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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Late Thursday night from the Vikings' draft center

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 22, 2010 - 11:17 PM

-We're all sitting here writing on deadline and eating really unhealthy food. (Judd doesn't seem bothered by this.)

-My column for the Friday paper focuses on the Vikings' trade of the 30th pick in the draft. Short version: I like the trade. I'm not sure I like who they traded with.

-There is the possibility that the Vikings could take Jimmy Clausen on Friday. I could be wrong, and we'll know soon, but I don't think so. I don't think Clausen is the right personality type for this team, a veteran team trying to win now. And I'm not as impressed with Clausen as the general public is.

At Notre Dame, his teams generally underachieved and faced mostly poor competition, and he had great receivers who could catch anything near them. I'm not sold.

I also think the Broncos are fools. They essentially traded Brandon Marshall for Tim Tebow. Marshall is one of the NFL's two best receivers. I don't believe Tebow will ever be a good NFL quarterback. And you don't spend a first-round pick on a Wildcat quarterback.

-Here's the column I wrote early in the evening, well before the Vikings picked. We in the business call it an ``early.''

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Want to know how immensely popular the NFL has become?

On Wednesday, the NFL commissioner suspended a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback in his prime for six games for a sordid incident involving a bathroom, an underaged girl and alcohol.

On Thursday, the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger only added to the intrigue and suspense _ and thus the popularity _ of the NFL draft. Would the Steelers trade Roethlisberger? Which teams would trade their first-round pick for him? Would Bad Ben molest anyone between the announcement of the suspension and the end of the first round?

The NFL is so popular that it has become the first pro sports league in history to lend truth to the phrase, ``Any publicity is good publicity.’’

The draft itself has, over the last couple of decades, morphed from an oddity obsessed over by the kind of geeks who now invent fictitious acronyms so they can sound smart talking baseball into a prime-time television special that promised to garner an immense rating.

I had a buddy tell me he was going to try to put his kids to bed early so he could watch every minute, even though most of the players taken in even the first round of the 2009 draft made little or no impact on their team last season. In fact, looking back at that first round confirms that the Vikings would have been silly to consider anyone other than receiver Percy Harvin, even if they had known then the extent of his migraines.

In 1990, I covered my first NFL draft. I spent two days in the basement of Winter Park, the Vikings’ compound in Eden Prairie. The Vikings had traded just about all of their draft picks to Dallas for Herschel Walker (just thought I’d remind you) and it was pretty much a couple of writers, a couple of camera guys and a bag of chips killing an entire weekend.

At the end of each day, the Vikings’ draft gurus, Frank Gilliam and Jerry Reichow, would come downstairs from their office, shrug a few times, and say that some of the guys they took had a chance to make the team, but who could tell?

Mel Kiper had not yet been invented or laquered, and everyone’s favorite draft analyst was a guy named Joel Buchsbaum, who produced a draft pamphlet that every self-respecting writer treated as a bible, to the consternation of NFL personnel directors.

Thursday night, the Vikings were slated to make the 30th selection in the first round.

This column was written well before the Vikings made their first selection. In this case, you didn’t know who the Vikings took to know that their selection probably wouldn’t make much difference in 2010.

If they took a defensive back or an offensive lineman, that player was not likely to start Game 1 in New Orleans. If they surprised everyone (or maybe just me) and selected a quarterback, that quarterback would be at least a year away, and perhaps more, from being expected to contribute.

And that is the greatest compliment you can offer the Vikings’ braintrust: They have pieced together such a strong roster that the 2010 draft should be seen as a way to bolter future teams moreso than the current squad.

The Vikings have excelled in free agency, adding Bernard Berrian, Brett Favre (yes, he counts), Anthony Herrera, Steve Hutchinson, Ben Leber, Ryan Longwell, Visanthe Shiancoe, Pat Williams and Antoine Winfield since 2004.

Under Rick Spielman, the Vikings’ vice president of player personnel, the Vikings have excelled at hitting home runs at the top of the draft.

In 2006, Spielman & Co. took Chad Greenway and Cedric Griffin in the first two rounds. In 2007, it was Adrian Peterson and Sidney Rice.

In 2008, the Vikings traded three of their first four picks for Jared Allen, a brilliant move, and chose Tyrell Johnson _ a starter although not a standout _ in the second round.

In 2009, The Vikings took Harvin in the first round and Phil Loadholt in the second.

All of those move guaranteed that anyone the Vikings selected at the end of the first round on Thursday would play a supporting role.

--------

-Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is complaining about the NFL preempting the NBA playoffs. Way to be a free-marketeer, Mark.

-On 1500ESPN with Joe and Pat at 2:35 Friday, then on at 6-ish with Joe Anderson before the Twins play the Royals. I have tomorrow off from the newspaper.

A video I shot with Mr. Reusse should be up at startribune.com.

You can follow me on twitter at Souhanstrib. If you followed me today, you know I think Jon Gruden is a fool when it comes to draft analysis. If I hear one more ``analyst'' try to tell me that Tim Tebow will be a good NFL quarterback because of his character, I'm going to regurgitate.

Ben Roethlisberger is a jerk, and he won two Super Bowls.

-I'm back to write about the draft Saturday for the Sunday paper, then on Sunday we've got the Gardy Show on 1500ESPN at 9:30, followed by Sunday Sports Talk with myself and Brad Lane. Trying for Twins and Vikings guests.

Sleep fast.

 

Waiting for the Big Game

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 15, 2010 - 5:19 PM

Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe grabbed a reporter's mic and told us he likes one Shania Twain song today. Along with 50-cent, Maroon 5 and some of his own compositions.

So I asked the logical question: Shania Twain?

Shiancoe laughed and hit me on the shoulder. I don't know what that means.

Shianc also revealed his game-day breakfast: Egg whites (``It's like pulling teeth to eat that stuff; not very tasty''), oatmeal (``With nothing on it'') and a protein shake (``Best one you've ever tasted.'')

He did not exactly seem tight. He promised to get 10 hours of sleep on Friday, because rest takes two days to register with your body. Or so he tells me.

The guy is a beauty. We spend so much time overanalyzing pro football that it was refreshing to end the week with an interview with a guy this lighthearted.

It was a loose lockerroom all around. Ryan Longwell told me he believes Brett Favre is primed for a big game (his quotes will appear in my Sunday column), and Antoine Winfield said ``These kinds of games are the reason you play the game.''

Let's face it - when the Cowboys come to town for a big game, the game has a different feel. I covered the Cowboys in 1989 before moving to Minneapolis, and even when they were 1-15, they were fascinating. In fact, I think the most fascinating year I've ever had on a beat occured in 1989, when I covered Jimmy Johnson in his first year in the NFL, Jerry Jones in his first year as an owner, Dave Wannstedt as the defensive coordinator, and Troy Aikman as a frustrated young player who did not trust Johnson at that point.

I remember Johnson pulling a few of us aside to explain the Herschel Walker trade, and you could tell how shrewd, cutthroat and driven he was. Jerry was always entertaining. Aikman was driven to be great. I remember one day after the '89 season, I was walking through the Cowboys lockerroom, and they didn't have a great weight room at the time, and Aikman was doing lunges with a huge weight across his back all the way across the lockerroom and back.

He's turned into a fine analyst for the same reason - he does his homework, and he's a sharp guy.

I remember having a conversation with Wannstedt during that 1-15 season, and he made football sound awful simple. I was asking him how he could be confident when his defense was so horrid. He told me something like, ``If you can get off the field on third down, all those stats change. If you can get off the field on third down, it changes field position, time of possession, and if you have a good offense, it can mean a lot more points on the board. You can go from 1-15 to 8-8 very quickly, and then you see how good you are.''

Jimmy's staff won three Super Bowls, even though Barry Switzer got to be the figurehead for one of them.

My picks for the weekend: All home teams. I think the Chargers will win by 10 or more over the Jets. I think what people are forgetting about the Cardinals is that they would have lost that game to the Packers if Aaron Rodgers had thrown his last pass anywhere near a wide-open Greg Jennings. I'm taking the Saints in a close one.

I'm taking Peyton Manning over the Ravens, because I never bet against Peyton Manning. And I'm taking the Vikings, 31-27, over the Cowboys. All of the analysis of the Vikings' weaknesses is right on. I just think we're forgetting that the Cowboys have similar weaknesses (particularly in their secondary) and the Vikings' pass rush will benefit from the noise in the Dome.

I see Favre, Harvin and Jared Allen having big games, with Adrian Peterson making big plays in the passing game and...to go out on a limb...Benny Sapp making a pivotal play at some point.

In an even matchup, I favor the home team, for lack of a better reason.


Upcoming: I'll be at the FSN studios tonight to conduct my weekly debate with Jim Petersen. The show starts at 6:30; I'll be on about 6:35-6:40. You can vote for me by texting 234234 then Souhan.

I'm hosting Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon on Sunday on am-1500, and I have a few of my Dallas buddies and a national guest or two lined up to talk about the Cowboys and the NFL.

You can follow me on Twitter at SouhanStrib.

 

 

Just as we suspected

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 3, 2010 - 6:18 PM

While working on my Monday column (which will appear on 1A of the paper, or what some sports fans call ``The Wrapper''), I crunched a few numbers.

Brett Favre finished with the best passer rating (107.2) of his career, and the lowest interception rate (1.3) of his career. For all the concern every rational observer had about his health and his recklessness, he performed with admirable restraint and finished the season healthier that could have been expected.

He passed for 4,202 yards, and was particularly successful at home.

On the road, he completed 68 percent of his passes while throwing 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. At the Dome, he completed 69 percent for 21 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

Let's face it - the guy was phenomenal, and his interactions with teammates in the lockeroom, on the field and on the sideline make it pretty clear that he was very popular even if he didn't spend a lot of time off the field with his teammates.

I asked Jared Allen to sum up Favre's season and he said, ``Ah, phenomenal year, great guy, great teammate, great season. What more can you say?''

``The guy has played great,’’ said Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. ``I’m happy for him on a different level.
For whatever reason, everybody wants to root against him, say, `Well, here’s why he’s washed up.’ It’s good to know he’s still playing at this high level. There are a lot of people here who had confidence he could do this.’’

Someone asked Favre how he was able to escape the pocket to make big plays. ``Speed,'' he said.

-Suddenly the Vikings' playoff chances look much better, for these reasons:

1) The bye will allow Favre and the Vikings' injured players the best opportunity to be at full speed. The bye should particularly help cornerback Antoine Winfield and defensive tackle Pat williams.

2) The Vikings will get to play a home playoff game after the bye. The Vikings are 8-0 at home; 4-4 on the road. No elaboration necessary.

3) The Saints looked terrible the last month of the season. If they lose their first playoff game and the Vikings win theirs, Minnesota would host the NFC title game.

-Again, I'll be on am-1500 with Reusse at 6:40 a.m., and on WJON at 7:14 a.m. You can follow me on Twitter at Souhanstrib.

 

 

Favre on the ``heated discussion''

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 21, 2009 - 12:03 AM

When Vikings coach Brad Childress was asked about the ``heated discussion'' between himself and quarterback Brett Favre during the third quarter, he didn't deny it took place, but he didn't elaborate much.

Favre elaborated.

My column for the Monday paper (not the early column that some of you got, the one without quotes, but the one I wrote for our later deadline) contains all of the quotes Favre offered on the subject on Sunday night. To summarize: He wasn't happy that Childress considered benching him, for whatever reason.

Again, my column on the subject delves into the subject and contains all of Favre's quotes on the topic. It's in the Monday paper.

My short take: Favre wasn't the problem Sunday night. His offensive line (particularly Bryant McKinnie) was awful. The Vikings' defense got ripped in the fourth quarter, but even when it was limiting the Panthers in the first three quarters, it wasn't making enough big plays. As a couple of defensive starters said after the game, there's nothing wrong with a defense scoring some points, too.

Steve Hutchinson and Jared Allen, in particular, sounded mildly disgusted by the team's performance, although they didn't say anything too harsh.

My short take No. 2: The Vikings have lost three of their last four games on grass, with the only victory in that stretch coming at Green Bay, in a game Favre was desperate to win, a game that the team wanted to win for Favre.

Since they moved into the Metrodome, the Vikings have struggled on grass. Even their good teams have struggled on grass. Their lone regular-season loss in 1998 came at Tampa, on grass.

I wouldn't be surprised if the last two losses, at Arizona and Carolina, are the product of an overconfident team playing on an unfamiliar surface.

Here are the two real problems with the loss:

1) Favre is incredibly strong-willed, for better and worse. If he senses a lack of trust on the part of Childress, their relationship could go south in a hurry, and with it the season. I don't think that will happen, but that possibility was raised Sunday night.

2) The Vikings no longer are assured of a first-round bye, because they are only one game ahead of the Eagles, and neither of their remaining games look like gimmes. The Bears stink, but the Vikings just lost a cold-weather game on grass to a mediocre team, so they shouldn't exactly be cocky about this one. And the Giants, for all of their problems, are talented and well-coached.

To me, the elite teams in the conference _ the Saints and Vikings _ no longer look all that much stronger than the teams they may have to face in the playoffs _ the surging Eagles, the talented Cowboys, the mercurial Cardinals, the intriguing-if-flawed Packers.

This is going to be quite interesting the rest of the way.


Upcoming: I'll be on with Reusse at 6:40 on am-1500 to recap the Vikings game. I'm on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:14. Flying home tomorrow, taking a few vacation days from the paper, although I'll continue to do the radio spots.

I have a big piece running in the Friday paper on the Star Tribune Sports Person of the Year.

You can follow me on Twitter at Souhanstrib.

 

Vikings beat Bengals, my picks for the day go very well

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 13, 2009 - 7:07 PM

Wrapping up the column for the Monday paper. I wrote about Brad Childress' motivational speech to and relationship with his players.

My quick-hit observations on the Vikings' 30-10 victory over Cincinnati:

-Cincinnati has definite strengths, including a strong defensive front and excellent cornerbacks, but they didn't match up well with the Vikings. With only one big-play receiver, they couldn't take advantage of the Vikings' safeties, and they had trouble handling playing in a loud dome, committing far too many silly penalties.

-Adrian Peterson wasn't spectacular, but one play caught my attention. When he caught a pass over the middle and shifted into fifth gear, beating two defenders to the sideline with a vintage burst of speed, he indicated to me that he's as healthy as he's been in a while. He was productive and didn't fumble. I could see him breaking loose for one of his big games in the next two weeks.

-Brett Favre threw a first-half interception and it looked like he might be on his way to a vintage December swoon. But he regained his composure, played conservatively, and did a nice job running the offense. ``If this had been 13 games ago,'' Brad Childress said, ``you would have said he managed the game.''

True. Remember, what most of us hoped from Favre was that he would ``manage'' the game. He has raised expectations, hasn't he?

-Jared Allen and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier got into it on the sideline late in the game. It's a testament to how much the player/coach dynamic has changed in this organization that nobody got bent out of shape over that exchange after the game. The Vikings didn't downplay it _ they just didn't think it was a big deal. They let Allen get hot, they didn't take him too seriously, and they moved on.

-I took a commanding lead in the KSTP football picks. I'm four games ahead of Patrick Reusse and Brad Lane as we speak, and I have the Eagles in tonight's game. I've won the picks competition at the radio station a record 82 years in a row.

-Antoine Winfield is a great, great player. He dominates against the run and his presence in the secondary might help the safeties when the Vikings play good passing teams.

-The Vikings have to hope they don't face Arizona in the first round of the playoffs. The Cardinals, with physical fronts and an explosive passing attack, are perfectly-suited to exposing the Vikings' flaws. Beating Arizona and New Orleans in successive weeks would be asking a lot of this or any team.

Upcoming: I'm on with Reusse at 6:40 a.m. on am-1500, then on WJON at 7:14 a.m. Planning on writing about the Wild, the Gophers athletic department and the Vikings this week, and I'll be heading to Carolina with Chudd on Saturday.

Wednesday, I'll be on FSN before the Wolves' game, debating with my buddy Jim Petersen.

You can follow me on Twitter at SouhanStrib.

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