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 Packers

Bad day of coaching

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 5, 2011 - 6:54 AM

Big picture: The Vikings are much better off losing these games and landing the second pick in the draft, and facing their shortcomings, than they are winning meaningless games and making themselves feel better as the end of the year looms.

Small picture: That was a poorly-coached team that lost to the Broncos on Sunday.

Writing opinion for a living can make you look pretty silly. My column in the Sunday paper made the point that while the Vikings' coaching staff hasn't distinguished itself, it's a lack of personnel and depth that is the Vikings' biggest problem.

I'll stick with that opinion, but the Vikings' coaching staff failed in pretty much every area on Sunday.

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave often left Kyle Rudolph, perhaps his best possession receiver, on the sideline on obvious passing downs. He sometimes even left Percy Harvin, the best player on the field, on the sidelines, too.

It's always hard to tell who's at fault when a unit collapses, but the defensive backs having no idea what their responsibilities were is frightening, considering that Leslie Frazier was a cornerback and defensive coordinator Fred Pagac has plenty of experience in the league and with this group.

And Frazier once again allowed his faith in his players to overwhelm logic. Saying that he didn't allow the Broncos to score because believed his players could block a short field goal attempt, well, that defies logic.

The Vikings probably wouldn't have won the game if they had allowed the Broncos to score quickly, but at least they would have a had a chance, and at least they would have had some control over the outcome. Instead, they played for a block of what was essentially an extra point. How often do extra points get blocked?

Almost never.

Frazier is a man of faith and likes to believe in his players. But the NFL is a game of probabilities. Frazier needs to learn how to play the odds, and he may have to learn within the next four games, to give Zygi Wilf a sign that he's making progress on the job.

Wilf takes losses hard, and I don't know if I've ever seen him more ashen-faced than when he left the lockerroom on Sunday. Frazier should take note.

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The Wild had another comeback win on the road last night, beating Anaheim, and Josh Harding was outstanding in the third period.

The Wild now has more points than any other team in the NHL, but what I'm watching is the point total for the eighth-place team in the West. What's really important is for the Wild to make the playoffs, and it has an eight-point lead over the teams tied for eighth in the West.

As far as they've come, that doesn't give them a tremendous margin for error.

Their goals differential is plus-9, the fourth-best mark in the West. They're tied for sixth in the conference in goals scored. To stay near the top of the conference, they'll eventually have to score more goals.

So far, they have far exceeded expectations, and on a team without any true stars, it's hard not to give most of the credit to Chuck Fletcher and Mike Yeo.

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About the only criticism remaining of Aaron Rodgers was that he has led relatively few fourth-quarter comebacks in his career, compared with the great quarterbacks with whom he statistically compares.

Did you see that drive on Sunday? It was surgical.

I've been saying all year that I think the Packers can go undefeated, not because they win easily every week, but because their offense seems to be able to score anytime it needs to.

What I wonder is if the mental wear and tear of trying to remain undefeated could cost the Packers in the playoffs. It's hard to play under pressure week after week.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today and every weekday with Reusse & Mackey.

My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

 

Catching up on rest of sports world

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: November 15, 2011 - 12:32 PM

The Wolves really are cursed. They finally inspire hope with the hiring of Rick Adelman, and now they might not have a season.

My knee-jerk, Twitter-enabled reaction to the NBA players union shunning the owner's latest offer was that the players are being foolish. They're giving up huge money that they'll never make back while fighting over terms many of them don't even understand. (I'm not insulting their intelligence; I don't understand most of these deep financial negotiations, either.)

But I should be more even-handed. The owners are just as much to blame as the players. They were on the verge of a great deal for them, and by trying to wring the last dime and concession out of the players that they could, they did the worst thing they possibly could have done: They pushed the players into shutting down negotiations and lawyering up.

Whether it's divorce or sports negotiations, it's never a good sign when one or both sides invest heavily in power lawyers. Because power lawyers aren't there to get a fair deal. They're there to prove their worth by crushing the opponent. They're there to rack up billable hours.

I could still see a deal getting done in the next three weeks, could see the owners realizing they pushed too far and working to save the season with a reasonable deal. But now it's a long-shot, and David Stern is just as much to blame as the players.

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It's nice that the Gophers basketball team keeps beating overmatched opponents, but the measure of a Tubby Smith Minnesota team is whether they can win a close game against a decent Big Ten team by running a real offense in crunch time. Until I see that, I'm not going to be impressed.

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If you enjoyed watching the Lynx, like women's basketball or just like to watch a talented athlete of any gender or age develop, I recommend watching the Gopher women and freshman point guard Rachel Banham.

She's a dynamnic ballhandler who can shoot, finish and set up here teammates. She's the most talented player the Gophers have had since Lindsay Whalen left.

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With the NBA locked out and the football teams stinking it up, we're pretty close to becoming a hockey town. (Or hockey cities.)

What's encouraging about the local hockey teams is that the Gophers look like they're much tougher physically and mentally than they've been in years. They don't wimp out around the net or in the corners, and they bounced back from a tough loss at Wisconsin with an impressive victory.

And while it's always risky to jump to conclusions at any point of the long NHL season, it appears Mike Yeo has the presence of a winning coach. It's funny, too, that the way they're playing now reminds you a lot of the way Wild played under Lemaire - responsible defensively, and making the most of the few goals they score.

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You are entitled to be underwhelmed by the Twins' signing of shortstop Jamey Carroll, but this is the kind of reasonable, subtle, important move that the Twins need to make.

No matter what their payroll, they're not going to outspend big-market teams for premier talent. They have to use their money wisely, and Carroll, while limited, is a great upgrade over everyone who played shortstop for the Twins last year.

Now the Twins need to sign someone who can either catch 140 games if needed, or can move around the diamond and sub at catcher for Joe Mauer.

If only Trevor Plouffe could catch....

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Aaron Rodgers is so good that, for the first time since I started writing about the NFL in 1989, I'm startled when a pass falls incomplete.

He completed 23 of 30 passes on Monday night. The web site Profootballfocus.com reported that of the 27 passes he tried to complete (wasn't spiking or throwing away), he completed 23, and his receivers dropped three of his four incompletions.

I know a lot of Minnesotans love to hate the Pack, but I like watching greatness no matter what color it wears. This is greatness.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today with Reusse and Mackey. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. 

Knee-jerk reaction to Monday night

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: November 14, 2011 - 11:39 PM

Green Bay, Wi. _ Antoine Winfield has a broken clavicle, meaning the Vikings' lousy secondary just got worse. Husain Abdullah also has a concussion, so Carson Palmer must be feeling quite good about his decision to return to the NFL in time to face the Vikings.

As for the game itself, the Vikings have never been beaten worse by the Packers than they were tonight. They lost, 45-7, and only Randall Cobb's fumbled punt allowed the Vikings to score.

For the Tuesday paper, I wrote about the Vikings' ineptitude in this game. For the Wednesday paper, I plan to write about what the Vikings should do moving forward. Right now, I'll just offer this instant reaction:

The Packers are the best team in football. The Vikings are very close to being the worst team in football. That's stunning not only when you consider where these teams were in '09, when the Vikings swept the Pack, but where they were last year during the first game at Lambeau, which the Vikings very nearly won.

I didn't write about Aaron Rodgers tonight because I didn't think he played spectacularly well, not by his standards. And yet I got back to the press box and saw his final stats and they were as follows: 23-of-30 for 250 yards, four touchdowns, a 140.3 passer rating and no interceptions.

He completed passes to 10 different receivers and survived a strong pass rush by the Vikings. In fact, the pass rush was the Vikings' only strong point on Monday night.

The Vikings have the most lopsided roster I've ever seen. Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen are MVP-caliber talents. There are a few other good players in their prime. But most of the roster is comprised of too-young, too-old or too-lousy players.

``I can't really put my finger on it,'' coach Leslie Frazier said when asked what the problem was.

Well, the coaching doesn't look too good at the moment. It's not a great team, but even mediocre teams should be able to avoid silly penalties and line up correctly.

This team is a mess. I picked the Vikings to go 7-9 this season and it turns out I was a raving optimist.

I don't think the Vikings' leadership can stomach this, but it's time to look to the future. The present? Nothing to see here.

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Through nine games, Rodgers has thrown 28 touchdowns and three interceptions.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Tuesday and the rest of the week with Reusse & Mackey.

 

I'm a hypocrite

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: October 24, 2011 - 11:48 AM

Yes, I'm a hypocrite.

I watched Christian Ponder run around the Metrodome, complete a low percentage of his passes and lose, and I was impressed.

I watched highlights of lowlights of Tim Tebow running around in Miami, completing a low percentage of his passes and lead a comeback victory, and I wasn't impressed.

Here's why:

Ponder can throw a pass quickly and accurately, with good mechanics, and I believe his charisma is a product of his athletic ability and confidence.

Tebow has terrible mechanics that will limit his ability to develop, and I believe his charisma won't matter if he can't complete routine throws.

As I noted in my column in today's paper, Ponder, after his horrific third quarter (0-for-5 with two interceptions), had the composure to rebound and, in the middle of the fourth quarter, convert five straight third downs, all of six yards or longer.

Colleague Mark Craig notes that Ponder converted five of seven third downs in the fourth quarter on Sunday. Donovan McNabb, whose statistics indicated he was more accurate, converted four of 15 in weeks 1-through-5.

And my radio colleague Tom Pelissero notes that 12 of Ponder's 13 completions went for a first down or touchdown.

So while Ponder needs to be more accurate, he has the guts, arm and athletic ability to make big plays. I'm impressed.

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Aaron Rodgers finished 24-of-30 for 335 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, and the Packers dropped at least two passes, and he had another incompletion on a spike to stop the clock.

That's amazing.

Adrian Peterson leads the NFL in rushing with 712 yards. Jared Allen leads the NFL in sacks with 11.5 (and while sacks aren't always a great indicator of effectiveness, in this case his stats accurately indicate just how hard and well he's playing).

Rodgers is second in yards behind Drew Brees, but leads easily in passer rating at 125.7. Tom Brady is second at 104.8, with Brees third at 104.6.

Rodgers is having one of the greatest seasons of a quarterback, ever.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2 p.m. every weekday. I'll be on The D-List with Drew Olson in Milwaukee on 540 ESPN at 1:15 today. No appearance with Tom Pelissero tonight on 1500espn because the station is carrying the World Series.

I plan to write a little Gopher football and Wild hockey this week, as well as setting up the Vikings game at Carolina. I'll be at that game with Dan Wiederer and Mark Craig.

I'll also be tweeting about the Vikings today from Winter Park, @Souhanstrib.

 

 

Trouble brewing

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: October 23, 2011 - 1:00 PM

The Vikings are becoming more interesting for all of the wrong reasons.

Chris Cook is arrested on suspicion of felony strangulation.

A report appears from NFL.com and the NFL network that Donovan McNabb lacked a strong work ethic and didn't fully prepare himself.

Head coach Leslie Frazier calls out his defensive line, and defensive lineman Kevin Williams takes exception.

The team is 1-5 while ownership seeks approval of a new stadium plan.

This is not only a bad team, this is an organization in disarray in part because, as you've read here many times, it doesn't have a true general manager who can make decisions based on what's best for the franchise and who can be held accountable when things go wrong.

First of all, there were red flags attached to Chris Cook, and yet the Vikings drafted him, just a few years after the Wilfs issued the Code of Conduct. Maybe a real general manager would have viewed hte big picture and not taken a chance on him.

Second, the fact that someone in the Vikings' organization is leaking inside information (true or not) about McNabb after he was benched could be seen as someone in the organization second-guessing Leslie Frazier's decision to bring in McNabb. It's a piling-on move that's unecessary and hints that the decision-making group of the Vikings is not all on the same page. At least, that's the way I read it.

Third, Frazier's cache as a coaching candidate was that he was going to get the most out of his players. I admire Frazier and don't hold him solely responsible for the 1-5 record - this organization has much bigger problems than the identity of its head coach - but if key players like Williams are publicly sparring with him, that's not a good sign.

And the pursuit of a stadium makes the Wilfs more likely to be reactionary with their decisions, when what this organization needs is patience and a long-term plan to regain respectability.

This is a mess right now.

Having covered Troy Aikman, Rich Gannon and Daunte Culpepper as young quarterbacks, I can tell you that there's nothing more interesting than watching a young quarterback develop, and nothing more rewarding than watching a young quarterback learn how to win in the NFL. But Christian Ponder is going to have a tough road with this organization. They have a million flaws and yet no one decision-maker who can set the right course.

I think Ponder will probably play well today. But I don't think that will matter. Not with Aaron Rodgers facing a secondary that was porous even when Antoine Winfield and Cook were healthy.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2 p.m. every weekday, and also contributing to Tom Pelissero's 6-8 show Monday and Friday. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib, and I'll tweet from the Vikings-Packers game as much as the Metrodome wireless system allows.

 

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