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The saying goes, the QB gets way too much credit when you win, and way too much blame when you lose. The same can be said for head coach.
Right now, the Vikings
are flying high. But just as there was excessive hate thrown toward the coach after the team stumbled a bit in December, I'd be careful about swinging the pendulum too much the other way after the total dismantling of Dallas
America's Team and their global hype provided all the motivation Minnesota
's players needed for this past weekend's game, and more.
Head Coach Brad Childress was smart enough to get the players to bottle up all their frustration at the perceived disrespect, and play the game on the field rather than in the media. But really, how much genius did that take?
Also note that the Vikings played the Cowboys
after enjoying a bye. Chilly is now 5-0 after bye weeks. The man obviously knows how to prepare when he has two weeks to do so.
But what about the following week, when he's back to being on a level playing field with the other coach in terms of prep time? He's still 2-2, including 0-1 away.
This week the Vikings play away at New Orleans
, with no advantage in prep time.
The Cowboys game could have easily been Chilly's Super Bowl. He'd never won a playoff game before, now he has.
So the question begs, did Chilly use those two weeks to over-prepare for the Cowboys game because his main focus has been to improve every year? And now that he's achieved that goal, will the team come out flat? Have they peaked too soon?
When you talk about motivation, those questions are legit. The argument can certainly be made that Dallas peaked too soon because they'd already exorcised some of their demons the week before against the Eagles
Cowboys coach Wade Phillips
won his first playoff game, and after playing very well in weeks prior to the Vikes game, no one can say that QB Tony Romo is worthless in the late season anymore.
I've given Chilly credit all season for looking at the big picture, and seeing the war more than the individual battles on which both his supporters and detractors have tunnel visioned way too much.
I hope some of the ranters after Schism II now see how risky it was to keep QB Brett Favre
in the Panthers
game, playing the role of Julius Peppers' very expensive tackling dummy. Why risk losing an essential field general in one losing battle, when there are so many more to fight in the war?
How confident would Vikes fan be right now going to the Superdome with Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels leading the troops?
I've said for three years, the talent on this team is worthy of the NFCC game. Finally, it has happened. I give Chilly a ton of credit for helping VPPP Rick Spielman assemble the talent on this team over the years.
But regarding Chilly's skills as a coach, only after four seasons am I willing to say his team hasn't had an underachieving season on the field.
This week against the Saints
might be the biggest indicator of Chilly's real progress as a coach. Will he finally lead the players farther than their talent indicates they should go, and beat a team that on paper looks a lot like the '98 Vikes? Or will he be content with the annual "at least we improved a little" schtick?
In other words, if Brett is more than a game manager and can actually win some games for the team, will Chilly ever be able to do that? Or is Chilly just the head coach version of Jeff Garcia, essentially just a good game manager...someone who's simply learned how to avoid losing games for his team?
The incremental improvements from year to year are certainly "nice to have." But winning the Super Bowl is the real goal. Just ask any of the players whose windows are about to close, or fans who've always been focused more on winning than proving one's early intuition on Chilly was right.
I like Chilly, more than many Vike fans. If the team wins the Super Bowl, I'll have no problem saying he's the best coach the franchise has ever had (yes, even better than Bud Grant).
But now's not the time to express too much love or hate for the man. That time will come soon enough.