2010 Year-End Sports Review: What We Already Knew

Let’s be honest: Sports bloggers know everything. Just ask us. As part of our 2010 Year-End Sports Review, our list of things we already knew this year includes Brad Childress’ biggest fail, Wade Phillips’ demise in Dallas and John Calipari’s troubles. We also knew Kevin Durant was the next great superstar (who didn’t see that coming?), Roger Clemens is the ultimate windbag and that “Matty Ice” knows fourth-quarter comebacks. We should have gone to medical school…

Contributors: Anthony Stalter, John Paulsen, Paul Costanzo, Drew Ellis and Mike Farley

LeBron is a frontrunner.

We all were a little surprised that LeBron left Cleveland, but the writing was on the wall. Growing up, LeBron didn’t root for the local teams. He followed the Yankees, Bulls and Cowboys, which in the 1990s constituted the Holy Triumvirate of Frontrunning. He wore his Yankee cap to an Indians game and was seen hobnobbing on the Cowboy sidelines during a Browns game. He says he’s loyal, but he’s only loyal to winners…unless they only win in the regular season, of course.

July 08, 2010 - Greenwich, CONNECTICUT, United States - epa02241974 Handout photo from ESPN showing LaBron James (L), NBA's reigning two-time MVP, as he ends months of speculation and announces 08 July 2010 on ESPN 'The Decision' in Greenwich, Connecticut, USA, that he will go to the Miami Heat where he will play basketball next 2010-11 season. James said his decision was based on the fact that he wanted to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Brad Childress’ biggest flaw cost him his job in the end.

There were many reasons why the Vikings decided to fire head coach Brad Childress roughly a year after they signed him to a contract extension. One of the reasons was because he lost with a talented roster. Another was because he never quite figured out how to best utilize Adrian Peterson, which is a sin given how talented AP is. But the main reason “Chilly” was ousted in Minnesota was because he didn’t know how to manage NFL-caliber personalities. He didn’t know how to handle Brett Favre, which led to blowups on the sidelines and multiple face-to-face confrontations. He also didn’t have a clue how to deal with Randy Moss’ crass attitude, so he released him just four weeks after the team acquired him in a trade from New England. Childress was hired in part to help clean up the mess in Minnesota after the whole “Love Boat” scandal. But the problem with a disciplinarian that hasn’t first earned respect is that his demands fall on deaf ears. In the end, Childress’ inability to command respect from his players cost him his job. You know, on top of the fact that he was losing with a talented roster, he didn’t know how to best utilize Adrian Peterson, he…

Love him or hate him, George Steinbrenner will forever be one of baseball’s icons.

You may have hated his brash attitude, the way he ran his team or the way he conducted his business. You may even feel that he ruined baseball. But regardless of how you may have felt about him, there’s little denying that George Steinbrenner will forever be one of Major League Baseball’s icons. Steinbrenner passed away in July of this year. He will forever be a man known for helping revolutionize the business side of baseball by being the first owner to sell TV cable rights to the MSG Network. When things eventually went south with MSG, he created the YES Network, which is currently the Yankees’ very own TV station that generates millions in revenue. During his tenure, he took the Yankees from a $10 million franchise to a $1.2 billion juggernaut. In 2005, the Yankees became the first professional sports franchise to be worth an estimated one billion dollars. While many baseball fans came to despise the way he ran his team (mainly because he purchased high priced free agents with reckless abandon due to the fact that he could and others couldn’t), don’t miss the message he often made year in and year out: The Yankees are here to win. He didn’t line his pockets with extra revenue (albeit he generated a lot of extra revenue for his club) – he dumped his money back into the on-field product. Losing wasn’t acceptable and if the Bombers came up short one year, you could bet that Steinbrenner would go after the best talent in the offseason, regardless of what others thought of the approach. How many Pirates and Royals fans wish they had an owner with the same appetite for victory?

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Childress says Moss tried to get him fired

MINNEAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 21: Head coach Brad Childress of the Minnesota Vikings on the sidelines against the Green Bay Packers at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on November 21, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

In an interview with the Pioneer Press, Brad Childress gives his version of his departure from Minnesota.

“If you pull a couple of quotes from a locker room, it all gets exacerbated a bit,” Childress said. “By and large, I know the support I had. It’s a good group of guys in that locker room.”

Regarding Moss, Childress heard late in the process that Moss was lobbying to owner Zygi Wilf for Childress to be fired, but he was already set on waiving him. Childress did not consult with upper management about the move.

Not every Viking was against parting with Moss.

“Some players came up to me afterward and said, ‘Coach, we would have been disappointed if you didn’t do something,’ ” Childress said.

Sure, Childress’s stories are anecdotal and he’s probably overstating the support he had in the locker room, but with the way Moss was reportedly acting, it wouldn’t be surprising if there were several players who understood why Childress put him on waivers.

Whatever the issues, Childress will receive $5 million total through the 2012 season, which isn’t a bad severance package.

If Childress wants another job, he’ll have to change his approach with players

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 20: Head coach Brad Childress and Ray Edwards #91 of the Minnesota Vikings against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on December 20, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

My guess is that it’ll be a while before Brad Childress finds another head coaching job in the NFL. And if he doesn’t change his philosophy on how to mange relationships with players, then he may never have another chance.

One of the main reasons Vikings’ owner Zygi Wilf hired Childress in 2006 is because he thought Childress would help restore order off the field. The “Love Boat Scandal” was still fresh on everyone’s minds and Wilf fell for Childress’ harden approach with players.

The problem is that Childress didn’t have much coaching experience at the time. He had never been a head coach at any level and while he was the offensive coordinator for the Eagles before arriving in Minnesota, head coach Andy Reid called most of Philadelphia’s plays over that span. Thus, Childress’ football resume was highly barren of legitimate experience.

There were also warning signs about the way Childress handled players. It was highly reported that Terrell Owens had asked Childress not to speak to him during the 2005 season. When he did get to Minnesota, several veteran quarterbacks including Brad Johnson and Gus Frerotte didn’t see eye-to-eye with Childress because they weren’t allowed to go off-script during games.

Childress also got into a spat with Brett Favre last year because he didn’t appreciate the veteran quarterback’s freelancing. More recently, he’s gotten into spats with receiver Percy Harvin and cornerback Antoine Winfield. Out of the handful of articles that I read so far on his firing, not one player has defended or stuck up for him. That says a lot.

All of this leads to the obvious: Childress doesn’t know how to handle NFL personalities. He desperately wanted Favre to be his quarterback, but he didn’t know how to handle Brett’s massive ego. He wanted Randy Moss to save his fleeting passing game, but the first time the receiver gave him any guff he waived him on the spot.

Some coaches can get away with being a disciplinary. Bill Cowher made his mark in Pittsburgh with that approach, although he also knew how to strike a rapport with players. He knew he couldn’t constantly belittle them or they’d eventually turn their backs on him, which is exactly what happened to Childress. Vikings players put up with him last year because they were winning. But now that this has become a lost season, they had no problem giving marginal effort for a guy whom they don’t respect.

All this leads to is this: if Childress doesn’t change his ways then he might as well drop down to the college ranks where players are easier to mold. While he’s down there, he may want to learn how to maximize his players’ strengths, too. It never ceased to amaze me how much he misused Adrian Peterson throughout his years in Minnesota. But that’s a topic for another time.

For now, “Chilly” might want to work on his people skills.

Vikings’ owner almost fired Childress over Moss decision

MINNEAPOLIS - JANUARY 17: Brad Childress, Head Coach of the Minnesota Vikings, looks on during the first half of the game against the Dallas Cowboys during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on January 17, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

According to ESPN’s Ed Werder, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf nearly fired Brad Childress after the head coach waived Randy Moss earlier this week before talking to Wilf about the decision. The report states that Wilf was “furious about being circumvented” and almost kept Moss.

I’m actually surprised Wilf didn’t fire Childress. His front office went out and traded a third round pick to acquire Moss and his lame-brain head coach waived him four weeks later because he doesn’t know how to handle big personalities like the ones Moss and Favre have. Given Wilf’s reaction to the situation, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Childress overstepped his boundaries here.

Either way, I don’t see how Childress keeps his job past this season. He managed to get the Vikings to the NFC title game last year but now that everything has fallen apart, it’s apparent he has no idea how to right the ship. Granted, not having Sidney Rice has been a major blow to the offense and there’s no doubt that he was vital to the Vikes’ success last season. But this is still a talented team and it’s up to Childress to figure out ways to win when one of his star players goes down with an injury. That’s what he’s paid to do – that’s what his job is and he hasn’t delivered.

That said, I credit Wilf for not making a snap decision and firing Childress the moment he heard about Moss being waived. He might as well stand by his head coach now and let Childress hang himself as the season wears on. Because the Vikings are toast – they’re not coming back. Wilf just has to ride out these next nine weeks and then he’ll have everything he needs to tell Childress to hit the road. (Even though the head coach still has three more years left on his current deal.)

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