Souhan: Thinking of Chilly -- that's not good

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 1, 2011 - 10:20 PM

Say this, though, Brad Childress' offense at the end was better designed than the early 2011 version.

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Brad Childress

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I know you won't want to admit this. I know you keep your fake mustache and lips-concealing play charts in your closet, you're thinking about dressing as Brad Childress one more time this Halloween, but you've got to admit, at this point, that you miss him just a little.

Don't you?

Well, you should.

Childress deserved some of the criticism he received. In fact, he invited it.

He could be uptight and stubborn. He overreached for authority and power. He spoke sentences that linguists still study. And, yes, it was under his watch that the Vikings sent a 12th man into the huddle and lost a chance to go to a Super Bowl they very well might have won, and, yes, the Wilfs had no choice but to fire him once the team quit on him in a home game against the Packers last season.

The problem with Vikings fans' incessant bashing of Childress, though, is that it obscured a good body of work. With the 2011 Vikings now 0-3 and having scored just six points after halftime, let's remember Childress in full context.

The offense that he and his offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, ran was better in theory and execution than the one we've seen the past three weeks.

After Childress' debut season, in 2006, he evolved, and so did the Vikings offense.

Even before Brett Favre arrived, Childress and Bevell's offense progressed from 26th to 15th to 12th in the NFL in points scored, and from 5.4 to 5.8 to 6.0 net yards passing per attempt. And that was with the likes of Tarvaris Jackson, Gus Frerotte and Kelly Holcombe taking the snaps, and with Bernard Berrian as their best wideout.

When Favre arrived, he had the most efficient season of his Hall of Fame career under Childress and Bevell, and the Vikings ranked second in points in the NFL.

Childress made progress with journeymen quarterbacks and excelled with a great quarterback before it all fell apart for him last year. Even with his horrible debut season and last year's collapse, Childress finished with a 39-35 record as a head coach. Since replacing him, Frazier is 3-6.

This is not a rush to judgment on Frazier. He deserves our patience. But those who believed that Childress was the Vikings' only problem, and that the team would improve immediately upon his departure, were naïve.

When Childress arrived, he quoted old-school football philosophies about running the ball to win in the NFL. This led to him settling for an aging Brad Johnson as his quarterback in 2006, when he thought that Chester Taylor's power running would be the key to a successful season.

He learned quickly that you have to throw the ball effectively to win in the NFL. By 2009, when he could choose to put the ball in the hands of the great Adrian Peterson or Favre on any given play, Childress admitted that you have to pass effectively to win.

When the Vikings went 12-4 in 2009, Favre became their most important player, and Peterson had perhaps his least explosive season, rushing for a career-low 4.4 yards per carry and 86.4 yards per game.

Frazier has reversed that progressive trend, imitating Childress circa 2006. He hired a coordinator who espouses a run-first offense, in Bill Musgrave, and brought in a quarterback expected to do nothing more than manage situations, like Johnson in 2006.

Frazier is determined to win by running the ball. Here's the problem with relying on Peterson, perhaps the best player in the game: Peterson's performances are neither causes nor indicators of championship football. He is rushing for 5.1 yards per carry and 98.7 yards per game this season, both the second-best totals of his career, and the Vikings are 0-3 because they can't convert third downs or make big plays in the passing game.

Frazier was an excellent defensive coordinator and he has a chance to develop into a good head coach. In terms of offensive football, his decisions have dragged the Vikings back to 2006, when fans had plenty of good reasons for making fun of his predecessor.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2:40 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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