Ryan from Minneapolis, MN

Vic, I was wondering if you have an opinion or any insight on the cap adventure the Oakland Raiders are on right now. They are cutting aged, expensive players left and right and appear to be far below cap now and for the future. It’s a fascinating position to be in and I’d like to hear your thoughts.

It’s cleansing. If I was handed an old, capped out team as Reggie McKenzie was, the first thing I’d do is fix the cap by cutting everyone in the building who’s not worth his hit. I would be dedicated to stepping into the team’s future as quickly as possible and I would ask for the fans’ support and patience as I accelerate the inevitable bad times that must be endured. You can’t win with a bad cap. You can’t win when you have so much dead money on your cap that you’re playing with half the money your competition is playing with. Reggie is doing what has to be done.

Marty from San Francisco, CA

Vic, my girlfriend and I were re-watching Super Bowl XIII and we both started talking about how Aaron Rodgers is a morph of Staubach and Bradshaw: Staubach’s mobility and coolness, Bradshaw’s cannon and quick release from awkward throwing positions. Were you there and would you make similar comparisons today?

Yes, I was there and I, too, see some of both of those quarterbacks in Rodgers. I’ll take it one step farther: Terry Bradshaw called his own plays, and I think Rodgers would’ve been an outstanding play-caller during that era. I think that’s a part of his game that will never be maximized because he plays in an era when coaches call the plays. I’m greatly entertained after games when I listen to Rodgers go back through the game and talk about the plays that were called and why they worked or didn’t work. He has a great feel for the stratagems of the game.

Robert from Waxahachie, TX

Being a Packers owner in Cowboy country, I was wondering how conflicted you were with the Packers defeating the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV? I have to believe it was difficult to be truly unbiased and objective.

That’s the part of being media fans have never understood and never will understand. I just sat and watched. Was there something else I could’ve done?

Evan from Oshkosh, WI

Has a team ever made a dramatic jump in the draft, as in jumping from the bottom of the first round to a top 10 pick? They would have to be very confident to pay the price to get into the top 10.

The Cowboys traded the 24th pick of the 1977 draft and three second-round picks to the Seahawks for the second pick of the 1977 draft, which the Cowboys used to select Tony Dorsett.

Donald from New York, NY

Where will the game be 10 years from now? Will teams be able to fill the seats with expensive tickets, concessions, parking, or will every person watch at home?

Teams are going to be increasingly challenged to provide a game-day experience that will give fans reason to come to the game, instead of watching the game at home on TV. That’s where Lambeau Field’s mystique is a huge advantage for the Packers. Lambeau is a destination. It’s what every team wants to make its stadium, but only a select few can.

Nick from Eagle River, WI

So in 10 years you see football turning into basketball? Tall, long-armed men grabbing and using their hands.

Hasn’t it been basketball on grass for a long time? The first time I heard someone say a pass defender was guilty of pass interference because he came over the receiver’s back, I knew football was changing. The change will continue. Yes, football is becoming full-contact basketball.

Brad from Granger, IA

Reggie White and Brett Favre were not drafted by the Packers. Neither were Sean Jones, Santana Dotson, Keith Jackson, Don Beebe, Andre Rison or Eugene Robinson. Isn’t it possible there is more than one way to build a championship team?

Brad, that’s ancient history. First of all, Favre was acquired in a trade. Had he been traded to the Packers in the salary cap era, the Falcons would’ve had to keep all of Favre’s bonus amortization on their cap. He was the 33rd pick of his draft. Would the Falcons make that trade in today’s game and eat Favre’s amortization? As for Reggie White, he was signed in free agency in the first year of the salary cap’s existence. Forever, teams hadn’t signed free agents, and nobody expected unrestricted free agency to have the impact it would. It was thought teams would continue to not sign free agents. The Eagles got caught by surprise. White would never make it into free agency in today’s game. You’re hanging onto to the past, Brad. The way Ron Wolf built that team couldn’t happen today.

Ted from Amherst, NY

All this talk about great runners running over defenders reminds me of Cookie Gilchrist, probably the greatest running back in the history of the AFL. Paul Maguire tells the story of a playoff game between the Bills and Patriots in which Cookie gave the kind of motivational speech you often disparage: “I’m going to tell you something. If we don’t win this game, I’m going to beat the (poop) out of everybody in this locker room, and I’m going to start with you, coach. I’m going to kick your (butt) first.” Then, on the first play of the game, Gilchrist ran over Patriots safety Chuck Shonta and knocked him out of the game. At that point, accounts vary. Gilchrist’s obituary says he is reported to have asked, as he walked back to the line: “Which one of you (gentlemen) is next?” I think this new helmet rule is great because it will turn football into a game for well-adjusted people who are clearly only putting the wood to people to get the extra yards.

Actually, I like that kind of pregame address. Cookie was one of a kind and he was always one of my favorite players because he’s from my hometown and my first memory in life is of being wrapped in a blanket and lying across my parents lap on a cold Friday night as they watched a high school game in which Cookie was the star player. He was a rough and tumble guy who ran the ball with the intent to punish tacklers. Be that as it may, it must also be recognized that, following his playing days, Cookie was a harsh critic of the game’s brutality. He sought damages from the league for the head injuries he claimed to have sustained while playing football. As a player, he was the symbol of the culture he later condemned, and that’s the yin and yang of the game the former players are facing. I wish the league had treated them with more concern when their careers had ended. Maybe those players wouldn’t be as adversarial as they are now.

Jocelyn from Crawfordsville, IN

Does the “Ice Bowl” have any significance in football surpassing baseball in U.S. popularity?

It is one of the links in the chain of events that propelled football to popularity. The first and most important link is the Colts’ overtime win in the 1958 NFL title game. The next critical link is the NFL’s TV contract with CBS. Lombardi and the 1960s Packers provided several links, as did the AFL and its wide-open style of play, its TV contract with NBC and its war with the NFL. Joe Namath’s guarantee and the Jets win in Super Bowl III is the equivalent of Johnny Unitas’ game-winning drive in the ’58 title game. It was a just a matter of time, then.

Bret from Port Angeles, WA

Why don’t teams re-sign players and then trade them away? Does that hurt a team’s cap number if the player is traded? Just wondering why this never happens.

Let’s say the Packers signed Aaron Rodgers to a really big contract with a really big signing bonus. Let’s say the Packers then traded Rodgers a day later to the Bears for 10 first-round picks. Other than giving the best quarterback in the game to your most hated rival, there’s another problem with that trade: all of Rodgers’ really big signing bonus accelerates onto the Packers’ salary cap this year. Know the cap. The cap runs your team.

Dustin from Miles City, MT

I’ve been a Packers fan for many years, but this year is the most I’ve followed in the offseason, mostly because of “Ask Vic.” Did anyone foresee Aaron Rodgers being as good as he has been, prior to the 2005 draft?

I don’t remember hearing one draftnik or one scout or one reporter predict greatness for Aaron Rodgers. Why not? Because Rodgers’ college coach, Jeff Tedford, had turned out several duds – Kyle Boller, Akili Smith, Joey Harrington – and there was fear that Rodgers would be the next dud. He has every right to have a chip on his shoulder.

Mark from Stewartville, MN

Vic, I just checked the Arizona Cardinals 2004 roster. Josh McCown, Shaun King and John Navarre were the team’s quarterbacks. Why didn’t Arizona draft Aaron Rodgers in 2005?

They goofed. It happens.

Sean from Guymon, OK

“Dec. 23, 1972, was the day it happened.” Nice subtle nod to the “Immaculate Reception.” I know it was before my time, but I can’t seem to wrap my head around all the hype for that play when the Steelers lost the next week to the Dolphins. What’s so immaculate about that moment when you don’t even end up winning the AFC, let alone the Super Bowl?

It wasn’t just that game. The four o’clock game that day was the Cowboys’ fourth-quarter rally to win in San Francisco. It was a long Christmas weekend. America was trapped in its homes with nothing to do but to watch football, and it fell in love with what it saw. Both of those games were blacked out, as were all home games back then, and when the Redskins game was blacked out the following day, the wheels began to turn on the 1973 Act of Congress that was the final event in making football America’s most popular sport. Americans would not be denied the game they loved.

Wyatt from Grand Rapids, MI

I understand, Vic, and that’s thanks to the cap education I’ve received in your column this winter. I’d rather the Packers make the playoffs every year as a good team than make the playoffs on occasion as a great team. Cap management, baby!

You don’t have to be a great team to win the Super Bowl. Those days are over, and that’s why you want to be good every year.

Tim from Normal, IL

How is the read-option any different than any other option offense that we’ve been told for years won’t work in the NFL?

It’s not and it’s getting far too much publicity for its scheme. It’s not the scheme that’s new. The read-option is essentially the freeze-option Donovan McNabb ran at Syracuse. What’s new about the read option is the commitment to it. Finally, the NFL is willing to give option football a real try. We’ll see.

Nick from Hollandale, WI

When scouts say a player has good upside, is that saying he has potential to become a very good player? Also, how can you tell if a player has upside?

When a player’s athletic ability is greater than his command of technique, he has upside. When a player’s technique is greater than or the equal of his athletic ability, he’s as good as he’s going to get.

Roland from Glen Cove, NY

I agree about Unitas being the face of the NFL. Along with his toughness and skill, his last name in Latin means a state of one being or unity. It perfectly describes how the players on both sides of the ball must play.

Johnny Unitas, and Chuck Bednarik and a lot of other players from that era, is also the face of all the rugged sons of immigrants that made the game what it is, and that includes the owners. They weren’t silver-spoon guys, as their baseball counterparts were. The men who founded professional football and played and coached the game were largely sons of immigrants seeking an Americanized identity. Being No. 1 isn’t just about yards and ratings. It’s about the story, too, and Unitas’ story is the NFL’s story. They are one and the same.


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