Jesse from Elk Mound, WI
NFL Network is doing a series on the top players of 2011. Who do you think will be number one? In my opinion, it should be Aaron Rodgers but I'm sure it will be someone like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Thoughts?
Vic: I agree. I think Rodgers established himself in the postseason as the premier quarterback in the league, but I would expect that Manning and Brady are still at the top of most people’s list. This could be an interesting season, in terms of a potential changing of the guard, so to speak. There are several young quarterbacks poised to take the mantle from Manning and Brady. Rodgers, of course, is one of them.
Lance from Jacksonville, FL
How far do you think Da'Quan Bowers will fall in this draft?
Vic: If he can erase his recent workout results with a considerably better personal workout, he’ll start to climb again. I have no doubt that teams that have interest in him are busy trying to acquire information on Bowers’ arthrocopic knee surgery in January that’s believed to have caused him to run poorly. Teams want to know they’re not buying damaged goods. If there’s reason to believe he’ll make a full recovery, then there will come a point at which Bowers’ talent will be too good to pass up; that’s when risk/reward favors reward. Willis McGahee is the classic example. He sustained a catastrophic knee injury in the final game of his college career. He probably would’ve been a top-five pick had he not been injured. Even still, he was selected 23rd overall in the 2003 draft because at that point he was too good to pass up.
John from Canal Winchester, OH
In your opinion, how big were the back-to-back plays that involved Tom Crabtree in the last couple of minutes of the Super Bowl: the one-yard reception that kept the clock moving and the personal foul penalty he drew on the kickoff that moved Pittsburgh back 15 yards.
Vic: The penalty on the kickoff was huge. I have no doubt Coach Capers would tell you that it had a dramatic impact on how he approached the Steelers schematically in that final possession. I sensed that the Packers assumed an aggressive posture following that penalty, having the Steelers pinned deep in their own territory and forced to go the length of the field. I know football is an emotional game, but it’s mind-boggling to me that a professional athlete would be incapable of controlling his emotions with his team about to face its final possession of the season and the Super Bowl title on the line. That’s one with which I would struggle if I was a coach.
Connnor from Cary, IL
Love coming home from school and reading your writing. Who do you think is the greatest Packer of all-time?
Vic: In my opinion, it’s Vince Lombardi. I think he is the most dominant figure in NFL history.
Stuart from Morton, IL
I'm reading Maraniss's book and when writing about the Fordham days he talks about the “Seven Blocks of Granite.” I know that was even before your time but how did the two ends act on offense? With the emphasis on the running game, I figured they'd be mainly blockers but were they pullers like guards or maulers like tackles, or did they have their own identity in whatever offense that was?
Vic: The two ends were both tight in those days. Football was a running game and ends blocked a lot and caught a little. Pulling and trapping are blocking techniques usually executed by interior linemen, for the simple reason that it’s difficult for a backside end or tackle to get out ahead of a running back. You’ll see tackles do some of it in today’s game, because the formations are so tight, but the line splits were bigger in the old days and ends would usually block down for a count or two and then release downfield to block on a defensive back. The seven-man sled was a fixture on all practice fields back then. I can’t remember the last time I saw one.
Bill from Chesapeake, VA
In reference to the Packers’ 51-45 playoff loss to the Cardinals in 2009, how in the world could the refs not call a facemask penalty on the Cardinals against Aaron Rodgers that ended the game? The touchdown the Cardinals scored should have been called back.
Vic: They didn’t call it because they didn’t see it, which is completely understandable. That play is a perfect example of the effect of selective replay review. The system doesn’t provide for review of that type of play, therefore, a mistake in officiating is permitted, though other types of mistakes are required to be corrected. That imbalance in the system has always bothered me because it’s interfering with the natural evening out of the breaks in the game. It was a facemask; it should’ve been penalized. If it had, the Cardinals may not have won the game. Maybe the Packers would’ve gotten hot and won it all. Who knows? I accept the fact that replay review is here to stay, but a part of me prefers to live with the mistakes, all of the mistakes, not just a select few.
Willie from Maricopa, AZ
What are the three-biggest obstacles to the Packers repeating?
Vic: Start with the quarterback. You have to keep him healthy. If you can do that, you’ve cleared the biggest hurdle. You have to be playing your best football at the right time of the season. I think that’s hurdle number two: Don’t slump late in the season. Hurdle number three is making plays at crunch time. All championship teams are good in the clutch.
Tyler from Fond du Lac, WI
What are you going to do to prevent what happened last year with injuries?
Vic: You can’t prevent injuries, you can only prepare for them. The way you do that is by drafting talented players and developing them for the day when they will be needed to replace the man in front of them. Depth is the best medicine for injuries.
Nick from Annapolis, MD
Is the reason these AP things are voted on so early is they don't want a couple of big playoff performances influencing someone’s opinion unfairly on the entire season, or is it something else?
Vic: It used to be logistical; it took time to gather the votes. I don’t think that’s a valid reason these days. We certainly have the capability for delaying the vote and collecting it quickly enough to tabulate it. Whatever the reason is, it should be abandoned. It makes no sense to present the coach of the year award to a guy whose team just turned in a disappointing performance in its first playoff game, on a week’s rest and against a team it had defeated by 42 points only a month earlier. When we make that guy coach of the year, we’re saying the 42-point win counts, the loss in the postseason doesn’t. That’s ridiculous. I don’t understand what’s so bad about having the playoffs influence the voting. Isn’t it a good thing to win playoff games? Shouldn’t you want a coach who wins the big games to win your award? If they’re going to end the voting at the end of the regular season, then rename the award the “regular season coach of the year award.” It’s really silly that the coach who won the Super Bowl had to overcome more adversity than any coach in the league and he still didn’t win the award. I guess that’s why I’m not big on awards. I don’t need them to tell me what I already know.
Jake from Aurora, IL
Toward the end of the regular season and then into the postseason, it became apparent the Packers had a winning locker room. Many people commented on the importance of that in a team going to the Super Bowl. Well, I think it paid off but what has to happen for the Pack to keep that locker room into next year?
Vic: It can’t be done nor should it be attempted. That book has been written and it’s closed and up on the shelf. When this year’s team begins preparation for next season, it’ll be time to begin writing a new book. There will be new players on this year’s team; it’ll be a different team. The big thing is that there will be new challenges. Your opponents will have spent the offseason preparing to play you according to what you did last year. Now you have to do new things new ways. It’s called growth. All teams have to grow. Football teams never stay the same. If they’re not getting better, they’re getting worse because the competition is getting better. The winning feeling you’re describing is another way of saying the Packers were a hot team late in the season. That’s a special feeling, the Packers got it at the right time of the season and it carried through their Super Bowl victory. You don’t hold it, you recreate it and it takes a whole season to do it.
Dennis from Brook Park, MN
Reading the feedback about the greatest games list reminded me of watching football with my dad. Back in the ’60s, we watched the Packers every Sunday. After a close loss to the Bears, I was feeling a bit down and grumbling about how we should have won that game. Dad says, “Hey, that was a great game. The Pack can't win them all and, if they did and we knew it, how much fun would we have had today?” I just enjoy watching the Packers and every time I do, it's a great game.
Vic: Your father was using sports to teach you a lesson you might apply to the important things in life. He gave you perspective; it’s the perspective I attempt to achieve and I do it by reminding myself that all I can do is watch. I have no say in the matter. The players and coaches are in control of the action. I like to watch.
John from Logansport, IN
It seems the Packers play the same teams every year in the preseason. Why is that?
Vic: That’s standard throughout the league because you’re trying to achieve a couple of goals in preseason scheduling: 1.) Keep it close geographically. 2.) Play teams from the other conference. Cleveland and Indianapolis are short-hop trips for the Packers to play against AFC teams. They’re perfect preseason opponents for the Packers. So is Kansas City, which plays in Green Bay this year. The Packers played those three teams in last year’s preseason. Arizona satisfies the variety factor; last year it was Seattle. Coaches want to get their teams back into camp after a game as quickly and uneventfully as possible, and they’d rather not face a team they’ll have to face in the regular season, though sometimes that can’t be helped. When I started covering the NFL, there were six preseason games. I was delighted when that number shrunk to four and I’ll be just as happy when it goes to two.