Stephen from Cedar Falls, IA

How would you grade the Packers defense last season in their ability to cover, stop the run and rush the passer on a scale from 1-10 for each, 10 being the best score?

The Packers pass defense was No. 6 overall, which equates to an eight on the 1-10 scale. The run defense was No. 21, which equates to a three, and the pass rush was No. 5 in sacks per pass play, which equates to an eight, but the pass rush wasn’t consistent enough for my tastes. There was too much feast or famine. I think the run defense will improve, and I think Clay Matthews’ move back to the outside will help steady the pass rush. I’m OK with the number of sacks; I just want to see them distributed more evenly, especially in big games and key moments.

Jerry from Wilmington, NC

Vic, speaking of hate in sports, I noticed when I asked you a question about Troy Aikman there were several derogatory statements in the comments section, however, nothing when someone asked you a question about Dan Marino. Why is there so much disdain for Aikman by Packers fans?

It’s because he did to them what they wanted to do to him, and because Aikman let it be known he didn’t want to be drafted by the Packers.

Paul from Fayetteville, AR

Coach McCarthy and his staff don’t play the game, but they set the tone for a winning attitude and culture. Of the coaches you have covered, what qualities define effective football team leadership, and who are some of the best you have observed?

I’ve covered five head coaches and all of them possess distinct leadership qualities. Chuck Noll believed motivation came from within and he challenged his players to find it. Bill Cowher was high energy. It was the tone he set and he demanded the same from his players. Tom Coughlin demanded acute alertness, beginning the moment his players crossed the “concentration line.” Jack Del Rio is about tough, physical football. He inherited a somewhat soft defense in Jacksonville. By midseason he had put his stamp on it and it rose to No. 2. Mike McCarthy is about execution. His practices are the best I’ve ever covered.

Harold from Chippewa Falls, WI

You enjoy stories about fate. Huey Richardson finished his business degree after his two uneventful NFL seasons, went to work for Merrill Lynch and on 9-11 was delayed taking an elevator to the upper floors of the trade tower. He lived.

I didn’t know that. Thanks for the story. Coach Coughlin’s son worked at the World Trade Center. Imagine his worry as he sat in his office that fateful morning.

Ken from Fitchburg, WI

Coach McCarthy said in his press conference they made a “big picture change” in the offense. Any idea on the nature/specifics of the change? Do you think it relates to the middle of the field emphasis he has made?

In his season-ender, when asked about speed at wide receiver, Coach McCarthy talked about a big receiver in the middle of the field. I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant. I think I know now.

Heidi from Burlington, VT

I love the column. It helps me feel closer to home. I’m headed to Jacksonville for the season opener. Where do you recommend I visit while I’m down there on Saturday before the game?

You could go to the burn unit and make a reservation. Hey, I’m just kidding. Go to the beach. Jacksonville Beach is one of the best and most underrated beaches I’ve ever enjoyed, and I am a beach crazy man. There are plenty of beach-access parking lots, restaurants and bars. This is the best road trip of the season, but you must heed this warning or you will pay a heavy price: The sun down there is dangerous.

Gus from Holbrook, NY

This has been on my mind for a while. OK, too long. Willie mentioned not getting your Bryce Petty reference about playing Madden. You told him, “This column probably isn’t right for you.” Far too dismissive on your part. I’m a pretty smart guy but I had to Google Bryce Petty to get your reference. I do know that Teddy Bridgewater told ESPN he imported the Vikings’ playbook into Madden to get more reps. Drew Brees uses Madden to prepare for the regular season. We all don’t have your football knowledge and sometimes our grammar ain’t so good and we misspell things, but some of us read your column to learn as well as be entertained. I’m probably banned, or whatever you do to those who take exception to your responses, but next time try to help your readers by teaching more and scolding less.

OK.

Christopher from Cudahy, WI

I loved the quote from Murphy Takes Five: “While we realize that hosting a Super Bowl here is a long shot, we will try to host as many home playoff games as possible.” What more can you truly ask for as a Packers fan?

That has to be good enough because the Super Bowl isn’t coming to Green Bay. We need to stop asking the question.

Gregg from Kenosha, WI

Vic, as you well know, time is the most important aspect of our lives. We measure time by using the abbreviations B.C. and A.D. Our calendars are based on this historical reality. I would like to add B.C. (before cancer) and A.C. (after cancer). The reality of dealing with cancer heightens our focus on the fragility and brevity of life. We realize how vulnerable our lives can be. We learn to cherish every moment.

There’s no such thing as after cancer. Every PET scan and check up leads to the moment the doctor walks through the door with your results in his hand. It’s like waiting for the jury to announce its verdict all over again. You cherish every moment except this moment. This is the moment you live to fear, and then celebrate when the news is good, and then immediately begin fearing the next one.

Warren from Lutz, FL

Vic, every time I think of Ken Anderson I remember the clothesline he received from, I believe, Glen Edwards. How times have changed. That would be a big-time suspension today.

He hit him five yards out of bounds. “If it was my brother, my mother, my father or somebody else dear to me, I would have delivered the same blow,” Edwards said in defense. I remember thinking, “I can’t believe I’m typing these words. He’d clothesline his mother?” Pound for pound, Edwards is the nastiest football player I’ve ever covered. He’s also the subject of one of my favorite football-humor stories: “What do you know about these (expletive) Corinthians?” Years ago, I talked with Kenny about the clothesline play. I told him what bothered me most was the Bengals didn’t go after Edwards. A few years later, a Bengals linebacker hit Franco Harris late along the Steelers sideline and Jack Lambert ran 30 yards to throw the Bengals linebacker to the ground. That was the difference between the Steelers of the ’70s and the Bengals of the ’70s. The Bengals had the plays (Bill Walsh); the Steelers had the players.

Tal from Ascot, UK

Doesn’t every team have a form of the hybrid defense?

Yeah, it’s called nickel.

Bob from Madison, WI

Speaking of lawn mowing procedures, may I assume you vary your mowing pattern?

I don’t have that kind of lawn anymore. I do more chopping than cutting. I was chopping near the marsh on Saturday when I noticed I had passed over a turtle. It was down in the ground, which meant it was laying eggs in the hole she had dug for herself. I was in a state of panic. “Please don’t be dead,” I said. I detected slight movement. I went away hoping all would be well. The next day, I went to the spot. The turtle was gone and the hole was covered by loose dirt. I’m assuming she buried her eggs and went back into the marsh. The moral of the story is keep your blade height high.

Jonathan from Saint Joseph, MO

I think you need to make a retraction about using the word hate when talking about sports. Most declare soccer as a sport, even those who hate it.

There are exceptions to every rule.

Richard from Bradenton, FL

In support of your answer to Adam in Racine, just look at the 1966 Green Bay/Dallas championship game the year before the “Ice Bowl.” The Packers defense intercepted a Don Meredith pass to win the game. As Lombardi stated, offense sells tickets and defense wins championships.

It still holds true. I think recent Super Bowls are a little bit of anomaly, but defense has been the difference.

Nick from Seattle, WA

Vic, who is on your Mt. Rushmore of running backs?

Thorpe, Brown, Payton and pick ’em.

Stewart from Dundee, UK

Could you give us your three favorite iconic photographs from pro football over the years?

Tittle’s cracked head, Bednarik standing over Gifford, Namath giving the No. 1 sign.

Daniel from København, Denmark

Who is the greatest tight end of all time, and can Gronkowski surpass him?

Mike Ditka invented the position, John Mackey defined the position, and Kellen Winslow redefined the position. Rob Gronkowski can become the greatest tight end in the Winslow era, not the Mackey era.


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