Brad Childress fired by Vikings [UPDATE]
Amidst a season of continued drama, tumult, and fan outcry, the Vikings fired Brad Childress today, ending his four-and-a-half year run as head coach of the Purple.Assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier will take over as interim head for the duration of the season for the 3-7 Vikings. Childress concludes his time at the Purple helm with a regular season record of 39-35, and a 1-2 mark in the playoffs. A Zygi Wilf press conference is set for 3 p.m. today.
Update: Childress has released an official statement.
Frazier, 51, has been the Vikings d-coordinator since 2007. A former stud NFL defensive back for the Chicago Bears, his career ended abruptly due to a knee injury suffered in the Bears' Super Bowl XX win. He's credited with building the Trinity College (now Trinity International University) football program from the ground up, serving as their first head coach in 1988, a post he held until 1996. As an NFL coach since 1999, Frazier has been on numerous head coaching short lists in recent years. This is his first NFL head coaching job.
After taking the Vikings to the cusp of their first Super Bowl appearance since 1976 last season, football lifer Childress experienced a rapid descent in results this year as the Vikings -- an early season favorite to contend for the NFC title once Brett Favre returned -- began the season with a 1-3 mark before losing their past two under their former head coach.
The fire comes nearly a year to the day that Childress was given a three-year contract extension by Wilf after the Vikings' began last season 8-1. Originally hired by Wilf in 2006 to restore order to a franchise that had devolved into chaos under outgoing head coach Mike Tice, Childress came to Minnesota via Philly, where he had worked since 1999 as both quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. The Vikings gig was his first head coaching job. Upon signing him to a five-year contract, Wilf said:
"Coach Childress was the elite NFL head coaching candidate. He embodies class, character and discipline and is a great family man. Bottom line, Brad Childress is a winner."
Update: Times change. Here's the official statement today from Childress:
"The past five years have been a tremendous experience for my family and I as the Head Coach of the Minnesota Vikings. I have a great respect for the players and coaches who I have worked with and for their dedication to each other and to the organization. I am proud of our accomplishments and believe the foundation of this football team is stronger today than when I became Head Coach in 2006. I appreciate the opportunity that Zygi, Mark, and the whole Wilf family afforded me and wish them success as they move forward."
Childress, 54, came to the Twin Cities with a readily impressive assistant's resume. Employed in the coaching game since 1978, his track record bears a Midwestern flair. After working at the University of Illinois coaching running back and receivers from 1978-84, the Aurora, Ill. native and Eastern Illinois grad took over the Indianapolis Colts quarterback coach in 1985. After a four-year job as offensive coordinator at Northern Arizona and a single-season stint coaching receiver at Utah, Childress coached quarterbacks at the University of Wisconsin for three years before behind promoted to the Badgers' offensive coordinator from 1994-98. He then returned to the NFL and began his seven-year stretch with the Eagles.
Monikered as "Chilli" in reference to both is surname and oft-mirthless demeanor, Childress went 6-10 in his first season at the Viking's helm before improving to 8-8 the season following. In 2008, he led the Purple to a 10-6 mark and the first playoff game under his tenure, an eventual NFC Wild Card loss to his former employer, Philadelphia. Last year, the Vikings won their first six games of the season before finishing 12-4, the organization's best record since the 15-1 team of 1998. Childress earned his lone playoff victory in a 34-3 bruising of the Dallas Cowboys before the Vikings lost in overtime to eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans.
Despite rarely offering anything more than a detached, brooding presentation of himself along with a sandpaper-dry sense-of-humor, Childress was, if nothing else, consistent in said public depiction. Now finding himself unemployed for the first time in over 32 years, his downfall can be perhaps best traced to the same thoroughbred that helped author his extended contact just a season ago. After a 40-year-old, reborn Favre led the Vikings to within a play of the promised land in '09, a slowed, obviously-injured and typically waffled Favre eventually was lured back to Minnesota this season, ill-prepared to oppose a stiffer brand of NFL competition. With the patient Vikings sweating out Favre's decision (making them a non-player in perhaps acquiring Donovan McNabb) the waiting period for Favre created constant distractions for the team, and in the span of a few short months a sanguine season found: the 0-2 start, the Randy Moss debacle, the continued inquiries of the Vikings' power structure (Favre vs. Childress), the tension with ownership (Childress vs. Wilf), the fan outcry, the anonymous player unrest, and, of course, the losing.
As best evidenced by the Vikings' crucial 12-men in the huddle penalty in the loss to the Saints -- Brad Childress was far from the thesis of an adroit in-game manager and, given the afore-noted demeanor, it never came with much surprise that he experienced personality clashes with his charges. But Brad Childress is undoubtedly an exceptional evaluator of NFL personnel, from both a coach and player vantage. In a season where his defensive backfield has been wholly depleted, both sides of the line have underperformed, and his grandfather quarterback may eventually play while hopping on one leg and throwing with his teeth -- Childress is the fall-guy. Was he a great head coach? By no means. But rest assured: there have been, and will be, far worse. Going from 6 to 8 to 10 to 12 wins in four years has earned my respect, even considering the conclusion.
I wouldn't be surprised if Chilly is never again an NFL head coach. Like former Viking head coach Dennis Green, Childress lost control of this team and that won't soon be forgotten among NFL suits. His history of myriad successes will have his name in future conversations, but I don't believe the guy has the taste for the constant scrutiny. Instead, I imagine for him a return to the assistant ranks or perhaps a shift to a front office guy, where he truly could be a stellar behind-the-scenes architect of future winners.
I never decried Brad Childress, and I won't start now. The NFL is a rabid beast -- likely the cruelest of any sport. But that bald head will resurface, and perhaps shine, in the shadows, of another football town.
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