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

Time for Cassel

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 26, 2013 - 2:47 AM

My column in Thursday's paper recreates the way I think the conversation between Leslie Frazier and Christian Ponder might have gone.

Here I'll put things more plainly.

Ponder coming down with a mysterious rib injury is perfect for the Vikings. They can take a look at Matt Cassel in a must-win game heading into the bye week, then make a more full-informed decision on the quarterback position. If Cassel plays brilliantly, he keeps the job. If he plays poorly, the Vikings can go back to Ponder and hope he has cleared his head, and they never would have actually benched him.

Of course, this is only speculation. The Vikings aren't about to tip their hand on this one.

For those wondering why, given all of the Vikings' problems, Ponder is the only one facing a potential benching, I go back to what Jerry Burns always said: Changing left guards doesn't send a jolt of electricity through your team. Changing your quarterback does.

Also, remember how much the Vikings invested in their passing game during the offseason. They signed Greg Jennings. They traded into the first round to draft Cordarrelle Patterson. Having a quarterback willing to hang in the pocket long enough for those players to get open (assuming Bill Musgrave actually puts Patterson on the field) might be a good idea.

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I keep waiting for some sign of the NFL's popularity in London.

Haven't seen any indication in London proper that there is an NFL game this Sunday. Haven't seen a word in the major newspapers or on the morning TV shows. Or on the evening TV shows. I'm sure there has been media coverage, because there are plenty of reporters covering the Vikings' appearances and practices. Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places.

The NFL chose well when it chose the Vikings to play here and spend the week promoting the game. They're a willing group of interviewees and ambassadors. When I spoke with Jared Allen yesterday, he used the phrase ``bangers and mash'' about 12 times, saying he loves the food in London.

During the Olympics, I often made fun of London's food, but Allen's right. You can find great restaurants in London, just not where I was staying during the Olympics. The Strib's traveling entourage has particularly enjoyed the Grazing Goat Pub. Mark Craig even tried a dark beer before switching back to something resembling his traditional Bud Lights.

I thought the highlight of the press conferences was Rick Spielman saying he called home to tell his wife to bring her bathing suit, the weather was so nice here.

Not so fast, Rick. It's overcast and threatening today.

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I'm spending today with photojournalist Carlos Gonzalez in London, looking for some local color. I mean, colour. Thanks for reading. Remember, we have Mark Craig, Chip Scoggins, Carlos and myself covering all angles of the Vikings' trip to London, including the game. Please check back on Startribune.com for columns, stories, notes, blog posts, photos and videos.

I like the Browns' end of the deal

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 19, 2013 - 2:30 PM

By Jim Souhan

The Browns were right to trade Trent Richardson.

The Vikings should know why.

I covered both sides of the Herschel Walker deal – from Dallas when the deal went down in 1989, and in Minnesota as Walker struggled to play well enough to justify the Vikings’ enormous outlay of players and draft picks.

The Richardson deal isn’t as lopsided, because perhaps no trade in the history of sports will ever turn out as lopsided as The Herschel Trade. The Indianapolis Colts gave the Browns a 2014 first-round draft pick for Richardson, the xth pick in the 2012 draft.

Here’s how much the NFL has changed: In 1989, initial reaction to the Walker trade around the league was that that Cowboys rookie coach Jimmy Johnson had gotten fleeced by wily Vikings general manager Mike Lynn. Today, many around the league are questioning why the Colts would give up even a first-round pick for a talented running back.

In 1989, the thinking was that the team that landed the best player, and Walker was still esteemed at the time, had won the deal. That sentiment faded when the Walker struggled to fit into the Vikings’ short-passing offense, and was erased when the full details of the deal emerged, and it became clear that the Cowboys were going to receive a handful of NFL-ready players as well as a slew of draft choices.

Today, running backs are devalued. Everybody wants a good one; few teams other than the Vikings intentionally build around a great one.

The Colts were able to trade a first-round pick for a running back and ignore their other needs because they have a franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck. The Browns were right to amass draft picks so they can maneuver for their franchise quarterback.

Richardson was a mediocre player for the Browns. With the Colts, he may be pretty good.

Both teams did well in this deal. The Browns did better.

The Colts gave themselves a chance to reach the playoffs with a flawed team. The Browns gave themselves a chance to finally find a franchise quarterback.

Yes, history says they'll probably screw it up. But they have to try.

Molitor on Birk

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 20, 2013 - 12:17 PM
One element of my conversation with Paul Molitor that didn’t make it into my Wednesday column: His appreciation for what fellow Cretin High alum Matt Birk experienced this year.
Molitor grew up in the Brewers’ organization, and made a painful decision to leave Milwaukee for Toronto. As a Blue Jay, he won a World Series ring at the age of 37.
Birk grew up in the Vikings’ organization and was forced out of the organization, in part by then-head coach Brad Childress. They didn’t get along. So Birk signed with the Baltimore Ravens, and this season, at the age of 36, he won a Super Bowl title.
Molitor said he doesn’t know Birk well. ``But we have met a couple of times and like most people that meet him, I think he’s an impressive guy,’’ Molitor said. ``I admire his humility and intelligence and I respect his opinions and his outspokenness. I played in his golf tournament a couple of years ago.
``His is just a story of perseverance for a guy who wasn’t sure what he was going to do when he got pushed out of here, and he got a chance to reach the top. I can relate to that, his first championship coming late in his career. I’m happy for him.’’
And one more thought from Molitor on his current ``special assistant’’ position, in which he works primarily with minor-league player development.
``I’ve got talented people to work with, in terms of our other player development people,’’ he said. ``As part of the organization, I’m hoping that we’ve hit bottom and that the trend forward continues. It’s nice for me to see some of these kids on the verge of getting the opportunity to play in the big leagues.’’
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My new radio schedule: I'm on 1500ESPN at 12:20 on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday with Judd Zulgad and Jeff Dubay. Sunday Sports Talk remains the same, 10-noon on Sundays. We'll host the Ron Gardenhire Show again this year from 9:30-10. Thanks for listening, as always.
 

Wild day at Lambeau

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 2, 2012 - 6:45 PM

In the first 47 years of Vikings history, Viking running back produced one 200-yard game.

Scine 2006, Adrian Peterson has produced three.

He rushed 21 times for 210 yards and a career-long 82-yard touchdown on Sunday. Because of Christian Ponder's two horrific interceptions deep in Packers territory, Peterson's efforts weren't enough, and the Packers won, 23-14.

Since Washington ``held'' him to 79 yards, Peterson has rushed for: 153, 123, 182, 171, 108 and 210 yards. On the season, he's rushed 213 times for 1,236 yards and seven touchdowns. He's averaging 5.8 yards per carry.

His previous career-high was 5.6 yards per carry in limited action as a rookie. His yards per carry starting in '07: 5.6, 4.8, 4.4, 4.6 and 4.7 before this season.

He's never been better. With four games remaining, he could challenge his career high of 1,760 yards, set in 2008.

The question of the day is whether the Vikings are wasting the best years of one of the best running backs ever to play the game.

``It's very disappointing, especially the way we ran the ball today,'' Peterson said.

What struck me, watching it live, was that the Packers entered this season once again as a Super Bowl contender, and the Vikings were thought to be rebuilding, and yet the Vikings would have won at Lambeau with a competent performance from their quarterback.

If you want to play the good news/bad news game, the good news is that the Vikings look capable of beating the Bears and Packers with decent quarterback play; the bad news is they're not getting decent quarterback play.

As I wrote in my column for tomorrow's paper, the Vikings are making a mistake, hanging the entire season on Ponder. If he plays poorly, he should be benched, just like anybody else on the team.

-I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. on Monday, and on with Reusse and Mackey on 1500ESPN tomorrow afternoon.

My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

 

NFL picks for the new season

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 5, 2012 - 10:44 AM

Now that we've spent the offseason wringing our hands over player safety and bounties, we can leaves our consciences at the other end of the overstuffed couch and start concentrating on games.

My divisional picks for the 2012 NFL season:

AFC East

This is too easy. The Patriots probably aren't quite as good as we think they are. Their offensive line has holes. Years of poor drafting has hurt their defense. But Tom Brady and Bill Belichick give them an edge over everyone else in the division.

The Jets probably aren't quite as bad as we've made them out to be. Because we spend so much time on the foibles of Rex Ryan and their quarterbacks, we tend to forget that this is an excellent defensive team with a strong offensive line. The Jets may not have the firepower to beat elite teams, but they are built to ground lesser teams into dust.

So: Patriots win it, with the Jets finishing second and contending for a playoff spot. The Bills are still fraudulent. The Dolphins are still mediocre.

AFC North

The Ravens have become the class of this division and should win it again. They have key veterans like Ray Lewis and Matt Birk nearing the end of their careers, but Joe Flacco and the passing attack could offset that by getting better, and they were very close to beating the Patriots in the AFC title game last year.

I like the Ravens to win the division, but I don't believe they'll go to the Super  Bowl. This is personal bias. I've been around three Vikings teams that lost in the championship game, and they were nothing less than depressed the following season.

The Bengals were surprisingly good last season and you would figure that Andy Dalton would keep improving, but I never trust this franchise, and I don't like the offensive line. I figure they tread water and make the playoffs, but I won't pick them to win the division or a playoff game.

The Steelers, to me, are the wild card. Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger win them a lot of credibility, and this is one of the best organizations in the game, but I don't like the vibe. Tomlin changed special teams coaches late in training camp and Mike Wallace held out.

The Browns remain the Browns.

So...Ravens, Bengals, Steelers, Browns.

AFC South

The Houston Texans have been a trendy pick for a few years now, and they're trendy again, and they'll benefit from playing in a horrible division. They should have an easy road to the playoffs, but I'll have to see them beat an elite team in the playoffs before I'm going to be a believer.

Tennessee is mediocre. Jacksonville is awful. The Colts are rebuilding. It's good to be Gary Kubiak.

AFC West

Peyton Manning is one of the smartest and most analytical athletes I've ever met, so picking the Broncos shouldn't surprise us. I figured he'd head to Miami to be near his second home and enjoy the weather, but Denver, it turns out, is perfect for him.

He's with a driven, quality organization. He has two underappreciated receivers in Decker and Thomas. He has a running game. He has a defense. He has a distinct home-field advantage. And he get to face mediocre competition in his division.

Nice pick, Peyton.

The Chargers remain the biggest tease in football and they no longer have one of the best overall rosters in the game.

The Raiders appear to be gaining sanity, but it's hard to place much faith in Carson Palmer at this stage of his career.

The Chiefs have captured Belichick's paranoia without emulating his expertise.

AFC champion: Denver. It might be risky to pick a guy with a bad neck, but I'm willing to bet on Manning's head.

NFC East

Super Bowl champions almost always suffer a letdown.

The Cowboys have improved their pass coverage and could surprise in Tony Romo's latest make-or-break season.

The Eagles are loaded but dependent on a fragile quarterback.

The Redskins will be exciting but won't win as Robert Griffin learns the NFL.

Give the division to the Eagles. They should have addressed their defensive shortcomings. If they can keep Vick healthy, they could be nearly unstoppable on offense.

NFC North

I don't know if I've ever seen as many dropped passes by a good team in a big game as the Packers had in their loss to the Giants. That was the Packers' Super Bowl to lose last year, and they lost it in shocking fashion.

They're still the class of the NFC.

The Bears should benefit from Mike Tice taking over the offense and Jay Cutler having a favored target in Brandon Marshall. Brian Urlacher's knee is a concern, but this is a strong team.

The Lions are talented. Are they mature enough to handle expectations? Probably enough so that they'll make the playoffs.

The Vikings admit they're embarking on a slow rebuilding project. Don't expect much from them this year. I'd pick 5-11 unless they can fully take advantage of a soft early schedule, in which case I'll pick 6-10.

NFC South

This is a fascinating division. What will the Saints be like without their mastermind coach? Will the Falcons finally break through? Will Schiano's college act play in Tampa? Is Cam Newton ready to become one of the game's elite quarterbacks, which will mean adding victories to his already-gaudy stats? 

I like the Falcons, a bunch of grinders, to grind through the regular season and win the division. I think the Saints fall off, and I see Newton making a big impact this season, leading his team to the playoffs.

NFC West

The 49ers will dominate this division, but I believe Russell Wilson will be the surprise player of the year. The Seahawks are better than you think, just like their rookie quarterback. Seattle will make the playoffs.

The Cardinals and Rams will await relegation to the Big Ten.

NFC champ: Packers

Super Bowl champ: Aaron Rodgers beats Peyton Manning in a shootout.

Tonight's pick:

If Jason Witten can't play, or play well, Romo will be missing his safety blanket when he needs it most. The Giants will be ready to play, and they're the better team. Giants 31, Cowboys 23.

 

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