Jamie from Eleva, WI
Regarding the draft, who do you think the players are that could be there at 27 that, in the fans’ eyes, are the correct pick but the Packers won’t pick them? Last year, I thought for sure we were taking one of the ILBs (Anthony, Perryman, Kendricks, McKinney). I need to get myself prepared when they do this! I have total faith in Ted Thompson and can’t wait to see our new picks.
Yours is one of the strangest questions I’ve ever received, yet, it almost makes sense. Why? Because we spend months building our hopes for half a dozen guys, and then we’re crushed when a player is selected who wasn’t one of our considerations. We’ve talked about Darron Lee, Reggie Ragland, Andrew Billings, Jason Spriggs, Hunter Henry, Nick Vanetta, Su’a Cravens and more. Here’s what we have to remember: You can’t draft all of them, and that’s the disappointment. The vast majority of the players we’d love to see play for the Packers will play against the Packers. That’s one of the charms of the draft process. It is so fragile.
Gareth from Madison, WI
Vic, I’ve heard a lot of people say they’re in favor of fewer preseason games (including you, I think). Coach McCarthy, when asked about having five preseason games this year, said it gives them more time to evaluate young talent. Is that just him finding the positive in an otherwise unfavorable situation?
It’s the truth. The preseason is becoming an all young talent event. Veteran starters are playing less every year. I covered the preseason game when Bill Belichick shocked the world by not playing any of his starters. Pete Rozelle would’ve been furious. I immediately knew this would become a trend.
Chris from Minneapolis, MN
I would have to imagine the Packers would go with all gold for the color rush game. With the NFL’s rule on using the same helmet all year, the Packers must wear the gold helmets.
What about white on white? Is white a color-rush color? My inbox doesn’t like this bright-colors stuff.
Max from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, is the 2011 Packers offense the best passing attack you’ve seen? If not, could you tell me a team that compared or was better?
The 2011 Packers offense is the best passing attack I’ve ever covered, and I think that says something big when you consider I covered Bradshaw-Swann-Stallworth and Brunell-Smith-McCardell. Best I’ve seen? That goes to the Montana-Rice-Taylor 49ers.
Kevin from Saint Michael, MN
Your insight on the need for left tackles is interesting. It got me thinking, however, if the rusher is getting quicker and more agile, why can’t the same be true for the left tackle? Perhaps a big guy is no longer needed.
If you went small at left tackle, they’d go big and walk your left tackle back to the quarterback. In that case, size defeats speed. That’s the idea of having big, agile guys at left tackle. When a big, strong left tackle gets his hands on a smallish pass rusher, it’s over.
Sam from Saratoga Springs, NY
Are there any free agents left out there you think might be worth seeing if they’ve got any tread left on the tires, assuming they could be signed for a low price?
I’m sure there are, but in most cases it can wait until after the draft and you know to what degree you were able to address your needs.
Jerry from Wilmington, NC
Vic, do you think the Broncos have a QB plan or are they grasping at straws?
I think their plan was to re-sign Brock Osweiler, and I think the Texans surprised them.
Tom from Kenosha, WI
Vic, I’m a noon Sunday kickoff guy. Love that time slot by a wide margin. The doubleheader games and night games mean you have a pretty good football team, but taking that out of the equation, what kickoff time do you like best?
I spent so many years covering teams in the Eastern Time zone I can’t stop referring to noon games as one o’clock games. I’ll say to Mike Spofford, it’s a one o’clock game, and he’ll correct me, “You mean noon.” Nothing beats a one o’clock, I mean noon kickoff, on a sunny and crisp fall afternoon. Night games are good for ratings and exposure, but Sunday noon is good for the soul.
Richard from Madison, WI
Today they may call it “Team Stream,” but back for the first Super Bowl they called it normal coverage. CBS did the NFL and NBC did the AFL. I liked it. Why was it a bad thing?
It was OK. That was network TV and CBS and NBC did not dramatically slant their coverage. I remember flipping back and forth and not sensing much of a difference. What’s important to remember about the two-network telecast of Super Bowl I is NBC won the ratings battle, which was a terrible embarrassment for the NFL and CBS, which was by far the No. 1 TV network. We weren’t as concerned about TV ratings back then as we are now, but people in the know knew what it meant: The AFL was winning the war.
John from Grand Rapids, MI
Vic, has anyone ever told you that, in a baseball cap, you look like a younger Bart Starr?
I’m flattered by the comparison. He made the greatest play call in football history, and a more dignified man we’ll never know.
Tom from Vista, CA
Grass resonates in many ways, That fresh smell of cut grass has smelled like victory in Wisconsin for many years. I believe Ron Wolf fixed the turf at Green Bay as one of his first acts. Reggie McKenzie, on becoming GM of the Raiders, had the deplorable field upgraded. I suppose grass is much more than a Wisconsin challenge, or a California ballot initiative.
A healthy lawn suggests a healthy home.
Ethan from La Crosse, WI
“I’m so fortunate to have been born in a country that rewards such meaningless activity.” This is my favorite thing you have ever written in this column.
I went to my doctor recently. He looked at my test results and said, “You’re fine.” The next 14 minutes of my 15-minute visit were spent talking football. I felt like I should’ve sent him a bill. The point is everybody in this country loves football. Doctors, lawyers, housewives and caddies all love football. Our cars have become vehicles for expressing our allegiances: team license plates, flags and stickers. People even buy cars according to team colors. This mania didn’t exist when I began covering the NFL. My career has dovetailed with the greatest explosion of popularity in football history, and I’ve benefited from it in a multitude of ways. When I get to the pearly gates, the first words I expect to hear are, “I don’t wanna hear any complaints.” He won’t. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.
Kevin from Tucson, AZ
Vic, today is my oldest brother’s birthday. He has had to overcome a number of life challenges in his day and is doing great! Do you have a player or two that comes to mind for overcoming some of life’s off-field challenges? Often times, those are role models that deserve more attention than they currently do.
I’ve covered men who grew up in terrible poverty. Many of them never knew their father. I covered a wide receiver who lived in a box on the street. I covered a cornerback who in a one-year period lost six family members and friends to gunfire. I covered a player who was severely wounded in Vietnam, a player who lost his career to a crippling car accident, and a player who was the victim of senseless violence. One of my favorite players was driving to training camp when he called home and found out his father was killed in a salvage accident. Now, I’m learning about Mike Webster and Justin Strzelczyk. How about Shaky Smithson and his story? Football is full of real-life stories. My suggestion is to find one with which your brother can identify. The search will be most rewarding.
Luiz from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Vic, I’ve seen you mention a lot about how crucial it was to hire Vince Lombardi, in terms of the Packers’ history of success. I am aware of the tremendous improvement he achieved on championship results. Could you explain if there were any other improvements we can give him credit for, such as administratively or strategically?
Lombardi isn’t known as an innovator, he’s known as a leader of men. Landry gets credit for inventing the 4-3. Lombardi gets credit for beating it. His teams were predictable. They beat you with the Packer sweep. Everybody knew it was coming, but nobody could stop it. Lombardi didn’t take what you gave him. He took what he wanted. He’s my kind of coach. If you absolutely need to credit him for some kind of football innovation, credit him with the run-to-daylight concept, which is by and large what backs do in a zone-blocking scheme today.
Bruce from Las Vegas, NV
Does it bother you when announcers or writers talk about teams controlling their own destiny? It’s beyond bad usage and drives me up the wall.
In a competition, nobody controls their own destiny. The other team also possesses an element of control, but what you’re describing is sports jargon. It’s a big part of our December language.
Larry from Marshall, IN
Did you ever see Johnny U’s temper? He used to do the color for some of the Packers games and did the one when Fran Tarkenton beat his total yards record. He was asked about it and responded by stating, “He’s throwing that five and 10-yard stuff. I could still be playing if I wanted to throw that stuff.” You could hear his edge many times.
He had one of the sharpest edges in the history of the game. He called time out to rebuke Don Shula for sending a play into the huddle. He asked Shula if he wanted to play quarterback. There are stories about the cold stare a receiver got in the huddle if he dropped a pass. I had the honor of playing in a foursome with Unitas at a charity golf tournament late in his life. His friend Brooks Robinson arranged for Unitas to get personal-appearance money at such events, as Unitas really struggled financially late in life. His arm was crippled and he could barely hold the golf club, but he never took a shot off. Unitas was the perfect football player, from sandlot to stardom.
Brad from Tucson, AZ
Vic, it’s not how well you mow, but how well you mow fast.
Not true. A good lawn requires attention. I judge a man by the quality of his lawn.
Reid from Glendale, WI
Vic, at the end of the month, there is a Packers draft party at Will’s Northwoods Inn in Chicago. Will you be there? I would love to meet you.
I won’t be there, but a few years ago I was there for one of the all-time best Packers Everywhere pep rallies. I remember a car pulling up next to me and out of the car stepped Gale Sayers. I turned to Spofford and said, “That’s Gale Sayers.” You remember things like that.
Tony from River Falls, WI
This might be a question for Cliff, but was there an NFL player who quit the game because he realized he enjoyed hurting people on big hits?
Mike Reid retired in part because he was beginning to feel Neanderthalish. When Reid played, if you didn’t like that kind of feeling, football was a bad game for you. I remember Dick Butkus saying his favorite movie was “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte” because he liked the scene when the head came rolling down the steps.
Eric from Lansing, MI
What makes the mystery of the draft? Why are the measurables not enough?
Our fantasies drive the draft. Every prospect is going to be our favorite team’s savior. Every player will become a starter. This is the draft class that’ll put us over the top, take us to the Super Bowl. It’s more than hope, it’s faith. It’s an event whose popularity is driven by the human spirit.
Andreas from Cologne, Germany
Vontaze Burfict and DeAngelo Williams starting a feud on Twitter keeping the fire burning. Do you think without the players safety rules we have now, this could get into a feud like the Steelers-Raiders war?
That Steelers-Bengals playoff game was a time-capsule game. I think they should play the kickoff game this year. I know it’s traditionally played by the Super Bowl champions, but the Broncos have lost a lot of players in free agency and they won’t be the same team that won the Super Bowl. The ratings for a Steelers-Bengals kickoff game would be outrageous. Hate sells.