ESPN's Ed Werder, who is no stranger to the three-star hotels of downtown Hattiesburg, reported Friday that owner Zygi Wilf contemplated rescinding the release of Moss and instead firing Childress. It has been learned through channels that Childress acted unilaterally and that the reaction in the locker room has been split. When asked about his release, Tarvaris Jackson specifically noted the work Moss had done with Percy Harvin in the short time he was with the team.
Judd Zulgad and Chip Scoggins of the Star-Tribune added fuel to the speculation that Childress is on thin ice by reporting that Moss vocally told Wilf to fire Childress following the loss to New England and that Childress and Harvin had a "heated argument" about Harvin's effort at Friday's practice.
With all that has gone on in this weekly cliffhanger, you get the sense that we haven't seen the last of the surprises, blowups, twists and turns to the 2010 season – which has already provided more "What the …?" moments than one would expect in an entire season, much less one that isn't even halfway finished.
The last two times the Vikings had a season with this much turmoil came in 2001 and 2005. In 2001, fueled by the Moss comment that he plays when he wants to play, the Vikings imploded after a much-publicized series of sideline blowups when the Vikings played at Chicago. Coming off an NFC Championship Game appearance with essentially the same cast in place, the 2001 Vikings fell to 0-2 with the loss to the Bears and fractured from within – finishing 5-11 with Dennis Green bailing before the final game of the season when his firing went from rumor to eventuality in a matter of days.
Four years later, it was Mike Tice, the man deemed by Red McCombs to be able to "handle" Moss in his first run with the team. Tice went down with the Love Boat ship. Seen as a team run amok and Tice viewed as the dean of boys at Delta House, when the 2005 season concluded, one of the first official franchise-changing acts of the Wilf Administration was to inform Tice after a season-ending win over the Bears that he was no longer the head coach. In what was viewed as a somewhat callous administrative move, the team essentially pulled the pencil from Tice's ear, claiming team property rights mere minutes after what would turn out to be his final press conference as the Vikings head coach. The media was diverted from the typical path from interview room to locker room so as not to witness the execution. Tice walked into the killing zone not even knowing it was coming. The firing was punctuated by a release to be distributed immediately following the game, a document Tice maintains his son read before he believes the guillotine came down.
In both instances, the coaches involved in the last two firings had benchmark moments that could be pointed to in hindsight as to when it was viewed by ownership that the coach "lost the team." Childress claims he doesn't know what that phrase means. If the Vikings lose to the Cardinals on Sunday and the media gathering is blocked from their usual entrance back into the locker room, he may have a better grasp on the meaning of that phrase.
Green could be found "on the high road" when he saw the writing on the wall and said, "Seacrest out!" with one game remaining in the 2001 season. The Big Galoot walked unexpectedly like a steer into the slaughterhouse. In both instances, the pot of fan-base reaction was at full bubble. They wanted Green gone. He was. They didn't think Tice had enough control over the team and he was taken out Jersey-style. Will Childress follow the historical trend?
If he does, it would be the final irony. Childress was brought into the Vikings family in the rippled wake of the Love Boat scandal to clean house of the bad apples and malcontents and build a team that could not only be successful, but be men of character that the fan base could embrace in victory and defeat. To be a Viking meant you had to do it Chilly's way. The Twin Cities were going to be Minneapolis and St. Paul, not Sodom and Gomorrah. He clearly saw Moss as a detriment to what he wanted to accomplish. Just as clearly, Wilf didn't like the fact that he could be on the hook for $4 million if Tennessee hadn't put a claim in on the waiver wire and that the decision to excise Moss came without his initial approval.
Childress was picked as the head coach of the Vikings for a reason – discipline. The Vikings would ferret out players who didn't fit "the system." Childress saw visions of Terrell Owens. He didn't fit "the system." If he is fired, it will be – at least in part – for the same reason he was hired. Go figure.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.