Mark from Bettendorf, IA

Vic, now the coin must flip or it’s a do-over. Can we expect coaches to challenge that?

When I started covering the NFL, the coin toss was performed in the hallway that joined the teams’ locker rooms. There was no option to defer. We were informed in the press box prior to kickoff which team had won the toss and who would receive the opening kickoff. Then, in 1976 (I think), that changed when the NFL made the coin toss ceremonial, and Jack Lambert said a bad word and made everybody in the stadium laugh. Sometimes I think the NFL could make shoe-tying compelling drama.

Dave from Madison, WI

This Lombardi quote in the Zeke Bratkowski article by Cliff Christl struck a chord: “Blitzing is a sign of weakness.” Your thoughts?

Blitzing was regarded as cheating.

Don from Brunswick, GA

I’ve read that in baseball if a player has the ability to hit, a roster spot is nearly guaranteed. Is there any single skill possessed by a football player that might insure a roster spot?

It’s difficult to cut speed. Speed will usually get a player another look.

Jerry from Wilmington, NC

Who’s your Mt. Rushmore of football coaching innovation and creativity?

Paul Brown, Sid Gillman, Bill Walsh and Clark Shaughnessy.

Bill from Frederick, MD

What happens in a locker room at halftime?

NFL halftimes are short. The head coach will quickly meet with his coordinators. He might say to his defensive coordinator, “We need to stop the run,” and then he might turn to his offensive coordinator and say, “We need to run the ball.” The defensive coordinator might suggest getting a safety down into the box more often on the early downs, and the offensive coordinator might suggest widening the line splits. I’m just offering examples my simple mind can comprehend. The head coach might then sign off on the adjustments and the coordinators will make the changes known to their players. It has to happen quickly. Before the team heads back onto the field, the head coach will say something to focus his team on the task at hand.

Charlie from Tokyo, Japan

Vic, why would a Revis-like, mirror-coverage corner be unsuccessful pre-1978? If the receiver can’t create space, he is not going to see many passes.

As I explained, corners got smaller and quicker following the 1978 chuck-rule change. It made football a passing game. In the pre-’78 era, they would’ve run at those small corners. They would’ve made them tackle, and since most defenses were still two-gapping at that time, they would’ve had guards pulling out on sweeps and running downhill on those small corners. One rule change changed everything. The 5-yard chuck rule might be the most critical rule change since the creation of the forward pass. Prior to the chuck rule, corners were big, physical guys – Fred “The Hammer” Williamson and Mel Blount. After the rule change, corners became smallish, turn-and-run guys.

Noel from Sacramento, CA

Vic, you make it clear you enjoy less and less about the league, and especially its fans, as you get older. Why not retire and let someone who cares more replace you? I think the majority of the people you are supposed to be working for would be happier. Thanks.

Thank you.

Eric from Anchorage, AK

Was it the players or the play called in Super Bowl X that made it the worst play call you’ve seen?

It was a tongue in cheek response. The worst play call I’ve ever seen worked perfectly and helped win the Super Bowl. It was fourth-and-4 from the Cowboys 40. Chuck Noll’s punter had already had one kick blocked and Terry Bradshaw had been knocked out of the game. Coach Noll decided to run the ball into the middle of the line for a 1-yard gain; it only took a few seconds off the clock. The Cowboys got the ball back outside the two-minute warning trailing by four points. Coach Noll’s intent was to put the game into the hands of his defense. A few plays later, Roger Staubach was intercepted and the game was over. What if Coach Noll had made that play call today? The analysts would go berserk. How could he not run a play-action bootleg out of a five-wide set and with the option to throw short for the first down, run for the first down, throw for the end zone or dump it out of bounds? Hey, it worked. That’s why I say the worst play call I ever saw was great.

Jeff from Ashland, WI

Watched the movie “Code Breakers” the other night. Have to confess, I didn’t read the cover and assumed it was a spy movie about computer code. Turned out it was about the 1950 Army football team and players that broke the honor code and got expelled. One of the lesser characters was an assistant coach, Vince Lombardi. He was a tough coach even back then.

The West Point job is the one Lombardi wanted. Remember, back then football was the college game. Had his name been Lombard, I suspect he would’ve been Red Blaik’s replacement in 1959, but Lombardi saw the handwriting on the wall and left in ’54 for a job with the Giants. It’s possible one letter at the end of a name changed the course of history for football’s greatest coach and a storied franchise in need of being saved.

Aaron from Seattle, WA

After hearing your description of pre and post-’78 cornerbacks, it got me thinking. Would Charles Woodson’s skillset translate to the old days?

Yeah, he’s big enough and tough enough to have been a star in the pre-’78 game, and he was certainly nimble enough and athletic enough to be a star in today’s game.

Mike from Merton, WI

“Burnt!” I am cracking up at all these people who actually believe this is a real book! Really, people?

This is nearly as good as the invisible paint.

Jerry from Wausau, WI

What’s the difference between bump-and-run coverage as compared to press coverage?

Press refers to a cornerback lined up tight against a receiver, with the likely intent to jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage. The jam has to end, however, within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Bump-and-run was all the way down the field, until the ball was in the air. The big corners could knock a receiver off his route with a shove.

Patrick from Theresa, WI

James Earl Jones delivered the iconic speech in “Field of Dreams” and I achieved perspective on baseball. How would football’s version go?

“The one constant through all the years since the merger has been football. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again, and football has led the way. This field, this game, is a part of our past, present and future. We bow to it. We pray to it. We travel for hours to take a tour and see it. It reminds us of the thing that’s most important in our lives, football, and its play-calling controversies that follow. Oh, people will come, Ray. They’ll line up for the tour, and Grant will do his Lombardi routine, and he’ll push the button in the tunnel and the music will play for the two millionth time, and their hearts will beat faster as they walk toward the sign that tells them to stay off the grass, and they will bend and touch the grass and ask, ‘Is this heaven?’”

Mike from Zakrzewski, FL

Are all visiting team locker rooms all the same? Is there a league standard minimum?

Oakland is the new Cleveland.

Dan from Appleton, WI

So you are very set on not comparing players of one era to players of another. Most often you reference players on the perimeter, and quarterbacks. Can you compare the big men of the past, with the big men of the present?

You’ve asked a good question. How would Joe Greene have been different in today’s game? Imagine him as a three-technique tackle instead of a two-gapper. “Time Magazine” did a frame-by-frame photo shoot on Joe and couldn’t stop the action to catch him between his stance and the other side of the line of scrimmage. Do you think he might’ve posed a penetrate-and-disrupt problem for opponents? How about J.J. Watt as a two-gapper? Doesn’t seem right, does it? On the offensive line, imagine Forrest Gregg being allowed to use his hands to block, and imagine today’s left tackles not being allowed to use their hands to block. I repeat: Eras do not allow for comparison.

Larry from Madison, FL

Which former player you covered could have been an excellent politician?

I would’ve never predicted Lynn Swann would run for governor. Charles Woodson would be my pick. The visit to the White House in 2011 is one of my treasured memories, and Woodson was the star of that day. He really impressed me with his calm and presence. He has the smile, the charm and the force of personality to get votes.


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