That was the last time I was this uninterested in watching the next Viking game. From 2002 on, I only missed Viking games when life (family events, work) pulled me away, even during some pretty lousy, borderline unwatchable seasons and games. I always eagerly anticipated the games, got excited, found enjoyable reasons to watch. But everything that happened in 2001 made it so I could barely stomach it by the end (Spurgeon Wynn!), and I actually found other things to do on Sundays (though I ended up watching more playoff football than I ever had before that year, once I know longer had to think about the Vikings).
Right now, I'm not remotely excited or interested in the next Viking game. I struggle to find reasons to think watching the game will be fun. There's the possibility of Adrian Peterson having an Adrian Peterson game. There's also a chance to see what kind of game coach Leslie Frazier is (it will difficult to assess what kind of coach he'd be if given the chance to coach a team through the entire offseason and season and have some contribution to the roster, but things like clock management, challenges, decisions, etc., maybe).
It is an entirely plausible, realistic scenario: the Vikings might not win another game this year. On the field, they are quite obviously playing awful, awful football. And the team is weakest in the areas where you absolutely must be competent in to compete in today's NFL (offensive line and defensive secondary). At the psychological level, players may be losing their motivation, they may be fracturing in their relations with each other, they may hold coaches in disdain, all of which could contribute to a complete flushing of the season (and teams like Buffalo and Detroit are probably better at motivating themselves late in playoffless seasons than the Vikings!). Might they match the record of that legendary of legendary seasons, the Les Steckel year? I really have trouble seeing the Vikes winning another game this year.
It has me wondering what kind of game-changing players are available in the top five of this year's draft. People: I can even see the Vikings ending up with the worst record in the league.
There's really little to do now but root for the Bears to win the goddam division.
The fans turned against Childress quite early in his tenure, and there are some things that are unfair about our appraisal of Childress's performance. Because he came in as an offensive coach and it is unclear exactly who deserves credit for personnel moves, Childress didn't ever get credit for the remarkable defensive turnaround that took place during his tenure, or for the remarkable upgrade in talent the team made all around the roster. And the early criticism of his predictable, conservative offense was unfair, I think: the poor offense was more a result of poor personnel than poor scheme (the skill positions were a pretty bare cupboard when Childress took over--it wasn't a group that you could execute much creativity or downfield passing with).
There's also a part of me that feels for Childress as a human being. As the fans are savaging him and booing him and chanting for him to be fired...well, that can't feel good, even if you are getting paid millions of dollars.
But some of Childress's problems--perplexing in-game decisions, a seeming inability to make positive halftime adjustments (or really any in-game adjustments), reputably terrible people skills, confusing and strange comments and explanations--have caught up with him. Well, that might be a reaching back for explanations after the fact: really a lousy, failing team has caught up with him, and there has to be a large extent to which, in his fifth year, that's on him. The team doesn't look well prepared, doesn't adjust well, and the coaches seem at a loss to find ways to cover for and adjust to the team's personnel weaknesses.
Often when a coach is fired, his exact opposite is hired. In many ways, Brad Childress is the exact opposite of Mike Tice. Where Tice was a player's coach, Childress is a disciplinarian. Where Tice was a motivator, Childress is a tactician. Where Tice knew his limitations and could delegate and learn, Childress seems more authoritarian and confident in his own abilities. Where Tice was talkative and even charismatic toward fans and the media, Childress seems dry and cold. My guess is that Zygi Wilf, experiencing the many problems the team had during his first year of ownership in 2005, was looking for somebody to get things orderly, and found something appealing in Childress as a contrast to Tice. For better or worse, that's who we've had for five years.
But Childress's biggest problem was probably always quarterback. In Childress's tenure, the Vikes failed to fill the quarterback position competently for three years. Because of this, Childress became dependent on an aging legend that could basically do whatever he wanted because the team made it clear how badly it needed/wanted him, and because retirement was always a serious option.
Why Tarvaris Jackson? Joe Webb!
There's nobody running the Vikings that doesn't know the kind of QB Tarvaris Jackson is. Tarvaris Jackson has had game experience and been in the league for five years; I'm not sure it helps the Vikings to give him experience. The season is lost, and if/when the Vikings and/or Favre decide that Favre won't be the starting QB anymore, playing Jackson doesn't really help anybody, does it? Of course, it's debatable whether playing Joe Webb is helpful for Joe Webb (can playing a QB before he's ready be damaging, or is the experience helpful toward getting ready?). But if the Vikings are going to use the season to look toward the future, playing Jackson doesn't really, I think, tell the Vikings much at all about the quarterback position in the future.
Have a good Thanksgiving everybody.