Catching up

  • Blog Post by: Jim Souhan
  • November 17, 2009 - 5:57 PM

My latest SORT (Series of Random Thoughts):

-It has been fascinating to listen to the back-and-forth debate over Bill Belichick's fourth-and-2 decision against Indy.

This is where I would defer to the theory espoused by Malcolm Gladwell in ``Blink.'' Your gut reaction is often the right reaction.

When I saw Belichick going for it on fourth-and-2 from his own 28, my gut reaction went something like: ``Are you kidding me?''

Given time to intellectualize the decision, some analysts have defended Belichick, saying that this kind of innovative, non-traditional risk-taking is what has made him the greatest coach of his generation.

Here's what my gut told me, and what I still believe: One factor that coaches and managers must consider that the average stat geek ignores is what effect a decision will have on the psychology of his players and team. Often I disagree with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire on statistical and strategic grounds, and yet agree with his decision because he has to live with and guide his players over 162 games. Egos matter. Atmosphere matters. Relationships matter, in sports and in every other business.

I not only believe that statistically the Patriots had a better chance of winning by punting, I believe that Belichick told his defensive players that he didn't trust them with that decision.

Talk to football players enough, and you realize that trust _ trusting your coaches, trusting your teammates, having faith that you are putting your limbs and joints at risk for a worthy cause _ is inherent in the culture of winning teams. I'm not sure Belichick and his defensive players will have the same relationship now.

No, one questionable decision doesn't make Belichick a failure or a dunce. It just proves that even the smartest of us miscalculate, whether we're talking about the barons of Wall Street and Washington, or the brightest minds in football.

-One interesting matchup to watch when the Gophers play at Iowa on Saturday will be veteran and legendary Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker against first-year Gophers offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. This could be a mismatch for the ages.

Tim Brewster has little margin for error if he wants to keep his job. If he is fired in the next week, his key mistake will have been dismissing Mike Dunbar and hiring Fisch.

-I know that Brandon Jennings' early-season success has again cast doubt on the Wolves' ability to draft, but let's keep this in perspective.

The Kevin McHale Wolves might have been the only team in the NBA willing to trade Brandon Roy for Randy Foye. Most NBA teams would have chosen Jonny Flynn over Jennings, and we won't be able to make a true comparison of the two until Flynn is given more freedom in Kurt Rambis' offense.

Even if the decision is proven to be a mistake over the long haul, this would be an understandable mistake.

-I'm debating with my colleagues whether Joe Mauer will sign for more or less than $20 million a year. They say no, because the Twins won't want to commit more than 20 percent of their projected payroll on one player. Few teams that have committed that percentage to one player have won.

I say yes, the Twins know that signing Mauer is vital to their marketing, to their brand. Symbolically, they cannot afford to lose him. In terms of goodwill and ticket sales, they cannot afford to spend next season hearing more about Mauer's pending free agency than the wonders of new Target Field.

The question today is the same as it was when I wrote about Mauer this summer, and Justin Morneau and Mauer's family members said Mauer wouldn't want to play for the Twins if they aren't committed to winning: Would Mauer actually leave the Twins if he felt they weren't willing to spend more money in free agency, or is that a shot across the organization's bow?

Only Joe knows.

Vikings receiver Sidney Rice was just named NFC offensive player of the week. He deserves it. Nice guy, hard worker, popular with his teammates. He may be the least egomaniacal of all successful NFL receivers.

Follow me on Twitter at SouhanStrib. I wrote about Brad Childress' public persona for the Wednesday paper, and I'll be in Iowa this weekend for the Gophers game, then back in time for the Vikings-Seahawks game.





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