Reporting Dan Bernstein
In an ironic twist last week, Brett Favre may have extended the coaching career of Brad Childress by ignoring him. The Vikings’ coach lived to work another week because of his own irrelevance.
Childress, already nearly fired after the unilateral decision to cut Randy Moss, was believed to be toast should the Vikings lose to Arizona. They trailed the Cardinals 24-10 with just 4:39 left to play.
It was then that Favre took advantage of their four-minute and two-minute systems to direct the offense without sideline interference — reading coverage and seeing the field, rallying his team to a tie with 27 seconds left after engineering drives of 40 and 77 yards. He then drove them far enough in overtime for a Ryan Longwell field goal to stave off his coach’s ouster.
Favre threw for a career-best 446 yards, his performance a powerful response to Childress’s public grumbling about Favre’s tendency to ignore the play in his headset.
That’s really the locker room divide, here. Favre was critical of the offense from the moment he arrived after his latest shameless, overdramatic unretirement, and the conflict with Childress has festered all season. It goes back to last year, in fact, as Yahoo’s Michael Silver wrote over a month ago:
“The growing tension between Favre and Childress, and the sense that the quarterback doesn’t have much respect for the coach as an offensive strategist, has been well-documented since last season. The aforementioned team sources say things have remained strained in recent weeks, with Childress questioning Favre for having altered some plays at the line of scrimmage and questioning his commitment to the team.”
Favre appears, now, to have won that battle. Enough teammates are thought to be aligning behind him to give him legitimacy in the huddle and at the line, and that cuts both ways for the Bears on Sunday.
“He still gives us opportunities,” Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said of his longtime opponent. “He takes chances, which you like as a defensive player. Sometimes he makes those chances pay off for them.”
Favre going it alone – and tuning out the natural conservatism of Childress (who rankled his players when he told reporters after the loss to the Packers “Sometimes it’s OK to punt the football”), ratchets up both the risks and rewards for the Bears.
Several times each game, Favre will make a pass he shouldn’t. It will be up to the Bears to determine if each of those contributes to Favre’s legend as a devil-may-care gunslinger, or as a reckless, selfish diva hijacking his team’s opportunity to win.
The hope is that Favre’s internal computer is not as reliable as in years past: his brain tells him to fire the ball, but the arm can’t get let it go soon enough, anymore, or with enough velocity to beat the safety to the spot.
Urlacher’s own instincts are formidable, and his area of coverage will be targeted. It is no coincidence that we have seen Favre look increasingly to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe on the deep-middle seam route against zone coverage of late, since that’s a favorite throw of his (picture Mark Chmura, Bubba Franks and others).
It’s Favre’s show again, bringing with it some all-or-nothing possibilities. The Bears have first-hand experience on both sides of that equation, and now the stakes are as high as ever.