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Struggling Raiders meet a Vikings squad full of . . .

MINNEAPOLIS - Les Steckel is a fine man. He served his country in Vietnam, was a strong NFL assistant and has been an inspirational president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

MINNEAPOLIS - Les Steckel is a fine man. He served his country in Vietnam, was a strong NFL assistant and has been an inspirational president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

But old Les remains the one man in NFL circles that no head coach wants to be compared to. In any way. EV-er.

Sorry Brad Childress, but here it comes:

It has taken 23 years, but we now have a tie for the worst home 10th game of the season in the 46-year history of the Minnesota Vikings.

In 1984, Steckel's 2-7 Vikings played the 3-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Metrodome. Sunday, Childress' 3-6 Vikings play the 2-7 Oakland Raiders at the Metrodome.


Plenty of good seats are available.

The Vikings have started 3-6 or worse only eight times since they were founded in 1961: 2007, 2002 (2-7), 1990 (3-6), 1984, 1967 (2-5-2), 1963 (3-6), 1962 (2-7) and 1961 (2-7). Among those seasons, the Vikings have played a home 10th game against another team with a losing record only twice before this season: 1984 and 1963 against the 4-5 Baltimore Colts.

Steckel rode a 16-7 loss at Chicago into his 10th game in 1984. Norm Van Brocklin was coming off a 28-7 loss at Green Bay entering his 10th game in 1963. And Childress was nipped at Lambeau 34-0 on Sunday.

Did we mention plenty of good seats are available?

The Vikings' record isn't what puzzles me. I figured it would take a full season of lumps for Childress to figure out whether Tarvaris Jackson could make it as an NFL quarterback. After all, Childress obviously had committed to the young man since he left himself no other viable option.

Childress isn't a close, personal friend, and I still was one of the lonely voices arguing to give him a full season to groom Jackson. But after four preseason games and nine more in the regular season, all we know is Jackson likes to wear his baseball cap backward and Childress couldn't possibly have messed up his quarterback situation any worse than it is right now.

Either Jackson lacks any ounce of grit that all good quarterbacks must have, or Childress has babied him to the point that it looks like an entire preseason and regular season will pass without the team definitively answering the No. 1 basic question that has faced the future of the franchise every since he was drafted in the second round in 2006: Can Jackson ever play quarterback in the National Football League?

Jackson barely played in the preseason and has missed all or parts of six regular season games this season. So, basically, at every key point of the season, either Jackson has shrunk from the extra responsibility that goes with playing quarterback or Childress has overprotected him.


In Week 2, with the Vikings heading toward overtime in Detroit, Jackson injured his groin and left the field so fast, poor Brooks Bollinger didn't even have time to warm up. The Vikings lost with Jackson on the sidelines and Lions quarterback Jon Kitna back on the field after a first-half concussion.

The next week, when Robert Ferguson was wide open for what should have been a touchdown at Kansas City, Jackson was on the sidelines, still hobbling. Kelly Holcomb overthrew Ferguson. The Vikings lost by three.

When the Vikings played Green Bay at home back in September, Jackson was still hurt. The Vikings lost. When they played their next home game, Jackson was out again (finger). The Vikings lost to Philadelphia.

And then came the most puzzling game of all - Sunday at Lambeau. Jackson was coming off yet another injury (concussion), but was healthy enough to serve as the No. 2 quarterback. He never stepped on the field as the Vikings were getting whipped in the worst loss to the Packers in franchise history.

What the heck is going on?

By the way, an announced 54,949 fans watched Steckel and the Vikings beat the Bucs 27-24 on Nov. 4, 1984. Steckel didn't win another game, finishing his one NFL head coaching season at 3-13.

Bud Grant came out of retirement for one season in 1985.

It's too early to make any predictions. But it might be time to tell Bud to start warming up.

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