The Minnesota Vikings finally pulled the plug on embattled head coach Brad Childress on Monday, firing him after the Vikes fell to 3-7 in an embarrasing 31-3 home loss to the Packers. Childress got the Vikings to the playoffs in two of his four years, but his tenure will be most remembered for the pursuit of Brett Favre that led to the NFC championship game in one year but to total disaster the next year.
Childress was an autocratic coach. That works in many places, but Childress’ shortcoming was that he made no attempt to connect with the players. He was so concerned that they knew he was the boss that his players had little loyalty to him. In good times, that wasn’t a big deal, because players want to win. And because Childress built the Vikings from six to eight to 10 to 12 wins in his first four seasons, his harsh personality never scuttled his authority. But when things collapsed this year, the players had no incentive to play hard for Childress. In fact, they may have had a disincentive, because getting Childress out of town makes the final six weeks of the season more palatable.
In the end, Childress undercut his own autocratic coaching style with his Favre chase. Favre got a blank check from the Vikings, and this year, as Favre’s play has declined, Childress’ criticisms of Favre seem hollow and petty. That only served to highlight Childress’ issues in the locker room. Favre has a huge ego, but he gets along with his teammates, and so it’s not a surprise that his issues with the coach prodded even more players out of the coach’s corner.
Interim head coach Leslie Frazier has been one of the league’s hot head-coaching prospects for a couple of years now, and that may be another reason the Vikings pulled the plug. By making a change now, the Vikings get a look at Frazier, and they may be able to lock him up as a head coach before the end of the season. That would be a good thing, because Frazier is as respected as an assistant coach can be. We believe he’s the right man to coach the Vikings not just down the stretch but in 2011 as well.
As for Childress, he once said that he believed he would get but one chance to be a head coach. He’ll probably be right. He’s not a bad coach, but people skills are important for a head coach. Childress chose to do things his way, which is great in theory. But his way proved to be fatal to his career because he showed such a disregard for morale. At least he has a multimillion-dollar golden parachute that his Favre dalliance got him last year.