By Dinn Mann
Brad Childress is fired up, ready to give Atlanta fans a new, exciting professional football team to cheer beginning in February.
“I can’t wait to get started,” Childress, coach of Atlanta’s new team in The Alliance of American Football, said last weekend. “I wish we could start tomorrow.”
The Alliance has signed hundreds of players to compete in the eight-team field, and the season starts precisely when football previously has been pulled off the table, after Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta, fittingly).
Childress, 62, loves the timing of it all. “It has a great chance to stem the tide,” Childress said. “All of the sudden, there is football to watch until the first of May.”
And make no mistake, the quality of the football in The Alliance will not only feature unprecedented player access technologically, it will be played by regionally popular athletes, household names to fans in their respective areas.
Competing in the East with Atlanta are Orlando (coached by Steve Spurrier), Birmingham (coached by Tim Lewis) and Memphis (coached by Mike Singletary). The West features Mike Martz coaching in San Diego, Rick Neuheisel in Phoenix, Dennis Erickson in Salt Lake and Mike Riley in San Antonio.
Childress fits right in with that Who’s-Who lineup of head coaches.
What he’s even more enthusiastic about are the players.
“The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do as a coach is waive people,” Childress said. “When you can help somebody fulfill a dream, it’s a great situation.
“The types of guys we’re giving a chance are going to give everything in their power to get a look, to hang on, to get to play in this league.
“What I’ve found in coaching over the course of 40 years is if you can give players a tip or a point or get them to understand a coverage or something like that, they’re forever grateful, they’re hungry and they’re going to play hard for you.”
Childress’ resume speaks for itself. Having been part of three NFL franchises that made the playoffs (Minnesota, Kansas City, and Philadelphia), Childress has proven schemes and plays that produce a lot of points.
Among his pro highlights, Childress was quarterbacks coach of the Eagles under Andy Reid beginning in 1999, then served as offensive coordinator from 2002-2005.
During his tenure in Philadelphia, the Eagles posted a 70-42 record (.625), captured four consecutive NFC East Division titles (2001-04) and advanced to the postseason five consecutive seasons (2000-04). Philadelphia also represented the NFC in Super Bowl XXXIX following the 2004 season. Childress led a group that ranked in the top 10 in total offense twice, amassed more than 5,000 yards each season and averaged 333.8 yards per game.
In 2006, Childress was hired as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. He guided them to a 39-35 (.527) regular season record as the team won consecutive NFC North division titles (2008-09) for the first time in 28 years (1977-78).
Displaying a powerful running game, the Vikings posted the fourth-most rushing yards in the NFL (136.1 yards per game) and the third-best average per rush attempt (4.5 avg.) during Childress’ first four seasons.
Defensively, the Vikings led the NFL in rushing defense for three consecutive seasons (2006-08) and finished second in 2009, leading the league with 48 sacks.
Following one season with the Cleveland Browns as offensive coordinator (2012), Childress was reunited with Reid at Kansas City as spread game analyst and special projects coordinator. He was promoted to co-offensive coordinator in 2016 before being named assistant head coach in 2017. In his four seasons with the Chiefs the team reached the playoffs three times, including an AFC West Division title in 2017.
After retiring following the 2017 season, Childress was hired as an offensive consultant to the Chicago Bears before The Alliance came calling.
Atlanta made all the sense in the world.
“I thought about how fertile a football area it is,” Childress said. “When Georgia can get 80,000 people at their spring game, that just tells you there’s an appetite for football all the time.”
Childress, for his part, knows fans won’t feast on just anything. So he’s busy already, building a roster, dreaming up recipes for success.
“The football has to pass the eye test,” Childress said.
A big name assisting him to that end is Michael Vick, the team’s offensive coordinator, a man who needs no introduction in Atlanta.
“I’m excited to have him along,” Childress said. “Some of the other coaches, I’m going to be teaching the scheme. Mike knows the scheme.
“I think he’ll be a great mentor to not just the quarterbacks, but the whole offense.”
Yes, Atlanta, not only is football foregoing hibernation, your February is about to get a lot hotter.