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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Last time the Vikings played a Monday night game at Met Life Stadium in Jersey, the Vikings were in the middle of another lost season, but the personalities and circumstances were dramatically different.
Brad Childress was the coach, and fighting for power within the organization. Tonight, the Vikings' coach will be Leslie Frazier, whose job may be in as much jeopardy today as Childress' was in 2010, but who plays his role with more diplomacy.
Brett Favre was the quarterback, and fighting off tabloid stories about his texting habits. Tonight, the quarterback will be Josh Freeman, who, unlike Favre in 2010, is hoping to play another 10 years in the NFL.
Randy Moss was the supposed midseason saviour. Tonight, Freeman plays that role, trying to prove that Greg Schiano really is who we think he is.
The Jets beat the Vikings on that rainy Monday night in 2010, but what I really remember was dealing with Moss and Favre after the game.
Moss was difficult, parrying interview requests until Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press challenged him to talk, and Moss did. That night, you could not have imagined that a television network would ever hire Moss and pay him for his thoughts.
Favre was masterful. Not on the field, but in the cramped, overcrowded postgame interview room. If Anthony Weiner could handle negative press and difficult questions about his personal life the way Favre did, Weiner could be president, instead of out of politics.
The Minnesota media had already asked Favre plenty of questions about his texting habits and relationship with Jenn Sterger. This was the New York media's chance to go after him. Favre calmly turned every question towards football without getting angry or offering any new information.
I think Favre would have made the perfect politician. He looks and acts like a leader. He is a master at manipulating the national media. He has fame and money on his side. And he is the best press-conference manager I've ever interviewed.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 9:30 instead of noon today so I can catch my flght to New York. I'll also be on KFGO in Fargo with Mike McFeely, probably around 3:30 Central time. I'll also be on 1500ESPN at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday before heading back to Minnesota.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. Thanks for reading.
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.
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.
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.
Adrian Peterson looked tired. At least he looked better than London's version of the Vikings' mascot.
That version was a small cutout figure outside the soccer fields surrounding Wembley Stadium, where the Vikings made their first London appearance on Tuesday.
The mascot was small and purplish, with what looked like goat horns. It looked like what the creators of Pokemon would have envisioned a Viking to be.
Peterson just looked worn out. He played catch with London schoolchildren and ran them through the drills. Here's what he had to say as the Vikings prepare for their game on Sunday at Wembley against the Steelers:
``I haven't had the opportunity to talk to anybody who's played over here, but we have a pretty good game plan to adjust to the time change and be ready to play on Sunday,'' Peterson said. ``It's just another game on the schedule, but it's definitely time for us to get a W. This is not a vacation for us. It's time for us to focus and win a game.
``It can be challening, but it's challenging for the other team, too. Equal playing field.''
I was impressed by the attitude of the Vikings' players and coaches. They put on a good show with the kids.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he didn't know if defensive backs Chris Cook, A.J. Jefferson and Jamarca Sanford would practice on Wednesday. That's bad news this week. The Steelers don't run the ball well. Their only hope offensively is for Ben Roethlisgberger to make big plays with his wide receivers, particularly Antonio Brown.
Please check in at startribune.com regularly for updates, stories, columns, blog posts and videos from London, where Chip Scoggins, Mark Craig, photojournalist Carlos Gonzalez and myself will be covering the team all week.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon with Judd and Dubay each weekday, per usual.
My Monday column deals with the confusion and raw emotion surrounding the Vikings' loss at Soldier Field, so in this post I'll address a positive:
The Browns come to town next week.
And another positive:
The Vikings get to play the in-decline Steelers in London after that.
And another positive:
The Vikings then get a bye week in which to prepare for an 0-2 Carolina team.
The sky isn't falling. It's just raining a little.
I know the favorite statistic of the national media is that since 1990 only 12 percent of teams starting 0-2 have made the playoffs.
But most of the teams that start 0-2 had little hope before the season began.We're talking about Jaguars and Browns and the like.
The Vikings did win 10 games last year. They stil have the MVP. Their defense started showing signs of life on Sunday, creating four turnovers. And their quarterback played his best half of the season in the second half on Sunday.
More important is who the Vikings play. They didn't figure to be better than 1-1 at this juncture, because they hardly ever win at Chicago. So they're one game behind schedule with the Browns, Steelers and Panthers coming up. If they could put together a three-game winning streak, they'd be in contention.
And while their schedule after that seems daunting, Washington isn't nearly as difficult a matchup as it was considered to be before the season began.
Starting 0-2 leaves the Vikings with little margin for error, but it's not over until it's over, or unless you lose to the Browns.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. to talk about the Vikings game and other stuff. I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon with Judd&Dubay.
Also, I haven't received any feedback on my Jerry Kill column. If you'd like to let me know what you think, please send all emails to SHartman@startribune.com.
OK, since I used my column to hammer Christian Ponder for an awful performance and not taking full responsibility for that performance, I"ll offer a positive thought in this space:
The Vikings' receivers are greatly improved.
Greg Jennings made two fine catches on poorly-thrown balls. Cordarrelle Patterson, in just a couple of cameos, showed off an impressive burst and cutting ability. Jerome Simpson looks like a new man. Jarius Wright, highly-praised in training camp, should be a worthwhile fourth option.
Given that Ponder looked so inaccurate and indecisive, the Vikings would be wise to emphasize a couple of the simplest routes a quarterback is asked to throw: The behind-the-line screen to the wideout that would showcase Patterson's skills, and the deep routes that allow a receiver to adjust to even poorly-thrown balls.
Patterson could emulate Harvin in the short passing game, and Simpson made two fine catches on less-than-perfect downfield throws on Sunday.
When asked to make multiple reads and find an open receiver, Ponder looked terrible.
It's silly to call for the starting quarterback's job after one game. So I'll wait a week.
I heard about Randy Moss saying, jokingly or not, that the Vikings were being disrespectful by allowing Cordarrelle Patterson to wear No. 84.
This from the king of disrepectfulness.
I might actually take Moss seriously if he didn't treat just about everybody badly.
This is the guy who, given free food in the lockerroom by a local caterer, said he wouldn't feed that food to his dog. (I've eaten at that restaurant. Great stuff.) This is a guy who, after being paid by the Vikings in a game in which he gave up on a catchable deep pass from Brett Favre, went to the Vikings' podium in New England's stadium and praised the Patriots.
I could give you far worse examples of his behaviour, but I wouldn't be able to quote him accurately, so I'll leave it to your imagination.
He's a classless jerk. A tremendous player, but a classless jerk.
This is a pet peeve of mine, TV stations giving jobs to athletes and coaches who were terrible with the media during their careers. Shannon Sharpe and Moss might be the two worst examples.
Congratulations to Lindsay Whalen on her contract extension.
She's all class and a great player. What a couple of years: Comes back to her hometown team, wins a WNBA title, plays an unexpectedly large role on an Olympic champion, and signs an extension.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:05 a.m. then on with Judd&Dubay on 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow.
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