But, finally, in the second quarter of Childress' third season at the helm of the Vikings, the offense is showing signs of turning it around and the Vikings have proof of it.
Against the Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers and Tennessee Titans to start the season, the Vikings averaged only 17.8 points per game. Since then, with games against the New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears and Houston Texans, the Vikings have averaged 27.8 points, the fifth highest average in the NFL over the last five weeks.
One of the reasons could be play of Gus Frerotte, who became the starting quarterback in Week 3 after the Vikings benched Tarvaris Jackson. The 15-year veteran of the league is beginning to earn the trust of the coaching staff and offer more input in what plays he likes and what he doesn't feel comfortable running.
"You build equity in that regard from the standpoint of spending time at it, looking at it. He was able to show a couple of things last week on tape, that he showed me, he showed (offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell): ‘You see this concept right here? This looks like a good concept. I really like that.'" Childress said of Frerotte's input. "You don't have a lot of chance if you are calling the plays where a guy says, ‘I really don't like that.' It's not like eating your asparagus where you are going to eat it anyway."
Frerotte's best performance may have come against the Texans on Sunday. He threw only 18 passes, but he completed 11 of them, including three touchdowns. After throwing four interceptions in Chicago the previous game, Frerotte's only interception against the Texans came on a pass that deflected off the back shoulder of Bernard Berrian and into the trailing arms of Jacques Reeves.
Even with that interception, Frerotte finished the game with a 111.6 passer rating, the third-highest rating by a quarterback with more than one pass in a game during Childress' three-year reign.
"He understands that there is a system that we have to play to, if that's, ‘We really don't know anything about that play,' or ‘Yeah, that's something that's easy to fashion up. We'll call it this; it's off of this concept.' And he spends time at it," Childress said. "Go back to the equity thing, with the time he is spending looking at and pulling it apart – as we are always doing – it's better than just, ‘Well, it seems to me…' (He) gives you an informed opinion."
"It's getting to know the guys. It's getting to know the system, the coaches. It's everything," Frerotte said after Sunday's win. "We are all getting more comfortable as we go. It's been a learning process and today you can't say that it was perfect day. We made mistakes and things happened, but we are able to overcome them. To me, I look at it as our line. Our line played just incredible. That's a big reason why I think we were able to put the points up today, because our line – not that they haven't been – but today they were playing against a good, big, physical team and they were able to go out and do their thing."
The explosive plays are another element that has stood front and center in the offensive revival.
According to Stats, Inc., the Vikings currently are tied for eighth place in the NFL with 32 plays of 20 yards or more. Only nine of those have come on the ground. While that still ranks tied for fourth in the NFL, the passing game has taken on some responsibility in producing big gains. The Vikings' 23 completions of 20-plus yards ranks 11th in the league.
And 11 of those 23 long pass plays have been completions to Bernard Berrian, who signed a six-year, $42 million free-agent contract with the Vikings this offseason for that very reason.
"They spent that kind of money, you better hope the guy they spent it on is capable of making those plays," Berrian said Sunday after catching two passes for 104 yards. "I find myself definitely capable of making those plays. Anytime we get an opportunity I'm going to make those plays."
In fact, the Vikings opened the game with a play-action fake to Adrian Peterson and a 55-yard pass to Berrian that likely would have gone for a touchdown if the ball weren't underthrown, causing him to have to slow down and giving the defensive backs time to catch up to him.
Frerotte said the improved offense is simply a matter of playing to players' strengths.
"We are trying to get him the ball. That's why we brought him here," Frerotte said of Berrian. "We got a receiver that can go get the ball. The first play of the game we wanted to make sure that we had the right coverage and we did; I just feel bad that I didn't throw it out far enough for him. I wanted to get it to where he was going to catch it and we had a big play. That's what he did. He has made some big plays for us this year already and we are going to keep trying to get him the ball."
And keep trying to help fulfill Childress' words from 34 months ago to make this is a "kick-ass offense" that even "The Childri" can be proud of.