Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Has Brad Childress gotten the Vikes closer to the playoffs?

Jon Marthaler at TNABACG writes that "2008 will be Brad Childress's third season in charge, and it seems that the Purple is no closer to the playoffs than when he started." It's a comment made basically in passing, but it made me wonder: are the Vikes closer to the playoffs?

If you look at nothing but records, no. The 2005 Vikings, coached by Mike Tice, went 9-7, and the 2007 Vikings, coached by Brad Childress, went 8-8.

But if we look closer, we see signs that the Vikings are actually closer to the playoffs than they were two years ago.

Points Scored and Points Allowed
The 2005 Vikes were outscored: they scored 306 points and allowed 344 points. According to p-f-r, that gives them 6.9 estimated wins (making the 2006 rebound to 6 wins understandable). The 2007 Vikes outscored their opponents: they scored 365 points and allowed 311. According to p-f-r, that gives them 9.5 estimated wins, suggesting the Vikes have improved, and possibly suggesting improvement next season.

People may recall the seven game winning streak in 2005 and think that Viking team was good. In fact, that seven game winning streak came mostly against lousy competition, and the Vikings were blown out nearly every time they played a quality team. Look at the 2005 game logs, and recall the embarrassments. 37-8. 30-10. 28-3. 38-13. 18-3. The 2007 Vikes were much more competitive on a week to week basis than the 2005 Vikes.

Defensive Improvement
Comparing the '05 defense to the '07 defense, we'll see improvement in points allowed (21.5 points per game to 19.4 points per game, improving from 19th ranked to 12th) and rushing defense (improvement from a league rank of 19th to a league rank of 1st). The Vikings still gave up a lot of yards both because they were passed against a lot and because they were frequently horrible against the pass. Still, I see the 2007 defense as better than the 2005 defense.

Improvement to Offensive Personnel
The 2005 Vikings had no dangerous skill position playmaker (after Culpepper got hurt) and often had troubles at the offensive line. The 2007 Vikings have two dangerous skill position players (though both are running backs, Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson), and really played strong at the offensive line (aided by the addition of Steve Hutchinson, the return from injury of Matt Birk, and the improving play of linemen like Bryant McKinnie). The Vikings have major deficiencies in the passing game personnel right now; however, Brad Childress inherited a team with major deficiencies in the passing game.

I think the Vikings are closer to the playoffs than they were when Brad Childress took over. Still, I agree with Marthaler:

"two seasons is hardly enough to make a definitive judgment on his tenure - but three seasons might be. If the Vikings miss the playoffs again in 2008, it's time to reconsider the team's long-term future, specifically Brad Childress's place in that future."


  1. PV:

    Looking back now the 9-7 record in Tice's last season was fools gold. I keep thinking about the win over the Giants that year that got the Vikings on a winning streak. It was a fluke, really. Sharper's 90-yard INT return for a touchdown, Robinson's kick-off return for a TD and Moore's punt return TD. And they beat a Bears team that was resting all its key starters in the last game. The 2005 Vikings were a 7-9 or 6-10 at best.

    But a lot of Vikings fans (myself included) looked at that record and thought there must be a playoff team in there somewhere. Then they go 6-10 after a 4-2 start in Chilly's first season and we start blaming the coach. Chilly fanned those expectations a bit when he was hired. But what's a rookie head coach taking over a 9-7 team supposed to say? Perhaps the mirage that was the 9-7 season is part of the reason why Chilly's so despised by the fanbase.

  2. Anonymous10:18 PM

    tlbnacgThis is where people fail to consider scheduling. The Vikings will be playing one of the toughest conferences in the league next year, the AFC South, which provides no gimmes, whereas this year they had the AFC West, which is pretty weak, and yet the Vikings only managed to go 2-2. The Bears and Packers will likely be better next year. Unless the qb and receiver play improve dramatically, ten wins will be extremely difficult to attain, and nine wins will be a battle, especially with depth on the defensive line now needing more attention.

  3. I know the schedule next year will be more difficult; however, at this point I don't see precisely why one would just assume the Bears and Packers will be better next year. I actually doubt very much the Packers will get to 13 wins again--that's just not easy to do. And the Bears could just as easily be mediocre to bad again, considering their lack of playmaking talent on offense.

    Yes, the schedule is tougher, but as of right now (before FA and draft), the Vikings have just as good a chance to be better next year as the Packers and Bears have.

  4. Anonymous1:51 AM

    The Packers will have a tough time getting to 13 wins again, but that doesn't mean that they won't likely be better, or, in other words, a tougher team for the Vikings to beat. They are an extremely young team, and young, talented players, when well coached, tend to get better.

    The Bears' performance will hinge greatly on health and what moves they make on the offensive line. Sure, if Urlacher and Harris continue with their health issues, they will be in big trouble. I think it is more likely that they will be healthier, and their offensive line has nowhere to go but up. Still, I would agree that they are much less certain to make improvement than the Packers.

    I guess my overall point was that it would not be surprsing at all for the Vikings' performance to improve non-trivially, while not winning any more games.

  5. Another thought on the schedule: we're switching to the more difficult AFC South, but we're also switching from the NFC East (where every team was .500 or better and the Vikes went 1-3) to the NFC South (where the best team was 9-8). Eh, still, scheduling difficulty is hard to predict.

    The only teams I'm confident predicting improvement for are teams with three or fewer wins, because there's so little to improve from. I'm not comfortable predicting whether any of the NFC North teams will improve next year (yet). Each team has issues, and with the exception of GB each team has QB questions (and even GB was dependent last year on a QB in his late 30s).

    But we do know for the Vikings to improve on their 8 wins, they need much greater production from Tarvaris Jackson and the wide receivers. If they play like they did last year, I'd guess 7-9 wins. If they improve and generally play like real pro passers and catchers, they could get to 10 or more wins for the first time since 2000.

  6. Anonymous6:50 PM

    I really enjoy your blog, I can't wait for next season. I have added your site to my links page:

    If at all possible can you add my site to your links section.
    Go Vikings!


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