he would continue calling plays next season.
"I know it's a kick-ass offense when it's executed properly," Childress said. "It's been done with all different levels of people and personnel. But I'm not shaken. It's a multiple system that you can run in just as easily as you can throw it, and we need to become better at it. That's my job."
The scheme bottomed out Thursday night in the starting debut of rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. It was the sixth game this season in which the Vikings have not scored an offensive touchdown, and the team's total of 29 touchdowns this season includes five defensive scores and two on special teams.
In their first season under Childress, the Vikings are likely to finish with a franchise low in first downs; they have 255, and the record is 283, set in 1993. And unless Jackson throws at least three touchdown passes in the season finale Dec. 31 against St. Louis, the Vikings will fall short of the team record for fewest touchdown passes in a 16-game season (15, set in 1993).
Childress said that Thursday night's performance at Lambeau Field "kind of illustrates where we need to go, particularly on offense." Receiver Travis Taylor was not so kind.
"That's embarrassing for an NFL offense," Taylor said.
Attention turned squarely on that group Friday, however, after the Vikings' elimination from postseason contention. In an afternoon news conference, Childress said "I take it personally" when "my offense ... doesn't go as it's supposed to go."
Childress developed the scheme while coaching at Wisconsin (1991-98) and the Philadelphia Eagles (1999-2005). He called plays for the Badgers but not the Eagles, and he admitted that calling plays while also serving as a first-time head coach is "different."It's different from the standpoint that you're looking at everything," he said. "Whether it's at the end of a kicking play, telling them whether you want a penalty or not. Whether it's walking down to the defensive huddle, which you can do on occasion. There are some things that you can't see when you have your head down on the [play-calling] card, whether it's the look in people's eyes as they come and go off the football field. It's a little bit of multitasking there, and it is different obviously than sitting in the press box as the offensive coordinator."
When asked if he would consider relinquishing the play-calling duties after an offseason evaluation, Childress said, "I think you go back and evaluate everything.
"You pull everything apart footballwise from training camp to how you prepared for a game to short weeks to long weeks to your game process," he said. "Really, there's nothing under the spectrum that's not something you can pull apart."
Childress, however, seemed to discount a suggestion that he might assign offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to call plays against the Rams.
"He's continually making suggestions," Childress said. "There is always a dialogue that goes on with the offensive coaches. That's why you have those headsets on. Different guys see different things. Different guys look in different spots at different areas and then you pull all of those pieces together to look at the whole.
"But in the end and in the long run, it becomes an execution issue."
Childress said the offense will improve once players become more comfortable in it.
"It becomes a matter of being rote so that there is no pause or hesitation or really thinking," Childress said. "You want to be able to react. Things are happening at lightning speed out there."