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 draft

Two bad teams give us a spectacle

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 1, 2013 - 3:49 PM

How crazy was the Vikings' 23-20, overtime victory over the Bears?

Blair Walsh won the game twice. The first game-winning kick in overtime was wiped out by Rhett Ellison's facemask penalty.

Walsh wound up trying three field goals in the overtime, and the second wasfted through the smoke from the celebratory fireworks after his first attempt, and fell short.

What will be remembered is that Adrian Peterson had one of the best games of his career. Amid the chaos, he rushed 35 times for 211 yards, and his running set up the game-winning field goal.

Peterson reached for 10,000 yards in his 101st NFL game. Only two backs have reached 10,000 faster - Eric Dickerson in 91 games, and Jim Brown in 98.

It was a relatively meaningless game between two bad teams, eventually involving two backup quarterbacks once Christian Ponder left with a concussion, and yet it was still a spectacle.

Peterson ran wild. And Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery set a Bears record with 249 receiving yards, twice beating Chris Cook deep. After the second touchdown catch, an amazing play on which Jeffery caught the ball over Cook's head and held it there as he fell into the end zone, Cook, angered by a previous call, bumped an official and was ejected.

He missed some good stuff, particularly Peterson's wild, stop-and-start 19-yard gain on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter.

That play seemed to set the Vikings, then trailing 20-17, up to at least tie the score. But backup quarterback Matt Cassel's pass to Rhett Ellison caromed off Ellison, then a Bear or two before it was intercepted.

I'm hoping Leslie Frazier is ready to give up on Ponder. He can play Cassel if he wants to win, or management can force him to play Josh Freeman if they want to play for a high draft pick. Expect the former.

Vikings sign Freeman...

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: October 6, 2013 - 10:52 PM

A series of national reports indicated the Vikings have signed former Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman.

Freeman is problematic. He was inaccurate and error-prone this season. He missed a team photo and battled with his head coach.

This part is important: The coach he battled with, Greg Schiano, may be an idiot.

I like the move. Freeman has had two outstanding NFL seasons. He has the talent to succeed. The Vikings are getting a chance to try out a quarterback capable of being a productive NFL starter without giving up a first-round draft pick or a massive, long-term contract.

The reports are Freeman will sign a one-year deal worth $2.5 to $3 million. That's nothing for a quarterback.

The Vikings may not admit it, but this should end Christian Ponder's tenure in Minnesota. Matt Cassel is sure to start against Carolina next week, and the Vikings aren't bringing in Freeman to be a third-string quarterback.

Freeman gets a fresh start, and the Vikings get a quarterback with NFL talent without waiting and hoping the right guy falls to them in the draft.

This is a smart, aggressive, low-risk, high-reward move by Rick Spielman.

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Time for Cassel

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 26, 2013 - 2:47 AM

My column in Thursday's paper recreates the way I think the conversation between Leslie Frazier and Christian Ponder might have gone.

Here I'll put things more plainly.

Ponder coming down with a mysterious rib injury is perfect for the Vikings. They can take a look at Matt Cassel in a must-win game heading into the bye week, then make a more full-informed decision on the quarterback position. If Cassel plays brilliantly, he keeps the job. If he plays poorly, the Vikings can go back to Ponder and hope he has cleared his head, and they never would have actually benched him.

Of course, this is only speculation. The Vikings aren't about to tip their hand on this one.

For those wondering why, given all of the Vikings' problems, Ponder is the only one facing a potential benching, I go back to what Jerry Burns always said: Changing left guards doesn't send a jolt of electricity through your team. Changing your quarterback does.

Also, remember how much the Vikings invested in their passing game during the offseason. They signed Greg Jennings. They traded into the first round to draft Cordarrelle Patterson. Having a quarterback willing to hang in the pocket long enough for those players to get open (assuming Bill Musgrave actually puts Patterson on the field) might be a good idea.

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I keep waiting for some sign of the NFL's popularity in London.

Haven't seen any indication in London proper that there is an NFL game this Sunday. Haven't seen a word in the major newspapers or on the morning TV shows. Or on the evening TV shows. I'm sure there has been media coverage, because there are plenty of reporters covering the Vikings' appearances and practices. Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places.

The NFL chose well when it chose the Vikings to play here and spend the week promoting the game. They're a willing group of interviewees and ambassadors. When I spoke with Jared Allen yesterday, he used the phrase ``bangers and mash'' about 12 times, saying he loves the food in London.

During the Olympics, I often made fun of London's food, but Allen's right. You can find great restaurants in London, just not where I was staying during the Olympics. The Strib's traveling entourage has particularly enjoyed the Grazing Goat Pub. Mark Craig even tried a dark beer before switching back to something resembling his traditional Bud Lights.

I thought the highlight of the press conferences was Rick Spielman saying he called home to tell his wife to bring her bathing suit, the weather was so nice here.

Not so fast, Rick. It's overcast and threatening today.

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I'm spending today with photojournalist Carlos Gonzalez in London, looking for some local color. I mean, colour. Thanks for reading. Remember, we have Mark Craig, Chip Scoggins, Carlos and myself covering all angles of the Vikings' trip to London, including the game. Please check back on Startribune.com for columns, stories, notes, blog posts, photos and videos.

I like the Browns' end of the deal

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 19, 2013 - 2:30 PM

By Jim Souhan

The Browns were right to trade Trent Richardson.

The Vikings should know why.

I covered both sides of the Herschel Walker deal – from Dallas when the deal went down in 1989, and in Minnesota as Walker struggled to play well enough to justify the Vikings’ enormous outlay of players and draft picks.

The Richardson deal isn’t as lopsided, because perhaps no trade in the history of sports will ever turn out as lopsided as The Herschel Trade. The Indianapolis Colts gave the Browns a 2014 first-round draft pick for Richardson, the xth pick in the 2012 draft.

Here’s how much the NFL has changed: In 1989, initial reaction to the Walker trade around the league was that that Cowboys rookie coach Jimmy Johnson had gotten fleeced by wily Vikings general manager Mike Lynn. Today, many around the league are questioning why the Colts would give up even a first-round pick for a talented running back.

In 1989, the thinking was that the team that landed the best player, and Walker was still esteemed at the time, had won the deal. That sentiment faded when the Walker struggled to fit into the Vikings’ short-passing offense, and was erased when the full details of the deal emerged, and it became clear that the Cowboys were going to receive a handful of NFL-ready players as well as a slew of draft choices.

Today, running backs are devalued. Everybody wants a good one; few teams other than the Vikings intentionally build around a great one.

The Colts were able to trade a first-round pick for a running back and ignore their other needs because they have a franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck. The Browns were right to amass draft picks so they can maneuver for their franchise quarterback.

Richardson was a mediocre player for the Browns. With the Colts, he may be pretty good.

Both teams did well in this deal. The Browns did better.

The Colts gave themselves a chance to reach the playoffs with a flawed team. The Browns gave themselves a chance to finally find a franchise quarterback.

Yes, history says they'll probably screw it up. But they have to try.

Draft mistakes last forever

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: March 15, 2013 - 7:24 PM

This isn't to pick on NFL general managers or scouts. This is to emphasize how difficult it is to draft well, how difficult it is to differentiate between a guy who's going to become a star and a guy who's going to become a barista, and how a choice that seems inconsequential at the time can alter a division or league.

In the 2006 draft, the Vikings used second-round picks on cornerback Cedric Griffin, center Ryan Cook and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. Griffin became a starter, Cook did not, and Jackson became a mediocre quarterback.

The Vikings chose Griffin with the 48th pick, and Cook with the 51st. With the 52nd pick, the Green Bay Packers chose Greg Jennings.

The Vikings just signed Jennings to a five-year deal worth, presumably, lots of money to fill their remarkable void at receiver.

Imagine the 2009 Vikings with Jennings on the field, or the 2012 Vikings.

The Bears chose Devin Hester with the 57th pick. The Jaguars got Maurice Jones-Drew with the 60th. And the Broncos chose Brandon Marshall with the 119th.

I used to make fun of the enormous attention paid to the NFL draft. I can't anymore. Seemingly innocuous picks can alter the league's landscape.

 

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