Childress A Year Later

When Brad Childress took over the Vikings a year ago, he brought with him a "my way or the highway" mentality that didn't leave much room for complaints from players who didn't buy in. The resolution to the conflict with Antoine Winfield points to a different Childress -- one who, a year later, seems more open to compromise than he was when he first got the Vikings job.

The whole deal had an eerie refrain to it – star player not happy with the direction of the team and not shy about letting those feelings be heard.

We heard the same talk last year, when Daunte Culpepper didn't buy in completely to the new offense head coach Brad Childress was bringing to Vikings and certainly didn't get off to a good start communicating about how his injury should be rehabilitated. Culpepper, who clearly liked former head coach Mike Tice, began saying and doing the wrong things and Childress responded the best way he knew how – by sending a message to the rest of the team by shopping Culpepper until he got a taker.

This time around many of the same components were there in the potential organization dust-up with Antoine Winfield. He wasn't going to show up for the voluntary portions of the off-season workout program and wasn't happy with the direction of the team as he saw it.

But this time, there was no talk of getting rid of Winfield and, perhaps more importantly, this time Childress worked out matters with his star cornerback. The lines of communication that had been so tightly closed in the Culpepper debacle were opened and Childress made an effort.

Speaking to the subject Saturday, Winfield's agent said that Childress had made an earnest effort to discuss and work out what differences the Vikings and Winfield may have had. This comes in sharp contrast to the policy that was used when Culpepper was rehabbing his knee on his own or Pat Williams showed up for training camp above his prescribed weight and was isolated from the rest of the team for a few days. Sending a message makes a point, but isn't always the prudent approach to dealing with star players.

What the Winfield saga and its apparent resolution should tell us is that Childress may have learned a lot in his first season and the final answer on the field with his players. Had the Winfield situation happened a year ago, perhaps he would have been gone. You got the impression that Childress drew a line in the sand when it came to Culpepper and his feelings that he could get his rehab done better in Florida than at Winter Park.

While it shouldn't be viewed as a mellowing on the part of Childress, his understanding of the players and what frustrates them would seem to have changed and he was able to find a way to meet the player halfway, discuss what issues Winfield had and resolve them to the satisfaction of everyone involved. Perhaps Childress took his biggest step toward becoming a good head coach in the NFL. Without bending over backwards and caving in to a player, he let it be known that he is willing to listen and understand where a player needs to be heard.

A year ago, maybe none of this would have been possible or even attempted.

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