Friday, October 24, 2008

On Brad Childress' Offensive Limitations (or, I've finally given up)

From Mark Craig in the Star Tribune:

"'I don't know enough about the single wing,' Childress said. 'I think it was probably in before I was born. I've never read any books on it. It might be something to investigate in my bye week.'"

From a 2004 article by Dr. Z in Sports Illustrated:

"And Mularkey had an old Pop Warner double-wing that he put in after studying the playbook of a high school coach in Florida who ran it. And he says he has the first book ever written on the 'true single-wing,' and someday you just might see the Bills lining up in it ... 'only if you have the right personnel for it on the field,' he says.

"'When we ran it in camp it was amazing, the confusion all the misdirection caused. You could have defensive guys flowing in different directions. They were running all over the place.'

"During a vacation in Alaska last summer, he talked to the winningest high school coach in the state, whose team ran out of multiple-wing formations. 'He told me the biggest key was to tell a defense that had to face it -- "Don't move."'"

Mike Mularkey did what a creative, thinking, hard-working offensive coach does. He doesn't just stick to his own system: he studies other systems to see what works. He looks around to see what other coaches are doing, and tries to incorporate that into his own offensive plans. That means he studied the playbook of a Florida high school. That means he talked to a high school coach in Alaska about his offense. That means he has the first book on the single-wing offense. Whatever successes or failures Mularkey has had, he's worked hard to understand offensive football, to study what other innovative, creative football minds are doing at even the high school level. And that means he's studied some basic, old-fashioned offensive formations to see if he could utilize them in the professional game.

It's not just that I know the basics of the single wing and a NFL coach specializing in offense claims he doesn't. It's not just that an NFL coach specializing in offense claims he doesn't know the basics of a very traditional, old formation in football, that he's never even encountered it in a book.

It's that I cannot imagine Brad Childress reading a high school playbook, or talking to a high school coach, believing that he has anything to learn, that there is anything that could be added to his "kick-ass" offense.

And with that, I've lost faith that Brad Childress will ever be a better than average offensive coach. I know, it took me longer than it took most of you, but that's what's done it for me. A coach like Mike Mularkey studies high school use wing formations to try be a better coach; a coach like Brad Childress says he's never read about it in a book.

In the future I'll likely be writing posts arguing for Mike Mularkey as the next coach of the Minnesota Vikings (look forward to it! I'll have great reasons). But don't focus on that for now. For now understand this: your head coach of the Minnesota Vikings says he doesn't know enough about the single wing.


  1. Anonymous10:00 PM

    A wise man once predicted the Minnesota Gophers would win 7 or 8 games this year. That person may have shorted it by 4. The PV guy doubted this prediction very much! I hate to tell you I told you so, but...
    Maybe Brewster will coach the Vikes?

  2. Anonymous11:54 PM

    I hadn't ever thought of him, but you're right: Mularkey has a lot going for him. He's had success as an offensive coordinator for multiple teams, he knows how to run a power-rushing team, he's squeezed good seasons out of marginal QBs, and he's done good work with a rookie QB this year in Matt Ryan.

    I also like that his next head coaching job will be his second: you can't call him a retread, but he's also got some of the first-coach road bumps out of the way. He's even a former Viking, to boot. Sid would love that. :)

    So, I look forward to your analysis.

    It seems there will be quite a few teams looking for head coaches this offseason. We don't know yet if the Vikings will be one of them. If they are, though, I'd love to see them move quickly on a guy like Mularkey while everyone else is trying to land Bill Cowher.


  3. PV:

    Great post. As someone who has coached and attended more than a few coaching courses and seminars, one common constant theme at these things over the years is that the best coaches never stop learning and growing.

    I guess that's why Childress thinks he knows it all.

  4. I'm all about the retread coaches. Retread coaches have won 9 of the last 11 Super Bowls. Last year 8 of 12 playoff coaches were retreads (if you include Gibbs).

    It's often a good decision to hire a head coach that has had some level of previous success as an NFL head coach.

  5. Anonymous8:28 PM

    I gave up on him when Frerotte proved my suspicions true; that he would never be any better than he had been previously. Childress hasn't evaluated qb talent well, and a guy who doesn't evaluate qb talent well shouldn't be a head coach in the NFL. I really hung on to hope with Childress entirely too long; I was pretty queasy when he traded for Brooks Bollinger and Billy McMullen.

  6. Anonymous5:19 AM


    I was was watching the draft live in Sydney Australia when the camera cut to Michael Ohr and I thought "Lord could this be true?" Imagine Chester Taylor would be complaining from overuse. The Packers LB's would be in the foetal position by game end and TJack would be 3 of 5 for 12 yards but we would have gained 600 yards total offense.
    But as well we could have a McKinne transition scenario, Ryan Cook might be better at guard etc etc etc. And it was all so obvious.........
    This is one of the best assembled teams I have ever seen. The free agent signings have been inspired (in fact name a bust), apart from Williamson the draft picks have been NFL average at worst - Williams, Henderson, Greenway are all very good pros even Rice shows promise and we have Purple Jesus as the cherry.
    And what does old baldy do.......?
    As we say in Australia, I was gutted.
    Maintain the rage,