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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Donovan McNabb conducted his first game-week press conference as a Vikings quarterback, and he was thoughtful and insightful. Must be the podium. He was a lot like Favre, except that he listened to the question and kept his answers shorter than 35 minutes. And he didn't ask himself rhetorical questions the way Favre did.
The Vikings appeared pretty close to completely healthy as we were allowed to watch the beginning of practice on Wednesday.
Here's my take on this team: I like the people, I'm not sure I like the mix.
I think Leslie Frazier has a good chance to become a very good coach. I think McNabb has a chance to have a bounce-back season. The Vikings still have elite players in Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Antoine Winfield, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Chad Greenway. They have highly-useful veterans like Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser, Steve Hutchinson, Michael Jenkins and E.J. Henderson.
But they lack the kind of youth movement that could give those veterans one last run at a championship. Kyle Rudolph may be the only young player who could be outstanding this season. The Vikings lack roster depth, are installing a new offense with a new quarterback without the benefit of offseason workouts, play in the same division as the best team in football and need to maintain close to perfect health to have a chance to post a winning record.
So, my pick for this teams is 7-9. They went 6-10 last year, and I think Frazier's steady hand will give them a chance to win one or two more games than they did during the crazy 2010 season.
Their best hope is that they can win the games they're supposed to win, that the Bears take a predictable fall and that the Lions aren't nearly as ready to win as most people think they are. To get to 9-7, McNabb will have to be sharp enough to lead the Vikings to wins in a lot of close games.
I would love to predict that the Vikings will go 10-6 and make the playoffs. After watching the Twins stumble around all season, I'd love to cover a playoff team. But I think this team's weaknesses in the secondary and on the offensive line will be exposed by quality opponents.
I hear a lot of fans whining about the Twins calling up youngsters and putting them in the starting lineup. That's the way this works, folks. Take it from me: I covered the Twins as a beat writer from 1993-97. Watching the kids come up and play in September was the highlight of those seasons.
I'm most interested in Joe Benson. He's a multi-talented guy who can run, hit, hit for power, throw, and cover ground in the outfield. He seems to have charsma. He loves Springsteen (!). He plays with the energy of a football player - he was a standout running back in high school. And unlike a lot of the kids who have been called up this season, he seems to be after more than a big-league paycheck.
With the futures of Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel uncertain, Benson could be a key player for this team next year.
I highly recommend reading our hockey writer, Michael Russo, these days, even if you don't care about hockey. His piece on Derek Boogaard's death, and his quick-reacting coverage of the airline tragedy in Russia are just the latest examples of his outstanding work.
I'll be traveling to Green Bay for the season opener against the Saints tomorrow, then coming back and heading to San Diego for the Vikings' opener. I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 weekdays from now on, and I'll be calling in from Green Bay tomorrow at that time.
Quick stat from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Bob McGinn: Saints coach Sean Payton's career record is 53-33. Packers coach Mike McCarthy's is 53-34. And they've won the last two Super Bowls.
Tom Pelissero and I will run the Gardenhire Show and Sunday Morning Sports Talk from San Diego on Sunday morning, from 9:30-11. We'll do our first NFL picks, along with my buddy Tom Linnemann, and we'll have ESPN.com NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert on to preview the games.
I'll also be calling 1500espn at 6:20 p.m. tomorrow from Green Bay.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Enjoy the beginning of football season. I know I will.
-Brett Favre wouldn't talk about the NFL's investigation into him after the game.
-Think the Vikings made the right decision in letting Matt Birk go? Every time I watch the Ravens, Birk is falling into the end zone on a Ray Rice touchdown run. Every time I watch the Vikings, I see a center screwing up.
-Those criticizing Brad Childress for his game plan are confusing planning with execution. Favre had receivers open in the first half, and either he missed them or the Vikings committed a penalty.
If you want to criticize Childress for anything in this game, it would be his indecisiveness when facing a two-point deficit after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
It's obvious you go for two there. Childress agreed, but only after sending the kicking team onto the field and then calling a timeout to send his offense back out there.
Also, Randy Moss wasn't on the field for the two-point conversion. Then again, Tahi was wide open in the end zone and Favre didn't throw to him. Childress wound up making the right decision, it's just that he cost himself a timeout and then had trouble explaining the decision after the game.
-The Vikings are 1-3, but I think they're in big trouble only if Favre's elbow or the NFL's investigation into him go badly. If Favre is healthy, he and Moss will develop more of a rapport each week, and the Vikings' talent will win out eventually. I think they beat the Cowboys on Sunday, and their game at Green Bay looks winnable considering the Packers' injuries.
Players often say ``It's a long season,'' and often that's a poor excuse. In this case, I think that's the right way to look at this year. If the Vikings can get to week 8 still in contention, their soft second-half schedule and the mediocrity of the division should give them every chance to go to the playoffs, and if they make it to the playoffs healthy, they'll be very dangerous. Of course, that's all predicated on Favre staying healthy and un-suspended.
-Moss spoke after the game, and, for what it's worth, he's saying all the right things and saying them with a smile on his face. He even talked about mentoring Percy Harvin.
-During Favre's post-game presser, he kept waving his left hand around, and running his left hand through his hair. His wedding ring was shown prominently on national TV. I'm sure that was a coincidence.
-The Vikings' safeties continue to be the weakness of the team (along with the center position and third receiver.) They never make plays.
-Childress took the blame for the team looking sluggish at the start while coming off a bye. I, like all good Minnesotans, blame Ron Gardenhire.
-The Vikings need to get Greg Camarillo involved. If they're not going to use Bernard Berrian - and it certainly looks like they're not going to use Bernard Berrian - then they need a third receiver who can make a play. Camarillo, a catch-and-run guy with good hands, should be able to handle that.
-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 tomorrow (and every weekday afternoon.) Yesterday, we had Childress on Sunday Sports Talk and he admitted the timing of the deadspin report - just before the Vikings play in New York - was ``curious.''
-Moss has lost a step, but he picked up a trick, probably from former teammate Cris Carter. He pushed off slightly on Antonio Cromartie on his touchdown catch, but did so in a way that would be difficult to call.
-While we've all assumed this four-game stretch would be brutal, the Vikings had a chance to beat the Jets on the road, the Cowboys are 1-3, the Packers are beat up and the Patriots...won't have Randy Moss.
-Moss also thanked Tom Brady for sending him an encouraging text before the game.
I'm at Whistling Straits this week, and I'm writing Thursday morning while waiting out a fog delay.
I walked the course yesterday, and it's a bear. I mean, it's a bear to walk, much less to play. I no longer play golf, but if I did, I'd need three dozen golf balls and a therapist to get around this track.
It's a beautiful course, and the views of the lake are stunning. I don't know if I've ever seen a course that's more visually intimidating, though.
On heavily-wooded courses, you can get a lucky bounce off a tree. You aren't going to get many lucky bounces on this kind of a links-style course. Gorse, sand and lakewater are not forgiving.
We've just been notified that the first round will begin at 10:10 a.m., meaning there will be players who don't finish their rounds today. The morning grouping of Y.E. Yang, Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh will tee off at about 11:30.
My pick, although it's become a little too chic for my tastes, is Rory McIlroy. He's long, accustomed to links courses, and seems ready to peak. Steve Stricker, the Wisconsin native, will be under too much pressure to win this week. Tiger Woods is a mess, although I could see him starting to right himself this week. Phil Mickelson usually doesn't play well at British Opens, and this is more of a British Open course than the kind of Americanized course he usually plays well on.
So my pick is McIlroy, which means the winner will probably be someone like Ian Poulter. Hunter Mahan or Paul Casey.
-My pick for Brett Favre's return: He'll either announce that he's coming back, or will show up in Eden Prairie, on Aug. 23. That way he gets to skip the trip to San Francisco for preseason game No. 2, but will have time to fully prep for the third preseason game.
-I thought the Vikings were an 11-win team heading into training camp. With the Favre drama playing out in an even more annoying way than anticipated, and Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice and Adrian Peterson missing camp time, and Toby Gerhart looking like he's far from ready to be Peterson's backup, I'd have to scale that back a game or two.
As of this moment, I'd pick them to go 9-7.
If they go 12-4 or better after having all of these key players miss time at camp, then I'd say the Vikings and every other NFL team should just stop holding training camps altogether.
-So Jon Rauch has a black-and-blue toe. Is it a bruise, or did all the ink from his tattoos just obey gravity?
-I'll be on 1500espn with Joe and Pat at 2:40 today, and all weekdays when the show isn't preempted by a Twins game.
-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.''
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.
I'm in New Orleans, staying in the Warehouse District, an arts-and-industrial area a bit away from the French Quarter.
I spent much of this week traveling back and forth between New Orleans and Kiln, Ms., home of Brett Favre. In today's paper, I wrote about New Orleans, the Saints, and the recovery from Hurricane Katrina through the eyes of local legend Angus Lind, the longtime columnist for the Times-Picayune.
In the Sunday paper, I have a long piece on the characters who populate Kiln - most notably, Bonita Favre, Brett's mother. At one point on Friday, as her friends were erecting a sign honoring Brett, she was juggling two MIller Lites and a Marlboro. Skills run in the family.
The Kiln story will be on 1A, and I'll have a lengthy story in the sports section based on a candid conversation I had with Vikings coach Brad Childress earlier this week.
New Orleans is one of my favorite towns to visit - friendly people, great food, great atmosphere, warm weather. Everywhere I go I hear people saying ``Who dat?'', short for the Saints rallying cry, ``Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?'' I went to dinner at Emeril's on Thursday night, and the entire Saints defense was dining there at a long table, with Darren Sharper at the head.
I'm picking the Vikings on Sunday, but I'm not very confident. I think Percy Harvin's status could be the key factor in the game. Either way, I expect a big game from Adrian Peterson. He's due, he's motivated, and the Saints' defense is not strong against the run.
Of course, all this prediction stuff is just fun nonsense. None of us know how the games will play out. If we did, we wouldn't need to watch.
I think I'm more interested in this game than any game I've ever covered. When I cover the Twins in the playoffs, I really don't expect them to go on and win a World Series. When I've covered the Vikings in the playoffs, I either haven't expected them to win a Super Bowl, or I've found them to be an uninteresting bunch.
This team, with Favre playing his best season and a group of professional people in the lockerroom, is much more fun to watch, and to talk to.
-I still can't believe Tim Brewster would keep the offensive scheme that caused his offense to bottom-out in the Big Ten, even as he hires a coach who has no track record as a coordinator. Jeff Horton? Really? You're going to keep a scheme that failed and hire someone without a track record to fix it?
I have nothing new to add about the morass that is the Gophers' athletic department.
-I plan to have Brad Childress on Sunday Morning Sports talk, 10-noon on KSTP, am-1500. I also plan to have a national guest and a New Orleans writer on to talk about the big weekend. We'll also do picks with Reusse and The Biltz.
-I contributed an essay to the FSN North Hockey Day program. I know the people at FSN have been working like crazy putting the show together.
-Scrimmages at the Gophers basketball practices are simple these days: Active players vs. suspended players, make it-take it.
You can follow me on Twitter at SouhanStrib. I'll post another blog tomorrow from the Superdome.
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