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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Let's be honest. I don't know if Christian Ponder is going to be a star or a bust. You don't know, either. The Vikings' braintrust, which invested countless hours dissecting his film and background and interviewing him and his coaches, don't really know, either.
But if you stop worrying about where draft experts had him ranked, he has a lot going for him.
According to consensus and statistics, he's:
-Personable. (Personality matters for quarterbacks; they have to be leaders.)
-Accurate (he completed 69 percent of his passes as a junior, and 62 percent as a senior.)
The biggest knock on him seems to be durability, but the Vikings say they thought he displayed toughness in trying to play through his injuries.
My column, in the Friday paper, makes this point: We don't know how good this kid is, but if he can play, we are about to be treated to the best drama in sports: The nurturing of a young quarterback.
For now, I'm giving the benefit of the doubt to Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier. I think Frazier knows what makes an NFL player tick, and Spielman is a tireless worker. I think they feel they landed a guy with great strengths and no glaring weaknesses.
I'll say this: I'm much more interested in this team today than I was yesterday.
-Congratulations to Michael Cuddyer for ripping into his teammates today. Somebody had to say it.
I think this will be Cuddyer's last season in Minnesota - he'll be a free agent and is not likely to want to take the kind of pay cut necessary to keep him here - and I'll miss him. He's honest, team-oriented, selfless and has a sense of humor. And he's responsible and accountable. A few of his teammates should take note.
-Joe Mauer wants to remain a catcher? Then he needs to prove he can recover from injuries and stay behind the plate. At some point, the Twins may have to remind him that he's the employee, not the employer.
-I know, I know, the Twins stink right now. They're a rather pathetic group.
Let me just remind you how lousy a team can look and still win something, though. In April of 2006, the Twins were swept by Cleveland early in the season by a combined 17-8. Then they were swept by Chicago by a combined 23-6. Then they were swept by Detroit by a combined 33-1.
That team, of course, won 96 games.
That's not a prediction of future success, merely a reminder that past failures haven't always been terrible omens.
-Ralph Sampson is declaring for the NBA draft?
Then I'm declaring that I'm about to win $1 billion dollars.
-While other NBA teams conduct their coaching searches, the Wolves...are...still...thinking...about...it...very...slowly...so...as...to...create...the...illusion...of...thoughful...ness.
-Upcoming: I'm outta here. Taking my first real adult vacation in a long, long time. I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 tomorrow, then going on a cruise. Tom Pelissero will conduct the Gardenhire Show and Sunday Morning Sports Talk along with my Strib colleague Judd Zulgad. I'm guessing they might talk about the draft.
I'll be back the following Sunday.
My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. I may tweet from the beach; I may not, but this is a good time to thank y'all for reading, and listening.
I don't know if we've ever encountered a more intriguing class of quarterbacks in the NFL draft. If there has been one, my memory fails me. Of course, that's what memories do.
So as we parse and dissect Newton, Gabbert, Locker et al, what we should remember is what we often forget: That almost all quarterbacks are accused of having flaws as the draft approaches.
Peyton Manning might be the greatest quarterback who ever lived. He had a subpar senior season at Tennessee, and there was real debate among accomplished people whether he or Ryan Leaf would make the better pro. After all, Manning did not have exceptional arm strength and didn't exactly win a national championship.
Dan Marino had a poor senior season, was accused of being a pot-head, and became the most prolific passer the NFL had seen until Favre and Manning arrived.
Who among us thought that Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan would have immediate success? Who among us thought Tom Brady would become a great pro? Who among us thought David Carr would flop?
Conventional wisdom holds that Jake Locker is the most probable match for the Minnesota Vikings. He should be available at No. 12, and he's a big, strong kid who presents himself well.
I'm not sure Locker would be a great pick for a pure West Coast offense. He might be an intriguing fit for the new Vikings' offense, which I suspect will look a little like Joe Gibbs' power-running, deep-throwing offenses. The philosophy will be to pound the run with Peterson, soften up the defense, then throw it over the top. Locker might be able to function in that offense.
For what it's worth, watching Locker on ESPN's various specials over the last few weeks left me with these impressions:
-Locker comes from a strong family.
-He seems like a great kid.
-He had the self-discipline and school pride to return for his senior year even though he could have cashed in last spring.
-His numbers aren't all that dissimilar to Blaine Gabbert's, even though Gabbert played in a system more likely to artificially inflate a quarterback's statistics.
-He has a strong build, runs well and is willing to sacrifice his body. While he'll have to change that in the NFL, you like to see a quarterback with the willingness to gain the extra yard by taking punishment.
-Then there is this: Against Nebraska, he took a brutal hit and wound up twisted on the turf. He was wearing a mic, so you can hear him telling the training staff ``I can't see anything; everything's black,'' or something like that. The trainers took a good look at him and one said something along the lines of, ``Uh, Jake, your helmet is pulled down over your eyes, that's why you can't see.''
-This isn't a fair way to evaluate someone, but most of his highlight plays seemed to be runs, scrambles and general-direction throws, not the kind of precise lasers than impress NFL scouts.
That's the thing: If a quarterback isn't accurate, all the workout stats and great intangibles in the world won't matter. Not in the NFL, where there are often inches separating touchdown passes and interceptions.
I keep hearing that the Vikings have to take a quarterback. That's a dangerous sentiment. Put it this way: If the Vikings have access to a quarterback they think can be a quality, long-term starter at No. 12, yes, they should take him. If they are choosing between a sure-thing Pro Bowler at another position or a quarterback they would admit internally they feel is a reach, then they shouldn't take that quarterback. Taking the wrong quarterback is a much worse decision than having to patch the position together for another year.
-Upcoming: I'll be at the Vikings' draft headquarters Thursday night with the Star Tribune team. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
The Twinsjust a ' game is postponed tonight. That's good for them.
The NFL season remains in jeopardy. That's bad for pretty much everyone, but let's cut to the chase and blame the owners for being arrogant and stupid. At least, those are the kindest synonyms I can get into print.
First, the Twins. While rainouts this month could leave them with few days off later in the season, let's take a guess at what the roster will look like in, say, July, as opposed to today.
Joe Mauer figures to be healthy. Tsuyoshi Nishioka should be back, and while he has yet to impress, he has a better pedigree than anyone else in the Twins' middle infield. Kevin Slowey should be healthy enough to use or trade. Kyle Gibson should be at a point in his development where he can help the rotation, if needed. Justin Morneau should be further removed from illness and concussion concerns. And Francisco Liriano, like many Latin pitchers, may be much closer to optimal performance.
The Twins should have the starting pitching depth to weather a full schedule, and they have been adept at picking up key relievers during the season.
The rain can only do this team good.
-So NFL players show up for work - or at least a dip in the tub - and are told they aren't allowed in the building.
This is another example of the NFL taking its preeminence for granted, and botching the PR play.
What better symbol for the players than what happened today: They show up, eager for work, and the owners tell them to go away?
The NFL and its owners were making a killing in the system that they now say was unfair to them. Only the grotesquely rich and self-absorbed could come to that conclusion and risk their brand while seeking just a bit more.
-The NBA and NHL playoffs have been fabulous. Dramatic games, surprises, stunning individual performances, upsets - I could joke about the Wild and Wolves not qualifying for these long-running dramas, but it's not funny. It's just sad.
Nice of former Wolves draft pick Ty Lawson to score 27 points last night, just to remind us of what a real point guard looks like.
-If I were the Vikings, I'd try to trade up to take Blaine Gabbert, or take Jake Locker if he's available at No. 12. I heard Brian Billick on The Dan Patrick Show saying he believes there are only three true blue-chips in the draft - Patrick Peterson, Marcell Dareus and Von Miller. If the Vikings are going to be forced to take a non-blue chip, it might as well be someone at the most important position, and position of greatest need.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today. My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.
Today's Series of Random Thoughts:
-Carlos Gomez just made an amazing running catch against the Phillies. If only he could have learned to take a decent at-bat...
-For those emailing today, asking why my column didn't recommend firing David Kahn...well, I've actually recommended that often over the last few months. Today's column was an attempt to figure out how the Wolves could improve if he is retained, which is what I expect to happen.
-I also received a bunch of emails asking why I didn't include the Twins in today's ``prescription'' column. C'mon, can't we have a little perspective? The Twins stink right now. They're awful right now. They've been similarly awful at various points over the last 10 years, and being lousy for a couple of weeks, or a month, or half a season, hasn't prevented them from being very successful overall.
They stunk for half a season in 2003 and won the division. They stunk for two months to start the 2006 season and won the division. They stunk for much of 2008, and much of 2009, and wound up in Game 163s. And they went through a midseason slump last year and won the division.
They have lots of worrisome problems. Right now they don't know what they're going to get from their three best players - Mauer, Morneau and Nathan - or the entire bullpen. But they've been in far worse straits than this and survived. I'd just wait a while before burying them.
They have played as poorly as can be imagined, and yet are just two games behind Detroit and one behind Chicago. That's not exactly a crisis. It would be if the Twins played in the AL East, but they don't.
-Interesting that the NFL seems to have front-loaded its schedule with intriguing games, and rivalry games. Either the NFL brass expects the season to be played in full, or wants to pressure the players by making the public hot for those early-season games to be played on time.
-OK, this is purely selfish, but couldn't the Vikings play in Detroit in September and San Diego in December? Please?
-As I wrote today, Ken Hitchcock would be a godsend for the Wild. He's smart, funny, personable, accomplished and shrewd. He might be able to squeeze a playoff appearance out of this mediocre roster.
If the Wild hired Hitchcock and the Wolves hired Rick Adelman or Sam Mitchell, those franchises would be in far better shape.
-Watching the Sharks-Kings games last night, it occured to me that hockey is at its best when defenses are disorganized or inept. I'll take a wild shootout over a conservatively-played 1-0 game anytime in this sport.
-Been debating with Patrick Reusse on 1500espn how many pitchers the Twins will use this year. He originally said 18, and I said 20, and we might both be conservative. I see frequent callups and a trade or two before the end of August.
-There is a reason NBA players don't play this hard on defense during the regular season: None of them would be healthy for the playoffs. The level of defense in this league's playoffs is ferocious.
-As for the rampant Gopher-fan enthusiasm over the hiring of Jerry Kill, can we at least wait until he proves he can win the spring game?
So am I happier today than I was all winter because baseball season is beginning?
Or because it's spring and the sun is shining and Minneapolis looks beautiful?
Nice debate to have, after the winter of bad weather and worse sports we had.
To catch up on what's going on around town, as I sit in the Target Field press box waiting for the home opener to start:
Wolves: Yes, Kurt Rambis has to go. It's not his fault that the Wolves are a joke. But it is his fault that a roster that is not devoid of talent played without intelligence or intensity most of the season.
But if Rambis goes, a few other people should go with him. Like, everyone above him in the Wolves' hierarchy.
Wild: I don't know if Todd Richards is a good NHL coach, or whether he will be a good NHL coach in the future. I do know that just two months ago he was pretty impressive. I can't flip from thinking he was a good, young coach to thinking he's deserving of being fired in this amount of time.
I just think the Wild lacks top-end talent and scorers and a productive farm system. Those are things the coach can't control, and things the organization can't change overnight.
Gopher football: Can we wait for Jerry Kill to win one stinkin' game against Macalester or somebody before we get all excited? Please?
I like the guy, but you don't learn anything about a football coach until he has to deal with real games, real game-plans, real problem-solving.
NCAA basketball: It's an ugly sport with a brilliant format.
The Masters: I miss being there. I love covering the tournament. But with Tiger less interesting, I just feel less compelled to spend my entire day watching. I wish that weren't true, but it is.
The Twins: Nishioka's hurt, Hughes rarely stays healthy, and Casilla has not impressed. This will be another year where the Twins try to figure out their middle infield all season.
Here's a fascinating lineup, though: Span, Mauer, Morneau, Young, Kubel, Cuddyer, Thome, Valencia, Casilla. That's with Cuddyer playing second base, where he's taking ground balls today in case he's needed.
You couldn't use that lineup every day, but I'd love to see it.
Mauer is the ideal No. 2 hitter. One thing I hate about traditional managing is the idea that you want a weak, slap-hitter in the two-hole. I want a high on-base percentage guy at No.2, ahead of my sluggers. Mauer will be ideal in that role.
Enjoy the game.
Twitter handle: @Souhanstrib.
This Sunday, the Gardenhire show starts at 9:30 a.m. on 1500espn, followed by Sunday Morning Sports Talk with Tom Pelissero and myself. Rick Spielman among guests. Will talk lots of Twins, Vikings draft, Masters, wrap up a few winter sports seasons.
Sunday Morning Sports Talk
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