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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Been at Winter Park the last two days, and head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner have both taken shots at Pro Football Focus' preseason individual grades.
Their message: Someone watching film who doesn't know what the players' assignments were on every play can't know how well they performed.
My takes on this:
-These guys have every right to tell us when we are, or PFF is, wrong. We also have the the right to be dubious about NFL coaches offering accurate assessments of their own players, because they so rarely do.
-Our job in the media is to use stats, whether old-school versions or advanced metrics, to illuminate subjects. But it's also our job to add the context that can make a statistic worthwhile. You have to use a combination of data, sourcing and first-person observation to complete the picture.
This is why good beat writers are so valuable. They're capable of filling in the blanks when a player has an apparently poor performance. Maybe the guy next to him missed an assignment. Maybe he's playing with a bad foot. And, yes, maybe he just played lousy.
I think Pro Football Focus does a masterful job of evaluating film, but I wouldn't take their grades as gospel, just as I wouldn't take anything an NFL coach says in public as gospel.
When I was covering the Vikings in 1999, I watched the tape of a game and downgraded the offensive line. I showed up at the facility the next day ,and Mike Tice, then the offensive line coach, called me in and showed me where I was wrong. Since then, I've been very cautious about grading out offensive line play. It really is a mystery to just about everyone who isn't in the team's offensive meeting rooms.
Over time, you get a good sense of how well a player performs - it didn't require much studying to judge Randall McDaniel as one of the best football players who ever lived - but picking apart one play or one game is risky.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at an unusual time tomorrow - 11:15 a.m.
We'll run Sunday Sports Talk from the fair, Sunday 10-noon.
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.
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.
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.
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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