My last post needs some expansion on the Brett Favre vs. Brad Childress situation, so here we go.
First, let’s look at the 2008 Viking team. The finished 10-6, first in their division by one game. Their tenth win came in week 17 against a New York Giant team with nothing to play for, who voluntarily sat their starting quarterback in the second half and still had a 19-10 lead going into the fourth quarter. They won five games by less than a touchdown, and four by a field goal or less. They alternated between Tavaris Jackson and Gus Frerrotte at quarterback (who combined for 3,213 yards, 22 touchdowns and 17 interceptions on 59 percent passing), and their best wide receivers were Bernard Berrian (48 catches for 964 yards) and Bobby Wade (53 for 645). And they had Adrian Peterson at running back logging 363 carries for over 1,700 yards. They got to the playoffs, and Jackson laid an egg against the Eagles on the way to a 26-14 loss in which they were inept in the passing game.
Now, look at 2009. They’re 11-3 with two games to play, and only two of those wins are squeakers. They have Favre at quarterback, who’s already thrown for 3,565 yards, 27 touchdowns and only seven interceptions on 67.8 percent passing. They have three wideouts with significant numbers: Berrian (50 for 510), rookie Percy Harvin (49 for 691), and Sidney Rice (71 for 1,144). Peterson has carried the ball 280 times so far, and average of three fewer carries per game than last year. So on all fronts, the Viking offense is better. Other than Favre, Harvin is the only major addition. Rice was an afterthought last season, catching fewer than 20 balls on his way to bustville, and now he’s a Pro Bowler. Peterson is getting less wear and tear, and the point differential has gone significantly up, from two to nine points per game.
Brad Childress’ fortunes have changed as well. Going into the offseason he was a coach on the hotseat, his fate in the hands of Tavaris Jackson. Now he has a contract extension, thanks to the improved performance of his team. He may also end up with a Super Bowl ring, or at least a long playoff run. Is that all because of Favre? No, but about 75% of it is. He made a deal with the devil, Favre’s services and all the benefits in return for being Brett’s (rhymes with witch). And now he’s getting chesty because Favre won’t adhere to his more conservative offensive philosophy. He apparently wants to be more like the run-first, no mistakes, take-no-chances unit he fielded in 2008 than they’ve been in 2009. In other words, he wants Brett Favre to be better version of Tavaris Jackson while Favre wants to be, well, Favre.
The problem is that the Brad Childress Way was good for a 10-6 record padded by nailbiter wins, mediocre quarterback play, and a lost cause once they fell behind in a playoff game. It was good for making Sidney Rice look like a bum and overworking Adrian Peterson. It makes you wonder if Harvin would be having as good a rookie year as he is now, or if Rice would be on his way out of the league had Favre not shown up, or if Peterson would be on his way to washed up before the age of 29. We’ve seen the Brad Childress Way, and it ends badly. And he decided that he needed Favre the way baseball players needed steroids, to get just one level higher.
And now he’s faced with a real dilemma. Like anyone in a position of responsibility, he wants to be able to run his program the way he sees fit. And Favre is severely undercutting that. The problem is that even if they win the Super Bowl, all credit will go to Favre and if they go down in flames Childress will somehow be left holding the bag. That’s the deal he made, though.