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Updated: March 20th, 2012 7:41pm
Zulgad's Roundup: Broncos follow Brad Childress' plan in getting QB

Zulgad's Roundup: Broncos follow Brad Childress' plan in getting QB

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

For anyone who covered Brad Childress during his four-plus season tenure as the Minnesota Vikings coach, it was clear that he held New England's Bill Belichick in high regard.

The NFL is a copycat league, Belichick was the most copied coach and the feeling from this corner was that Childress always wanted to get the same type of respect that was extended to the New England Patriots sideline boss.

Obviously, that never happened, but Childress has to be smiling given the events of recent days in Denver.

The Broncos acquired Peyton Manning in large part as a way to get out of the Tim Tebow experiment. No matter what anyone in Denver says, Tebow got a chance last season because Broncos football boss John Elway and coach John Fox thought the in-demand (from fans) quarterback would fail and that would be the end of that.

The only problem is Tebow ended up helping the Broncos get to the playoffs and Elway and Fox knew that simply trying to replace Tebow with any old quarterback wasn't going to work. That would have been a public relations disaster.

Manning, however, provides the perfect way out for the Broncos because few, if any, will argue that brining in the future Hall of Famer and either sending Tebow to the bench or jettisoning him altogether is a mistake. That is provided another team wants to give up much for a guy who still needs major work on his throwing mechanics.

So how does Childress tie into this?

Make no mistake, it was Childress' idea to bring a then 39-year-old Brett Favre to Minnesota in 2009 because the Vikings coach knew he had a very good team, but a quarterback (Tarvaris Jackson) whom he didn't feel he could trust.

Childress also didn't trust Sage Rosenfels, who was acquired by then-Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman and would have been Spielman's choice to start.

Spielman is now the Vikings general manager and has the final say on matters. In those days, it was Childress who had that authority.

Childress' plan, for one season, worked to perfection.

Favre, who had spent 2008 with the New York Jets and announced his retirement following that season, in part because he had torn the biceps tendon in his throwing (right) arm, rebounded with an MVP-type year in leading the Vikings to the NFC title game.

Teams have attempted to resurrect the careers of aging quarterbacks before, but Favre had success nobody could have envisioned, even though the Vikings run came to an end in crushing fashion with an overtime loss in New Orleans.

But that was the end of Favre's greatness in purple.

The Vikings convinced, or begged, Favre to play in 2010, but it ended up being a failure. Favre was terrible, the Vikings were miserable and Childress was fired during a 6-10 season in which everything went wrong.

The Broncos certainly looked at what Favre accomplished in 2009, though, and decided that by acquiring Manning they could put a similar plan into place to what happened in Minnesota that season.

Manning, who will turn 36 on Saturday, is coming off multiple neck surgeries and while he never announced his retirement, he did not play in 2011 and then was let go by the Indianapolis Colts.

Just as Favre was identified with the Green Bay Packers - despite stops in Atlanta and with the Jets - Manning was thought of as a lifetime member of the Colts. In fact, unlike Favre, Manning has never played for another team. (Favre spent 16 seasons in Green Bay; Manning spent 14 seasons in Indianapolis, including 2011.)

The Broncos have no guarantee that Manning's injury issues won't come up again and they are definitely taking a risk by making him their quarterback.

But, just as Childress felt he had a team on the brink of doing something special, if he got the right signal caller, Elway and Fox feel that their team is ready to make a significant step after finishing 8-8 in 2011 but still managing to win the AFC West title and one playoff game.

The Broncos are now banking on using the same type of blueprint that Childress did to reach their goal.

Although it's too little, too late, Childress, now the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, likely is feeling some amount of satisfaction about this.

Ginn an option on returns?

The Vikings sat out the early days of free agency, determined to save their money and build through the draft.

But Spielman has started to make some lower-level moves of late, signing running back Lex Hilliard (Miami) last weekend and fullback Jerome Felton (Indianapolis) on Tuesday.

The Vikings also played host to free-agent wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. on Tuesday. The ninth-overall pick by the Miami Dolphins in the 2007 draft out of Ohio State, Ginn has spent the past two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.

The Vikings desire to take a look at Ginn could be based in large part because of their desire to remove Percy Harvin from kickoff returns. Harvin is very good in that role, but he and coach Leslie Frazier definitely didn't see eye-to-eye on the issue at times in 2011.

Harvin wanted to be taking back kicks as much as possible, and Frazier feared overusing him. The problem was the Vikings did not have anyone as good as Harvin to use.

Ginn has caught only six touchdown passes in his career, but he also has six returns for touchdowns. That includes three on kicks and three on punts. And punt return is another area where the Vikings have long been looking for help.

The Vikings attempted to employ running back Lorenzo Booker on returns last season but he is a free agent and isn't likely to be back.

Thus, Ginn would not only have a chance to get time at wide receiver in Minnesota, he could be used full-time on kickoff and punt returns. Harvin, meanwhile, might not be as resistant to being removed from kick returns duties if Ginn was the guy who replaced him.

Ginn, by the way, has averaged 23.2 yards on 223 kick returns with three touchdowns and 11.2 yards on 98 punt returns with three scores in his career. Harvin, meanwhile, has averaged 26.6 yards 98 kick returns with four touchdowns over three seasons.

At least they care

Although it's always interesting to see, one of the most overblown things in sports is a confrontation between two players or a player and a coach.

These types of incidents happen far more frequently than any of us realize, it's just that they usually occur in the locker room or during practice, well out of the public spotlight.

So when Timberwolves forward Kevin Love and guard J.J. Barea got into a verbal spat on the bench in the fourth quarter of their team's 115-99 loss on Sunday night in Sacramento, there was much made of the dustup.

The exchange was brief - Martell Webster and Luke Ridnour made sure the two couldn't get at each other - but, if anything, it should have been a welcome sight for Wolves fans and not a cause for concern.

Sure Love appeared to be upset with Barea, and he was definitely frustrated that rookie point guard standout Ricky Rubio is lost for the season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, but that is why it was a good thing the two players went at each other.

The Timberwolves playoff hopes might slip away without Rubio, but at least Love and Barea care enough to be angry about such matters.

The Wolves have been a terrible franchise for far too long.

This is a team that hasn't made the playoff since making a run to the Western Conference Finals in 2004.

The Wolves finished in third place in the Northwest Division in 2004-05 with a 44-38 record but did not qualify for the playoffs. It would mark the last time the club would finish at or above .500. Their victory total in the following seasons was as follows: 33, 32, 22, 24, 15, 17.

As the victory total declined so did the feeling that anyone really cared all that much. Paychecks were cashed, losses accumulated, fans stayed away from Target Center and players went home.

That is no longer the case.

Veteran coach Rick Adelman has made a significant difference in the Wolves' culture this season and so has the ever-improving Love.

The loss to the lowly Kings was the Wolves' third in a row and dropped the team to 1-3 on a grueling seven-game trip. Adelman said publicly that he did not approve of the Love-Barea exchange but privately he couldn't have been upset.

Especially after what then took place Monday night against Golden State.

It would have been easy for the bickering between the two players to have carried over into the game against the also-lowly Warriors but that did not happen.

Instead, the Wolves won 97-93 as Love continued to establish himself as the unquestioned leader of this team, accumulating 36 points and 17 rebounds. Whatever Love said to Barea - it probably had to do with passing the ball a bit more - you can be sure it was warranted. (Barea had 10 assists Monday but overall had a subpar game.)

Monday's victory put the Wolves 2.5 games behind Houston, which is in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Wolves will complete the trip with games Wednesday at San Antonio and Friday at Oklahoma City. Those are the top two teams in the Western Conference and the Wolves will be decided underdogs in both.

The positive is that at least they will care enough to put up a fight. Even if it's with each other.

Parting shot

• Since the Wild dealt Nick Schultz to the Edmonton Oilers at last month's trade deadline, the defenseman has four assists and is a plus-3 in 10 games. Defenseman Tom Gilbert, whom the Wild acquired in that deal, has two assists and is minus-4 in the same number of games.

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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