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

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.

 

Monday morning thoughts

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: October 17, 2011 - 11:16 AM

Monday morning second-guessing (let's call it what it is):

-Logically, there is no reason for professional head football coaches to have to jog through the maelstrom of bodies on the field after an emotional game and offer a gratuitous and often insincere handshake. It's a silly custom.

Logically, the practice should be banned.

But I'm glad it exists, because it's brought us some great moments, like Bill Belichick dissing Eric Mangini and now Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz almost starting a brawl.

Here's the deal with Harbaugh and Schwartz: They were both wrong. Harbaugh was wrong to show up Schwartz, which he certainly did. Schwartz was wrong to escalate the situation by chasing Harbaugh down.

But I loved it. This is entertainment. It's also a win-or-bust business. Pro football is not for nice people. There are exceptions to that rule, like Tony Dungy, but they are rare exceptions. I love it when high-profile people bare their teeth and souls. So while I wouldn't want my kids or high school coach or even college coach behaving like this, in pro football, I love it when coaches break their usually cliche-ridden molds.

-I'm at Winter Park today, awaiting news on who starts at quarterback. I've been calling for Ponder since the Vikings fell to 0-3, but now I really don't think the timing matters much.

Start McNabb again, to save Ponder from facing the Packers in his first start? Fine with me. That's one of the reasons McNabb is here, to protect Ponder.

Start Ponder to introduce him to the NFL as quickly as possible, to prepare him for 2012 - or just to evaluate him? Fine with me. Why not?

Start Joe Webb? Fine by me.

When you're 1-5 and bound to lose and have so much of the season left, it really doesn't matter anymore.

-I fear for the Gophers. Their head coach is telling anyone who will listen that they're no good, and the players have every reason to believe him, and now they're facing a Nebraska team that will physically whip them. I fear not only for a 60-0 score, I fear for the players' safety. It's a hard game to play when your heart's not in it.

-To me, the Vikings' loss last night was predictable. They never play well in Chicago. Why would a bad Vikings team play well in Chicago when ever the best Vikings teams have struggled in that town and on that surface?

I am surprised it became a blowout so quickly. I keep thinking about all the quality players the Vikings have, but, then, these are the same players who seemed to quit under Brad Childress just a year ago. Maybe their talent level is overrated.

-Gov. Mark Dayton has been very even-handed, smooth and presidential in his handling of the Vikings' stadium debate. Now he's saying that a 1-5 record makes the stadium iniative less popular.

That's a blatant copout, and the kind of statement that makes us hate politicians. Noone, whether stadium proponent or opponent, should base a decision that will affect the state for good or ill for the next 30-plus years on how Donovan McNabb is playing this season.

The Vikings are a state asset. Different people will value their presence in different ways. I'm a sports guy. I value sports and think there are intangible benefits to having a team in state as well as tangible economic benefits. If you don't value sports, I don't expect you to agree with me.

But the decision should not be based on a win-loss record, whether the Vikings were 6-0 or 1-5. The decision should be based on the value of having an NFL franchise in our state. And if Dayton or anyone else wants to argue that we should let the Vikings leave because they're 1-5, I would argue that Minnesota eventually would decide to lure back an NFL franchise, and that acquiring another franchise will be much more expensive and complicated than building a stadium for the current franchise, which, for all of its faults and big losses, has been remarkably entertaining and competitive for decades.

-Since the start of the 2010 season, the Vikings are 7-15. That's the fourth-worst record

Here are the teams that are similar or worse during that span:

Carolina: 3-19.

Denver: 5-16.

Arizona: 6-15.

Cincinnati: 6-14.

St. Louis: 7-14.

Cleveland: 7-14.

Miami: 7-13.

-My pick: Rangers in six. Other than Cris Carpenter, I don't think the Cardinals' pitching staff can handle the Rangers' lineup.

-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2 p.m. with Reusse and Mackey, then on tonight, perhaps around 6:40, with Tom Pelissero. I'll also be on with Mike McFeely on KFGO in Fargo at 2:35.

My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

 

 

McNabb on pizza and passing

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: October 12, 2011 - 12:55 PM

Just finished with the afternoon session of interviews at Winter Park, including Donovan McNabb's weekly self-assessment, which goes something like this:

``I'm fine. We're fine. Why are you bothering me with these questions?''

His verbatim quote on questions about his accuracy: ``Well, I guess according to y'all, I've always been inaccurate.''

Which is a particularly self-pitying thing to say.

McNabb recommended Uno's deep dish pizza in his hometown of Chicago. I prefer Geno's. But it's telling that McNabb is more forthcoming on the subject of food than on his play at the most important position in sports.

One thing you learn as a longtime sportswriter is there are three kinds of athletes who almost never admit to a mistake: Golfers, pitchers and quarterbacks. All three categories produce athletes who find confidence and self-assurance so crucial that they rarely want to go down the path of public self-analysis. They teach themselves not to second-guess themselves because if they start, they may feel doubt in the heat of action.

That's where we find Donovan McNabb these days. I don't know if I've ever seen a less-accurate quarterback, and yet McNabb on Wednesday fought off questions about his mechanics and inaccuracy.

He told Sports Illustrated lately that he finds talk of him being replaced ``hilarious,'' and Tom Pelissero of 1500espn found similar quotes from him last season before he was benched by the Redskins.

I'd say it's time for McNabb to feel a little more urgency. W'hether he wants to believe it or not, he's not many losses away from being replaced. If and when the Vikings reach a point where they have no hope of making the playoffs, they will be forced to play Christian Ponder, if only to evaluate him.

Asked about mechanical problems that have him throwing the ball into the ground, McNabb said, ``This whole mechanics thing is getting out of hand.''

I understand that quarterbacks, given the intense scrutiny under which they perform, aren't going to stand at a podium and welcome more criticism. But a sense of reality might be nice.

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I hope the Twins are paying attention to the Detroit Tigers, at all levels, this year.

The Tigers' GM isn't afraid to make dramatic moves, whether it's signing Ivan Rodriguez, pursuing Miguel Cabrera or trading for Doug Fister.

The Tigers' players aren't afraid to play hurt. Cabrera has averaged 157 games played over the last eight seasons. Victor Martinez strained an oblique on his home-run swing on Tuesday, yet vowed he would play unless ``I'm dead,'' and is in the lineup tonight. You could see Justin Verlander arguing to stay in Game 1 despite two rain delays.

I don't know if the Tigers are a likeable team, but they're an admirable team. And they're threatening to distance themselves from the Twins, long-term, just as the Packers have separated themselves from the Vikings.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2 p.m. today. I'll be in the studio on Sunday for Sunday Sports Talk, which airs from 10-noon and will feature Pelissero from Chicago, plus Kevin Seifert and a couple of guests to be named later.

 

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