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‘Classy’ Childress hired to right Vikings’ ship

Minnesota brass hope he’ll restore winning ways, dignity

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Newly named Minnesota Vikings football head coach Brad Childress, a former Utah assistant, answers questions at a news conference Friday.

Newly named Minnesota Vikings football head coach Brad Childress, a former Utah assistant, answers questions at a news conference Friday.

Ann Heisenfelt, Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Zygi Wilf was looking for more than just a winner when he interviewed candidates for the Minnesota Vikings' coaching vacancy.

After a first season as an NFL owner littered with ticket scalping, Whizzinators and scandalous boat parties off the field, and a disappointing 9-7 record on it, Wilf wanted a steadying presence.

Philadelphia offensive coordinator and former Ute assistant Brad Childress was hired Friday to replace the fired Mike Tice, whose four-season tenure was plagued by player malfeasance and only moderate success.

"Coach Childress was the elite NFL head coaching candidate," Wilf said. "He embodies class, character and discipline and is a great family man. Bottom line, Brad Childress is a winner."

Childress, who signed a five-year guaranteed contract, knows what lies ahead. He quoted former football coach Gene Stallings that, "the fun in this business is winning." But he added a caveat.

"The mandate is clear, however, that it needs to be done with the class and dignity that the Wilf family exudes," said Childress, dressed for the part in a purple tie and Vikings lapel pin.

The 49-year-old has been the Eagles' offensive coordinator since 2002 and helped lead Philly to four straight NFC East titles and last year's Super Bowl. This is his first head coaching job.

A lifelong assistant, Childress started at Illinois in 1978. He was the quarterbacks coach for Indianapolis in 1985 before holding assistant positions with Northern Arizona, Utah and Wisconsin.

Childress joined the Eagles as quarterbacks coach under Andy Reid in 1999, earning praise for his work with Donovan McNabb and has been considered for head coaching jobs the last few years.

"When you work your way up the ladder and have to grind like that, it gives you a great appreciation for the process," Childress said. "I'm happy I got this one and not some of the other ones."

Minnesota also interviewed defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, Kansas City assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Al Saunders and Indianapolis assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell.

With eight head coaching positions open across the league, the Vikings wanted to move quickly. Childress was scheduled to meet with Green Bay and Houston, but Wilf persuaded him to stay in the Twin Cities for a second interview, and Childress never went anywhere else.

"These guys jumped out. It's one of those deals where you snooze, you lose," Childress said, adding that the process was thorough despite the speed.

Childress inherits a team that had plenty of off-the-field distractions for most of Tice's four full seasons as coach.

In 2005 alone, the Vikings had to deal with Tice being fined $100,000 for scalping Super Bowl tickets, running back Onterrio Smith being suspended for the season for substance abuse and being caught at the airport with "The Original Whizzinator," a device used to beat drug tests, and the now-infamous boat party on Lake Minnetonka that brought misdemeanor charges against four players.

Tice was a fiery, emotional coach, and his team seemed to adopt that temperament. Under Tice, the Vikings were erratic, prone to winning and losing streaks and late-season collapses.

Childress brings a much lower-key demeanor and an even-keeled approach — like his mentor, Reid.

"He's a classy, determined individual," Vikings running back Mewelde Moore said. "Those are the characteristics you love to see in a head coach."

McNabb called Childress "a great human being."

"It's well-deserved and as sad as it is for me to know that he is leaving, I am very excited to see that he has an opportunity to fulfill a dream and get their program kick-started in the right direction," McNabb said.

And Childress knows all about dealing with distractions, having coached Terrell Owens for two seasons. He said the Owens saga taught him "that it was about the team, the team, the team, the team."

With Childress in tow, Wilf now will concentrate on hiring a personnel man to work with Childress and salary cap guru Rob Brzezinski to remake the Vikings' image.

"The most important thing to me is that people do the right thing," Childress said. "If it's good for you and right — do it and do it with great vigor and enthusiasm. If it's bad for you — jump away from it like it's hot lava."