Vikings owner plans to be more hands-on next year

  • Article by: KEVIN SEIFERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 2, 2007 - 10:41 PM

After a bumpy season for his franchise, the Vikings owner says he has "a lot more to give."

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Vikings owner Ziggy Wilf shakes hands with coach Brad Childress before the final game of the season.

Photo: Jim Gehrz, JM - Star Tribune

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Zygi Wilf watched patiently as the Vikings finished 6-10 in his first full calendar year as owner. The time for watching, however, appears to be ending.

Speaking in his most extensive interview since the season began, Wilf said Tuesday he plans to get "much more" involved in the team's football operations, either by spending more time at Winter Park or through videoconferencing technology. He will not move into a daily decision-making role, but Wilf said his involvement should spur vibrant internal debate and bring another perspective to discussions.

He expressed strong support for Brad Childress but acknowledged the coach's "painful first step" this season. Wilf said Childress might have taken on more than he could handle in his first year and took issue with the timing of receiver Marcus Robinson's release, which occurred on Christmas Eve.

"In the future," Wilf said, "I think that issues like this will be handled in a more consistent level and hopefully we will not let certain passions overcome us."

Wilf, however, defended Childress' playcalling skills -- instead blaming the offense's problems on a lack of playmakers -- and said he is convinced Childress has helped lay a solid foundation for the organization. But Wilf plans to take a more personal approach to ensuring that groundwork continues and said, "I have a lot more to give to the team."

Wilf has spent most of his tenure working on stadium projects. Mark Wilf, Zygi's brother and team president, focused on the Vikings' business side.

But after discussing their operation with other NFL owners, Zygi Wilf concluded the Vikings' committee-style structure could use his leadership.

He joked, "I'm not ready to start calling plays," but said he would raise his own public profile after Childress' bumpy experience as the team's primary public spokesman this season.

"We're going to be much more involved because we want to be," Wilf said. "I don't want to underestimate a fans' knowledge, being a former fan myself, of what we know about football. Even now as an owner, I realize I can't underestimate the knowledge and the questions that come out of our mouths as owners. [They] really pose debate amongst a lot of the people here.

"I think I can only help the communications and discussions as it deals with particular issues that might be of very much concern to us as owners."

The Vikings have begun a postseason evaluation period that Wilf said would extend into next week. He said he would ask "tough questions" of Childress and other team leaders, including whether Childress should add an experienced offensive coach to his staff.

Childress indicated Tuesday that he has no plans to do so but said he must "call better plays that work" in 2007. He said he has every intention at this point to continue calling plays in 2007, and Wilf apparently will support that decision.

"I don't think it was a question of playcalling," Wilf said. "I quite honestly believe that the playcalling was suited for the type of offense we have. And sometimes it's a lack of making the plays, and a lot of times it's the playmakers. ... It's very hard to question the playcalling when basically the players are the key to that. You could, but that's a tough line."

Asked what he based that opinion on, Wilf said, "On my own knowledge of football."

Wilf noted that Childress took the job at a time when the Vikings had yet to reorganize their personnel department, one that is now headed by Rick Spielman.

"He probably felt he had to do a lot more than just be a coach," Wilf said. "It probably took away from his ability to focus on other aspects. I think we're now beyond that and right now he's able to evaluate what he needs to improve."

Among those areas, Wilf said, is Childress' handling of his role as the team's primary spokesman. He said he regretted the perception that the Vikings do not share information with the public and attributed it to attempts to create a new "culture" at Winter Park.

"There certainly was some initial reaction towards being a little more standoffish to the media," Wilf said. "That really wasn't our intent. We hope to be much more forthcoming. As a new coach and a new coaching staff, we want to learn to tread those waters in the right way, so that we can prepare ourselves for when the good times come, we won't be looked upon as [standoffish]."

Staff writer Judd Zulgad contributed to this report.

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