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 Brett Favre

Frazier's moves

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 20, 2011 - 2:09 PM

 

Random and not-very-deep thoughts on the day in sports:

-I don't know if Bill Musgrave will be a good offensive coordinator, but I like that he's interested in highlighting the Vikings' existing talent, and that he's not married to the West Coast offense. (That's the subject of my Friday column.)

-My NFL picks for Sunday:

AFC: The Steelers beat the Jets because their pass rush will get to Mark Sanchez, and because Ben Roethlisberger is that rare athlete who plays his best at the end of close games.

The Patriots didn't have enough athletes on defense to either stop the Jets running game or hassle Sanchez. The Steelers' defense is good enough to do both.

I believe the keys to modern football are having a quarterback who can make plays down the field and a defense that can disrupt the opposing quarterback. The Jets are talented enough to keep it close, but the Steelers win this one, say, 20-17.

NFC: The Bears are far better than I thought they were, but they're not as good as the Packers, not the way the Packers are currently playing.

Aaron Rodgers is better than Jay Cutler. The Packers' pass defense is better right now than the Bears'. For the Bears to win, Julius Peppers will have to have one of the great postseason games ever by a defensive end. I think Mike McCarthy is smart enough to find a way to limit Peppers' influence, and the Packers' passing offense will roll. Call it Packers 34, Bears 23.

-If hockey players are so tough, how come, when a team is getting beat, it displays the emotional maturity of a bunch of 8-year-olds who didn't get their naps?

The Wild gets up early on Edmonton, and what do the Oilers do? Start cheap-shotting the Wild.

Toughness is taking a hit and accepting that, as a hockey player, you are going to take hits. Toughness is not whacking an opponent in the ankle with your stick because you're losing.

-It wasn't long ago that there were rumors about Todd Richards' job status. I never thought he should be fired, and now I think he has a chance to be coach of the year.

The Wild lacks goal-scorers and has watched its two top goalies suffer injuries, and yet Richards has the team playing its best. His players almost always play hard, they move the puck, they play inteligently, and when they score a few goals, they get credit for how disciplined they are on defense.

-The re-visit my last column: I'm serious when I compare Mike McCarthy favorably to Vince Lombardi. Lombardi was great in his era; my point is that the modern era of football is much harder on coaches. It's much harder to win championships in a 32-game league, it's much more difficult to manage today's players and today's media and today's workload, and that football has become increasingly complex over the years.

I'm sure Lombardi would have found a way to be a good coach in today's environment, but there is no way he would have been adaptable enough to dominate the modern NFL.

-It's interesting to see Leslie Frazier adapt to his new role. I asked him about that, about going from being friends with his fellow assistant coaches to telling people like Darrell Bevell and Brian Murphy - both exceptionally nice people who had plenty of success in their roles - that their services were no longer required.

His answer: ``It's a difficult process, especially in this case where you worked with guys for a number of years like I have. Now you're making decisions that are going to affect peoples' lives. It's a part of our profession. I've been on the other side of it. I know what's required and I know that my purpose in being here is to bring a championship to Minnesota. Anything less than that and we'll be parting ways down the road. That's the way this business is. But it's hard because you have feelings. These are friends. It's a tough deal, but it's the business we've chosen.''

Hard to argue with that. Coaches complaining about getting fired is like sportswriters complaining about deadlines. It's what you signed up for.

-I liked what Musgrave had to say about his offensive philosophies. New special teams coordinator Mike Priefer startled me, though, when he talked about the possibility of kicking to Bears return specialist Devin Hester.

To quote John McEnroe, ``You cannot be serious!''

Priefer said that if a punt unit executes properly, it can handle a good return man. That's what everyone says until they see Hester make all of their players fall down. You cannot kick to Hester. He is the best return man ever, and the rare return man who has demonstrated longevity. Without him, the Bears might have been a .500 team.

-In October, I spoke with a Twins official who said that the team would like to bring back Carl Pavano, perhaps to a two-year deal worth about $17 or $18 million.

Then, as happens in free agency, Pavano solicited other offers, and tried to find a three-year deal, and watched Ted Lilly sign a three-year deal worth $33 million, and must have believed that his market value had risen.

And then he signed with the Twins for two years and $16.5 million.

That's some pretty good negotiating by the Twins, getting the best remaining pitcher on the free agent market for perhaps even a little less than they expected to spend.

And for those saying the Twins need to spend more money to bolster their bullpen or their infield, please remember that the best Twins teams have not traditionally been those that had set rosters when they left for spring training. The best Twins teams have been those that have kept their best players healthy and developed key role players as the season progressed.

Right now the Twins have three end-game relievers - Matt Capps, Joe Nathan and Jose Mijares - and six starters, meaning one of those starters could become the long reliever. Let's say that guy is Kevin Slowey, and let's say that Glen Perkins is at last a left specialist. That would leave the Twins with one bullpen opening and a bunch candidates, like Pat Neshek, Jeff Manship, Alex Burnett, Rob Delany, Anthony Slama and the fast-rising Carlos Gutierrez, as well as the two relievers arriving in the J.J. Hardy deal.

This isn't a crisis. This is business as usual for almost any big-league team.

Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today, then on the station in Joe Soucheray's stead from 2:40-6 p.m. on Friday.

On the station, Sunday Sports Talk will feature appearances from Kevin Seifert and Tom Pelissero, and I'm working on a Wild or Twins guest as well.

Also, you can follow me on Twitter at Souhanstrib, although I wish you'd really just mind your own business.

Please congratulate me: I didn't mention Brett Favre once.

 

`Was it worth it?' and other assorted opinions

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 3, 2011 - 1:25 PM

 

A friend posed this question about Brett Favre: Was he worth it?

Was he worth the money? The headaches? Was it the right decision to bring him in for two years, one of which was brilliant but ended in frustration, and the other which never veered from frustration?

Because he just finished the most pathetic season of his career and brought the Vikings crashing to earth, and because he did so while endlessly praising himself and focusing on his career achievements _ because he might be the most self-centered human in an industry filled with self-centered humans _ it’s easy to say that the Vikings should have passed on him before the 2009 season and saved themselves a lot of trouble.

Even though Favre drove me nuts, I have to say that it was worth it, that the Vikings were absolutely right to give this a shot.

Favre almost reached a Super Bowl the Vikings well could have won. He gave us one of the most dramatic and compelling seasons in franchise history. He gave us lots to talk about. And he became a fascinating psychological study, in good times and bad.

I’d do it all again. Sport is entertainment, and the guy frequently entertained.

He's fascinating. Just not always in a good way.

 

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One of the problems with interviewing athletes is that sometimes they answer. And often, when they speak, they make little sense.

I’m in favor of the Vikings hiring Leslie Frazier, but not for the reason most Viking players give for hiring him: That he played in the NFL.

What a stupid concept. I’d say 98 percent of the players who make it to the NFL should never be considered as NFL head coaches.

The best coach in the NFL, Bill Belichick, didn’t play in the NFL. He was a college lacrosse player. A college lacrosse player! (He played football, too, at Wesleyan, but he was better at lacrosse.)

The second-best coach in the NFL, Andy Reid, didn’t play in the NFL.

Let’s see, Mike Tomlin, who is extremely popular with players, didn’t play in the NFL. He became the youngest head coach ever to win a Super Bowl.

I could go on, but you get the point.

So stop saying you like Frazier because he played in the league. It’s like saying J.R. Rider is qualified to be an NBA coach because he played in the league.

 

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Glad to see the Wild win a few games recently, because if they hadn’t, Todd Richards might be gone by now, and that would be ridiculous.

If you’re going to hire an inexperienced coach to take over what is essentially a rebuilding team, you’d better show a little patience.

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Remember when Gophers women’s basketball mattered? I do. Lindsay Whalen made it a must-watch program.

There may be help on the way. I’ve been watching Rachel Banham play basketball since she was a little girl in Lakeville, and next year she’ll be a freshman at the U.

She played point guard for the Lakeville North team that won the state title last year. She is remarkably skilled and poised, and she plays with great flair. It’s hard to imagine another Whalen resurrecting the program, but Banham at least will be highly entertaining.

(By the way, Banham’s father, Don, works security for Vikings games.)

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A billboard in Detroit on Monday morning displayed this score:

Michigan State 34, Wisconsin 24.

Not that Sparty lives in the past.

Wonder when they’ll put the Alabama score up there?

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My print and radio colleague Patrick Reusse has been making the point that we haven’t shown a great deal of ambition when it comes to finding football coaches around here, that we seem to have standards low enough that we’re willing to accept Jerry Kill and Leslie Frazier - a MAC coach and an interim coach who went 3-3.

Maybe I’m a sucker for a good story, but I like both hires.

Now, Joel Maturi hired Kill because he had no chance at luring a big-name coach to the U, but he may have lucked out with Kill, a real coach who should at least return the Gophers to relevance.

And I don’t hold it against Frazier that he went 3-3 under these circumstances. His quarterbacks were a battered, weary Brett Favre, a perpetually discombobulated Tarvaris Jackson and a rookie out of UAB.

I like both of their back stories. They both grew up poor and worked diligently to climb through the coaching ranks. I’d rather give a chance to someone with that profile than a ``star’’ coach who may have nothing more going for him than name recognition, and who may be looking for nothing more than a bridge to a luxurious retirement.

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One of my favorite bands, the Twin-Cities based Jayhawks, are getting back together, and will play on Jan. 29 at First Avenue.

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Going through security in Detroit today, I saw a nice-looking middle-aged woman patted down - well, actually, it was more of a full-body rub-down - by a TSA agent.

Someday, I want to live in America again.

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Am I the only person in town who thinks that the Wolves are suddenly the most intriguing team in town?

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Upcoming: I’ll be on 1500espn at 2:40 p.m. today through Friday, and I'll be watching the Gophers trying to win their first Big Ten game on Tuesday.

 

Back in Detroit. Woo. Hoo.

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 2, 2011 - 9:54 AM

Two trips to Detroit in a month.

I forget, is that the second or third ring of Hell?

A reader emailed me last night, asking why we don't hammer Bernard Berrian more for being a slacker and one of the worst free-agent signings in franchise history.

He's right. All I can say is that Berrian is blessed to be shielded by low expectations.

Brad Childress made a lot of great personnel decisions, and Berrian helped the Vikings go to the playoffs in 2008 and added an occasional threat last year. This year, he's been worthless. In a normal year, where Brett Favre, Randy Moss, sexting, a stadium implosion, migraines, and a systemic failure (love that phrase) hadn't dominated headlines, we might very well have spent the season castigating Berrian.

He's lucky to be only No. 32 on the list of what's wrong with this year's Vikings.

Remember the good ol' days, when we thought losing Chester Taylor was going to be the worst thing that ever happened to this team?

Right now Berrian is testing his sore (fill in the blank) on the field. I'm sure he'll gut it out and play.

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The Winter Classic was great. Take a sport in which you can't see the puck, and play it in a stadium where noone can even pretend to see the puck.

Actually, I think the Winter Classic is a good idea. Anytime the NHL can break up the monotony of its regular season and give the casual viewer a reason to watch, I'm all for it. But hockey is just a weird sport to try to promote. Those who love it will love it no matter what form it takes. Those who don't love it will always be ambivalent because even superstars like Sidney Crosby play only a portion of their games and can't even control when they touch the puck.

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I feel for anyone who has gone through the health problems Don Lucia has experienced, but I can't excuse his coaching or the way his team has played.

This was supposed to be a weekend of fattening up on weak opponents. Instead, he loses to Union (is that a brand of jeans or a college) at home, then blows off a shootout so he won't lose to Ferris State (named after Buehller, I hope?).

Pathetic.

If only the Gophers athletic department had someone in charge, maybe someone named an ``athletic director'' who could take charge of the program. Someone should look into that.

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I fear the Wilfs are going to blow this. I fear they're going to take a good coaching candidate they know and like and let him explore the market, and lose him, and start another coaching search with no guarantee that they'll hire anyone as good as Leslie Frazier.

This is one of those decisions that can be screwed up only by overthinking. Hire Frazier tonight, announce it tomorrow, give Rick Spielman the GM title, and move forward.

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Wrote about Brett Favre's last appearance on a Viking sideline in the Sunday paper. Yes, I'm asking you to go buy a stinking paper, which costs less than a foo-foo Starbucks drink, or a gallon of gas.

Here's my newspaper rant: They're the last bargain in America. For a small price you get tons of coupons, funnies, crosswords, Soduku, op-eds, news, and a packed sports section. And if you subscribe to the paper, the premium stuff is all free.

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I can't decide whether signing Carl Pavano would be a good thing or a bad thing. He'd flesh out the rotation and provide innings, but is he really worth $10 million a year?

I think the Twins are playing it right. I'd give him two years, but not three.

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I still think the biggest issue facing the Twins is whether Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan can be what they once were.

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I'll check in after the game. Because what else would I do in Detroit?

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 p.m. each weekday. My twitter name is Souhanstrib.

 

 

I agree with Vikings' postponement

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 27, 2010 - 11:53 AM

Yes, I agree with the Eagles' decision to postpone their game on Sunday night.

I believe I'm alone in expressing this sentiment. I know the rest of the Twin Cities media stuck in Philadelphia with me for four days - four days! - disagrees.

I get their arguments. This is football. Football gets played in bad weather. Football fans know how to deal with bad weather. This sets a terrible precedent. The Eagles may have postponed the game because they'll have a better chance to win on a clear field on Tuesday than in slop on Sunday night, since the Eagles have more speed and better skill-position players.

While I agree with all of the above, I also walked outside on Sunday night. Star Tribune photographers Jerry Holt and Carlos Gonzalez and I walked through the blizzard to what might have been the only restaurant open in Philadelphia on Sunday night.

The wind was howling. The streets were slick. Snowplows were out, but weren't winning the battle. And I watched all day as local TV stations talked about closing bridges and terrible traffic and injury accidents.

Which leads to my ultimate point: While the postponement is an inconvenience for everyone involved, the Eagles did right by their fans.

It was their fans who would have had trouble making it to the game. I saw one estimate that the attendance might have been as low as 20,000 for a team that always sells out, that features one of the most passionate fan bases in all of sports. It is their fans who would have sat in 40-mile-an-hour winds, getting snow and ice blown in their faces. It is their fans who would have gotten stuck on the sides of roads or in traffic jams, trying to get home at midnight on Sunday.

NFL fans spend lots of money on their teams, and they are guaranteed just eight regular-season home games a year. Whether their motives were pure or diabolical, the Eagles wound up doing right by their fans, and while their decision has messed up my personal and professional schedules, I can't argue with the decision.

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The NFL really has a fascinating product, doesn't it?

I do NFL picks with Brad Lane and Tom Linnemann on Sunday Sports Talk, and I might have had my worst week of the season this week. I believe the only pick I got right (we usually pick the five or six best games) was the Packers over the Giants.

Which is why I love writing about the NFL. It is unpredictable because of random variation, and luck, and weather, and circumstance, but also because every time you think you have a team figured out, something changes.

Just when we thought Peyton Manning was having his worst season as a veteran, he produces two great, clutch performances to re-elevate his team.

Just when you thought the Jets may have turned it on, they get swamped by Jay Cutler. Who would have thought before this season started that we'd see Cutler picking apart a secondary that includes Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie?

Who saw this coming from the Bears, at all? I keep calling them frauds, and they keep proving me wrong, and now they've beaten the Eagles, Jets and Packers, and they're suddenly scoring like the Patriots West.

In a season in which no NFL team looks supreme, maybe the Bears can make a run.

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I'm thoroughly impressed with the Packers, from Mike McCarthy to Aaron Rodgers to Clay Matthews to Charles Woodson to Dom Capers.

Donald Driver has always been one of my favorite NFL players. How many receivers his size have his toughness and longevity?

What's best about this Packers team is its ability to survive injuries without whining or making excuses - or letting those injuries keep it out of contention.

We're entering the phase of the year where you'll start hearing the Vikings whine about injuries and their stadium and travel woes, but they still had enough talent on the roster to contend this year. They just didn't have what it takes.

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Despite my support of the Eagles' decision, I've gotta say, this is a lousy week to be stuck in Philly. I was going to do some fill-in work on 1500ESPN, and my daughter flew in from DC on Christmas Eve to spend a week at home, and I'm spending two days that I would have been home stuck in a downtown Philly hotel, wishing I hadn't already read everything Lee Child and just about everything Stephen Hunter has written.

(I used to be a heavy literature guy; now I like well-written, well-executed escapism.)

This would be a good time to be a movie buff, but I just don't find many movies worth a two-hour investment.

So...I'll be jumping on 1500ESPN sporadically the next two days. I have my usual weekday call-in at 2:40 p.m. with Joe and Pat, and I'll be on with Joe Anderson tonight, I believe at 7:10 p.m.

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I did it! Made it through a day without mentioning Brett Favre.

 

Late night from TCF Bank

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 21, 2010 - 12:27 AM

Remember Jerry Glanville?

When I was covering the NFL, I flew to Houston for an Oilers-Steelers playoff game. Glanville took me aside and told me a bunch of funny stories. Had me laughing. I couldn't help but like the guy.

Then a friend who had covered Glanville for years told me he had heard all of those stories at least 25 times.

I remembered that late Monday night, as I was listening to Brett Favre.

The guy knows how to run a press conference. He's funny, smooth, quick, and relevant. He's the ideal press conference interview.

And there are always friendly faces in the audience. The national media love him, and there are always writers from other cities who don't get to see him often. They eat up his lines.

Me? I've heard them all too often. Even after his team gets destroyed, he'll go into the interview room and talk about his ``great run'' and that he has ``no regrets.''

Brett: It's really not all about you anymore. It's not. You helped ruin a good team this year. Save all of your funny stories  and one-liners about how great you are, or how old you are, for the last game of the season. Your act is old and tired. We've heard this all before.

-The guys I feel for are Leslie Frazier and Joe Webb. Frazier is being forced to audition for a job under horrible circumstances - with a team that quit on the previous coach and is old, battered and defeated.

Frazier could end the season with a four-game losing streak, and I wouldn't necessarily hold it against him.

Webb was put into an impossible position. He thought he was starting. Then Favre big-footed him. Then he comes in cold in the second quarter, in a snowstorm, against a good defense. He didn't play well, but is anyone surprised?

-I keep saying the Wolves are intriguing, but will they try playing defense just once? Aren't they embarrassed enough by their record to try to stop someone once in a while? Geez.

-I'll be on 1500espn from noon-2 with Phil Mackey on Tuesday. Please call in and make fun of Phil. He can take it.

 

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