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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Posts about NFL post-season

Good morning from Chicago

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: May 1, 2015 - 9:32 AM

Chicago -

So, the day I write a column about how entertaining the NFL draft and even Rick Spielman are, we have one of the most boring first rounds in memory.

The Vikings' pick was boring, too. Logical, but boring.

Since Spielman hired Mike Zimmer and Zimmer hired Norv Turner, it's remarkable how linked their player evaluation and player development has been.

Zimmer saw a great player in the quite-raw Anthony Barr, and he was right on. Turner ignored Teddy Bridtgewater's horrendous pro day, saw a fine quarterback with a fixable flaw, and he was right on.

Trae Waynes is another player with outstanding physical skills who Zimmer thinks will fit his system and approach. Zimmer has built enough credibility that it's difficult to question him.

I'm sure Spielman wanted to trade down and pick up extra picks. I'm also sure that every other team picking from 10-20 would have traded down, meaning Spielman had no viable trade partners. So he took a player with whom he was comfortable, and with whom Zimmer wanted to work.

Not exciting, but it fits the Vikings' plan.


Wasn't there, but I was told that the NFL draft in Chicago was a little awkward. Nothing happening in the arena between picks. A lot of quiet, interrupted by booing of Roger Goodell.

Even though it's a TV event, the NFL should find a way to make it more of a party for those who show up in person. Every team does it these days. Why can't the league?


I picked the Wild to beat the Blues in seven, and it turns out I was a pessimist.

I'm picking the Wild to beat Chicago in six, mainly because I think if the Wild is going to win it has to follow a certain blueprint: Win one of the first two, win both at home, survive a Game 5 loss and win GAme 6.

The Blackhawks are still a superior team of skaters, but Devan Dubnyk gives the Wild a tremendous advantage in goal over the Hawks' duo.


An interesting Twins' development: It seems that every time manager Paul Molitor rests a slumping player, that player returns with a better swing and approach. Danny Santana, Kennys Vargas, Brian Dozier...Credit Tom Brunansky and Molitor, two very different hitters who seem to have the players' attention.


Today at SouhanUnfiltered.com, Strib hockey writer Michael Russo will be doing a live podcast from Chicago this afternoon. We'll tweet out the time later after we attend the Wild's morning skate. Other recent podcasts: Strib basketball writer Jerry Zgoda on the Wolves and North Stars, Strib football writer Master Tesfasion with detailed analysis of the draft, and more Russo. Thanks for listening.

Also, I'll be on 105 The Ticket with Bob Sansevere at 3:30 this and every weekday afternoon.


Prose & Kahns

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: March 16, 2015 - 2:24 PM

JImmy Johnson says he sees a lot of himself in Chip Kelly.

As someone who covered Jimmy in Dallas, and has admired Kelly's work at Oregon and with the Eagles, I agree. They're both cocky-yet-likeable mavericks.

Here's the difference:

Most in the NFL wrongly saw Jimmy as a rube, a guy who won in college mainly because he cheated, and because his rah-rah act worked on 20-year-olds.

NFL people are not underestimating Kelly.

Jimmy went 1-15 his first year, laying in the weeds. That's why Mike Lynn thought he could pull a fast one on him with the Herschel Walker deal.

Kelly has had two 10-win seasons. The NFL will not overlook him.

As for Kelly's wild offseason, I can't believe the ridicule Kelly is receiving.

Jeremy Maclin is an above-average recekver made to look like a star by Kelly's system. Kelly didnt' ditch Maclin; he just refused to overpay him.

Anyone who watched Nick Foles play full games instead of just on highlights knows that he was another beneficiary of the system. He was not an accurate passer. Sam Bradford should be better than Foles, if Bradford can stay healthy. That's a risk, but so is counting on Foles to get better. He regressed last year.

As for LeSean McCoy, he is more spectacular than reliable. Again, Kelly didn't so much ditch McCoy as seek better return on his financial investment. By trading McCoy, he got back a very good linebacker and cleared space to bring in DeMarco Murray, who is a better every-down back than McCoy, and better equipped to punish defenses that try to go small to deal with the Eagles' spread offense.

Kelly is doing what shrewd managers do - looking past name recognition to true value.


Radio on demand: My podcast will be at Kieran's Irish Pub (across from Target Center) at 5 p.m. tonight with former Gopher star and NBA analyst Quincy Lewis. Stop by, or listen live or later at SouhanUnfiltered.com.

Wednesday, MIchael Russo and I will be at Liffey's Irish Pub by the XCel Energy Center at 4:30. We will be giving away a gift at that one.


Belichick may have spooked Carroll

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 2, 2015 - 3:21 PM

Bill Belichick may have forced Pete Carroll's hand at the end of the Super Bowl.

Belichick truly may have used uncommon cunning to win his latest big game.

Seattle took over at the Patriots' five with 1:06 remaining. After Jermaine Kearse's amazing catch, Seattle had wasted a timeout after getting the play in late. So Seattle had first-and-goal with one timeout remaining.

Marshawn Lynch bulled to the one. Most everyone in the stadium expected Beilchick to use one of his two timeouts, to preserve time for a possible last-second drive.

Belichick just stood there, watching the clock run.

What was he thinking?

Maybe this:

If he calls timeout, then Seattle has the possibility of running three plays from inside the one, with their whole playbook available to them. They could run it, and if they didn't score, run it again, knowing they could call timeout to set up a fourth down call if they didn't score on third down.

By letting the clock run, Belichick prompted Carroll to worry about the clock. After the game, Carroll said he wanted to ``waste a play'' on second down. What he seemed to be saying was, his intent was to run the ball, but he wanted his second-down play, with time running down, to be a pass play, so if the Seahawks didn't score, an incompletion would stop the clock and leave him with two plays and one timeout remaining.

Carroll also knew that if he ran on second down, the Patriots would know he would have to throw on third down, and Carroll probably wanted to avoid being that predictable.

Belichick, thinking a few moves ahead, probably anticipated Carroll wanting to pass on second down once the clock ran down, and sent a third cornerback onto the field.

When I talked to Patriots reserve cornerback Malcolm Butler last night, he said he was on the sideline for first down. He ran in when his cornerbacks coach yelled, `Goalline 3-corners.'' So the Patriots had five defensive backs on the field for a play against a powerful running back from inside the one. In other words, the Patriots anticipated a pass on second down, even though Carroll was throwing on second down because he didn't want to face a sure-passing down on third down.

So Carroll called a pass play, and Malcolm Butler, who had just been put on the field by Belichick, made an incredible interception, and the game was over.

Belichick threw Carroll off, and Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell responded by calling a play they really didn't want to run.

Given more time to think, Carroll probably would have run a bootleg or a fade, a play that would have enabled Russell Wilson to throw the ball away if he didn't see a matchup he liked.

Or Carroll would have called his timeout right after the first-down run, leaving him plenty of time to run the ball.

Instead, it was a quick-hitting pick pass, and Malcolm Butler knew it was coming, and stole the game.

Belichick feinted Carroll into choosing a pass play, and Carroll and Bevell called the wrong one, and that set up Butler to make a remarkable play.

Yes, Belichick really is that smart.


This week at SouhanUnfiltered.com: 5 p.m. Wednesday at Kieran's with Roy Smalley; 5 p.m. Friday at O'Gara's with Michael Russo, followed by my band, Bar Chords, playing O'Gara's 7:30-9, before Le Bang's live karaoke set. Come on out to either or both. Thanks.


That last call

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 1, 2015 - 11:38 PM

Glendale, Az. _

I still can't believe that call.

Seattle has first down at the Patriots' 5 with 1:06 remaining in the game. The Patriots lead, 28-24.

New England has two timeouts remaining. The only real question at this point is: Will the Patriots let the Seahawks score immediately, so they have time to drive for a tying field goal? Or will the Patriots try to keep Marshawn Lynch, perhaps the fiercest goalline back in football, out of the end zone on up to four straight handoffs?

Seattle hands it to Lynch on first down. He gains four, to the Patriots' one. The clock runs down to about 30 seconds. Neither team calls timeout. The Seahawks have Lynch in the backfield, one receiver left and two receivers right.

And they pass.

A lot went right for Seattle. Wilson had an open throwing lane. Seattle receiver Jermaine Kearse had blocked Pats corner Brandon Browner out of the play. Ricardo Lockette was momentarily open. Wilson's pass was right toward Lockette's hands.

The result: Patriots rookie Malcolm Butler (the subject of my Monday column) had practiced against that formation. He jumped the route, made a remarkable catch, and won the Super Bowl.

Here's why the play call was silly:

The probability of Lynch scoring if you give him the ball one or two or three times from the one-yard-line is about 99 percent. About the only thing that can go wrong in that scenario is an offensive penalty. Lynch isn't going to fumble and he is unlikely to be stopped, especially by a Patriots front that, with the exception of Vince Wilfork, is more agile than powerful.

To throw a pass is to invite the possibility of a tipped pass, or a deflection, or a pass batted into the air for an interception, or a sack, or an offensive pass interference penalty on what is essentially a pick play.

I don't often second-guess play calls, because coaches usually have so much study invested in their game plans.

Here's when I do second-guess play calls: When the coach or coaches overthink the strategy and talk themselves out of relying on their best player(s).

Instead of handing the ball to a great power back with an incredibly high chance of success and incredibly low risk, Seattle chose a riskier strategy involving the third or fourth best receiver in a weak receiving corps.

That's bad coaching.

I still think Pete Carroll is a great coach. I still think Darrell Bevell is an excellent coordinator.

But they blew this one.


The NFC should win some kind of award for excruciating finishes.

The Cowboys somehow won over the Lions, with the benefit of a bad call.

The Packers somehow beat the Cowboys, with the benefit of a terrible call.

The Seahawks beat the Packers as Green Bay executed an epic collapse.

And Seattle blew a chance to win the Super Bowl.


This week's podcast schedule: 5 p.m. Wednesday at Kieran's Irish Pub, across from Target Center, with Twins announcer and great baseball storyteller Roy Smalley. 5 p.m. Friday at O'Gara's (near 94 and Snelling) with Strib hockey writer Michael Russo.

Also, my band will play at O'Gara's at 7:30, leading into live karaoke at 9:30.


Hall hits and misses

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 31, 2015 - 9:26 PM

I think Mick Tinglehoff earned a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

I can't say I know how to judge a center who played in the '70s against a wide receiver who played in the 2000s. I'm not sure it can be done.

It's right to give the benefit of the doubt to a great player who was as durable and admired as Tinglehoff, and who contributed to so many team victories.

Now I'll categorize the rest of the inductees:

-Of Course They Should Be In:

Junior Seau. He was dominant, and you didn't need to break down the All-22 film to see it.

-I think they should be in but it's hard to separate them from other candidates:

Tinglehoff. Charles Haley. Will Shields. Ron Wolf. Bill Polian.

Wolf and Polian were both great, but were they both better than George Young, who has not been inducted? I don't think so.

-Really tough call:

Tim Brown was highly productive. He was also the product of quick-passing offenses. Don't think he was as good as Marvin Harrison, who didn't make it. This feels like a chronological pick more than a true choice. I think voters wanted to get Brown in before Harrison, Randy Moss and a slew of modern receivers become eligible.

-Bad call:

Jerome Bettis. Never rushed for 4.0 yards per carry in any postseason. Averaged 3.4 yards per carry overall in his career in the postseason. Ranks sixth all-time in rushing but never seemed exceptional to me.

-Should have made it:

Harrison. Orlando Pace, who was truly dominant.

-Probably should make it:

Kurt Warner.


I've been in the Hall of Fame voting room once, when I subbed for Sid Hartman. I gave a presentation on behalf of Carl Eller, and didn't feel anyone in the room was paying any attention to me.

I also know, because i have friends in that room, that Sid's angry presentations turned off other voters and hurt the causes of many Vikings over the years.

Now Star Tribune football writer Mark Craig is handling the presentations, and suddenly just about every worthy Viking is making it into the Hall.

Trust me: That is not a coincidence. Craig is liked and respected in the room, he gives thorough but understated presentations, and he has done very well on behalf of former Vikings.


At 9:30 on Sunday morning, I"ll do a podcast from Phoenix to set up the Super Bowl. My guess will be SportsPress Northwest columnist Art Thiel, a great writer who will provide more insight on the Seahawks than you've heard all season. Trust me. I've already taped it, and it's great stuff.

You can listen live or anytime later at SouhanUnfiltered.com, along with podcasts featuring Mark Craig, Tom Pelissero, Leo Lewis, Terry Ryan and Master Tesfasion. Thanks.



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