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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Charlotte, N.C. _ Yes, they ultimately won because the Carolina Panthers committed a silly penalty that erased a chance at a winning touchdown and led to a missed field goal that should have tied it, but the Vikings did show some signs of life on Sunday, in their 24-21 victory.
I give most of the credit to the Vikings' first road victory since December to rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, and he's the subject of my Monday column. It's funny how much better the Vikings' offense looks in the second half since Ponder replaced McNabb. McNabb was at his worst in clutch situations - third downs, third-and-longs, fourth quarters - and that's where Ponder has been at his best.
I'm especially impressed with the way Ponder has handled himself throughout his brief Vikings career. Here's a kid breaking into the NFL without the benefit of offseason workouts or tutoring from his NFL coaches, and he's not only played well immediately, he's handled the demands of being an NFL quarterback extremely well. He's smart, he has a sense of humor and he never seems to be overwhelmed by any situation.
I caught Vikings coach Leslie Frazier on his way to the bus on Sunday night, and he is almost giddy, feeling he's found his franchise quarterback.
-Kudos to Percy Harvin for being one of the toughest players in a league filled with tough guys. I don't know how you play football with bad ribs, and I especially don't know how you make spin moves and fight off tackles with bad ribs, but Harvin did it, and his spin-o-rama in the fourth quarter was the key to the game-winning drive.
-Ryan Longwell has been a tremendous kicker and a tremendous professional his entire career. He's yanked two kicks in two games, though, and his miss on Sunday could have cost the Vikings the game.
-Funny how with a smart, mobile quarterback, the offensive line doesn't look so wretched anymore, even with Anthony Herrera out on Sunday.
-Adrian Peterson might be the best he's ever been. I don't know what it looked like on TV, but from the press box, getting to see the entire field, it's remarkable how quickly he is sensing openings in the defense. On his catch-and-run touchdown in the second quarter, most backs would have burrowed for a few yards; Peterson had the vision and burst to veer to the outside for what turned out to be an easy score. The guy is phenomenal.
-The lockerroom was loud after the game, and Frazier walked among his players, slapping hands and hugging them, and he took extra time when he got to Harvin. NFL coaches have to have their guys play hurt to survive, and Frazier had extra praise for Harvin.
-Tim Tebow stinks.
-Erin Henderson made a few key stops. He's acquitted himself well since joining the starting lineup.
-Jared Allen is having an amazing season. He and Adrian Peterson are two of the best players in all of football, which is why talk of rebuilding must drive the Vikings crazy. It's hard to rebuild when you have superstars on the payroll.
-Everson Griffin is an amazing athlete. He's 273 pounds and yet plays gunner on the punt coverage team, and regularly beats double-teams. I don't see why he can't become an excellent pass rusher.
-Upcoming: I'll be on with Reusse and Mackey on 1500espn every day at 2:05 p.m., and I'll join Tom Pelissero a couple of times this week, as well. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Crazy night in Charlotte. At dinner with the boys when I get a text from Gary Louris and Marc Perlman of the Minneapolis band The Jayhawks. They were about to take the stage at Spirit Theater a few blocks away.
So I head there with photos Jerry Holt and Carlos Gonzalez and videographer McKenna Ewen, and halfway there, I realize I'm wearing a Jayhawks t-shirt that I bought at their First Avenue shows this winter.
Great show, intimate theater, and we even had the pleasure of watching a drunk guy hit on two women sitting in front of us, before he passed out right in front of me and missed the encores.
This morning I'm in the press box at the Panthers' stadium. It's a beautiful day, and I'm about to start Sunday Morning Sports Talk with Tom Pelissero.
Among the topics:
-Should anyone ever listen to anything Donovan McNabb has to say?
-If beating Iowa at home is such a big deal, why isn't Jeff Horton still coaching the Gophers?
-Yes, I really do like Jerry Kill, but I'm not backing off the notion that it was silly to give him a raise and an extension before he won a Big Ten game.
-Christian Ponder and Cam Newton are proof that a promising rookie quarterback brings more promise than anyone at any position in sports. These teams are terrible in terms of record, and yet I can't wait to watch this game. I did not feel the same way when McNabb was starting.
-Check out startribune.com later for postgame video as well as game coverage from me, Dan Wiederer and Mark Craig, plus the work of Holt, Gonzalez and Ewen.
-I'll live tweet as internet allows, at @Souhanstrib.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
St. Louis: 7-14.
-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.
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.
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.
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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