Childress vows better play-calling

EDEN PRAIRIE -- Brad Childress wrapped up his first season as coach of the Minnesota Vikings by accepting as much blame for their offensive struggles as he had all fall.

EDEN PRAIRIE -- Brad Childress wrapped up his first season as coach of the Minnesota Vikings by accepting as much blame for their offensive struggles as he had all fall.

There were plenty of faults to find in Minnesota's 6-10 finish, and Childress pointed to himself as the cause of some of the problems.

"Probably call better plays -- that work," he said, when asked Tuesday afternoon what he could improve. "I mean, I'm serious. Things come down to execution most of the time, but that's what I would say."

Childress said he didn't have any current designs on designating someone else the primary play caller, so he'll probably be telling either Tarvaris Jackson or Brooks Bollinger what to do next season.

The coach ruled 15-year veteran Brad Johnson out of the running for the starting job, declaring it an open competition between Jackson -- who started the final two games as a promising but raw rookie -- and Bollinger -- who was acquired in an August trade to be Johnson's backup.


The coach planned to meet with Johnson on Tuesday afternoon to gauge his interest, or lack of, in returning next season in "a mentoring role." Johnson was unavailable for comment, but he said after Sunday's finale that he still believes he can be a successful starter.

After spending millions on the market last year, most notably for Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson, running back Chester Taylor and kicker Ryan Longwell, Minnesota has ample space under the salary cap again. This time, upgrades might be made at receiver, tight end, defensive end or on the right side of the offensive line.

Wherever the Vikings choose to use their money, though, it's clear they need to get much better on offense. Team records for fewest first downs (272) and passing touchdowns (13) provided evidence of the futility, which sparked critical comments from the defense and helped turn the majority of the fan base against Childress and his conservative scheme.

"Our defense played great all year," said receiver Travis Taylor, a free-agent-to-be and one of several veteran starters who might not be back. "For us not to win more than six games is an embarrassment to the offense."

Some players were also frustrated with their lack of connection to and communication with Childress, highlighted by the release of receiver Marcus Robinson. But diplomacy prevailed in the locker room as players analyzed the season.

"A lot of guys don't buy in. A lot of guys feel like, 'Well, we've done it this way somewhere else before,' and I'm going to try to do it this way," said safety Dwight Smith. "Once you've been around coaches for a while, you tend to buy in and understand that they're not out to get you."

Cornerback Antoine Winfield agreed after being one of the midseason critics of the offense.

"I think the relationship will just grow with time," he said.


Players, too, were accountable for their mistakes and shortcomings on the field.

"Just because things go wrong, it's not like we're questioning the trust on the offense, the defense and the system as a whole," linebacker Ben Leber said. "I think we have the ultimate trust in these coaches, and we just didn't execute. We just didn't get things done, and that's sometimes how this league is."

Childress has acknowledged the difficulty of change many times since his hiring.

"It's always better when you're winning," he said. "I can tell you it was a lot better at 4-2 than it is standing here at 6-10. It's tougher, and that's just the nature of today's athlete. There are questions. Haven't done it this way before and that's fine, but somewhere you need to have some direction in how you are going about it and what you are doing.

"I believe in the structure that we're setting up."

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