Childress Faces QB Challenges

The uncertain future of quarterback Daunte Culpepper creates an interesting scenario for new Vikings coach Brad Childress. Will Culpepper return from his knee injury in time to pick up a new offense or is veteran Brad Johnson's familiarity with the West Coast Offense a safer bet to start the 2006 season? Childress addressed those questions in vague terms.

New Vikings coach Brad Childress will have many hard decisions to make in the days ahead. Will he keep any of the Vikings' current assistants? Who else will he interview?

But perhaps the hardest question he will have to answer for maybe the next year will be this: Who will be the quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings – at the beginning of the 2006 season and well into the future.

Will it be Brad Johnson or Daunte Culpepper, or is the answer different in the long term and short term? Culpepper is trying to recover from a serious knee injury, tearing three ligaments in his knee, in late October.

"You know that there is nothing for sure in this league, but I have coached Daunte and Brad in Pro Bowls and they both bring different things to the table," said Childress, an offensive mind who is credited with the development of Eagles QB Donovan McNabb. "I can give you kind of the pecking order. We saw Daunte Culpepper work out first and I thought I would never see another workout like that as long as I lived – that has to be the No. 1 pick in the draft. The next workout was Donovan McNabb. I thought I'd never see a workout like the one I saw and I just saw another one at Syracuse that was mind-boggling. We went out and saw Akili Smith and he had an outstanding workout. We went out and saw Tim Couch. In my mind, we got the No. 1 player, and again Daunte was a very close second. He fits right into all the things that we'll do. In talking with the doctors, I had a chance to check this out during the course of the interview where he is at with Dr. Andrews. He has made significant, significant progress in just six weeks."

But can a quarterback like Culppeper, who has spent most of his career chucking the long ball to wide receiver Randy Moss, thrive in a so-called West Coast offense.

"Yeah, and I think that is overused," Childress said of the West Coast label. "I think what West Coast allows you to do is be able to use your talent. Whether it is two tight ends and one back, two wide receivers, or if you feel like you want to stick four wide receivers out on the field I think we have the flexibility to do that."

In fact, Wilf said, the Vikings even consulted Culpepper during the interview process with Childress.

"I talked to Daunte and I also talked to Donovan McNabb and (Philadelphia head coach Andy) Reid. We spoke to everyone. We spoke to Daunte about it, and he's very excited. The whole team should be excited because I think we have a head coach who will lead us to the championships we're looking for," Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said.

So will the Vikings enter training camp with a quarterback competition?

"I wouldn't categorize it that way," Childress said. "I've always believed that a guy doesn't lose his position if he gets hurt, but Brad Johnson is a talented guy and he won a lot of football games for you guys this year. I'm familiar with him and he knows this system and he knows the lingo that I'm going to bring in here, just having coached in the Pro Bowl and using the same lingo in those games. He'll be ready to go and I'm sure I'll have a chance to have a conversation with him as well."

So would Daunte be Childress's guy, just like former coach Mike Tice said Culpepper would be his guy in 2006 if Tice returned to coach the Vikings?

"Daunte right now is the franchise quarterback. We'll just leave it at that and hope he gets well and rehabs," Childress said. "He's the franchise quarterback here – that's how they signed him."

COACHING COMPETITION

The assistant coaches within the organization are going to have to be more worried about their future than Culpepper. Childress didn't come right out and say it, but it appears very few of the former assistants will be part of Childress's new staff.

"This business is a tough business. Sometimes you can keep people and sometimes you can't keep people," Childress said. "Everybody knows the drill, but I think there is a certain amount of compassion involved in that. I've been on the other end of that and I'm sensitive to it, but by the same token I want to get a first-rate staff in here."

Childress said it isn't always necessary to keep some of the prior staff for continuity.

He said he has already formulated some assistants on his preliminary list, but he hoped to have the staff assembled next week. He said he has talked to Reid over the last couple of years about Philadelphia assistants and Reid's response was to be expected:

"In a couple of words, (Reid said) ‘Get your own guys,'" Childress said.

Some of the assistants usually come from the college ranks when a new coach take the reigns, Childress said.

"Those guys are great teachers. It's kind of like free agency – they have them for those four years and have to get them up to speed. You need to make sure you get them in and get ability in front of experience. I've got a couple of those guys in mind."

One of those apparently wasn't offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Steve Loney. Childress said he would try to talk with Loney on Friday, but Loney accepted a job as offensive line coach with the Arizona Cardinals later in the day.



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