David from Sammamish, WA
You're doing this fantasy draft with the current players of today. You have the first overall pick to pick any player you want but you aren't allowed to pick a quarterback. Which position do you go for with your first pick and why?
I know about fantasy football. I don’t play it but I know about it and I think it’s fun stuff. My pick would be Arian Foster because he was the NFL’s leading rusher and the Texans’ touchdown-maker, and yards and touchdowns are a good combination in fantasy football, right? Here’s the difference between fantasy football and real football: Though Foster would be my first pick among non-quarterbacks in fantasy football, a left tackle, a right defensive end or Darrelle Revis would probably be my first pick if I was selecting a team to play real football. Foster would be way down the list.
Chad from Kincardine, Ontario
You constantly hear old-time fans of sports always disclaiming the younger generation's choice to vote for a newer generation of player in polls about best ever. Why is it such a crime to look at a guy like Sterling Sharpe, one of the most talented wide receivers ever to play the game, and say he was the best ever to wear a number? Just because there was a great from an earlier era doesn't intrinsically make them better than Sharpe, yet, that is the line I see almost every single time a more current player wins one of those polls. Why isn't it OK to think a newer player is better?
The question was: Who is the best player to wear that number, not which player that wore that number do you like the most? So, did you do your homework? Did you research the careers of the candidates? That was the intent of the best-by-numbers feature. The intent was to provide some biographical information on the candidates that would educate fans, especially young fans that didn’t see the old players play, on the careers of the men that wore those numbers. Did you absorb the information, research on your own for more information, then weigh that information in objectively selecting one player over another? Or did you just vote for Sterling Sharpe because you like him? If you did the research and weighed it evenly in selecting one over the other and that caused you to vote for Sharpe, there is absolutely nothing wrong with your selection.
Jeremy from Appleton, WI
Would you admire Aaron Rodgers less if the Steelers had scored a touchdown on that last drive and he and the Packers had lost?
You’re describing almost perfectly the situation from the Super Bowl between the Patriots and Giants and few years ago. In what appeared as though it would be the deciding drive, Tom Brady took the Patriots down the field for the go-ahead touchdown late in the game. Eli Manning, however, countered with the game-winning drive, thanks to two drops of potential interceptions and a catch for the ages. Do I admire Brady less because Manning responded? No. You have to be reasonable. When a quarterback responds at crunch time, as Brady did and as Rodgers did with that clutch third-down pass and long, time-consuming drive, you have to acknowledge it. When a quarterback doesn’t get it done at crunch time, however, as was the case in the Saints-Colts Super Bowl, I think that needs to be acknowledged, too, instead of making excuses.
Dan from Charlotte, NC
We often hear people talk about the “West Coast offense.” How many basic offensive systems are there in use in the NFL today and what are they?
In one way or another, every team uses the main principle of the “West Coast offense,” which is to get the ball out quickly and avoid disruptive pass-rush pressure. We are in a day and age of conformity on offense as I have never seen. Everybody’s running the same stuff. Offense in today’s game is about spread formations; the more you can create, the better. It’s not my kind of football, but it’s entertaining, at least on the NFL level. The proliferation of spread offenses, in my opinion, have made college football nearly unwatchable. College football truly is basketball on grass. Back in the 1980s and ’90s, a few NFL teams were using the “Run-and-Shoot offense.” It was distinctly different in that it didn’t use a tight end. I didn’t like it but it was different and I like variety. Of course, we’ve always had a collection of teams that like to pound the ball, though they’re fading away in today’s game. I remember Marv Levy’s first year as coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. He was light on wide receivers and deep in backs so he ran the “Wing T.” It was beautiful, but those days are gone. Innovation these days is within the spread concept and the tight end is the nexus to that innovation. When I started covering the game, you kept your eye on the right guard if you wanted to know the design of the play. Nowadays, you keep your eye on the tight end. He’s the player of intrigue, and it’s kind of that way on every team.
Jeffrey from Charlotte, NC
Provided there’s a training camp, what do you think the top few stories at that time will be?
The Packers will have an interesting battle at running back. There would appear to be an opportunity at defensive end. Can Derek Sherrod learn quickly enough to challenge for playing time? He’s a very bright guy and this is when being a quick-learner can be a real asset. I’m anxious to see how Morgan Burnett and Mike Neal respond after season-ending injuries last year. As far as recovery from injury, Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant would be the big stories of training camp. Here’s a favorite of mine: Donald Driver told me he wants to play until he’s 40. He looked me right in the eye and said it and I like that kind of stuff. So, does he still have some youth left in those legs? Training camp will give us an indication. There are always lots of those personal-type stories in training camp, but the big-picture story will be the Packers’ on-field response to being the Super Bowl champions. Are they hungry to defend their title? I don’t know if that question can be answered in training camp, but it’ll be the question on everybody’s lips.
Grant from Darlington, WI
Vic, in baseball, the sacrifice fly is a statistic that is both good and bad. Is there a statistic in football that can be both good and bad, depending on how you look at it?
There are a lot of “hidden” stats in all sports. The sacrifice fly in baseball is good because it produces a run, but it’s bad because it’s an out. Rushing yardage in football is similar in that it’s good because it means you’re winning the battle at the line of scrimmage, but it doesn’t always translate into points. Patience is required. The cumulative effect of moving men around the bases or moving the ball down the field in small increments will often yield results late in the game. It wears on an opponent.
Kamen from Bethel, CT
I thought Sam might be interested in knowing that when Dan Marino threw one or no interceptions in a postseason game, the Dolphins were 7-1. When he threw two or more interceptions, they were an abysmal 1-9. Clearly, his performance correlated to his team's victory or defeat.
Those are telling stats. I always thought Marino tried to do too much in the postseason. Often, however, he was forced to have to do too much, by a team that lacked a defense.
Shane from Brodhead, WI
Could you give a list of your best Packers that wore the jersey numbers for each number?
My selections in the best-by-number series would’ve been: 30, Clarke Hinkle; 31, Jim Taylor; 36, Mike Michalske; 63, Fuzzy Thurston; 80, Donald Driver; 84, Sterling Sharpe; 88, Ron Kramer; 90, Ezra Johnson.
Tyler from Bozeman, MT
I have grown up being a Packers fan since I was three, living with my dad, who is a Vikings fan. I watched a lot of the Vikings games growing up, and have to see if you agree that it is a shame that Carter is not in the Hall of Fame.
Where do you draw the line on wide receivers? You can’t turn the Hall of Fame into the Hall of Fame of wide receivers. Donald Driver? Hines Ward? Marvin Harrison? Larry Fitzgerald? It goes on and on. Other than for quarterback, wide receiver is the most popular position among football fans. I get e-mail from fans every day telling me this wide receiver or that wide receiver should be in the Hall of Fame. I’ll tell you where I stand on electing a wide receiver to the Hall of Fame: In my opinion, he has to have a defining postseason moment. He has to have done something stunning in the postseason. Catches truly are a dime a dozen. I want a guy who made a lot of catches in the regular season and then turned his game up in the postseason.