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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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.
The Twins didn't trade away players at the deadline because they think they can still win the division. They didn't trade for players because they don't want to pay the high prices required for them to acquire a bullpen arm when they're in the fourth place in the division on Aug. 1.
They're stuck in the middle. I've heard outrage from both sides, that the Twins should have traded their players headed to free agency, and that they should have sold out trying to win this year.
I'm just not surprised that they did neither. To trade an everyday player or a prospect for a reliever could damage their long-term plans without dramatically increasing this team's chances of winning. to trade away Michael Cuddyer, their most valuable player on the trade market, when they're still in contention would be one way of telling fans not to show up at Target Field for the rest of the season.
From a purely logical standpoint, I believe the Twins should have traded Cuddyer. But the Twins care about their clubhouse culture and rewarding the right players, and Cuddyer is the best organizational player they've had, in terms of being a personification of everything they teach and value, in a long time.
We all begin our evaluation of teams by gauging their ability to win a championship, but there is more to sports than that. If keeping Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Matt Capps around gives this team a chance to win the division and encourages people to buy tickets, then maybe this is the right approach.
I'm on record saying I would have sold pieces off to try to rebuild the franchise's talent base. But while I disagree with the Twins' decision, I also, on a gut level, like it when franchises stubbornly insist on winning, and keep trying to keep a good thing going.
As for the Vikings, this is a strange set a circumstances. They have a first-year coach, a free-agent quarterback trying to learn the offense in a short period of time, a new offensive coordinator, and a slew of very good players who might not have many effective years left in their legs.
Like the Twins, the Vikings are stuck in the middle. To win nine or 10 games, they'll need surprising performances from Donovan McNabb, Bryant McKinnie, John Sullivan, Steve Hutchinson, Cedric Griffin, Jared Allen, Brian Robison...just about every veteran on the team.
How many of their best players are sure things, presuming good health? Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, Antoine Winfield...and that's about it. All of their other name players are either aging or coming off disappointing seasons or injuries.
So why should the Vikings avoid a true rebuilding process? Because sport is unpredictable. I still don't think the Bears were all that good last year, but they wound up on the right side of the Calvin Johnson ruling, got to face the Seahawks in the playoffs and suddenly found themselves with a chance to win the NFC title game against the team that would eventually win the Super Bowl.
So my attitude toward the Vikings is the same as it is toward the Twins: It might be smart, in a clinical sense, to rebuild, but neither franchise is willing to give up. And there's something to be said for trying to win every year, regardless of the circumstances. Remember: Rebuilding sounds good until you try it and it doesn't work.
-News just broke, via ESPN, that Randy Moss is retiring.
I think the Vikings should hold a ceremony to honor him. He can stand on a podium at FedEx Field in Washington, D.C., and then, as he begins his speech, everyone can walk off, and into the locker room.
And then Matt Birk can finally beat him up.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today with Pat and Phil, then on with Phunn in the 6 o'clock hour. I'm also hosting the Phunn House on Tuesday night from 6-8:30 on 1500.
I'm in Mankato until Tuesday afternoon, and I'll tweet as warranted at @Souhanstrib.
Wrote about the Vikings' roster for the Sunday paper.
My quick take on the NFL draft:
-I suspect Broncos coach Josh McDaniels may be in over his head. Having nice guys playing quarterback and receiver is a quaint idea, but it doesn't help you when you face third-and-10 and need a bullet pass to a dynamic pass catcher.
-I kind of like the Vikings' draft, but that's mainly because I had low expectations for a team that started the process with picks at the end of each round.
I kind of like Chris Cook, but I don't see him being a rookie starter even if Cedric Griffin can't play right away. I like the Toby Gerhart move, because, as Rick Spielman just said in a press conference, the Vikings have to have a real running back ready to go if anything happens to Adrian Peterson, and Gerhart's mass and underrated speed would at least be a threat that defenses would have to respect. (I'm guessing; who knows how good a pro he'll be?)
The Vikings spent their lower picks drafting for positional depth and special teamers, and I have no reason to doubt that they did well in that regard. I always thought Nate Triplett, the former Gopher, had an NFL body and made a lot of plays, for an example.
But, as I wrote for Sunday, the most important development of the offseason for the Vikings is still the return of Brett Favre, and even though any intelligent observer is 99 percent sure he's coming back, until he shows up in Minnesota (or New Orleans), he has an awful lot of leverage with this team.
If I were him, I"d ask for a raise.
-The Twins keep winning, and I keep feeling like they're playing at 80 percent, and they have so much talent that teams like Cleveland and Kansas City are lucky to avoid being swept.
It's rare that the two most important teams in town, the Twins and Vikings, are both so well-stocked and well-run at the same time.
-Every time I see Brandon Jennings draining a three-pointer in the playoffs, I wonder if Jonny Flynn might wind up being the fifth or sixth best point guard in his own draft. (Evans, Curry, Lawson, Rubio, Jennings...that's five who are better without me even looking up the rest of the draft.)
-The Gardenhire Show starts at 9:30 a.m. Sunday on 1500ESPN, followed by Sunday Sports Talk. We'll have at least one Vikings guest and at least one Twins guest, and I'm still working to fill out the show.
-Reminder: the band John Heidt and I are putting together, tentatively called Bumper Music, is playing May 20 at O'Gara's, in conjunction with Steve Rushin's book signing there. No cover charge, we plan to do three sets, with Tommy MIschke sitting in on piano and vocals for at least a few songs.
Mischke and Heidt are both very talented musicians. Me? I'm very enthusiastic.
-My regular appearances on 1500ESPN will be 2:35 pm. weekdays with Joe and Pat, and usually Monday and Friday nights in the 6 o'clock hour with Joe Anderson.
-My twitter name is Souhanstrib.
-We're all sitting here writing on deadline and eating really unhealthy food. (Judd doesn't seem bothered by this.)
-My column for the Friday paper focuses on the Vikings' trade of the 30th pick in the draft. Short version: I like the trade. I'm not sure I like who they traded with.
-There is the possibility that the Vikings could take Jimmy Clausen on Friday. I could be wrong, and we'll know soon, but I don't think so. I don't think Clausen is the right personality type for this team, a veteran team trying to win now. And I'm not as impressed with Clausen as the general public is.
At Notre Dame, his teams generally underachieved and faced mostly poor competition, and he had great receivers who could catch anything near them. I'm not sold.
I also think the Broncos are fools. They essentially traded Brandon Marshall for Tim Tebow. Marshall is one of the NFL's two best receivers. I don't believe Tebow will ever be a good NFL quarterback. And you don't spend a first-round pick on a Wildcat quarterback.
-Here's the column I wrote early in the evening, well before the Vikings picked. We in the business call it an ``early.''
Want to know how immensely popular the NFL has become?
On Wednesday, the NFL commissioner suspended a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback in his prime for six games for a sordid incident involving a bathroom, an underaged girl and alcohol.
On Thursday, the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger only added to the intrigue and suspense _ and thus the popularity _ of the NFL draft. Would the Steelers trade Roethlisberger? Which teams would trade their first-round pick for him? Would Bad Ben molest anyone between the announcement of the suspension and the end of the first round?
The NFL is so popular that it has become the first pro sports league in history to lend truth to the phrase, ``Any publicity is good publicity.’’
The draft itself has, over the last couple of decades, morphed from an oddity obsessed over by the kind of geeks who now invent fictitious acronyms so they can sound smart talking baseball into a prime-time television special that promised to garner an immense rating.
I had a buddy tell me he was going to try to put his kids to bed early so he could watch every minute, even though most of the players taken in even the first round of the 2009 draft made little or no impact on their team last season. In fact, looking back at that first round confirms that the Vikings would have been silly to consider anyone other than receiver Percy Harvin, even if they had known then the extent of his migraines.
In 1990, I covered my first NFL draft. I spent two days in the basement of Winter Park, the Vikings’ compound in Eden Prairie. The Vikings had traded just about all of their draft picks to Dallas for Herschel Walker (just thought I’d remind you) and it was pretty much a couple of writers, a couple of camera guys and a bag of chips killing an entire weekend.
At the end of each day, the Vikings’ draft gurus, Frank Gilliam and Jerry Reichow, would come downstairs from their office, shrug a few times, and say that some of the guys they took had a chance to make the team, but who could tell?
Mel Kiper had not yet been invented or laquered, and everyone’s favorite draft analyst was a guy named Joel Buchsbaum, who produced a draft pamphlet that every self-respecting writer treated as a bible, to the consternation of NFL personnel directors.
Thursday night, the Vikings were slated to make the 30th selection in the first round.
This column was written well before the Vikings made their first selection. In this case, you didn’t know who the Vikings took to know that their selection probably wouldn’t make much difference in 2010.
If they took a defensive back or an offensive lineman, that player was not likely to start Game 1 in New Orleans. If they surprised everyone (or maybe just me) and selected a quarterback, that quarterback would be at least a year away, and perhaps more, from being expected to contribute.
And that is the greatest compliment you can offer the Vikings’ braintrust: They have pieced together such a strong roster that the 2010 draft should be seen as a way to bolter future teams moreso than the current squad.
The Vikings have excelled in free agency, adding Bernard Berrian, Brett Favre (yes, he counts), Anthony Herrera, Steve Hutchinson, Ben Leber, Ryan Longwell, Visanthe Shiancoe, Pat Williams and Antoine Winfield since 2004.
Under Rick Spielman, the Vikings’ vice president of player personnel, the Vikings have excelled at hitting home runs at the top of the draft.
In 2006, Spielman & Co. took Chad Greenway and Cedric Griffin in the first two rounds. In 2007, it was Adrian Peterson and Sidney Rice.
In 2008, the Vikings traded three of their first four picks for Jared Allen, a brilliant move, and chose Tyrell Johnson _ a starter although not a standout _ in the second round.
In 2009, The Vikings took Harvin in the first round and Phil Loadholt in the second.
All of those move guaranteed that anyone the Vikings selected at the end of the first round on Thursday would play a supporting role.
-Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is complaining about the NFL preempting the NBA playoffs. Way to be a free-marketeer, Mark.
-On 1500ESPN with Joe and Pat at 2:35 Friday, then on at 6-ish with Joe Anderson before the Twins play the Royals. I have tomorrow off from the newspaper.
A video I shot with Mr. Reusse should be up at startribune.com.
You can follow me on twitter at Souhanstrib. If you followed me today, you know I think Jon Gruden is a fool when it comes to draft analysis. If I hear one more ``analyst'' try to tell me that Tim Tebow will be a good NFL quarterback because of his character, I'm going to regurgitate.
Ben Roethlisberger is a jerk, and he won two Super Bowls.
-I'm back to write about the draft Saturday for the Sunday paper, then on Sunday we've got the Gardy Show on 1500ESPN at 9:30, followed by Sunday Sports Talk with myself and Brad Lane. Trying for Twins and Vikings guests.
I'm at Target Field this afternoon, and man, did Scott Baker stink today.
Interesting how many mini-trends develop during a 162-game season. The Twins had a chance to sweep a bad Kansas City team and Carl Pavano pitched horribly. Then they had a chance to seep a bad Cleveland team and Scott Baker pitched horribly.
The Twins went 6-3 on the homestand and stand at 11-5 for the season, and I'm not sure they've played all that well.
They've still made only one error this season, which is remarkable, and their infield is particularly tight when Nick Punto is playing. They have a deeper lineup than they've had in a long time, and their starting pitching should be pretty good over the course of the season, and perhaps better than that if Francisco Liriano keeps pitching as well as he has the last two outings.
I also believe the Twins have already established themselves as the best team in the division. But after two seasons in which they required a Game 162, you hate to see them stink it up in Game 3 of a series they had already won against an inferior opponent at home.
-Will whoever kidnapped Jason Kubel please return him to his rightful owner?
-The closer we get to the draft, the more strongly I feel about Tim Tebow. I mean, I'm not like Mr. Reusse, who thinks he's the reincarnation of Christian Laettner, but I think revamping your mechanics in an offseason is no way to guarantee NFL success. My guess is he'll revert to his old mechanics when he's under pressure.
I wouldn't spend a first-round pick on him, and I'll be surprised if any NFL team does, despite all the nice quotes about him circulating in the national media.
-I like the Lito Sheppard pickup for this reason: He knows how to play, and his body should hold up at least as long as it takes to get Cedric Griffin back into the starting lineup. And then Sheppard would provide valuable depth.
One of these years, Antoine Winfield will falter. But maybe his obvious deficiency - his size - has given him greater longevity, because he's not carrying any extra weight on those knees.
-If I'm the Vikings, my top priority now is a playmaking safety, followed by offensive line help. Don't worry about quarterback. You've seen the commercial - Brett is eating blueberries now. He's good for a couple more decades.
-Twins are getting thumped at Target Field, down 8-1 in the ninth, and the place is half-empty (or half-full). Gives you perspective on what the place will look like in the future, when the buzz wears off the place and maybe the team. Might be awhile, though.
-If I'm the NFL, I don't suspend Big Ben. I fine the heck out of him and force him to do transgression-specific community service. Make him visit a battered women's shelter every morning and every night. Make him go through counselling. Force him to spend time thinking about the way he treats women. Make him go to class every night when he'd rather be drinking.
A suspension hurts the Steelers' owners, coaches, players, fans and league more than it hurts Ben. Ben gets up to six games off, six games in which he won't get battered and concussed. The suspension might prolong his career.
No, let the man see what happens to women who are treated poorly, and take away as much of his 2010 salary as you can. Hit him where he lives.
-I'll check in tonight from the Vikings' facility.
-My twitter name is Souhanstrib.
-I'll be debating Ron Coomer or Roy Smalley every Wednesday on FSN in the pregame show, and contributing the postgame show.
-Upcoming radio on 1500ESPN: 2:35 Friday with Pat and Joe; sometime early in the 6 o'clock hour with Joe Anderson; the Gardy Show at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, followed by Sunday Sports Talk from 10-noon.
Also, I'm on WJON at 7:14 a.m. weekdays.
-I'm writing about the NFL draft for the Friday and Sunday papers.
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