Vikings fire head coach Childress
Brad Childress is jobless, fired by the Minnesota Vikings less than 24 hours after a one-sided loss to division rival Green Bay.
Owner Zygi Wilf read from a script and would not get into specifics after he and team president Mark Wilf, his brother, met with Childress early Monday.
"It's often difficult to articulate one reason why change is needed," said Wilf, who maintains he has "deep respect" for Childress. "He was an integral part of helping this franchise turn the corner and re-establishing ourselves as a force in the NFL as well as bringing in players who did an excellent job representing themselves and our organization in this community."
Childress, 54, was in his fifth season at the helm as head coach after coming to Minnesota following a successful turn as Philadelphia's offensive co-ordinator. He will be replaced by defensive co-ordinator Leslie Frazier on an interim basis for the remainder of the season.
Frazier wasted no time in answering a big question: Brett Favre is still the starting quarterback, despite a subpar year.
"There's no hesitation from me in that regard," Frazier said. "I'm of the belief that Brett Favre is going to get it going and the turnovers are going to come down and we're going to get going as a football team."
Frazier wore a suit and a solemn look at the podium during a news conference, looking like he was already auditioning for the permanent job. He said he expects Favre to limit his turnovers, and he expects a full effort from his players for the rest of the season, which is all but over after the latest loss.
"The challenge our players have is to understand that other people around the league are taking a look at that tape, and you owe it to your teammates and your family to go out there and play hard every single snap.
Minnesota went 39-35 in the regular season under Childress.
Childress and the Vikings were on the brink of a Super Bowl appearance just nine months ago, losing in overtime in the NFC title game to eventual league champions New Orleans. The coach endured criticism after the loss, with questionable clock management and play calling late in the fourth quarter.
It was a season in which veteran Brett Favre enjoyed a renaissance, while a swarming defence harassed opposing quarterbacks.
But after being coaxed back to the field for another campaign, Favre has been battered this season by injuries and mistake-prone, throwing four touchdowns and 10 interceptions in the last four games.
The 41-year-old quarterback and the coach have not been on the same page, with Childress chiding Favre publicly for not "playing within the confines of the system."
Childress has also been criticized for the Randy Moss fiasco. He helped engineer a trade for the New England wide receiver, giving up a third round pick.
Childress released Moss just a month later, reportedly to the chagrin of many players.
The outgoing coach thanked the Vikings for the opportunity in a statement.
"I am proud of our accomplishments, and believe the foundation of this football team is stronger today than when I became head coach," Childress said.
It will be Frazier's first head coaching turn after being a candidate for NFL jobs elsewhere. With his hiring, there are now seven African-American head coaches.
The 51-year-old earned praise for his work last season, when Jared Allen, Pat Williams and Kevin Williams (no relation) led an imposing defensive line.
The Vikings have struggled on defence on their way to a 3-7 mark — although not to the degree the offence has.
Asked if he'd give Favre more freedom to run the offence as he saw fit, Frazier laughed.
"If you ask Brett that question I'm sure he would say, 'Give me all the latitude in the world.' But we do have a system in place," Frazier said. "There may be some tweaks to the system. We're going to talk about that."
Players had left the building by the time Wilf and Frazier finished with their news conference, but the team distributed statements from several players.
"Brad Childress is a good guy, a man with strong faith and a great family. I wish him the best in the future," Favre said. "I think we all, starting with me, could have done more to make this a successful season."
Wolf gave Childress a contract extension late last year, which according to an ESPN.com, ran through the 2012 season.
Minnesota suffered a 31-3 pounding on its own field on Sunday.
The Packers are earning a reputation as coach killers. One day after they drubbed Dallas 45-7, the Cowboys fired Wade Phillips and replaced him on an interim basis with offensive co-ordinator Jason Garrett.
It is the only other in-season coaching change so far in 2010.
With files from The Associated Press