Vikings vs. Philadelphia: Just a phone call away

  • Article by: JUDD ZULGAD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 28, 2007 - 11:57 PM

Brad Childress and Andy Reid are buddies, getting on the horn once a week to chat about family and football. But not this week. This week they're just foes.

There is no set day the conversation takes place, but once a week it happens. Sometimes during "Monday Night Football," other times late on Friday, when most at Winter Park have departed.

Brad Childress or Andy Reid will pick up the phone and call the other.

The subject matter ranges from what happened in the NFL to schemes. From personnel issues to personal issues. "We talk about everything," Childress said.

Added Reid: "Our families grew up together, so the kids, we always ask about the kids and then a lot of football."

This past week was different.

With Childress' Vikings getting set to face Reid's Eagles today at the Metrodome, both decided to temporarily suspend communication. Childress referred to this as an "unwritten" rule.

The Vikings coach also could have called it uncharted territory.

After spending seven seasons as an assistant with the Eagles, Childress will oppose his longtime friend and see his former team for the first time since taking the Vikings job in January 2006.

"I'll have some emotions as I walk out there and see that green jersey and all the guys who are going to run up and say hello," said Childress, the Eagles' offensive coordinator for his final four years in Philadelphia. "Not only coaches, but players and doctors. But really it's a football game, and you're going to administer just like any other football game."

Except for one difference. When Childress looks across the field, he will see the man and the team that shaped him as an NFL head coach.

Staying the course

Childress became a hot head-coaching candidate after the Eagles won four NFC East titles, made five playoff appearances, went to four consecutive NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl in seven seasons.

But Childress' first year working with Reid in Philadelphia made the greatest impact. Reid received his first head coaching opportunity in 1999 when he was hired to take over a team coming off a 3-13 season. He, in turn, hired Childress from the University of Wisconsin to serve as his quarterbacks coach and Philadelphia took Syracuse's Donovan McNabb with the second pick in the draft.

The Eagles improved by only two games that season and finished last in the division. The next year, however, Philadelphia went 11-5 and began a run of postseason appearances that ended with a 24-21 loss to New England in Super Bowl XXXIX.

"One of the valuable lessons to understand in the NFL is that the real true success stories are built over time and include developing players and a commitment to certain philosophies that you have a willingness to stick to even when things are tough," Eagles President Joe Banner said. "Taking a quarterback that no matter how good he is going to be ... you knew you wouldn't see it right away. You have to live through the challenges. ... If you're going to get good and stay good, as opposed to kind of being a flash, you have to go through some difficult times and growing pains."

And just as the Eagles were willing to go through those growing pains with McNabb, Childress appears set to follow the same blueprint with the Vikings and Tarvaris Jackson in 2007. The difference is that Reid turned things around in his second year; Childress has followed a 6-10 debut season with another slow start.

"There are some analogies you can make," Childress said. "You certainly have to identify a quarterback, and that was something we were lucky enough and fortunate enough to do [in Philadelphia]. ... So the parallel would be that you're trying to identify the quarterback and then establish your [offensive and defensive] lines, and all the while you're trying to build a culture different and an understanding of how we want to do business both on the field, off the field and in the front office."

Childress brought from the Eagles an emphasis on signing key players to contract extensions before they hit free agency. Punter Chris Kluwe was the latest to benefit from this when he received a six-year extension last week.

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