With a 10-6 record in the regular season and the team's first division title since 2000, Vikings coach Brad Childress focused on the positive elements of the 2008 campaign in his season-ending press conference.
Vikings coach Brad Childress knows there is plenty for his team to improve upon before the 2009 season, but he spent the majority of his opening statement at his 2008 season-ending press conference accentuating the positive.
"Just as I look at the statistics and the achievements of this team, I like the progression of our football team. I've told you guys all the way along this year that this was a fun team to coach," Childress said. "I've seen them continually improve and I think that there is a good foundation laid here, a good core group of players that we can continue to build around. And probably just as important over the last few years to the development of this team is the development of this organization. I talk about trying to create a positive work environment. I think that we have that here. We have positive players and talk about the character of the players here. I like the group that we've assembled, the core group."
Here is a list of some of the statistics Childress liked about his team in 2008:
The Vikings finished at the top of the league with a 74.5 percent red-zone scoring efficiency on defense. Opponents were inside the 20-yard line 47 times during the season and came away with 15 field goals and 35 total scores.
Not surprisingly, that translated into a solid ranking in red-zone scoring. The Vikings gave up 185 points once opponents were inside the red zone, sixth in the league. "There were five teams ahead of us. They're all playoff teams," Childress said.
One of the criticisms of Childress' coaching style is that he plays to keep games close, but the team had success in close games. According to Childress, they were the best in the league at winning those close games. "In 2008 in games decided by three points or less, we were 4-1 in those games," he said. "The Colts were the only loss. So an .800 batting average is not bad. We talk about those things coming down to close games all the time."
While Ryan Longwell was 29-for-34 in field goal attempts and successfully converted all six of his attempts from 50 yards or longer, Childress was proud of his field goal defense. Opponents made only 26 of 36 field goals against the Vikings. "One of the little statistics that I harped on during the year – it doesn't look like much – was opponents' field goal conversion," he said. "When you talk about being able to have 10 misses against your defense, you can say it was length of field goal, some were blocked, some pressure was put on, but we were the best in the league there. And I think that's a compliment to the special teams coaches and that defensive push. A lot of times that's a snap that people stand around on. It hasn't been for us. When you talk about taking 30 points off the board, it ends up being huge."
Sticking with special teams, while it was generally considered a sore spot because of the NFL-record seven touchdowns surrendered, Childress had a unique way of looking at it. "In those games we gave up those special teams touchdowns, we were able to win four of the six of those (they gave up two punt-return touchdowns in one game). Obviously we have to be better on some of those coverage units," he said.
He also mentioned the Vikings' strength of schedule heading into the season, the fourth-toughest in the league, according to the 2007 winning percentage of their opponents in 2008.
While Childress didn't spend a great deal of time on the negatives, he quickly mentioned a few:
The Vikings gave up 43 sacks and generated 45, but they were 28th in the league in sacks per pass play.
He mentioned improving on the negative plays, but the NFL doesn't keep that as an official statistic.
And, in keeping with trying to spin most things positively, he ended his list of things to improve by saying "and the list goes on" after naming two things to correct.
"Those are all offseason studies and work, and I know I've already bored you with enough numbers," he said.
"… I would focus on the positives. I know there's a lot of things that we have to address here team-wise, and that's what we do in the offseason. That's what we're doing as I'm up here speaking, that's what the assistant coaches are doing."