Behind Enemy Lines: Vikings-Packers, Part II

The Vikings have so many issues going on off the field, from Brad Childress' job status to his relationship with players to a receiver corps that can't seem to get healthy. Bill Huber of Packer Report points the spotlight on the Vikings, and Tim Yotter of Viking Update tries to explain.

Bill Huber: We had Brad Childress on the conference call on Wednesday morning and he joked about being booed in the tunnel before games. So, on a serious note, what's your gut tell you about his future? And if a move is made, do you see a housecleaning or the simple promotion of highly regarded defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier?

Tim Yotter:
If a move is made in-season, then it will be Leslie Frazier promoted and probably given the chance to impress enough to become a consideration for the future. You've got to remember that the lack of a collective bargaining agreement probably plays into the equation. If the entire coaching staff is let go and they have to hire a new one, then they are paying out Childress for the remainder of his contract (or a buyout) plus paying a new coach that may or may not have a team to coach in 2011. That's a very difficult decision owner Zygi Wilf has to make. So with all that as background, I think the preference from the owner (and this is just a guess since his comments have been extremely limited) would be to have things get turned around and keep Childress at least through the end of the season. But right now the players just aren't responding and there haven't been a lot of signs of that turning around. You can't fire the entire roster, so the alternative seems to lead to the writing on the wall that Childress isn't here in 2011.

Huber: The Vikings are last in the NFL in turnover ratio and Brett Favre has thrown the most interceptions in the league. If it were anybody other than Favre, he'd probably be benched. Childress doesn't care about next year since he's coaching for his job, but is Favre really the best option?

Brett Favre took a knockout shot from the Patriots' Myron Pryor.
AP Photo

I still believe Favre is the best option for winning now, but it's apparent he doesn't have an interest in coming back in 2011, so once they are officially out of the playoff race I wouldn't be too shocked if there is a buyout of Favre's remaining games so he can end the misery. The question is if Favre would want to walk away from about a million dollars a game. Before all the turmoil and before Donovan McNabb's extension (which could easily be worked around in Washington if they wanted to release him), I was really leaning toward him being the quarterback of the Vikings in 2011. But now that Childress' job is in jeopardy, it's anyone's guess who will be the quarterback here next year. Tarvaris Jackson? That was Childress' quarterback and Jackson will be some sort of a free agent in 2011, if the league gets to free agency. Kevin Kolb? Probably a decent bet if Childress is here. Some other free agent? Most likely if there is a new head coach. It's a great situation, isn't it? That's what happens when you spend a lot of time trying to develop a drafted quarterback that doesn't convincingly grab hold of the opportunity. Where would Green Bay be if Aaron Rodgers had flopped? It would probably be a huge mess with Ted Thompson taking the fall and no real quarterback for the future.

Huber: Then again, maybe it's not all on Favre. He certainly wasn't to blame for any of the three picks against Chicago. Do you think we'd be writing different stories this week if Favre had a healthy Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin and Bernard Berrian all year or the Moss trade wouldn't have turned out to be such a disaster?

Sidney Rice hasn't played yet this year.
Chris McGrath/Getty

I definitely think things would be a lot different with Rice in the lineup and Harvin healthier. Berrian either hasn't done much or hasn't been healthy enough to do much. He was signed to be the team's No. 1 receiver and at his best would only be No. 3 if Rice and Harvin were both at full strength. Favre learned to rely on Rice and his big frame throughout last year and he just hasn't found that kind of guy this year, even with Moss. Although Favre probably wouldn't admit it, I didn't ever sense that he trusted Moss to give full effort, and why should he? The thing about Rice is that if the ball is near him, he's going to either grab it or fight to knock it away from being an interception. When he's healthy, he's a very reliable receiver, but last year was the only year he has been healthy for a full season. As for Favre's last game, you could make a case that he wasn't to blame for the picks, but it looked like Shiancoe was trying to adjust to the throw when he slipped down.

Huber: I figured the Vikings would destroy the Bears last week because Minnesota's front four would manhandle the Bears' offensive line and get after Jay Cutler. One thing Packers coach Mike McCarthy said this week is the Vikings are a vastly different team at home. Is that how you see it, and does that give the Vikings – and their suspect cornerbacks – a good chance against Green Bay's passing game?

I do agree that the Vikings are much better pass-rushing team at home, or at least on artificial turf, but they haven't consistently gotten their pass rush going this year. Their last home game, against Arizona, was by far their best – getting six sacks – but that was against Derek Anderson, who tended to hold onto the ball longer than he should have and four of those six came in Arizona's final two drives of the game when the Cardinals felt they had to pass. That has also been part of the problem with the pass rush – the Vikings haven't had many leads big enough to force a team to pass. They have four sacks in five road games, but only one sack in their last three road games. They also set a franchise record by going three games without a sack, so the fear factor of the Vikings' defensive line shouldn't be as great as it was last year.

Huber: Barring a 7-0 finish to the season, the Vikings probably are finished for this year – even if they beat Green Bay on Sunday. Given their recent level of success, this team just doesn't look like a team that's going to be bad for the next few years. I've just hired you as general manager. Give me a few moves to get this team pointed back in the right direction.

Hiring a general manager would be a start, although you'd want someone with more real-world experience. But I'd start with a new coach because I don't think the players will respond favorably to Childress anymore. After that, I'd start by changing the scheme of the offensive line. I don't believe their predominantly zone blocking works well for a running back like Adrian Peterson. I'd look to trade Bernard Berrian (if that's even possible because of his salary) and use his money to re-sign Sidney Rice. Re-signing Chad Greenway would have to be a priority, as is working on a long-term contract for Peterson. Then I'd look to find a find a developmental quarterback in the first or second round of the draft and a safety to take over for Madieu Williams, who I believe has never played the same since his neck injury in his first training camp with the Vikings. None of those moves are novel and none of them require huge free-agent investments, but they would likely need a short-term answer at quarterback either through free agency or trade to bridge the gap while a young one develops. I still believe this team has a lot of talent and rebuilding isn't necessary, but a refreshing attitude is needed.

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

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