Minnesota Vikings  

 

Rift between Childress, Vikings players goes way back

Randy Moss wasn't the only Vikings player to question Brad Childress late on Sunday afternoon, after Minnesota blew every bit of its first-half momentum against New England in the kind of loss this team is becoming accustomed to.

Percy Harvin, implicitly, did the same in a more innocent way, before Moss even got his chance.

"In the second half they made a couple of adjustments, and I think we played into their hands," he said. "They were ready for a couple of our plays there in the second half. We didn't do a good job of making adjustments. That's why (Patriots coach Bill) Belichick is as good as he is. He makes those adjustments."

The logical next step -- to find out where that problem is coming from -- was taken, and Harvin smiled and stammered to answer. Only when a bystander offered the phrase "team" to Harvin, did he come up with something tremendously benign.

"It's a team effort," he said. "It's all of us."

Harvin's no dummy. Articulate, talkative and knowledgeable about his football team and its ways, the second-year stick of dynamite was being open and honest about his feelings in the immediate aftermath of the loss. But he also knew there was only one place this was going.

Though Harvin couldn't point his finger in that direction -- and he wasn't the only player to say "adjustments" made the difference against New England -- he really didn't need to lead you there.

It's obvious now that the Vikings' biggest problem starts with their head coach, who finally seems to be losing his grip on a team that has been slowly slipping from his grasp since well before Brett Favre first put away the tractor for the 2009 season and trudged north.

That the players aren't exactly confident in Brad Childress' ability to lead them isn't news. That he may be losing them completely, after a lengthy string of dust-ups, is.

Remember the idea that the arrival of Favre could drive a wedge between the coach and the locker room in Minnesota last year? The schism? That was no joke.

Has Childress lost the locker room?
"Clearly, in Minnesota, there is some disconnect between the head coach and a lot of the other players," Michael Lombardi told NFL Network. "This is just the tip of the iceberg." More ...


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Players' mistrust of Childress extends all the way back to 2007, when Childress sought to dock receiver Troy Williamson a game check for missing a Sunday contest to attend his grandmother's funeral. That discord grew in 2008, when Childress declared Tarvaris Jackson the starter and gave the then-third-year quarterback all of eight quarters to develop before yanking him in favor of Gus Frerotte, a move that left most players wondering what to believe from their coach.

Fact is, most thought the herky-jerky "he's coming/he's not" nature of Childress' words during the 2009 Favre drama would be the straw that broke the camel's back. And had the team not run off six straight wins to start that season, and gone into December at 10-1, maybe it would've happened. Instead, the flourishing of a loaded roster tied the team together.

As it turns out, the implosion of this combustible mix simply arrived a year late.

The players certainly seem to know it. There was a palpable frustration around the team on Sunday, and the stunned reaction from the locker room on Monday was a response to a move that rocked the foundation of its belief in itself -- the Vikings had gotten less talented.

"Just like that, things turn, but I guess that's the NFL," said Jared Allen, one of the high-priced imports of the last few years, as he ripped tape from his wrist Sunday. "It's frustrating. We have a super-talented team, and we're just not putting it together."

Allen wasn't done, saying, "The cool part is we have a team we can win games with. We just gotta prove it. Right now, we shoot ourselves in the foot, we're a team capable of almost doing a lot of good things, and I put it on myself. It starts with the defense, it starts with the defensive line, it starts with me.

"In the third quarter, I had a chance to sack the quarterback. I went to strip the ball, and I just missed. Those plays happen last year -- sack, strip, fumble -- but you never know what's going to happen."

There's no better proof of that than what actually did happen on Monday afternoon.

It again speaks to a talented group of players confused about what this organization's philosophy is, if there is one. There's been plenty of bewilderment in the past over who has final say, Childress or vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman.

And that has opened the door for a free-wheeling atmosphere, permeated by the ability of a quarterback to skip all spring camps and most of training camp before reporting in August, and a diva receiver to call out his coach in a very public way and heap praise on his former team in the process.

Make no mistake about this: Moss is most certainly culpable here. His petulant behavior has become typical of a player who is used to being able to play by his own rules, and chafes in the face of adversity.

But his release is indicative of a larger issue here. With so much dysfunction, it actually adds up that a decision was made on Monday without it going through all the proper channels, mainly because it's unclear whether those channels even exist.

No wonder the locker room is in disarray, considering where the team's cues are coming from.

And no wonder the team is losing its faith. Monday's move was enough to shake the one thing this club always had to fall back on, that it is built on being more talented than the next group. Cutting Moss wasn't about getting more talented; it was about an embattled coach trying to reclaim his team.

Wheeling a travel bag down the tunnel in the bowels of Gillette Stadium, Adrian Peterson was asked if he thinks the circus atmosphere surrounding this team is starting to take a toll.


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"That doesn't have anything to do with how we play on the field," said Peterson, hood pulled over his head. "There are too many games where I look back, and it's been about execution and making the big plays when you have the opportunity. That's the thing. It was frustrating, but we still had opportunities to come back and win and make some plays, and we just fell short."

Peterson then added, "We'll bounce back. Things aren't working out like we planned, but I really feel like God has a different path for us. It'll turn around."

Those words came on Sunday, when the team's on-field credibility took yet another blow. And in that regard, things clearly haven't gotten any better since.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @albertbreer.

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