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.
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."