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Jim Souhan Writes the Worst Column on the Vikings Beat in Years

I haven't read every Vikings piece in years, nor do I regularly peruse the works of Jim Souhan, Sid Hartman or Patrick Reusse, but I saw this hit my feed and had to react. Maybe it's his worst. Maybe not.

The Vikings head coaching situation has prompted a strong reaction from many in the Twin Cities media about the appropriateness of the firing, the nature of accountability and how Rick Spielman should move forward on his coaching search.

Sometimes they express these thoughts with a disaster of words.

The language vomit Jim Souhan spit forth on how Rick Spielman should move forward would hardly produce an argument, although it's clear he's passionately arguing for something. Whether or not he can support that argument remains to be seen, but it's difficult to test given how there's no cogent point he could make besides a fart noise.

The headline is a good place to start, although it should be acknowledged that journalists rarely write their own these days.

Souhan: Vikings need diamond in the rough

Not sure why the diamond needs to be in the rough; I'm sure if they find a diamond in a diamond mine or out in the open it would be just as good. But for what it's worth, that's fine if a bit obvious. The Vikings need to find someone good. Excellent.

Rick Spielman says he'll consider 13 categories of coaching candidates while replacing Leslie Frazier.

We've set up our first target! Fire away!

What he didn't say was that when he orders from an Asian restaurant, he'd choose one from Column A, one from Column B and one from the Italian joint next door. That he changes his parking spot in the Vikings' lot depending on the month, angle of the sun, time of day and square root of the square footage of his shadow. That his Starbucks orders last longer than some NFL careers.

Souhan evidently thinks that having a list of qualifications when you're looking for an employee is a sign of indecisiveness and overthinking. While that would explain why he's hired, I'm not so sure that really follows.

Of course, if the decisionmakers at newspapers and ESPN1500 really do just spend three years to order a coffee, it would explain why they were scooped by USA Today and ESPN proper ("real ESPN") when Tom Pelissero and Ben Goessling got hired away. Maybe they were out adjusting their sun dials when the internet creeped up on them.

Spielman is capable of overthinking lunch. He's also capable of using the 12th pick in an NFL draft to select Christian Ponder. So how can he be trusted to hire a coach?

This does not make sense. Which of course is the beauty of the argument.

What does hiring a coach have to do with drafting a quarterback?

Is Pete Carroll a bad coach because John Schneider massively overpaid Matt Flynn? Is the Bruce Arians/Todd Bowles/Tom Moore/Harold Goodwin coaching setup at Arizona bad because Steve Keim hadn't scouted a draftable quarterback before being promoted to GM? Phil Emery has shown no ability to draft a quarterback. Therefore, Marc Trestman is a terrible coach.

Andy Reid is no good. John Dorsey is one for seven on picking quarterbacks and he hired that dude. And he had the gall to trade for Alex Smith, who's barely a top 15 quarterback!

Marvin Lewis, Mike Zimmer, Jay Gruden and Hue Jackson are probably not worth our time, either. They were hired by the same personnel staff that drafted Akili Smith, Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton and three other quarterbacks you've never heard of.

Souhan really has to explain how figuring out the timing of an elongated release or a pre-snap read has to do with finding a guy who knows how to coach.

You know who was on board with drafting Christian Ponder? Leslie Frazier. Here, let me quote Souhan on this:

Ponder's arm strength and ability to throw the deep ball drew scrutiny, but Vikings coaches said they found no liabilities in those areas.

"We put each quarterback that we worked out through the same paces, through the same routine so we could compare and contrast," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "He was right up there with the top guys in terms of arm strength and accuracy."

The Vikings say Ponder is ahead of the curve in terms of his intangibles. Ponder impressed the coaching staff by his retention of their plays when they sent him to the whiteboard during their private visit in Tallahassee in March.

"Seeing him process the information in comparison to the other quarterbacks, then going back to the board and regurgitate it back to the coaches, I'm looking and going, 'I don't know if I could have done that,'" Frazier said.

That doesn't seem direct enough. I hope Jim Souhan can clear it up:

Rick Spielman is the Vikings' chief personnel guru. He is in the crosshairs, but owner Zygi Wilf is just as culpable for bad decisions because he has failed to install a general manager, making the front office an amorphous committee.

But maybe they shouldn't have reached on a quarterback. What are Souhan's thoughts?

But this is one of those moments when it might be best to invest a little hope in the Vikings' brain trust, because there is no greater thrill for the modern-day sports fan than to watch the development of a good, young quarterback, and there is no better template for winning than a coach and a young quarterback growing into their jobs together.

Let's skip the usual draft-day analysis. It doesn't matter whether the draft experts think the Vikings reached. Or think there were better quarterbacks available than Ponder. Or think there were better players at other positions available at No. 12.

Draft experts and NFL teams alike are often wrong, not because of a lack of due diligence but because projecting young quarterbacks is an inherently risky business.

The Vikings' explanation was right on: They needed a quarterback, and trading down would have put them at risk of missing on a guy they liked.

We don't know how much they liked Blaine Gabbert or what they would have done had Gabbert and Ponder both been gone by No. 12.

What we know is this: Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was desperate to draft a quarterback who could lead his team, and he seemed very happy at the lectern late Thursday night.

Gosh, if we can't trust a journalist to get draft analysis correctly, then how can we trust him to advise the GM?

And let's not forget that it was Frazier, not Spielman that pushed for signing Donovan McNabb.

Let's get back to the disaster that somehow appeared in that ancient relic we call a "newspaper."

I don't agree with the decision to fire Frazier. The Wilfs and Spielman gave Frazier lousy quarterbacks and held him responsible for their play.

I'm not sure how this addresses Spielman's approach of "having qualifications" when looking for a new coach, but let's look at this one.

Souhan is right of course that coaches have never been responsible for developing young players.

Let us not forget that Ponder's adjusted net yards per attempt went from 4.25 to 4.99 to an even somehow worse 4.75, in a league where the 28th-best quarterback regularly breaks 5.0.

But sure, Spielman hampered the offense and that made it difficult for the Vikings to win. The same offense that's 14th in the league in points scored, 13th in yards per play, and 14th in points per drive. The very same offense that's 19th in first down efficiency.

It couldn't possibly be the defense that's starting Josh Robinson in the slot, Letroy Guion at nose tackle and the regressive mess we call a linebacker corps with more talent behind them than what's on the field. The defense that ranks 31st in points allowed, 29th in points per drive and 30th in preventing first downs.

I can't imagine that playing the fourth-best option at nose tackle just so you could sit your first-round pick would cause problems.

Maybe ranking 27th in aggressiveness on 4th downs could cause problems, or having your play design ranked 25th would create issues.

Now that Frazier's gone, I do agree with the simple thought behind Spielman's seemingly byzantine plan.

Sift through the verbosity, and what Spielman seemed to be trying to say is that he won't limit his coaching search to a certain résumé type.

This is the byzantine plan of having qualities you want in an employee, remember.

If he follows his own guidelines, he has a chance to avoid the biggest mistake NFL franchises make when choosing coaches or quarterbacks: overlooking a brick of gold bullion in the blinkered search for a diamond.

I don't follow. So they don't need to find a diamond, they can just find gold? Does this mean we're off the "diamond in the rough analogy?'

The best coaches in the NFL come from a wide variety of backgrounds and offer a wide variety of personalities. Here's a list of successful NFL head coaches, and the key line of their résumé before they were hired as head coaches:

• Baltimore's John Harbaugh - special teams coach.

• San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh - college head coach.

• Seattle's Pete Carroll - rah-rah college coach twice fired as an NFL head coach.

• Green Bay's Mike McCarthy - offensive coordinator for one of the NFL's worst offensive teams.

• New England's Bill Belichick - fired as the stubborn, thoroughly unlikeable coach of the Browns.

• Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis - experienced defensive coordinator.

• Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin - one year as defensive coordinator for a 6-10 Vikings team.

• Philadelphia's Chip Kelly - college hotshot with an offense predicated to fail in the NFL.

• New Orleans' Sean Payton - offensive coordinator.

• Denver's John Fox - fired as Carolina's head coach.

• New York's Tom Coughlin - fired in Jacksonville.

• Kansas City's Andy Reid - fired in Philadelphia.

So the Vikings DO want a diamond in the rough, but they shouldn't get one if there's gold. No, I'll just skip talking about this overused metaphor.

There is no prototype for winning head coaches, nor is there an ideal résumé.

Spielman and the Wilfs will have to discern leadership qualities and functional intelligence during interviews and due diligence. They'll have to find the right guy even if his experience and his team's record suggest he's not ready or capable.

That's what should frighten Vikings fans.

Yes, I can't imagine they ever interview prospects. You know, like the interviews Souhan referenced above when talking about the Ponder pick.

Rick Spielman has done "research" and that concept scares Souhan, I know. Clearly those coaches have nothing in common.

Except of course, they've all shown a keen understanding of preparation, motivation, talent development, communication and conflict resolution. Sure, Pete Carroll may have "resolved" his biggest conflict by fleeing and Coughlin may have taken it out on a punter more than once, but clearly he's done a good job communicating ideas.

There's a unifying philosophy that runs through their coaching staff and that's reflected on the field.

Wait, why is John Fox on that list?

Not only that, why are there arbitrary qualifications, like "rah-rah college coach" and "college hotshot" instead of "college head coach," like Jim Harbaugh? Harbaugh was a hotshot, and I'm pretty sure he's enthusiastic.


"I am perfectly calm"

Why was Chip Kelly's offense predicated to fail? It was not founded on the concept of failure, nor is it based in some sort of failure-driven strategy.

Unless of course, he meant "predicted," in which case it's simply weird sentence structure and a typo.

Why is Belichick stubborn, but Coughlin... not?

I think Souhan is souping up this list of diversity. What he means to say is "with one exception (the gentle Harbaugh), successful head coaches have either run a program before or were a coordinator."

We could of course shorten this to "they were a coordinator before," but that would ruin all the fun.

His argument that there is "no ideal résumé" for a coach misses the point. Spielman did not say he had a list of 13 accomplishments he wanted a potential coach to have achieved, but 13 traits.

Spielman can't produce a statistical formula for rating coaching candidates, can't grade prospects out to decimal points like he does draft prospects.

When did he say he would do that? Is it because he used a number?

He said he was looking for 13 qualities in a head coach. It's not Dungeons and Dragons; they don't come pinned as a stat on someone's forehead (I do not understand Dungeons and Dragons).

He'll have to use intuition or, as he might call it, "The shift-alt-delete-backspace function on my MacBook.''

You cannot hit the delete button and the nonexistent "backspace" button at the same time on a MacBook.

And the alt button is the option button.

Ha! Looks like Souhan rolled a critical failure on his Knowledge: Nerds check! (I actually do understand Dungeons and Dragons, quite intimately).

There's no doubt Spielman will do his homework. The question is whether he'll do so much homework he'll fool himself. His pick of Ponder made sense if you graded Ponder on intelligence, experience, athletic ability and responsibility. It made less sense if you watched Ponder react to the blitz.

This sounds like a hackneyed segue that—

NFL head coaches are always reacting to the blitz. The good ones are crisis managers, perpetual evaluators, innovators, chess masters. There's a good one out there, available to Spielman, but he might not look like anybody who's ever won a Super Bowl.

—won't make sense.

Ah. An analogy to find a way out of the writing hole that Souhan dug himself into without a clear transition that means anything.

"Ponder looks good except when under pass-rush pressure. You know who deals well with pressure? Good coaches."

I'd challenge Souhan to find more than two quarterbacks in any draft class that had college film where they reacted well to pass-rushing pressure. That's not how it works, unless he's demanding that the Vikings draft a fully-formed Peyton Manning.

I would also challenge Souhan to prove that Frazier is good at all four of the—



Is it bad if I number them?

  1. Crisis Management
  2. Talent Evaluation
  3. Innovation
  4. Strategy

Well, Souhan, you can't just pull out your calcu-box and hit the enterpad and formulate a new coach like that.

Former Viking Jack Del Rio might become the next to succeed in his second stint as a head coach. Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer might be ready to run his own team.

But what is their innovation score? How does Souhan weight Crisis Management to Innovation? Is it a 3:1 weight or is it dynamic because there are hidden efficiencies to be gained by hiring a coordinator?

I'll have to pull out my slide rule for this.

Sidenote: Souhan said we should not limit ourselves to coordinators of good teams and then the listed coordinators of two playoff teams. And neither of them have general managers that drafted a good quarterback, which means they are not to be trusted.

The Gophers once rushed Charlie Strong off campus so they could hire Tim Brewster. Strong excelled as Florida's defensive coordinator and has elevated Louisville to a national power.

What does this have to do with literally anything Souhan has talked about?

He might be the guy, and if he is, Spielman will have to discard formulas and decimal points and go with his gut. Or, as Spielman calls it, his "food-processing center.''


God forbid he researches something.