Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Chilly Send-Off

There is no better way to kick off this year's draft-related festivities in a more profound and captivating subject matter than that of Brad Childress's return to the NFL. Following a season deprived of the Max Planck of the West Coast offense, the man known not so affectionately as "Chilly" to Vikings fans was hired in January to be the Cleveland Browns new offensive coordinator. This should hardly come as a shock to anyone. Childress and Cleveland Browns President Mike Holmgren are, after all, longtime friends. And, more importantly, while Andy Reid's offensive coordinator at Philadelphia, Childress accrued extensive experience in not being permitted to call his own plays -- an attribute, as it just so happens, Cleveland was placing particular emphasis on in their search for a new OC being how their head coach, Pat Shurmur, is also a stickler for his own play calling.

Holmgren and Reid go way back to the days when Reid played for Holmgren while the latter was offensive coordinator for BYU in the mid-80's; and then when Reid worked as an assistant coach during Holmgren's tenure as Packers head coach in the 90's. Thus, in all likelihood, Holmgren checked with Reid before hiring Childress so as to ascertain exactly how adroit Childress is at not calling his own plays while donning the title of an offensive coordinator. I imagine Reid informed Holmgren with the candor and respect that one always accords to a cherished old friend, that if he were looking for an offensive coordinator with the aptitude, acumen, and efficiency not to call his own plays then, by all means, Childress would be the best hire he could possibly make.

So, here it was on March 28, the Browns having dispatched Childress to College Station, Texas, to attend the pro-day workout of Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Despite being considered "raw" at the position -- having started but 19 games for the Aggies -- Tannehill is widely regarded as the best quarterback prospect in the upcoming draft not named either Luck or Griffin and may even be selected in the top ten picks. That Cleveland deployed Childress to evaluate Tannehill might in itself indicate that they have no interest in drafting him. Nevertheless, when asked by NFL draft analyst Dane Brugler what he thought of the Aggie quarterback, Childress proffered an all too familiar sentiment:
"Childress, the former Vikings head coach and current Browns offensive coordinator, brought a fresh perspective. He said he's fine with the lack of experience because Tannehill is extremely moldable and isn't already set in his ways."
If you recall, it was in Childress's first year as head coach of the Vikings in 2006, that he inexplicably traded a pair of third-round draft picks to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for the last pick in the second-round (64th overall). The Vikings then used the pick acquired from the Steelers to draft Alabama State quarterback Tarvaris Jackson -- a prospect few pundits considered even likely to be drafted before the sixth-round of the draft, if even at all. In an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press in the days following, Childress defended the controversial selection of Jackson with similar phraseology:
"When you see what you want at the quarterback position, you need to go get it. And that's exactly what I see with Tarvaris Jackson is a guy that's a piece of clay, that has all the skills... So what can he do with coaching?"
Childress has always been a strong believer in his ability to develop a quarterback. Upon his arrival in Minnesota, Childress accredited as well as commended himself for the development of Donovan McNabb while in Philadelphia. In his drafting of Tarvaris Jackson, he intended to apply his patented Ten-Step Program to "Building a Prototype NFL Quarterback in 99 Days" to a test subject that had not already come with a skill set synonymous with a second overall draft pick. The Ego had landed in Minnesota, and the selection of Project No Way that year would trigger in the months proceeding many analogies to clay -- whether it a piece, lump or pile -- and just as many inferences that he was just the virtuoso capable of molding a magnum opus from any amorphous sediment in need of his wizardly touch. What Childress thought of himself and what the fan base thought of him were two separate trajectories never to intersect and growing ever farther apart the more Jackson floundered. By the time the Childress legacy had ended in Minnesota following a less than competitive performance in a 2010 week-eleven 31-3 defeat to divison rival Green Bay, Childress still believed his ability to mold a quarterback was no less comparative to the sculpting prowess of a Auguste Rodin; whereas fans recognized his artistry to be conspicuously more limited and no more the equivalent to that of Carl Spackler -- the Bill Murray played groundskeeper from the movie Caddy Shack who in his efforts to dispose of a cantankerous gofer molded crude renditions of indigenous varmints out of plastic explosive he consequently detonates into a abominable ruin an entire golf course with.

In hearing now again of Childress eyeballing yet another quarterback prospect as though being pent-up and in need of being exorcised is all the mounting pressure and combustible angst that a year-long Dagobah-like exile can cause one so determined to find his next young apprentice, my instant and only reaction was to acknowledge how robust the Childress ego must be that even in starvation it manages to add to its own bulk. But in his expounding words to Brugler re Tannehill, I noticed an altogether different possibility:
"It's remarkable that a wide receiver came in as proficient as he did at a big-time program," said Childress. "I have no reservations (about lack of experience). I like kids who haven't been playing the position since Pop Warner."
Contained in this statement is the fortune of possibility -- the possibility that Childress is only getting better with age and/or experience... in a Benjamin Button kind of way, that is. The facts pertaining to Tannehill are actually that he played quarterback his entire life (in fact, he is even the son of a quarterback). As a junior in high school, Tannehill passed for over 1,400 yards and rushed for 822. As a senior, he passed for 1,258 yards and rushed for 617 despite missing several games with a separated shoulder. He was ranked as the No. 21 dual-threat quarterback in the nation by and was recruited by an assortment of Division-I schools -- all as a quarterback -- before he committed to Texas A&M... again, as a quarterback. In his redshirt-sophomore season, with a couple of acclaimed and experienced quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth-chart, Aggie coach Mike Sherman converted Tannehill into a wide-out due to injuries sustained in the receiver corps.  As a junior in 2010, Tannehill returned to his original position of quarterback.

So then, here may be the evidence Minnesota fans were hoping for from the mouth of Childress himself that he intends to take his pomposity to the next level. And there, in the heart of the Rust Belt, is where the megalomaniac mindset of the architect of the "Kick Ass Offense" may spin off its spool and unwind into one confounding heap of arrogance and ignorance each being indistinguishable from the other. Or perhaps the combination will make for an entity even more potently head-scratching than if each were considered in its seperate form. Either way, Viking fans will take a moment to reflect on five years worth of Brad Childress before officially passing him along in memory, spirit, and good humor like a decoration for a rear-view mirror or a half-used stick of deordorant. That, after all, is the only way they will truly appreciate being able to laugh at Chilly's antics without also having to cringe at their impact.


  1. Good stuff! Cleveland can have him.:D

  2. chilly willy was a nilly.

  3. Cleveland is in for one big freaking surprise thats for sure!