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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Urban Meyer won the national title with a third-string quarterback.
This ranks as one of the great coaching performances in football history.
Here are three others that compare:
-The Giants were dramatic underdogs against the Bills in Super Bowl XXV. Giants star quarterback Phil Simms was injured, leaving backup Jeff Hostetler to lead the team. The Giants had upset joe Montana and San Francisco at Candlestick Park, 15-13, in the NFC title game. The Bills had beaten Oakland 51-3. That's right, 51-3 in the AFC title game.
The Bills were loaded witih Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed in their prime. They had not yet developed a stigma about losing Super Bowls.
The Giants relied on old, limited running back Ottis Anderson, Hostetler, and a bruising defense.
The Giants won that Super Bowl, 20-19, in what might be the biggest upset in Super Bowl history other than the Jets beating the Colts in Super Bowl III, which was a surprise because of the lack of esteem with which the old AFC was regarded.
Giants coach Bill Parcells used Anderson to play a ball-control game, frustrated the Bills' offense with his defensive game plan (devised by Bill Belichick), and thoroughly outcoached Marv Levy.
-The Washington team that lost only once during the 1991 season played like a powerhouse. Now we know it won more because of coaching than because of raw talent.
Joe Gibbs won Super Bowl XXVI with a quarterback, Mark Rypien, who would never play well again anywhere. LIke Parcells, he relied on a veteran castoff running back - Ernest Byner. Gibbs would win three Super Bowls with three different non-Hall of Fame quarterbacks and lead running backs. That's why I argue he's the greatest NFL coach in the modern era.
-In Super Bowl XXXVI, Belichick again faced a renowned offense, this time as head coach of the New England Patriots.
Belichick beat the Rams with a physical defense that confused the Rams, and with an unproven quarterback named Tom Brady leading the game-winning drive.
Urban Meyer's work this year places him in the same realm as these NFL coaches.
When a coach wins a championship without the benefit of a great or experienced quarterback, he deserves far more credit than those who put their fates in the hands of a great quarterback.
In the last few months, the Big Ten has gotten much tougher for the Gophers. Meyer may be the best coach in college football. Jim Harbaugh will make Michigan a powerhouse. Penn State is improving. Mike Reilly figures to do well at Nebraska. And Paul Chryst is a great fit for Wisconsin.
This week's podcast schedule: Former Viking and current North High AD Leo Lewis, 5 p.m. on Wednesday at The Local; Strib hockey writer Michael Russo at 5 p.m. on Friday at O'Gara's.
As I mention in today's column, the NFL isn't as unpredictable as it pretends to be.
The Final Eight teams all feature franchise quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Tony Romo and Andrew Luck remain alive in the tournament. Five have won Super Bowls. Two of the remaining three were overall first picks. Romo, as an undrafted free agent who has not made it to a Super Bowl, is the outlier, and he is one of the most productive NFL quarterbacks of the last 10 years.
Romo also led the NFL in passer rating this season.
The complaining about the picked-up flag in Dallas is over the top.
The teams ran 125 plays in the game. There were 14 accepted penalties. The Lions allowed a fourth-and-6 conversion, had a 10-yard punt in the fourth quarter, and scored just 20 points against a weak defense with a high-priced offensive attack.
They also fumbled twice on the last drive.
The Lions had every opportunity to win the game with a big play or two, instead of complaining about one adverse call.
As for a conspiracy headed by the NFL to advance the Cowboys in the playoffs, there are two counter-arguments:
1. If the NFL wanted Dallas to advance, the Cowboys might have won more than two playoff games in the last 15 years.
2. The NFL overturned the suspension of Ndomukong Suh, allowing him to play against the Dallas. Suh's presence could have made the difference for Detroit, if his team had played well enough.
My next live podcast at SouhanUnfiltered.com will be Wednesday night at 5 p.m. at Kieran's, across from Target Center. Twins GM Terry Ryan will be my guest. The podcast will stream live or be available later at the website.
Thanks for reading, and listening.
All season you hear the mantra, all around the NFL: Gotta get into the playoffs. Gotta make it to the playoffs. Gotta get into the tournament.
Well, the tournament is here, and it's...kinda blah.
Panthers-Cardinals, with Ryan Lindley playing quarterback for a faltering team, facing a team with a losing record?
Ravens-Steelers, with the Ravens featuring 18 players on injured reserve and the Steelers losing their star back, Le'Veon Bell?
The Bengals, who never win in the postseason, against the Colts? At least you get to watch Andrew Luck.
The Lions and the Cowboys?
Ok, that last one has my interest.
Like it or not, the Cowboys are always fascinating, and this year they've been good and fascinating. DeMarco Murray will face a stout run defense led by a guy who should be suspended, Ndomukong Suh, and who is, in the twisted thinking of the elite athlete, somehow motivated that the NFL is out to get him, even though his proposed suspension was overturned.
One of two talented and productive quarterbacks, Tony Romo or Matthew Stafford, will be forced to win a playoff game.
My silly picks are as follows:
The Panthers are as hot as a losing team can be. Cam Newton is playing well, and the Panthers have rediscovered their running game just in time to face a Cardinals defense that has been vulnerable to the run the last five weeks. Ryan Lindley won't be able to keep the Cardinals in the game. I like Carolina, and maybe by a lot.
Losing Le'Veon Bell means the Steelers may have to rely on Ben Tate, who was cut by two NFL teams thsi year. That completely changes their offense. The Ravens are battered but their offense is much improved because of Justin Forsett and Steve Smith. The Ravens win this one.
The Bengals are not going to win their first postseason game under Marvin Lewis without A.J. Green, and it doesn't look like Green will play. The Colts will pick off Andy Dalton at least twice and Luck will have a big game.
Lions-Cowboys is the toughest to pick and should be the most interesting game. The Cowboys' running game has slowed in the last third of the season and the Lions' front is impressive. But I like Tony Romo to continue his brilliant play, and as much as the Lions have improved I don't trust them to make big plays in the fourth quarter against a good team. Cowboys, with Dez Bryant making a winning play in the fourth.
Just watched Houston complete a remarkable comeback against Pitt. Houston went for the two-pointer for the win with less than a minute left, and got it, to win 35-34. I would have supported the call even if they had missed. Why not give your players a chance to gain two yards and win the game instead of hoping that circumstances fall your way in overtime? I love the call.
At 3 p.m. today, Strib hockey writer Michael Russo and I will run our next podcast. You can listen live or later at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
DETROIT -- Every losing sports team claims some sort of progress. Sometimes, it's a marketing ruse. Sometimes, it's self-preservation. Sometimes, it's even true.
It seems to be true for the 2014 Vikings. They aren't good. They haven't beaten a good team yet. But they have become more competitive in their division as the season has progressed, even as their roster has been shredded by injuries.
Here are the scores of their games, all losses, in the division:
They were outclassed at Green Bay when Christian Ponder was forced to start. They were manhandled in their first game against Detroit. They played their worst game of the season in the 21-13 loss at Chicago.
Since then, they matched up well with the Packers at TCF Bank Stadium, and came close to beating the division-leading Lions on Sunday.
In the last game of the regular season, a Vikings team that has played hard and improved will face a Bears team that has embarrassed itself in many ways this season. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Vikings win that game going away.
My podcasts can be found at SouhanUnfiltered.com. Last one was with Jarius Wright on growing up in Arkansas and life in the NFL. Tonight you can listen live at the site, or anytime later, as I speak with old friend Tom Linnemann, the most interesting man in the world, at 6:15.
I've been rather bullish on the Vikings, considering they're 6-7 and out of the playoff race. Or maybe because they're 6-7 despite all that has befallen them as a franchise in the last few months.
That doesn't mean I think they'll win on Sunday at Detroit. Quite the contrary. I think this is the worst possible matchup for this team.
The Vikings' flimsy offensive line? Up against the Lions' fearsome front, playing at home, with crowd noise. Advantage: Lions.
The Vikings' rookie quarterback? See above.
The Vikings' running game? Using its third and fourth and fifth options of the season against the best run-stopping unit in the NFL, by far.
The Vikings' rush defense? It's been less than stellar lately, and now has to face a surging Joique Bell and a finally-healthy Reggie Bush.
The Vikings' secondary? Xavier Rhodes has been exceptional of late, but he'll either have to cover Calvin Johnson on every down (unlikely) or he'll be leaving Josh Robinson to cover Johnson. Robinson has gotten torched by bigger receivers (the Bears') and by those with excellent body control and ball awareness (Percy Harvin.) Johnson is a combination of both.
The Vikings' special teams? This might be an area of strength for Minnesota. You've got to like Blair Walsh kicking in a Dome.
Coaching? The Vikings have usually had the advantage in this category throughout the history of this rivalry. And they may this year. I'd take Mike Zimmer over Jim Caldwell as a strategist. But Caldwell has done what a Lions head coach needs to do - provide solid leadership to a remarkably talented squad. Caldwell not being one of his predecessors is good enough to get the Lions into the playoffs.
I like a lot of what's happening at Winter Park these days. I think Zimmer is positioning this team to succeed in the future.
The Lions, though, may provide a reminder of just how far the Vikings still have to travel to be a playoff team.
My don't-bet-on-it-even-with-your-brother's-money pick: Lions 31, Vikings 17.
New podcasts up at SouhanUnfiltered.com: Jarius Wright on his childhood, his biggest play and vomiting; Jayhawks frontman and great all-around artist Gary Louris on music, sports and life on the road; Strib hockey writer Michael Russo; Chad Greenway; Glen Perkins; Craig Leipold; Strib football writer Mark Craig; ESPN.com writer Kevin Seifert; Mike Grant; Paul Molitor; Ross Bernstein.
I'm in Detroit this weekend to write Vikings-Lions.
Thanks for reading.
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