Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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Ok, let's call this more of an infant working theory than any kind of proclamation.
Our local teams are not exactly pinning championship banners on top of championship banners, but this year of seemingly perpetual losing feels different. Doesn't it?
There is no David Kahn, hopelessly overmatched and somehow oddly entertaining.
There is no Tim Brewster talking about hot chili or scoring last.
For a bunch of struggling teams, suddenly our towns have a lot of leaders you can believe in.
The Vikings are 4-5. But...
Mike Zimmer has already made players like Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen and Sharrif Floyd better. Harrison Smith is playing better than he was a year ago. Xavier Rhodes has improved. Josh Robinson ,when healthy, has been better.
Norv Turner is missing the two most important pieces of his offense, Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph (who I thought would be the biggest beneficiary of Turner's arrival), yet has squeked out four victories while breaking in a rookie quarterback behind a surprisingly horrid offensive line.
If you can set aside his personal views, you'd have to admit that Mike Priefer is very good at his job. (Although Chris Kluwe is better than Jeff Locke. No contest.)
Rick Spielman has made a dozen shrewd moves the last couple of years, including trading Percy Harvin at the right time for the right value, and, along with Zimmer, identifying Barr as a worthy use of the ninth pick in the draft.
The Wolves are 2-5. But...
I love the enthusiasm Flip Saunders has brought to the job, and the way he has used his young players.
I picked this team to win 25 games this year. Maybe they're better than that. What really matters is that Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Anthony Bennett develop into quality NBA players. LaVine has acquitted himself far better in Ricky Rubio's absence than I would have expected, and Saunders seems to have a good working relationship with Rubio. This is a team worth watchng, if only because Wiggins is going to make more and more astounding moves as the season wears on.
The Wild is 7-7. But...
I don't fault Mike Yeo or Chuck Fletcher. I like this roster. Maybe they overestimated Thomas Vanek, but if Zach Parise had stayed healthy, Vanek's struggles might not have been as costly.
When Parise was healthy, I thought this team was continuing the play like it did down the stretch and in the playoffs last season.
The Twins are...never mind.
It's been four terrible years, and I know people are tired of my saying that Terry Ryan is one of the best GMs in the business, but that's what I believe. I also will continue to say that if Byron Buxton, MIguel Sano and Alex Meyer can stay healthy and get to the big leagues, they'll lead a resurgence that will have the Twins contending in short order.
I loved the hiring of Paul Molitor, the smartest player I ever covered. So far, I like the staff - Tom Brunansky did good work last year, Gene Glynn has always been one of my favorites, and Rudy Hernandez, born in Venezuela, could provide an important language link to Sano and other young players from Latin America.
I'd love to see Eddie Guardado hired as the bullpen coach.
The Gopher football team lost to Illinois, and Richard Pitino didn't make it to the NCAA tourney his first season, but...
Both were well down the original list of candidates. The Gophers chose wisely/lucked out with both. Kill has put the football team in position to play big games in November two years in a row. Pitino has brought energy and an entertaining style to the Gopher hoops program.
I don't know how successful any of the current cadre of coaches and managers is going to be. But there is a wealth of intelligence and expertise around town these days. That's a start.
I'll be doing my first podcast for @aliveandsocial network today at 3:30 from O'Gara's in St. Paul. Molitor will be my first guest, and I"ll also speak with local author Ross Bernstein about the ways we researched stories about Randy Moss in the past. We have different stories to tell than ESPN.
Planning on doing the second podcast at The Devil's Advocate on Friday night at 7. May even break out the guitars after that one.
You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Checking in from TCF Bank Stadium on a rainy night…
-Let me get this straight: A college football player told a lie, and everybody went nuts?
Many college football coaches lie for a living. Between recruiting improprieties and academic mischievousness, college football might be almost as corrupt as Congress. I can’t think of a worse insult.
Josh Shaw told a silly lie, and the school publicized it to make the school look good. Shaw will pay for his mistake with a tarnished reputation, and years of jokes.
USC, the athletic director and the coach will continue to get rich even, as was the case for Pete Carroll and probably a majority of USC coaches through the years, the school or its employees broke the rules to win football games.
Give me the kid who made a mistake any day.
-What should you watch for in the Gopher game?
Last year, the Gophers earned their biggest victories by making big plays on defense.
They earned their most important losses by failing to make big plays on offense.
While they’ve lost key defensive starters, I expect them to be sound defensively. I expect them to be able to run the ball. The big question is whether Mitch Leidner and his young receivers make big plays in the passing game.
-I guess we should congratulate Roger Goodell on belatedly getting it right, on belatedly strengthening punishments for NFL players who are guilty of domestic violence.
What’s sad is that Goodell responded not after watching a tape of Ray Rice dragging his wife out of an elevator, but after he was pilloried in the media.
I’m glad he reacted. I just wish he would have reacted to the right thing.
I’ll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. on Friday, and on 1500ESPN-AM at 12:15. We’ll run Sunday Sports Talk from the fair on Sunday, 10-noon, at the 1500ESPN porch, near Sweet Martha’s.
NFL games shouldn't end in ties.
Enough about that.
If you, like me, are watching Vikings games more to discern what next year's team will look like than what this year's final record will look like, there were a few interesting developments on Sunday, in the Vikings' 26-26 tie with the Packers.
Here are two key developments:
-Cornerback Xavier Rhodes, the 29th pick in this year's draft, was credited with four passes defensed, of the Vikings' nine total. He aquitted himself well against a pretty good group of receivers, and saved a touchdown by knocking the ball from the hands of James Jones.
He also injured his leg and returned to the field, a promising sign of toughness.
-Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson finally - finally! - looked like a big part of the offense. He had 11 passes thrown his way. He caught a eight. Both totals were team-highs.
He gained 54 yards. He returned the opening kickoff 57 yards. That return caused the Packers to kick the ball out of bounds while trying to keep the ball away from him on a subsequent kickoff.
Patterson could have had a much bigger day. He was unable to hold onto a long pass down the left sideline, and he had the ball bounce out of his hands in the end zone after it was tipped on the Vikings' first drive of overtime.
Patterson said he should have caught that pass.
I've been saying all season that Patterson should be a bigger part of the offense. He's too talented to leave on the sideline. He can catch short passes and turn them into long gains, and he should be able to take the occasional handoff or reverse, like Percy Harvin used to do.
He should be the Vikings' featured receiver the rest of the season.
-Aaron Rodgers is probably wishing he could ask for a raise.
The Packers have lost four straight since he was injured, and have tried three other quarterbacks. Without him, the Packers' receivers are less productive, the offensive line looks worse (because the ball doesn't leave the pocket as quickly) and the defense looks shoddier (because the offense doesn't sustain as many drives or create leads.)
And it's no longer too early to say that Greg Jennings made a dire mistake by leaving the Packers and Rodgers. Jennings caught two passes for 29 yards in five quarters on Sunday, and dropped a key third-down pass.
It's almost as if Jennings is so embarrassed by his decision to leave Green Bay that he's gone into a shell.
-Chrisitan Ponder amazes me. I've never before covered a quarterback whose performances could look so different on the field and on paper.
Watching him today, I thought Ponder had terrible pocket awareness, threw a potential pick-six that was dropped, was too eager to pull the ball down and run or scramble. Then I look at the stat sheet and he was 21-for-30 with a touchdown, no interceptions and a passer rating of 103.9.
There are a lot of modern statistics that offer great insights into the games we watch. There are also statistics that contradict eyesight and common sense.
I was more impressed with the Gophers' loss to the Badgers than any of their victories this season.
They stood up physically against a program built on tough, physical play. And while Phil Nelson did not have a good game, I have to believe the cold affected his accuracy and touch. His receivers dropped a handful of key passes, and when he missed ,he often missed by a wide margin. He's better than that.
Had a friend today tell me an interesting story: That last year, Jerry Kill was coaching on the sideline, and he dropped to one knee to look at a play chart. A half-dozen Gophers coaches and officials rushed to him, thinking he was having a seizure.
Kill said at that point that he needed to coach from the press box, so he wouldn't be a distraction.
It will be very interesting to see whether Kill stays in the press box the rest of this year, and for the rest of his career. He's found something that works - Tracy Claeys running the sideline, and Kill seeing the big picture from upstairs, rather than arguing with officials.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15, and on 1500ESPN at noon for my regular weekday hit with Judd&Dubay. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
My friend and colleague Joe Christensen is picking the Gophers to lose to Northwestern in a close game today in Evanston.
I'm here covering the game with Joe, and I don't see it being that close.
Factor in Northwestern's blowout loss at Wisconsin last week and analyze their weaknesses, and Joe's pick makes perfect sense.
Here's why I don't see it being that close:
The Gophers went into the Big Ten season with a great deal of optimism. That has since been crushed. They got physically whipped by a mediocre Iowa team, then got physically whipped by a mediocre Michigan team.
Now their coach is convalescing, and they're on the road against a good team desperate to right itself. Northwestern can throw the ball and figures to play with a great deal of emotion today.
If you're the Gophers, where do you find the positive emotion? Do you really around defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, who's filling in for Jerry Kill? Is the Gophers' coaching staff really as capable when the head coach isn't at the stadium?
My pick: Northwestern 41, Gophers 18. I like Mitch Leidner as a quarterback, and I like the fact that the staff didn't play any games before naming him the starter this week, but I don't think he has a whole lot of help.
For the Gophers to keep it close, I think Marcus Jones will have to have a big day in the return game, and tight end Maxx Williams will have to make big plays in the passing game, and Leidner will have to run wild.
I'll be running Sunday Sports Talk on 1500ESPN from 10-noon tomorrow, with Chris Reuvers in the Twin Cities. Korzo has the weekend off.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. Thanks for reading.
After writing about Jerry Kill's latest seizure, I received a few thousand emails expressing anger. I'll address some of the most frequently-asked questions here:
-Yes, I understand that the University of Minnesota can't and shouldn't fire Jerry Kill because he has epileptic seizures. I do believe the administration should ask him to step aside, and believe Kill should do so.
-No, I don't believe it's OK for everyone to accept that Kill will not be able to coach frequently because of his seizures and that his assistants can handle his duties. The U didn't hire Kill's assistants for more than a million dollars a year to handle his duties. They hired Jerry Kill with the assumption that he could handle the job.
-Yes, I am sympathetic to Kill. I expressed that in my column. But his is not the average job. He can't pretend to be the same as someone who works 9-5 in a cubicle. He is in the entertainment industry. He is the face of a program and by extension a University.
-No, I don't think I'm being cruel, I think many of you are being cruel. Kill has had four seizures on game days in 16 home games at Minnesota. The stress of the job seems to have a negative effect on him. You shouldn't want him to put himself in that position for your entertainment.
-No, my criticism of Kill has nothing to do with his coaching. I think he's a solid coach who has a chance to succeed here. But he's not doing the program or himself or his family any favors by risking his health.
-No, I don't write the headlines.
Thanks for reading.
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