Is There a Silver Lining To the Brett Favre-Brad Childress Dispute?

Kevin LindseyAnalyst IDecember 27, 2009

EDEN PRAIRIE, MN - AUGUST 18:  Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress (L) walks with Brett Favre #4 after finishing  a passing drill during a Minnesota Vikings practice session on August 18, 2009 at Winter Park in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Favre has reportedly agreed to play for the Vikings, a reversal of his announced retirement.  (Photo by Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images)
Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images

Am I the only one hoping that what has been reported between Brett Favre and Coach Brad Childress, aka Chili, is true?

No, I’m not a closet Green Bay Packer fan hoping the Vikings implode. Nor am I a junkie TMZ fan that craves seeing the rich and famous air their dirty laundry for all to see.

I hope that the whole dispute between Favre and Chili has more than a couple of kernels of truth because when it is all over, the Minnesota Vikings may become a stronger team, both this season and into the future.

While this period of growth and turmoil may be painful in the short term, it may portend longterm success for the men in purple.  

The Vikings got off to a fast start this season and were standing at 11-2 before the start of last week’s game. They were only one game behind the New Orleans Saints for the top seed in the NFC.   

Holding a slim 7-6 lead in the third quarter against Carolina, the inexplicable happened.  Childress told Favre (or was he simply thinking out loud) that he wanted to take him out of the game. The (heated) discussion took place on the sideline for all to see.

Favre told reporters after the game that he wasn’t sure as to why Chili wanted to take him out of the game[1]. Favre suggested that while Chili could have been pulling him to protect him, he also could be pulling him to spark the offense[2]

Chili’s recollection of the conversation was that no decision about taking Brett out of the game was ever made[3]. Chili was merely thinking out loud.

Lines were quickly drawn after the game.

Favre was wrong—you never publicly call out your coach. Even if you are going to the Hall of Fame, you are not greater than the team. What a diva!

Chili was wrong—if the offensive line blocking is not working, make an offensive line adjustment. How could you even think of benching your best quarterback and possibly risk losing home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. What a blockhead!

Fortunately, we found out this is not the first time that Favre and Chili disagreed over strategy. Why is this fortunate?

If this was a single isolated incident, all the Favre diva commentary would have been justified.

Multiple sources, however, are reporting that Coach Childress and Favre have had several disputes in which Chili considered pulling Favre. The disputes have all concerned Favre changing plays at the line of scrimmage.

What is most interesting in looking at the situations in which Childress considered pulling Favre was that Childress was willing to pull him even when the audible resulted in a touchdown, or when games were still in doubt.

For example, on Nov. 1, the Vikings led the Packers 31-26. A victory by the Vikings would put Minnesota in the driver’s seat to win the Division Championship. 

Favre called an audible during a drive late in the game which resulted in a 19-yard touchdown pass to Bernard Berrian[4]. Instead of celebrating, Childress directed offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to take Favre out of the game.

The Vikings were in control of the game, but the game was not over. Bevell, however, talked Childress out of taking Favre out of the game. 

When Favre went back into the game he proceeded to limit all subsequent plays to running the ball.

In Childress’ defense, he may have still been mad over an audible that Favre called late in the Oct. 5 game against the Packers in the fourth quarter. That Favre audible didn’t work and the Vikings were not able to run out the clock which allowed the Packers just enough time to score and try an on-side kick.

Favre reportedly heard through the grapevine that Chili wanted to bring Tavaris Jackson into the game as a result of his audible. Favre went into Chili’s office after the game to talk things over. 

A quarterback and a coach bickering over play calling in the NFL is nothing new. The coach may have called a play but the defense shifts in a way to suggest the play won’t be successful if executed.

Should the quarterback simply proceed with the play called or call an audible at the line of scrimmage?

Former Vikings quarterbacks Brad Johnson and Gus Frerotte were not surprised to hear that play calling was the source of the dispute between Favre and Chili.[5]

When Favre initially announced he was coming to the team, Frerotte was asked about Childress’ willingness to allow his quarterbacks to call audible. Frerotte was quoted as saying “it will be interesting to see if [Childress] lets him do that or [Childress] still wants to take control and lead everything[6]".

Is Childress' unwillingness to give his quarterbacks discretion at the line of scrimmage part of the reason why the Vikings quarterbacks have struggled the past three seasons?

Championship caliber teams in the NFL have one thing in common. They are comprised of talented, strong willed individuals with egos.

The teams that distinguish themselves from the pack to reach the pinnacle in the league are the teams that are able to put aside their ego for the common good.

In the short term, Vikings fans have to hope that Favre and Chili will put aside their differences and work as a team on developing game plans and figure out when to call an audible and what audible should be called.

Chili has the luxury of being able to give Favre more latitude. Childress has signed a lucrative multi-year contract extension on which he can comfortably retire anytime he so chooses.

In Favre, Childress has a veteran quarterback that is willing to work with him. Remember, Favre went into Childress' office after the first Green Bay game to talk with him.

If successful, Childress and Favre may find themselves enjoying the fruits of their labor in Miami.

In the long term, Vikings fans have to hope that this “heated discussion” leads Childress towards developing a better working relationship with all of his quarterbacks going forward.

If successful, Childress may find his among the elite teams in the NFL for several years to come.

[1] “Childress Wanted Favre to Come out”, ESPN.Com, Kevin Seifert, December 22, 2009

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] “Brad Childress, Brett Favre dispute has been festering for awhile,” Pioneer Press, Sean Jensen, December 22, 2009.

[6] Id.


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