Moose from Seattle, WA
If you are drafting with the philosophy of taking the best available player, what difference does it make if he is believed to be a 4-3 player or a 3-4 player?
The player has to fit into your scheme to be successful, therefore, there has to be some sort of an allowance for scheme in the grading process. Again, Aaron Kampman is the perfect example. He was drafted as a 4-3 end and became an elite pass rusher from that position. When Dom Capers joined the Packers and installed a 3-4 scheme, Kampman had to be moved to linebacker because his skills didn’t translate to defensive end in a 3-4. As it turned out, they didn’t translate to linebacker, either, so he left the Packers in free agency to join a 4-3 team where he might return to defensive end. If you run a 4-3, you’re probably going to grade Kampman higher than you would in a 3-4 because you would grade him according to his ability to play his natural position, end.
Dustin from Dell Rapids, SD
Vic, what had a bigger effect on the explosion of offense in the NFL, the five-yard chuck rule or allowing offensive linemen to use their hands to block?
Each changed the game, but in different ways. The chuck rule demanded that cornerbacks be smaller, quicker guys that excelled in mirroring wide receivers. The demand that they support against the run was all but extinguished. The rule, without a doubt, opened up the passing lanes. The rule that allowed offensive linemen to use their hands in blocking was intended to provide better pass protection for quarterbacks. The idea was that more time to throw to receivers that would have more open space to operate would result in more yards and more points. It did. Which one had greater impact on the explosion of offense? I don’t know, but I think the rule allowing offensive linemen to use their hands in blocking had a greater impact on the game in a way that probably wasn’t intended: It caused the game to be played higher. Prior to that rule change, offensive linemen did a lot of cut-blocking. I covered a lineman whose nickname was “Chopper,” for his skill at dropping down and chopping his man. Knee injuries were as big a problem then as concussions are now. When hands were introduced to blocking, linemen tended to stay on their feet and grab, instead of drop and chop. I think it’s a rule that saved a lot of defensive linemen from knee injuries.
John from Superior, WI
Can you clarify your meaning of romantic sports writing? I agree that there is way too much analysis, but I also believe that some of the buildup of games has gone way overboard. Every year, the upcoming Super Bowl, or even some regular season or playoff games, are looked at as the greatest games of all time.
That’s not romance, that’s hype. The story of how the Green Bay Packers survived early financial struggles and rose to power in the smallest market in the league is romance. The story of the human confrontation that I believe defines the game is romance. The details of cover two, cover three, etc., is analysis, and it’s information that needs to be provided, but there’s so much of it out there right now that I think we’re losing touch with the heart and soul of the game. I miss those training camp sit-downs with the players when, in the calm of their training camp dorm rooms, they would reveal the details of their life that brought them from tough times to the doorstep of their dreams. Remember the Shaky Smithson story? Those are the ones I never forget. I remember having done a story years ago on a journeyman receiver named Johnnie Dirden, who sat in a darkened dorm room to which the door was left slightly ajar so Dirden could look through the crack and know who was knocking. If it was the “Turk,” he wasn’t answering. It was a story he allowed me to write and I’ll forever be indebted to him for allowing me that experience. I miss those days, those days of romance, because the players’ dorm rooms have long since been off limits to the media. It’s a shame because those are the stories that aren’t being told and they are the stories that give football its true personality.
Bryce from Iron Mountain, MI
An elderly couple celebrating its 60th anniversary was asked how they made it work for so long, to which the wife promptly responded, “We lived in a time where if something was broken we fixed it, instead of just throwing it out.”
Think about all the money owners would save in coaches’ salaries if they would fix it, instead of just throwing it out. The coaches of the teams of the decade for the ’70’s, ’80’s and ’90’s were a combined 4-42 in their rookie season as head coach. So what happened, they all of a sudden became better coaches? Or did they get better players?
Zach from Sheridan, MI
If you were in charge of making the call for the Packers’ first-round selection, who would you pick? Is there a particular player who stands out to you or a particular position you would like to fill with the best player available?
I’ve got my eyes on those tweeners: Courtney Upshaw, Melvin Ingram, Andre Branch, Bruce Irvin, Jake Bequette, Shea McClellin, Cam Johnson, Whitney Mercilus, Nick Perry, etc. There are a lot of them and I think there’s one in the group that can be a game-changer for the Packers, as Clay Matthews was when he was drafted.
Phil from Naples, FL
Vic, you waxed poetic about how sports journalism used to work with players enjoying writers’ company and so forth. Why has it changed?
Two major reasons: money and media. As the money in the game has increased, so have the protections. Players, coaches, teams, the league in general have become more protective of their turf and more guarded in what they’ll share, for the obvious reason that they have more to lose. In the old days, the game needed the media more because football was the college game and pro football was trying to establish a foothold. Those days are long gone. As media, we’ve contributed to our own problems by being less protective of the relationships we seek. Here’s an example: Joe Paterno used to be open and helpful with the writers that covered the team. Then, one day, he got burned when one of the writers quoted Paterno as having said he wasn’t going to leave college football to the Jackie Sherrills and Barry Switzers of the world. It was intended to be a joking, off-the-record remark. It would be the last joking, off-the-record remark. The relationship between Paterno and the writers that covered the team was never the same.
Murray from Ottawa, Ontario
Other than the size of players today, what do you see as the biggest difference between today’s and yesterday’s players?
The use of hands has replaced the use of shoulders.
Bill from Duluth, MN
Why can't compensatory picks be traded? Is it because the league is concerned that a team could trade the pick for someone of value that is potentially greater than the formula for awarding compensatory picks dictates?
That’s a good guess. I asked some guys I thought would know the answer to your question and they didn’t. Here’s my guess: I think the players association might’ve been concerned that the “picks, not players” mentality in the league might devalue free agents if teams were permitted to increase the value of comp picks by trading them. That’s just a guess. If I was a GM, I would go heavy into creativity on the comp picks front. I think it’s a frontier worthy of greater exploration. Because I’m a firm believer in draft and develop, I would literally identify a potential free agent or two on my roster every year, guys I believe other teams would be inclined to overrate, and prop them up for a big free-agent contract that would return a handsome comp picks award to me.
Bob from Colby, KS
All other factors considered equal, would you rather have a QB with a strong arm or one that was accurate?
Accuracy is more important than arm strength, provided the player has enough arm strength to make all of the throws. If he can’t make all of the throws, then accuracy is meaningless; he needs to find a new position.
Joel from Cleveland, WI
What are the strengths and weakness of defenses playing man or zone?
Man coverage allows for tight coverage underneath at the risk of getting burned deep. Zone allows soft spots underneath but defends well against the deep ball. The key is being able to disguise each.
Jay from Darien, CT
After getting four compensatory picks, I was wondering if any of these draft picks turned into stars, on any team?
Tom Brady’s pretty good.
Cristiano from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
“Music without the component of a human voice isn't, technically, a song at all.”
“A flute without holes is not a flute. A donut without a hole is a Danish.”
Sam from Eau Claire, WI
Vic, am I the only one who's mad that it's just fine with the NFL if the Saints bring in Bill Parcells to fill in for Sean Payton? I know Payton's a great coach, but I thought this was supposed to be a punishment? Bringing in a future Hall-of-Famer is hardly punishment in my book.
The punishment is intended for Payton. This situation intrigues me because of its uniqueness. Whatever coach the Saints hire for this season, he will, in effect, be a lame duck, and lame-duck coaches usually don’t succeed.
Joe from Great Falls, MT
Jeff Saturday has only played with perhaps the slowest QB in the history of the game. Is he going to have to alter his play style to fit with a more mobile QB like Rodgers?
With the Colts, Saturday pass-blocked for a QB known for getting the ball out fast because he couldn’t move his feet. With the Packers, Saturday will be snapping the ball to a guy who has a tendency to hold onto the ball because he has the ability to move his feet. Fall down a well, eyes go crossed. Kicked by a mule, eyes go back to normal. I don’t know.
Tom from Minneapolis, MN
You seem to love your job. What's the secret?
I love the memories. I’m one of those people that enjoys the moment more looking back on it than I did watching it happen. Call me a romantic.
Ken from Washington, DC
In my Packers pantheon of players who should have been great, none ranks higher (or ran faster) than Travis Williams. His combination of speed and size would still set him apart today. Who do you remember when you think about the ones who never quite made it big?
There was a running back from Kansas, a guy named Laverne Smith, who ran a blazing 40 time, sub 4.4. He looked like he had real upside, but then he sustained a catastrophic broken leg in a game in Baltimore, and that was it. I always wondered what he might’ve become.
Tyler from Kenosha, WI
I know you keep saying the pass rush comes from the outside linebackers, but isn't it just as important to have an interior pass rush. I mean, getting a guy like Haloti Ngata or Justin Smith would help out our pass rush big time.
Ngata and Smith aren’t guys, they’re stars, and if you can get them, get them. Even at that, however, Ngata only has 17 sacks in his six-year career, and Smith had 7.5 last season and never more than 8.5 in any season in his 11-year career. Outside linebacker Aldon Smith, a rookie last season? He had 14 sacks. It’s about roles.
Bill from Morris, IL
You make a good point about the selective use of replay. So, in order to get it right they should use replay on every play of every down for the entire game. That way instead of a game lasting only three hours, it will last 10 hours.
If you’re going to employ automatic review for turnovers, then it needs to be used, in my opinion, for all plays involving potential turnovers, or don’t use it at all. Remember that play in the Kansas City game when the ball hit the pylon? Well, automatic replay will be used for that play because it’s an out of bounds play. So why is that play more important than a play in the middle of the field?
Kent from Appleton, WI
What are the factors that make Wells more attractive to the Rams than Saturday and Saturday more attractive to the Packers than Wells?
The salary cap is the factor.
Tommy from Milwaukee, WI
So Tom Brady restructures his contract to only get paid $950K this year, and the Patriots were busy in free agency. Sounds like they're all in for a championship to me, what do you think?
Yeah, I’m puzzled by something Robert Kraft said recently. He chided teams that are restructuring contracts and pushing money out with the expectation that new TV contracts are going to spike the cap, suggesting that those teams might be surprised when the cap doesn’t spike. Isn’t that what this is?
Joshua from Okabena, MN
With the money Calvin Johnson received recently, and coupled with the expiring contracts of some of our key players, is it a realistic possibility that, provided we have depth at the receiver position, the Packers could possibly let Greg Jennings walk?
That’s why you discipline yourself now, so you can avoid losing your core players. A good cap man plans way into the future. If you’re looking at only this year, your nearsightedness is going to get you into a lot of trouble. Somebody has to go because you can’t keep everybody. Take your pick.
Tim from Normal, IL
Vic, the hits like Bednarik's may have made the game popular, but Bednarik was a thug. Why celebrate thugs?
A thug? He is one of the greatest players in the history of the game and a decorated military man who flew 30 combat missions over Germany as a B-24 waist gunner. That’s a thug?
Bret from Mililani, HI
So if a wide receiver is top 10 and the safety is top 20, and you're picking in the late 20's, why not take the safety? He's valued at more than the pick, so why trade back and possibly lose him when you need him?
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