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 Quarterbacks

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.

 

Series of Random Thoughts as I head to Target Center

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: August 30, 2011 - 5:54 PM
Covering the Lynx game tonight, my column on the team will be in tomorrow’s paper.
Someone remind me how you write about a winning team again?
If any of the Lynx players come down with bilateral leg weakness as I'm sitting courtside, then we'll know that I'm the carrier...
Spanning the globe, or at least the part of the globe threatened by hurricanes, earthquakes, recessions and stick food:
-Chester Taylor’s departure was overrated, and the potential of him returning was overblown. Backup running backs, even good ones, are easy to find. While I think the Vikings reached when they used a second-round pick on Toby Gerhart (because he’s just a backup running back right now), he’s better at this point in his career than Taylor is.
If there’s anything more overrated than a backup running back, it’s an older backup running back who averaged 2.4 yards per rush last year at the age of 31. Gehart and Lorenzo Booker can handle anything Adrian Peterson can’t, and Gerhart will have to prove his worth as a starter if anything happens to Peterson.
Who, by the way, could have an immense season. Think about it: A healthy, eager Peterson in a contract year in a power-running offense. If he stays healthy, I could see him buying Jim Kleinsasser, Jeff Dugan and Visanthe Shiancoe Rolexes at the end of the year, along with the offensive linemen.
-I spoke with Justin Morneau after Sunday’s game, during which he ran around like a maniac on the bases and in the field. Now he’s sitting out in Chicago because of more concussion-related symptoms.
That’s about the worst thing I’ve heard all year. Here’s a guy who was trying to set an example for his teammates by hustling, and he once again raises the specter of an injury that just won’t go away.
As for Joe Mauer, I’m developing a pet theory after talking to lots of people in the Twins’ organization: I think he’s depressed about something. Seriously. If you’ve ever been depressed, or read about depression, or known anyone who has battled depression, you know that in depression’s throes, a person is much more prone to have the common cold turn into the flu, and is much more prone to having a minor injury become a major setback.
I don’t say this lightly. If Mauer is struggling with something in his personal life, that would explain a lot.
-I read with interest reports of the University of Kentucky sports information department banning a student reporter from interviews with basketball players because the reporter contacted two walk-on players without going through SID channels.
I went through that while covering the University of Missouri basketball team, coached by the cantankerous Norm Stewart. Norm heard that I had tracked down a player on campus to follow a lead, and he stopped speaking with me. (Of course, I’ve caused a few people over the years to stop speaking with me, including a lot of people I now really like. Including Jerry Burns, like Jerry Burns.)
My situation was slightly different than the current Kentucky dust-up. Stewart didn’t ban me from interviews with players or restrict my access, he just stopped giving me bonus time with him. He was well within his rights to do so, and I didn’t complain because I had no basis for complaint.
The Kentucky situation is a little more complex than many national media reporters are making it seem. While I agree that no SID or school should ever restrict a news organization’s first-amendment rights, all Kentucky did was restrict the reporter from a round of interviews that were not available to all media members. While I would put up a fight if I were the Kentucky student newspaper, sometimes we (reporters and columnists) simply have to accept that if we aggressively pursue information, we’re going to forfeit opportunities to receive help from PR people.
I’ve had a lot of people turn down interview requests from me because I criticized them or they didn’t want to discuss the topic I was interested in, and that’s their right.
-I’ve been saying this on the radio all week: The Vikings’ offense really reminds me of Joe Gibbs’ Super Bowl winning offenses when he was in Washington.
What’s good about that is that Gibbs didn’t need a great quarterback, running back or deep threat to win Super Bowls. He won Super Bowls with three different non-Hall of Fame quarterbacks and three different featured running backs.
Eras have changed, and quarterbacks may be more important now than they’ve ever been, but Gibbs’ philosophies should hold some promise for today.
He likes power running, multiple tight ends (or H-backs), and softening the defense up for the long pass. Those tenets should be pretty timeless.
-The consensus among local media outlets seems to be that the Wolves’ coaching job is Rick Adelman’s for the taking. I can’t say that’s not true, I can only say that I think owner Glen Taylor wants to take a good hard look at hiring Sam Mitchell, and Taylor is free to trump David Kahn’s judgement on this hire if he wants to.
While the long, torturous process has turned off a lot of people, I actually think the Wolves are in good shape here. Adelman is an excellent coach, although he may be reaching a time of his life – he’s 65 and reportedly his wife isn’t keen on him coaching this year – where basketball might not be a consuming passion. Mitchell was an NBA coach of the year not long ago and is the lone candidate who can bring back memories of the Wolves’ competent years and might be the best candidate for toughening up a soft roster. And Don Nelson, while likely to flame out quickly and head back to Hawaii, would at least make the Wolves more fun to watch.
Personally, I’m pulling for Mitchell because I like him and think he would look at this as the opportunity of a lifetime, instead of just another paycheck.
-Michael Vick’s contract, even when simply looking at guaranteed money, seems like a huge risk to me. There is no guarantee his speed and skills will survive the beatings he’s taking as a running quarterback, and no one knows how he’ll react to once again having a lot of money in his pocket. I wouldn’t have signed him to this deal, especially since the Eagles’ coach, Andy Reid, is so good at developing quarterbacks.
It's obvious the Eagles are going for it this year, but I still think they're maybe the third-best team in the NFC, behind the Packers and perhaps the Saints. (I see the Saints reounding this year.)

-Upcoming: I’ll be flying to LA for the weekend to cover the Gophers at USC and the Twins at Angels. My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.

Monday Morning Quarterbacking

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: May 23, 2011 - 8:30 AM

I watched the Heat and Bulls last night, but didn't realize until this morning, watching Mike & Mike, that Joaquim Noah used a slur against a fan in Miami - the same slur that got Kobe Bryant into trouble earlier this season, when he yelled it at a ref.

First of all, I spent a little time around Noah when he played for Florida, and I know a few people who have covered him. I like the guy, and like everything I've ever heard about him.

Was uttering the slur wrong? Of course. But, as Mike & Mike noted, we're getting to a point in player-fan relations where I think we have to start holding the fan more accountable.

I think sports teams should start ejecting fans when they become too abusive. Haven't we evolved? Shouldn't we have reached a juncture in civilization when buying a ticket doesn't allow you the right to scream obscenities?

During the Twins' last homestand, a guy stood up in front of the press box and began screaming and cursing at a Twins reliever - I believe it was Joe Nathan. Why should he be allowed to do that, and ruin the experience of everyone within earshot? (A Twins usher calmed the man down.)

I took my daughter to a Timberwolves game years ago - we're talking the '90s - and we wound up next to a group of people who cursed the entire game. I never brought a kid back.

And that's not a shot at the Wolves. Whatever the state of their team, they work like crazy to make their fans comfortable..

I believe we need to start looking at sports more like theater, and less like a drunken night in a dive bar.

Can you imagine buying a ticket to a show, or a movie, or a concert, and having to sit next to someone who's screaming and cursing the entire night?

I'd say ``No.'' So why should it be allowed in professional sports, where people spend immense amounts of money on the entertainment?

-As I said on Twitter this morning, even if the Twins finish in last place, if they can trade Kevin Slowey, the season will be a success.

-We had ESPN's Chris Broussard on Sunday Morning Sports Talk on 1500espn this weekend, and we wound up talking about how LeBron James is almost like Magic Johnson in his ability to dominate a game physically and win without scoring. Then last night, he played a remarkably even, versatile game while letting Chris Bosh handle most of the scoring.

James has damaged his reputation as a good, down-to-earth guy in the last year. But he may be on his way to establishing himself as one of the greatest players of all time.

-I'll be fascinated to see how the Twins draw the rest of the year. Will people come for the ballpark? Will people show up only if the weather is good? Could the Twins' struggles be good for anyone who wants a chance to attend Target Field, and perhaps find a reasonably-priced ticket?

-Nice piece by colleague Chip Scoggins today on Chris Weinke's passing camp.

I don't know whether Christian Ponder will be a good NFL quarterback. He at least strikes me as an earnest, hard-working, responsible guy. That, combined with his obvious intelligence, should give him a chance to succeed.

Look at the great NFL quarterbacks. Their common denominators aren't exceptional arm strength and tremendous athletic ability. Their common denominators are intelligence, work ethic, leadership and accuracy.

Personally, I think covering the development of a talented young quarterback is the best story in sports. I'm hoping Ponder gives us something to write about, and talk about, for years.

-Had breakfast with Jerry Kill last week, leading to the piece I wrote for Sunday.

I like the guy. I think he's genuine. I also think he has a tough job.

-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 p.m. all week, and we'll host The Ron Gardenhire Show and Sunday Morning Sports Talk from the St. Thomas University mobile press box this week. You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

Thursday night draft thoughts...

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 28, 2011 - 10:17 PM

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:

-Extremely bright.

-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.

Today's pre-draft S.O.R.T.

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 28, 2011 - 4:15 PM

-Update: Mauer is supposed to talk shortly in the Twins' clubhouse. It's about time. 

My old friend Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News has five quarterbacks going in the first 12 picks, with the Vikings taking Andy Dalton.

The latest ESPN reports speculated that Blaine Gabbert, perhaps the best quarterback prospect in this draft, could fall to the Vikings at 12.

Other speculation includes the Vikings trading down to take Dalton later in the first round.

It’s easy to mock the mock drafts, because inevitably so many of the projected picks will be wrong.

Let me defend the wild prognostications: Whether we’re talking about Gosselin, Mike Mayock, Mel Kiper or Todd McShay, these people are well-connected, study tape and do their homework. Their mock drafts will wind up looking partially inaccurate not because of any failings on their part, but because they are predicting future events influenced by people who are good at keeping secrets.

Here’s my favorite scenario, the one that would most benefit the Vikings: They trade down from No. 12, take a quarterback later in the first round, and pick up an extra pick that will help rebuild an aging roster.

Of course, I’d also like to see Gabbert slide to them at No. 12. But if that doesn’t happen, I’d rather see them take a quarterback later, acknowledge that he’s going to need time to develop, and concede that this will be a rebuilding season.

-The Twins are pathetic right now. There are so many reasons to criticize them now.

Their unwillingness to take the field, or take questions, are two embarrassments for the franchise.

Delmon Young hamstrung his team by waiting so long to go on the disabled list, and he went on the disabled list after hitting prodigious batting practice home runs, then bailing out of Wednesday’s game. Pathetic.

At times during the last two years, I’ve advocated trading Francisco Liriano and Young. My thinking was that they were at maximum value but couldn’t be trusted to continue to excel. If they had traded Liriano for a good young pitcher and a power reliever, and Young for an ace, how would this team look now?

Also, it’s time for Joe Mauer to stand up and explain his situation. He’s a $23-million-a-year franchise player who is of interest to every sports fan in Minnesota, and he hides in the back room in the Twins’ clubhouse. Let me name a few players who understand that being a star, a franchise player, carries responsibilities like facing the media: Kirby Puckett. Torii Hunter. Johan Santana. Derek Jeter. Alex Rodriguez. Adrian Peterson. Kevin Love. Rich Gannon. Actually, the list is too long for even the internet to hold it.

-I think Roger Goodell will get booed in New York tonight, and I think he deserves it. The NFL has botched every step of its attempted lockout, and Goodell, a former lawyer, miscalculated this plan or failed to prevent others from implementing it. The NFL is getting embarrassed every day.

-As bad as the Twins are, they’ve been in far worse straits and still won the division. In 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2009 they were buried later in the season and rallied to win the division or force a playoff.

Being in a team slump is not the big problem for this team. The big problems are long-term health (this team won’t win without Mauer catching a significant number of games) and the bullpen (who do you trust right now in the ‘pen - Matt Capps and....?)

This bullpen was built with the idea that Joe Nathan, Jose Mijares and Capps would be the three key endgame relievers. Right now, the Twins don’t know what they’re going to get from Nathan and Mijares.

This team will eventually hit. It will eventually get healthier. It will, if history is an indication, patch together the middle infield. But the bullpen is an enduring concern.

-I’ll check in later. Right now I’m in the Vikings’ media room with Strib colleagues Judd Zulgad and Chip Scoggins, who have been providing blanket coverage of the draft.

My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

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