“Great Heart” Nowhere To Be Seen

Will A Coaching Change Make A Difference?

Following the miraculous comeback against Arizona two weeks ago, owner Zygi Wilf stood outside the Vikings locker room shaking each player and coach’s hand and exclaiming “great heart!”

After this Sunday’s pathetic display at Soldier Field, I immediately envisioned a downtrodden Wilf standing outside the visitor’s locker room kicking every coach and player in the ass as they headed in.

If “Great Heart” was the tagline to follow the victory against Arizona, then “Sh*tty Heart” seems most fitting for the loss to Chicago.

While, as I mentioned, the Vikings are not mathematically eliminated and could still even go 10-6 for the season, there seems to be too much negativity and too many obstacles to overcome to get there.

At this point, Brett Favre seems to be accumulating injuries in a fashion that will allow a graceful exit from the season if the Vikings tank against Green Bay this week.  Already dealing with tendinitis in his throwing elbow, a stress fracture in the ankle, a heel fracture,a laceration to the face, and a calf injury, Favre is now reportedly going to consult with Dr. James Andrew about a possible issue with his biceps that could be related to his 2008 injury while with the Jets.

Also, while I try to avoid the topic these days, one can’t ignore the fact that the NFL should soon be wrapping up their investigation into Favre’s treatment of Jenn Sterger in 2008.  Favre would surely like to avoid that storyline becoming bigger than it already is. and if he was not playing when any ruling or suspension came down, then that may soften the P.R. blow.

Favre did not sound like a leader of men following Sunday’s loss, but rather sounded like the tattered and aging quarterback that he is.

“…We will be watching the playoffs,” Favre said on Sunday. “That’s probably the better guess than us making the playoffs, and that’s just being honest, unless we — old cliché — find a way to turn it around.”

Favre might be being honest, but the facts are that they are not yet out of the race, and as the highest paid player with the most experience, he needs to put on his game face and pull this team together and at least try to make an inspired run at a wild card spot.  If he isn’t capable of putting on that game face, or if he feels he isn’t physically capable of leading this team through seven hard fought games, then he needs to be promptly replaced.

Brad Childress sounds unaware of Favre’s shoulder injury and could provide little clarification on why receiver Bernard Berrian was mysteriously active but absent on Sunday.  Childress could just be downplaying anything and everything to get out from in front of the media cameras as soon as possible, given that a good portion of the sports world is waiting for his job to be taken from him and doesn’t want to say anything that might expedite the process.  Professionally, the guy has to be just as metaphorically battered and bruised as his starting quarterback, and it is hard to blame him for wanting to do nothing but focus on winning this coming weekend.

Childress can’t be blamed for all the little things that went wrong in Sunday’s loss, but the shot of Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, and Sidney Rice all sitting on the bench as Favre tried unsuccessfully to lead the team back into short term contention summed up the season perfectly.

Harvin is a tough player whom has been asked to carry a heavy load on offense and on special teams.  He is constantly facing an ailment of some sort and while he can always be counted on to play hard, he cannot always be counted on to be playing.

Berrian caused confusion by being activated for the game and then inexplicably was unable to play after taking up a valuable roster spot.  Rice… well, we all know what happened there.

It is possible that the Vikings could have all three of their top receivers available to them for Sunday’s matchup against Green Bay, which could help cure what ails Brad Childress.  However, it is no wonder that some fans are still upset about Childress kicking Randy Moss to the curb, especially after the sight of those three sitting on the bench has been etched into their brains.

Moss may not have had much production in his Tennessee debut, but he did help to clear men out of the box, something that could have helped the Vikings on Sunday.  Adrian Peterson had a dismal day all around on Sunday, but when the Bears put six or fewer players in the box (it happened six times) on Sunday he averaged six yards per carry.  When they had seven or more in the box (happened 11 times), he averaged 1.4 yards per carry.

Anyone out there who asks me if I miss Randy Moss will receive a whole-hearted “yes” as a response.

Peterson carried the ball 17 times, which is an improvement on last week, but he still isn’t being featured enough in this offense.  The Vikings ran a good mix of plays in the first half, and I do not believe it is any coincidence that a play action fake to Peterson resulted in a wide open Percy Harvin streaking down the field for an easy catch and touchdown.  All four of Favre’s turnovers came when he lined up in the shotgun and the threat of a running play was minimal.

I usually brush off comments about “predictable playcalling” because that is always an easy comment to make after a game is finished, but there is no defending what has become a very predictable offense this year.  Predictable playcalling may be the wrong term, after all, Childress unpredictably called an Adrian Peterson run on third and seven, inside field goal range, during the first quarter on Sunday.

Perhaps “predictable play design” is the more legitimate complaint.  When you have an already struggling offensive line, and you take your dangerous running threat out of the game plan by lining up in obvious passing formations, then that makes the defenses job of getting to the quarterback that much easier.

Regardless, this team needs to turn it around over the next six days if they want to avoid blogs like this one turning their gaze towards the 2011 draft, and I am not certain that either Brad Childress or Brett Favre are capable of doing that.

We’ll see, though.

Maybe on Sunday the team can find their “Great Heart.”


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