Andrea from Robecco sul Naviglio, Italy

Is Andrew Luck that good? He is enormously hyped and the “Suck for Luck” campaign really struck me. What makes this kid such a can't-miss guy?

He’s got prototype size and arm strength. He can make all of the throws accurately. It always starts with that. Then you turn to his intelligence and character, his football smarts and bloodlines, and it’s difficult to find something not to like. I also like the fact that he’s carried a Stanford program that hasn’t surrounded him with NFL-type bodies. He’s carried that program and he’s done it against top competition. All you have to do is put on the tape of his games against USC, which has been loaded with players that have gone onto NFL stardom, and you can see his pedigree. A lot of scouts will point to his decision to stay in college for his senior year as a positive statement about his character, and it is, but that’s the only thing about Luck that concerns me. To succeed at this level, football has got to be the most important thing in your life. Academics are great, but you don’t wanna draft another Mike Reid.

Eric from Dubuque, IA

Do you think the league factors in things like warm-weather teams playing home games at the start of the year and cold-weather teams playing homes games at the end of the season?

Yeah, I think the league tries to balance that out. If a warm-weather team has to play at Lambeau in December, it should have an early-season game at home against a team from the north, and I’ve seen evidence of that kind of scheduling balance. The Raiders are coming here in December; the Packers went to Carolina in Week 2. Or, the Jaguars didn’t get a northern team at home early in the season, but they also don’t have a true cold-weather game on their schedule. I think balance is one of the key components of the NFL’s scheduling process. Another thing they try to do is challenge a team, especially a championship-type team, with one tough stretch of schedule. It might be three in a row on the road, or three games in 11 days, or a road game following a road Monday night game. Those are all little tricks of the scheduling trade. I’ve long said let me do the scheduling and tell me which team you want in the playoffs and I’ll get them in. The schedule-maker is a very important person.

Sean from Oconto Falls, WI

What do you think are the underlying factors in the sophomore slump?

You can’t have a sophomore slump without that player coming off a big rookie season. That’s the problem; the player has established a standard that might be an unrealistic expectation for that early in the player’s career. Have you ever heard sophomore slump used to describe a guy who’s playing as poorly in his second season as he did as a rookie?

Lora from De Pere, WI

I find it interesting, yet, very frustrating that the NFL can be so different from week to week. How do you feel about the “any given Sunday” aspect of the game?

It’s what drives the game’s popularity. It’s all about a level playing field. The NFL knew it was the key way back when Bert Bell created the worst-will-be-first draft concept. For most of my life, the Big Ten was a two-team conference. Why would I watch a Big Ten game if it wasn’t Michigan vs. Ohio State?

Doug from Charlottetown, PEI, Canada

I know players get a bonus for winning the Super Bowl. What do the individual clubs get? Do they get a portion of the gate receipts from the game?

No, all postseason ticket revenue goes to the league.

B.J. from Somerset, KY

I just got into the NFL last year and I'm still learning a lot as I go, and you're helping me do that. I've always wondered about head coaches that seemed more offensive or defensive-minded. What do you think makes for a better head coach, one that is a former offensive coordinator or a former defensive coordinator?

I don’t think it matters, as long as that coach is a leader of men. That’s what’s most important. Assistant coaches coach, head coaches lead. Mike McCarthy is a leader of men who happens to be a brilliant offensive strategist. Mike Tomlin is a leader of men who came to prominence as a defensive strategist, but Tomlin entrusts his defense to Dick LeBeau. What do McCarthy and Tomlin have in common? They are leaders of men. All coaches can draw X's and O's. Some of them possess a naturally strong leadership quality, and those are the ones that succeed as head coaches.

Daniel from Greenwood, IN

Watching the Monday night Jags/Ravens game raised a question in my mind about defenseless receivers. Does the defender have to lead with his head for this penalty to be called, or is it any big hit on a defenseless receiver?

A “defenseless receiver,” which is to say a pass receiver who has yet to establish himself as a runner, is protected from blows to his head, neck and face and from launching, which is defined by a defensive player springing forward and upward by leaving his feet and using his helmet, facemask, shoulder or forearm to strike the receiver in the head, neck or face (the rule’s verbiage is too long to include). A defensive player is not prohibited from striking a receiver as he’s attempting to catch a pass, as long as the defender doesn’t deliver a blow to the receiver’s head or launch. In other words, keep your head up, your feet on the ground and run through the receiver’s body without contacting his head, neck or face. Once the receiver establishes himself to be a runner, the rules change.

Patrick from New York, NY

What do you think of Bret Bielema's decision to call two timeouts under one minute to play, the second one with 30 seconds left and the opposing team 15 yards from a long field goal.

It’s very aggressive. If it had worked, however, everybody would be singing his praises. What interests me more about that situation is the conventional wisdom in defending against “Hail Mary” passes. I don’t understand it. How many guys does it take to jump up and knock the ball down? By dropping so many players back there to defend, don’t you increase the muddle and the chances the ball is going to pinball off players? I covered one of those last year, Jaguars vs. Texans. The Texans defensive back jumped up and swatted the ball directly into the hands of the Jaguars receiver, who caught the ball and took one step across the goal line for the game-winning touchdown. It ruined the Texans’ season. I don’t understand why the quarterback is allowed time to plant his feet and throw. Why drop eight? One of Wisconsin’s defenders dropped to a depth 10 yards from the line of scrimmage and stayed there. Why? Blitz the quarterback. Don’t give him time to plant, hop and heave. Even in a three-man rush, one of the rushers nearly got home. Don’t give the receivers time to get downfield and into position to make the catch. Five guys aren’t enough to defend against a “Hail Mary?” It’s not as though you’re trying to stop a fourth-and-26 play. The quarterback threw the ball 55 yards.

Dennis from Indianapolis, IN

It would appear the Colts’ problems go deeper than just missing Manning. All the focus on Manning, Collins, Painter and the offense made everyone forget that the defense is still bad, until Sunday, that is. Was that just a situation where everything went wrong for one team and right for the other, or do you think there’s more to it?

At some point, hopelessness creeps into even the heartiest of souls. If Peyton Manning was playing this season, the Colts would be a playoff contender. I don’t think they would win the AFC South or make it into the playoffs, but they would be a contender. That’s how much he has meant to that team. The question they must ask themselves now is: How long will he be able to continue to mean that much to that team? Andrew Luck might be waiting for them.

James from Rhinelander, WI

I will understand if you don't answer this but since you and I have both had cervical spinal repair with a fusion, do you think anyone has had a successful return with our procedure to a violent contact sport?

Yes, I’ve known neck-fusion guys who’ve gone on to have long, productive careers. The first of those was a defensive end named Keith Willis. I think Brad Johnson is a neck-fusion guy. You know, as I do, too, that the level that’s been fused will never be a problem again. New problems, however, tend to surface years down the road at other levels, because of the stress the fused level has put on the other levels. They didn’t know that when they first started using this procedure. They do now.

Rupe from Pittsburgh, PA

Follow-up note on the Gillman question: Sid Gillman was born 100 years ago today.

That’s cool, and it brings to mind one of my all-time favorite NFL Films clips. It’s of Gillman when he was the coach of the Houston Oilers. One of his players had just dropped a pass and Gillman went to him along the sideline and gave him a pep talk. He told the player that in the offseason he needed to work on his hands. He told him he had the hands to be a good receiver and that’s all it would take for him to be a top player. By the time Gillman was done talking to the player, you had the feeling Gillman had just identified for the viewer a future All-Pro. Then Gillman walked up to the player’s position coach, and said, “Get rid of him. He has no hands.” It’s a tough game for tough guys.

Nate from Fridley, MN

I liked your answers about the advantages of northern and southern teams. Do you think there's an equal advantage to East Coast and West Coast teams? A noon game on the East Coast is pretty early for a West Coast team.

It’s all about circadian rhythm. I’m going to spend a lot of time working on my circadian rhythm between now and the time we leave for San Diego.

Terry from Wachtum, The Netherlands

During postgame locker room interviews, only street clothes are visible in the lockers. What happens to the uniform, pads and players equipment?

I’m going to use a road game as an example, because it’s at the extreme of what the equipment guys do after a game. As the players file into the clubhouse after the game, their helmets are taken from them and tossed into boxes in the hallway outside the clubhouse door. When all of the helmets are collected, off they go to the truck that’ll take them to the airplane. The players are told to drop their equipment and uniforms onto the floor in front of them. The equipment guys quickly gather everything up, box it and take it to the truck. Have you ever seen a carnival pack up and leave town? That’s what a football team looks like on the road. Within two hours after the game is concluded, the team’s chartered plane will begin its roll.

Bram from Colorado Springs, CO

I know Mike Shanahan's teams were dynamite after a bye week. How does McCarthy compare?

4-1.

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