Charles from Statham, GA
Has there always been a draft in the NFL?
Vic: The draft is the brainchild of Eagles founder and owner Bert Bell. He is credited with having established it in 1935 and he did it for all of the reasons that still apply today; it leveled the playing field and promoted competition. Bell went on to become NFL commissioner in 1946 and served in that capacity until his death in 1959. He died of a heart attack while watching his Eagles play against the Steelers at Franklin Field. He died at the moment the Eagles scored the winning touchdown in that game. Bell gave us the phrase, “On any given Sunday,” and he was also a proponent of blacking out all home games, which was the case prior to the 1973 Act of Congress. Much of Pete Rozelle’s platform was built on Bell’s foundation. Bell doesn’t get nearly enough credit for the success of the NFL.
Gary from Hayward, WI
I haven't noticed any nicknamed defenses lately, such as Fearsome Foursome, Purple People Eaters, Steel Curtain, Sack Exchange or Killer Bs. Are defenses not as dominant lately? Is this a symptom of the offensive dominance you mentioned? Or are cute names just out of vogue?
Vic: You’re right, you don’t see much of that anymore. The last one I covered was Coach Capers’ Blitzburgh. I’ll tell you what I think it means. I think it means that defenses are too fearful of what can happen to them on any given Sunday, because the personality of the game favors offense so greatly. I think defenses are afraid to paint a target on themselves by calling attention to themselves with a nickname and then being embarrassed by having 40 hung on them, which can happen to any defense on any given Sunday in today’s game. By the way, what nickname would you give the Packers defense?
Brian from Rockaway, NJ
What do you think are the pros and cons of the NFL adopting an instant replay system that more closely resembles the one used in the NCAA, where the replay official looks at all of the plays and puts less of an emphasis on a coach's decision to challenge or the number of challenges remaining?
Vic: I can’t believe I’m gonna say this but I’m beginning to lean toward the way college football does it. I don’t like the incessant stoppages of play but I’ll tell you something I like even less: Coaches using the challenge system to feign ignorance of it and using that ignorance to create an unnatural and unfair stoppage of play. That’s exactly what Ravens coach John Harbaugh did in a playoff game last season. He knew the play wasn’t reviewable, but his defense needed a break and he tossed the coach’s challenge flag, which created a stoppage he needed, so the referee could explain to Harbaugh what he already knew. That’s wrong. That’s not about getting it right; that’s about using the rules of the game deceitfully. If we’re gonna do this, we might as well do it right. The coaches, in my opinion, should not be involved in the officiating of the game. It’s nonsensical.
Lisa from Plumas Lake, CA
Loved your comment in your last blog: “Enjoy the human confrontation and its triumphs. Find meaning and satisfaction in the effort and, ultimately, in the exhaustion of that effort. It’s good for the soul. Football has always been good for the soul.” Pure poetry.
Vic: Gunga galunga.
William from Jacksonville, FL
If you were given a few minutes to speak directly to the owners and then the player reps, what would you say?
Vic: Words would be wasted. These men are on top of the situation. They know what it’s all about. They know what they want and they know the risks associated in pursuing what they want. I’d like to appeal to them to think of the ticket-buying fan because the ticket-buying fan always has been and always will be the backbone of the league’s success, but they know that, too. This will take care of itself. The marketplace will rule the ebb and flow of the game. That’s the ultimate threat. If you don’t protect what you have, the marketplace will make the decisions. Maybe that’s what I’d say. It’s time to get back to the negotiating table.
John from Stevens Point, WI
Vic, I've got a rule change to propose because I hate the tuck rule and the referees’ decisions on whether the quarterback’s arm was moving forward when he got hit. If the ball doesn't cross the line of scrimmage before it hits the ground, it's a fumble, not an incomplete pass. The clock-killing spike would be the exception. What do you think?
Vic: I like what you’re proposing and here’s why I like it: One of my complaints about the rules of the game is that they have become too many and involve too many adaptations. I favor abridging the rulebook and your idea would tear out several pages. Your proposal would make it crystal clear: If the ball comes out of the hand of the quarterback and doesn’t reach the line of scrimmage, or if a pass is dropped by an offensive player attempting to catch the ball shy of the line of scrimmage, the ball is live. I like that kind of simplicity. I’m sure there would be some “bugs” to work out in the application of that rule, but I like the simplicity of it. It’s the kind of rule that would take the game out of the hands of the officials and put it back in the hands of the players. I think the rules of the game are in need of that kind of forward thinking. We need change.
Greg from Carlsbad, CA
Is it possible for an overseas game to be an away game for both teams?
Vic: One team has to be designated the “home team,” I would think. One of the two teams has to have lost a home game from its schedule. In the five-year history of the “International Series,” the designated home teams have been the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Bucs and San Francisco 49ers.
Roy from Florence, OR
What would you think of adopting the college rule of one foot in bounds is a completion? I like it better and it also would eliminate numerous challenges. I don't see much sense in it when a receiver catches a ball in bounds and it's not a completion because his momentum carries him over the line before his second foot comes down. I think this is just an arbitrary rule that makes no sense.
Vic: It’s called skill. One foot down is too easy. That’s for amateurs. These guys are pros. They are the best in the world at what they do and getting two feet down in bounds is part of their craft. If the game all of a sudden switched to one foot down, what would happen to the record books? Receivers have been given enough of an advantage with the “no-chuck” rule and the “defenseless receiver” rule. If you can’t chuck ’em and you can’t hit ’em, then they should at least be expected to display precise execution of the simple act of catching the football.
Zoltan from Budapest, Hungary
What do you think about what happened in court between the league and the players? Are you more or less optimistic about there will be a full season in ’11?
Vic: The players want the court to mediate a litigation settlement and avoid collective bargaining. The league wants to move negotiations out of the court room and into the realm of the Federal Mediation Service and resume collective bargaining. That’s the gap between the two sides. The question now is: How do they bridge that gap? My perspective of the situation was unchanged by what happened yesterday.
Kylon from Talofofo, Guam
This whole Madden ’12 cover vote has got me scared as a Packers fan. Aaron Rodgers is tearing it up, but I am a firm believer in this Madden curse, even staying away from the team of the featured athlete when it comes to fantasy decisions. Do you think I would be a loyal fan by voting against Aaron Rodgers?
Vic: I think you’re playing too much Madden.
Frank from St. Augustine, FL
When is the next time you'll update your value board?
Vic: The next thing I’m going to do is a mock draft. It’s all in fun, of course, but I’m going to do it in all seriousness. I’m going to talk to my draftnik buddies and get their opinions and try my best to fit teams to players. Then, we’re going to ask the readers what they think will happen. The draft is a fun event. It’s always been a favorite of mine.
Alex from New York, NY
Why did tightening the hash marks help the running game?
Vic: It created room to run. It also created room for receivers to maneuver in the passing game, but what the league found out is that it wasn’t room that coaches needed to be persuaded to throw the ball more, it was the promise of fewer sacks, fewer holding calls and less contact between defender and receiver, which essentially created the room for receivers the NFL was seeking. When offensive linemen were given the ability to use their hands to block, holding penalties were reduced to 10 yards from 15 yards, and defensive backs were forced to play off the receivers, it was a signal to throw the ball and that’s exactly how the coaches in the league at that time interpreted it. They knew it as soon as they were presented with the rules changes. I remember it as though it was yesterday. The league sent out an instructional film on the rules changes. Don Shula did the instruction in the video. Chuck Noll invited some of us in the media to watch the video with him, which we did. When the video was over, Chuck said we were going to see a lot more passing that season, and we did. It hasn’t stopped.