Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He has temporarily returned to cover the Minnesota Vikings. He had the beat from 2008-2011 after covering college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.Find Chip on Facebook.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
Randy Moss was a shell of his former self at age 33. But after a year out of football, the now-35-year-old SuperFreak has announced he wants to return to the NFL. He made the announcement during a 35th birthday celebration. It was reported on Pro Football Talk with a link to the announcement on Ustream.tv.
"Faith, family and football, that's my M.O., bro," Moss said. "Your boy be back for the upcoming season."
Yes, the Vikings need a receiver. No, Moss won't be coming back for a third stint with the team. Strike Two was embarrassing enough for everyone involved that a Strike Three isn't required to call the SuperFreak out as a potential free-agent signing.
It's not a given that anyone will take a flier on Moss at his age, with all his behavioral baggage and with what he put on tape in 2010. That year, he played for the Patriots, Vikings and Titans, catching just 28 passes in 16 games for 393 yards and five touchdowns.
It is possible that someone will sign him considering it wouldn't cost a draft pick and Moss is in no position to bargain for anything but the minimum one-year salary.
The Vikings, who drafted Moss in the first round in 1998 and held onto him until trading him before the 2004 season, were burned too badly when they reunited with Moss in 2010. Former coach Brad Childress traded a third-round pick to the Patriots but had problems with Moss from nearly Day 1. The tension between the two boiled over following the Vikings' loss at New England, leading to Moss take to the post-game podium and interview himself.
Going against team protocol, Childress released Moss without consulting ownership. It came 26 days after the trade and ultimately led to Childress' firing later in the season.
Former Vikings coach Brad Childress is back in the NFL, having just been hired by the Browns as their offensive coordinator, according to NFL.com.
It's uncertain whether Childress will call plays for coach Pat Shurmur. Shurmur went without an offensive coordinator while calling his own plays during the 2011 season, his first as an NFL head coach.
Shurmur and Childress worked together on Andy Reid's Eagles staff for seven seasons. Shurmur said after the season that he's open to giving up his play-calling duties. The only year Childress called plays was 2006, his first season as Vikings head coach. Reid called them when Childress was offensive coordinator in Philadelphia.
Childress improved from 6-10 to 8-8 to 10-6 and 12-4 in his four full seasons. He won the NFC North his last two full seasons and reached the NFC Championship game at the end of the 2009 season. He was fired after starting 3-7 in 2010.
Childress still has one year left on his contract with the Vikings. It's worth about $4 million. Whatever the Browns pay him will be deducted from what the Vikings owe him.
The Browns have struggled since returning to the league as an expansion team in 1999. They've made one playoff appearance in those 13 seasons. The franchise's last playoff victory came during the 1994 season, a year before the original Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens after the 1995 season.
The Browns strayed from their power running game behind Peyton Hillis while going 4-12 in 2011. Childress will at the very least play a role in game-planning. He'll no doubt help return the Browns to their running roots.
The Browns aren't sold on Colt McCoy as their long-term answer at quarterback. It's possible they'll look to upgrade the position this offseason, but they also have several other needs to take care of.
On a day the Vikings formally interviewed Raheem Morris to potentially become their new defensive coordinator, head coach Leslie Frazier began executing other coaching staff changes as well. Defensive line coach Karl Dunbar is the first official casualty, let go after six seasons with the team.
Dunbar's exit is the first move in what could ultimately be a total overhaul of the defensive coaching staff.
"This is what they wanted," Dunbar said in a phone interview with the Star Tribune. "Coach Frazier told me the ownership wanted to go in a different direction. And for me, that’s fine. As football coaches, we know we’re all migrant workers and we go where the jobs are. Now, my job in Minnesota is over."
Dunbar joined the Vikings in 2006 when Brad Childress became coach and helped the defensive line establish a reputation as a sturdy, run-stopping unit. Pat Williams, Kevin Williams and Jared Allen all earned Pro Bowl invitations while playing under Dunbar. And this season, despite the well-documented struggles of the entire defense, the d-line may have had the most solid season of any Vikings' position group, ranking 11th in the NFL against the run. The Vikings also tallied 50 sacks as a team with defensive end setting a new single-season team record with 22.
Still, after a 3-13 finish, Frazier has vowed to shake things up and make significant changes to his coaching staff. Dunbar's exit is likely just the start of the revolving door at Winter Park.
Dunbar said he wasn't able to diagnose the root cause of the Vikings' 3-13 freefall.
"I’m a position coach," he said. "I’m not a coordinator. I’m not a head coach. When I look at what I did with the Minnesota Vikings, my piece of the puzzle was to make the defensive line play as well as they could. We played well against the run. I think we finished No. 11 against the run. And we finished No. 1 in sacks. And the guy I coached led the league in sacks with 22 on a team that really didn’t have a lead the last eight games of the year. So I thought that was my piece of the puzzle. I can’t worry about running backs, defensive backs, receivers, linebackers. When you do it, you focus on your job, put your piece of the puzzle in and go from there."
Asked if he felt he had gotten a raw deal with his dismissal, Dunbar took the high road.
"No sir," he said. "No sir. You get what you’re given. And I spent six great years in Minnesota. So there’s no raw deal. They didn’t kill my wife and they didn’t kill my family. They took care of my family. So no, I didn’t get a raw deal. Leslie is a good man who treated me fairly. And Coach Childress did the same thing. Now they’ve decided to part ways and that’s fine."
Certainly Dunbar won't be the last assistant coach to be let go. At present, Fred Pagac remains the defensive coordinator. But needless to say, Morris' Friday visit doesn't say a lot for Pagac's job security.
If Morris were ultimately hired to take over the defense, it would not be a surprise if Frazier opted to dismantle his current staff on that side of the ball, working with Morris to put together a new assistant coaching tree.
A snapshot look at the Vikings as they prepare for Sunday’s game against the Broncos at Mall of America Field.
How kind have the Detroit Lions been to Vikings head coaches over the years?
Well, let's put it this way:
Les Steckel was a .500 coach (1-1) against Detroit.
Or this way:
Mike Tice was a 1.000 coach (8-0) against Detroit.
Only Norm Van Brocklin, the team's first coach, struggled against Detroit. Of course, he coached from 1961-66, when the Vikings were struggling and the Lions were actually a feared opponent. Van Brocklin lost his first five games against the Lions and finished 3-8-1.
Then a guy from Canada came down and slapped Detroit around for a couple of decades. Bud Grant was 26-8-1 against Detroit.
The other head coaches and their records against Detroit: Jerry Burns (8-4), Dennis Green (12-8), Brad Childress (8-1) and current coach Leslie Frazier, who lost his only game against Detroit as an interim coach in last year's season finale.
Frazier not only was hamstrung by being an interim coach. Like Van Brocklin 51 years ago, Frazier is coaching the Vikings at a point when they're the ones in building mode and the Lions are the better team. Frazier's first home game against Detroit is Sunday.
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