Dave from Newark, CA
Isn’t Bill Walsh the guru of modern passing?
Vic: I think most would agree that he is. Some would tell you that Sid Gillman is that person. I’ll tell you that Johnny Unitas had a big hand in creating how the passing game has evolved over the last 50 years.
Nate from Jacksonville, FL
Do you feel the players the Packers (and every other team) draft this year will be at a significant disadvantage because of the lockout? In past years, these rookies were immediately brought into the system, taught terminology, put on workout programs, given playbooks, etc., but my understanding is that this would be against the rules of the current lockout. Or do you think many of the veterans on the team will take the new players under their wing and help them get up to speed?
Vic: If the lockout continues, yes, this year’s rookies will be at a disadvantage as far as competing for playing time in this season, but in many cases that could turn out being a blessing for their careers because it’ll give a lot of the marginal rookies a chance to grow before they’re put under the hard focus of the microscope. As far as players coaching players, I’m not into that stuff. I prefer the idea of players competing against players for jobs and roster spots. Coaches coach, players play. Players coaching players is a nice, feel-good story, but players competing against players is what makes your team good.
Austin from Germantown, WI
I did some research on the most Hall of Famers in a single game and it is 17, in the 1975 AFC Championship Game, Raiders at Steelers. The Steelers had Franco Harris, Terry Bradshaw, Mike Webster, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, Mel Blount and coach Chuck Noll for a total of 10. The Raiders had Gene Upshaw, Willie Brown, Dave Casper, Art Shell, Ted Hendricks, Fred Biletnikoff and coach John Madden for a total of seven.
Vic: It was, still is and likely will forever be the most vicious football game I have ever covered. It had a feel to it that this was wrong.
David from Watertown, WI
Will the 100-year celebration of the Packers occur in 2019 (they were founded in 1919), or in 2021, which is the 100-year anniversary of when they became a full-fledged professional team? Either way, I think they have a good chance of at least being tied for the most Super Bowl wins by that time.
Vic: The Packers were a full-fledged professional football team in 1919; they joined the American Professional Football Association, which would become the NFL, in 1921.
Mike from Bussey, IA
There's probably a real clear answer to this but I'll be darned if I can figure it out. Why do so many teams have a player who returns punts and a different player who returns kickoffs? Seems to me both positions require the same skill set. What am I missing?
Vic: They’re not the same; they’re very different. That doesn’t mean you can’t find a guy that can do both, but he’d tell you that becoming proficient at each requires different skills and techniques. The guy that immediately comes to my mind is Maurice Jones-Drew. He’s one of the best kickoff-return men I’ve ever covered. He’s got the perfect skill set for it, which is to say he’s a small target that packs a powerful punch. Kickoff-return men are straight-line guys and they have to possess the girth to hit it up inside and run through arms. Little guys that do that run the risk of getting clobbered and fumbling the ball. Jones-Drew possesses the kind of explosion you want in your kickoff-returner, and he’s also very good at catching a ball that’s tumbling true on a low horizon, so to speak. When the Jaguars tried Jones-Drew at catching punts, however, the ball too often hit the ground. Now you’re talking about a ball that’s falling out of the sky right down on you and it’s wiggling and wobbling. Punt-returners are outfielders. They’re guys that have a unique ability for catching a ball that’s directly above them, without thinking about the men charging at them as that ball is falling from the sky. The punt-returner’s first step is usually a sidestep; the kickoff returner’s first step is forward. Little guys make good punt-returners; kickoff-returners are usually thicker, sturdier types.
Aaron from Lebanon, VA
I cannot believe the Packers’ schedule for this upcoming season. Which do you think will be the best game?
Vic: Christmas night against the Bears has a special feel to it. This is all new to me and I’m looking forward to experiencing pro football in a different place, a different division, a different conference, a different rivalry, etc. It would be my guess that if we did a poll, the Bears game would win. It could turn out to be for all the marbles in the NFC North. It would also be my guess that the TV audience for that game might be the largest for any game in the league next season.
Brenda from Sioux Center, IA
As to the rejection that you sense from Packer fans towards a pro-style, take-the-lead-and-protect-it offense, do you think that some of this rejection is due to the gunslinging style of play the Packers played for so long under Brett Favre?
Vic: I hadn’t considered that. You might be right. Let me say this on the subject: I’m not advocating going into a shell on offense after you have the lead. You can’t do that in today’s high-paced game and expect to win. What I’m saying is that good football teams have a ball-control element to their game that they turn to when they have a two-score lead in the fourth quarter. You need to be able to convert third down and then go back to the running game to kill more clock. It can’t continue to be pass, pass, pass. That’s what I’m saying. Teams that do that are making an admission that they don’t trust their defense to protect a lead, and those teams are doomed to eventually lose that lead.
Jeremy from Franksville, WI
I realize that very few times in a game does someone run 40 yards in a straight line and even more rarely does a quarterback. With that said, it appears that we might be looking at the most athletic (based on combine times) influx of quarterbacks of all-time. Can you think of a more athletic draft class of quarterbacks?
Vic: Newton, Locker, Kaepernick are exceptional athletes. Yeah, this is an athletic group of quarterbacks, but what does that mean? They’re not going to be drafted for how they run, they’re going to be drafted for how they throw. If they run, they’ll get hurt. The bulk of the league’s protections for quarterbacks are in the pocket. The message is that if you stay in the pocket the league will do what it can to protect you because it doesn’t want the stars of its game, the guys making the most money, on injured reserve. Plus, Jeremy, I think your question dismisses some of the great athletes at the position in the old days. Has there ever been a better athlete at the quarterback position than Bobby Douglas? Too bad he couldn’t throw. Terry Bradshaw held a national javelin record for a long time and he’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever covered; he could’ve played running back, tight end, linebacker, wide receiver or safety. Bert Jones was a phenomenally gifted athlete. Steve Grogan and Ken Anderson were as mobile as any quarterback ever needs to be. Joe Montana is possibly the most underrated athlete of all-time. Fans regard him as a weak-armed, try-hard guy whose greatest gift was his resourcefulness. Well, in Montana’s senior year of high school, he was one of the top basketball recruits in the country and he was a Major League Baseball prospect. He was recruited to play basketball at North Carolina State in 1974, the year they won the national title. Quarterbacks have always been great athletes. They were always the best players in their hometowns. I think you’d be surprised at what a gifted athlete Bart Starr was. The difference is that back then we didn’t put quarterbacks in tight-fitting workout outfits and parade them around the combine for everybody to see how muscular they are.
Wes from Austin, TX
In your time as a sportswriter, what NFL stadium is/was your favorite? Have you been able to make it to all 32 team stadiums, even as they have opened up new ones?
Vic: The new one in Arizona is the only one I haven’t been in. At last count, I’ve seen NFL games in 60-some stadiums. That includes places such as Husky Stadium in Seattle, the Olympic stadium in Barcelona, Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., Forbes Field, Pitt Stadium and Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill. My favorite stadiums are the ones in which I’ve covered games most often. I think it’s just natural to feel most comfortable in places with which you are most familiar. That’s going to happen at Lambeau Field, which became a favorite of mine since covering a game here in 2004. Prior to that, which is to say prior to the renovation, I wasn’t crazy about Lambeau. In fact, the first time I covered a game here, I was disappointed at what I found. I didn’t think Lambeau had much to offer except tradition. The new Lambeau is much better in every way. Now it’s accommodating in a modern way, while still maintaining the feel of tradition that makes it the special place it is. I’ll also tell you that I like all of the new stadiums in the league. I think back to the days of covering games at places such as Metropolitan Stadium in Minnesota and old Cleveland Stadium and I am overwhelmed by the difference between stadiums of then and now.
Michael from Scanlon, MN
In response to the question about which game would have had the most future Hall of Famers on the rosters, I would have to say it’s the 1961 matchup of Green Bay vs. the Baltimore Colts. The Colts roster would have had Joe Perry, Lenny Moore, Raymond Berry, Johnny Unitas, Jim Parker, Gino Marchetti and Art Donovan. The Packers would have Jim Taylor, Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Herb Adderley, Willie Wood, Jim Ringo, Forrest Gregg, Willie Davis, Henry Jordan, Ray Nitschke, Emlen Tunnell and Coach Lombardi. I count 19.
Vic: You’re forgetting Colts coach Weeb Ewbank, which would make 20. I don’t know if all of those guys actually played in that game, but they were all on the rosters of those two teams at some point in the ’61 season.