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Updated: September 3rd, 2011 6:42pm
Zulgad: Decisions provide clear indication Brad Childress era is over

Zulgad: Decisions provide clear indication Brad Childress era is over

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS - If you don't think Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman are putting their stamp on the Minnesota Vikings roster, then you weren't paying close attention on Saturday as the team made its final cuts to get down to the 53-man limit.

While there were no big surprises among the moves, there was a definite message sent with at least two of the cuts.

Tight end Jeff Dugan and linebacker Heath Farwell had been favorites of former coach Brad Childress.

Dugan received a five-year contract extension worth $4.275 million during Childress' first season in December 2006.

Farwell landed a three-year, $7.75 million deal from the Vikings in March 2009 after drawing interest from New England and Cleveland on the free-agent market.

While the financial commitment wasn't huge, as long as Childress was around, both of those guys were safe. But that changed when Frazier was named the permanent coach a day after the 2010 regular-season ended.

It was at that point Vikings owner Zygi Wilf announced personnel decisions would be made going forward by the team of Frazier and Spielman, the Vikings' vice president of player personnel.

While Childress and Spielman had worked together, it was the former who had all the power. Childress' contract stated he had control over the 53-man roster.

That almost certainly created for some interesting discussions in recent years. One such situation was believed to have taken place last September, when the Vikings released rookie tight end Mickey Shuler and kept Dugan.

Shuler had been a seventh-round pick by the Vikings, and Childress thought he could get him through to the practice squad. However, the Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants all put in waiver claims on Shuler and he landed with Miami.

Childress' logic made sense in that he had a team coming off an overtime loss in the NFC title game that had every starter back. Keeping Dugan around gave him a reliable veteran as opposed to a raw rookie.

This was the type of decision any coach would make and one that would drive a personnel man -- a guy who looks to the present and future -- absolutely crazy.

As the 2010 Vikings limped to a last-place finish in the NFC North with a 6-10 record, it became apparent an influx of youth was needed for an aging roster. Shuler could have been part of that youth movement.

None of this is meant to diminish what Dugan and Farwell meant to this franchise.

Dugan's role as a blocker was thankless, but he embraced it and contributed on special teams.

Farwell never started a game at linebacker after making the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2005. But he did contribute on all facets of special teams and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2009 because of his performance on those units.

It became apparent in preseason practices that new Vikings linebackers coach Mike Singletary didn't seem nearly as enamored with Farwell as some on the previous staff.

The decision to cut ties with Dugan and Farwell means the Vikings got younger. Dugan, 30, is in his eighth season. Farwell, 29, is in his seventh.

The two players the Vikings likely kept in exchange were linebacker Larry Dean, an undrafted free agent out of Valdosta State, and tight end Allen Reisner, an undrafted free agent from Iowa.

And those weren't the only moves made that demonstrate a different thought process at Winter Park. Offensive lineman Ryan Cook, a second-round pick in 2006 who was brought back as a free agent, also was let go Saturday as the Vikings kept rookies Brandon Fusco and DeMarcus Love.

Clearly, Spielman and Frazier were willing to forfeit experience in order to add youth. And in doing so they provided a reminder that Childress' way is no longer the Vikings' way.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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