Did Brad Childress Deserve a Contract Extension?

Michael VichaelContributor IDecember 12, 2009

All it took was one loss for some naysayers to emerge and again question whether Brad Childress deserved his recent contact extension.
Mind you, I'm not a huge believer in Childress myself. I think he's improved over the years and certainly he's filed down a lot of his rough spots. But it's not like I've always viewed him through purple colored glasses or had blind faith in him from Day 1. Any respect I give to the man as a head coach, he has earned.
So did he deserve it?
As expected, most of the arguments center around the more obvious aspects of Childress's performance during his tenure in Minnesota . Wins.
The bottom line, claim the dissenters, is that Childress has yet to win a single playoff game. At face value, it's an open-and-shut case.  What's the harm in waiting until he wins at least one before extending him?
My argument is that extending Childress prior to the playoffs is a terrific business decision that addresses both business and football needs. How so?
All of us expect to be compensated at work if we are responsible for bringing in a ton of new revenue to the company.  Obviously the cash cow this year is named Favre, not Childress.
But even the coach's worst enemy would have to admit that Childress was an essential reason Brett Favre is wearing a Viking uniform right now. Honestly I don't know the total effect Favre has had on Zygi Wilf's bottom line. But I suspect that Favre's gross margin is significant, much more than went toward Childress's extension. 
According to Forbes magazine on NFL franchise revenues, the Vikings ranked dead last in two of the last four years. In 2008, it barely escaped last place in the NFL, topping only the pitiful 0-16 Detroit Lions . Wilf is a billionaire for a reason.  I'm sure he knows how to share the wealth with those who help him make money.  By bringing in Favre, Childress has already done that. Even if he doesn't win a single playoff game this year.
If you wait until the end of a terrific regular season, or after a playoff win, or after winning the NFC, the big problem with talking compensation at that point is the distraction of contract negotiations. 
Profits are certainly important, but why not make money AND do everything you can to win the Super Bowl?  In the NFL, deferring contract talks until after specific, incremental performance goals like "winning at least one playoff game" means you are inserting contract distractions into a period that should be ultra-focused on winning football games. 
With all due respect to our friends in the accounting profession, bean counters should not be making the company's strategic decisions, especially right before that company's Super Bowl.  Clearly that would be the tail wagging the dog.
Balance of Power
Some will ask, then why not wait till after winning the Super Bowl?  In my mind, the main reason is to avoid a potential costly power struggle. The history of Capitalism has been, if one party has a lot of newfound bargaining power, it will be used, perhaps even abused. 
Winning the Super Bowl with only a year left on his contract would clearly put Childress and his agent in the driver's seat for all future negotiations.  Part of that means Wilf would have to cough up more dough.  But perhaps the more important issue is, what kind of power would Childress demand at that point?  
Wilf has never named a GM.  Is it that much of a stretch to assume that Childress's agent would demand that title now be granted to Childress?  De facto GM/coaches such as Bill Belichick and Andy Reid have built stable organizations that not only win, but make a lot of money, too. 
Childress's agent would also argue giving Childress the title is just a formality, because his client has always been the titular head of the Triangle of Authority, an organizational model that hasn't been mentioned officially for years, but has never been officially replaced , either. While the combination title of GM/Head Coach is seemingly harmless to most, in my opinion it would not be in the best long term interests of the franchise to put all the eggs in one basket like that.
I believe the best GM-Coach relationship would be modeled after the Powell-Schwarzkopf tandem that was so powerful and successful in Desert Storm. One was well suited to deal with the business/political aspects of the mission, while the other took care of business in the field with ultimate efficiency. 
If Schwarzkopf had to directly serve too many political and bean counting masters in Washington , no way he could have been as effective as he was in the field. That's how it works in the NFL, too.
It's true that Belichick has built the closest thing to an NFL dynasty in this decade.  But is Childress in Belichick's league, just because he wins one Super Bowl?  Imagine the long-term damage that might have been sustained had clubs given the GM/head coach title to other recent one-time SB winners, some of whom couldn't even hold onto their coaching job very long after their career season.
    A business decision is one that weighs various risks and tries to find the equilibrium point of conflicting issues and concerns that produces the most overall benefit. Often times the best answer is one that when announced, satisfies no one entirely. In this case, I truly believe this is one of those cases.
    Artis Hicks is a man of action and doesn't beat around the bush as much as I do.  According to the SPPP, the way he described the alternative to extending Childress now touches on the business decision aspect I'm talking about.
    "There was a lot of risk there because if it would have backfired, you might be looking at the flip side," Hicks said. "Instead of an extension, maybe (Childress is) on his way out, but that's what this game is all about, not just risk, calculated risk."
    Keep in mind, in the NFL business decisions are football decisions. The biggest example is free agency. Salary cap is not the only limiting factor when it comes to throwing big signing bonuses at the premium FAs. Cash flow also comes into play. 
    Everyone has the same cap, but not everyone has the same cash flow. A profitable team is more likely to be a long term player in free agency than a team perpetually struggling to break even.
    Perhaps I'm over thinking this whole thing. Perhaps the only business decision Wilf had to make in this case boiled down to one thing, his personal comfort level with having Brad Childress as the head coach for four more years.
    But if Wilf requested any analytical or strategic input from his brother Mark or football CFO Rob Brzezinski prior to deciding to extend Childress, in my humble opinion, at least some of the issues I've introduced here would have been brought up and discussed.  More so than whether or not Brad Childress has won enough games to deserve the extension.