What are the Gophers supposed to be about?

The University of Minnesota football team dropped to 0-4 at home this season, which hasn’t happened since 1983. But despite that, the last few years have provided a pretty similar story line.

Adam Weber

Minnesota QB Adam Weber hasn't developed the way many had hoped, but how many different offensive coordinators has he had? Associated Press photo

Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski is one of this country’s brilliant sports writers. Everyone knows I’m a big fan of his, and I consider his appearance on “Sports Talk” to be one of my favorite moments in that show’s brief life.

One of the many great points that Posnanski has made over the years that has stuck with me was about the Kansas City Royals. I’m not sure if I can find the link, but you can read all of Posnanski’s work here.

Posnanski said one of the problems with the Royals is that they’re not about anything. If a small-market team is to survive, it must be about something. The Oakland A’s were about “Moneyball” which worked for awhile. The Minnesota Twins are about strike-throwing pitchers and reliable defense. The Royals a year or two ago said they were going to be about on-base percentage, but then proceeded to add such great OBP gems as Yuniesky Betancourt and Jason Kendall. At one point they had four of the eight or nine worst OBPs in the majors in their starting lineup.

Anyway, back to the Gophers. One of their many problems is their offense from year to year seems to have no direction. Under Glen Mason, it was obvious that the offense was about big, talented offensive lineman with dynamic running backs who could run the football. Move the chains.

The Gophers this year appear to be heading back to those days, but only after having different pass-happy stretches that at one time included the spread offense.

It’s one thing to tailor your offense to the personnel you have. But the problem is it never seems to work, and it just leaves the team going nowhere. How many different coordinators has Adam Weber played for as Minnesota QB?

Can you blame Tim Brewster for that? Probably not. Coordinators come and go, and despite the Gophers lack of success, people keep wanting to take them away.

I just think the Gophers need to establish some sort of continuity. Hindsight is 20-20, but they should have stuck with the Mason formula.

Now, I’m sure you’re thinking my call for continuity means I think Brewster should say. That isn’t so. I think they need continuity, but I’m not sure if where there at right now is a proper starting point.

Strange Brew, and some NFL picks

I heard “Gopher Nation” referenced during the Big Ten Network’s broadcast of the Minnesota-South Dakota football game Saturday. Is there much left to “Gopher Nation”? And if so, how much more can those people take?

Tim Brewster

Despite a recent contract extension, Tim Brewster's seat is getting hot. Associated Press photo

The Gophers suffered another embarrassment against an area Football Championship Subdivision school, losing to the Coyotes 41-38 at TCF Bank Stadium.

Minnesota’s offense moved the ball pretty well, but a Big Ten offense was supported by the quality of defense that would have a tough time competing in the Dakota Athletic Conference routinely. The Gophers simply couldn’t stop USD’s screens and bootlegs. Pretty pathetic showing.

Oddly, Minnesota extended the contract of football coach Tim Brewster prior to the season. But combining a loss like this to a near-loss to South Dakota State last season and an actual loss to North Dakota State three years ago, and you wonder how much longer Gophers brass will sit back and watch this.

Would you fire Brewster now, after the season, or not at all? I’m in the camp of letting a coach finish out a season, because there just aren’t enough games in a college football season to turn things around in the middle of the year with a new coach. Then again, I never would have extended Brewster’s contract, so what do I know?

And for what I hope will be a weekly feature, here’s a few NFL picks against the spread (my pick is in bold):

  • Giants by 7 against Carolina. Giants
  • Atlanta vs. Pittsburgh EVEN. Steelers
  • Seattle by 1 vs. San Francisco. 49ers
  • Green Bay vs. Philadelphia EVEN. Packers
  • Dallas by 3 vs. Washington. Cowboys

Twins have payroll flexibility

Could be because every game is sold out. Could be the Joe Nathan contract insurance. Could just be a desire to win. Whatever it is, the Minnesota Twins front office says it has some payroll flexibility as the trade deadline approaches.

"We feel like we are well-positioned, if we so choose, to make a move to make the team better," Twins president Dave St. Peter said. "Ultimately, we are about trying to get better. If that means trade, if that means kids from the minor leagues, great."

The Twins reportedly will not consider trading hot-shot pitching prospect Kyle Gibson. Not sure about outfielders like Ben Revere, Aaron Hicks and Angel Morales. But there’s no doubt Triple-A catcher Wilson Ramos – who just was activated from the DL at Rochester – is the most talked-about piece the Twins might move.

The Twins routinely struggle to score runs in the playoffs. But I still contend that if this team wants to win it all, they need an ace. And among those pitchers available, Cliff Lee is the best fit.

Earlier this week, he tossed a complete game for the Seattle Mariners in a win at Yankee Stadium. For whatever reason, he’s been kryptonite for those Supermen in Pinstripes.

Plus, he’s cheap, and he’s not under contract past this season. The likes of Dan Haren and Roy Oswalt would prove too costly for the Twins beyond 2010, and Haren isn’t pitching all that well anyway.

How low can the Big 12 go?

With news Thursday that Colorado is going to the Pac-10 and Nebraska is likely headed to the Big Ten, what’s next for the rest of the Big 12?

College athletics – most notably football – is likely headed for wide-sweeping changes. And according to one ESPN report, if Nebraska goes, then the Big 12 dissolves.

That report has Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State joining Colorado as newcomes to the Pac-10, with Kansas, Baylor, Kansas State, Iowa State and Missouri being left to fend for themselves.

I realize college athletics is governed by the almight dollar, and the almighty dollar is generated moreso from football than by anything else.

But I’m surprised the Big Ten isn’t clamoring to get Kansas in its conference. The Jayhawks aren’t bad in football, and what a basketball program that would be to add. It would be a coup for the Big Ten to get Nebraska and Kansas.

I have a feeling we’ll find out a lot more Friday. Nebraska is expected to make a decision.

Potential future Gopher on ESPNU tonight

Point guard Cory Joseph and Findlay (Nev.) Prep will play on ESPNU against Charlotte Christian at 7 p.m. tonight as part of a national invitational.

Joseph – the brother of University of Minnesota guard Devoe Joseph – is a highly touted high school senior yet to make a decision on where he’ll play in college. I think he’s ranked No. 21 on the ESPNU Top 100.

The younger Joseph is considering joining his brother with the Gophers. It’s expected he’ll make a decision on his future soon.

McNabb or Favre? Who do you want?

Donovan McNabb likes Philadelphia. But if the Eagles quarterback is traded anywhere, he would prefer it to be to the Minnesota Vikings.

That’s the story Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote for Saturday’s editions.

The Vikings face the "Brett Favre dilemma" though. As the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets before them have seen, the Favre "will he return or won’t he" offseason makes it difficult to proceed in any sort of McNabb negotiations.

Complicating things even further for the Vikings is that Favre had such a great season last year, one of the best seasons of his NFL career.

My guess is that the Vikings already have some idea whether or not Favre is coming back to play another season. They understand that Favre doesn’t want to take part in training camp, but I bet the Vikings have a pretty good idea which way he’s leaning.

Would you rather have McNabb or Favre? If you ask me, I’d rather have Favre. He won’t cost a team draft picks and a contract extension to get him. Plus, he had a great year with the Vikings last season, other than that interception in the fourth quarter of the NFC championship game.

Favre’s already proven he’s a good fit for the Vikings’ personnel. I like McNabb and have no doubt he would do just fine too. But I think Favre makes more sense.

Weber finds himself battling for starting job

With his fourth offensive coordinator since coming to the University of Minnesota, soon-to-be senior quarterback Adam Weber has always been kept busy picking up a new offense.

But this time, Weber finds himself battling for a starting job.

MarQueis Gray, who saw some time last season in option plays, is one of the other QBs in competition against Weber.

No doubt it’s been tough for Weber to get acclimated to any offense. But it’s hard to ignore the statistical regression at the QB position last season.

Finally, on an unrelated note, I saw the Seattle Mariners had some new commercials. Here’s one with Ken Griffey Jr. pulling a prank on Ichiro:

 

Let’s turn back the clock a little bit:

Gophers lose in first round, and may lose Tubby

Xavier’s guard play proved to be too much for the University of Minnesota to handle during the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Friday.

The Musketeers knocked out the 11th-seeded Gophers. And now there are reports that Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith may be on his way out.

There’s a report from Friday morning saying that Smith is close to becoming the next head coach at Auburn.

It’s tough to make too much out of this report right now. There have been reports of Smith leaving the Gophers ever since he got there three years ago. So for now, I’ll wait and see.

While I was gone …

I’ve returned after a couple of days spent in the Twin Cities. Here’s a few of the things that happened since I last wrote:

  • The biggest story has got to be the University of Minnesota men’s basketball team pulling off back-to-back upsets of Purdue and Michigan State to advance to the championship game of the Big Ten tournament. The Gophers lost to Ohio State in the final, but they did just enough to get an at-large bid for the NCAAs. I was all over the map on them. Isaid they were done a couple weeks ago, stating that nothing short of a berth in the Big Ten final would get them an NCAA berth. And I said it wouldn’t happen. Well, I was right about needing to go to the title game. I was wrong about them being done.
  • The University of North Dakota men’s hockey team eliminated the Gophers on Sunday from the WCHA tournament in the first round. Sure didn’t think that series would go three games after what happened on Friday. But the two teams split the regular-season series 1-1-2.
  • LaDainian Tomlinson opted to sign with the New York Jets rather than join the Minnesota Vikings. Hard to blame him. Both teams lost in the conference championship game this year, and the Jets have a less solidified starting running back. I still anticipate Shonn Greene will start in NY, but LT should see more carries than he would have had he backed up Adrian Peterson.
  • Twins relief pitcher Joe Nathan will decide by the weekend if he’s going to need Tommy John surgery. Regardless of his decision, if he does pitch this year he won’t be the same Nathan.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this video from 12 Angry Mascots. It’s a parody of players making the league minimum in Major League Baseball, featuring Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Fernando Perez. It’s hilarious. Enjoy!

Did I say the Gophers were done?

For the record, that headline is for the men’s basketball team. Thinks aren’t looking so hot for the men’s hockey team right now.

I said a couple weeks back that the Gophers had no shot of making the NCAA tournament and I was tired of all of the bubble talk. I’m not ready to say the Gophers are in yet, because I don’t think they are. But if they can pull off one more upset, who knows?

Minnesota will face the Robbie Hummel-less Purdue squad at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Big Ten tournament semifinals. This comes after the Gophers defeated Michigan State on Friday.

Minnesota had never beaten the Spartans during the Tubby Smith era. I’m pretty surprised they pulled that one off.