CHARLOTTE, N.C. - When Brett Favre revealed his frustration at Brad Childress' willingness to bench him Sunday night, you could almost hear the collective gasp of Vikings fans.
Unlike most of the people you'll hear and read on the subject, I recommend exhaling.
A nation's football fans will see this as a sign of Favre's noted ego, or an indication that Childress lacks control, or that the infamous and fraudulent "schism'' story regarding Favre's place in the Vikings' locker room should be applied to his relationship with his new coach.
My question is: What did you expect? At some point this season, Favre and Childress were going to quarrel over playing time.
Favre isn't exactly accustomed to sitting on the bench, not during a career in which he set a record for consecutive games played, and not during a season that might be his last; and Childress is charged with maintaining Favre's health as best he can.
In this case, I agree with Favre -- I find it strange that a coach determined to see his team surge into the playoffs would consider benching his Hall of Fame quarterback while his team had the lead and his quarterback had yet to throw an interception despite playing under heavy pressure.
We should be congratulating Childress on becoming more flexible in his dealings with his quarterback. Brad Johnson and Gus Frerotte left town upset with Childress' unwillingness to cede control; with Favre, Childress has had little choice but to allow his quarterback more input and control, and that, until Sunday night, had been one of many reasons the Vikings were considered perhaps the most complete team in the NFC.
This isn't high school football, where the coach is part father, part disciplinarian. This isn't college football, where the coach is king and, if successful, will outlast any problematic players.
This is professional sports, a realm in which star athletes long ago surpassed coaches in pay, and often in importance. Even since Magic Johnson fired Paul Westhead, many an intelligent and accomplished coach has ceded some control to his most important players. In this realm, Bill Belichick, the supposed coaching genius and most celebrated control freak of a generation, can't get Randy Moss to play hard all the time, can't keep Adalius Thomas from complaining about him in the locker room, and might not look like such a genius if he hadn't given Tom Brady plenty of latitude.
You can say Childress looks weak today because he tried to bench Favre, and the QB refused to take a seat, but the Vikings entered into this relationship with eyes wide open.
The Vikings, like most pro sports franchises, treat all-time greats differently than they treat rookie free agents. They let Favre dictate terms and timing, allowing him to skip training camp. They basically begged him to save them. They did so knowing that Favre is proud and stubborn; that he had feuded with management of the team that helped him become a Hall of Famer; had left the Jets amid charges from teammates that he had been, at best, aloof.
When the Vikings took a knee and proposed, offering up a $12 million ring, they knew they were entering a high-maintenance relationship. If you marry a former dancer with tattoos of her former boyfriends on her lower back, you shouldn't be surprised when she asks for a Lamborghini.
Now is not the time to complain about it, not after Favre has led them to an 11-3 record and a playoff berth while playing like a top-five MVP candidate.
I was mostly against signing Favre this summer -- until I saw Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson at training camp. I thought Childress would look foolish for sacrificing his principles, that the Vikings would regret inviting Favre's ego and recklessness into their midst, that he would wear down or slump when the games matter most in December and January.
Favre changed my mind with brilliant play and leadership skills that have to be witnessed up close to be appreciated.
His sideline spat with Childress will be a crisis only if Favre and Childress allow it to become one. Otherwise, they should laugh it off and move forward, and we should all acknowledge that this isn't a simple boss-employee relationship. This is relationship between an ambitious coach and the Hall of Fame quarterback he coaxed out of retirement in an attempt to win a championship.
Childress should be more concerned with his offensive line and star running back than his quarterback.
Favre didn't come out of retirement to wear a baseball cap on the sideline during a national telecast. In this case -- under these circumstances, and in this relationship -- no one should be offended that he fought to stay in the game.
Jim Souhan can be heard at 10-noon Sunday, and 6:40 a.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday on AM-1500. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • email@example.com