Matt from Arvada, CO
Love the column and the recent dialogue about managing expectations. Perhaps coaches manage expectations in that they expect the opposing team to do certain things in certain situations and expect their own units to execute the plays they call. Thoughts?
Coaches are vigilant about managing expectations, and their tool for managing them is the time-honored coachspeak, “One day at a time.”
Mark from Salt Lake City, UT
Do you remember back in the ’70s how the Dallas Cowboys offensive line would come out of their three-point stance and stand up before the ball was snapped, and then go right back down into their three-point stance? Has there been a rule against this?
They didn’t come out of a three-point stance. They came out of a crouch in which their arms rested on their thighs. It was a trigger mechanism. It promoted a come-off-the-ball-together mentality that was critical to the success of offensive line play in the run-the-ball era. All good running teams had offensive lines that came off the ball low and in unison. That was the whole idea of the seven-man sled. If all seven didn’t come off the ball in unison, the sled would turn. The idea was to drive the sled straight. When an offensive line did that routinely, it was usually on a team with a good running game.
Patrick from Watervliet, NY
Vic, who do you think the absolute powerhouse teams would be today if there had never been a salary cap? Would there be as large a gap between teams as I imagine?
I’ve written this previously and I still believe it to be true: There’s enough football talent in America to allow frugal teams that manage their payroll and their rosters efficiently to be able to compete with the deep-pocket teams that would throw money at their mistakes. I believe that to be true at all positions except quarterback. That’s where there’s a limited supply of the truly elite players, and the frugal teams would have to dig down and spend with the deep-pocket teams to acquire and keep the top quarterbacks. I don’t believe the salary cap concept is nearly as important in promoting competitiveness, as it is in promoting a partnership between owners and players. There are a lot of small-market, low-revenue teams with top management people that find top talent in affordable places. The draft and its wealth of talent do more to protect competitiveness than the cap does, but you better be willing to spend for “The Man.”
Dan from Houston, TX
Vic, I was watching Jimmy Johnson in “A Football Life” and in it he said something that made me think of you and “The Man.” He said football has always been a quarterback-driven game, but now it seems the quarterback is pretty much the only thing that matters.
Put Aaron Rodgers on the Chiefs. Are they a playoff contender?
Courtney from Santiago, Chile
Ever met a player you didn’t like and why?
There have been very few. There was one guy a long time ago that always seemed to have a sour attitude toward the media. No big deal; I avoided him when I could. Well, the bus was pulling out of the stadium for its annual trip to Cleveland. I lit up a cigarette and quickly I heard, “Put out that cigarette.” It was Mr. Sour; I didn’t even have to look. So, I put out the cigarette. A minute later, a gigantic cloud of smoke blew over my head. It came from the seat directly behind me. I waited for Mr. Sour to complain, but nothing was said. Then another cloud of smoke blew over my head. I had to turn and see who this guy was behind me. Casually, I turned. It was Lambert, with a big smile on his face. I glanced at Mr. Sour, but he stared straight ahead. Stallworth was sitting next to him, staring straight ahead but with a hint of smile on his face.
Michael from Washington, DC
Vic, what do you think would have happened if Favre would have been all in after the 2007 season?
We know the story. Things happen. It’s a tough game with tough circumstances and they often produce undesired results. Brett Favre talked about that recently. This isn’t the first time in history something like this has happened. I covered one of these. It involved Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll. In his final season, Bradshaw was sidelined by arm surgery for all but one game late in the season. He wanted to go on road trips and be treated as a mentor for the young quarterback that took his place. Chuck had an ironclad rule about injured players not making road trips. He said, “If he can’t play for us, he can’t help us.” It embittered Bradshaw and caused a divide between coach and player, team and player that wasn’t bridged until a few years ago, but time healed that wound, too. I have a feeling time has already worked its magic on the Packers and the man that helped resurrect this franchise.
Jon from Lynn, MA
Vic, watching “A Football Life: Marcus Allen,” people always rave about a quarterback’s memory, but Allen recanted his amazing run in the Super Bowl perfectly. Is a fantastic memory like that a staple of all NFL players?
I’ve found that to be true of nearly all players. Wide receivers can tell you exactly how the coverage was deployed. Linemen can tell you how a guy was leaning or looking. Listening to Aaron Rodgers after a game is the equivalent of talking to the other team’s defensive coordinator. Defensive linemen will tell you the guy across from them was overplaying to his left or right because he knew he was overmatched. I’ve covered a lot of players that had trouble balancing a checkbook, but when it came to football, they were geniuses. This is their skill. This is what they were made to do.
Bopf from Berlin, Germany
What team do you see having the most improvement this year?
Mike from Green Bay, WI
I think Colin Kaepernick has a lot to prove, yet. He has undeniable talent but other talented players were never able to duplicate their strong career start. What are your odds that he is a flash in the pan?
That’s not my expectation. Get it? Expectation?
Tadd from Salt Lake City, UT
Vic, which position has been helped the most by rules changes during your time covering the game, excluding quarterback?
Favorably: offensive linemen and receivers. Unfavorably: defensive linemen and cornerbacks.
Darren from Burlington, Ontario
The Jim Thorpe punt play happened. In Canadian high school football, there’s a permitted play known as an “onside punt,” in which a member of the punting team may recover the ball for a first down as long as the recovering player lined up behind the punter and, of course, the ball must travel beyond the sticks. As a 5-8, 140-pound kid who couldn’t jump much, I pulled this off in my senior year. While the ball was kicked high and deep, I caught it out of the air and ran it in for a touchdown. While I may have been rather fast, I have no doubt this freakish athlete could pull off a similar feat.
An onside punt. I love it.
Charlie from Morgan Hill, CA
Vic, about 10 years ago my son played Pop Warner. His teams ran the Oklahoma drill every practice. Over time, what I saw was a separation between those that want to hit and don’t mind being hit, and those that don’t have the heart. Every kid that was good at the drill became a high school football team leader. That can’t be coincidence.
If you do the Oklahoma a lot, your roster will shrink, and that’s why it was the perfect drill for the “Baby Boom” era. When I was a kid, just making the team was a big deal, in any sport at any level. We waited in the line for everything. We had to get to the theater early on Saturdays to get a ticket. Faced with having to cut their rosters, high school football coaches let the Oklahoma, and other similar drills, do it for them.
Dimitri from Knoxville, TN
The best college game I ever saw was the national championship between USC and Texas in the Rose Bowl. Do you have any thoughts on that game?
It’s possibly the best game of the new-age college football era. College football can probably be divided into three eras during my lifetime: 1.) The pound-the-ball era. 2.) The wishbone or triple-option era. 3.) The current spread offense or new-age era. The 1965 Notre Dame-Michigan State game is arguably the best example of No. 1, and the 1971 Oklahoma-Nebraska game is the best example of No. 2. Possibly the most entertaining college game I’ve ever seen was the 1986 Penn State-Miami national championship game. It had such a confrontational quality to it. It was also a watershed game, in that it gave us the BCS system by which we function now.
Robert from Wisconsin Rapids, WI
Did the Lions have a make-or-break season that brought on their two decades of despair?
Some would say they had a make-or-break trade, and that they’re still paying for having traded Bobby Layne.
Brenda from Duncan, OK
Vic, just watched the “Final Thoughts” video on the upcoming schedule. You said no one would remember we had played SF by late in the season. Which team do you think is not going deep in the playoffs, us or them?
They each have the talent to go deep in the playoffs, and should they meet for a second time, the outcome of that game will either support what happened the first time around or render it meaningless. I’m not going to minimize the hype for the season opener. I understand and appreciate why that game is being treated with such importance by Packers fans, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that much about both teams will have changed by the time January rolls around.
Ahmad from Woodbury, MN
Vic, love the column and read it almost every day. With all this talk about an 18-game season, do you think the roster will become such an issue that the league will increase the 53-man roster? Has the league always had a 53 man roster?
Rosters have been as small as 40 during the time I’ve covered the NFL. I don’t think the 53 would have to be increased, as long as the practice squad is increased. I consider the practice squad to be one of the league’s best-ever creations. It’s their minor league. Increasing its size from five to eight players a few years ago was also smart business. You’re developing a reservoir of ready talent at a very affordable price. Practice-squad players help keep star players rested by decreasing their number of reps in practice. Everything about the practice squad, in my opinion, is positive.
Brandon from White Bear Lake, MN
Are there any rules in the NFL that are still in the rulebook from way back when, but never get flagged because they just don’t really apply anymore?
The best example of that is the around-the-world rule that was in the rulebook for years but wasn’t employed because the league didn’t want it called that way. The rule – it defined the plane of the goal line to extend around the world and permitted a touchdown to be scored when the ball crossed the plane of the goal outside the field of play – was officially removed from the rulebook in recent years.
Mike from North Haven, CT
Vic, who do you think is the best all-around athlete in the history of pro football? My money is split between Jim Brown and Deion Sanders.
Hansen from Whitewater, WI
Vic, formerly being a reporter for the Jaguars, what do you remember from the Packers-Jaguars matchup on Monday Night Football back in 2001?
I remember Brett Favre leading a big comeback, and I remember that it was as though everybody in the stadium was waiting for it.
Randy from Franklin, WI
Which teams do you think are a couple of years away from the salary cap crippling their teams? Which teams are on the tracks and will see the train coming at them in the next few years?
Dallas can hear the whistle. Denver, Detroit and New Orleans still have time to get off the tracks.
Andy from Sapporo, Japan
What’s the difference between expecting something and hoping for something?
I expect to be alive tomorrow; I hope to be alive 20 years from now. I expect the Packers to win a lot of games; I hope they win enough games to win a championship. Get it? Manage your expectations.
John from Sidney, MT
Who was responsible for bringing Lombardi to Green Bay and how did that happen?
Jack Vainisi identified him and pursued him. Vainisi got Lombardi and got his players, too. His importance in this franchise’s success is not fully appreciated.
Have a question for VIC?