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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I'm not sure I've ever seen a finishing flurry quite like the one in the Vikings' 29-25 loss to the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.
It's remarkable how hard the Vikings hsve played in the weeks since it seemed their season was doomed. What I'll explore in my Monday column is why it took so long for this coaching staff to put its best players on the field. With Matt Cassel at quarterback, Cordarrelle Patterson starting at receiver and Xavier Rhodes starting at corner, this is a competent team, a team that could be at or near .500 and theoretically in the playoff race if those players had started earlier this season.
This was a Vikings team that made all those dramatic plays with its backup quarterback, backup running back, and a lot of backup defenders on the field.
We'll have extensive coverage in the Monday paper and on startribune.com, complete with videos.
We'll also update Adrian Peterson's health as soon as possible after the game, Indications now are that he has a sprained ankle and nothing more. It will be interesting to see whether Leslie Frazier plays him next week, or lets Toby Gerhart have a start.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
There are rational reasons for starting Christian Ponder on Sunday.
I'm just not sure the Vikings are employing any of them.
Here are possible behind-the-scenes explanations for starting Ponder, or at least not starting Josh Freeman:
1. If Freeman has looked lost in practice. It would be hard for an NFL head coach to believe that a quarterback who has trouble running the offense or completing passes in practice would be able to do so in games, especially on the road.
2. The Vikings have decided to tank the rest of the season to obtain the highest possible draft choices. I could see the front office wishing for this outcome, but Leslie Frazier is incapable of trying to lose a game. A coach would tank only if he was assured of coming back next year, and there's no way the Vikings can be making assurances to their head coach given the ineptitude of this team.
3. The Vikings' offensive coaches don't know what they're doing.
Starting Freeman is the most logical decision, but if he's not ready to start, then it's tough to figure out why the Vikings wouldn't start Matt Cassel. Cassel has given the Vikings their best-quarterbacked game of the season, against Pittsburgh, and would give them their best chance to win on Sunday at Green Bay.
I can't think of a good reason for starting Ponder. Worse, the feeling in the Vikings' lockerroom is that starting Ponder is an embarrassment.
Frazier has done much to build trust and respect in the Vikings' lockerroom. He's sabotating his credibility by starting Ponder when everyone knows Ponder's career is effectively over in Minnesota.
For all of their problems, the Vikings have continued to play hard even as their season has slipped away. It's tough to put your body on the line when your bosses keep handling the most important position on the team so poorly.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon with Judd&Dubay to discuss this, the Wolves, the Wild, and the Gophers.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier has been getting beaten up from all sides this week.
If you want to criticize his hiring of coordinators, or clock management, fire away.
If you're really going to keep picking on him for the way he has handled his quarterbacks, you're so far off base you must be related to Nick Punto.
Freeman and his bosses were fully invested in giving Chrisitan Ponder every chance to be their quarterback for the next five years. He failed. He failed miserably. If anyone was going to give Ponder every benefit of the doubt, it was Frazier and GM Rick Spielman. If they gave up on him, you know he's not capable of running an NFL offense.
Frazier switched to Matt Cassel at the right time, when Ponder's rib injury created a natural opening to try out the backup, and Cassel played pretty well in beating Pittsburgh.
Then, when the Vikings had the chance to pick up a talented quarterback without sacrificing a draft pick, they signed Josh Freeman, and got him ready to play as quickly as possible.
Freeman played horribly on Monday night. He showed some poise in the pocket and generally threw toward the correct receiver. He just couldn't hit the broad side of Phil Loadholt with one of his passes. As Frazier noted, Freeman's mechanics are horrible, which led to him throwing too high or too long.
The result was terrible. That doesn't mean the decision was terrible.
In fact, the decision was purely logical. So is the decision to keep Freeman as the starting quarterback.
The Vikings know exactly what Ponder is. They know exactly what Cassel is. As poorly as he played on Monday, there is still a chance that Freeman could revive his career.
In his second year in the NFL, Freeman threw 25 touchdown passes and six interceptions. The talent is there. He has the ability to avoid turnovers under the right circumstances. He has a lot of work to do, but the Vikings are right to invest in a growth stock.
Blame Frazier for the Vikings' record, but not for his quarterback decisions.
I'll be on 1500ESPN today at noon today after doing interviews in the Vikings' lockerroom. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
I covered Cris Carter's arrival in Minnesota. He had earned his dismissal from the Eagles, abusing drugs and alcohol. The Vikings picked him up on waivers because Jerry Burns thought he could turn into a great receiver. Burnsie was right.
Carter was your classic underperforming diva wide receiver when he arrived. He and I hit it off the following training camp. He agreed to a long sit-down interview. He told me if I told his story honestly, we'd get along fine, and if I didn't, he'd punch me in the eye.
I didn't pull any punches, and he didn't throw any. He wanted to make his story public, and he was my go-to guy in the lockerrom until I left the Vikiings beat to cover baseball following the 1992 season.
When I began covering football again, in 1998, Carter and I didn't have the same relationship, but I loved watching him play. Dennis Green gave perhaps the quiintessential quote on Carter: He said Carter expanded the field. It was an early version of the ``catch-radius'' idea. Green meant that with Carter, a quarterback could throw the ball three feet out of bounds, or five feet over his head, or at his toes, and Carter would catch it.
Near the end of his career, I asked Carter how he played so long, as a guy who was willing to go over the middle to make catches. He began listing the people he employed: Nutritionist, physical therapist, chiropractor, chef, personal trainer...the list went on for a while.
I'm not sure I ever covered a more dedicated athlete.
His downside was linked to his greatest strength: He put so much into playing football that he couldn't stomach those who didn't match his commitment.
I think he was deserving of the Hall of Fame. He was elected to the Hall on Saturday in New Orleans.
I'm at the NFL Awards Ceremony, awaiting word on whether Adrian Peterson will win the MVP award.
Carter and Peterson have very different personalities. They have this in common: There is or has been any doubt about their desire to be great.
I stopped Vikings coach Leslie Frazier on the red carpet and asked if he's talked with Peterson about the award. ``Oh, yeah,'' Frazier said. ``He's still upset that he didn't win the Heisman. He'll be the first to tell you he should win this.''
Mark Craig and I will have all the Hall of Fame and NFL award coverage from New Orleans in tomorrow's paper and at startribune.com.
I was on Leslie Frazier's flight to New Orleans, via Atlanta. I recommended he hire a new travel agent. An NFL head coach needing a connecting flight? C'mon.
Turns out he was headed to New Orleans for more than networking. Frazier was honored at the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation Awards ceremony on Thursday.
The Pollard Group promotes the causes of minority coaches. Frazier and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis were the recipients of the Johnnie L. Cochran Salute to Excellence Awards.
Another Vikings note: A writer friend of mine told me he was walking down the same street as Vikings running back Adrian Peterson this week in New Orleans.
Peterson passed a homeless man, doubled back, and handed him a bill. The man's eyes grew wide when he realized it was a $100.
-Spoke with Minneapolis native Larry Fitzgerald this morning for a piece I'm writing for tomorrow's paper. Fitzgerald is up for the NFL Man of the Year Award, along with Dallas tight end Jason Witten and Browns tackle Joe Thomas. Those with Minnesota ties who have won the award include Matt Birk, Cris Carter and Madieu Williams.
-I'll be in New Orleans through Monday, covering the game. Please keep up with Mark Craig's work all week from here.
-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 and KFGO in Fargo at 3:05, and then back on 1500espn tonight on Tom Pelissero's show at 6:40 p.m. I'll also be on the Sunday Show from New Orleans, 10-11:30 a.m.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
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