Matthew from Oshkosh, WI
If Coach McCarthy’s Wednesday press conference is any indication, I think we’re going to see a fired up Packers team on Sunday. What are your thoughts?
He’ll have them ready to play. He’s got a great post-bye record. It’s a rivalry game, it’s a home game and it’s the kickoff to the second half of the season. The air is filled with motivation.
Maximillian from Sydney, Australia
Vic, before the season started I would have said the NFC was going to continue to have the more dominant teams. If you ask me now, without a doubt I would say the AFC teams appear to be more of a threat to the Super Bowl. Patriots, Broncos, Steelers and Colts are all looking dangerous. What has surprised you most about the season thus far?
I still think the NFC is stronger. What’s surprised me the most is Seattle’s and San Francisco’s sluggish first half of the season. They’re fighting for their playoff lives, and that’s startling because those are powerful football teams. That’s also probably why your opinion of the NFC has changed, but that’ll change again if all of a sudden those teams catch fire.
Kim from Austin, TX
Limiting field goal attempts to the fourth quarter reduces coaching strategy, doesn’t it?
I disagree. It would increase go-for-its, and that’s all about strategy. Limiting field goal attempts to the fourth quarter could possibly resurrect the field position game. That’s been lost and I miss it.
Al from Camp Hill, PA
Would you consider the following consequence for a rule change? Team A has the ball on its 4-yard line, second-and-10. They get called for holding and penalized half the distance to the goal. That would make it second-and-12. Why not move the line to make out 10 yards and make it second-and-20? That would be the correct penalty.
I like the logic of what you’re suggesting, but what you do to a team going in is what you have to do to a team going out, or the rules lack consistency. It’s rub of the green stuff.
Mike from Fort Wayne, IN
Vic, I understand why Chicago will play with desperation, but why shouldn’t the Packers have the same attitude about the need to win this must-win game? Put a nail in the Bears coffin and stay close to the Lions. We need to win the division.
The Packers will play with as much desperation as the Bears will. You’re reacting to what’s called “framing a story.” In this case, I was framing the story to emphasize the importance of this game to the Bears. Coaches don’t read sports stories to their players. I write my stories for you, so you might get a feel for the flavor of what I’m writing. This is it for the Bears. Depending on what they do on Sunday, a door will either open or close. That’s what I was trying to convey.
Dalton from Iowa City, IA
Are you surprised at what Denard Robinson has been able to do the past three games with the Jaguars?
Yes, I’m surprised by his run of success. He looked lost at the Senior Bowl. He was being used as a wide receiver and as a punt returner and, frankly, he didn’t do either very well. I remember a coach getting a little testy with Robinson because the coach was yelling for Richardson, or something like that, and Robinson wasn’t responding. I remember saying to Tony Pauline that poor Robinson is having a bad week. Well, he’s found a home at running back. He’s being used creatively and I think the coaching staff should be complimented for identifying Robinson’s talent and utilizing it.
Michael from Las Vegas, NV
Vic, I love watching Coach McCarthy’s press conferences as a way to unwind after work. I used to think he was in a bad mood during the conferences, but I’ve come to see that he seems to play a nuanced game of trying to say as little as possible, while also respecting the journalists’ jobs and give them a little of what they need. Who are your favorite coaches, past or present, to interview?
John Madden was a delight to interview. He was loose and fun and everything you could want in a press conference. In the parlance of my profession, he wrote your story for you. Sam Rutigliano was a cool interview. He used a lot of coachspeak, but he’d always give you something fresh you could put in your lede, and he was very good at presenting his message in a writeable way. Marv Levy was sensational; you came away feeling good about the interview. He introduced deep thought and perspective about football. Don Coryell was quirky. His interviews tended to have a mad-professor quality to them, but I remember one particular conference call in which Coryell was having a good time with us, and when we said, “Thanks, coach, that’s it,” he didn’t want to hang up. He said his conference calls usually didn’t last that long and that he was having fun. Bill Belichick is my least favorite interview. He was awful on a conference call. At the owners meetings last March, however, Belichick drew the largest crowd of reporters at his breakfast table. I thought to myself, why?
Les from Las Vegas, NV
Tomlin bans dancing. That had to put a smile on your face.
His kickoff team was dancing around and having a good time, and then Jacoby Jones rubbed their noses in it by taking the kickoff back for a touchdown. If I was Mike Tomlin, my hair would’ve been on fire. This would’ve been my message: “Do your job, and dancing is not part of your job description.” Then, I might’ve cut someone to make sure that message was delivered. The celebration stuff is so unprofessional.
Alex from Brisbane, Australia
I just saw a comment from a reader on another site and immediately thought of you: “Every March/April, free agents are overpaid by teams. Every November, we see there was a reason they became free agents in the first place.”
Free agency is still more risk than reward, but teams are doing a much better job with it now than in the past. I think free agency works best when you sign a guy with a specific role in mind, and you’re able to tailor his contract to suit that role. The teams that lose in free agency are the ones that tend to approach it as a buying spree.
Jeff from Green Bay, WI
Vic, your team is only as good as your playoff record. Regular season is pointless to worry about. We are 1-3 since 2011 and three years establishes a trend. Common sense tells me that poor DL play will kill us again this year. We have no rotational players that are holding their gaps, so everyone else plays catch up, including the offense. If we don’t get an early lead to force a team into pass-only, we can’t win against good teams. We might win 12 or 13 games or only nine, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t beat the big boys at crunch time. We don’t have the young guns up front to get over the top.
Well, I guess that’s that. No reason to watch the rest of the season; it’s over. But what if you add a fourth season to that playoff record? What if we go back to 2010? The Packers are now 5-3 in the postseason. Does that change anything?
Greg from Conway, AR
Vic, why is there always A.J. Hawk bashing by Packers and non-Packers fans alike? I don’t get it. He’s a team leader, top-five tackler, field general, reliable, etc. Please explain?
There’s always bashing about everything and everyone. That’s what fans do. They bash, they gush, they bash. When Roethlisberger lost to the Ravens in Week 2, they bashed. Now that he’s on a 12-touchdown tear, they gush. Soon he will throw an interception and they will bash. Bash, gush, bash. It’s the game within the game.
Don from Stevens Point, WI
Does a player’s gap-control responsibility undergo change during the course of a play?
When the play is beyond his gap, he’s in chase mode, but then another responsibility comes into play: Maintain leverage.
Adam from Phoenix, AZ
I tend to agree with you that a team needs to have “The Man” in order to be a Super Bowl contender. Do you think the Cardinals are legit Super Bowl contenders since they don’t really seem to have “The Man”?
Carson Palmer is a former first overall pick who was about to step into the elite-quarterback category when he suffered a catastrophic knee injury. If he’s not “The Man,” he’ll do until “The Man” gets here.
Jake from Yorkville, IL
Vic, is not stopping the run a matter of being undersized on the defensive line?
It can be, but in the Packers’ case their most undersized defensive lineman is their best defensive lineman. Is Aaron Donald undersized? Again, big is better than small, but big is often gone when you’re picking late in the draft. Marcus Stroud and John Henderson are the biggest defensive linemen I’ve covered, and they were both high first-round picks.
Ben from Columbus, WI
Vic, you said for the Bears this is a must-win game and “they’ll play with that kind of desperation.” What do you mean by desperation? They’ll play tougher, riskier, better?
I expect them to play with greater focus and determination.
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