There are e-mailers willing to express an opinion on the Vikings following every game. There were a few more than normal this week after the 34-14 thumping of the Chicago Bears.

The fact that this victory moved the Vikings into first place for the first time since 2004 did not cause any of these electronic communicators to salute coach Brad Childress.

The Vikings are 7-3 since Childress made the dramatic switch to veteran Gus Frerotte over third-year player Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback. In most situations, a coach making a key move that worked out so well in the win-loss column would be getting credit for his boldness.

Around here, most of the feedback has been anti-Childress -- blaming the coach for giving Jackson another try in the first place.

When you look back objectively, that decision was not as foolish as Jackson made it appear with his lousy play in the opening losses to Green Bay and Indianapolis.

Jackson was in his second season in 2007 and played better down the stretch. His most dynamic effort of the season was the second-half comeback from oblivion in Game 16 at Denver.

Childress, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and quarterback coach Kevin Rogers went to work with Jackson. They liked what they saw in minicamps and optional workouts and in those hundreds of hours of study that take place in the offseason.

Jackson didn't get as much work as the coaches wanted in the exhibitions because of a minor injury, but the brain trust wasn't going to throw away every positive it had seen from the kid since last December before he had a shot in the regular season.

Childress gave him two starts, both losses, and then pulled the trigger. Frerotte is tougher to protect and still throws his interceptions, but as Childress said this week, "Damn the rough seas; did you bring the ship in?''

The Vikings are harbored in first place and should move very close to a first-ever NFC North title with a victory Sunday in Detroit.

Which leads to a topic that continues to leaves me confused: Why is it Minnesota fans remain anti-Childress and have such tolerance for the Gophers' Tim Brewster?

Both took over mediocre teams from coaches of lukewarm popularity. Childress inherited a 9-7 team and went 6-10 in 2006. Brewster inherited a team that was 6-6 in the regular season and coached a 1-11 disaster in 2007.

Childress missed the playoffs at 8-8 in his second season, and now the Vikings are in first place. Brewster started 7-1 against a cupcake schedule, then November became a 0-4 collapse.

Childress has a tendency to make points in a roundabout manner, but he's basically straight in dealing with the public. Brewster is always selling and never talking straight.

One guy is a football coach, and the other is trying to sell you the Washington Avenue bridge. One fan base chafes over the coach, and the other embraces the bridge salesman.

What gives?

"In my opinion, the difference between Vikings fans and Gopher football fans in regard to optimism stems from the fact we can't get rid of the university football team,'' said Stephen Ross, an assistant professor of sports marketing at the university.

"The university and its football team will be there through good/bad, TCF Stadium or not. The Gophers wouldn't threaten to move, because they couldn't. As such, the 'Gopher Nation,' or whomever supports Gopher football, simply tries to look on the bright side of everything to make themselves feel better.

"It's about self-esteem and protecting the ego. Who wants to be associated with a loser? In order to prevent that, we project positive thoughts or images onto a team [and thus make them better than they are].

"The Vikings theoretically could up and move ... and the organization uses this type of blackmail in order to justify funding from the state for a new stadium. Individuals are less 'attached' to the Vikings because they are not forever bound to the team. This results in less ego-protection strategies -- [such as accepting] over-the-top platitudes.''

At least it's a theory, which is something a sportswriter hasn't been able to reach concerning the public's evaluation of these two football coaches.

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. preusse@startribune.com