Vikings coach Brad Childress was on KFAN radio Thursday morning, talking about the team’s decisions in free agency, his current roster and draft speculation in a wide-ranging discussion with hosts Paul Allen and Jeff Dubay.
Regarding the struggles of Troy Williamson last year, Childress said: “Anytime you drop the ball, it's a problem. You drop it for a lot of different reasons, whether it's focus, concentration or you got bumped in a route. But if there is something we can clean up mechanically, we need to clean it up. I think he’s got good hands, but I think there were some things that could be rectified.”
Williamson started the first nine games of the season before the former first-round draft choice started only two of the ensuing nine contests. Since, Williamson has undergone testing on his eyes at a Nike institute in Oregon, but Childress wasn’t ready to expand on what exactly was done or accomplished there.
“He had a great visit out West. We’ll have a little more on it in May,” Childress said. “We’re turning over every rock, every stone, to make him a better football player.
Childress said the Vikings were competitive in the pursuit of free-agent wide receiver Kevin Curtis, who landed with Philadelphia, but there is no joy in the silver medal. “He probably accepted less to go there. He wanted to be in Philadelphia,” Childress said.
Curtis signed a six-year contract believed to be worth $32 million with $9.5 million in guarantees.
Furthermore, it doesn’t sound like the Vikings have any interest in free-agent wide receiver Antonio Bryant. “You need to do a little homework in terms of personality and making sure guys are programatic fits too,” Childress said in evaluating Bryant. “He's a guy that's certainly out there. He's had a few different issues, one with Bill Parcells and I think he had an issue at the 49ers. I just want to make sure we’re not only getting good players but good people as well.”
Regarding the Randy Moss trade speculation: “He’s not on my radar screen,” Childress said. “It'd probably cost you an arm and a leg to get him out of Oakland and I'm not sure that that's the prudent thing for our team right now.”
Childress agreed with the assessment that the draft was relatively deep with wide receivers. “There’s good players there. How many are in the first round remains to be seen. … I think throughout there are some good wide receivers as you go,” Childress said.
There was also plenty of talk on the quarterback position.
Childress said he liked Matt Schaub coming out of Virginia, and the Falcon-turned-Texan could have a good shot to succeed in Houston with head coach Gary Kubiak running a similar system that Schaub is used to.
And Childress’ assessment of David Carr, who likely will be on the trading block soon with the Texans’ acquisition of Schaub, wasn’t completely glowing.
“David Carr is a tremendous person,” Childress said. “I always struggled with where his release came from. It’s kind of a drop-down, three-quarter, not overhand, over-the-top release.”
He continued to indicate that Tarvaris Jackson and Brooks Bollinger will enter training camp as the team’s top two quarterbacks, saying he liked the fact that they were both athletic enough to make throws on the move “when it’s not a clean pocket.”
“The first place you always start with a quarterback is ... how does the ball get out, what does his release look like?” he said in his positive evaluation of Jackson. “He is one of those guys who has a large hand, has extremely long fingers.”
Childress helped advance the theory of Daunte Culpepper’s small hands that was so prevalent during his struggles to hold onto the ball when he was with the Vikings. Childress said Culpepper had “small hands” that were suited to playing in a dome, while Donovan McNabb had a 10 ¼ “paw” that made him an ideal quarterback to handle the sleet and snow of the Northeast.
The references came in a discussion of LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, whom Childress said had “a hose” that can sling the ball and a hand that wraps around the ball, enabling him to be a more accurate passer.
When asked by a caller about his reference to the Vikings being a “plum job” and then taking a 9-7 team and getting a 6-10 record in his first year, Childress said he believed there was a franchise quarterback in place when he took the job, but that things with Culpepper looked much different up close than they did from afar.
Still, he said Bollinger and Jackson haven’t "got the equity built up" yet to warrant that “franchise quarterback” tag yet.
Jackson has been in Minnesota for about the last month and is just starting to get into the heavy part of his offseason program with quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers. A “quarterback school” is coming up for Jackson, Bollinger and Drew Henson.
Asked to list the most valuable positions on a football team, Childress said he starts with the quarterback and the next two positions are defensive line and cornerbacks because of their role in defending the pass.
That said, he confirmed that the Vikings did have “an interest” in Patrick Kerney, a free-agent defensive end earlier this month who signed with the Seattle Seahawks.
“There was interest, but we didn’t choose to go that way,” Childress said. “He’s a good player in his own right. I think they (the Seahawks) had a huge need, but we didn't choose to go there. We’ll see if there is a guy that fits with what we need in the draft as well.”
Regarding the linebackers, he said the Vikings made an effort to retain Napoleon Harris but that the market “went off the chart.” Harris signed a six-year contract reportedly worth $24 million with a $7.5 million signing bonus. Childress said Tampa Bay was very much in the running to get Harris.
When asked about the linebackers on the roster, Childress credited Dontarrious Thomas’ work as a backup and fill-in starter last year when Harris missed two games in November.
“DT did a great job in Napoleon’s stead last year when Napoleon was hurt,” Childress said. “E.J. has some ability to go inside, and they all have position flexibility.”
Childress plans to take some leisure time with his sons after the NFL owners’ meetings next week in Arizona.
Asked what he would say to season-ticket holders on the fence about whether or not to renew, Childress said: “We’re going to be a better football team this year. We have one lap around the track. … If you at us in every game, the difference between 6-10 and 10-6 is razor-thin. We want to close that gap. We're competing with the Chicago Bears in this division and gave them a run for the money. I know that doesn't mean much right this second, but that was a Super Bowl football team.”