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

Teddy's turnaround

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 13, 2015 - 5:09 PM

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.

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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.

Thanks.

@Souhanstrib.

OSU win one of great coaching jobs

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 13, 2015 - 9:13 AM

Urban Meyer won the national title with a third-string quarterback.

This ranks as one of the great coaching performances in football history.

Here are three others that compare:

-The Giants were dramatic underdogs against the Bills in Super Bowl XXV. Giants star quarterback Phil Simms was injured, leaving backup Jeff Hostetler to lead the team. The Giants had upset  joe Montana and San Francisco at Candlestick Park, 15-13, in the NFC title game. The Bills had beaten Oakland 51-3. That's right, 51-3 in the AFC title game.

The Bills were loaded witih Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed in their prime. They had not yet developed a stigma about losing Super Bowls.

The Giants relied on old, limited running back Ottis Anderson, Hostetler, and a bruising defense.

The Giants won that Super Bowl, 20-19, in what might be the biggest upset in Super Bowl history other than the Jets beating the Colts in Super Bowl III, which was a surprise because of the lack of esteem with which the old AFC was regarded.

Giants coach Bill Parcells used Anderson to play a ball-control game, frustrated the Bills' offense with his defensive game plan (devised by Bill Belichick), and thoroughly outcoached Marv Levy.

-The Washington team that lost only once during the 1991 season played like a powerhouse. Now we know it won more because of coaching than because of raw talent.

Joe Gibbs won Super Bowl XXVI with a quarterback, Mark Rypien, who would never play well again anywhere. LIke Parcells, he relied on a veteran castoff running back - Ernest Byner. Gibbs would win three Super Bowls with three different non-Hall of Fame quarterbacks and lead running backs. That's why I argue he's the greatest NFL coach in the modern era.

-In Super Bowl XXXVI, Belichick again faced a renowned offense, this time as head coach of the New England Patriots.

Belichick beat the Rams with a physical defense that confused the Rams, and with an unproven quarterback named Tom Brady leading the game-winning drive.

Urban Meyer's work this year places him in the same realm as these NFL coaches.

When a coach wins a championship without the benefit of a great or experienced quarterback, he deserves far more credit than those who put their fates in the hands of a great quarterback.

In the last few months, the Big Ten has gotten much tougher for the Gophers. Meyer may be the best coach in college football. Jim Harbaugh will make Michigan a powerhouse. Penn State is improving. Mike Reilly figures to do well at Nebraska. And Paul Chryst is a great fit for Wisconsin.

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This week's podcast schedule: Former Viking and current North High AD Leo Lewis, 5 p.m. on Wednesday at The Local; Strib hockey writer Michael Russo at 5 p.m. on Friday at O'Gara's.

@Souhanstrib

On Yeo, Manning, NFL

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 12, 2015 - 9:03 AM

A Monday morning three-pointer:

1. Wrote Sunday that the Wild is so buried that there is no easy fix that will make this a playoff team, not even a competent goalie.

My theory is that at this point this team should hope for the best possible draft pick, which means not trying to salvage a lost season.

But, for the first time since Mike Yeo became the Wild coach, I think he's lost his team. His tantrum at practice last week was an indication that he's run out of reasonable tactics to spur his players on. And the last five periods the Wild has played have been  an embarassment to the sport, as well as the perpetually-mediocre hockey club in St. Paul.

HIs players didn't offer much effort in the second and third periods against Nashville, and they were a step behind all night against Chicago.

If I were owner Craig Leipold, I'd fight the urge to salvage a 10th-place finish in the Western Conference, and I'd hope to finish poorly enough to land a high draft pick that could help this team as early as next season.

But if he wanted to fire Yeo, he would now be justified. This team has quit on Yeo, despite his good intentions.

2. I was sitting in the end zone in Miami when Peyton Manning won his only Super Bowl.

Manning is the greatest regular-season quarterback in NFL history. Sunday, hampered by injuries that left him with little arm strength, he managed 13 points in a home playoff game.

There are two things you should know about his postseason resume:

-He hasn't been as bad as you think as an overall playoff performer.

-He was lucky to earn his one Super Bowl victory.

In regular-season games, Manning has a completion percentage of 65.5, a yards-per-attempt average of 7.7 and a rating of 97.5. In the postseason those numbers are: 64.0, 7.3 and 88.5. The small dip can be explained by facing superior defenses, including many of Bill Belichick's, and not always having a productive running game to keep defenses honest.

But he might have become the new Dan Marino - an amazing passer without a Super Bowl ring - if not for a bit of luck in Super  Bowl XLI.

That day in Miami (well, Miami Gardens), Manning completed 28-of-38 passes for 247 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was facing a good Bears defense. He was also facing Rex Grossman.

Manning's one touchdown pass came on a busted coverage that left Reggie Wayne wide open for a 53-yard touchdown. And the game was still in doubt in the fourth quarter, with the Colts leading 22-17, when Grossman threw an interception that the Colts' Kelvin Hayden returned 56 yards for a touchdown and a 29-17 victory.

If the Bears don't leave Wayne wide open, and if Grossman doesn't throw a pick-six, Manning's postseason record might be seen as even worse than it already is.

Overall, Manning's play didn't take a huge statistical dip in the postseason. But unlike Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw and even Joe Flacco, he didn't raise his level of play when it mattered most.

3. Dez Bryant's sideline antics have been intriguing us for a long time. Sunday, he walked onto the field holding his head in disbelief, then slumped on the bench in utter depression.

That was the appropriate response.

You saw the play - Bryant made an amazing catch that may have won the Dallas Cowboys a playoff game on Sunday. After he leaped, caught the ball, secured it, landed, dove for the end zone and had his elbow hit the ground, the ball came loose. After Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged the play, the officials ruled that he had not ``completed the process'' and ruled it incomplete.

This is the problem with NFL officiating; Even when the refs get one technically right, they can be utterly wrong when it comes to the spirit of the rules and common sense.

Everyone knows that was a catch. And Bryant still had the ball secured when his elbow hit the ground, which should end the play. He shouldn't have to carry the ball all the way to the team bus for it to be a catch.

The NFL should want to reward brilliant plays like Bryant's, not parse them out of existence with verbose language and bureaucratic excess.

A catch is a catch, and that was a catch.

=========

On a recent podcast, Twins general manager Terry Ryan told me that he used to have long, red hair and ride a Harley. And that he still rides a Harley. Next podcast is 5 p.m. Wednesday at The Local, with my guest Leo Lewis, the former Viking who is now the athletic director at North High. Leo is not only a fellow Mizzou grad, he's the rare person in this market who knows what life is like inside the Vikings, the University of Minnesota (where he used to work) and on the high school scene.

All podcasts can be found at SouhanUnfiltered.com. Thanks.

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I've picked seven of the eight NFL playoff winners correctly. I missed on the Broncos.

My pick for the NCAA title game tonight: Ohio State, maybe big.

I love everything about Oregon football, but Urban Meyer is the best coach in college football. His team is more physical and has plenty of speed. Oregon has lost several key players to injuries and suspensions. My guess is Ohio State 34, Oregon 22.

@Souhanstrib
 

NFL picks

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 9, 2015 - 3:44 PM

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.

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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.

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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.

@Souhanstrib

Are Dungy and Jimmy Hall-Worthy?

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 9, 2015 - 9:09 AM

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.

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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.

@Souhanstrib.

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