Short Of Super Bowl, Long On Improvement

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 26, 2010 – 4:33 pm

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress met with reporters for his season-ending press conference on Tuesday afternoon, addressing a bevy of topics ranging from the disappointment that remains after Sunday night’s NFC title loss to the future of Brett Favre to building a championship organization.

The Vikings head coach didn’t hide from the fact that coming up one game short of the Super Bowl has harvested gut-wrenching disappointment from the Vikings fan base. But he also pointed out, appropriately so, that the disappointment is also felt within the walls of Winter Park.

“We didn’t achieve our ultimate goal, which is to go to the Super Bowl and win it,” Childress said. “You saw Sunday night how tough those guys took it. I know that everybody in town here takes it tough. We as a coaching staff and players and the organization take it extremely hard, too.”

Childress did a nice job of conveying the underlying sentiment and emotions that currently define the Vikings and their following. But, as a person in his position is called to do, Childress also outlined the positives his team and fan base can take into the coming months and 2010 season.

“It’s a bitter pill to swallow and I don’t know that it completely goes away right away,” Childress said. “But as the leader of this football team, it’s important from my standpoint to point out to our guys all the positive things that we accomplished this year, whether it’s in terms of the wins and losses, the division, offense improved, defense improved and I thought we improved in the special teams area. It’s important to point those things out because I think those things get flushed under and really it ends up happening with everybody that’s not the Super Bowl champion; that’s the tough part of this business.”

The Vikings did indeed continue to improve under Childress. The team’s record has improved each year since 2006, including jumping to 12-4 this year after a solid 10-6 campaign in 2008. The Vikings won their 2nd consecutive division title in 2009 and also earned the NFC’s #2 seed, which gave them a 1st-round bye in the conference playoffs and played a pivotal role in the Vikings smashing the Dallas Cowboys 34-3 in the Divisional Round.

The Vikings also improved in several statistical areas, leading the league in sacks with 48 and producing the NFL’s 2nd-highest scoring offense at 29.4 points per game, a massive leap from the 23.7 points per game they registered in 2008. Also, the Vikings kick coverage and kickoff return units saw drastic improvement.

Other significant statistical jumps included the 2009 defense allowing 1.3 fewer points per game and the offense jumping from 17th to 5th in total offense and 25th to 8th in passing offense.

The addition of QB Brett Favre was the impetus behind much of the offensive improvement and it gave the Vikings a heightened sense of legitimacy as they cruised to an undefeated home season, sensational 13-4 record and an appearance in a conference championship game on the road in a difficult environment that saw them in position to win it with just 19 seconds left.

Along with the addition of a 19-year veteran future Hall of Famer at QB, though, Childress also pointed out that a number of young players were involved in the 2009 improvement. C John Sullivan and S Tyrell Johnson both progressed in their 1st full year as starters and rookies LB Jasper Brinkley, WR Percy Harvin and OT Phil Loadholt played key roles in starting positions.

It all adds up to a team that fell short of its goal this year but is also part of an organization that is striving to win a championship.

“I think the message has been consistent – we’re attempting to build a championship organization here and we continue to get closer,” Childress said. “I know it’s unsatisfying, but I know that there’s a number of different guys getting involved. The younger guys, whether it’s the Loadholts, the Harvins, we’re continuing to build that thing.

“This was a fun, fun group to coach and they remained that way, all the way through the season. It’s fun to watch guys compete with each other and for each other. And it’s rare in this business of individuals that you see guys come together and play that way for the whole season. I just acknowledge that everyone’s hurting and at the end of the day a lot of good things that we’re going to take away and build off of.”

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