Wilf won’t address Childress status; fans fed up

Like voters flocking to the polls, Minnesota Vikings fans loudly

called for a change in leadership to save a fast-sinking season

that started with Super Bowl aspirations.

The signs said it all – ”Fire Chilly” – and there were

thousands of them being handed out on the streets by grinning

entrepreneurs outside the stadium before Sunday’s game against

Arizona.

Boos came from the crowd as coach Brad Childress emerged from

the tunnel leading to the field, and the ”Fire Childress!” chants

were audible several times throughout the afternoon. Finally, as

the Vikings rallied from a two-touchdown deficit late in the fourth

quarter and pulled out an overtime victory, the chants changed to

”Let’s go Vikings!”

”I think they came expecting to see an execution,” Childress

said. ”And it ended up a pretty good football game at the

end.”

Mired in controversy over his handling of the hasty decision to

dump dissatisfied wide receiver Randy Moss, Childress acknowledged

this week his expectation of the catcalls from customers frustrated

by the 2-5 record.

The majority of the fan base has never warmed up to Childress,

and the angst hit an apex this week. Reports emerged about

player-coach clashes and owner Zygi Wilf’s anger over Childress’s

failure to tell him his plan to waive Moss after a pattern of

disrespect shown by the notoriously moody star.

Childress chalked his heated argument with wide receiver Percy

Harvin, who was close to Moss, up to emotional people playing an

emotional game. Harvin shrugged it off, too.

”It was about whether I was going to get an MRI or not. It was

a little dispute, but we settled it. Me and Coach are fine,”

Harvin said.

Wilf was at team headquarters this week, closely observing the

team and talking to key players about the situation. Before the

game, Wilf and Childress shook hands and had a brief conversation

on the field during warmups. Wilf gave reporters a brief statement

but declined to address the status of his head coach, to whom he

gave one year ago a contract extension through the 2013 season.

”Nothing to say about that,” Wilf said. ”The big thing is

getting a win right now. The big thing is to win this game and to

be crowned division champions.”

Wilf was downright giddy after the game, greeting everyone from

Childress to the last guy on the roster as they entered the locker

room by exclaiming, ”Great heart, fellas! Great heart!”

Still, Childress is in front of the public firing squad, as

football coaches often are.

”It’s kind of a disaster right now. I think he should’ve been

gone a couple years ago,” said Bryan Bergeson, a lifelong Vikings

fan from Rockford, Ill., who took part in the pre-game tailgating

outside the dome on an unseasonably sunny and warm November

day.

Bergeson spoke across the street from an office building where

paper taped inside a fifth-floor window spelled out, of course,

”Fire Chilly.” Bergeson had his own sign in his hand. One woman,

seeing a reporter scribbling in a notebook, yelled as she walked

by, ”Just write ‘Fire Childress!”’

One girl wore a purple Moss jersey with red tape crossing out

the No. 84, a sign that not all the anger is directed at

Childress.

”It’s really negative. I don’t like the signs. To be honest, a

couple weeks ago things were cool. Two losses in a row, and, wow,”

said Tom O’Neill, who makes regular trips to games with friends

from Mason City, Iowa.

His group had a clear message: Cheer the uniforms and not the

players or coaches who wear them.

”We love the Vikings,” O’Neill said. ”We invest a lot of

time. Give up a Sunday. I could be home getting my lawn that needs

raked right now.”

But it was hard to find a lot of opinions that matched his. Most

people were plain fed up with the guy in charge, Childress.

”He thinks he knows everything, and he doesn’t seem to know

that much,” said Mike Garrison, from Peoria, Ill.

Twin Cities natives Darwin and Lisa McQuerter brought red

handkerchiefs to signify their protest – sort of a fan’s challenge

flag – of Childress. They proudly said they joined in the ”Fire

Childress” chants two years ago during a particularly rough game

by the offense and planned to do so again on Sunday.

”He’s got to go,” Darwin said.

Andy Nedoba and Jon Wright were in another contingent from Iowa,

and their friend, an Atlanta Falcons fan, wore a ”Fire Brad”

T-shirt, just to pile on. Nedoba said he didn’t think Childress

should be fired, but neither he nor his buddies had a positive

opinion.

Asked how the season has affected his view of the coach, Wright

said, ”It’s made me not like him.”

Fans were trying to stay patient and keep a level head.

”You’ve got to be realistic about it, too,” O’Neill said.

”Fire the coach? OK, that’ll make Percy Harvin catch the ball.

Yeah, fire the coach. That’ll make Greg Camarillo add 8 yards to

his punt-return average. We have a knee-jerk society. An instant

society. We’re 2-5: Fire Childress? Not me, man. Not me right now.

In January when it’s done, then we’ll see.”