Days of Denny long gone
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Dennis Green's departure from the Minnesota Vikings was met with applause in most local circles. The fans were happy to see an embattled coach get the axe. Some players clearly felt that after 10 years, it was time for a ch...
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Dennis Green's departure from the Minnesota Vikings was met with applause in most local circles.
The fans were happy to see an embattled coach get the axe. Some players clearly felt that after 10 years, it was time for a change. And for a media that battled to transcribe his winding diatribes and doublespeak, it was a sweet goodbye to a man who fostered an "us-against-the-reporters" mentality in the locker room.
But just over halfway into the Brad Childress era, I find myself longing for the Days of Denny.
Green's tenure, though hardly media friendly, was marked by extreme highs and lows. It was nothing if not exciting.
You never knew what was going to happen from week to week, or even from day to day. What would Denny say? What would the Vikings do? The unpredictability, coupled with an offense that could be nothing short of breathtaking, was intoxicating.
There were astounding levels of success, such as the 15-1 record piled up by the 1998 squad, which also scored more points than any NFL team before it, and the amazing 23-22 last-second victory over the Giants in the 1997 playoffs.
And there were shocking failures: the infamous 41-doughnut loss to the Giants in the NFC Championship in 2001 and the 5-11 season that followed and led to Green's ouster.
But it sure was fun while it lasted, wasn't it?
Green's regime was filled with colorful characters, from Randy Moss's brilliant but controversy-filled career here to maverick owner Red McCombs' bombastic bellowing of "Purr-ple Pride! Purr-ple Pride! Purr-ple Pride!"
Everywhere you turned, there was something interesting going on. Green was getting undercut by assistants behind the scenes, Cris Carter was bickering about not getting the ball enough and Robert Smith was waxing philosophic about how sports are placed on too high a pedestal in today's society.
It felt like the Wild Wild West. Bullets were flying all over the place and you never knew who was going to be the next victim and, honestly, who wore the black hats and who were dressed in white.
But you know what else happened during that roller coaster run? The Vikings won -- a lot.
Sure, they lost both times they reached the NFC Championship, but Green was 97-62 while he was here, installing an offense that was the envy of the league and captivated fans.
Thanks to Green's high-flying offense, a perfect fit for Moss's talents, the Vikings rose to levels of unprecedented popularity in the state.
Green cast himself as "The Sheriff." And he was a polarizing figure. Some loved his approach to the game and the success he piled up. Others loathed him as an arrogant, my-way-or-the-highway coach who too often came up short in the biggest games.
Either way, he at least elicited a reaction.
Compare that to now.
The very life seems to have been sucked out of this franchise by a new corporate approach.
All the personality has been drained -- from the front office and the team. And new coach Brad Childress seems to have made it his life's mission to keep as much information about his team as possible under lock and key.
Childress and new owner Zygi Wilf certainly are not alone in adopting a more conservative, corporate style to the organization. Similar approaches have worked well in New England, for example, to weed out the controversy and distractions and keep the players focused on the game.
Where the Vikings are running into the most trouble, at least from a fan's perspective, is that the conservative attitude is spilling over onto the field.
The new-look Vikings offense is about as far away from Denny's "chuck it out there dawg" attack as it can get. It lacks imagination. It lacks creativity. And the fans are growing tired of watching Brad Johnson dump the ball off to Mewelde Moore on third-and-10.
If the wins were still piling up, all would be forgiven. But the Vikings have lost four in a row heading into Sunday's showdown with Denny and the Arizona Cardinals at the Metrodome, and things are starting to get ugly.
The improving defense is growing increasingly impatient with the offense's struggles, and worse, the fans are becoming increasingly distant.
When Denny was in town, fans either wanted to erect a statue in his honor outside the Metrodome or book him a seat on the first bus out of town.
With Childress's Vikings, fans seem to be getting more ambivalent by the day. They're bored with this starless, vanilla team.
If things don't turn around here soon, the Vikings are in danger of joining the Gophers and Timberwolves in the Land of Indifference.
And that's not a good place to be.
Jon Krawczynski can be reached at jkrawczynski(at)ap.org.