Deb from Milwaukee, WI
I noticed on the “Dope Sheet” that was released with the schedule that the Packers won't be wearing those great Acme Packers alternate uniforms this season. Do you know the reason? I absolutely love those uniforms and I’m disappointed we won't be seeing them this season.
And they say I’m sarcastic.
Shawn from Toronto, Canada
In later rounds, do you think it is more prudent to go with an athletic guy with a good work ethic, or do you still draft for who has the most skill?
I think you stick with BAP, with a possible exception here and there. I think it’s reasonable when you need a kicker or punter to come off your board and get a guy. I also think it’s OK to come off your board in the seventh round as you approach free agency, with the idea of addressing a position of need by drafting a player you might have trouble signing in undrafted free agency, and leaving the higher-rated player on the board because you believe you have a better chance of signing him as an undrafted. Common sense always prevails, but true BAP guys are always anxious about coming off their board because they fear regret for the player they left on the board.
Bryant from Wausau, WI
There’s one spot this year that piques my interest: backup QB. I have to admit, Russell Wilson is looking like an excellent candidate to back up A-Rod next year. Thoughts?
If Wilson had played last season at North Carolina State, would you feel the same way? I understand and appreciate the in-state love for Wilson, but this is the NATIONAL Football League and all prospects must be judged with the same fervor.
Trent from Clinton, UT
You've said many a time that one seemingly small draft choice can have a profound effect on the entire league. In your opinion, would drafting Walter Payton have kept the Colts in Baltimore?
OK, let’s look at the Colts in 1975. They had a great-looking young quarterback in Bert Jones. Lydell Mitchell was an outstanding run-catch combination in the backfield. They had speed at receiver in Roger Carr. They had a couple of pass-rushing defensive ends in John Dutton and Fred Cook. The Colts were 10-4 and won the AFC East in ’75. That was a team peaked and ready to go, but it ran into the Steelers in the playoffs in ’75 and ’76 and got bombed both years, and then lost to the Raiders in overtime in ’77, and the Colts’ run was over. Yeah, the Colts could’ve used Payton because by ’78 Mitchell was done and so was the Colts’ running game. I don’t think Payton would’ve saved the franchise, however, because it wasn’t the loss of Mitchell that ended the run; it was the loss of Jones to injury.
David from Sturtevant, WI
In the last column, you mentioned the Jaguars might want to trade out of the seventh pick. Is it legal for teams to make a gentleman's agreement to trade before the draft?
In the days leading up to the draft, teams talk often, looking for potential trade partners, but what good is a gentleman’s agreement? Until the deal is consummated, you have nothing.
Shawn from Toronto, Ontario
If the Vikings move to, say, LA or Vegas, do the divisions get realigned?
I would expect St. Louis to be moved into the NFC North. Los Angeles is going to have a team sooner than later; it’s going to happen because the league wants it to happen. When it does happen, there will likely be a minor realignment, depending on what teams move to Los Angles; yes, I believe it’ll be two teams.
Aaron from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, you had mentioned before that an unintended consequence of the new CBA was players leaving college earlier so they can get to their second contract as quickly as possible. Do you think the number of juniors has contributed to the perceived weak draft class this year?
I don’t think that’s it. A draft class is made strong by quarterbacks and big guys, especially left tackles and 4-3, pass-rushing defensive ends. This class has some quarterback talent in it, but it is sorely lacking in left tackles and 4-3, pass-rushing defensive ends. That’s why it’s perceived to be weak. We’ve just run into a down year for big guys; it happens. When a class is deep in big guys, it pushes the running backs and wide receivers into the later rounds, and those guys are the touchdown-makers that grab the headlines. All of a sudden, the stars of a draft class are guys that weren’t selected in the first round, and that’s what makes a draft class strong. The premium, however, is on quarterbacks and big guys. Those are the players GMs sweat about finding.
K.C. from Des Moines, IA
Not disagreeing with you, just trying to understand. Yes, it's a passing league right now, but why couldn't a team succeed by going against the grain and building the sort of running attack the Steelers had with Bettis, focusing on ball control and time of possession. In other words, if a run-first offense was good enough, why couldn't it complete with the pass-happy offenses? Isn't there something to be said for taking a contrarian approach?
Give me an example of the game favoring that approach. I can’t find one. The Jaguars had the NFL rushing champion and the No. 6 defense last season; they were 5-11. I really believe today’s game demands that a team have a strong passing game for it to win a championship.
Paul from Cambridge, England
If you could create a new rule, what would it be?
I’m not going to suggest that I know what to do or stay awake at night thinking about it, but I can’t help but wonder what it would do to ease player-safety concerns if the league could eliminate the violent-hits zone, which is that area in the middle of the field about 15-20 yards downfield. How do you eliminate it? One suggestion would be to require all defensive players to be within, say, 10 yards of the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball, other than when the offense is in punt formation. By moving the safeties closer to the line of scrimmage, you put them in turn-and-run mode, instead of playing centerfield and attacking the ball in front of them. It’s just a thought. Instead of limiting the players’ ability to hit, maybe we need to limit the strategies that would threaten player safety.
Jonathan from Little Falls, NY
Is it time to give up on Mike Neal? Injuries, suspension. It seemed like so much promise as an athlete, but now we are years in and have nothing from him.
What does giving up accomplish? That’s not how it happens in the NFL. You don’t give up on a player, you replace the player. That’s how it happens for all players. No matter how good they are, eventually they are replaced. That’s the personnel department’s job. It must be vigilant about pushing the competition envelope so that the roster is always in ascent.
Trey from Jacksonville, FL
I am a BAP person all the way, but it has me thinking: What good is it if Joe Montana is on the bench? Is it just for the sole purpose of another team not having the chance to draft him?
If Joe Montana’s on your bench, you have a pretty good quarterback on the field, a good one on the bench and one you don’t have to play against. That’s all philosophical. Let’s look at it practically. How many Super Bowls did Danny White win? Who was the quarterback who threw the pass that resulted in “The Catch”? What team was that against?
Steve from Big Horn, WY
Who is your draft dark horse that could potentially be a great NFL player?
I don’t think there are sleepers anymore, at least not in the old way, when there were actually players whose names we didn’t know. Those days are gone. The coverage of the new media is so intense that no one flies under the radar. I get questions every day asking for my opinion on players that don’t even appear on draftnik boards. Johnny Unitas set passing records at Louisville before becoming a completely unknown ninth-round pick that was cut and re-discovered in a sandlot league. The scouting these days is so thorough that if Unitas were in this draft, he’d probably be a top 10 pick.
John from La Crosse, WI
Now that the schedule is out, is there any particular game you think will be tougher than people give credit for?
The Rams have a new coach, a very good coach, and should they select Justin Blackmon and Blackmon become the receiver Sam Bradford needs for Bradford to reach his potential, that game in St. Louis could become a little stickier than we might think.
Jon from Lewisburg, PA
Stop the pass, pass the ball works. Pass the ball, stop nothing works. Does stop the pass, run the ball still work?
Houston stopped the pass and ran the ball, and it worked, but Houston also had a strong passing game until Matt Schaub got hurt. Baltimore stopped the pass and ran the ball, but Joe Flacco had a pretty good year, too.
Dan from Louisville, KY
Have teams figured out how to defend the Packers since the Giants game?
There aren’t many teams that can get pressure with four. That’ll work against anybody.
Steve from Warminster, PA
Do you expect the Packers to select a pass rusher in the first round?
I think the depth of the tweener class makes it a distinct possibility that a pass rusher might be the Packers’ first-round pick. Do I genuinely believe Ted Thompson when he says the Packers will pick the best available position, regardless of position? Yes, I do, but that doesn’t mean you have to believe it.
Jeff from Eden Prairie, MN
How much notice must a team or teams give that they are trading up/down?
The team that’s on the clock is the team that must inform the commissioner of the intent to trade the pick. All that team has to do is get the piece of paper that declares that intention into the right hands before the pick clock expires.
Jonas from Tromso, Norway
My guess is that teams in the playoffs that don't play at home will often have played under a lot more pressure late in the regular season. Last year’s Giants and the 2010 Packers really had to win the last couple of games to get into the playoffs and, as a result, were red hot when it counted. Is it easier to peak a team when you get the pressure earlier?
I would agree that getting hot late in the season is a formula for playoff success, but what’s most important is being hot in January, and there are examples of teams that finished the regular season in a rut and then got hot in January. The 2006 Colts are the obvious example. I saw them give up 375 yards rushing in a game in December. Nobody thought they’d get hot in the playoffs, but they did. They got Bob Sanders back and that changed everything. Mike McCarthy speaks constantly of fundamentals. I think he’s right on; execute the fundamentals and you’ll be a hot team. That’s what teams that get hot do. Had the Packers executed the fundamentals of sound tackling and catching the ball, maybe they would’ve been the hot team last January. Why didn’t it happen? I don’t know.
Kevin from Green Bay, WI
Vic, how terrible would it be if the Vikings leave Minnesota? As much as I dislike that team, I feel things just wouldn't be the same without them. What exactly did George Halas do to help save the Packers back in the day, and could something similar be done here?
During the Great Depression, Halas borrowed $1,500 from the Packers to meet payroll. It was common for owners to help each other back in the day. There was a feeling that they were all in it together and they needed each other to prosper for each to prosper. Even as late as the 1960s, Bills owner Ralph Wilson helped the Raiders stay in business. Halas, of course, is famous for loaning the Bears’ excess players to other teams, and then asking for them back when he needed them. It was a different league back then. I wouldn’t expect the Packers to build the Vikings a stadium.
Rey from Carolina, Puerto Rico
Vic, what is your philosophy of life?
Pay the bills. That’s all. When the bills are paid, I feel a sense of freedom and inner peace. Pretty sad, huh?
Josh from Minocqua, WI
Vic Ketchman just won the lottery and decides to start a football team. Where does your team call home and who among the up-and-coming personnel guys is your choice for GM?
First of all, that team is going to be in Los Angeles or the league wouldn’t approve giving it to me. As far as personnel guys, I have a lot of friends in that line of work, and they’re all outstanding talent evaluators, so I’d just wait until they call me and express interest in the job, and then I’d pick a name out of a hat and give that guy the job. The personnel guys in this league are all good at their jobs. It all comes down to the luck of the draw. You may have done the greatest scouting job on a player in the history of scouting, but if somebody takes that player one pick ahead of you, you lose.
John from Schenectady, NY
Yep, the Packers would never use a horseshoe formation. Pot, meet kettle.
Show me. I showed you. Where’s your proof?
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