Opinion: Two coaching suggestions

It's a fine line between players failing to execute and coaches simply making mistakes. Most of the time, upon further review, it seems clear that a failure in execution on the field was the problem more than the design or coaching behind the play. Still, there's room for improvement everywhere, especially on a team that is now 2-5.

You have to give head coach Brad Childress a lot of credit for staying focused and keeping the team together so far, especially given the number of close games they have lost.  You also have to credit some of their veteran leaders, and even younger guys, for stepping up and carrying the team-first mantra.

Situations like this can go south in a hurry and the coach can lose the locker room before you know it.  Somewhere along the line, Childress has deposited enough credibility to hold the team together – at least so far.

Overall, Childress has assembled a strong staff of teachers who appear to be very sound at relating to their players, helping them understand the schemes and instructing them on fundamentals.

The players seem to work hard and play hard every week and are generally well-prepared on game day.  While I’m sure others would take exception to the Xs and Os portion of the coaching decisions, few writers or fans understand Xs and Os well enough to know the difference.

But there are a couple areas that seem to be crying out for improvement.

1.  Better role definition

To some degree it looks like this issue is beginning to take shape with how to utilize superstar Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor in the backfield.

Peterson started last Sunday with Taylor coming off the bench.  This rotating them in and out constantly just seemed to frustrate everyone.

It seems that Childress & Co. will indeed be better served to identify more clearly defined roles for Peterson and Taylor than trying to spot both of them and swap them in and out so frequently.

The way Denny Green handled both Robert Smith and Leroy Hoard, or before that Terry Allen and Roger Craig would seem to work better.

So Peterson starts and comes out only when he needs a break, or if the situation calls for another specialist instead.  Taylor will get a series here and there and particularly late in the game if you’re ever sitting on a lead.  The Peterson-Taylor duo should work every bit as well or better than the Robert Smith-Leroy Hoard tandem did back in the late 90s.

An argument could also be made in their return game, where it seems they have also been trying to play the hot hand.  Rookie Aundrae Allison showed some promise on kickoff returns early on but then looked tentative on a couple returns and hasn’t seen much action since.

Meanwhile, both Peterson and Troy Williamson have also been used back there because of their home run speed, but neither shows the best in judgment and neither looks truly comfortable with the role.

On punt returns, Mewelde Moore has been very reliable and productive the last two seasons, yet the coaches seem enamored with Bobby Wade back there.

But any starting wide receiver already does a ton of running on pass routes.  Plus, you expose him to more contact in the return game, and you keep a proven producer in this area on the bench often times.  Give Moore that role for now.

To a similar degree, it seems that plugging Anthony Herrera in at right guard has been more effective than rotating him and Artis Hicks.

Finding roles for players narrows their area of mental capacity and focus, which gives them a better chance to excel at least in that one area instead of being less consistent in all areas.

Just a thought.

2.  The red flags

Childress has foolishly burned timeouts with unwarranted challenges of the ruling on the field the past two weeks.  Either he gets caught up in the moment, he listens to his players on the field or whomever he has upstairs reviewing these things is out to lunch.

Example #1:  Against Dallas, Childress wasted a red flag to review a play at the goal line when it was ruled that Marion Barber had scored a touchdown.  There was clearly no visual evidence on replay to overturn the call on the field.  And, the benefit of reversing the play would have been minimal.  The consequence was a wasted timeout that came back to bite the team later.

Example #2:  Against Philadelphia, Childress burned another red flag on a downfield completion to Reggie Brown, despite clear visual evidence that he indeed dragged his feet and was in bounds.  Another wasted timeout.

Example #3:  To open the second half, Childress tossed the red flag after Adrian Peterson fielded the kickoff and stepped out of bounds at the 1-yard line.  There was never any visual evidence to support a reversal of the call on the field.  It was way too early to waste there.  The lost timeouts ended up being very critical in the later stages of the game when the Vikings simply ran out of time to even put themselves in a position to at least tie the game.

In all three examples, those watching at home could have sent Childress a text message confirming that all three calls would not be reversed.  Who is telling him to challenge plays like this? He indicated Monday that he is doing that on his own.  Regardless, he is responsible.

It seems that coaches, and even announcers today are often suggesting that you have to at least challenge a call in HOPES that it might be overturned.  But the emotion of the situation and the importance of the game situation will NOT change the visual evidence.

That’s what needs to drive the decision to challenge or not – strong visual evidence that suggests the call will be overturned, coupled with a significant situation in the game that even makes it worthwhile.

The Vikings could do better here.

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