Football brings joy, anguish
October 30, 2008
Minnesota football sure is an interesting creature, isn’t it? Both the Vikings and the Gophers are very similar. Both teams toy with their fans’ emotions. Even when it looks impossible that they’ll be relevant, they always find a way to come back and crush the souls of their fans. Heck, a couple years ago, the Vikings were eliminated from playoff contention on CHRISTMAS! Regardless, the two have started to separate their similarities. This is a story that’s so simple, it can be divided by two coaches.
It was January 2006, and I was home on winter break in Rochester, Minnesota. The Vikings were just about to make their announcement on who the 8th coach in franchise history would be. That man would be Brad Childress. Childress went to the podium with a calm demeanor and promised that he would field a competitive, disciplined team and get the Vikings to the next level. He also boasted how he molded Donovan McNabb into an elite NFL quarterback. This seemed to be what the doctor ordered, prompting yours truly to state that the Vikings would win the Super Bowl sometime within the next 5 years.
One year later, The Minnesota Golden Gophers were coming off a 6-7 season. Glen Mason was fired as the Gophers coach and the Gophers were looking for someone who would get them to the next level. Names such as Wisconsin Badgers Offensive Coordinator Paul Christ and Florida Gators assistant coach Charlie Strong were thrown out there as potential replacements. Instead, the Gophers went with Tim Brewster. At Brewster’s press conference, he appeared wide-eyed and repeatedly mentioned “Rose Bowl”, “Pasadena”, and “Gopher Nation.” Brewster boasted about how he made Antonio Gates an elite NFL tight end and how he recruited Julius Peppers and Vince Young. In the same spot I was in a year ago, I thought to myself, “ARE THEY INSANE?” However, for how alike the two football teams are, their current stories are completely different.
Take a look at the recruiting between the two teams. The NFL doesn’t exactly have recruiting, but they do have free agency. The Vikings went out and got a receiver with a bad toe (Benard Berrian), a safety with a bad neck (Madeiu Williams), a fullback with a Eagles pedigree (Thomas Tapeh), and the new Chris Hovan (Jared Allen). Meanwhile, Brewster went out and got a highly acclaimed recruiting class that has helped revitalize a defense that was historically bad in his first season.
Both teams are looking for upgrades to their stadium. The Gophers have already received that upgrade in the new TCF Bank Stadium that will open next season. Brewster has taken full advantage of it, shoving it in every recruits face as they walk onto the Minnesota campus. The Vikings would love to get a new stadium, but until Childress is gone, they have about a snowball’s chance in hell of receiving their wish.
Brewster has also defeated Childress in team discipline. Honestly, have you seen a Gopher get in trouble with the law, excluding the Dominic Jones trial? Then look at the Vikings. Dwight Smith getting busted in a stairwell, Kevin and Pat Williams getting busted for water pills, THE LOVE BOAT (Not during Childress’s tenure, but oh well). The Vikings have not shown the discipline that Childress promised when he was hired. Brewster, meanwhile, has gotten the team to accept the “team” concept. Players that aren’t starting understand that their time will come and when it has, they have stepped up.
For all the similarities that these coaches have, there is one major difference: win/loss record.
The Gophers are currently 7-1 and ranked 17th in the Bowl Championship Series, a resume that would make Badger fans blush because of their struggles with Bret “Living off Barry Alvarez” Bielema. Childress’s Vikings are 3-4 and look absolutely pathetic.
Hindsight is obviously 20/20, but it appears that the first impression that Brewster gave was an accurate one.
Meanwhile, until Childress is fired, the Vikings may actually play second fiddle to the Golden Gophers. What a shocker.
Chris Schad is a student at UW-River Falls.