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.
Find him on Twitter
Catching up with the sports world after some time away....
1.Just when you thought he might be out of our lives for at least six months, Tim Tebow beats the Steelers with an impressive and dramatic performance, leading to our highly oversimplified national debate. It seems half the country thinks Tebow is an inspirational winner who can't be measured by conventional passing statistics, and half the country thinks he's overrated and lucky.
We tend to do this in sports: Reduce everything to a for-or-against debate that makes for an easy-to-stage TV argument. Here's my not-so-simple view of Tebow:
He's never going to be the kind of precision passer that every NFL GM wants. If you're choosing between the next Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers and Tebow, you'd take the next Brees or Rodgers. But not every team is in a position to make that choice. If you're choosing between Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn and Tebow, why not choose the compelling and entertaining guy who somehow wins games, even if he sometimes wins only because he stays out of the way of the players on his team who actually make a big difference every week?
Also: While I wouldn't want to build a franchise around Tebow, I'd rather have him than the starting quarterbacks for the 10 worst teams in the NFL, That might be faint praise, but it should be part of the debate. You don't have to compare Tebow only with the greatest quarterbacks in the NFL any more than you should be comparing Christian Ponder with the great quarterbacks at this point in his career.
Also: Tebow has a chance to get better. This is where character might matter. He's a gifted athlete with a strong work ethic and a tremendous drive to succeed. Those factors won't enable him to ever complete 70 percent of his passes, but they could enable him to become slightly more accurate as his career progresses.
Finally, Tebow is, beyond a doubt, one of the most entertaining players in a league in which there really aren't all that many interesting people. I don't think he should use his place in the NFL to push his religion on people, but I do find the way he plays and the way people react to him fascinating. So I hope the guy keeps his job as a starter for years to come. Would you really rather watch Brady Quinn? Or Andy Dalton? Or Alex Smith?
The same argument can be made for Joe Webb. If Ponder becomes an efficient passer, then you'd obviously rather have Ponder starting than Webb. But if Ponder fails, and becomes our version of Orton or Quinn, then you can make an argument for a great athlete playing the position and trying to win in an unconventional manner.
2. If his name were anything other than Tubby Smith, would anyone think this man deserved to keep his job? He's lost 14 of his last 15 Big Ten games. He's shown an inability to adapt to injuries and help players get better while they're under his watch. Yesterday, against Purdue, even his vaunted defensive system stunk, allowing Purdue to shoot open three-pointers whenever they wanted.
And can we please re-visit all of the cheerleading from the local media that occured when the Gophers were beating junior-high teams from Winnipeg during their embarrassing non-conference schedule? Please remind me, people, why you were all so impressed? Won't you please admit that you just have no standards?
3. I know a lot of Vikings fans are questioning the Vikings' promotion of Rick Spielman to GM. After all, he's helped shape a roster that has flopped the last two years.
My view: Spielman deserves a shot at this. No one works harder or is more organized. Yes, he's missed on a number of draft picks, but most personnel gurus outside of Green Bay do. I'll say the same thing about Spielman that I said when the Twins made Terry Ryan their GM in 1994: I don't know if he'll succeed, but he's earned this opportunity. While most fans daydream about the Wilfs hiring some personnel magician away from another team, in any organization I like to see loyalty and hard work rewarded.
Of course, Spielman will probably be judged by Christian Ponder's career. If Ponder becomes a good NFL starter, then Spielman will have succeeded on his most difficult and important decision, and will have the opportunity to build around Ponder. If Spielman missed on Ponder, he'll probably be out of a job in two years.
4. I've had a lot of different views of Ricky Rubio over the years. I covered him at the Beijing Olympics, and he was very impressive while playing against the US in the gold medal game. I watched him play in Europe, and thought he had regressed. I watched him in preseason practices, and was newly impressed by his poise and ballhandling.
Just a few weeks into his first NBA season, I'm much more impressed by Rubio than I thought I would be. He's smoother and more efficient than I expected, and he doesn't throw some of the flashy, silly passes that I saw in Europe.
Rubio, Kevin Love and Derrick Williams could be the basis of a playoff team.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn with Reusse and Mackey at 2:05 p.m. today and every weekday. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
The Twins didn't trade away players at the deadline because they think they can still win the division. They didn't trade for players because they don't want to pay the high prices required for them to acquire a bullpen arm when they're in the fourth place in the division on Aug. 1.
They're stuck in the middle. I've heard outrage from both sides, that the Twins should have traded their players headed to free agency, and that they should have sold out trying to win this year.
I'm just not surprised that they did neither. To trade an everyday player or a prospect for a reliever could damage their long-term plans without dramatically increasing this team's chances of winning. to trade away Michael Cuddyer, their most valuable player on the trade market, when they're still in contention would be one way of telling fans not to show up at Target Field for the rest of the season.
From a purely logical standpoint, I believe the Twins should have traded Cuddyer. But the Twins care about their clubhouse culture and rewarding the right players, and Cuddyer is the best organizational player they've had, in terms of being a personification of everything they teach and value, in a long time.
We all begin our evaluation of teams by gauging their ability to win a championship, but there is more to sports than that. If keeping Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Matt Capps around gives this team a chance to win the division and encourages people to buy tickets, then maybe this is the right approach.
I'm on record saying I would have sold pieces off to try to rebuild the franchise's talent base. But while I disagree with the Twins' decision, I also, on a gut level, like it when franchises stubbornly insist on winning, and keep trying to keep a good thing going.
As for the Vikings, this is a strange set a circumstances. They have a first-year coach, a free-agent quarterback trying to learn the offense in a short period of time, a new offensive coordinator, and a slew of very good players who might not have many effective years left in their legs.
Like the Twins, the Vikings are stuck in the middle. To win nine or 10 games, they'll need surprising performances from Donovan McNabb, Bryant McKinnie, John Sullivan, Steve Hutchinson, Cedric Griffin, Jared Allen, Brian Robison...just about every veteran on the team.
How many of their best players are sure things, presuming good health? Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, Antoine Winfield...and that's about it. All of their other name players are either aging or coming off disappointing seasons or injuries.
So why should the Vikings avoid a true rebuilding process? Because sport is unpredictable. I still don't think the Bears were all that good last year, but they wound up on the right side of the Calvin Johnson ruling, got to face the Seahawks in the playoffs and suddenly found themselves with a chance to win the NFC title game against the team that would eventually win the Super Bowl.
So my attitude toward the Vikings is the same as it is toward the Twins: It might be smart, in a clinical sense, to rebuild, but neither franchise is willing to give up. And there's something to be said for trying to win every year, regardless of the circumstances. Remember: Rebuilding sounds good until you try it and it doesn't work.
-News just broke, via ESPN, that Randy Moss is retiring.
I think the Vikings should hold a ceremony to honor him. He can stand on a podium at FedEx Field in Washington, D.C., and then, as he begins his speech, everyone can walk off, and into the locker room.
And then Matt Birk can finally beat him up.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today with Pat and Phil, then on with Phunn in the 6 o'clock hour. I'm also hosting the Phunn House on Tuesday night from 6-8:30 on 1500.
I'm in Mankato until Tuesday afternoon, and I'll tweet as warranted at @Souhanstrib.
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.
But, as you know, I could be wrong.
A Series of Random Thoughts on Super Sunday:
-I like the Packers tonight. I think Aaron Rodgers will be the Super Bowl MVP, and will take advantage of the Packers' receiving depth to exploit (a word we think of as a good thing only in football) the Steelers' secondary. I see Jordy Nelson making a big play tonight.
-I'm covering the Gophers-Ohio State game right now, and Ohio State is off to a 9-4 start. Blake Hoffarber is trying to run the point, and William Buford is all over him, and Austin Hollins is showing some early nerves. And, as usual, every Gopher fan in the Barn is asking for the refs to call traveling on every possession. Because that's what we all pay to see - traveling calls.
-Had Wild GM Chuck Fletcher on the highly-rated Sunday Sports Talk on 1500espn, and I asked him about something that's always bugged me: Why do we always attributed NHL wins and losses to effort, instead of skill?
But Fletcher disagreed with me. He said that the talent of most teams, especially in the middle of the pack in the West, is so close that goaltending and effort are the X factors. So I was wrong. Dang.
-Jon Deibler looks like one of the Beatles. Of course, so does Hoffarber.
-The Wolves' loss last night to Denver leaves them at 11-39, one game behind the pace last year that left them with 15 victories. And their upcoming three-game road trip means they're about to be 11-42.
After talking with people in and around the organization, I don't see any reason for owner Glen Taylor to keep GM David Kahn or coach Kurt Rambis around. That entire organization is a dumpster fire. Blow it up, again, and start over, and this time hire good people.
-Congratulations to the Gopher hockey team for holding Mike Connolly to five goals on Saturday.
-One important difference between the Packers team that is in the Super Bowl this year and the Vikings team that almost went to the Super Bowl last year: The Packers have zero players acquired by trade, and have demonstrated a great depth of home-grown talent this season.
The Vikings are a patchwork of free-agents, trade products and draft choices, and lack the Packers' great young depth. Leslie Frazier is a sharp guy, but he has a lot of work to do to rebuild this roster.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 every day this week, and will run my final Sunday Sports Talk with Brad Lane on Sunday. Tom Pelissero will replace Brad as my co-host two weeks from now (when we'll both be in Fort Myers covering the Twins), and Brad will concentrate on his new job at the station - program director.
My thanks to Brad for helping Sunday Sports Talk become such a hit, and congratulations to him on his promotion.
Tom will bring a reporter's knowledge and a columnist's edge to the show. Other stations will not be able to stop us; they can only hope to contain us.
-My Twitter name is Souhanstrib.
No, Jay Cutler is not a wimp. He has taken many beatings as an NFL quarterback without begging out of a game. He has proved quite durable. He has not complained about getting hit. He hasn't even complained publicly about losing games.
He is less than ideal as a public figure. He does not know how to manage perceptions. But let's forget about perceptions and deal with facts - always a useful place to start:
1. He injured his knee.
2. The Bears' medical team told him he probably shouldn't play.
3. He tried to play.
4. He could not play.
If his name were Peyton Manning, and he had left the field gripping his leg and fallen down on the sideline and pounded the turf with his fists, we'd feel sorry for him. Because he has behaved like a spoiled brat during his career, and because he is not aware enough to know how to manage public perception of him, we assumed the worst when we saw him standing on the sideline with that glum look on his face.
I've known many athletes who have damaged their knees. Having a torn MCL doesn't necessarily keep you from walking or standing. It keeps you from performing explosive athletic movements, like throwing a pass or running away from a pass rush.
I hate to defend Cutler, but he's not a wimp, and there is nothing in his professional history to make us believe he would pull himself out of the biggest game of his life unless he simply couldn't perform.
-Which brings us to Twitter, a day after many NFL players used Twitter to criticize Cutler without having any idea of what his injury was.
I have come to the realization recently that I hate Twitter.
At least I'm evenhanded about my hate.
I hate when I use Twitter.
I hate when athletes use Twitter.
I hate when the general public uses Twitter.
I hate even when some of my best friends and most esteemed peers in the media use Twitter.
I think I've un-followed (to use a term that I hope I"ll never use again) more people than I have followed.
I find Twitter useful for getting newsy updates about the teams I follow. But, as you've noticed, Twitter usually ends up being filled with garbage, including barely-formed thoughts...drunken ramblings...half-baked opinions...aimless bickering and backbiting...and all manner of self-serving bleatings.
I find that when I've used Twitter for anything other than blatant self-promotion, I've regretted it.
Call me old-school, but I've always thought that one of the most important aspects of writing was the thinking you put into your writing. Twitter allows most of its users to skip that step - the thinking step.
-My early Super Bowl pick: Packers 27, Steelers 23. I think Aaron Rodgers will beat the Steelers' blitzes with quick passes to his many fine receivers, and the Packers will intercept Ben Roethlisberger enough to keep the Steelers at bay.
I think the Packers were able to survive a pretty lousy performance against a good defense on a terrible field. I believe on the fast turf in Dallas, with two weeks to prepare, Mike McCarthy and Rodgers will find a way to move the ball against a very good defense that specializes in stopping the run.
Also, I can't help but root for Rodgers, by all accounts a wonderful guy, over Roethlisberger, one of the NFL's foremost cads.
-Don't worry, Gophers fans. Sure, you're missing Al Nolen, but this is where DeVoe Joseph will step in and handle the point guard duties.
-Had this thought while during my daily appearance on 1500espn: Why don't NFL head coaches employ bench coaches? They have coaches handling everything else, including "quality control'' and ""assistant offensive line''...why wouldn't you employ a guy to stand next to you who can concentrate solely on game situations?
Like when to call timeouts. When to punt. When to go for the first down. When to run or pass inside two minutes.
It's amazing how many good football coaches make mistakes in game management. It's understandable. They're trying to be aware of everything happening with their team - offensive decisions, defensive decisions, play calling, injuries, game situations, opposing personnel packages. So why not hire someone who can help you think clearly when the game is on the line?
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 tomorrow, as on all weekdays. We'll do Sunday Morning Sports Talk this week from TwinsFest, with a great guest lineup, including Rod Carew and a bunch of current players.
|Professional baseball (149)||Vikings (193)|
|Gopher coaches (48)||Gopher quarterbacks (13)|
|Gopher recruiting (2)||Gopher road games (3)|
|Gophers disciplinary action (2)||Gophers recruiting (2)|
|Gophers spring football (4)||TCF Bank Stadium (22)|
|The Big 10 (25)||NCAA: football (14)|
|Gophers coaches (59)||Gophers players (38)|
|Tubby Smith (36)||Williams Arena (15)|
|Gophers post season (6)||Gophers roster moves (4)|
|Golf (23)||Soccer (4)|
|Twins news (38)||WNBA (7)|
|Wild news (31)||AFC (9)|
|Bears (23)||Ex-Vikings (15)|
|Football on TV (69)||Lions (14)|
|NFC (65)||NFL draft (26)|
|NFL post-season (26)||Packers (51)|
|Super Bowl (40)||Vikings coaches (92)|
|Vikings defense (40)||Vikings fans (28)|
|Vikings injury report (15)||Vikings management (76)|
|Vikings off the field (27)||Vikings offense (67)|
|Vikings quarterbacks (41)||Vikings road games (14)|
|Vikings rookies (4)||Vikings roster moves (3)|
|Vikings special teams (2)||Vikings training camp (5)|
|Off the field (5)||On the road (22)|
|Quarterbacks (32)||Rookies (3)|
|Roster moves (1)||Vikings draft (41)|
|Ron Gardenhire (120)||Target Field (140)|
|Twins fans (146)||Twins management (193)|
|Twins offense (108)||Twins transactions (88)|
|NBA playoffs (40)||Wolves coaches (72)|
|Wolves draft news (28)||Wolves guards (37)|
|Wolves injury report (7)||Wolves management (76)|
|Wolves players (59)||Wolves trade talk (14)|
|Wolves training camp (11)||All-Stars and honors (84)|
|Fighting (2)||Wild coaching (25)|
|Wild management (35)||Wild off-season news (3)|
|Wild player moves (4)||Adrian Peterson (64)|
|Anthony Herrera (2)||Antoine Winfield (16)|
|Ben Leber (1)||Bernard Berrian (7)|
|Brad Childress (28)||Brett Favre (54)|
|Brian Robison (3)||Bryant McKinnie (3)|
|Cedric Griffin (5)||Chad Greenway (11)|
|Chester Taylor (5)||Chris Kluwe (2)|
|Darrell Bevell (5)||E.J. Henderson (4)|
|Jared Allen (27)||John Sullivan (6)|
|Kevin Williams (4)||Leslie Frazier (46)|
|Madieu Williams (2)||Pat Williams (3)|
|Percy Harvin (26)||Phil Loadholt (3)|
|Ray Edwards (1)||Ryan Longwell (9)|
|Sage Rosenfels (1)||Sidney Rice (10)|
|Steve Hutchinson (7)||Tarvaris Jackson (10)|
|Tyrell Johnson (2)||Visanthe Shiancoe (5)|
|Brad Childress (28)||Darrell Bevell (5)|
|Leslie Frazier (46)||NHL news (9)|
|2010 Winter Games (13)||Olympic curling (1)|
|Olympic hockey (8)||Olympic skiing (4)|
|Olympic village (11)|