The League

Leonard Shapiro
Columnist

Leonard Shapiro

Washington Post sports reporter, editor and columnist who has served on the NFL HOF Selection Committee.

Great expectations

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Brad Childress became the latest victim of great expectations Monday when the Minnesota Vikings fired a head coach who had hitched his wagon to a 41-year-old quarterback who probably should have stayed retired.

Childress, not surprisingly after a 3-7 start and a 31-3 drubbing by Green Bay Sunday, joined the first victim of lofty preseason expectations as an unemployed head coach. That would be Wade Phillips of the Dallas Cowboys, dismissed himself three weeks ago -- and about two years too late -- in this writer's humble opinion.

Both teams were expected to go places this season, each picked as a legitimate contender to win the NFC title and play in the Super Bowl in February. The Cowboys certainly had more than enough incentives, what with the league's marquee game being contested in their monument to wretched stadium excess in the Dallas suburbs.

But they also had Phillips as their head coach, a veritable puppet on a string being manipulated by team owner and so-called general manager Jerry Jones, a man with a Texas sized ego who thought he had more than enough horses to become the first team ever to win a Super Bowl in its home stadium.

Phillips, like so many failed head coaches around the league (think Jim Zorn), was a fine defensive coordinator who was in way over his head as a head coach. The word buffoon comes mostly to mind, along with yes-man of the highest order. Whatever Jerry Jones wanted, Phillips went along compliantly, the better to cash a healthy paycheck.

As long as gifted quarterback Tony Romo was healthy and upright, the Cowboys might have contended for a division title. With Romo out of action, Dallas was doomed to mediocrity, at least until Jones promoted Jason Garrett, the man who should have been his head coach all along, to replace Phillips. Garrett is now 2-0, and a few more wins should earn him the job next year at the very least.

The Vikings demise is a bit more surprising, considering that Childress took them to NFC North titles each of the last two years and all the way to the conference title game in 2009. He watched 40-year-old Brett Favre have himself a career season in 2009, and thought with weapons like running back Adrian Peterson and receiver Percy Harvin on his side, along with a stout veteran defense, the sky would be the limit in 2010.

But Favre's injured left ankle clearly never healed properly after offseason surgery, and he and the coach have been at odds almost right from the very start of the season. He's already had 17 interceptions; a year ago Favre threw only seven. They never did get on the same page, and when Childress failed to tell ownership two weeks ago that he'd decided to cut wide receiver Randy Moss after only one game, his fate was pretty much sealed.

To their credit, the Cowboys seem to have a little fight left in them under Garrett. And popular Leslie Frazier might have the same effect as the interim head coach of the Vikings. He might also be wise to sit Favre down and start someone else at quarterback, the better to build for 2011, when Favre will finally retire once and for all. Maybe he'll even do it before the end of this season, surely the biggest surprise of all.

By Leonard Shapiro  |  November 23, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Brett Favre , Coaching , Dallas Cowboys , Leonard Shapiro , Minnesota Vikings , NFC Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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.....soon Frazier will have his hands full when Coach Favre begins to second guess him! Het Frazier.....here's a test.....try benching Favre for a few series and see what happens.

Posted by: wp121606 | November 23, 2010 4:31 PM

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