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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Bob Kravitz, the former Indy Star columnist now working for Indy TV station WTHR, broke the news that the Patriots may have used deflated balls during the AFC title game.
Deflated balls can be easier to grip, throw, catch and control in rainy conditions, and it rained and sleeted during the game.
Kravitz is a pro, and the NFL has confirmed it is investigating, so I wouldn't dismiss this as a provincial reaction to getting blown out. The Colts can't make the case they would have won under any conditions. If proved true, this will further mark Bill Belichick as the kind of coach who will do anything to win, and with two weeks before his latest Super Bowl appearance, will give everyone time to reflect on SpyGate.
The simplistic will paint Belichick as someone who wins because he cheats. He doesn't win because he cheats, but his willingness to bend rules is part of the mentaility that makes him a great and yet thoroughly unlikeable coach.
I've forgotten most of what I ``learned'' in college, which for most people is just a transitional boarding school, but I remember taking a class called ``African American Literature.'' I read Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois, James Baldwin, Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison.
On Martin Luther King Day, this is a good time to remember what is spelled out so beautifully and achingly in their works: That America treated black people as slaves, then as subhumans, not long ago and for a very long time.
One of the things I always loved about sport was that it can be a pure meritocracy blind to skin color. But it wasn't long ago in the history of our nation that black men were not allowed to play sports alongside white men.And a shockingly short time ago NFL teams didn't feel comfortable with black head coaches and quarterbacks.
Let's honor today by continuing to chop down the stereotypes that enable racism. Next time you hear an announcer talk about a white player who ``works hard'' or has a lot of `grit,'' turn the channel.
When the Seahawks were getting whipped yesterday, and before Russell Wilson had completed a pass, I Tweeted that ``I still think Russell Wilson is great.'' I meant it.
He's never going to set passing records, but he has produced more fourth-quarter comebacks in his first three seasons than any quarterback in NFL history - 10. He is the first NFL quarterback to start in two Super Bowls in his first three seasons. He is winning despite a shocking lack of help from his receivers.
Wilson should wni the I-Just-Made-It-Up Herm Edwards Award. You play to win the game. Wilson finds so many ways to win so many games.
It was heartening to see the photo on the back page of the Strib sports page today, of Lindsey Vonn surrounded by her entire family.
I first met her before the Turin Olympics, and when I asked about her family, she said she no longer spoke with her father. Her father woultn't return my calls while I researched a long story about his daughter. I did get to visit her mother at her home in Apple Valley.
The photo shows both parents and Vonn's sister all smiling i nthe same photo.
This morning, Vonn broke the record for the most women's World Cup victories, an amazing achievement for anyone, but especially for someone who started at Buck Hill in Burnsville.
My impression of Vonn, having covered her at two Olympics: She's a powerful person, physically and emotionally.. Her ability to persevere without a relationship with her father and while traveling the globe to compete says something about her resolve.
Latest podcasts at SouhanUnfiltered.com: Michael Russo, Leo Lewis, Terry Ryan, Jeff Munneke. The Alive and Social Network, the podcast company owned by Sean Barnard, now has a studio in Minneapolis, which will enable us to do more frequent podcasts, and to bring in guests via phone from around the country. Thanks for listening.
Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was named to the NFL's all-rookie team by the Pro Football Writers Association.
He may not have earned that honor if not for the final five games of the season, when his lowest completion percentage was 68.0.
There are two complementary reasons Bridgewater surged:
1. He got better. He adapted to the speed of NFL pass rushes, he corrected his mechanics, he built strength during the season, and he better learned how to read NFL defenses.
2. Charles Johnson started playing more. When Bridgewater's most athletic receiver was Cordarelle Patterson, he was doomed to mediocrity. Patterson wasn't a reliable route runner, and young quarterbacks have enough worries without having to coach a receiver during the game.
When Johnson became a big part of the weekly game plan, Bridgewater suddenly had an athletic No. 1 receiver who could threaten defenses deep and run after the catch, allowing Greg Jennings to play his normal role, that of a veteran possesion receiver.
When Patterson was Bridgewater's most athletic receiver, his game-by-game passer ratings ranged from 41.3 to 98.9. When Johnson was his primary target, Bridgewater's game-by-game passer ratings ranged from 76.2 to 120.7.
While the defensive side of the ball could use a few upgrades, I think the Vikings' primary targets in the draft should be offensive line and receiver. Give Bridgewater time and an open receiver, and he'll do well.
Next podcast: 5 p.m. Wednesday at The Local with former Vikings receiver and current North High AD Leo Lewis. Also, 5 p.m. Friday at O'Garas, it'll be me and Strib hockey writer Michael Russo.
Can't say I'm better than any other mammal at picking NFL games,but I was lucky enough to go 4-for-4 last weekend, so I'll take another shot.
I'll keep it short and simple: I like all four home teams.
My only qualms about these picks: Aaron Rodgers' calf and Peyton Manning's arm.
If Rodgers is at full strength, I like the Packers, rested and with a dramatic home-field advantage, to beat the Cowboys. If Manning's arm regained straight over the bye,I like the Broncos' defense and running game, with Manning playing game-manager, to make the difference against a flawed Colts team. But I'd hate to bet actual money on Rodgers making it through the whole game, or Manning needing to produce a big game.
I like the way the Ravens match up with the Patriots. I also think ths is one of those trendy ideas that may not play out on the field - that the Ravens, because of their history of playing well against the Patriots, are prepared to win this game.
This is one of Bill Belichick's better recent defenses,and since Rob Gronkowski returned to health, Tom Brady has been excellent. I'll take the Pats.
The other game is the easiest to pick. Seattle should dominate Carolina.
So I'm taking all four home teams.Home teams win 72.8 percent of the games in the divisional round. That would indicate that there could be one upset, but I'll go with the chalk this weekend.
Having covered Cris Carter's arrival in Minnesota, I think the Vikings should do everything they can to sign his son, Duron.
He has size, he's able to get off the line of scrimmage, he has performed well against professional athletes, and he's the son of a workaholic and expert trainer of wide receivers. I think the Vikings' two biggest needs in the draft are for a large wide receiver and an offensive line upgrade. Signing Carter would expand the Vikings' options at receiver.
My podcasts are available at SouhanUnfiltered.com. I'll be covering the Wild game on Saturday, looking to write a Sunday piece about what, if anything, Chuck Fletcher should do at this point.
Enjoy the football weekend.
When I first saw that Tony Dungy and Jimmy Johnson were Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists, my gut told me neither would make it, that neither had built enough of a resume to warrant induction.
Then I looked at the 22 head coaches in the Hall, and looked at the resumes of Dungy and Johnson. Now I think both should make it.
Dungy took over Tampa Bay when the Bucs were perhaps the worst organization in pro sports. After going 6-10 while installing his systems, he went 48-32 and made the playoffs in four of five seasons. He also built the team with which Jon Gruden won the Super Bowl the year after Dungy was fired.
Dungy went to the Colts when they were, like the Bucs, noncompetitive. This time operating with a good young quarterback in Peyton Manning, Dungy went 85-27 in Indy, winning one Super Bowl and making the playoffs in all of his seven seasons there.
Should his failure to win more than one Super Bowl with Manning harm his candidacy?
Well, George Allen, Bud Grant, Marv Levy and Hank Stram coached during the Super Bowl era and combined for one Super Bowl victory, and they’re all in the Hall. Dungy did exceptional work with two previously inept franchises. I think he deserves to be inducted.
Jimmy Johnson is an interesting case. He took over a Cowboys franchise depleted in talent and went 1-15 his first year and 7-9 his second.
The next three years, almost exclusively with players he drafted and developed, he went 36-12, made the playoffs three times and won two Super Bowls. The team he built won a third Super Bowl with caretaking coach Barry Switzer.
Had Jerry Jones allowed Jimmy to hang around, he might have become one of the most accomplished coaches (and de facto general managers) in football history. As it was, he produced a dominant franchise from nothing, with help from the Vikings.
Three years after being forced out in Dallas, Jimmy coached the Dolphins for four years. He made the playoffs three times but failed to win a playoff game. Instead of building from scratch, as he did in Dallas, he tried to build around Dan Marino, which proved more difficult.
Jimmy’s final record was an unspectacular 80-64. To elect him to the Hall, you’d have to look at the work he did in Dallas.
I’m OK with that. John Madden and Bill Walsh were NFL head coaches for just 10 years; Allen for 12; Joe Gibbs for 11. The Hall has rewarded coaches as often for brilliance as longevity.
I was lucky enough to cover Dungy as an assistant and Jimmy as a head coach. They were opposites in terms of personality. Jimmy would scream when it suited his purposes; Dungy never raised his voice. Each, in his own way, was a brilliant and dominant coach.
Spent much of my podcast with Strib hockey writer MIchael Russo yesterday talking about J.P. Parise. Wednesday night at Kieran's Irish Pub, I had Twins' GM Terry Ryan on, and he was remarkably open while talking about his life as a player and his battle with cancer. All podcasts can be found at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
By Jim Souhan
Had the Vikings lost on Sunday to the Bears, they would have finished a supposedly-promising season with a three-game losing streak and three straight blown leads.
Instead, Teddy Bridgewater overcame a slew of dropped passes to coax the Vikings to a workmanlike 13-9 victory and a 7-9 record, allowing perceived improvement to be matched by an actual two-victory improvement in the standings.
While young, undrafted players like linebacker Audie Cole and Adam Thielen starred, former first-round draft pick Cordarrelle Patterson bobbled the only pass thrown to him into the arms of a Bears’ defender, setting up a Bears’ field goal. Combined with Greg Jennings’ dropped touchdown pass in the second quarter, Vikings’ receivers cost the team at least 10 points.
The Vikings lost points again when their late-game drive died on a fourth-and-one carry by Matt Asiata that gained zero, and the Bears took over with a chance to mount a game-winning touchdown drive.
The Vikings’ defense held, and Bridgewater's last snap of his rookie season came from the victory formation.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be found at SouhanUnfiltered.com. JSouhan@startribune.com. @Souhanstrib.
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