First the Brad Childress era collapsed in Minnesota, then the roof of their stadium collapsed, and finally Brett Favre's incredible 297-consecutive games started streak collapsed. Everything is falling apart in Vikings Land, and it's time to pick up the pieces and rebuild.
However, before I write about how to repair the Vikings I would like to pay tribute to Brett Favre the player and his wonderful streak. No one loves the game more than Favre. No one loves the competition, and no one has been able to endure the pain and suffering that comes with a long career. Favre the player has to be respected, however often Favre the person affects our point of view.
Yes, Favre as a person is undecided, overly dramatic and seemingly all about himself. Yet as a player those qualities make him the unique competitor that has allowed him to keep fighting and keep playing.
Favre the last two years has reminded me of Billy Chapel in "For Love of the Game." The movie is about an older pitcher who, at one time, dominated baseball. In the last outing of his career as a fictional Detroit Tigers player in magnificent Yankee Stadium, Chapel, fighting the pain in his shoulder, takes the mound and says: "God, I always said I would never bother you about baseball, Lord knows you have bigger things to worry about. But if you could make this pain in my shoulder stop for 10 minutes, I would really appreciate it."
Favre has done some remarkable things in his career, and having been on the other sideline too often to witness those feats has made me a fan of his play. When he played, the score never mattered, as no game was out of reach or nothing was put off until next week. On each Sunday or Monday, Favre played hard. He played to win and could care less about what the critics said. He played to compete and was willing to do whatever he had to do to make sure he was able to keep playing.
I think Favre would have loved to play on Monday night had the Lord allowed the pain from his shoulder to disappear. And like Chapel, Favre knows this is the end, but in the end, he can't stop loving the game. Favre will keep trying to play this year, not because he is self serving or all about himself, but because he loves the game. And don't begrudge him; he is allowed to keep trying to play for all he has done for the league.
Playing Tarvaris Jackson or Joe Webb over Favre will not help the Vikings find out anything new about either player. Let me enlighten you: neither will be able to lead the Vikings to a Super Bowl, and neither are players a team can build its franchise around.
And the Vikings know that without Favre under center their chances of beating any quality team are not good.
The Vikings have more problems with their team than just an old quarterback who loves the game. They have problems with their defense that can no longer stop the run, and they have problems with a secondary that cannot run fast or tackle well. When this season ends and Favre heads back to Mississippi to spend his retirement time on the farm (yes this is the end), the Vikings will have a mess to clean up.
Before the Vikings begin to repair, they have to ask one fundamental question: What kind of team do we want to have?
Do they want to continue down the West Coast offense path, or do they now want to lay the groundwork to set up an organization that has a foundation built on sound principles, like the Patriots, Packers, Giants, or Steelers. This foundation must come from the ownership, and once established they must hire people or assign people they already employ who adhere to the philosophy and know their roles.
In the past, the Vikings have given the coach too much power. Now that they have fired the coach, they have a team fitted in his style which is obsolete and in dire need of repair. Every decision the Vikings have made in the past was based on an individual situation, as exampled by their trade for Randy Moss earlier this season.
Why make this mistake again? With the departure of Favre, the time is right for the Vikings to think long term and become a sustainable organization.
Recently, when reading a piece from New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, he wrote about the successful organizations worldwide, and it struck me that all sports teams need to adapt to this approach. Friedman wasn't talking about sports organizations in his column, yet the following words apply:
"Dov Seidman, the C.E.O. of LRN, which helps companies build ethical cultures, likes to talk about two kinds of values: 'situational values' and 'sustainable values.' Leaders, companies or individuals guided by situational values do whatever the situation will allow, no matter the wider interests of their communities. A banker who writes a mortgage for someone he knows can't make the payments over time is acting on situational values, saying: 'I'll be gone when the bill comes due.' People inspired by sustainable values act just the opposite, saying: 'I will never be gone. I will always be here. Therefore, I must behave in ways that sustain -- my employees, my customers, my suppliers, my environment, my country, and my future generations.'"
The Vikings ownership group must think sustainable. They must understand the need to find a quarterback to help them reshape their franchise. They need to work diligently to solve that issue first and foremost, sacrificing winning in the short term. Every team that gets rebuilt for the long term solves the issue at quarterback.
Playing in the NFC North, with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, Jay Cutler in Chicago and Matthew Stafford in Detroit, the Vikings will not be entering the playoffs anytime soon unless they find a way to solve the issues at quarterback. Thinking they can repair this team without a long-range solution at quarterback will only extend the rebuilding process.
I am not implying that the Vikings give up on the 2011 season, but rather I'm suggesting them to create a comprehensive plan to solve the quarterback issue as they repair the other areas of weakness. However, all their resources must go to finding a new quarterback, either through the draft or a potential trade. Nothing can be accomplished unless this area is addressed.
Does this mean Leslie Frazier should stay on as head coach? Only if Frazier can prove he has the necessary leadership qualities, along with the intellect, to think divergently. His ability to win games this year would not be my only evaluation tool of Frazier's ability to be a head coach. However, what would convince me to award Frazier with the job is if he can demonstrate that he is a deep thinker, a great leader and someone who understands what it takes to become a sustainable organization.
What the Vikings don't need is more of the same old culture that often runs rampant in the league. They do not need a coach who wants to make decisions based on the current situation, but rather a coach who can think big picture and has a big-picture plan. More of the same will only result in more coaching changes, as the Vikings are not prepared to win right now unless they change the structure of their organization.
With Favre leaving and Childress no longer in charge, the Vikings have a unique opportunity to think differently, think outside the box as well as lay a foundation that will allow them to be successful for many years to come.
Follow Michael Lombardi on Twitter @michaelombardi.