Football coaches have controlling personalities by nature. They spend their working lives trying to plan for the unplannable, trying to scheme for any eventuality and to control everything they can possibly control. Vikings coach Brad Childress seems to be no different than any of the rest of his brethren, and so if you'd asked him to describe his perfect Vikings summer, he probably would have wanted quiet. Simple. Distraction-free. Controllable, in other words.
If you've been following the Purple, you'll know that he got anything but. Virtually every one of his skill-position players caused some drama this summer. To wit:
- Adrian Peterson skipped minicamp to attend "Adrian Peterson Day" in his hometown, even though it was the fourth time the celebration had been held, and Peterson skipped all three days of minicamp to attend a one-day event.
- Sidney Rice attempted to rehab a hip injury, failed, and now will miss the first half of the season.
- Percy Harvin went AWOL from training camp, then came back and was felled by horrible, hospital-stay-inducing migraines.
- Toby Gerhart staged a mini-holdout, then spent the rest of training camp being singled out for physical punishment by all for no real reason.
- Pat Williams and Kevin Williams spent more time dealing with the StarCaps saga.
- And if you missed out on Brett Favre... the quarterback nearly caused a riot in the ESPN studios at least twice thanks to his continuing saga, and since he's been back, his presence has already prompted reports of "Schism, Part II" and other such nonsense. For better or worse, Favre is distraction personified.
The Vikings have had a shortish training camp that didn't even include a full team, plus a minicamp that didn't include anywhere near a full team, plus distraction after distraction that took away from the business of football.
Yet, come September 9, many people - including most Vikings fans, it would seem - expect the Purple to repeat as NFC North champions. The team has virtually all of the pieces back from the 12-4 team that should have won the NFC Championship game; in terms of talent, there's no reason they can't be right back there again.
This, then, is an interesting test case for off-season NFL watchers. We've all reported breathlessly on Minnesota's off-season doings, wondering how the turmoil would affect the team. Though every team has some kind of issues, very few have had as much commotion, or such widely distributed tumult, as the Vikings. It's the exact opposite of what any head coach of Childress's ilk would have wanted.
If the Vikings can come back and turn in the same kind of season again as they did in 2009, then we'll know: the off-season is pointless. We can turn off after the Super Bowl and turn on again the day the season starts.