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.
Find him on Twitter
MANKATO, Minn. -- Got a solution to the Vikings' problem with birds hitting the new stadium and dying.
Let's think about this. Birds flying into building. Legendary coach who loves shooting birds. That's it!
Put Bud Grant out in front of the stadium. The man is known to be a little miserly. All you have to do is give him $50 bucks, a tank of gas, and free shotgun shells.
Birds fly toward stadium. Bud lets loose. Dinner for everyone.
What could go wrong?
Why would the Vikings sign tight end Kyle Rudolph to a $36.5 million contract?
Because they have big plans.
After spending three days with the team in Mankato, what struck me is that this team, after a couple decades of turmoil, has a chance to be somewhat stable.
Denny Green won a lot of games, but the organization was never calm when he was around.
Mike Tice was turmoil personified. Brad Childress was constantly battling with quarterbacks or bosses. Leslie Frazier was a calm and wonderful human, but he wasn't hired by the general manager who runs the team, so he was always in limbo.
Now you have a head coach hired by the general manager he works for who cares about nothing other than winning games. You have a coaching staff that Vikings employees say is already making a difference. And one of those coaches, offensive coordinator Norv Turner, is capable of building one of the best offenses in the NFL out of the parts he's assembling.
The worst contracts in sports are those that reward what a player has already done. This one projects what the Vikings expect Rudolph to do.
Rudolph has been a very good player. He has not been a star. In Turner's offense, he could become one.
Jay Novacek played five seasons in the NFL before playing in Turner's offense in Dallas. His best season pre-Norv: 38 catches, 569 yards, four touchdowns.
His first season with Norv and a budding offense: 59-657-4. His best season with Norv: 68-630-6.
Rudolph is bigger and stronger than Novacek, and about as fast. Turner spoke this weekend about teaching Rudolph to run more fluid routes, which should enable him to get deep more often, and to catch the ball in stride and run with it more often.
Assuming decent quarterback play, Rudolph could have a breakout season this year, or next.
Wrote about receiver Erik Lora for today's editions. Other interesting or emerging players to watch: Cornerback Jabari Price, safety Robert Blanton, guard David Yankey.
Key player to watch? Maybe Sharrif Floyd. He's lighter this year. I don't know if that's a sign that he's hungry and in better shape, or a desperate move for a player who didn't make an impact as a rookie.
I'll be on 1500ESPN-AM today and every weekday at 12:15 with Mackey&Judd. I'm on WJON at 7:05 a.m. with Jay Caldwell in St. Cloud every morning. My Sunday show, Sunday Sports Talk, airs 10-noon on 1500ESPN. Sincere thanks for reading and listening.
First impressions from the Vikings' first day of practices:
-Mike Zimmer is a no-nonsense guy. Get the sense he's going to be both very honest and very controlled about the information he gives out. I don't think he's going to try to mislead anybody, but he may not be all that forthcoming.
-Harrison Smith's flexibility might be a key to this defense. He moved around a lot during practice, sometimes lining up as a quasi-linebacker. Given Zimmer's varied defensive schemes, Smith could end up playing as a third safety or fourth linebacker in certain situations.
-Norv Turner has talked about throwing the ball more to Adrian Peterson. For what it's worth, Peterson had a lousy day trying to catch the ball. I'm guessing that at this stage of his career he's not too keen on training camp practices.
-Zimmer said defensive tackle Linval Joseph can bench-press 500 pounds.
-Wasn't as much cussing on the field as I expected, given Zimmer's outbursts during Hard Knocks, and Turner's verbosity during OTAs. Or maybe they were cussing more quietly.
-Adam Thielen of Minnesota State-Mankato made a diving catch and may be elected mayor soon.
-Teddy Bridgewater is a very pleasant and composed young man.
-Christian Ponder, in non-contact scrimmage, repeatedly pulled down the ball and ran. Why? Why?
-Matt Cassel did not look good throwing the ball deep on Day 1.
-The Vikings wisely had everyone involved in the Kluwe investigation answer questions about it on Thursday. That meant nobody was asking about it on Friday. That is the best way to handle a PR nightmare - turn it into a one-day story, make everyone available on the same day, and give yourself, as an organization, the right to say the rest of camp: ``We've already answered those questions.''
It also didn't hurt the Vikings that their day of access on the topic occured while Ray Rice was receiving just a two-game suspension for hitting his wife, and that Chuck Knoblauch's induction to the Twins' Hall of Fame was cancelled because of his arrest on domestic assault charges.
-Of course, the Star Tribune print edition, Startribune.com, Access Vikings The Blog, and Master Tesfasion's videos will cover these subjects more voluminously.
I'll be writing columns from Mankato for the next three days. First topic: How did this team manage to win just five games last year, and what does that mean for this year?
I'll be on 1500ESPN-AM 10-noon on Sunday for SundaySportsTalk with Korzo and Hunter.
I like what the Vikings did in the draft.
Of course, I love what Cleveland did, so maybe I've finally, completely, lost it.
Getting a quality pass rusher and a potential franchise quarterback on the first night of the draft? If that's what the Vikings accomplished on Thursday night, this draft will be remembered for a long time.
Anthony Barr is a talented athlete who seems grounded. He stayed at his California home so he could share the moment with family and friends intead of flying to New York to hang with Johnny Football. He's fast. He's still learning. If you're going to hire Mike Zimmer as your head coach, these are the kinds of players you should give him.
But we all know that GM Rick Spielman trading for the last pick in the first round and taking Teddy Bridgewater will determine how this draft is remembered, and how Spielman's tenure is remembered.
Remember, Bridgewater was considered a likely top pick in the draft as recently as last fall. When he threw poorly at his Pro Day workout, his stock slipped dramatically.
That's what I found most interesting tonight: The Vikings' explanations for dismissing that Pro Day performance.
Spielman said he set up a subsequent workout with Bridgewater, and saw Bridgewater throw much better after a few tips from offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
I trust Turner when it comes to evaluating quarterbacks. Is the pick a risk? Yes, because every quarterback picked since John Elway, with the possible exception of Andrew Luck, carried some risk. But I like Bridgewater's accuracy and tenacity. He's got a chance to succeed.
Found it interesting that Spielman praised Zimmer and his staff's ability to teach technique when working with players this spring. I took that as a direct shot at Leslie Frazier's staff.
Weird writing about something other than hockey. I'll be back with the Wild on Friday night for Game 4, then traveling to Chicago for Game 5. I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. Friday, and on 1500ESPN in the Twin Cities at 12:15ish. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Rick Spielman had his choice of coaches, and types of coaches, when he began his search after firing Leslie Frazier.
He chose Mike Zimmer, a longtime defensive coordinator with a knack for getting players to achieve their potential.
This is why the Vikings' signing of Everson Griffen should not surprise anyone. Griffen is a talented player who has not fulfilled his potential. You can imagine Spielman, while doing his due diligence and interviewing Zimmer, having an ``Aha'' moment.
In that moment, Spielman envisioned Griffen becoming a dangerous every-down pass rusher, and easing the loss of Jared Allen. That is probably the moment Spielman decided to hire Zimmer.
Zimmer hasn't had a chance to make many decisions that will shape his tenure as Vikings head caoch. Two he has made stand out:
1. He encouraged Spielman to spend big money on Griffen.
2. He handed his offense to Norv Turner.
Zimmer's reputation will eventually be formed by his game management skills and his - and Spielman's - ability to find and develop the right quarterback.
So far, we can give him kudos for hiring Turner, and acknowledge that he was brought here to wring improvement from players like Griffen.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. all week,and on @1500ESPN at 12:15 or so. I'll have a column on the Gopher basketball finale in the Monday paper. You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
The Vikings' hiring of Mike Zimmer isn't going to fuel the imagination, the way Chip Kelly did in Philadelphia, or win any virtual awards for the best hiring of the offseason. This is a routine NFL hire, a team that struggled on defense hiring a defensive expert to breathe life into the team.
That said, I like the hire. He's succeeded as a coordinator in a lot of places, with different schemes and different talent levels. He's turned long shots into stars. He's motivated players. At 57, he's both tough and mature.
In the brief time since his hiring was announced, many of his former players have tweeted their excitement.
Zimmer is known for creative defenses and creative use of the language. Those who saw him on Hard Knocks know he can cuss like a late-night cable comedian.
I believed Leslie Fraizer would have won if he had been given a good quarterback and good cornerbacks. Zimmer will need Rick Spielman to find him a good quarterback, and he'll need to either hide the Vikings' defensive flaws or overhaul the entire unit.
Given the nature of the NFL, if Zimmer can handle the rigors of being an NFL head coach, he could contend in his first year. The Vikings have plenty of offensive talent and plenty of young talent. Whether or not he wins the press conference, Zimmer will have a chance to win next season, assuming the Vikings' quarterback position is functional.
I'll have more expansive thoughts in the column I'm writing for tomorrow's paper and Startribune.com.
You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon with Judd Zulgad to discuss the hire, and we'll continue the discussion on Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon, on 1500ESPN.
Thanks for reading.
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