MANKATO, Minn. (AP) -Brad Childress has known Darrell Bevell since he was a skinny college quarterback.
Truth be told, the 37-year-old Bevell hasn't aged much since leading Wisconsin to its first Rose Bowl victory back in 1994, and the Minnesota Vikings head coach seemed to treat Bevell with kid gloves last year in his first season as an offensive coordinator.
Bevell often seemed to be pushed to the background while Childress installed and tweaked his intricate West Coast offense. Childress ran the meetings; Childress was the dominant voice in practice; Childress called almost all the plays in the games.
This year, Childress is putting more faith in his top offensive assistant as he looks to take a more global view on game day.
``Bev called most of them,'' Childress said when asked about the play-calling in last week's preseason opener against the Rams.
That was quite a revelation for a coach who made no secret of his fondness for calling the plays.
But after nursing Bevell along - first as the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin with Bevell at QB and now as the Vikings head coach with Bevell as offensive coordinator - the teacher finally seems ready to hand things over to the student.
``I thought it went well,'' Bevell said of his first test. ``I thought we had great communication in the press box, from the guys on the field. Obviously Coach (Childress) has a lot of input. They see things down there on the field, we see things up in the box, but I thought the communication was the thing that went the best.''
Sitting up in the booth, Bevell relayed the calls to quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers, who then radioed the play to quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson and Brooks Bollinger.
The Vikings moved the ball with some success against the Rams, but they failed to make it to the end zone in a 13-10 loss in which the defense scored Minnesota's lone touchdown.
``The most important thing to me now is we need to get the ball in the end zone,'' Bevell said. ``We had some good drives. ... But I want to be able to finish those drives.''
That was the biggest problem last year. The Vikings offense set franchise records for fewest first downs made and fewest touchdown passes, frustrating a hardworking defense in the process.
Play-calling became a weekly topic at Childress' news conference late in the season, as the Vikings spiraled toward a 6-10 finish. Childress was initially reluctant to relinquish the duties, preferring to be in total control of what happened on the field.
At the start of his second season, Childress has seemed much more comfortable in the role of head coach, and Bevell is benefiting from it.
``I was comfortable with it,'' Bevell said. ``Being out here at training camp and getting all that work was good. Obviously Coach Childress was there with his opinions and what he is seeing out there. I just thought that it went really smooth and I thought there was great communication.''
Communication never has been a problem for the two coaches. Their deep roots together make things easy, and Bevell will often use the same catch phrases in his interviews as Childress when describing the offense.
Both have said they expect the offense to be better this season because the players are more familiar with the system and its vernacular.
``I think everybody that has been in it is more comfortable. We know the whys and what fors,'' said Bevell, echoing comments from Childress earlier in camp. ``Last year I think it might have been more of rote memorization for them. Now they are being able to function within the system a little bit more because of the familiarity they have with it.''
The more Bevell can handle, the more it will free up Childress to oversee the team as a whole, including discussing blitz strategies with defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
``That is a little double-edged sword. That allows me too much freedom to holler at the officials when I don't think that they quite got it right, so I'll have to watch myself in that area,'' Childress quipped. ``But it was good being able to talk with Leslie, and oh, 'We're coming to get him, come and get this guy once in a while.'''

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