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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What a weekend for Minnesota coaches

Posted by: Jim Souhan under Gophers coaches, Football on TV, NFL draft, NFL post-season Updated: September 29, 2014 - 8:42 AM

Jerry Kill inherited a terrible football program. On Saturday, his team was far better coached and better conditioned than Michigan, and blew out the Wolverines in the Big Quiet House.

Mike Zimmer took over a losing team, had his top free agent shot in a bar, lost his franchise player to a suspension, and on Sunday beat a talented Atlanta team with a rookie quarterback.

This was one of the most impressive weekends in memory for Minnesota football coaches.

Kill and Zimmer are building programs that should win for years.

You can see Kill's touch in his team's physical play. Michigan's strength is stopping the run, yet the Gophers ran all over the Wolverines. His roster is visibly stronger than it was when he arrived, and his defense could teach NFL teams how to make plays on balls in the air.

You can see Zimmer's touch in the way his teams limit top offensive players. The Vikings made the Rams look more inept than they really are. They limited Jimmy Graham and Julio Jones, keeping either from making game-breaking plays. The only receiver who has dominated the Vikings was Julian Edelman in Week 2, shortly after the Adrian Peterson news broke, and that probably happened because the Vikings figured Xavier Rhodes could handle Edelman one-on-one, and Edelman proved too elusive for him on that day.

Zimmer and Rick Spielman also seem to have done extremely well in the draft together. Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater are keepers.

Kill and Zimmer are teachers who have hired excellent staffs. What might be best for Minnesota football fans is, neither seems to be looking for their next career move. You get the sense both could be here, and winning, for a long time.


I'll be on 1500espn-am at 12:15 from Winter Park. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

The rookies deliver

Posted by: Jim Souhan under Vikings coaches, Vikings defense, Vikings fans Updated: September 28, 2014 - 6:48 PM

The importance of any individual NFL game becomes overblown because of scarcity. There just aren’t many games, so they all seem important.

This one might actually have been. The Vikings faced the prospects of falling to 1-3 if they lost at home to Atlanta. That would be 1-3 with an injury-depleted roster, with Adrian Peterson perhaps never carrying the ball for them again, and with under pressure being placed on key rookies.

A couple of rookies earned the Vikings a 41-28 victory on Sunday over Atlanta.

Teddy Bridgewater made his first career start and completed 19-of-30 passes for 317 yards and no interceptions, even running for a touchdown. He looked cool and comfortable until he injured his ankle in the fourth quarter, causing Christian Ponder to finish the game in relief.

Bridgewater’s longtime running partner may be rookie running back Jerick McKinnon, who for the first time was a big part of the game plan. McKinnon rushed 18 times for 135 yards.

An NFL team’s prospects change week to week, but if Bridgewater and McKinnon can remain healthy, they could have a lot more days like they had on Sunday.

Bridgewater became the first rookie quarterback this season to pass for 300 yards, while making his first NFL start. McKinnon displayed the strength and speed that made him a third-round draft pick.

This might sound strange, but it's true: The Vikings might not be missing Adrian Peterson for long.                     

Baseball finally delivers

Posted by: Jim Souhan under Target Field, Twins management, Gophers recruiting, Packers Updated: September 28, 2014 - 1:50 PM

I'll admit it: Baseball has turned me off this year.

With the Twins becoming irrelevant for a fourth straight season, I could barely stand to watch the game once the All-Star game bunting was pulled off of Target Field.

This week made me watch again.

Thanks to two former Yankees.

Derek Jeter delivered as only he can. He came to Target Field in mid-summer of his last season, and delivered a double in his last first All-Star at-bat.

He came to the plate for his last first at-bat in Yankee Stadium, and doubled again.

Then, after the Orioles scored three runs to extend the game to the bottom of the ninth, he got his first game-winning hit in seven years in his last at-bat at Yankee Stadium.

Sunday, Jeter hit an infield single at Fenway, then was removed, after raising his career  batting average to .310.

Baseball gives us these moments more than any other sport.

Wednesday, another former Yankee did himself proud, too.

A rain delay kept Hughes from earning a $500,000 bonus for innings pitched.

On Friday, the Twins offered him a chance to pitch in relief to earn his bonus. He refused. It was the rare moment in modern pro sports when everyone involved in a supposed controversy came out looking good.


The Gophers' victory over Michigan on Saturday was the most impressive outing by a Gopher football team in my 24 years working at the Star Tribune.

Not since the program's glory days has the Gophers lined up against a power program and whipped them physically the way the Gophers beat up Michigan. It was a mismatch.

The Gophers had by far the better coach, by far the best running back, the better quarterback ,and the stronger roster. That shouldn't happen against Michigan even when the Gophers are at their best.

Jerry Kill is to be commended for putting this program together with basic building blocks: A sound, well-coached defense, a power running game, and a roster filled with well-conditioned athletes.

Brady Hoke is at the opposite end of the spectrum. He is an embarrassment to his profession. Even an average coach should be able to act as a caretaker of the Michigan program. Hoke can't even do that.

That he would re-insert a limping, concussed quarterback into a game shows that he's not just a bad football coach, he is clueless.


Mike Zimmer's challenge today: Limiting Julio Jones. Jones is the Falcons' best player, and maybe the second-best receiver in the NFL. Zimmer did well to limit the Saints' big plays last week. If he can keep Jones from putting up big numbers, the Vikings could make this a game. Jones is the one player who can turn this into a blowout.


Jeets, one more time

Posted by: Jim Souhan under All-Stars and honors, Professional baseball Updated: September 26, 2014 - 7:46 AM

It was easy to tire of the incessant coverage of Derek Jeter's last season, easy to grow weary of the gift-giving and testimonials, but Derek Jeter again rose above hyperbole and the grotesque sentimentality that can coat Yankee Stadium like an early frost.

Jeter again delivered in the clutch.

When Kirby Puckett retired, Tom Kelly sat in front of a microphone and his farewell speech went something like this: ``How lucky am I, that I got to see every one of his at-bats?''

 Well, how lucky are we, that Jeter came to Minneapolis for his last All-Star game?

How lucky are we, that every great moment these days is televised?

In his first at-bat in his last All-Star game, at Target Field, Jeter delivered an opposite-field double with his patented inside-out swing.

In his first at-bat in his last game at Yankee Stadium, while fighting emotions he'd never before had to fight, he delivered a double.

Then he took the field for the top of the ninth. His team led by three runs. He would likely never bat again in Yankee Stadium. He fought back tears. Announcers wondered whether he would be removed for a final curtain call.

That wouldn't have been a true Jeter curtain call, not at Yankee Stadium.

This was: The Orioles miraculously rallied for three runs, tying the score. Jeter would bat third in the bottom of the night.

The Yankees put a runner on second with one out. Jeter came to the plate.

And delivered.

He smacked another patented hit to rightfield, rounded the bases, and was as we will remember him, jubilant in victory.

He didn't want to come out of the game. And he delivered.

What did we expect?

Goodbye to Jeter

Posted by: Jim Souhan under All-Stars and honors, Professional baseball Updated: September 25, 2014 - 7:34 PM

I began covering baseball in 1993. I first encountered Derek Jeter in 1996.

Since then, I've known a handful of players who played alongside Jeter. I've gotten to know members of the Yankee organization. I've known dozens of media members who covered him on a daily basis. I've interviewed him dozens of times. I've watched him interact with teammates, clubbies, reporters and coaches.

I was interviewing Don Zimmer on the visiting bench in Kansas City one time when Jeter came by and gave Zim a wink. Zimmer, cranky previously, lit up.

Jeter's numbers and clutch performances speak for themselves. He is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. You can argue that he is both a Hall of Famer and our generation's most overrated player, if you like. Given his decline in the field in recent years, it is possible for him to be both.

Here's what I'll remember most about Jeter:

He played shortstop in New York, for the most intensely-watched baseball team in history. He dated supermodels in an era in which TMZ paid people for scoops, and Deadspin went after tawdry subjects without remorse.

And yet I've never heard a bad word about Jeter as a human.

For all the rumor-mongering in today's media, I never heard anyone raise questions about his character. These guys spend a hundred days or more a year on the road. They're pursued by women. They're bound to have teammates and opponents who don't like them. They play in a sport where word-of-mouth moves faster than an ethernet connection. And Jeter will retire clean and admired.

I'm not sure I could say that about any other baseball star of his stature.


I'll be on 1500ESPN-AM at 12:15 tomorrow for my regular weekday hit with Mackey and Judd.

The Sunday Show is on 10-noon, leading up to the Vikings' game.

Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.


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