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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Greetings from the press box at TCF Bank Stadium, where Team Strib is preparing for the Vikings-Lions game.
At the beginning of the season, I thought that if everything went right - Matt Cassel played well and stayed healthy, Adrian Peterson performed well in the Vikings' offense, Kyle Rudolph had a breakout season and Mike Zimmer's defense worked well - the Vikings might win two of their first six games.
Despite all of their problems - injuries, suspensions, turmoil - the Vikings have already won two. In a division in which there are no sure things, and with Calvin Johnson's injury short-circuiting what looked like a possibly dominant Lions team, the Vikings have a chance to jump into contention today.
They face the Lions without Johnson and Reggie Bush, at home, in the rare game at TCF Bank that will be considered an advantage for Minnesota. The Lions rarely play well outdoors, and the loss of Johnson and Bush will make them much easier to game-plan against.
Here are the two most prominent aspects of the game I'll be watching today:
-Can Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner help Teddy Bridgewater get comfortable against a surprisingly strong defense? Can he involve Cordarrelle Patterson and Jerick McKinnon, his two most talented players?
-Can Harrison Smith run well on his sore ankle? Can the Vikings stuff running back Joquie Bell, and limit Golden Tate's ability to run after the catch?
If the Vikings can do those two things, I believe they win. And if they win, they'll be in contention for a playoff spot despite all of the terrible things that have happened to them so far.
A lot of bad ideas met up on Thursday night at Lambeau Field, their confluence producing the Vikings' 42-10 loss to the Packers.
Bad idea: Playing on the road on Thursday night. So far this season, road teams on Thursday night are 1-4, with the closest of those margins being 20 points.
Bad idea: Playing Christian Ponder in a football game. He wasn't just bad. He was unprofessional and embarrassing to the sport.
Bad idea: Playing the revitalized Packers offense without much preparation time. The Vikings' defense, impressive in three of the first four weeks, looked lost while trying to reach Aaron Rodgers, cover Jordy Nelson or tackle the previously ineffective Eddie Lacy.
The result was an unsightly addition to the annals of a usually fascinating rivalry.
It also offered evidence that the quarterback position is the most important in sports. With Teddy Bridgewater running the same offense last week, Jarius Wright played like a star, and Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon were highly effective.
With Ponder at the helm, even playing against what has been a mediocre defense, the Vikings couldn't function.
Now the Vikings have to hope that Bridgewater's ankle injury isn't a harbinger of future injury problems.
The guy suddenly seems very important.
My column for tomorrow's paper (and online, of course) will address the Twins' managerial search. I have a nomination.
For the moment, though, let's acknowledge that what happened this afternoon was remarkable.
A pro sports organization fired a longtime manager, then held a press conference where the guy who did the firing and the guy who got fired sat next to each other, and the guy who got fired made bald jokes about him and his former boss.
The guy who got fired brought two of his kids to sit in the front row as he said his goodbyes.
The guy who got fired said he agreed with the decision.
At the end of the press conference, the guy who got fired got up, walked away, turned back and said, ``I'll see ya, boss.''
I think the Twins made the right decision. It was time for Ron Gardenhire to go.
For the moment, though, let's enjoy the uniqueness of this afternoon.
Gardy cracking jokes. Terry Ryan speaking bluntly about why he fired his old friend, and why he thinks he should stay on the job. A media relations department that set it all up on the fly.
My column will get into my evaluation of the organization and what it should do next.
For the moment, let's give the Twins and Gardenhire credit for being so remarkably gracious and blunt on what had to be a painful day for all involved.
Knowing how much losing eats at Gardenhire, and that he has had health scares over the years related to high blood pressure, it's my hope that he takes at least a year off and rests before his inevitable return to the dugout.
I frequently butted heads with Gardenhire over the years. I wasn't a fan of many of his strategical moves, and I thought he got too emotional in the late innings.
What I'll always appreciate about him is his sense of humor, his work ethic, his loyalty to his staff, and the way he treated people who can easily be mistreated in baseball clubhouses - the clubbies, the organizational worker bees, and women.
In the early 2000s, one Twins player said a few things to a female reporter that were inappropriate, at best. Gardenhire immediately addressed the player and apologized to the reporter, who wasn't even offended.
Having met plenty of Gardenhire's friends, I came to like Gardy the human much more than Gardy the manager.
So I hope he gets to spend a little time being a human before he subjects himself to the rigors of managing a big-league team again.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 12:15 on Tuesday, and on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Jerry Kill inherited a terrible football program. On Saturday, his team was far better coached and better conditioned than Michigan, and blew out the Wolverines in the Big Quiet House.
Mike Zimmer took over a losing team, had his top free agent shot in a bar, lost his franchise player to a suspension, and on Sunday beat a talented Atlanta team with a rookie quarterback.
This was one of the most impressive weekends in memory for Minnesota football coaches.
Kill and Zimmer are building programs that should win for years.
You can see Kill's touch in his team's physical play. Michigan's strength is stopping the run, yet the Gophers ran all over the Wolverines. His roster is visibly stronger than it was when he arrived, and his defense could teach NFL teams how to make plays on balls in the air.
You can see Zimmer's touch in the way his teams limit top offensive players. The Vikings made the Rams look more inept than they really are. They limited Jimmy Graham and Julio Jones, keeping either from making game-breaking plays. The only receiver who has dominated the Vikings was Julian Edelman in Week 2, shortly after the Adrian Peterson news broke, and that probably happened because the Vikings figured Xavier Rhodes could handle Edelman one-on-one, and Edelman proved too elusive for him on that day.
Zimmer and Rick Spielman also seem to have done extremely well in the draft together. Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater are keepers.
Kill and Zimmer are teachers who have hired excellent staffs. What might be best for Minnesota football fans is, neither seems to be looking for their next career move. You get the sense both could be here, and winning, for a long time.
I'll be on 1500espn-am at 12:15 from Winter Park. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
The importance of any individual NFL game becomes overblown because of scarcity. There just aren’t many games, so they all seem important.
This one might actually have been. The Vikings faced the prospects of falling to 1-3 if they lost at home to Atlanta. That would be 1-3 with an injury-depleted roster, with Adrian Peterson perhaps never carrying the ball for them again, and with under pressure being placed on key rookies.
A couple of rookies earned the Vikings a 41-28 victory on Sunday over Atlanta.
Teddy Bridgewater made his first career start and completed 19-of-30 passes for 317 yards and no interceptions, even running for a touchdown. He looked cool and comfortable until he injured his ankle in the fourth quarter, causing Christian Ponder to finish the game in relief.
Bridgewater’s longtime running partner may be rookie running back Jerick McKinnon, who for the first time was a big part of the game plan. McKinnon rushed 18 times for 135 yards.
An NFL team’s prospects change week to week, but if Bridgewater and McKinnon can remain healthy, they could have a lot more days like they had on Sunday.
Bridgewater became the first rookie quarterback this season to pass for 300 yards, while making his first NFL start. McKinnon displayed the strength and speed that made him a third-round draft pick.
This might sound strange, but it's true: The Vikings might not be missing Adrian Peterson for long.
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