Commentary

Brad Childress fumbles coach's role

Updated: October 26, 2010, 2:28 PM ET
By Tim Keown | ESPN.com

Quick, someone get Brad Childress a Vikings media guide. He's clearly forgotten who he is, and a review of the glossy publication will show him that his bio is in the front, not the back. Maybe then he will understand that his job is to be the boss and not some whiny night watchman who pitches a fit every time someone leaves a half-eaten burger on his desk at shift change.

[+] EnlargeBrett Favre
AP Photo/David StlukaBrett Favre's spent much of this season looking for answers instead of providing them.

Mr. Childress, sir, you are Brett Favre's supervisor. You are the one who decides who plays and who doesn't, and if you didn't want a quarterback who treats your play calls as broad suggestions, you should have called off that three-Vike posse that traveled deep into Wrangler Country like an extraction team to pull Favre from the swamp and deliver him to your offense.

And since you are the one whose won-loss record is being besmirched here, you should understand the situation. If it was your goal to play ball-control offense and win the almighty battle of field position (has there ever been a more boring battle in history?), you should not have pinned your hopes on a guy whose random flings have so often found their way into the waiting -- and running -- hands of the opposition. In fact, Favre's ability to send opponents into the end zone is a matter of NFL record.

It's a big give-and-take with Favre, as you should well know. The good has always been worth the bad, until this year. Right now, to put it in Favre terms, he's givin' a lot more than he's takin', and if you're going to ascend the podium after every game with the mad-on you had Sunday night, it's probably best if you just tell the ol' just-having-fun gunslinger that it's someone else's turn to hand off to Adrian Peterson and position the team for the best possible punt.

Because it ain't gettin' better anytime soon. There's a good chance Brett's done, for good this time, and those of us old enough to remember watched Favre hobble off the field Sunday night and thought two things: 1) Namath the Ram, and; 2) Mays the Met. It's the look of the broken athlete who knows it'll never get fixed again.

You've been presented with a rare opportunity to make it work and not look like the bug-eyed maniac of Sunday night. Favre's ankle injury gives you the best possible excuse. No one would fault you for telling Favre it's best if he rests up this week against New England, streak or no streak, to make sure his ankle and his mind are ready for the long slog ahead.

[+] EnlargePeterson
Jim Prisching/Getty ImagesIf Brad Childress wants Adrian Peterson to have the majority of touches, he could insert just about anybody at quarterback.

If you handle it right, if you say the right thing in the right tone, you might even come across as compassionate, or at least capable of compassion. Given what we saw Sunday, though, when you went off like a spurned child saying "you can't throw it to them," and "you can't give seven points going the other way," and "sometimes it's OK to punt the football," it's probably unlikely that you can pull it off. Amazingly, you made Favre into a sympathetic figure. At this point in time, given everything that's happened on and off the field, that's almost as impressive as a quarterback who starts 315 consecutive games (including playoffs).

(As an aside, let's give Chilly this one: Just what is a catch, and how in the world did something that is self-evident to every fifth-grader become so convoluted? How many ways can the act of catching -- or not catching -- a football be defined? Can't it go back to being "Guy has the ball long enough?" Because that's what it should be. The feet inbounds I get. The bobbling stuff I get. But not the Visanthe Shiancoe thing from Sunday night. He caught the ball. I don't care what end of the ball he caught; the ball was in his hands and not moving from the time it hit his hands to the time he landed on the ground. Catch. Touchdown. Kick the extra point.)

But when you stood there and said, essentially, "The quarterback shouldn't throw the ball to the other team in a position where the other team can run the ball across the expanse of green grass and into the end zone," it was similar to a manager going out to the mound after his pitcher has walked five straight and yelling, "Throw strikes!"

[+] EnlargeBrett Favre
AP Photo/Andy KingWe're not sure what Brett Favre is whispering to Brad Childress, but hopefully it'll have a calming effect.

There's a decent chance the pitcher knows that it's better to throw strikes, the same way Favre knows he's not supposed to throw it to the other team. But if the pitcher continues to walk hitters, or Favre continues to throw passes to the wrong uniform, you can't just stand back and say he shouldn't do that. Check the media guide: Head coach, right? The power is yours.

On Monday, Chilly, you were a little more rational, although it's hard to imagine, as you suggested, that Favre's ego will be brought down to earth after his performance and your subsequent reaction. Remember this about Favre: What he took out of that game wasn't the stuff you were ranting about; no, what he took away from that game was that he was an overturned replay call away from stealing one from the Packers on his last night in Lambeau. You should know that about this guy by now, too.

But if you let it get ahead of you, the mythology will run rampant. There will be more of the glorification with the John Facenda voice-over -- "A mere mortal couldn't play, of course, but this man is no mere mortal" -- and then you might as well start carping about the half-eaten burger.

And you know the thing about Favre? He could probably go out and play, but if he looked like he did after the injury Sunday, you'd be better off running the Wildcat offense with Kevin Williams taking the snaps.

At least he'd know it was OK to punt.

ESPN The Magazine senior writer Tim Keown co-wrote Josh Hamilton's autobiography, "Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back," which is available on Amazon.com. Sound off to Tim here.

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Tim Keown | email

Senior writer, ESPN.com

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