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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Charlotte, N.C. _ Yes, they ultimately won because the Carolina Panthers committed a silly penalty that erased a chance at a winning touchdown and led to a missed field goal that should have tied it, but the Vikings did show some signs of life on Sunday, in their 24-21 victory.
I give most of the credit to the Vikings' first road victory since December to rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, and he's the subject of my Monday column. It's funny how much better the Vikings' offense looks in the second half since Ponder replaced McNabb. McNabb was at his worst in clutch situations - third downs, third-and-longs, fourth quarters - and that's where Ponder has been at his best.
I'm especially impressed with the way Ponder has handled himself throughout his brief Vikings career. Here's a kid breaking into the NFL without the benefit of offseason workouts or tutoring from his NFL coaches, and he's not only played well immediately, he's handled the demands of being an NFL quarterback extremely well. He's smart, he has a sense of humor and he never seems to be overwhelmed by any situation.
I caught Vikings coach Leslie Frazier on his way to the bus on Sunday night, and he is almost giddy, feeling he's found his franchise quarterback.
-Kudos to Percy Harvin for being one of the toughest players in a league filled with tough guys. I don't know how you play football with bad ribs, and I especially don't know how you make spin moves and fight off tackles with bad ribs, but Harvin did it, and his spin-o-rama in the fourth quarter was the key to the game-winning drive.
-Ryan Longwell has been a tremendous kicker and a tremendous professional his entire career. He's yanked two kicks in two games, though, and his miss on Sunday could have cost the Vikings the game.
-Funny how with a smart, mobile quarterback, the offensive line doesn't look so wretched anymore, even with Anthony Herrera out on Sunday.
-Adrian Peterson might be the best he's ever been. I don't know what it looked like on TV, but from the press box, getting to see the entire field, it's remarkable how quickly he is sensing openings in the defense. On his catch-and-run touchdown in the second quarter, most backs would have burrowed for a few yards; Peterson had the vision and burst to veer to the outside for what turned out to be an easy score. The guy is phenomenal.
-The lockerroom was loud after the game, and Frazier walked among his players, slapping hands and hugging them, and he took extra time when he got to Harvin. NFL coaches have to have their guys play hurt to survive, and Frazier had extra praise for Harvin.
-Tim Tebow stinks.
-Erin Henderson made a few key stops. He's acquitted himself well since joining the starting lineup.
-Jared Allen is having an amazing season. He and Adrian Peterson are two of the best players in all of football, which is why talk of rebuilding must drive the Vikings crazy. It's hard to rebuild when you have superstars on the payroll.
-Everson Griffin is an amazing athlete. He's 273 pounds and yet plays gunner on the punt coverage team, and regularly beats double-teams. I don't see why he can't become an excellent pass rusher.
-Upcoming: I'll be on with Reusse and Mackey on 1500espn every day at 2:05 p.m., and I'll join Tom Pelissero a couple of times this week, as well. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Crazy night in Charlotte. At dinner with the boys when I get a text from Gary Louris and Marc Perlman of the Minneapolis band The Jayhawks. They were about to take the stage at Spirit Theater a few blocks away.
So I head there with photos Jerry Holt and Carlos Gonzalez and videographer McKenna Ewen, and halfway there, I realize I'm wearing a Jayhawks t-shirt that I bought at their First Avenue shows this winter.
Great show, intimate theater, and we even had the pleasure of watching a drunk guy hit on two women sitting in front of us, before he passed out right in front of me and missed the encores.
This morning I'm in the press box at the Panthers' stadium. It's a beautiful day, and I'm about to start Sunday Morning Sports Talk with Tom Pelissero.
Among the topics:
-Should anyone ever listen to anything Donovan McNabb has to say?
-If beating Iowa at home is such a big deal, why isn't Jeff Horton still coaching the Gophers?
-Yes, I really do like Jerry Kill, but I'm not backing off the notion that it was silly to give him a raise and an extension before he won a Big Ten game.
-Christian Ponder and Cam Newton are proof that a promising rookie quarterback brings more promise than anyone at any position in sports. These teams are terrible in terms of record, and yet I can't wait to watch this game. I did not feel the same way when McNabb was starting.
-Check out startribune.com later for postgame video as well as game coverage from me, Dan Wiederer and Mark Craig, plus the work of Holt, Gonzalez and Ewen.
-I'll live tweet as internet allows, at @Souhanstrib.
Monday morning second-guessing (let's call it what it is):
-Logically, there is no reason for professional head football coaches to have to jog through the maelstrom of bodies on the field after an emotional game and offer a gratuitous and often insincere handshake. It's a silly custom.
Logically, the practice should be banned.
But I'm glad it exists, because it's brought us some great moments, like Bill Belichick dissing Eric Mangini and now Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz almost starting a brawl.
Here's the deal with Harbaugh and Schwartz: They were both wrong. Harbaugh was wrong to show up Schwartz, which he certainly did. Schwartz was wrong to escalate the situation by chasing Harbaugh down.
But I loved it. This is entertainment. It's also a win-or-bust business. Pro football is not for nice people. There are exceptions to that rule, like Tony Dungy, but they are rare exceptions. I love it when high-profile people bare their teeth and souls. So while I wouldn't want my kids or high school coach or even college coach behaving like this, in pro football, I love it when coaches break their usually cliche-ridden molds.
-I'm at Winter Park today, awaiting news on who starts at quarterback. I've been calling for Ponder since the Vikings fell to 0-3, but now I really don't think the timing matters much.
Start McNabb again, to save Ponder from facing the Packers in his first start? Fine with me. That's one of the reasons McNabb is here, to protect Ponder.
Start Ponder to introduce him to the NFL as quickly as possible, to prepare him for 2012 - or just to evaluate him? Fine with me. Why not?
Start Joe Webb? Fine by me.
When you're 1-5 and bound to lose and have so much of the season left, it really doesn't matter anymore.
-I fear for the Gophers. Their head coach is telling anyone who will listen that they're no good, and the players have every reason to believe him, and now they're facing a Nebraska team that will physically whip them. I fear not only for a 60-0 score, I fear for the players' safety. It's a hard game to play when your heart's not in it.
-To me, the Vikings' loss last night was predictable. They never play well in Chicago. Why would a bad Vikings team play well in Chicago when ever the best Vikings teams have struggled in that town and on that surface?
I am surprised it became a blowout so quickly. I keep thinking about all the quality players the Vikings have, but, then, these are the same players who seemed to quit under Brad Childress just a year ago. Maybe their talent level is overrated.
-Gov. Mark Dayton has been very even-handed, smooth and presidential in his handling of the Vikings' stadium debate. Now he's saying that a 1-5 record makes the stadium iniative less popular.
That's a blatant copout, and the kind of statement that makes us hate politicians. Noone, whether stadium proponent or opponent, should base a decision that will affect the state for good or ill for the next 30-plus years on how Donovan McNabb is playing this season.
The Vikings are a state asset. Different people will value their presence in different ways. I'm a sports guy. I value sports and think there are intangible benefits to having a team in state as well as tangible economic benefits. If you don't value sports, I don't expect you to agree with me.
But the decision should not be based on a win-loss record, whether the Vikings were 6-0 or 1-5. The decision should be based on the value of having an NFL franchise in our state. And if Dayton or anyone else wants to argue that we should let the Vikings leave because they're 1-5, I would argue that Minnesota eventually would decide to lure back an NFL franchise, and that acquiring another franchise will be much more expensive and complicated than building a stadium for the current franchise, which, for all of its faults and big losses, has been remarkably entertaining and competitive for decades.
-Since the start of the 2010 season, the Vikings are 7-15. That's the fourth-worst record
Here are the teams that are similar or worse during that span:
St. Louis: 7-14.
-My pick: Rangers in six. Other than Cris Carpenter, I don't think the Cardinals' pitching staff can handle the Rangers' lineup.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2 p.m. with Reusse and Mackey, then on tonight, perhaps around 6:40, with Tom Pelissero. I'll also be on with Mike McFeely on KFGO in Fargo at 2:35.
My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
So the Vikings' season is over. What now?
Wrote my column for the Monday paper on the Vikings' predicament, so I'll leave that subject (and a stunning statistic regarding the Vikings' record) for that edition.
What was troubling on Sunday - and what made this a difficult game to write about, as the fourth successive loss - was that the Vikings keep having the same problems every week.
The defense has forced three turnovers in four games. That's not going to cut it.
Donovan McNabb actually made a couple of nice deep throws, targeting Devin Aromashodu and Percy Harvin down the sideline. Maybe the Vikings coaches have found the right combination of routes/receivers to encourage McNabb to take the occasional shot.
What's strangest about the Vikings' 0-4 start is that they are not horrific statistically. McNabb has thrown just two interceptions. Adrian Peterson is having a representative season. Percy Harvin has been dynamic running and catching. Toby Gerhart has done well in limited duty. The Vikings have five receivers with seven or more catches.
But the Vikings neither make enough big plays, or make enough positive plays at important times.
The Chiefs are not a good team. They were 0-3 and missing safety Eric Berry and running back Jamaal Charles. They lacked a competent running game, and quarterback Matt Cassel looks very average when you watch him in person. And yet this collection beat a desperate Vikings team featuring a handful of stars.
I keep coming back to two positions: Quarterback and offensive coordinator. Both were actually a little improved on Sunday, but they still weren't good enough to sustain drives, and it's amazing how many unforced errors this team makes. There were two plays when the running back and quarterback didn't seem to be on the same page.
Also, I think head coach Leslie Frazier should have managed the clock better at the end of the game. If he had called a timeout before the Chiefs punted, that would have saved 45 seconds, and then if the Vikings had gone into hurry-up mode, they could have saved a couple of minutes and had a chance at another drive.
I don't think those decisions cost the Vikings the game, but they cost the Vikings an opportunity.
-The Detroit Lions are 4-0. They remind me of the Tampa Bay Rays - a team that finally found good management and started taking advantage of all of its high draft picks.
The Lions will have to develop more of a running game and become better in pass coverage to become a threat to win a playoff game, but right now they're the best story in the NFL.
-Once I get home from KC, I"ll be covering the Lynx in Game 2, 3 and (if necessary) 4 of the WNBA Finals, including coverage next weekend from Atlanta.
-I highly recommend taking in games at the KC sports complex. Arrowhead and Kauffman Stadium are still state of the art, and the tailgating before a Chiefs game is excellent - friendly people and great barbecue.
-Typical Wolves luck that if they were heading into a season right now, they would be the best story in town. Instead, Rick Adelman and Derrick Williams are locked out indefinitely.
-I'll be on 1500espn with Reusse and Mackey at 2 p.m. every day this week (I believe), and I"ll join my Sunday radio partner, Tom Pelissero, a couple of times this week on his new show, which is 6-8 p.m. weekdays.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
-Isn't releasing the schedule for an NFL season threatened by a lockout like planning how you're going to spend your lottery winnings?
-Must be something wrong with the Vikes' schedule. Shows only one game in Detroit, no games on Tuesday and none at TCF Bank Stadium.
-Rick Adelman might not be the best possible coach for the Timberwolves, but he'd be an upgrade. Then again, so would Randy Wittman.
David Kahn will have a dozen good candidates to replace Kurt Rambis, including Adelman, Dwane Casey and Sam Mitchell. I'm sure he'll go for name recognition, though, and hire someone like....Kurt Rambis. Or Pee Wee Herman.
-Bunting in the first inning: I'm never in favor, even when it's Matt Tolbert in the 2-hole putting down the bunt. Play for the big inning early in the game. Please.
-Remove frustration from the analysis, and the Twins' slow start isn't that surprising. They had injuries in spring training, they rarely play well against the AL East, they aren't a particularly strong road team, and their home games were against a very good pitching staff (Oakland) and a team you'd rather play later in the season than early, when they still believe in themselves (KC).
-Today's NBA playoff prediction (I'll change this every day for a few months): Oklahoma City over Miami in the finals. (Yesterday, it was LA over Miami in the finals, but the Lakers looked lost in Game 1.)
-60 Minutes did a great piece on Blazers and Seahawks owner Paul Allen, who ripped into Bill Gates in his new book. Allen owns the guitar Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock, a massive yacht with its own submarine, and still has dozens of billions in the bank.
And guess what Allen said in the interview: He's still hopeful of meeting someone with whom he can start a family. All those billions, and yet at that moment I felt sorry for him.
-First, my 1500espn radio partner Tom Pelissero said he believes the Vikings are targeting Jake Locker. Now Peter King is agreeing with his mock draft. I don't believe a lot of what I hear about the draft this time of year, but I am starting to believe that Jake Locker will be wearing purple this fall.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 Wednesday. My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.
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