Opinion: Moss-Childress spoiling the season

Randy Moss and Brad Childress are both losers in the battle of power. Moss acted like he has for years and Childress made sure he wouldn't do it anymore in Minnesota. Meanwhile, the Vikings are still supposed to regroup after a 2-5 start and all this drama?

The bizarre 2010 Vikings season just doesn't seem to ever stop having new twists and turns – Sidney Rice delaying hip surgery, the kidnapping of Brett Favre by three veteran Vikings, the trade for Randy Moss, the Jenn Sterger-related investigation of Favre, Moss' ill-timed and flat-out strange postgame press conference Sunday and Monday's announcement that Moss had been released.

This has all the makings of a team spiraling out of control. With a group that entered 2010 with a mantra of "Super Bowl or bust," the latter seems to be the operative option at this point. It's becoming clearer that Favre will have everything he can do to make it to the end of the season and discussion has swirled both locally and nationally that Favre is allowed to call the shots and usurp Childress' authority when it comes to loyalty from the team and play-calling duties. If a poll of players – both offense and defense – was asked who they consider their leader, it is likely Favre would win over Chilly if they were being honest. Many feel the specter of Favre has diminished the power Childress wields, which may explain his unilateral decision to part ways with the Hall of Fame receiver.

While Childress informed the players that Moss was gone from the team, it apparently came as news to Zygi Wilf when he was first notified and, according to a couple of unnamed sources, Wilf was none too pleased, since he's the man who cuts the checks, he's the man who agreed to give up a third-round pick for what most believed would be a one-year rent-a-player, and he's the man where the buck stops. Childress may have control of what players are on the 53-man roster, but Wilf controls who the head coach is, which trumps any authority Childress might have.

Personally, I've kind of taken sides with the fans as it has pertained to Moss and his history with the franchise. That is a little strange given how polarizing Moss has been since his arrival in 1998. Weaned at the teat of Cris Carter, one of the most unpredictable players when it came do dealing media, it was somehow understandable that both Moss and Daunte Culpepper would become prima donnas who spoke to the media when they wanted to and blew them off when they wanted to.

In this case of "he said, he said" between Childress and Moss (although neither are talking publicly), there are no winners and there isn't one guy who is right and one who is wrong. Both are wrong and neither has done anything to make the situation better.

Before he left Minnesota, Moss had become a cancer in the locker room. When Todd Steussie called him out after statements he made following the 40-0 loss to the Giants in the 2000 NFC Championship Game – a game in which Moss spent much of his pregame walk-through time on the field arguing with security about getting friends down on the field – it created friction within the team. Because of Moss' talent and Dennis Green's man-love and respect for him, Steussie was gone the next year. It was also clear that players like Matt Birk didn't care for Moss' inconsistency – he could be a great teammate at one time and a pouting loner at others.

Moss is wired differently than most. He came to the NFL with a monumental chip on his shoulder and nothing has happened in the intervening years to change that. He still wants to make teams suffer and, despite his numerous achievements, he still feels disrespected 12 years later. He is stubborn. As he admits, "I play when I want to play," and that was no more evident that when he picked up a pass interference penalty that was obvious and, when the referee threw the flag, he stopped trying for the ball, which landed mere feet from him at the goal line.

That particular play may have been the result of Childress' knee-jerk reaction. Had Moss continued his route and caught the pass, the Vikings would have scored their touchdown sooner that cut the lead to 21-18 and, more importantly, Favre wouldn't have had his chin split open. Favre was injured three plays later on a third-and-goal from the 3-yard line.

His rambling soliloquy following the game was another nail in his Vikings coffin. In his four-and-a-half minute rant, the only mentions of the Vikings were the second-guess Childress' decision to go for a touchdown from the 1-yard line (with Moss on the sidelines) instead of a field goal at the end of the first half, to second-guess teammates for not seeking out his advice on the tendencies of the Pats offense and defense and to tell the local media he wasn't going to answer any of their questions for the rest of year.

It was a similar bashing of an organization, the media and, by extension the fans that Moss did after a Week 1 win – putting the spotlight on himself, opening his mouth and, once again, inserting his foot. That rambling dissertation led to his ouster within a month from New England. His most recent led to his ouster from the Vikings less than a month from the time the Vikings traded a third-round pick to acquire him. There has been no questioning what he can do on the field, but, in a team sport, you need your players on the same page. Moss marches to the beat of his own drummer, he always has and it appears he always will.

Moss was consistently a pouty antagonist in the locker room – before his trade to Oakland and after his return. It isn't unusual for players to skip the open locker room sessions during the practice week. Jared Allen hasn't been in the pre-practice open locker room since Week 2 and several other veterans have made a point to bail when the media arrives and stay out until the reporters are shown the door. It happens. But, not Moss. He would sit in front of his locker for most or all of the 45 minutes and, when a reporter would approach him (I asked him politely every day I was in the locker room if I could get a couple of minutes and he just as politely said "no") he would decline to talk. Other reporters were more pointed, going as far as to ask why 52 other players talk and he doesn't, prompting an agitated response from Moss warning the reporter to get away from his locker.

What Moss never seemed to understand is that, while Vikings fans universally loved him as a player, the beat reporters were their conduit to him. What's he thinking heading back to New England? Has the second time around been exciting, frustrating or some emotion in between? Is he getting his timing down with Favre? Nobody would ever find out because Moss refused to talk. His silence was frustrating enough that the local media submitted a grievance against Moss, saying that both the CBA and player contracts require players to be accessible to the media. Moss said Sunday that he did – which is a flat-out lie – and that he didn't deserve the $25,000 fine levied him – vowing to not answer questions from the local media the rest of the season.

While I wanted Moss quotes for stories I was and would be working on, it didn't matter that much to me. My job is to report on the team, not just Moss, and not in the role as a fan. However, like the newspaper, magazine, radio and television media members that were also snubbed, our job is to try to give the fans insight into the team. Vikings fans love their team in good times (and many of them in bad) and want to know what their heroes are thinking and have to say. With Moss saying nothing, it was impossible to know what he was thinking, if he was thinking anything at all.

Childress is far from clean in this situation as well. Whether he agreed with the decision to bring Moss to the Vikings or not – he does have the hammer when it comes to roster decisions – that call was made and he was given a talented receiver that, despite catching just nine passes, opened the field up for other players because he demanded special attention from the opposing defense. The Patriots held him to one catch for eight yards, primarily because they double-teamed him constantly and chipped him with linebackers and occasionally even defensive linemen. They devoted two players to him in order to minimize his production. Childress no longer has that security blanket, because guys like Bernard Berrian, Greg Lewis, Greg Camarillo and Hank Baskett don't require that sort of attention.

Whether he liked Moss or not, Childress knew he impacted how defenses approached the Vikings. He was a game-tilter. Wilf and Rick Spielman approved giving up a third-round pick to save the 2010 season and get to the Super Bowl. Releasing Moss, whether justified or not, doesn't improve the talent on the field.

Childress knew that Moss was a polarizing player in the locker room – loved by some, tolerated by others. To make a snap decision without apparently consulting with ownership has put him in a horrible place. Already being accused of being professionally cuckolded by Favre – most people believe Favre is calling the shots on offense, not Childress – he needed to make a statement that he is the man. His mentor Andy Reid did so with Terrell Owens and the Eagles survived just fine – the same T.O. who told then-offensive coordinator Childress to speak only when spoken to. Did that experience with a diva receiver and the lack of a drop-off when he was sent home have any impact on Childress' decision? Only time will tell, but it seems clear that Childress was attempting to exert a power play – both with his players and with his owner – that he is the man in charge of the team on the field and will let people that he feels aren't helping the team go away, regardless of their ability or their cost.

A poll on ESPN asked fans their thoughts on Childress. Four options were offered – fire him immediately, fire him at the end of the year, give him another season or leave him alone because he isn't the problem. The results? More than 80 percent said fire him – 45.3 percent saying immediately and another 36 percent at the end of the year. It is clear Chilly's popularity is at an all-time low, whether he made the right decision or not.

How the 2010 season unfolds from here is a mystery. The Vikings schedule isn't nearly as brutal in November as it was when the Vikings came off their bye in October. In one of the first team meetings following the bye week, Childress told the players that their season would be measured by how well they play in October. They went 1-3 and have fallen to the precipice of the cliff that could knock them out of the playoff picture.

The Moss situation is going to quiet down with time, but probably not much this week. There are no winners in this situation. Moss has once again cemented his legacy as a selfish, me-first public persona. Childress is portrayed as a coach that has lost control of his team and is viewed as second fiddle to Brett Favre when it comes to locker room loyalty. And, perhaps worse, the Vikings look like an organization that squandered a third-round pick for a guy who played four games and caught just nine passes.

No matter how you slice, nobody comes out of this looking good and, with Sidney Rice still weeks away from returning to the lineup, a 2010 season that began with so much promise would appear to have gasoline poured on it and simply waiting for the match to ignite the spark that burns the whole thing down.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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