The Chicago Bears were headed to the playoffs and put little effort into a 34-10 loss to the Vikings on Jan. 1, 2006, in the Metrodome. This put the Vikings at 9-7, their best record since the 2000 season, but it did not save Mike Tice's job.
Tice finished his postgame media session and was fired within moments by owner Zygi Wilf. Five days later, the Vikings held a news conference to introduce Brad Childress as the team's eighth head coach (counting Bud Grant twice).
Childress talked that day about the Vikings offering a unique opportunity, since he would be taking over a "winning'' team. It couldn't have taken long for Childress to realize that winning record was a mirage and he had a roster that required much rebuilding.
This wasn't the fault of Tice, but former owner Red McCombs. Once Mr. Purple Pride figured out he wasn't going to get a new stadium, he proved green was his favorite color and became the NFL's cheapest owner.
Team statistics are an important barometer in the NFL and those numbers were not kind to the 9-7 Vikings. They were outgained 5,173 yards to 4,613 by opponents. They rated 25th in total offense and 21st in total defense.
Soon, there was a greater complication for the new coach: quarterback Daunte Culpepper, coming off an ineffective start and an injured conclusion to 2005, was only interested in talking money and not about the new playbook with Childress.
Culpepper was traded. Childress' insistence on strict adherence to his play calls didn't sit well with veteran quarterback Brad Johnson. And the conservative nature of those calls became a source of ridicule with the local media and the fans.
The 2006 Vikings went 6-10. The bottom line was tossed at Childress continually: He had turned a nine-win team into a six-win team.
What went unnoticed was a small hint that rebuilding had started: The Vikings outgained opponents 4,943 yards to 4,803, and the defense went from No. 23 in the league to No. 8.
The 2007 Vikings went 8-8, while outscoring opponents 365-311 and being slightly outgained 5,410-5,379. The remarkable number was that 2,634 of the yards were rushing, as the Childress' offense took full advantage of the arrival of Adrian Peterson.
The 2008 Vikings reached the playoffs at 10-6, even as Childress wavered between Tarvaris Jackson and veteran Gus Frerotte at quarterback. They outscored the opposition 379-333 and had a 5,294-4,679 advantage in yards gained.
A year ago, Childress, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Wilf's checkbook were able to recruit Brett Favre to play quarterback. For the first time with the Childress regime, the Vikings had excellence rather than mediocrity at quarterback. The results were outstanding:
A 12-4 record, a 470-312 advantage in points and a 6,074-4,888 advantage in yards.
Legions of Vikings loyalists gave all credit for this tremendous season to Favre, and ignored the four seasons of roster adjustment that had taken place with Childress.
Last week, Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports carried the water for an unnamed, disgruntled Viking, including a pair of quotes that were alleged to shine light on the Favre-Childress relationship:
"Brett thinks Childress has no clue about offense,'' and "Brett just doesn't trust him.''
The second quote was part of the anonymous Viking convincing Cole to offer this observation: "Childress' presence, not Favre's ankle injury, was one of the biggest reasons Favre was hesitating ... after Childress visited Favre on July 19, Favre's desire to return declined.''
Surely, this was sweet music to those vocal Childress critics among the Purple Faithful ... a group that would insist even after a Vikings Super Bowl victory that it came in spite of the coach.
There was another suggestion from Cole that was offered as an anti-Childress blast: "One of the biggest problems in this situation is that Childress is allowed to run free within the organization.''
I read this to mean the head coach must take responsibility for what has occurred with the Vikings since he was hired in January 2006. Let's see then:
Offense: QB-Johnson. RB-Michael Bennett. WR-Nate Burleson, Koren Robinson, Travis Taylor. FB-Jim Kleinsasser. TE-Jermaine Wiggins. OL-Mike Rosenthal, Bryant McKinnie, Chris Liwienski, Adam Goldberg, Melvin Fowler (Matt Birk returned in '06 from injury).
Defense: Front-Darrion Scott, Erasmus James, Kevin Williams, Pat Williams. LB-Sam Cowart, E.J. Henderson, Keith Newman. Secondary-Antoine Winfield, Fred Smoot, Darren Sharper, Corey Chavous.
2010 STARTERS (PROJECTED)
Offense: QB-Favre. RB-Peterson. WR-Sidney Rice, Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin. FB-Naufahu Tahi. TE-Visanthe Shiancoe. OL-McKinnie, Phil Loadholt, Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera, John Sullivan.
Defense: Front-Jared Allen, Ray Edwards, K. and P. Williams. LB-Chad Greenway, Henderson, Ben Leber. Secondary-Winfield, Chris Cook (guess), Tyrell Johnson, Madieu Williams.
And Cole's blast tells us that the Vikings have allowed the head coach to run amok and dictate this big change in personnel? Gosh, shame on Chilly.
Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. • email@example.com