Monday, February 28, 2005

Jeremy: Trade/No-Trade

It's a strange time to be a Minnesota sports fan.
As an avid user of performance enhancing drugs, I am choosing not to talk about the Minnesota Twins or Major League Baseball.
And because I'll never understand why grown men on skates and multi-millionaires can't seem to see eye-to-eye (or was it because I don't care) I can't even talk about the hockey situation.
This leaves us with the Vikings and the Timberwolves. Two teams that are currently surrounded by a veritable plethora of questions about trades. One about a trade that many people think is less than smart, and one because of not being smart enough to make a trade.
Kevin McHale likes to talk constantly about how difficult it is to make a trade in the NBA. The folks who run the Sixers, Kings, Hornets, Knicks, Celtics, Hawks, Nuggets, Warriors, Rockets, Bobcats, Cavs, Bucks and Heat didn't seem to agree with Mr. McHale when they all were able to make trades before last Thursday's deadline. You've seen the names that changed teams, and we certainly aren't talking about pushing no name players around the league.
So we are left scratching our heads wondering what happened. Perhaps this team has thrown in the proverbial towel for the season. Cassell (injured and disgruntled) and Spreewell (dumb and old) don't have enough value to be considered interesting to other teams. That leaves the too-big contracts of Wally, Trenton Hassell and T-Hud as possible trade bait. Add these facts to the recent suggestion that KG's knee might be bad enough that it's not worth making a run at it this year, and the knee-jerk canning of Flip Saunders, and in reality, it might be the best thing for the Wolves to continue on as they have been.
I might go as far as to say that it would be a good thing for the Wolves to miss the playoffs. They can re-evaluate in the summer. Spree's contract (thank goodness he didn't bite on the one we offered him last summer) will be off the books. Sammy will realize that he needs to put up or shut up. Wally, now matured, can cuddle up to KG and learn how to play second fiddle. This team is quite literally a hurtin' unit right now, so everyone will have a chance to heal. So, we can all get used to the idea that this season is, in essence, over. But hey, we're Minnesota sports fans. We're used to this.
Speaking of which...
Everybody seems to have a very strong opinion about the Vikings dealing away Randy Moss. I've heard everything from "thank goodness he's gone," to "this will go down in history as the Vikings worst trade," to "they didn't get nearly enough in return for his talent."
Five days after the trade I've read multiple articles and talked to several people about the Moss deal and I'm ready to share my thoughts.
Mike Tice has basically spent 3 years as coach of the Vikings trying to appease Moss, who is no doubt the most talented, dynamic and game-changing player in the NFL. For a week following the Vikings final regular season loss to the Redskins when Moss left his teammates on the field with two seconds left in the game, Tice and the entire Vikings organization made excuses for Randy Moss to everyone that would listen. And yet the following week, on the national stage at Lambau Field, Moss threw them all under the bus one more time by mooning Packer fans. Say what you will about his intent, or the severity of this action, it was, at the very least, ill-timed.
Obviously these actions sparked the trade.
Now think about these things:
*Tice realizes that either he can't handle, or doesn't want to handle, Moss any longer. He realizes that he is spending too much time on a guy that will never be a team player, and by doing so he is hurting his entire team.
*Moss' biggest fan, Daunte Culpepper, now has the confidence to couple with the talent he already had, to realize that he doesn't need a selfish guy like Moss, no matter how talented he is, to throw to. Daunte is ready to be the practical and emotional leader of this team both on the field and off.
*A week ago, perspective Vikings owner Reggie Fowler, says he would never trade the ultra-talented Moss.
The upper management of the Vikings must have at least been kicking around the idea of trading Moss before that comment, but after Fowler's comment, they had a new issue: a time-table. If they believed dealing Moss was best for the team they had to do it before Red left town.
If you trade a talent like Moss, you absolutely must get one of two things return, a superstar or a top 10 pick. Could the Vikings have gotten more for Moss from another team? Probably. Could they do it before Fowler took over the team and didn't allow it to happen? Maybe not. And that, I believe, was the thrust of this trade. Once Fowler made the comment about not trading Moss, this was no longer about getting comparable talent, this was about on-the-field leadership, and time.
The Vikings got the number seven pick in a very deep draft. With that pick they will get an immediate impact player. They have $36 million to play with, and the luxury of working a very intriguing free-agency market before they need to figure out which direction to go with that number seven, not to mention their later number 18, pick.
Some might call it addition by subtraction, but when you have so many other additions on the horizon, maybe it doesn't look so much like a subtraction. Could the Vikings afford to trade Moss in the way that they did? Maybe we just need to at least entertain the idea that they couldn't afford not to.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Jeff: Napoleon-Dynamite or Bonaparte?

It's Christmas, 2005. The Minnesota Vikings are battling the Eagles for the NFC's best record. Daunte Culpepper is the top passer in the conference, Nate Burelson has become one of the league's premier receivers, and the defense, led by Napoleon Harris, is actually stopping people occasionally. Other teams are kicking themselves for passing on Antrell Rolle, Adam "Pac-Man" Jones or Mike Williams in the draft, as one of them makes the biggest rookie impact for the purple since Randy Moss. Oh, and the chemistry will be so good within the team the only injuries will be guys dislocating their shoulder patting each other on the back.

Are you this optimistic? I'm not sure I am either. When word came out late yesterday that the Vikings had traded Randy Moss to the Oakland Raiders for Napoleon Harris, and the 7th pick and a late round pick in this April's draft, I, like you, was saying "...that's it? THere's more right? RIGHT?" Apparently not. The Vikes traded one of the top receivers and top talents in the league for one 1st rd pick and a guy named Napoleon--and it's not the French Dictator. Linebackers are a dime a dozen, and good corners are harder to find than a Packers' fan that hates Brett Favre. The Raiders had not one but two good corners, and the Vikes instead get an athletic linebacker that's still searching for a clue. Wait, don't we already have EJ Henderson and Dontarrious Thomas to do that? If the Vikes weren't going to get a corner, something they still desparately need, shouldn't they at least get a linebacker that's a leader? Harris, for all his athletic ability, has leadership qualities that are more comparable to Napoleon Dynamite than Napoleon Bonaparte. Sure the little French guy was under 5'5 and had problems shedding blocks, as well as Russian winters, but at least he'd grab this defense by the facemask and try to restore some order (and also probably order a croissant with mayonaise and yell things like "Zut"!! Sorry, the French are such easy targets). From what we've seen from Harris in his 3 years in the league, he's more likely to yell "Whatever I want to do! Geez!", or "I like your sleeves. They're really big."

The only rational for this deal is the ol' addage of "addition by subtraction". Team leaders Culpepper and Matt Birk have been on record for a few years now as being less than pleased not only with Moss' antics, but the team's lack of discipline against him. Looks like they finally won. The New England Patriots have won 3 of the last 4 Super Bowls not with the most talent, but with the best chemistry, and perhaps that's the direction the Purple are moving. Additon by subtraction. It still doesn't sit well with me. Scroll down this page aways and you'll find the column I wrote about the Vikes NOT trading Moss unless they got a great deal. This was not a great deal, and if this was all there was, they should have kept him another year.

Bottom line is, time will tell. Hopefully in December we'll all be enjoying the Vikings' great season, and not comparing this trade favorably with the Herschel Walker deal of years ago. Hopefully we'll be comparing Harris more to the french Napoleon for his on-field leadership, not to the less-than-Dynamite one. "Hey, give me your tots".

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Jeremy: Red, The Real Foul-er

Jeff is certainly right that Reggie Fowler and his reputation is very much in question. The fact that this guy even had a "rough draft" of his personal bio with inaccuracies, nay, out and out lies, on it, definitely sheds a very bleak light on who, or what, this guy is all about.
Even if the NFL and its owners scrutinize over his personal and business finances and find out that he is, indeed, financially capable of owning an NFL franchise, with the recent findings about his bio, is this really the kind of guy that the NFL wants owning a franchise? And more so, is this the kind of guy that the people of Minnesota want owning the Vikings?
Unfortunately the people of Minnesota don't get to choose, otherwise I wonder if Fowler might have already been thrown under the rug and the name of Glen Taylor brought up once again.
The problem lies with Red McCombs. Here's a guy who bought a franchise within the most coveted of pro sports leagues at a rock-bottom, dirt cheap price. He got the team at such a low rate, compared to other NFL teams, because of the Metrodome and the revenue, or lack thereof, that is can produce. He then turned around and complained that he needed a new stadium because he couldn't make any money with the Dome. When the people of Minnesota reminded him that he got the team so cheap and it should have been implied that he use the money he saved to put up a new stadium, he told them they were crazy, and decided to sell.
Hey Red, here's a car analogy an old used car salesman like you can understand: you can't buy a car with hail damage with a cheap price tag and then expect somebody else to fix it at no cost to you.
Red thinks he's held hostage by the Dome, when in fact he put the lock on his own hands when he bought the team. And therein lies the rub for regular folks like you and I. We are now held hostage by a rich man who doesn't understand the true meaning of a good deal.
And so Red spent his time in Minnesota running things as cheap as possible. Cheap coaching staff, cheap team. But now that Red wants to sell the team, is he looking to sell it cheap? Certainly not. That hail damaged car has a price tag on it that is not one red cent under the blue book value.
Enter: Reggie Fowler. He wants to buy this hail damaged car so badly, and Red wants to get rid of it so badly, that as long as Fowler has the money to buy, Red is ready to sell. Red doesn't care that Fowler has a tainted past as a business man. And just like he didn't give a single thought to how his dealings with the Vikings affected the people who paid the bills, the people of Minnesota, he doesn't care how Fowler's past, or future dealings as the potential owner of the team, might affect the team or the people surrounding it.
Red made it clear very early on that owning the Vikings wasn't about loving football, it was about business. He continued to make it clear during his entire time owning the team and now as he is trying to sell the team. And he is making it more clear than ever by trying to slip it past the other NFL owners that the guy he is trying to unload the team on might (allegedly) be more crooked than any used car salesman that has ever worked for him.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Jeff: Whoopsy Daisy!!

Well Jer and Chris (hello Mr. Brenna. I miss you. Deeply), you ask for my thoughts on Mr. Reggie Fowler. At least I think that's his name. And we think he's black. And from Arizona. But from the things that came out about him today in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (, he could be an elderly Asian woman from Timbuktu. Today it was learned that the info sheet that was handed out at Fowler's press conference on Monday was full of "inaccuracies", which is kind of like saying I drive a Ferrari is an inaccuracy. It's flat out wrong. Even a lie. THe sheet, which Fowler now says he never took the time to look at, was full of an alarming number of "facts" that were actually fiction. To me, having just ONE thing on a resume being a lie would be alarming, but several? Many? You tell me how that looks for somebody spearheading a $625 million bid to buy the Upper Midwest's most popular sporting franchise? I don't even know where to begin. Well how about here-- if you've put in the time and effort to make an offer to buy an NFL franchise, wouldn't you take the extra two minutes to read over your biography to make sure it was right? And wouldn't you take the time long before your press conference to do this to make sure it was accurate? Wouldn't you? Maybe it's just me.

Fowler called the bio that was handed out Monday a "rough draft". Um... I've typed up a personal resume once or twice, and even in my "rough draft", there was nothing even close to something that would be considered a lie. And I was just applying for a job waiting tables, or talking on the radio to cattle (I'm hoping I at least have cattle out here as listeners). Imagine filling out a resume or biography if you were applying for easily one of the most high profile jobs in the midwest. You'd want to get everything right, wouldn't you? Again, maybe it's just me.

All of this has to raise redflags galore for the folks in the NFL that decide whether this sale will be approved. There have been questions since Fowler's name appeared out of thin air as a possible owner about whether he really has the funds for this. And these resume flubs aren't going to help. Nobody's sure of his personal worth. He was rated as the 37th richest African American in the United States--of course Reggie, not once but twice, has said he's 11th. He also said he played in the NFL, which didn't happen. Or that he got a degree from Wyoming in Business (it was actually in SOcial work, which, last time I checked, is a lot different from a business degree).

Bottom line is we have no idea who REggie Fowler is or what he's about. Even the little he tells us isn't worth much after today. I had nothing against Fowler before this incident and nothing now, but I'll stand by what myself and many others have said all along-- the best thing for the Vikings AND their fans would be for Glen Taylor to buy this team. That door may have been opened again.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Jeremy: To Jeff: Okay, Let Me Make Sure I Understand This

Okay, let me see if I understand what happened last night. The Wolves won their first game under McHale against a Nets team that I think everyone would have to agree, at least right now, is a far better squad than the Wolves. But, back the truck up, Olowokandi led the team in rebounds... AND POINTS!?!?!?! Really? Did that happen? Help me out here, Jeff. Am I crazy? Okay, I'm sold, McHale is a coaching genius!!!
Anybody who can get that stiff, that bump-on-a-log, that overpaid and under-producing tazered big man to produce, well, that person has got to get a little bit of respect. Doesn't he? Honestly, was he able to do that? Okay, that's enough McHale butt kissing because I am not that warm to him yet.
Here's the thing that really surprised me. A quote from KG that seems to not only be an endorsement for McHale, but a shot at Flip?
"He's like a breath of fresh air right now. He's given everybody from A to Z confidence."
Wow. Is that a shot? When I first read it, I certainly thought it was.
We seem to agree that McHale, not Flip, as far as team leaders, is to blame here, but were we too quick to judge? Were we, Jeff, heaven forbid, for the first time ever.... wrong?
p.s. Let's take a cue from Chris... what do you make of all this Vikings ownership business?

Monday, February 14, 2005

Jeff: An Equally Baffled Response to the Jer...


My friend, we think so much alike it's scary. If only we could get Glen Taylor on the same wavelength. After feeling the same emotions of outrage and shock when I heard about the fate of "The (Flip) 'Nosis", my blame turned pretty quickly to McHale as well. Before I get to him, I need to reiterate your thoughts on how ridiculous it is that Flip got thrown under the bus for this. Take one look at this team and you can see Sprewell and Cassell are the problems here. They're not trying, and their whining and pouting are infecting other players. If Michael Olowakandi knew what planet he was on, it might affect him too. Not only that, we hear now that KG has been playing on an injured knee, but because he's what every athlete should strive to be, we've heard nothing about it until now because Garnett refuses to talk about it or even acknowledge it. Tell me, please, what coach could do any better with this group?

Now let me get this straight: you can't get anything for Sprewell or Cassell. Nobody will give you anything of value because of their attitudes and age. Cutting Sprewell is not a possibility here? His contract is up at year's end. He's doing nothing for the team and doesn't want to be there. Wouldn't cutting him show the rest of the guys that if you don't perform you're gone? Heck, I'll go a step further. I would have pulled a Jon Gruden with Keyshawn: tell Sprewell not to even report to work. Deactivate him, and then cut him right before the end of the season so that he's not eligble for anybody else's playoff roster. And I'd tell all of this to the media. You HAVE to play hardball here. You HAVE to send a message to your players that the team is more important. Firing Flip and keeping your problems around does just the opposite. The attitudes on this team are only going to get worse now because they know they can get away with it.

Finally, why are Wolves fans not asking for McHale's head now? Jer, you're bang on. Since he drafted KG, he made a horrible trade involving Marbury, let Googs walk for nothing, was as responsible or more so than Glen Taylor for the Joe Smith fiasco, and now this. HOW DOES THIS MAN STILL HAVE A JOB?!?!? Let's just say that IF McHale and Taylor are right in the statements they made about Flip's responsibility in all this. If that IS true, how is McHale not MORE responsible? I give up. Jer, help me, I think I'm hyperventilating.

breathing into a paper bag,

Jeremy: A Letter to Jeff: Was I Wrong?

My Dearest Jeffrey,
I got your voicemail message about Flip getting fired on Saturday night after spending the day in the blackhole of Southern Minnesota at a wedding where I could not get cell phone reception. That was the first I had heard of it, and I was in shock.
Twice in the last couple of weeks in this very space I have proclaimed my belief that nothing going wrong with this team had anything to do with our favorite NBA coach, Flip(nosis) Saunders. Was I wrong? Based on his firing Saturday, I would have to assume that, at least, Kevin McHale & Glen Taylor did not agree with me. But I still ask, was I wrong?
Okay, let's put the niceties aside here. This is not Flips fault, and I feel bad for the man. Flipnosis has been the coach of this team for 10 years. He led the team to eight straight playoff appearances. And he groomed KG into the player he is today. Don't you think that those facts should afford Flip the opportunity to try to turn this team around in the second half of the season, and to see this team through the rest of the season at least?
What happened here? Is this a knee-jerk reaction? I think that what happened was, after realizing that he couldn't unload Spree and Sam because not only are they playing horribly, but they aren't putting in any effort and their brand of cancer is infecting this whole team, McHale got tired of Taylor breathing down his neck to get something done, so McHale realized that the next thing he could do to make a change quickly was to fire the team bench leader.
So, is it Flip's fault that Spree and Sam are cancer? Is it Flip's fault that MCHALE couldn't make a deal?
Jeff, you and I used to be the biggest McHale bashers around. Names like Marbury, Joe Smith and Gugliotta, will remind everyone why. We took the year off from bashing him last year because Sam and Spree seemed like genius moves. And last year, they were.
Is it time to go back to bashing him now?
The Jer

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Jeff: Moss Walking the Plank

If you're a sports fan, you love rumors and trade speculation. If you're a Vikings fan and are sick of Randy Moss' antics, you're especially loving the talks about his exit out of Minnesota. But before you try and throw Moss overboard off the Good Ship Viking, allow me to remind you of this: RANDY MOSS WAS NOT THE REASON THE VIKINGS WERE .500 THIS SEASON!!! After walking off the field, and then the much overblown mooning incident, people seem to have forgotten what a healthy Randy Moss can do. Before he got hurt against New Orleans midway though the season, the Vikings had the #1 offense in football. That's right, better than Peyton Manning and the Colts. With a healthy Randy, it was Culpepper who was on pace to break Marino's records, not Manning. Moss made the Vikes' O unstoppable, and made Scott Linehan look competent, something that was much harder to do when Moss was hurt the rest of the season. Randy is the NFL's most dangerous weapon. Period.

Now, having said that, I do not agree with him walking off the field and do not agree with VIkings' management caudling him when he makes mistakes. Apparently some of the players agree. Moss was quoted this morning saying he really wants to return to the Vikings. Pro Bowl QB Daunte Culpepper's response? "...maybe the Vikings have had enough of (Moss') erratic behavior." Not exactly a ringing endorsement from the guy in charge of getting Randy the rock. An irreconcilable situation like the Cubs had with Sammy Sosa? For the sake of the team, let's hope not.

Here's my point: the Vikings don't NEED to trade Randy Moss. His antics were not the reason the Vikings collapsed down the stretch again. His pouting and selfishness did not keep this team from reaching the Super Bowl. Terrell Owens was every bit the malcontent Moss is, single-handedly destroying a franchise in San Francisco, and weasling his way out of another in Baltimore. Yet ask anyone in Philly about his impact this season with the Eagles, and they'll say he's the greatest thing since the cheesesteak. Winning does this. THe Vikings, because of a terrible defense, only know what that's like for the first half of a season. When the going gets tough however, the defense gets going, and so do any chances of the Vikes steering their ship to the Super Bowl.

If the Vikings get blown away by a trade offer for Moss this offseason, one that includes some stud defenders and high draft picks, they would be crazy not to pull the trigger. But if teams make low-ball offers, the Vikes shouldn't hesitate to hang onto Randy for one more season. THey don't need to be put into a fire-sale mode with Moss. If you can't get a deal for what he's worth, shore up the defense through free-agency and the draft (an actual possibility for the first time in a decade if Glen Taylor buys the team, which is the rumor). Give this great offense a defense to go with it, then see what winning does to team chemistry and to Moss. If they win and Moss is still a distraction, and he really DOES become the reason the Vikes don't go to Detroit next February, then you throw him off the Vikings ship for whatever you can get. If there's no blockbuster on the table for him now, trading him next year won't net you much less than teams are offering at the moment. But if he does perform and does focus on team, which he did in both '98 and '01 when the Purple advanced to the NFC Championship, then you've still got the NFL's most dangerous weapon and all the shenanigans from this past season will be water under the bridge, or in this case, the Good Ship Viking, as it finally sets sail towards the Super Bowl.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Jeremy: What's right with the Wolves?

I'll give you a moment to stop laughing after reading the title of this post. I know, I know. I've already written over 20 words, and that should be more than enough to convey what is right with our Minnesota Timberwolves, right?
After my last post about my beloved Puppies, they rolled off 5 wins in a row. My cousin emailed me back to tell me that he was certain that Flip(nosis) was reading Midwest Sports Rubes and the ship had been righted.
The honest truth is that I don't think that 5 game winning streak could have been more damaging, or could have come at a worse time for this team. It was beginning to look like they were going to have to make some huge and sweeping changes very soon, and then they go and win 5 in a row, and give everybody hope that they can turn it around. The winning streak probably set the trade process back at least 10 days, which in the NBA is a lifetime when you are trying to move the biggest egos in the sports world from one city to another.
So here we are, two days after the Wolves have dropped below .500. Fans and some media are beginning to call for Flips head. Nobody understands why a move hasn't been made and we aren't even hearing about the possibility of a trade. It's even gotten so bad that some people are starting to blame KG.
Look, I understand that when things get bad everybody is going to look to the leaders to find out what's wrong. But let's get one thing strait: (and I will fight to the death with anybody on this point) reasons one and two why the Timberwolves are down this year are not Flip Saunders and Kevin Garnett. They are 1) Latrell Spreewell, & 2) Sam Cassell.
The difference on this team last year from prior years was chemistry. Part of that had to do with Spree and Sammy. They were happy to be here, they deferred the lead role to KG and their attitudes were rewarded with a trip to the Western Conference Finals.
The difference on this team this year from last year is again chemistry, or lack thereof. Spree and Sammy, feeling that is was them who made the difference in the team last season, wanted more money and more input on the team this season. They aren't getting that for two reasons. First, because KG is still in town and he (rightfully) gets all the input he wants. And second, because before the season started they put money before team, with Sam showing up to camp late and Spree making his now famous "feed my family" comment.
I said in my last post that the only people that matter on this team are KG and Flip. I still believe that. But guys like Fred (The Mayor) Hoiberg, who has the highest 3-point % in the league, Wally (World) Szczerbiak, whose effort is never in question, and Mark Madsen, who this team is missing more than anyone cares to admit, are also important to the chemistry of this team. And where those guys, along with Flip and KG, understand that they are just as important to the chemistry of the team as last years MV3, guys like Spree and Sammy do not. And that is the gap in this team that is causing a division that seems almost insurmountable right now. At least Spree is only under contract for the rest of this season and we're only obligated to Sammy through next year. I haven't even touched on Troy Hudson, whose rap career and bank account have suddenly turned him into the second coming of Cassell whose career-long adage has been "I'll shoot myself into the game, even if it means shooting my team out of it."
As per usual, I had the Wolves on the TV last night at work, and as per usual, I kept somewhat of an eye toward what was going on in the game as I worked. I can't count how many times I stopped in front of a TV, looked at the score, and simply shook my head. It got so bad that when I stopped by her table, an elderly woman having dinner with her son said to me, "either you have a nervous tick or you are unhappy about something going on it that game."
I don't have kids. I have sports. I have the Vikings, the Gophers and the Wolves. And right now my teenager, who really did a lot of growing up last year, is hanging out with the wrong crowd.