[size=13pt]To coin a cliché, let's take it one era at a time[/size]

Patrick Reusse, Star Tribune
Last update: September 08, 2006 – 11:38 AM


The Vikings will embark on their 10th half- decade of existence Monday in Washington.
It comes as a symbolic fresh start, with Zygi Wilf beginning the first season in which he had an impact as an owner, and Brad Childress in his first as a head coach.

Childress ran off quarterback Daunte Culpepper nine weeks after getting the job. This wasn't the first feud between coach and star quarterback in Vikings history, but it certainly set a record for coming to a conclusion.

Norm Van Brocklin, the first coach in 1961, took a dislike to his scrambling, self-promoting rookie quarterback, Fran Tarkenton, very early in their relationship. It wasn't until after the 1966 season that both departed, albeit temporarily for Tarkenton.

Childress is the seventh coach in Vikings history. Throw out the single failed season of Les Steckel, and there has been stability and consistency with this organization.

You get the feeling from watching Childress that he will be in that mold -- stable on the sidelines, consistent in his approach with players -- but a number of his roster moves have been puzzling.

Is this a guy who can pick out a player from the pack, or did Zygi wind up with Andy Reid's pencil pusher and not much more?

What we might have at the moment is the most mysterious Vikings situation since Van Brocklin debuted his expansion outfit on Sept. 17, 1961, at Met Stadium.

On that sensational Sunday, the rookie quarterback, Tarkenton, came off the bench to embarrass George Halas' Chicago Bears 37-13.

We were naïve NFL fans out here in the boondocks, and we figured right then that Van Brocklin was going to make an immediate transition from title-winning quarterback in Philadelphia to title-winning coach in Minnesota.

Three months later, the season ended 3-11 and the coach and his quarterback couldn't stand each other.

Childress already has his quarterback feud out of the way, and now Vikings fans can only hope that he will be more successful as a Philadelphia import than was the original, volatile Dutchman.

Before we get too far into another half-decade, let's look back at the previous nine ...

Patrick Reusse takes a look at each of the Vikings' half-decade eras (excitement rating on a five-star scale):

FORMATIVE 5 (1961-65)

Record: 25-42-3 • Playoffs: none

The moment: Original coach Norm Van Brocklin resigned during the 7-7 season of '65. He changed his mind the next day but couldn't get his players back after quitting on them. He was gone a year later.

Excitement rating: ***

NEW MARSHAL (1966-70)

Record: 39-27-4 • Playoffs: 2-3

The moment: On a March morning in 1967, General Manager Jim Finks told his public relations person, Bill McGrane, to go to the airport and pick up the team's new coach -- Bud Grant. "He'll be the guy who looks like the town marshal," Finks told McGrane.

Excitement rating: *****

ALMOST DYNASTIC (1971-75)

Record: 52-18 • Playoffs: 4-4

The moment: Fran Tarkenton came back from New York after the 1971 season and took heat nationally when the Vikings went 7-7 in 1972. He then proved his greatness by quarterbacking the Purple to three Super Bowls.

Excitement rating: *****

NO MORE PEOPLE-EATERS (1976-80)

Record: 44-30-2 • Playoffs: 3-4

The moment: Carl Eller (left) was injured and Alan Page was waived in a feud with Grant in 1978, thus ending the reign of a dominant, durable defensive line, as well as the Vikings' run as perennial NFC contenders.

Excitement rating: ***

STECKELZOIAC ERA (1981-85)

Record: 30-43 • Playoffs: 1-1

The moment: It wasn't so much the 3-13 record that guaranteed the departure of Les Steckel after his one, unhappy season of 1984. It was the fact veterans were using any minor injury to bail out on him during the closing six-game losing streak.

Excitement rating: *

CLOSE AND COLORFUL (1986-90)

Record: 44-35 • Playoffs: 3-3

The Moment: Jerry Burns, the one-of-a-kind character, after having to put up with three scab-ball losses during the 8-7 season of 1987, got his team on an inspired playoff run that ended in the NFC title game at the Redskins goal line.

Excitement rating: ***

NEW SHERIFF (1991-95)

Record: 46-34 • Playoffs: 0-3

The Moment: Steve Walsh (right) and the Bears kept coach Dennis Green winless in the playoffs with an upset victory in the Dome on Jan. 1, 1995. This officially ended Green's honeymoon with the Twin Cities media. It wasn't long before he was transformed into the Salman Rushdie of coaches, issuing brief denials of sexual harassment allegations from a Winter Park bunker.

Excitement rating: ***

THE RANDY REVIVAL (1996-2000)

Record: 54-26 • Playoffs: 4-5

The Moment: Rookie Randy Moss caught three touchdown passes in Lambeau Field on an October Monday in 1998. A year earlier, the Vikings had TV blackouts, but the dynamic Moss and a 15-1 season filled the Metrodome to the Teflon.

Excitement rating: *****

41-DONUT FALLOUT (2001-05)

Record: 37-43 • Playoffs: 1-1

The Moment: Former owner Red McCombs got grumpy after the 41-0 loss to the mediocre Giants in NFC title game in January 2001. He started throwing around quarters like manhole covers, refusing to pay free agents or his coaching staff and giving Mike Tice no chance to succeed.

Excitement rating: **