Isn’t it nice to cheer for a competent team? « Ol' Bag of Donuts

Isn't it nice to cheer for a competent team?

I’ve spent the last hour going back and forth with myself about posting this; there are some of you who’d prefer we focus solely on the Packers and not touch the ongoing soap opera west of the Mississippi from them — well, I guess today, the soap opera is in Mississippi, but I digress. This one is just too funny. I can’t leave it alone.

So, a disclaimer: What follows below will be me mocking, ripping and generally calling out the gross incompetence with which the Minnesota Vikings conduct their day-to-day business. Not interested? Cool. We’ll have some more Packers stuff later today. But if you are, read on…

By now, you’ve probably heard the news that the Vikings dispatched three members of Brett Favre’s inner circle (Ryan Longwell, Steve Hutchinson and Jared Allen) to Hattiesburg, Miss., effectively in hopes of begging the quarterback to play this year. That’s an unprecedented step in modern-day sports, and as ESPN’s Kevin Seifert points out, it amounts to the Vikings asking players to clean up a mess their front office created.

How was that mess created, though? You’ve got to go all the way back to 2006, when Brad Childress decided to trot out his tough guy act. He told Daunte Culpepper that the quarterback’s plan to rehab his torn ACL on his own terms – in a HealthSouth club in Florida, if I remember correctly – weren’t going to fly. That led to a long standoff that included Culpepper e-mailing members of the media, Childress publicly flagellating the quarterback and the Vikings eventually traded him to Miami, as Childress crowed about his “culture of accountability” and likened the Culpepper episode to him standing up to Terrell Owens in Philadelphia.

Problem was, Childress had no suitable plan to replace Culpepper, who’d had one of the greatest seasons in NFL history just two years before. He drafted Tarvaris Jackson, and threw his support behind the QB in what’s still one of my all-time favorite attempts by a coach to dress up a situation. Asked after OTAs in 2006 how his new starting QB looked, Childress’ first response was to praise Jackson, as offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell did, for his breathing techniques while calling plays in the huddle.

And when Jackson waffled on the field, Childress – Mr. Culture of Accountability – didn’t stand by his handpicked QB. The guy who’d supposedly made his reputation by grooming quarterbacks benched Jackson after bad games, turned to journeymen like Gus Frerotte and Kelly Holcomb when he struggled and sat Jackson at the first sign of an injury. He’s still never started more than 12 games in a season, and the Vikings are still asking themselves if he can play. Remember, Childress created the need for a QB by standing up to Culpepper, which was probably the right decision, and throwing his support behind Jackson – a move he clearly regretted. And the Vikings’ goofy front-office structure – their famous Triangle of Authority – left Childress with more power than a rookie head coach should have (Seriously? Culture of Accountability? Triangle of Authority? Is there someone from George H.W. Bush’s speechwriting staff working for this team?).

Anyway, we know what happened from there: Jackson failed, ticket sales dwindled and Childress’ job security weakened as the QB plan he’d crafted didn’t plan out. So when Brett Favre became available in 2009, with the Vikings still struggling to sell tickets despite coming off a division title and Childress facing a make-or-break year, he cashed in his chips.

He told Favre to take as much time as he wanted, even after Favre told the Vikings ‘no’ not once, but twice. He let Favre skip training camp, famously picking up in his SUV from the airport and driving him to Winter Park. Is it any surprise, then, that reports surfaced late last year of Childress and Favre clashing over how to run the offense, with Childress’ button-downed ways cramping Favre’s gunslinger style?

And we’ve been over this next part many times, but after this episode, how does Childress run his team with a straight face? He got on Adrian Peterson’s case for skipping OTAs, but he lets Favre – a player on the Vikings’ roster – skip camp, and then excuses players from practice to beg him to come back. And this is all for a soon-to-be 41-year-old quarterback who hasn’t put together two straight productive seasons since 2003-04.

Compare that – or contrast it – rather, to how the Packers handled Favre. Seeing the end of his run was near, they drafted Aaron Rodgers with plenty of time to groom him while Favre was still playing. They got one more season of efficient play out of Favre in 2007, riding his renaissance to the NFC Championship Game, where Bad Brett made his customary January appearances.

And when Favre retired in March, only to waffle a month later, general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy told Favre they’d be willing to welcome him back, on one condition: He had to be in 100 percent, and they had to know. That was too much for the quarterback to promise, so they cut ties with Favre, damn the PR beating it would bring them, and moved forward with Rodgers.

Aside from the marketing deal they offered Favre – which got construed by his camp as a bribe to stay retired – I can’t see too many missteps in the way the Packers played this. They made a smart football decision by drafting Rodgers. They made a smarter one by sticking to their guns with Favre, even though his Avenger World Tour saw him make a victorious return to Lambeau last year. And they’ve been rewarded heading into the 2010 season with a 26-year-old QB who’s blossoming into one of the game’s elite passers and is leading a championship-caliber offense.

What if Thompson and McCarthy had played it the way Childress did? They might have been roped into two years, maybe more, of Favre’s waffling, all while Rodgers’ original contract expired and the QB fumed after the Packers gave Favre his job back. And they would have perpetuated a situation that Packers executives have said was becoming untenable – Favre thinking he’d earned the right to do whatever he wanted.

We’ve bashed Ted Thompson a fair amount around here, and he still takes – and will continue to take – grief for his dour personality. But give Thompson credit: Faced with the toughest decision he’ll likely ever have to make as a GM, he did right by his team and stuck to his call.

I’ve said it before, but that kind of stuff makes me proud to be a Packers fan. It means something to cheer for a team that conducts itself with some integrity – and we could go on all day about the Vikings’ other missteps there – and from a football standpoint, it’s sure nice to know that the men in charge have a better plan than kowtowing to an aging QB.

And when it’s a Tuesday afternoon in August and your team is supposed to be practicing, it’s awfully nice to know where your most important player is going to be.

–Gene Bosling

20 comments to Isn’t it nice to cheer for a competent team?

  • willis

    I didn’t know that stuff about Childress but I have had those same positive thoughts about Ted Thompson. But I do wonder if a big reason they didn’t grovel at Brett’s feet was because they had Aaron Rodger’s and so they knew they were making the right decision moving forward. Rodger’s is a lot better than Tavarus Jackson or Rosenfel’s and I personally believe Rodgers is a better QB than even Favre so far as I’ve seen, but things can change, (hopefully not). So I wonder if they would have let Favre come back if they didn’t have a super-star in waiting.

  • JimR_in_DC

    Great post, Gene. It’s a pitiful comedy in Minnesota. One I can’t help but laugh at.

  • Very well written. I had forgotten about the hard line they took with Culpepper. The coddling of ‘4′ looks especially comical in light of that history.

  • Justin

    @willis could not agree more. It is real easy to be proud of how your team maintained its integrity when you team has a plan B at the QB position. If the Packers had to choose between begging Favre or playing Matt Flynn you better believe they would have begged 10 out of 10 times. As Vikings fan, I applauded TT and MM for how they handled things in 08 (long before he was ever an option for the Vikings) but if you are going to blame Chilly, remember to save some nails for Mike Sherman. He is the reason things are the way they are because he was the one the initially let Favre make his own rules, don’t forget about that. 17 months ago when the Jets drafted Sanchez I knew that moment he would be on the Vikings radar and from that moment I said that I did not want him. I did not want a 40 year old injured QB that was a diva and an attention whore on my team. I did not want the circus that came with making a deal with the devil, and of course did not want the man I hated for 18 years and was the face of the team I hate the most. But at the end of the day the moment he signed with the Vikings I accepted him. Does not mean I like him, and I will NEVER buy a purple Favre jersey. But I accept that it comes with the territory and at the end of the day he makes my team better. Let’s not forget either that in 08 a very large segment of Packer nation wanted the Packers to take him back in 08, and why because at that time and one could argue that even now he would give the Packers the best chance to win. Does that make the decision wrong, certainly not. Let’s also not forget how many Packers fans, the so call greatest fans in the world that will always support THEIR team, BOOED Rodgers the first preseason game of 08. Now I don’t begrudge anyone packers fans or not for “laughing” at the vikings front office but at the end of the day, remember who was laughing on October 5th and November 1st. We’ll see who gets the laughs October 24th and November 21st. And maybe if you defense figures anything out, a 3rd time.

  • Anita

    Very nice! Thank you Ted, Mike and Aaron. It is indeed nice to see the circus in someone else’s town.

  • Willis,
    No one knew Rodgers was a “super star” in the waiting. For all TT, MM and any of us fans knew for that matter, he was a wildcard who could have just as likely been another Alex Smith instead of the pro bowler he’s become. Hindsight is always 20-20.

    Green Bay took a stand, because allowing a franchise to be taken hostage by a single player is unacceptable, not to mention unprofessional. Minnesota, they chose to be Brett Favre with a side of the Vikings and Brad Childress.

  • admin

    Justin and Willis — You make some good points, particularly with the stuff about Sherman. Chris and I have talked about this on several occasions, just wondering aloud where Favre changed. And we both absolutely agree that it was on Sherman’s watch (remember who the QB coach was back then? Why, it was Darrell Bevell!).

    But to your points about the Packers playing things differently if they didn’t have Rodgers, doesn’t that kind of crystallize the point? This all started with the Packers being proactive where the Vikings weren’t, and they’re reaping the benefits now. I completely agree that this could’ve been different had the Packers been similarly desperate; this is a results league, after all, and it’s harder to see Thompson and McCarthy doing what they did without a better hand to play. All of this is based more in football decisions than some defense of ethics. But a sound football decision allowed the Packers to toe their ethical line, where the Vikings don’t have that luxury.


  • As a Packers fan, there is only one thing I care about: Winning. The fact that Childress is a hipicrite, and Favre is a douche bag, doesn’t help us in the standings. They kicked our ass twice last year. And I take no satisfaction away from the fact that Favre choked, again, last year against the Saints.

    That is not a consolation prize to me. Neither is the off season drama for the Vikings. If we had to choose between begging Rodgers to come back, or going with Matt Flynn instead, you bet your ass I’m choosing the former.

    Bottom line: Favre 2. Packers 0. Thats the only stat that matters. Lets change that this year. I’ll be at Lambeau in October, and I do NOT want to see the Packers defense get shredded again. Enough is enough. Lets stop talking about beating their ass, and DO it.

  • I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again. The only way this works for the Vikings is if it results in a Super Bowl title, a new stadium, or both. Anything short of that has to be considered an ‘epic fail’. Virtually everything went right for the Vikes last year and they came up short. There’s little reason to think they’ll be any better this year.

    I think one overlooked factor about ‘4’s behavior is how the death of his father impacted him. No question that Sherman (and later, to a lesser extent TT & M-3) bent over backwards to keep Favre in the fold, initiating his sense of entitlement. After ‘Big Irv’ passed, there was no one left in Favre’s circle strong enough to keep him grounded. If he were still alive, I believe he’d be disappointed with the way events unfolded around his son.

  • Here, here! Well said! And thanks for the historical timeline…

  • Anita

    Gene makes an excellent point about the Packers being pro-active and jumping on Rodgers when he was available, knowing the day would eventually come when Favre would retire and they wanted to be ready for that day. What they probably didn’t bank on was Favre acting like a petulant, threatened child about it. The Vikings had their shot THIS YEAR in drafting a QB of the future. They passed. Clausen and McCoy were available, Dan LeFevour was also still on the board (less well known, MAC school QB, but highly regarded). They could have drafted a young gun to hold a clipboard and learn while Brett finished out his career. Why didn’t they? Because it would damage the already fragile psyche of the league’s biggest drama queen, or were they just that freaking short sighted and stupid, taking the Scarlett O’Hara “I’ll think about tomorrow?” attitude?

    I do agree that the seeds of Brett’s sense of entitlement can be traced back to Mike Sherman, and as a result, Brett’s attitude toward the team began to sour on the day Sherm was fired.

  • Ray

    AND worse yet Aaron Rodgers would have left for “greener pastures” probably with Chicago, Minnesota or Detroit where he could be kicking our butts for a decade while we still had “the olde gunslinger”………… Good riddance, now your problem Zigy…………

  • Max

    Everything with Childress is smoke and mirrors. He spews lies to the media, the fans, and his players. I don’t know how anyone puts up with it. One thing this whole Favre thing has done is taken the heat of Chilly. Even Minnesota’s fickle fan base has forgotten how much they dislike him. This isn’t going to end well.

  • [...] have proven to be in running our favorite rival…but there really is no need after reading this outstanding post from Gene Bosling over at Ol’ Bag of [...]

  • Rob

    Gene says: “Chris and I have talked about this on several occasions, just wondering aloud where Favre changed. And we both absolutely agree that it was on Sherman’s watch (remember who the QB coach was back then? Why, it was Darrell Bevell!).”

    My theory is Sherman came in and gave Favre special treatment because he thought Favre earned it and he had bigger problems than his QB. LeRoy Butler has stated on the radio that this didn’t sit well with some players (perhaps McKenzie and Walker). Still, for years Favre had friends on the team to bust his balls if needed: Reggie, Chmura, Winters, Pederson, Longwell, etc. If that failed, he still had Irv. When Irv died and when his friends retired or left the team, Favre was a mid-30s guy, who no longer had the same interests as his 24-year-old teammates. Favre’s friends became the jock-sniffers in the media like Peter King and John Madden who constantly inflated his ego by telling him how great he was. If everyone around you tells you how great you are, and nobody is there to keep you grounded, you start to believe the hype.

  • Peachstatepacker

    Great points by everyone. Don’t believe for second the most recent comment by Favre (”I owe it to the Vikes”). This is not about helping his team. He chose this team for spite. He chose this team based on the circumstances. He tries to purvey this attitude that there is camaraderie among his teammates. There has been a “me” attitude in Minnesota since he arrived. This isn’t about Minnesota winning the Super Bowl. It’s about Brett Favre winning another Super Bowl. This attitude will ultimately lead to their demise. I will just smile when he throws his final pass this year – to a cornerback. Warm up the tractor in Mississippi.

  • Ruppert

    This is great. Don’t forget the money, and it’s effect on the rest of the team. It has been reported that Favre got a raise this year–maybe $6mil or $7mil if he hits his incentives.

    I wonder what Adrian Peterson thinks of that? He’s not happy with his current deal, but evidently the team won’t budge. You can argue that he may not deserve a ton of money given his fumbles, but nonetheless he is a beast of a RB and one of the best in the league. But he doesn’t deserve a raise right now.

    How about Ray Edwards? He’s one of the unlucky few who was a restricted free agent this offseason instead of being unrestricted. He is evidently quite unhappy with his deal and wants a raise. But he doesn’t deserve one right now.

    Sidney Rice has reportedly petitioned for a raise based on the fact that he’s outperformed his rookie contract as well. No raise for him right now.

    Yet we see who DOES deserve a raise now. Favre. Can those three guys really be happy? We’ll see. Who else has been turned down when asked to redo a deal? This stuff is bound to affect the behavior of other players. It is my contention that Percy Harvin just basically blew off two weeks of training camp, and who can blame him? Favre gets to skip it, why not HIM?

    This Vikings team is a ticking time bomb. Only another “magical” year by Favre can stop it from detonating. If he trips up, it WILL get ugly. And here are the Packers, applying a ton of pressure. I can’t wait for the season to begin.

  • This is excellent. Just brilliant writing and a great analysis of the entire saga.

    Well done!

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