Free Head Exam: Minnesota Vikings

November, 23, 2010
11/23/10
11:50
AM ET
WilfAP Photo/Andy KingOwner Zygi Wilf missed an opportunity Monday to lay out a vision of the Vikings' future.
After the Minnesota Vikings' 31-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers, and the subsequent firing of coach Brad Childress, here are three issues that merit further examination:

1. I'll be fascinated to see the extent to which the Vikings' offense changes with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell presumably in complete control. Bevell has been associated with Childress since his days as a college quarterback at Wisconsin, but I've always suspected he subordinated some of his own ideas to mesh with Childress' rigid version of the West Coast offense.

The scheme opened up a bit in 2007, when Bevell took over the play calling. But anyone who watched the sidelines carefully knew that Childress was still heavily involved in play selection.

Obviously, the next six games will be an opportunity for interim coach Leslie Frazier to prove he is a viable head-coaching candidate. But on a different level, Bevell now has an opportunity to separate himself from the pocks of Childress' scheme and establish his own voice as an NFL coordinator for the first time. Frazier figures to have some input, but his career-long devotion to defense suggests he'll give Bevell more latitude than ever.

I'm curious to see how, and if, Bevell uses it.

2. Frazier and new defensive coordinator Fred Pagac have their hands full with a secondary that played a significant role in Childress' firing. For reasons I can't explain, the Packers are really the only opponent this season to take full advantage of mismatches against cornerbacks Asher Allen and Chris Cook. The Packers completed four passes of more than 20 yards on sideline routes, leading to the sideline bickering that indicated Childress had lost control of the team. (The Dallas Cowboys, among other teams, should have done the same.)

There isn't much from a personnel standpoint the Vikings can do at this point. But schematically or otherwise, the Vikings need to do more to protect both players. "People are going to try to attack our young corners going forward and we know that," Frazier said. "We'll have to adjust some things based on that."

3. Lost in the coaching change is this nugget of news: Right guard Anthony Herrera will miss the rest of the season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Backup Ryan Cook struggled in Herrera's spot on Sunday, and you wonder if the team will turn to rookie Chris DeGeare this week against the Washington Redskins. Herrera is a hard-nosed bull who doesn't get much attention until he is replaced by an inferior player.

And here is one issue I don't get:

In a number of off-the-cuff conversations with owner Zygi Wilf over the years, I've found him to be articulate, passionate and smart. So I have no idea why he freezes up during press conferences. But after five years of owning the team, I think it's fair to expect a better articulation of his vision for the franchise -- and for him to provide at least a partial explanation for his actions and inactions.

Wilf's performance during Monday's announcement of Frazier's ascendance should be disappointing to anyone who wanted insight into the move or hoped to hear some accountability taken for the chaos of the past few months. Wilf spoke exclusively from prepared remarks, shuffling papers to find prewritten answers to anticipated questions. I think he literally skipped a line when addressing Childress' departure, because this is exactly what he said at one point: "It's often difficult to articulate one reason why change is needed. But obviously want to know is important to great a strong positive and successful rest of the season. We wish he and his family only the best."

Look, not everyone is a dynamic public speaker. We should remember that Wilf originally joined this ownership group intending to be a silent minority partner. He assumed the managing partner role only when lead investor Reggie Fowler encountered financial difficulty. And to be clear, I want no part of the snickering that went on during Monday's news conference. There will be no cheap shots here.

What I'll say is this: If I'm a Vikings employee, fan or sponsor on such a dramatic day, I want to hear more from the chief executive than a few minutes of clichés and garble. I want to hear something that tells me there is a plan for the near and long-term future, and for it to be articulated in a way that gives me confidence it can be executed.

I think Wilf and his partners have been the best owners this franchise has ever had. But I can't understand why he hasn't worked to get better at publicly representing it. Communicating a message is a learned skill, and this is a man with vast resources. If he wanted to, Wilf could hire presidential speechwriters and take private lessons from Tony Robbins.

I'm guessing Wilf doesn't consider it important enough to devote the time it would take to improve. If that's the case, he's mistaken. Whether he wants to or not, he ultimately sets the public perception of this franchise. If the owner doesn't communicate in public effectively, how can he expect a message to be heard?

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