Lurtsema's Reaction: Coaching considerations

The Vikings dealt with a week of speculation and controversy surrounding Brett Favre and Brad Childress. Former Viking Bob Lurtsema gives his take on the situation, the quarterback-coach relationship, past instances, Bryant McKinnie, Antoine Winfield and more.

VU: What is your reaction to the Brett Favre-Brad Childress issue on the sidelines? Is this something serious or something that is being blown out of proportion?

BL: I don't think it's being blown out of proportion at all. It's a big factor for the head coach to be able to communicate with the coach on the field and vice versa. Every team I've ever been on, they've had a great quarterback-coach relationship. The coaches that are most successful, their quarterbacks will praise them up and down. The Panthers were pretty much dominating the line of scrimmage with Julius Peppers. Solve that problem rather than replacing your quarterback. I would rather have Coach Childress, Darrell Bevell and the offensive line coaches talk about what to do to slow down the pass rush or make enough adjustments to be successful with the running game.

VU: What do you think of this whole controversy surrounding the audible? We've heard this from Brad Johnson and Gus Frerotte. Are you surprised that this is coming up with a guy like Brett Favre, who has been in this system for so long?

BL: Yes. Brad Johnson and Gus Frerotte openly admitted that they weren't allowed to audible and both were very frustrated when they left. With Hall of Fame players like Brett Favre, things are different out on the field than what you see from the press box as sportswriters. A lot of times, even the top sportswriters are wrong about things they write. But the worst seat is on the sidelines. That's a brutal seat there. If you line up on a running play and you know it's not going to work and your quarterback's hands are tied and he can't audible out of it, that makes no sense whatsoever. It seems like both of them have to have a little give and take. I would embrace the leadership qualities and the experience that Favre has. Coach Childress has his ways and he does not need to totally control everybody. Everybody knows who the boss is. You don't have to continually prove that you're the boss. I've said it before, but coaching is 60 to 65 percent of the game. Some players you have to embrace and hug, and other players need a kick in the butt and an insult to get the most out of them. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady audible and call a lot of the plays themselves. Johnny Unitas and Fran Tarkenton all had a lot of leeway.

VU: Childress referenced a philosophy from Mike Holmgren, saying if you have to check out of more than five or six plays a game there is something wrong with your game plan. What's your reaction to that number considering all the different looks that defenses are going to show?

BL: I think the last few games they have been out-schemed and the defenses have come up with some great game plans. If you've got to audible more than five or six times, your game plan is bad. You've got to make changes on the run. A defense isn't going to come out and do everything exactly as they did the week before. If they did, they wouldn't be very successful.

VU: Speaking of making changes on the run, how surprised were you that it didn't seem like they gave Bryant McKinnie much help in going against Julius Peppers?

BL: That surprised me. That's the part I was referring to when we were talking about pulling Brett Favre. That's not the answer. You're accepting the problem and not solving the problem. I would rather have them talking about correcting things with McKinnie and talking to him about what's happening out there. They could have thrown Jim Kleinsasser or Jeff Dugan over there and changed up their plays a little bit. That shocked me. All the offensive coaches should have been in on that and saw what was happening and then resolved it. It seemed like they didn't scheme to counteract the defensive plan from the Panthers.

VU: On the other side of the ball, what do you think happened with Antoine Winfield going against Steve Smith, who had another big game against the Vikings?

BL: Yeah, I've always loved Steve Smith. His attitude can be over the top, but I'd rather have that than a lesser option. Winfield lost one in the lights, he said, and he openly admitted that he missed some tackles. The level he played at the week before was so astounding. He made some big plays look easy the week before, but they were phenomenal plays. There isn't a corner in the league that could do that every week. But Winfield did miss some tackles and he admitted it. Sometimes if you're out six or eight weeks and then return, you're fresh the first week and then your body takes a little dip. It's no different than coming to training camp and starting out good for the first three to five days and then your body just drags out before it comes back. It's the same cycle every year. He might have been off because his body hadn't fully recovered from his first full game back. I'm not saying that's what happened to him, but that does happen to some players. But the week before he was utterly fantastic.

VU: After losing two of the last three games after their great start, do you think there is a tendency to feel a little bit of pressure as they get close to the end of the season and look to peak for the playoffs?

BL: No, there's no pressure. It's just a matter of complacency. It can happen to any team. You're going along and pretty much have things wrapped up. You think you're trying hard, but you're really not. You think you're preparing yourself. I think anybody who has been in the league a long time has gone through those peaks and valleys. But there's no pressure on them, none whatsoever. They're going to be in the playoffs and now it's down to the nitty-gritty of the next few weeks, which will determine if they have to play at Philadelphia, here or whether the road to the Super Bowl has to go through New Orleans.

The pressure angle is something the media jumps on too fast. There are so many ways to approach the last couple of games – do you rest your players? Don't take Brett Favre out. You want the same team that's going to play in the playoffs. You want to keep the chemistry going. If you pull a player out and he misses these last two games, then you get a bye week – you haven't played in a month. This goes back to coaching. Coaches have to decide how much to play them and they have to have a feel for each and every player – from their hot button to their health to their mental approach.

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 for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.

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