For two terrific-but-then-terrible NFL seasons, Vikings Coach Brad Childress was all-or-nothing with an aging quarterback and a loser of a game plan.
The "all" nearly happened. Chilly nearly got away with relinquishing his team last year, handing it over to ol' No. 4, Brett Favre. The seasoned Hall-of-Famer-to-be led our state's purple-clad gridiron warriors -- their roots in Duluth and their successes making or breaking the Monday-morning moods of many of us -- to within a graying whisker of a Super Bowl berth. A place in the championship game could have landed Childress the immortality and the lucrative, long-term contract all head coaches -- and the rest of us -- dream about. The Big Payday.
But the "nothing" happened instead. On the heels of a 31-3 drubbing to the Packers, the embarrassed Vikings canned Childress on Monday in favor of an assistant and a focus on the remaining six regular-season games.
It was the second time in as many games the Packers knocked out a head coach.
Former NFL Coach Jim Mora once famously ranted in disbelief, "Playoffs?!" The same disbelief has taken over Vikings headquarters at Winter Park. No one is talking playoffs there anymore. Or the Super Bowl. "Finishing the season strong" was the goal stated by team owner Zygi Wilf.
Who didn't see the Childress firing coming? Come on. Teachers don't allow students to dictate when they'll have homework. Guards don't let inmates run the asylum. And head coaches don't turn their teams over to players, even great ones.
From the moment Favre arrived for the 2009 season it was clear the only thing Childress was driving was the Cadillac that escorted the Golden Arm from the airport. Favre was put in charge, in spirit if not in title, despite his unwillingness to work in the offseason or to train in the preseason.
The inevitable implosion finally came Sunday with Vikings players slamming their helmets to the turf in frustration, shouting and sniping at each other on the sidelines and even pushing away their coaches. With a dismissive gesture, Favre walked away from his offensive coordinator, and those two reportedly are good friends. Those things happen in a leadership vacuum.
So Chilly is gone. The only surprise is it didn't happen sooner, considering the team's expectations coming into the season, its dismal record instead, a text-messaging scandal surrounding Favre and the whole Randy Moss fiasco.
But does the Childress firing mean the Vikings are finally taking back their team?
Not a chance, not with No. 4 still calling the shots and remaining in games no matter how many open receivers he overshoots or interceptions he throws.
The heck with Favre's consecutive-games streak and all his records; the team has to be bigger. And the Vikings won't turn things around without making perfectly clear who's in charge.
Chuck Frederick is editorial page editor of the News Tribune. He may be reached at email@example.com.
The Duluth News Tribune and the Herald are both Forum Communications Co. newspapers.