VU: What are your thoughts on Brad Childress' contract extension and the timing of it?
BL: What he's put together in that locker room is such a great group of guys and you don't have to worry about their conduct or anything and the chemistry is really spectacular. With what he's done and his record, he deserves the extension, but the part that surprised me was the timing. They could have waited until the offseason, but here's the part that I really like from Zygi Wilf and Brad Childress' end. They negotiated but it didn't come out as a distraction. That's the biggest thing, avoiding the distraction. Zygi did not want that and that was accomplished. A team doesn't really have to play or believe in a coach who is a lame-duck coach, a guy in his final year and with no extension. Basically I think a lot of coaches are just cut in their last year rather than going through the problems.
The first year I wasn't really a big Brad Childress fan. He came in with really strict rules and laid everything down. He was very stringent and not giving any leeway whatsoever, not even a half a percent here or a half a percent there. I think the big thing now is that he's working with the veterans and he'll listen to the veterans. Like with Brett Favre, he's taken in a lot of what he's said and Coach Childress has enough security now where he can listen and give a little more bend – but he's bending in the right direction because of his experience and what he's learned.
VU: How much do you think his ability to bring in Favre had to do with the extension?
BL: Probably 100 percent. When people read that, they might chuckle, but Brett Favre was always the missing link. Brad Childress, that was his strength with knowing quarterbacks, and knowing Favre because of Darrell Bevell working with him in Green Bay for six years and him knowing the system and how the receivers have made the adjustments to Favre, it's just been nothing but a positive. It's beyond what people would think. Brett Favre is having probably his best year as a pro. But you have to give George Stewart, the wide receivers coach, a lot of credit in how he has worked with the receivers. I'm a firm believer that coaching is 60 or 65 percent of the game. People who haven't played the game argue about that all the time, but the majority of players agree with me.
VU: How concerning is the level that the whole stadium issue has reached? It's gotten pretty contentious in the last week.
BL: I think that's good. They have to address the cold, hard facts. They might give a two-year extension and they're looking to forgive $675,000 in maintenance fee for the Vikings. It's almost like negotiating a contract with the give and take. But this is too critical for the city itself. You take the retractable roof. They could have built it for about $70 million. Now because of the procrastination it's up around $200 million. Now if you're going to do anything, the prices should be cheaper if you can get somebody to negotiate. Labor will be cheaper. Everybody is looking for work. It's no different than buying a home – now is the time to do it. Take advantage of the situation. You're not taking advantage of individuals because individuals would be glad to work. You're taking advantage of this time in our economy.
VU: Would you want a retractable roof or not?
BL: Absolutely. I think you have to have a retractable roof for them to really pass the stadium issue. There were 315 events there last year. I know you're going to take away the Twins' 81 games. Say you are at 225 or 240 for the number of events that are there at the Metrodome, you couldn't do that if you didn't have a top on it. The perfect scenario is to have enough space to tailgate and have it written in the contract that every Vikings game would be played with the roof open. I loved to play in the elements and that's where the game should be played. Don't even talk about not having a retractable because you want to get a Super Bowl in here. The most successful Super Bowl as far as events and fan experience was right here in the state of Minnesota. We planned all the events in case it would snow, so you'd have the NFL Experience, they had the Taste of the NFL where Scott Studwell and I were on a committee and brought in all the celebrities for that. There are about five major events that are now locked into all the Super Bowls because of what started here in Minnesota.
VU: Getting to the team right now, what do you think has allowed Sidney Rice to have his breakout year? He's leading the NFC in receptions. Is there is a change in him or is it just that Brett Favre is here and Rice is healthy now?
BL: Sidney knows how to go after the ball. He's almost like a basketball player. He gets good separation and he's got great ball recognition. A lot of times a receiver won't be able to see the ball as it comes out of the quarterback's hands, and Sidney can almost pick it up that quick. It's no different than in baseball at the Metrodome where outfielders lose the ball on a high pop-up. He locates the ball so quickly and that's a tremendous advantage. When I played tight end, I wouldn't pick up the ball until much, much later, as it was getting closer to me. He can do it quicker and get the separation. Part of it is that skill he has and then Brett Favre is not afraid to drill it into a small area. And then Rice is good enough – and he is good – to make the catch in a very limited area.
VU: There hasn't been a lot of talk about the linebackers. What's your assessment of them?
BL: They're good. E.J. Henderson is having a Pro Bowl year. I've never seen a linebacker close as well as E.J. does. Once he recognizes, his acceleration and closing speed is just unbelievable. They've thrown a lot of nickel package with a lot of two linebackers. Ben Leber isn't playing a lot, but yet last week I thought Ben had one of his better games. He was so active and played so well in his area that it was helping execute the defense that was called. You look at it in the stats and you'd say, ‘Leber didn't do anything. He's terrible.' No, Leber had a very nice game last week. And then Chad Greenway is living up to all the expectations. He's had some humungous days. I think they're one of the top five linebacker groups in the game. Baltimore's defense is starting to get a half step slower. They are slowing down a little bit. Baltimore is still great and I'd have them above the Vikings because they've got the experience. But I say top five for the Vikings.
Bob Lurtsema registered 57 regular-season sacks and three in the playoffs during his 12-year career as a defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and was the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins VikingUpdate.com for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.
Lurtsema's Reaction: Childress, stadium, more
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