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 post-season

Prose & Kahns

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: March 16, 2015 - 2:24 PM

JImmy Johnson says he sees a lot of himself in Chip Kelly.

As someone who covered Jimmy in Dallas, and has admired Kelly's work at Oregon and with the Eagles, I agree. They're both cocky-yet-likeable mavericks.

Here's the difference:

Most in the NFL wrongly saw Jimmy as a rube, a guy who won in college mainly because he cheated, and because his rah-rah act worked on 20-year-olds.

NFL people are not underestimating Kelly.

Jimmy went 1-15 his first year, laying in the weeds. That's why Mike Lynn thought he could pull a fast one on him with the Herschel Walker deal.

Kelly has had two 10-win seasons. The NFL will not overlook him.

As for Kelly's wild offseason, I can't believe the ridicule Kelly is receiving.

Jeremy Maclin is an above-average recekver made to look like a star by Kelly's system. Kelly didnt' ditch Maclin; he just refused to overpay him.

Anyone who watched Nick Foles play full games instead of just on highlights knows that he was another beneficiary of the system. He was not an accurate passer. Sam Bradford should be better than Foles, if Bradford can stay healthy. That's a risk, but so is counting on Foles to get better. He regressed last year.

As for LeSean McCoy, he is more spectacular than reliable. Again, Kelly didn't so much ditch McCoy as seek better return on his financial investment. By trading McCoy, he got back a very good linebacker and cleared space to bring in DeMarco Murray, who is a better every-down back than McCoy, and better equipped to punish defenses that try to go small to deal with the Eagles' spread offense.

Kelly is doing what shrewd managers do - looking past name recognition to true value.


Radio on demand: My podcast will be at Kieran's Irish Pub (across from Target Center) at 5 p.m. tonight with former Gopher star and NBA analyst Quincy Lewis. Stop by, or listen live or later at SouhanUnfiltered.com.

Wednesday, MIchael Russo and I will be at Liffey's Irish Pub by the XCel Energy Center at 4:30. We will be giving away a gift at that one.


Belichick may have spooked Carroll

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 2, 2015 - 3:21 PM

Bill Belichick may have forced Pete Carroll's hand at the end of the Super Bowl.

Belichick truly may have used uncommon cunning to win his latest big game.

Seattle took over at the Patriots' five with 1:06 remaining. After Jermaine Kearse's amazing catch, Seattle had wasted a timeout after getting the play in late. So Seattle had first-and-goal with one timeout remaining.

Marshawn Lynch bulled to the one. Most everyone in the stadium expected Beilchick to use one of his two timeouts, to preserve time for a possible last-second drive.

Belichick just stood there, watching the clock run.

What was he thinking?

Maybe this:

If he calls timeout, then Seattle has the possibility of running three plays from inside the one, with their whole playbook available to them. They could run it, and if they didn't score, run it again, knowing they could call timeout to set up a fourth down call if they didn't score on third down.

By letting the clock run, Belichick prompted Carroll to worry about the clock. After the game, Carroll said he wanted to ``waste a play'' on second down. What he seemed to be saying was, his intent was to run the ball, but he wanted his second-down play, with time running down, to be a pass play, so if the Seahawks didn't score, an incompletion would stop the clock and leave him with two plays and one timeout remaining.

Carroll also knew that if he ran on second down, the Patriots would know he would have to throw on third down, and Carroll probably wanted to avoid being that predictable.

Belichick, thinking a few moves ahead, probably anticipated Carroll wanting to pass on second down once the clock ran down, and sent a third cornerback onto the field.

When I talked to Patriots reserve cornerback Malcolm Butler last night, he said he was on the sideline for first down. He ran in when his cornerbacks coach yelled, `Goalline 3-corners.'' So the Patriots had five defensive backs on the field for a play against a powerful running back from inside the one. In other words, the Patriots anticipated a pass on second down, even though Carroll was throwing on second down because he didn't want to face a sure-passing down on third down.

So Carroll called a pass play, and Malcolm Butler, who had just been put on the field by Belichick, made an incredible interception, and the game was over.

Belichick threw Carroll off, and Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell responded by calling a play they really didn't want to run.

Given more time to think, Carroll probably would have run a bootleg or a fade, a play that would have enabled Russell Wilson to throw the ball away if he didn't see a matchup he liked.

Or Carroll would have called his timeout right after the first-down run, leaving him plenty of time to run the ball.

Instead, it was a quick-hitting pick pass, and Malcolm Butler knew it was coming, and stole the game.

Belichick feinted Carroll into choosing a pass play, and Carroll and Bevell called the wrong one, and that set up Butler to make a remarkable play.

Yes, Belichick really is that smart.


This week at SouhanUnfiltered.com: 5 p.m. Wednesday at Kieran's with Roy Smalley; 5 p.m. Friday at O'Gara's with Michael Russo, followed by my band, Bar Chords, playing O'Gara's 7:30-9, before Le Bang's live karaoke set. Come on out to either or both. Thanks.


That last call

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 1, 2015 - 11:38 PM

Glendale, Az. _

I still can't believe that call.

Seattle has first down at the Patriots' 5 with 1:06 remaining in the game. The Patriots lead, 28-24.

New England has two timeouts remaining. The only real question at this point is: Will the Patriots let the Seahawks score immediately, so they have time to drive for a tying field goal? Or will the Patriots try to keep Marshawn Lynch, perhaps the fiercest goalline back in football, out of the end zone on up to four straight handoffs?

Seattle hands it to Lynch on first down. He gains four, to the Patriots' one. The clock runs down to about 30 seconds. Neither team calls timeout. The Seahawks have Lynch in the backfield, one receiver left and two receivers right.

And they pass.

A lot went right for Seattle. Wilson had an open throwing lane. Seattle receiver Jermaine Kearse had blocked Pats corner Brandon Browner out of the play. Ricardo Lockette was momentarily open. Wilson's pass was right toward Lockette's hands.

The result: Patriots rookie Malcolm Butler (the subject of my Monday column) had practiced against that formation. He jumped the route, made a remarkable catch, and won the Super Bowl.

Here's why the play call was silly:

The probability of Lynch scoring if you give him the ball one or two or three times from the one-yard-line is about 99 percent. About the only thing that can go wrong in that scenario is an offensive penalty. Lynch isn't going to fumble and he is unlikely to be stopped, especially by a Patriots front that, with the exception of Vince Wilfork, is more agile than powerful.

To throw a pass is to invite the possibility of a tipped pass, or a deflection, or a pass batted into the air for an interception, or a sack, or an offensive pass interference penalty on what is essentially a pick play.

I don't often second-guess play calls, because coaches usually have so much study invested in their game plans.

Here's when I do second-guess play calls: When the coach or coaches overthink the strategy and talk themselves out of relying on their best player(s).

Instead of handing the ball to a great power back with an incredibly high chance of success and incredibly low risk, Seattle chose a riskier strategy involving the third or fourth best receiver in a weak receiving corps.

That's bad coaching.

I still think Pete Carroll is a great coach. I still think Darrell Bevell is an excellent coordinator.

But they blew this one.


The NFC should win some kind of award for excruciating finishes.

The Cowboys somehow won over the Lions, with the benefit of a bad call.

The Packers somehow beat the Cowboys, with the benefit of a terrible call.

The Seahawks beat the Packers as Green Bay executed an epic collapse.

And Seattle blew a chance to win the Super Bowl.


This week's podcast schedule: 5 p.m. Wednesday at Kieran's Irish Pub, across from Target Center, with Twins announcer and great baseball storyteller Roy Smalley. 5 p.m. Friday at O'Gara's (near 94 and Snelling) with Strib hockey writer Michael Russo.

Also, my band will play at O'Gara's at 7:30, leading into live karaoke at 9:30.


Hall hits and misses

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 31, 2015 - 9:26 PM

I think Mick Tinglehoff earned a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

I can't say I know how to judge a center who played in the '70s against a wide receiver who played in the 2000s. I'm not sure it can be done.

It's right to give the benefit of the doubt to a great player who was as durable and admired as Tinglehoff, and who contributed to so many team victories.

Now I'll categorize the rest of the inductees:

-Of Course They Should Be In:

Junior Seau. He was dominant, and you didn't need to break down the All-22 film to see it.

-I think they should be in but it's hard to separate them from other candidates:

Tinglehoff. Charles Haley. Will Shields. Ron Wolf. Bill Polian.

Wolf and Polian were both great, but were they both better than George Young, who has not been inducted? I don't think so.

-Really tough call:

Tim Brown was highly productive. He was also the product of quick-passing offenses. Don't think he was as good as Marvin Harrison, who didn't make it. This feels like a chronological pick more than a true choice. I think voters wanted to get Brown in before Harrison, Randy Moss and a slew of modern receivers become eligible.

-Bad call:

Jerome Bettis. Never rushed for 4.0 yards per carry in any postseason. Averaged 3.4 yards per carry overall in his career in the postseason. Ranks sixth all-time in rushing but never seemed exceptional to me.

-Should have made it:

Harrison. Orlando Pace, who was truly dominant.

-Probably should make it:

Kurt Warner.


I've been in the Hall of Fame voting room once, when I subbed for Sid Hartman. I gave a presentation on behalf of Carl Eller, and didn't feel anyone in the room was paying any attention to me.

I also know, because i have friends in that room, that Sid's angry presentations turned off other voters and hurt the causes of many Vikings over the years.

Now Star Tribune football writer Mark Craig is handling the presentations, and suddenly just about every worthy Viking is making it into the Hall.

Trust me: That is not a coincidence. Craig is liked and respected in the room, he gives thorough but understated presentations, and he has done very well on behalf of former Vikings.


At 9:30 on Sunday morning, I"ll do a podcast from Phoenix to set up the Super Bowl. My guess will be SportsPress Northwest columnist Art Thiel, a great writer who will provide more insight on the Seahawks than you've heard all season. Trust me. I've already taped it, and it's great stuff.

You can listen live or anytime later at SouhanUnfiltered.com, along with podcasts featuring Mark Craig, Tom Pelissero, Leo Lewis, Terry Ryan and Master Tesfasion. Thanks.


All-Star ideas, plus a baseball tweak

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 26, 2015 - 8:50 AM

The NFL held its Pro Bowl and the NHL held its All-Star game on Sunday.

Part of my job is to consume as much of newsworthy, noteworthy sports on television as I can. I didn't watch a minute of either.

Judging from today's reports, I didn't miss anything.

Here's how I would ``fix'' the All-Star events, or at least make them more watchable:

NHL: Hockey without defense is a bad idea. Goals in and of themselves are rarely pretty. They're exciting because they occured against a bunch of defensive players trying to stop the puck, or crush the shooter. Hockey requires intensity to be entertaining. So instead of paying each player a nice fee for making the All-Star game, throw all of that money into a pot, add a few million to make it enticing, and give all of the money to the participating players on the winning team.

Wouldn't you love to see the best players in the game playing hard for that last goal?

Basketball: Again, make it a winner-takes-all game, and tweak the rules. Install a four-point line to reward extra-long shots. And make dunks worth four points. Nobody wants to see mid-range jump shots in an All-Sar game, Reward the spectacular.

Baseball: This remains the best of the All-Star games, because it is the only one in which the defense is performing to the best of its abilities. One tweak: Allow players to reenter the game. The flaw of the baseball All-Star game is that the subs are in the game for the deciding innings, and it's possible for both teams to run out of players. If the bases are loaded with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, with the home team trailing by one, would you rather see the manager forced to use the player scheduled to bat...or would you like to see him call Miguel Cabrera off the bench, even though Cabrera left the game in the third inning?

NFL: Football without fully-engaged defenses might be even less entertaining than hockey without defense. My longstanding suggestion: Scrap the Pro Bowl and make the NFC and AFC battle in an old Superstars-style competition.

For the younger generation, Superstars would take star athletes and have them compete in events like sprinting, tug of war and the obstacle course. With the winners taking home loot

This format created one of the great moments in non-tradiational sports history. Here's a recap of it by ESPN and former St. Paul Pioneer Press writer Jim Caple:

``The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings met in Super Bowl IX in New Orleans in January 1975, a game that included 16 future Hall of Famers (counting coaches Bud Grant and Chuck Noll), Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain defense, Minnesota's Purple People Eaters and legendary quarterbacks Fran Tarkenton and Terry Bradshaw. That game, which the Steelers won 16-6, was not the most dramatic or memorable showdown between the two teams, however. That distinction goes to an epic, 16-minute tug-of-war on the sands of Waikiki held two weeks later as part of ABC's "Superteams" competition. After it was all over and the two teams lay moaning and exhausted in the sand, Dick Button -- yes, that Dick Button, the figure skating guy -- told a Sports Illustrated writer, "Nothing -- nothing, not even my own Olympic victories -- has ever moved me like that."

JEFF SIEMON, former Vikings linebacker: "It was the worst physical strain I've ever been under. It was the most intense, brutal abuse I've ever gone through -- and maybe by far."

DAVE OSBORN, former Vikings running back: "The tug-of-war was the toughest, most physical thing I've ever done, bar none. As far as being tired, I have never been more fatigued. I was always in great shape as a player. Practice was always a breeze. But when you have got to do something for a length of time and don't dare let up, it drains you. It was 16 minutes, but it seemed like 16 hours."

BEV OSBORN, Dave's wife: "You just wanted them to win the Super Bowl, but this was wondering if everyone was going to still be alive when it was over."


I love that incoming baseball commissioner Rob Manfred had the guts to suggest that baseball's defensive shift might be outlawed.

I liked the shift when it was a novelty that rewarded progressive thinking. Now it's a common stratagem that takes away hits. I no longer like it. Make fielders stay in a rough semblance of order. Let's see good hitting rewarded.


Latest podcasts at SouhanUnfiltered.com: 105.1 The Ticket's Bob Sansevere and I telling stories about the best characters in Vikings history; Strib hockey writer Michael Russo on the Wild; Twins GM Terry Ryan on his health, past and future; USA Today football writer Tom Pelissero on the Patriots, Seahawks, and the reaction he's received from scientists about the Deflatriots.

Next podcast: Today, 5 p.m. at The Local with Twins president Dave St. Peter.

My podcast network, The Alive&Social Network, now has a house containing a studio, and we're going to start doing live music shows as well as talking about music and sports. Follow @Aliveandsocial on Twitter to keep up to date.

Also, I'll be appearing on 105.1 The Ticket with Bob Sansevere every afternoon at 3:30.




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