Column: Did Childress change?

Brad Childress (Seth Wineg/AP)

Pat Williams said in a radio interview this week that he believes Brad Childress changed this year. But it seems clear that Childress was so disconnected from his locker room that he didn't know how the players really felt.

With a thick Louisiana drawl and a deep, raspy voice, Pat Williams can be difficult to understand at times.

Even when you understand the words, picking through the meaning can be just as difficult. Nothing illustrates that more than Williams' conflicting messages sent out over the last few weeks about former Vikings coach Brad Childress.

On the day Childress was fired, players weren't available in the locker room, but the Vikings distributed a number of quotes in a statement to suggest players were taking the "high road" approach. Williams' words were among those distributed.

"I'm sad to see Coach Childress leave. I respect him as a coach and a person, but we have to keep fighting as a team for the remainder of the season," Williams said, according to the release. "Leslie has my full support. He's a good person and a good coach. He deserves to be a head coach in this league. Whether it's here or somewhere else after this season, he deserves the opportunity."

That's likely the Williams personality that Childress envisioned "had his back" before the coach was fired. But during a >radio interview on KFAN earlier this week, Williams offered more insight that delved deeper into his view of what happened with Childress this year.

"All the guys are happy now. It's like all the stress is gone because a lot of guys had a lot of stress from Coach Childress," Williams said. "I think all the stress is gone now and all the guys just calmed down."

Williams was reminded by host Dan Barreiro that Childress was also the coach last year when the Vikings went 12-4 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game before an overtime loss in New Orleans started a downward spiral at the beginning of this calendar year.

How could Childress guide a deep playoff run and follow that up with a stinker of a season that caused him to be fire only 10 games into the 2010 season?

"It wasn't the same approach. A lot of stuff was different. Everybody doesn't see what's going on behind closed doors," Williams said during his radio interview.

"It was like everybody was stressed. It started with the coaches and once they were stressed it was just passed on down to the players."

Williams wasn't the only one expressing negative sentiments about Childress. In a piece that ran in the Chicago Sun-Times and St. Paul Pioneer Press written by former Vikings beat writer Sean Jensen, several unnamed Vikings sources took shots at Childress before he was fired.

One "team source" said Childress "has absolutely no people skills."

When Williams was asked about the story the week it came out, he said it was dealing in unnamed sources and therefore the credibility of the story was undermined.

An unnamed player told Jensen, "We know that Childress doesn't have our backs, so why should we have his?"

But it's ironic that Childress thought Williams was a player who had his back. Only hours after Williams questioned the credibility of that story in front of reporters, Childress was holding a blog item in his hands with Williams' words and showed his appreciation for Williams' public support.

"The first time I met Pat … Pat said to me, ‘I've got your back, coach,'" Childress said at that time. "… He's one of our strong guys in the locker room, from experience, from the position he plays. He's a good man."

However, now that Childress is gone from the Vikings scene, Williams didn't mind speaking to what he saw as a changed Childress in 2010.

"You could go talk to Coach Childress, but it was like his way or no way," Williams said on KFAN.

"… You have to listen to what's going on in the locker room."

The irony is that Childress may have been so disconnected from the locker room that even those people who he thought were his biggest supporters didn't support the coach they saw in 2010.

Even to the bitter end, Childress continued to say that he believed the mounting losses weren't from a lack of effort, despite some of his players questioning effort at times this season.

Things got so bad that new interim coach Leslie Frazier saw the writing on the wall days before the hammer dropped on Childress. Frazier said in a radio interview that he couldn't believe the lack of focus on the next day's opponent during a player's speech the night before Childress' final game – a 31-3 blowout at the Metrodome against the team's biggest rival, the Green Bay Packers.

The distractions were many, and according to what Williams said this week, two-plus weeks of reflection on what went wrong brought him to this conclusion:

"If you go into work and you're not happy, you don't play happy," he said.

Now that's not so hard to understand and it puts a succinct wrap on the 10 weeks of turmoil preceding Childress' exit.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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