The magic of the 2009 season was my reasoning for thinking that Brett Favre should have stayed saddled up on his tractor. The only thing that could stop the Vikings last year was a deep manifestation of that ole’ “Creole mojo,” that the Saints had cooking down in the Superdome. The Saints won the Super Bowl, so it seems that the mojo could not be defeated, and thus the Vikings technically did as well as they possibly could last year. And usually a year like that is not followed up by a year of the same type of performance or better.
But to see Brett Favre throw for a career high in passing yardage in the recent game versus the Cardinals, suggests that I was wrong about Favre, and that maybe he can play until his Social Security kicks in.
Now for point of balance, it must be recognized that the Vikings only beat the Cardinals, who had a three wins, four losses record. Considering the flux of the week leading to the game against the Cardinals, it made sense that the team might muddle through the early parts of the game. But with the talent of the Vikings personnel, they likely should have trounced the struggling Cardinals in their sleep – even though the Vikings record was 2-5 coming in. So while the Vikings did find a spark in that game, they’ll have to back up that magical comeback with some kerosene to get through the good teams that lie ahead. Unfortunately a team is what their record says they are until they prove otherwise; and that doesn’t usually change until the teams’ record crosses the plateau of a .500 winning percentage. “Onward and upward,” I was told once before, and the Vikings should heed the same advice, because a 3-6 record will bring back that dark cloud that the Pink Panther runs away from in the cartoons.
The Vikings are a veteran ball club, which makes the potential that they turn this season around much more possible. Wide receiver Sidney Rice will return from his hip injury soon. It certainly would have been interesting to see the Rice, Moss, and Percy Harvin trio had everyone gotten along a little better. But even without that dreamy combination, veterans like Greg Camarillo have the ability to turn in results that make for a dangerous combination as well. The use of Adrian Peterson and rookie Toby Gerhart in the passing game has also crept out of the playbook.
Those musings bring me to my real point, which centers around Vikings head coach Brad Childress. I actually think that Childress is a 80% great coach. The final 20% of a great coach that Childress doesn’t have, is what I call the Zen Factor. When the World Champion Los Angeles Lakers (you must have known I was going to weave them in somehow) are playing, their coach Phil Jackson is sitting…chillin’. Phil Jackson knows he has a kick butt system of basketball. Phil Jackson knows that he has properly imparted that system upon the talented players on the team, and when it comes game time, it’s just time to “let a playa play.”
Coach Childress can often be found referring to his “system”. Yes, it is fundamental to have a thoughtful system of execution in athletic competition. Yet even more fundamental than the system, are the athletes. You often hear coaches suggest that they took the “best athlete available” in the NFL Draft. Why do you think that is? Answer: because “playas play”.
All through the NFL video archives are famous plays that show athletes rising above the simple Xs and Os, by doing something that the projector and marker in the film room couldn’t fathom. Nobody ever thought about telling Miles Davis to stick to the musical notes on the paper, and you don’t go off on Brett Favre when he goes off script – and no I’m not calling Favre the Miles Davis of football. He’s just undeniably great at what he does, like brother Miles. But the recent schisms in the Vikings’ locker room may help Childress progress as a coach.
So while a system steadies that Viking boat sitting outside of the teams’ headquarters in Eden Prairie, I think that Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson “doin’ what they do” is far and away more valuable than any system. Great teams are great because of great players: So let a player play.