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 The Big 10

On Ryan, Smith, Paterno and Cook

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: November 8, 2011 - 8:52 AM

By late last night, when I was done talking to people about Terry Ryan's return to the general manager's job with the Minnesota Twins, I got the sense that Bill Smith was ready to step down.

I don't think he had the stomach for making sweeping changes in the organization, for apportioning blame to people he liked. I think the Pohlads wanted answers, and a plan, and Smith wanted to stay the course and hope that better health would fix what ailed the franchise.

As I wrote in today's paper, Twins employees were heartened by the look in Ryan's eye. I know when I spoke with him privately he looked and sounded intense. He feels it is his responsibility to fix this franchise.

Smith was viewed differently by people at different levels of the organization. Those who worked closely with him admired his work ethic and appreciated his low-key management style. Those above him stopped having faith in him as a No. 1 decision-maker. And many of those below him found him scatter-brained, distracted by his willingness to fill his plate with disparate tasks (he'd sometimes interrupt a meeting about free agents to discuss work that needed to be done on the spring training ballpark in Fort Myers), and difficult to communicate with.

In all, Smith did about as well as could have been expected for an administrator in a position that usually demands personnel expertise. He presided over three highly successful seasons. But as the Twins' organization became less a product of Ryan's philosophies and handiwork and more a product of Smith's tenure, we all saw problems arising.

Minor-league players came to the big leagues unprepared to compete, and sometime unprepared to hit a cutoff man. Players lingered on the disabled list. Joe Mauer went soft without being called on the carpet. Smith signed Nishioka as much for marketing reasons as baseball reasons, and it wound up backfiring horribly on two fronts: Nishioka couldn't play, the player he was supposed to replace, J.J. Hardy, had a career year in Baltimore.

Ryan brings personnel expertise to the job. He also brings leadership. I don't see him being able to fix the Twins in the short term, but he will move them back towards respectability, both on the field and throughout the organization.

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Joe Paterno should not coach this weekend, and if he is as guilty of inaction as he appears to be in the Jerry Sandusky case, he should never coach again.

He failed as a leader. He failed as a human. He should go away, quickly and quietly.

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If the Vikings ever want to be taken seriously again as an organization that values its reputation, and if the Wilfs can even remember issuing the ``Code of Conduct'' in the wake of the Love Boat, and if Chris Cook is found guilty of strangling his girlfriend, the team needs to cut ties with him.

Let due process take its course. If Cook is found guilty, the Vikings can't have him on their roster. Not if they ever want to be taken seriously again as an organization that cares about its reputation.

What Cook allegedly did is much worse than anything that happened on the so-called Love Boat. Violence against women can't be tolerated by a responsible group of owners and team executives.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 p.m. today. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

 

Beautiful morning in Charlotte

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: October 30, 2011 - 9:41 AM

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 thoughts

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: October 17, 2011 - 11:16 AM

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:

Carolina: 3-19.

Denver: 5-16.

Arizona: 6-15.

Cincinnati: 6-14.

St. Louis: 7-14.

Cleveland: 7-14.

Miami: 7-13.

-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.

 

 

Wrapping up the weekend in sports

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 25, 2011 - 6:35 PM
BLOG…
Congratulations to the Lynx for winning the Western Conference Finals. This sets up a big basketball week for me despite the lockout – I’ll be covering the Lynx in the WNBA finals, and Rick Adelman’s introductory press conference.
It’s nice to be able to say this about Glen Taylor’s operation without a hint of sarcasm: This is a great time to be a basketball fan in Minneapolis, even with a lockout.
On to the Vikings’ latest collapse. My column in the Monday paper will deal with the Vikings’ quarterback situation. Right now I’ll deal with the decision to try for a first down on fourth-and-1 from the Detroit 17 with 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings led, 20-17, at that point. They hadn’t scored in the second half. The field goal unit ran onto the field, then was waved off. Donovan McNabb handed the ball to Toby Gerhart, who was lined up as a fullback ahead of Adrian Peterson, and Gerhart was stopped.
There are a number of problems with this sequence. Wouldn’t you rather give the ball to the NFL’s best running back? Yes. Of course.
But the first second-guess is the best second-guess in this case. The Vikings should have kicked the field goal. (And, by the way, I believe in first-guessing. So you can go back and see on my Twitter timeline that I said, before the play, that I’d kick the field goal.)
Even with Peterson carrying the ball, here’s the problem with going for it on fourth-and-1 from the 17: Even if you make the first down, you aren’t guaranteed an eventual touchdown. Odds are, you’d just wind up kicking a field goal, anyway. And you could turn the ball over, or take a sack, or get penalized, and wind up farther back than you started.
Kick the field goal, and the Lions have to score a touchdown to beat you. The Lions didn’t score a touchdown the rest of the way, winning the game with two field goals in regulation and one in overtime.
But if you’re going to go for it on fourth down, wouldn’t you want Jimmy Kleinsasser leading Adrian Peterson? Don’t you want your best player making the deciding play?
Lost in the loss is the outstanding play of the Vikings’ defensive ends, Jared Allen and Brian Robison. They dominated the line of scrimmage.
Both came into the season facing questions. Allen started slowly last year. Robison is considered undersized, and I wondered whether he’d hold up over the course of a game. Both have been excellent and relentless.
That’s the troublesome part of the Vikings’ struggles: They have a lot of admirable veterans who are seeing their last good year(s) wasted because the Vikings can’t get decent play out of the quarterback position.
I don’t doubt the effort or will of many of the Vikings’ veterans - Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Allen, Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson, Steve Hutchinson. But the NFL is not about willpower; it’s about coaching, design, and offensive skill players. Discovered this stat as I was researching my Monday column: As offenses explode all around the NFL, the Vikings and McNabb have produced just one pass play longer than 24 yards. It was a screen pass that Toby Gerhart carried 42 yards.
That’s pathetic.               
Gophers football coach Jerry Kill is having more health problems.
I mean this seriously: He should take off the rest of the season. He needs to get control of his health. He also needs to understand that nobody ever wants to see him writhing on the sideline again.
His health issues aside, the Gophers have lost to New Mexico State and North Dakota State at home. Kill and his staff deserve blame, especially for their handling of the quarterback position. I’ll also blame Tim Brewster. He was supposed to be a great recruiter, yet the Gophers do not have better athletes than New Mexico State and North Dakota State. And their best athlete, MarQueis Gray, is playing out of position.
Max Shortell hasn’t won the starting quarterback job, but Gray has lost it. Start Shortell, start developing him, and put Gray at a position where he can help this team – slot receiver. You’d be improving two positions at once.
 
 
 

What an awful weekend

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 11, 2011 - 9:09 PM

Let me recap this amazing Minnesota sports weekend:

1. Jerry Kill suffers a seizure.

2. The Gopher football team loses to gawdawful New Mexico State at home one week after inspiring hope (at least for a sucker like me) at USC.

3. The Twins take half-measures, firing two members of the Triple-A staff, while the big-league team continues to bumble around like drunks.

4. The Vikings unveil their new quarterback and offensive coordinator and manage two passing yards in the second half of a 24-17 loss.

Reactions to the four?

1. I wish Mr. Kill well, but please don't try the ``This puts things in perspective'' line on me.

Does that mean that because Kill was stricken in public that we should all pretend the games don't matter, or that sport doesn't matter?

Really? So the University of Minnesota is paying Kill and his staff millions for no reason? The billion-dollar industries that are the NFL and MLB don't matter? Kill's ability to create a great life for himself, his family and the coaches and players whom he values doesn't matter?

Bad stuff happens every day, all over the world. You know how these events help me ``put sports into perspective?'' By making me enjoy and value sports even more.

Sport is not a bunch of kids playing pickup ball while blowing off their homework. Sport is commerce. Sport is human drama. Sport is entertainment. Sport is a means by which many people improve their lives, either directly or vicariously.

Are they overdone sometimes? Certainly. But the only reason they're overdome sometimes is because so many of us care about them, and care about the people who play them.

A man falling ill doesn't ``put sports into perspective'' anymore than it puts theater, or car ownership, or eating donuts into perspective.

I admire Kill because of his story and his gumption. I wish him a speedy and full recovery. And when he's back, I'm sure he'll tell you that his seizure isn't reason to pity him or care less about the games. I'm sure he'll tell you that he's doing what he loves and plans to throw himself right back into the business of trying to win games and influence people.

That's what he's chosen to do with his life. Don't diminish it with this nonsense about ``perspective.''

2. I'm back to what I thought of the Gophers entering the season. They have few outstanding players and will struggle to win five games. Six would be a triumph.

I do believe that MarQueis Gray can help this team more as a slot receiver than a quarterback. I'd make the move now, putting in Max Shortell, and allowing Gray to play multiple roles, including Wildcat quarterback.

Gray was often spectacular at receiver last year. Shortell is the future, for the moment, at quarterback. You're not going to the Rose Bowl regardless of which one plays QB. Play for the future - Shortell's as a quarterback, and Gray as an NFL prospect at receiver.

3. How do you spell ``Bleeechhhh?''

4. I expected the Vikings offense to be somewhat boring. I'm shocked that it was this ineffective in the second half.

Donovan McNabb threw for two yards in the second half. Two. (2). Dos. Brett Favre on his worst day would do better. So would Fran Tarkenton - today.

I don't blame McNabb solely. The play-calling was highly predictable, especially on first down, from the end of the first half until deep in the fourth quarter. I counted running plays called on seven straight first-down plays.

After the game, Percy Harvin hinted and Mike Jenkins came right out and told me that the offense was predictable. (More in my Monday morning column.)

McNabb wasn't the only problem - Charlie Johnson and the lack of speed at receiver were also factors - but he's got to be a lot better than this. The Vikings ran for 159 yards and a 6.1 yard average, and McNabb and his receivers didn't come close to taking advantage.

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I'm hearing the Wolves are negotiating with Rick Adelman. Two things I don't know:

1. Whether they're willing to meet his demands of a long-term deal worth $5 million a year or more, when they're still stuck with Kurt Rambis' contract and the league is in a lockout.

2. Who's their fallback? It's probably either Sam Mitchell or Don Nelson. I hope for Glen Taylor's sake that it's Mitchell. I keep hearing bad things about Nelson's last couple of stints. I think he'd burn out quickly and the Wolves would be going through this again next summer.

Adelman would be a great hire at the right price. Mitchell would be a promising hire and would make sense for this franchise. Nelson? Could be trouble.

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Upcoming: My new slot on 1500espn is 2 p.m. each weekday. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

 

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