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The Childress firing, VY, Richard Seymour and Turkey Day highlight this week's NFL debate.
Athlon's Steven Lassan, Nathan Rush and Braden Gall debate five burning questions for Week 12 in the NFL:
1. Did Brad Childress deserve to be fired?
Braden Gall: Childress got a raw deal. The inmates were running the asylum up in Minneapolis, and any good businessman knows that a clearly defined chain of command is imperative to success. Let's look at some facts. Childress improved the Vikings by two wins every season (from 6 to 8 to 10 to 12) in his first four years and was one bad pass away from the Super Bowl last fall. His starting quarterback didn't participate in the preseason. His star wideout mistakenly put off surgery and cost himself half of the season. Finally, I have had bosses that I did not get along with, but I never went to the media bitching and crying about how mean he was to me. Chilly was the boss and carries the burden of responsiblity ultimately, but the Viking players need to be held accountable for their play on the field as well.
Steven Lassan: After going 6-10 in Childress’ first season, the Vikings improved their win total each year until the disappointing 3-7 start in 2010. Although the performance on the field improved, Childress clearly lost the support in the locker room this season and it was time for a change. The Vikings have an uphill battle to make the playoffs and this gives Leslie Frazier a chance to earn the job for next year or allow the team to look outside of the organization for the next head coach. Childress can’t be blamed for all of Minnesota’s problems, but when the players disrespect their head coach, something has to give.
Nathan Rush: Yes. Brad Childress lost control of that team a long time ago. He probably should have been fired after his unilateral decision to release Randy Moss following the Patriots loss of Week 8. At that point, Childress was in panic mode, desperately trying to salvage his respect within the locker room — after both Brett Favre and Moss tore him down publicly as a strategist and as a man. But the team still had half a season to play, including two division games (at Chicago, vs. Green Bay) that have since been lost. At 3–7, the season is all but over for interim coach Leslie Frazier. But if Childress left with Moss a month ago, things might have been different.
2. Jeff Fisher or Vince Young. Which side are you on?
Braden: For starters, neither are perfect and both probably have regrets on how they have handled this quagmire. Also, an owner should have no say in who starts at QB. Fisher's ego and stubbornness are apparent, and at times, maybe unfair. But he is a Super Bowl-caliber coach that has a 17-year track record that is as good as any in the league. In his 15 full seasons of coaching, he has four losing seasons. He has a golden repuation for looking out for his players almost to a fault. And the laundry list of Vince Young decisions that were directly detrimental to his team's success is as long and (un) distinguished as his throwing motion. The bottom line is that Young has never dedicated himself to being a professional quarterback. Professional being the key word. Maybe this will shake him back to reality — which is 2010 in Nashville (for now), not 2005 in Austin.
Steven: I know Jeff Fisher doesn’t trust Vince Young and that may have held the Titans back since he was drafted, but there’s no way anyone can defend the quarterback in this case. Young may be competitive, but there are over 1,000 players in the league that share that same characteristic, yet know how to handle themselves after a loss. Think Peyton Manning liked losing to the Patriots on a late interception? Did he throw his shoulder pads into the stands after the game? I know Young gets credit for being a winner, but he’s an average quarterback with a great running game and offensive line in front of him. There’s a reason why Fisher is the longest-tenured head coach in the league and the Titans would be foolish to choose an immature quarterback over him. It’s time for Tennessee to say goodbye to VY.
Nathan: I’m on owner Bud Adams’ side. Jeff Fisher is a proven coach and Vince Young is a winning quarterback. These two guys need to work it out. Fisher can’t hold a grudge against V.Y. because he wanted to draft Matt Leinart back in the day and resents the fact that Adams hand-picked the Houston hero as Steve McNair’s heir. And Young needs to stop being so sensitive to criticism from his coach or the home crowd. Fisher and Young don’t have to be best friends or go out for a beer together after the game; they just have to act professional — which neither of them is doing right now.
3. How did you view the Richard Seymour-Big Ben incident?
Braden: I saw a classy 11-year veteran who was frustrated and let his emotions get the better of him. But there are few things to note: It normally takes a gaggle of 300-pounders to drag Big Ben to the ground, but a little slap to the helmet caused his knees to buckle? You also don't see this type of thing happen to Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning. Big Ben is a Super Bowl champion, but his reputation precedes him. He was clearly getting right into Seymour's face and was likely popping off. On the surface, Seymour set a bad example for children on how to handle adversity on the field. But on the inside, there are a few guys that I don't mind seeing slapped in the helmet from time to time (Jerramy Stevens comes to mind). Credit Mike Tomlin for taking the high road after the game, blaming both teams for being a little emotional when asked about the incident.
Steven: Only the two players know what happened, but it sounds like Seymour simply overreacted to Roethlisberger walking up to congratulate his offensive lineman after the touchdown pass. The game was poorly officiated and the play was getting chippy on both sides, which led to some frustration on both sides. I don’t blame Roethlisberger for what happened and as a 11-year veteran of the league, Seymour should have more poise in that situation.
Nathan: On the surface, it looked like a cheap shot. But these two undeniably great players have decidedly different track records and reputations. Richard Seymour is a class act who was a captain for three Super Bowl winning Patriots teams and somehow, some way has carried his champion’s swagger to the Black Hole in Oakland and helped turn around what was a miserable organization with a loser’s mentality. On the other hand, Big Ben pretty much has an irresponsible jerk persona based on multiple rape accusations, a careless helmet-less motorcycle wreck and countless other unconfirmed creep stories. So in an issue of character, I’ll side with Seymour. I don’t know what was done or said, but let’s just say I wouldn’t be surprised if Big Ben crossed the line and Seymour didn’t let him get away with it this time.
4. Should the Lions be playing on Turkey Day every single year?
Braden: Please, Roger God-ell, can we remove the Detroit Lions from my single favorite day of the year? Yes, I loved watching Barry Sanders run around on T-Day as much as the next football fan. But for a team that has not been over .500 since 2000, and has three 10-win seasons in forty years, Thanksgiving Day should not be their reward. What have Lions fans had to be thankful for...ever? Maybe that is why the NFL throws them a bone, or leg, every November.
Steven: If the Lions were posting winning seasons, I don’t think there would be much debate about their games on Thanksgiving. However, I’d prefer to see the Thanksgiving games rotate around the league. I know it’s tradition to have them in Detroit and Dallas, but let’s give the other 30 teams in the league a chance to have a showcase game on Thanksgiving.
Nathan: For the love of Barry Sanders and a second piece of pie, of course the Lions should play on Thanksgiving — even if No. 20 has retired and I can barely breathe I’m so full. Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday rooted in family and tradition. And while you don’t necessarily have to invite your crazy uncle to dinner or serve turkey and dressing as the main course, both customs have been and will continue to be the right moves to make. Detroit has fallen on hard times — both on and off the field. But does that mean they don’t get invited back to Thanksgiving? The Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving since 1934 and that tradition should remain intact.
5. Will NFC home field advantage be determined this weekend when Green Bay travels to Atlanta?
Braden: Yes, because Atlanta will win. If Green Bay wins, they will still need plenty of help to get to the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The Falcons, under Matt Ryan, are nearly unbeatable at home and the remaining schedule is manageable. Two games with lowly Carolina and road tests (more like quizzes) against Tampa Bay and Seattle are very winnable games. That leaves the Week 16 Monday Night battle with New Orleans as the decisive game in the NFC South with the winner taking NFC home field advantage. That game, by the way, is in the Georgia Dome where Ryan is 18-1 all-time.
Steven: Hard to say. I still think the Eagles and Giants will figure into the mix for the top spot in the NFC, but this game will give a nice boost to Atlanta or Green Bay. After this game, the Falcons upcoming schedule is favorable, while the Packers have two easy games before a tough three-game stretch to close out the season. It wouldn’t surprise me if this game is the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed, but the Giants and Eagles need to be kept in the conversation.
Nathan: For Atlanta’s sake, it better be. Matt Ryan is 18–1 at the Georgia Dome and just 10–11 on the road during his career. I’m not a big believer in the Falcons — I’d trust the Eagles, Giants and Saints over them in the NFC playoffs — but if they can beat the Packers this week, the Dirty Birds will take a 9–2 record into a schedule that includes two games against Carolina, a trip to Tampa Bay, a trip to Seattle and a home game against New Orleans. That’s a favorable home stretch. So sure, Atlanta could definitely take a huge step towards wrapping up homefield advantage this weekend. I wonder how fans will react when the new and improved Mike Vick comes back to town with the Eagles for a postseason bird fight?