Bill from Barrington, IL
Today is the day for the court decision in Minneapolis. What do you think will happen?
Vic: I don’t expect a ruling today. In the meantime, it’s my hope and expectation that U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson will order the two sides to submit to mediation. Ultimately, it’s the only way to get a resolution and that should be the goal of everyone involved in this dispute.
Paul from Madison, WI
I have to take issue with a statement you made today. “You don’t draft for depth in the first round.” If one subscribes to the BAP philosophy, as you apparently do, this statement is contradictory. Rodgers wouldn't be here today if it wasn't.
Vic: You don’t draft for depth in the first round because eventually that player has to make it into the starting lineup, as Rodgers has, or you’ve wasted a lot of money and he’s a bust. It doesn’t mean a first-round pick has to be an immediate starter, but you better believe he can become a starter or you’ve made a costly mistake.
Dennis from Radford, VA
I find it interesting that, last year during the draft, Mel Kiper called Tyson Alualu a huge reach that should never be taken that high, yet, just the other day on NFL Network, he called Alualu a “home run pick.” Just goes to show that draftniks are just entertainment; there is no reason to take what they say as some sort of indisputable fact.
Vic: Indisputable fact? Absolutely not. It’s all opinion and that’s acceptable in the pre-draft phase because it’s a crystal-ball business and pre-draft statements will be judged according to the performance of the players that are the subjects of those comments. Kiper is admitting he made a mistake in his evaluation of Alualu and that’s commendable. Nobody gets ’em all right. Everybody makes mistakes and you have to be the type of person who can say, “I was wrong,” or you shouldn’t say anything in the pre-draft phase. Kiper is probably remembered more for his misses than for his hits. That’s what people want from a self-proclaimed expert. They want him to be wrong. Kiper has made a lot of money from being able to say, “I was wrong.” I admire his work.
Alex from New York, NY
Do you think the rise in popularity of the game merely coincided with the rules favoring offense, or do you think the rules changes caused the increased interest? I think there were lots of variables in play.
Vic: The first explosion in the game’s popularity was the result of television. TV provided the kick-start the game needed in the early 1960s and it carried deep into the next decade. It got to a point in the ’70s, however, that defense was dominating to such a degree that coaches were afraid to be aggressive on offense. Four defensive players were Super Bowl MVPs in the ’70s. In comparison, since the rules changes of 1978 only three defensive players have been selected MVP of the Super Bowl. Yardage and points sagged dramatically in the ’70s, but the big problem was the play count. It got dangerously low and that meant the game was experiencing a decline in action. The intensity of the games was more furious than ever, but the game had become too violent and too compressed for the casual fan and it’s the casual fan that represents the largest segment of the audience. Pete Rozelle knew the game needed more plays, more points and more action, and those needs gave birth to the rules changes of ’78, which were successfully intended to open the field. The NFL had attempted to do the same thing in 1972 when it moved the hash marks toward the center of the field, thinking it would provide more room for receivers to maneuver, but all it did was create more room for running backs to run and it resulted in an explosion of 1,000-yard rushers and a further tightening of the game. The new, wide-open game of the post-’78 rules changes drove popularity in the game and it continues to have that effect. The casual fan wants action. The casual fan wants offense.
Dylan from Milwaukee, WI
Is there any way players can get together to prepare for the season during the lockout and can they have interaction with their coaches?
Vic: Yes, the players can get together to conduct their own mini-camps, so to speak, but team employees are forbidden from having contact with players during the lockout.
Teri from Racine, WI
I loved your response to Kevin about the perception and sanctity of football. If people want to watch it for entertainment, well, yippee for them but, in the end, it is a fierce and rugged battle of strength and determination, with one collective goal in mind, victory. Vince Lombardi said it best: “I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle, victorious.”
Vic: You are, obviously, a guardian of the game, Teri, and I respect that. I don’t think “man’s finest hour” has changed at all. The players I have covered have applied themselves to that standard and that includes the players of today. I think we need to remind ourselves more often of the noble words of the game’s great leaders, such as Coach Lombardi, and concern ourselves less with the “smack” talk and the body language that is all meant for self-glorification. 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.
Michael from Brighton, UK
Being a long-term Packers fan in the UK, do you think there is any chance of a Wembley appearance in the not too distant future? I hear well-supported teams such as the Packers don't want to give up a home game to come to London. Is this true?
Vic: It’s my opinion that playing a game in London works best for a team that needs to be relieved of some of its ticket-selling burden; it’s one fewer game for which they’d have to sell tickets, which would reduce the price of their season ticket, and that’s good marketing. The Packers, of course, don’t need such relief, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be the “visiting team” in a game in London.
Todd from Fitchburg, WI
I predict the Packers will take a DE, OLB, WR and OL in their first four picks. What do you predict they will take?
Vic: I predict they’ll take the best available player, but three of the four positions you’ve mentioned are deep with talent and, therefore, would be likely best available player candidates.
Tom from New Glarus, WI
I was just reading about the upcoming “Tailgate Tour.” Isn't there a conflict this year with the current players traveling and working with Packers management? I'm all for it. I just was under the impression there could be no contact until this legal nonsense was worked out.
Vic: The NFL has made an exception to the lockout rule forbidding contact between players and team employees so the players may continue to support local communities through charitable events, such as the “Tailgate Tour.” The “Tour” benefits non-profit organizations through the tailgate parties each of those organizations hosts. The hosting organization sells the ticket, food and beverage and receives the proceeds.
Tom from Fairborn, OH
The game survived rather magnificently for 75 years without instant replay. Football is a game of mistakes. The teams that make the fewest usually win. Refs make mistakes; it’s part of the game and always will be. I relished the debates over bad calls as opposed to complaining about how long it takes to “get it right.” Gimme the old days and, while we’re at it, the old NFL theme music of the late ’60s.
Vic: Replay review is here to stay, Tom. It’s about getting it right now. It’s about deciding for which plays we need to get it right and for which plays we need to accept mistakes. I think that’s the part that’s troubling most fans. How do you stop the game to review a 10-yard pass completion and not stop the game to review what appears to be an egregious pass-interference penalty that has moved the ball 50 yards and put it on the one-yard line? I don’t like the idea of reviewing small stuff and not reviewing big stuff. If we have to live with the big mistakes, such as the Ellis Hobbs pass-interference penalty in the end zone in the 2006 AFC title game, shouldn’t we have to live with all the mistakes? I think everyone’s answer to that question is no, so how do we fix it without turning the game into a succession of replay events? That’s the big question.
Gerald from Arkansaw, WI
Is it likely there will be no draft at some point in the future?
Vic: That’s the threat the players association has held over the league’s head for a long time, that the players would challenge the draft in court. It’s a good bargaining chip to have, but I think everyone knows the draft is good for all parties. It’s good for the teams, the owners, the players, the league and the game. The draft is an event every bit the scope of the Super Bowl. The draft defines the offseason; it is the official start of the next season. It’s the “elephant in the room,” the obvious truth being that everyone needs it.