Friday, November 20, 2009

It's Chilly in Minnesota

For a few weeks now, Vikings coach Brad Childress was rumored to be on the verge of signing a contract extension with the club. Now it has come to fruition.

(Childress) was rewarded with an extension that will keep him with the franchise through the 2013 season. ESPN reported the deal is believed to be for between $4 million and $5 million per year and an NFL source said the new agreement will supersede Childress' previous contract, meaning he will get an immediate raise.

It's hard to argue with the progress the Vikings have made season-to-season under Childress. Despite winning only six games in Chilly's debut season of 2006, the Vikings improved to eight victories in 2007 and then claimed their first division title in eight seasons when they went 10-6 last year. However, the "Fire Childress" movement was in full force after a first round playoff exit at home against the Philadelphia Eagles last January.

The prevailing wisdom seemed to be that 2009 (the fourth season of Chilly's initial 5-year deal) was the coach's "make or break" season. The thought was the Vikings needed to win a minimum of one playoff game in order for Childress to be renewed. With that in mind, Chilly and Co. went all out in attempting to secure the one position that had been the biggest question mark -- quarterback. With the New York Jets releasing Brett Favre this past Spring, it seemed a forgone conclusion that Favre would end up in Minnesota after having surgery on his throwing arm in May. Despite the February trade for QB Sage Rosenfels, the Favre watch was in earnest once the Summer rolled around. And even though Favre announced in late July that he would stay retired, it was believed that the persistence of Childress is what convinced Favre to overcome his objections and eventually become a Minnesota Viking. With the impact Favre has had on this team, Vikings ownership felt that signing alone warranted an extension for the coach.

From a personal standpoint, I was pretty lukewarm on the Childress regime for the first 1-1/2 seasons. Besides, I figured it would take at least 2-3 years for a brand new coach to put his personal stamp on a team. But Chilly actually won me over in mid-2007. Despite a phenomenal season by rookie Adrian Peterson, the Vikings were a mere 3-5 when they traveled to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers. Fresh of a single-game record 296 yards rushing against the Chargers, Peterson took a shot to the knee and was knocked out of the Vikes' 34-0 loss to Green Bay. With the Vikings 3-6 and seemingly without their top offensive weapon for an indefinite period, many declared the team a non-factor the rest of the way. However, Childress did not panic. With the same business-like approach he had employed from day one, Chilly guided the Vikings to a five-game win streak (with A.P. available in only three of those games) and to the brink of a playoff berth. Despite missing the postseason, I was impressed with the way the Vikings overcame such adversity in midseason.

So do I endorse the move to extend Childress? Yes. But I would have been more comfortable waiting to see if the Vikings could win a meaningful game in January.


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