Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.

Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.

Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

Posts about Brad Childress

Vikings hot topics: Tebowmania, Leslie Frazier's job security and a new long snapper

Posted by: Updated: November 30, 2011 - 8:47 AM

A snapshot look at the Vikings as they prepare for Sunday’s game against the Broncos at Mall of America Field.

Player in the spotlight
Tim Tebow. Heard of him? Yep, the Broncos quarterback is headed for the Twin Cities this weekend riding the high of a four-game winning streak. It’s hard to know how much to make of Tebow’s much-publicized success. He’s certainly been clutch in the closing minutes, helping Denver score comeback wins over the Dolphins, Jets and Chargers. In fact, he’s led more fourth-quarter touchdown drives this season (nine) than he’s had in the first three quarters combined (five).
That seems to be convincing evidence that Tebow is a spirited leader with a contagious will to win. But he’s far from unstoppable. And the Vikings’ injury-ravaged secondary should get a bit of a breather in pass coverage this weekend. After all, Tebow is completing only 45.5 percent of his passes this season and averaged just 7.5 completions and 110 passing yards per game during Denver’s undefeated November surge. Still, Vikings defensive backs will be relied on heavily in run support against a unique Broncos ground attack that relies heavily on the spread option. Denver has averaged 208 rushing yards per game since Tebow took over as the starter in Week 7.
Most pressing question
Just how much security does Leslie Frazier have?
Boy, this is a tough one. At this stage, there’s little to indicate the temperature of the seat in Frazier’s Winter Park office is elevating. Overall, even with the Vikings’ 2-9 record and obvious struggles, Frazier still seems to be well-liked by his players and handles himself with an admirable combination of grace and honesty. Yet through 11 games, he’s shown little to indicate he is a long-term answer with the ability to turn things around quickly.
The Vikings are not only winless since the bye week, they’ve been outscored 58-7 in the first halves of their past three losses, an apparent sign of an unprepared team lacking a spark. In Frazier’s defense, it’s hard to imagine many coaches would be in the playoff hunt with the Vikings’ current assembly of talent.
Also don’t forget, the Vikings are still in the midst of paying Brad Childress in excess of $6 million in buyout money through the end of 2012 after cutting him loose last November. With all that’s on Zygi Wilf’s plate, it’s hard to imagine him wanting to have two former head coaches on his payroll next year.
Keep an eye on …
The Vikings struggle to generate takeaways. But when they have forced turnovers this season, they sure have been good at capitalizing. On Sunday, they turned a Ryan D’Imperio fumble recovery on a punt into a touchdown. Overall, the Vikings have scored touchdowns after their last seven takeaways dating all the way back to Week 6. Overall they have turned 14 takeaways into 66 points this season.
Scouting the Broncos
Lost in Tebowmania is the spirited effort of the Denver defense, which has allowed only five touchdowns during the team’s current winning streak. In that span, defensive end Elvis Dumervil has re-emerged as a major force off the edge, notching 5.5 sacks in November. Meanwhile, linebacker Von Miller has established himself as an obvious frontrunner for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. He has 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Plus, he had a game-saving tackle of San Diego’s Mike Tolbert late in overtime Sunday, stopping Tolbert for a 4-yard loss immediately before Chargers kicker Nick Novak missed a 53-yard field goal.
True or false
Jared Allen will continue on as the Vikings’ long snapper: False.
Cullen Loeffler’s back injury is severe enough that the team placed him on injured reserve Tuesday, then signed Matt Katula as a replacement. Katula, who played in college at Wisconsin, spent five seasons in Baltimore and part of last season with New England.
And why didn’t the Vikings stick with Allen handling added special teams responsibilities? Simple. He’s being paid incredible sums of cash to be a menace to opposing quarterbacks. And as Loeffler found out Sunday, all it takes is one blindside hit in punt coverage and you've got a broken bone in your lower back. Imagine the outcry that would erupt if Allen suffered a serious injury while playing the role of long snapper.

Frazier won't get any help from Lions

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: September 21, 2011 - 7:04 AM

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.

Vikes try to avoid rare back-to-back 0-2 starts

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: September 17, 2011 - 11:57 AM

The Vikings posted back-to-back 0-2 starts only once (2001 and 2002) in their first 50 seasons. Sunday, they'll try to avoid doing it a second time when they return to the Metrodome to face the Buccaneers in a game between two 0-1 teams.

Since 1990, only 12.5 percent of the teams to start 0-2 have reached the playoffs. The Vikings were one of them in 2008. And, of course, the best exception to the rule that 0-2 is a time to panic is the 2008 Giants, who not only made the playoffs but beat an undefeated Patriots team to win the Super Bowl.

The Vikings have started 0-2 just 10 times in their first 50 seasons, with half of them coming in the past 10 seasons: 1962, 1965, 1967, 1981, 1984, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2010. Brad Childress' 2008 team is the only one of those to go on and make the playoffs. He benched Tarvaris Jackson and went with Gus Frerotte after that 0-2 start.

Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant started 0-2 only twice in 18 seasons, scattering them 15 seasons apart. Bud lost his first four games as Vikings coach, but seemed to bounce back OK.

Prediction: Vikings 21-17. Although MLB E.J. Henderson's swollen left knee and questionable status makes me question this pick, I don't think the Bucs' offensive line will hold up well enough in the Metrodome for Tampa Bay to gain control of this game.

Former Vikings linebacker Herron rejoins team

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: August 26, 2011 - 12:29 PM

The Vikings have signed linebacker David Herron and released linebacker Mark Washington, who was out this week with a shoulder injury.

If Herron's name rings a bell, that's because he was a pawn in the early stages of the feud between former Vikings coach Brad Childress and Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

In 2007, the Vikings signed Herron as an undrafted rookie. When teams began cutting players, the Vikings decided to put in a claim for Patriots tight end Garrett Mills. Childress not only claimed Mills, he then went public with details on how Belichick called and tried to get him not to claim Mills so that the Patriots could add Mills to their practice squad.

Childress said Belichick offered to not claim a released Vikings player if Childress agreed. Childress declined the offer, so Belichick claimed Herron.

"Belichick didn't really care for that," Childress said at the time. "He was trying to leverage, but you always find out who is honest and straightforward."

The Patriots ended up releasing Herron, who ended up back with the Vikings in 2007-08. Herron also was with the Chiefs in 2009, the Chargers in 2010 and the Jets earlier this offseason. Mills never made a significan contribution to the Vikings, but the relationship between Childress and Belichick remained frosty, at best.

Belichick, of course, got the last laugh. He traded Randy Moss to the Vikings for a third-round draft pick during the 2010 season. Moss ended up being released 26 days later in a move that played a major role in Childress' firing.

Herron gives the Vikings some depth at an injury-depleted postion. Heath Farwell (hamstring), rookie Ross Homan (concussion) and Jasper Brinkley (hip) all missed practices this week.

Raiders sign Sheppard: Former Viking Lito Sheppard was signed by the Raiders today. Sheppard, 30, played in 13 games with two starts for the Vikings a year ago.

Webb will be No. 2 QB vs. Cowboys

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: August 25, 2011 - 2:30 PM

Coach Leslie Frazier said Joe Webb will be the No. 2 quarterback in Saturday night's third preseason game against the Cowboys. With Donovan McNabb and the rest of the starters expected to play into the third quarter, Webb most likely will finish up the third and possibly begin the fourth quarter, while rookie Christian Ponder would finish up the game.

Frazier then said, "maybe we'll do something different in the last preseason game." Later in the press conference, I asked if that means the team is thinking of resting McNabb and starting either Webb or Ponder (after about 21 years of covering preseason football, you tend to notice trends).

Frazier smiled and said, "You been in our staff meetings? Something like that."

Webb was the No. 2 QB in the preseason opener. Ponder was No. 2 in the second preseason game. A winner for the regular season probably won't be determined until after the final preseason game a week from today.

The Vikings would like Ponder to win the No. 2 job so that Webb would be freed up to use his athleticism some at receiver and in Wild Cat formations. The Vikings ran a few Wild Cat plays in practice today.

Asked if it the team can use Webb in a Wild Cat if he's the No. 2 quarterback, Frazier said, "Sure can. It's not the most ideal. If he becomes our clear-cut No. 2, then you may not want to risk it as much. But we'll see."

Frazier also was asked about Webb showing up every now and then as a receiver in practice.

"It's more experimental at this point, just seeing what he looks like and whether it's something we want to do down the road," Frazier said.

Frazier's predecessor, Brad Childress, wasn't a fan of the Wild Cat. Frazier likes it. Asked if it was a perfect attack for a guy like Webb, Frazier said, "I agree. It's perfectly made for Joe. He's such an all-around athlete and multi-dimensional guy. That's set up for him, without question."

Other highlights from today:

  • Right guard Anthony Herrera spoke to the media for the first time this summer. It lasted less than a minute and was terse. Herrera clearly isn't happy with reporters questioning whether he'd be able to come back from his torn left ACL and return to the starting lineup. Asked if he was concerned that he might not back it back in time for the regular season opener, Herrera said, "I didn't have any concerns. You guys were the ones that were out there speculating or whatever. I had no concerns. Neither did the coaches or the training staff." Frazier was asked if he thinks Herrera is playing with a chip on his shoulder. "Oh yeah," Frazier said. "He has something to prove, and he wants to prove something to everybody, including us as coaches, whether or not he can do it or not. We're all excited to see him come back and play, and we're all pulling for him. He's a tremendous competitor, a leader for our offensive line and for our team."
  • Running back Toby Gerhart ran some pass patterns at the start of practice, but then stopped when the soreness in his ankle and Achilles' tendon didn't go away. He won't play on Saturday night. Also not playing are Kevin Williams (plantar fasciitis), Ross Homan (concussion), Asher Allen (toe), Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring), Jasper Brinkley (hip), Mark Washington (shoulder) and Heath Farwell (hamstring). Farwell had returned to practice earlier this week, but wasn't on the field today.
  • Chad Greenway had an interception against Ponder in a 7 on 7 goal-line drill. The players didn't wear pads today, but practiced for about an hour and 45 minutes.
  • Naturally, Marcus Sherels had an interception in practice. He picked off Webb. Sherels has had a number of picks in practice this summer.
  • NFL teams must cut from 90 players to 80 on Tuesday.



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