Even though Brad Childress is no longer coaching the Vikings, he still has a lot of friends in the organization and he certainly is sympathetic about their 0-4 record.

Asked how he would react if he was still coaching the team after these four difficult losses, he said, "I'd have an ulcer the size of my head."

Childress continued: "It's tough, I'm disappointed for the guys, disappointed for Leslie [Frazier]. They're finding a way to kind of lose, whether it's penalties or -- I don't know.

"It seems they're going to force their hand and they're going to have to play [rookie quarterback Christian] Ponder here somewhere pretty quick."

Childress was a big fan of quarterback Donovan McNabb -- he was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for seven years in Philadelphia when McNabb was with the Eagles -- and gave some thought to bringing McNabb to the Vikings when he was coaching in Minnesota.

Speaking about McNabb, Childress said: "You know, he's kind of average right now. I don't know that he has a lot of guys making plays around him. The thing is everybody has to play for the quarterback, and I think we had a pretty good defense -- when you're on offense and you have a pretty good defense, that makes a huge difference.

"I don't think they've had enough explosives throwing the ball down the field. It doesn't look like they can get up top on anybody."

Childress said that Kansas City's defensive tactic of stacking the line of scrimmage to stop Adrian Peterson will be repeated until the passing game shows it can move the ball on a regular basis.

"That's what Bill Belichick would do," Childress said, referring to the New England Patriots coach. "That's what he does the best -- we're not going to let that guy beat us. We're going to let McNabb beat us and the throwing game beat us. You're going to see a lot more of that stuff, probably."

Childress said that even though he coached the team for its first 10 games last season, going 3-7, it's a different situation now. "You know what? Without being in the locker room it's really hard to know," he said. "I don't know what the mindset of the team is. That's the thing."

Told that only one team -- the 1992 San Diego Chargers -- has made the playoffs after starting off 0-4, Childress said, "Everything has changed since 1992."

Childress added that the results of Sunday's games prove that anything can happen.

"I mean there was a few that were unbelievable," Childress said. "The Eagles were winning 23-3; they lost. Buffalo was winning pretty big over Cincinnati; they lost. The Cowboys were doing whatever they wanted to, and they lost to the Lions."

Win with talent

Yes, like Bud Grant always says, you win with players, and coaches get too much credit when a team wins and too much blame when a team loses.

The Vikings' record of 6-10 last season and 0-4 this year adds up to a horrendous record of 6-14 in their past 20 games.

But when Childress had the players, he won back-to-back division titles in 2008 and 2009, and was within one penalty (for having 12 players on the field) of going to the Super Bowl.

Childress was especially great in 2009, when he had a healthy Brett Favre and went 12-4 before losing to New Orleans.

In 2010, he got fired because Mr. Favre wasn't the same quarterback he was in 2009.

And right now I will tell you: The reason that Frazier is not a winner is not because he isn't an outstanding coach, and doesn't have an outstanding staff. It's because he doesn't have an outstanding quarterback.

And not only are some of the standout players older and not producing like they did before, but the 2011 roster lacked defensive tackle Kevin Williams for two games and is missing such players as linebacker Ben Leber, defensive tackle Pat Williams, defensive end Ray Edwards and Heath Farwell, a Pro Bowl special teams player, all of whom left the organization.

Statistics close

A year ago with Favre as the quarterback, the Vikings went 1-3 in the first four games compared to 0-4 this year.

If you check the statistics of Favre a year ago and McNabb this year in their first four games, there is little to differentiate the two.

Favre completed 74 of 131 passes for 861 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions.

In the same number of games this season, including Sunday's loss to the Chiefs when he completed 18 of 30 for 202 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, McNabb has completed 65 of 111 passes for 680 yards, four touchdowns and only two interceptions.

Then you take the case of superstar running back Adrian Peterson. Including Sunday's game, when he rushed 23 times for 80 yards, he has rushed for 376 yards on 81 carries with three touchdowns. Peterson has also caught nine passes for 49 yards.

Last season in the first four games, Peterson had 480 yards on 88 carries with three touchdowns and 14 receptions for 105 yards.

Can't make a play

Things are going bad for the Gophers, and naturally it is hard on coach Jerry Kill's family, causing one of them to say after the 58-0 loss to Michigan: "Gosh, Dad, we just need to make a play."

I didn't believe that Kill and his staff felt they had any chance to win at Michigan, but they certainly did not expect to be destroyed by the Wolverines and make mistake after mistake with terrible tackling and crucial penalties.

Let's face the facts: The Gophers don't have the personnel right now to compete with big-time programs like Michigan and Wisconsin.

Against Michigan, "we started the second half with two backup tackles, a freshman quarterback, a freshman running back, a freshman wide receiver," Kill said. "I think four out of the five are freshmen up front on the offensive line or redshirt freshmen. Those kids are learning on the run and they're going to make some mistakes. You're going to have freshmen and younger players make mistakes. That's part of it. But you can't have your older players making them."

Yes, that is one thing that has killed the Gophers this year, seniors being responsible for some of the critical penalties, such as killing the 96-yard kickoff return by Marcus Jones.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com