Thomas from South Beloit, IL
Vic, I used to check packers.com once, maybe twice a week; now it's every day for you. Love your writing. My comment is about getting conservative. I am a 51-year-old Madden player. I really love playing the youngsters who throw all the time. Yes, they score quickly, occasionally, but I eat all the clock time and score more often because they can't figure out if I'm running or what. Then, when they are down by a couple of points and I eat up the last six-plus minutes of the fourth, they are screaming at me to give them the ball back. Run to win? You’re darn right.
Vic: You da man, Tommy. Remember, the great teams don’t take what you give them. The great teams take what they want.
Matthew from Iron Mountain, MI
The Super Bowl is special and the way the Packers achieved supremacy even more so, but to Packers fans that game is the schedule. The Lions, Panthers, Jaguars and Browns can only aspire to make a playoff berth, but will never, ever win a Super Bowl. For legitimate teams like the Patriots, Steelers, Jets, Ravens and Packers, the Super Bowl is on the schedule. Anything less is failure.
Vic: “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch.” Matthew, every dog has its day. Take a look at the histories of those teams you’ve cited. The Packers have had their down years; the franchise had to be saved on a couple of occasions. The Patriots were an afterthought in Boston to the Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins for nearly all of their existence, until Tom Brady came along. The Steelers didn’t win a postseason game until their 40th season in the league. The Jets were once the Titans and they made everybody sit on one side of the field so it didn’t look so bad on TV. The Ravens were the Browns and fled Cleveland in a sea of red ink. Nobody stays down forever.
Marty from Middletown, IA
If the NFL is a business and the players are the employees, why can't the league just fire all of the employees and accept offers from interested players as new employees? I have seen that happen in a company. Why can't the league do it?
Vic: Who will be the first to release their quarterback? You wanna go first, Marty? Do you really wanna release Aaron Rodgers?
Joe from Virginia Beach, VA
Cam Newton is available at 32. Do you take him (BAP) or someone of lesser value who could help the team? I just wanna see where you, specifically, would draw the line.
Vic: Take the player of lesser ability and leave the player of greater ability, free of charge, so to speak, for the opposition? If he’s at the top of my board and it’s my turn to pick and nobody is willing to trade with me – even you would have to agree it’s not logical that I couldn’t work a trade with a quarterback of that quality still on the board – then I pick him. I believe in drafting the best available player. I don’t believe in trying to predict the future. Fate has a way of changing your needs, but value never changes.
Mark from Madrid, Spain
Regarding the lockout, it seems clear to me the owners are currently winning the PR battle, but I have a hard time siding with either side. Yes, the players walked out, but the owners obviously planned in advance for a lockout and created bad will from the start. Can you justify their behavior? How?
Vic: The players didn’t walk out; their collective bargaining agreement with the league expired. I also don’t agree with your characterization of the owners. I believe they bargained in good faith. Obviously, they made a reasonable offer to the players; we know that because it was an offer that came close to becoming an agreement.
Catlin from Erie, PA
I was watching part of NFL Network's top 100 greatest players and had a bit of a chuckle when I noticed that in a surprisingly large number of the clips the goal posts were located on the goal line. When were the posts moved back to their current location in the back of the end zone? Did an injury prompt the move?
Vic: They were moved to the back of the end zone in 1974. There were other rules changes that year, including the implementation of sudden death overtime in the regular season. I covered the first of such games, at old Mile High Stadium, early that season. It ended in a tie. The goal posts had been at the back of the end zone for college football; I’m surprised the NFL waited as long as it did to move them. I don’t remember an injury prompting the move, but I remember receivers using the post to pick defenders. Do you know what other rules change was enacted in ’74? The free-kick line for kickoffs was moved from the 40 to the 35, to help promote more returns and excitement in the kicking game; there were too many touchbacks. Thirty-seven years later, we’re back to the 35-yard line. The game is cyclical.
Khanh from Rockford, IL
McCarthy elected to kick rather than receive on the opening kickoff several times this past season. I'm a big proponent of this strategy, as it lets the defense set the tone. Why don't more coaches choose to defer?
Vic: This is a rules change of a few years ago that I find to be rather silly. Hey, what’s the difference? Somebody has to kick and somebody has to receive. I covered the Jaguars last year and Coach Jack Del Rio, a defensive-minded guy, was fond of deferring and kicking off, and every time he did it I had to field questions from fans complaining that he didn’t elect to receive. There’s an obvious explanation for the disagreement: 50 percent of the people want to receive and 50 percent of the people want to kick off. The whole thing is a 50-50 proposition. What difference does it make? Why even do it? Just flip the coin and let’s go. What’s more important is for fans to understand the coin toss/election process. You can screw it up if you say the wrong thing. Ask Abner Haynes. Don’t ever say, “We’ll kick to the clock.”
Julie from Hortonville, WI
I just caught up on reading your blogs. In your blog about Charlie Peprah, you said football players are nice guys and that you don't recall ever interviewing one that was a jerk (unlike baseball players). I'm curious, have you ever interviewed Jay Cutler?
Vic: No, I haven’t, but I’m looking forward to it. I empathize with him for what he endured following the NFC title game and his controversial injury. I’m looking forward to seeing how he handles it. It’s not something that’ll go away naturally. He has to make it go away.
Bob from Providence, RI
Thanks for emphasizing how last year's Super Bowl run should be valued and cherished by fans as such a special happening. The Packers could very well be better next year with 15-16 IR guys coming back, but that's no guarantee of the same success with so little room for error in big games. Which NFL teams and dynasties do you rank as the 10-best all-time?
Vic: In no particular order: the “Monsters of the Midway” Bears, the All-America Conference Browns, the Buddy Parker/Bobby Layne Lions, the Packers of the 1960s, Steelers of the ’70s, 49ers of the ’80s, Cowboys of the ’90s, Patriots of the 2000s; those are eight obvious ones. Picking two more is difficult. I’ll go with the Colts of the Johnny Unitas years and the Giants of the Lawrence Taylor era. I also strongly considered the Redskins of the Joe Gibbs era, but the lack of a defining quarterback hurt them in my evaluation. Which team will be next?
Frank from St. Augustine, FL
Do you think everyone is making too big a deal out of the new kickoff rule? The NFL used to kick off from the 35 in the past and there was no problem. Maybe the NFL will start going back to some of the rules of the past, like bump and run coverage, etc.
Vic: I think it’s a big deal. In all of the years that I’ve covered the NFL, this is the first time I can remember the league electing to compress the field. This is the first time I can remember a move to reduce the action, which is what I think this rule will almost certainly do. There are going to be more touchbacks and fewer returns. The starting point for offenses is almost certainly going to be farther back. What about the teams that have strong special teams units, especially strong kickoff-return games? I think it hurts them. If I’m a personnel guy, I won’t weight a prospect’s kickoff-return ability as much as I might’ve weighted it previously. I think the limit on the kickoff team’s run-up is a big deal, too. It might limit creativity; how do you execute the sunburst formation in that tight of an area? I think it’s a big deal because if I’m a head coach I just wanna make sure I have a kicker that can thump it into the end zone, give my opponent the ball at the 20 and not have to worry about that phase of the game. I think it’s a big deal because if I’m a special teams coach I’m feeling as though somebody just ripped out 10 pages from my playbook. I think it’s a big deal because I think this might be an experiment by the league on tightening the field, and the results could impact the future of the game. Will it reduce injuries?
Sue from Mocanaqua, PA
I just read a piece over at ESPN that has Lovie Smith still trying to defend Jay Cutler leaving the NFC Championship game due to injury. Smith also questioned why Cutler took so much heat for his injury while Packers stars Charles Woodson and Donald Driver were lauded for their leadership despite leaving the Super Bowl with injuries.
Vic: Yeah, I saw it and, frankly, I thought it was an awkward read. I think Coach Smith would’ve been better off not making the remarks he did. I understand what he was trying to say – don’t try to look into a man’s heart – but his comparisons were awkward. Woodson, for example, broke his collarbone. We know exactly when and how it happened. Cutler, of course, couldn’t remember when he had sustained his injury. Cutler is the only guy that can defend Cutler and he has to do it with his performance on the field.