Building a team in his own image

Whenever a new coach takes over a franchise, it is expected that there will be a house cleaning of players from previous coaching regimes. But just three years after taking over as Vikings head coach, more than 80 percent of the Vikings roster has turned over, leaving just nine players on the roster that pre-date Childress with the organization.

The NFL is unlike any other professional sport in that the rate of player turnover is unprecedented. In baseball, basketball and hockey, players tend to remain with a team for years. In those sports, the biggest concern is losing superstar talent. It's just the opposite in the NFL. More times than not, teams find a way, if they choose, to retain their top talent. It's the rest of the roster that gets jumbled.

One need look no further than the Vikings roster at the end of the 2008 season to point out that disparity. Brad Childress took over the Vikings in 2006 and, in that short period of time, has completely overhauled the roster. Of the 53 players on the roster for the playoff game with the Eagles last year, only nine of them remain from prior to the time that Childress took over the helm.

Tight end Jim Kleinsasser is now the vested veteran of the team, having been drafted in 1999 by Dennis Green. He is the only remnant from the Green Administration with Matt Birk having been allowed to leave via free agency in the offseason. Of the remainder of the roster, there are only eight players that were acquired during the Mike Tice regime as head coach.

Bryant McKinnie came to the team in 2002 as a first-round draft pick, as did Kevin Williams in 2003 – the only players still with the team from those respective drafts. Four players remain from 2004 – seventh-round draft choice Jeff Dugan, undrafted free agents Anthony Herrera and Cullen Loeffler and cornerback Antoine Winfield, the big free-agent signing that season. Only two players remain that were acquired in 2005 – Pat Williams, a free agent signing early in the free agency process, and Chris Kluwe, who was claimed off of waivers from the Seahawks because the Vikings' punting situation was so dire.

Of those nine players, five of them – the Williams Wall, Winfield, McKinnie and Herrera – are starters. Two of the remaining four – Kluwe and Loeffler – are among the three specialists on the roster. Other than that, it's been a team built in the image of Brad Childress, who has overhauled the roster since taking over in 2006.

Of the 53-man roster that closed out the 2008 season, 41 of them came to the Vikings after Childress took over in January 2006. A total of 11 players remain from 2006, including draftees Chad Greenway, Cedric Griffin, Ryan Cook, Tarvaris Jackson and Ray Edwards, free-agent signees Steve Hutchinson, Ben Leber, Ryan Longwell and Chester Taylor, and Artis Hicks – acquired during draft weekend 2006 from the Eagles.

In 2007, 13 more players were added. The draft yielded Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, Marcus McCauley, Brian Robison and Aundrae Allison and free agency brought Visanthe Shiancoe and Bobby Wade.

Almost one-third of the roster – 17 players – were brought in just last year, including the blockbuster trade that brought Jared Allen to the team, draft picks Tyrell Johnson, John David Booty, Letroy Guion and John Sullivan, as well as free agents Bernard Berrian and Madieu Williams.

Unlike the other major professional sports, where a crafty left-handed pitcher can remain for years with the same baseball team, a three-point shooter will spend years with the same franchise in the NBA and a hired goon can spend a decade with the same hockey team, in the NFL, job security is a precious commodity. The Vikings are proof that the overhaul of a team can take place in a short period of time and, unless you are a star who proves himself year after year, the odds of keeping a roster spot are slimmer than you might expect.


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