EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Context is important when it comes to player-coach conflicts in the NFL. One dust-up could be an aberration, the result of two uniquely incompatible people. If it happens a second time, you start wondering. Three? Now you’re talking about a trend.
So let’s call a spade a spade: The issues spelled out in Ed Werder’s news story Wednesday have been apparent in Minnesota’s offense throughout coach Brad Childress’ tenure with the team. It was clear in 2006, for instance, that veteran quarterback Brad Johnson had limited influence on the scheme and almost no flexibility to alter plays. In a particularly frustrating moment, Johnson said he and Childress “never talk” about substantive issues relating to the offense.
In 2008, quarterback Gus Frerotte openly lamented the few times he felt comfortable calling an audible. Speaking to the St. Paul Pioneer Press this summer, Frerotte said he “basically had to run whatever they called.”
Wednesday, Werder reported that Favre had experienced similar issues since joining the Vikings. And while insisting they had put aside the differences that spilled over Sunday night in Carolina, neither man denied the central issue of the other’s involvement in administering the offense.
Childress said that a quarterback who makes “five checks in a game or six checks in a game” has gone overboard. He added: “Typically the idea with a quarterback in this offense, you’re not going to the line of scrimmage looking to change the play. Because then you end up seeing ghosts.”
He praised Favre for the time he spends studying film but noted, “I’d be lying to you if I told you he spends more time than [coaches] do.” I took that as a nice way of saying that coaches have final say.
For his part, Favre said there are “times that I see things that maybe I feel like we could get to. Or a change maybe at the line of scrimmage I could get to. And as I’ve told [offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell] and I’ve told Brad, and I think anyone that’s ever played the game, we all think we know it all at some point. And I know that’s not the case.”
During his Wednesday news conference, Favre spoke often about his relationship with Bevell and said they are in constant communication. Asked about Childress, Favre was a bit more careful. “In the end,” he said, “it’s about winning. And we can’t lose sight of that.”
More than anything, I think this episode has reinforced some of the issues many of us have observed and suspected for years: Playing quarterback for Childress in this offense isn’t easy. It requires a certain acceptance of subordination to its concepts and administration, even if you’re a seasoned veteran with Super Bowl trophies on your mantle. Favre is only the latest quarterback to make that discovery.