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If you can play, the football will find you

Posted May 19, 2017

Winning, consistency fuel the NFL's top rivalries


Paul from Farnborough, UK

As I thought, my comments about rotating teams around the divisions did create a couple of “you don't understand rivalry” comments. We can still play the Bears, Vikes, and Detroit, just not always home and away in the division. Imagine if we were in with Dallas, the N.Y. Giants and the Bears for example and played the Vikes and Lions as just single regular-season games, then mix it up again the following season. There are 28 other teams out there. Also, I started following the Packers in 1983 when British TV first started broadcasting live NFL games, so I do know about the “getting whooped years” and I don't need “a pass” for not understanding the Pack/Bears rivalry. That said, I withdraw my idea as I do value the opinions of other Pack fans. We've both won the argument and there's no need for overtime.

My apologies if you felt it came off as you don’t understand rivalry. My comments were directed more toward people my age who take winning for granted, particularly against an archrival like the Bears. I’ve actually enjoyed the direction the discussion went regarding the definition of a rivalry. I didn’t mean to make you feel like the butt of the joke. It’s just a good debate.

Robert from Bear, DE

I was raised on Packer football in the early ’50s, when the Packers’ archrival was the Bears with Halas roaming Wrigley Rield. Until Favre/Rodgers, the Bears always had a large historical W-L advantage in the rivalry. Newer Packer fans haven't appreciated the Pack's dominance over da Bears (don't take it for granted, it hurts too much to lose to the Bears). We forgive Mike the kid being infected in Platteville, but how was Wes raised within the shadows north of Lambeau?

If you’re born and raised in Green Bay, you learn about that rivalry at an early age. My favorite stories were from my grandfather who used to talk to me about the classics in the ’30s and ’40s, the rough patches in the ’50s, ’70s and ’80s, and told me to enjoy the ’90s because runs like that don’t last forever.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

While recent history has produced a lot of drama between Seattle and Green Bay, I find it hard to call it a rivalry because there is no geographical proximity, with very few fans living among each other. How do you define a rivalry? Is geography an important factor?

The division always presents the best rivalries since you play twice (and sometimes three times) each season. However, I believe that second tier is based on in-conference competition. I argued the Seahawks because of how often the teams have played and the winning consistency both franchises have demonstrated. That same formula produced the Packers-Cowboys rivalry in the mid-’90s.

Adam from Overseal, Derbyshire

I have been enjoying reading your articles on the background to the journeys of the latest rookies, but which of our current (or recent) veterans have similar stories that you can recall?

Thanks for checking them out, Adam. Very rarely will you find two stories that are exactly alike, but one thing Mike and I try to do is give you a glimpse into who these guys are off-the-field. Everyone sees the number and nameplate on the jersey, but how did they get there? In my time on the beat, my favorite story is probably Datone Jones and what he overcame growing up in Compton, Calif., to keep his NFL dream alive. Perseverance is so powerful in the human condition.

Jack from Saugus, CA

Both offense and defense have made large increases in talent this offseason (with the acquisition of Bennett and Kendricks, and House and King). Which side of the ball will make the biggest difference this year? Also, which veteran will stand out the most?

While all five of those free agents could have a significant impact, Martellus Bennett was one of the NFL’s top free-agent signings. He’s durable, productive and in the prime of his career. As I’ve said before, the Packers have the chance to do something special with those three tight ends next season. I think everyone is excited to see the picture come into focus.

Billy from Frederick, MD

In regards to Gregory from WI’s question, a HOF player has never come back years down the road, but it has happened with coaches (Joe Gibbs). Is it frowned upon by the league or other coaches to do that, or is that something that has happened more frequently than we know?

I wouldn’t say it’s frowned upon, but it’s rare. To the best of my knowledge, Gibbs is the only coach who’s returned after already being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Capt. Fritter from Kihei, HI

In regards to teams tanking to get a higher draft pick, in the NBA 30 teams are drafting for five positions, whereas in the NFL, 32 teams are drafting for 22 positions. It's far easier in the NFL to find top talent later in the first round as opposed to the NBA where the talent drops off sharply after the first few picks.

Agreed. While it’s not impossible to find a potential star in the 10s (i.e. Giannis), 20s or second round, the probability continues to drop after each pick. The beauty of the NFL is you never know when a future All-Pro like David Bakhtiari will fall to you in the fourth round. That hunt drives general managers to keep digging and gives rebounding NFL teams a legitimate chance to quickly reverse their fortunes with a couple solid drafts.

Matt from Hartford, WI

On NFL.com's website, every team is defined by a single-back offense and nickel defense. Will we see the return of smash-mouth football, or are we steadily moving towards a game we've never seen before?

Everything is cyclical in the NFL. What’s new becomes old becomes new again. That makes us due for another run of Wildcat formations, right? Ultimately, it comes down to throwing the ball and running the ball. That’ll never change and neither will the smash-mouth aspect of the game.

DJ from Queens, NY

What doesn't seem to get much attention among my friends in last year’s turnaround is the emergence of Ty Montgomery as a dual threat. The current bone of contention among us is that the jury is still out on Monty. I think Monty was absolutely integral to last season's success, and his unique skill set allowed McCarthy to do some things offensively that helped the team overall. Can you convince my friends who might be skeptical about Monty?

Re-watch the Bears game from December. The reason I point to the second Chicago game isn’t because he had 162 rushing yards, though. It’s because the Bears knew what was coming and it still didn’t matter. Unlike the first meeting, they knew he was going to be in the backfield on Dec. 18, and there was nothing they could do to stop him. That wasn’t by accident.  

Bill from Menominee, MI

What does Joe Kerridge's future look like in GB? It seems like two fullbacks on a roster doesn't typically happen until it’s required in order to address midseason injuries.

The fullback position isn’t going anywhere. At least, not in Green Bay. Mike McCarthy loves what they bring to an offense and the flexibility that position provides on special teams. Kerridge was known as a solid special-teams contributor during his time at Michigan and the Packers valued what he brought to the unit last season.

Jeff from Miami, FL

My one and only Packers game was in Miami in 2014. Joe Philbin was their coach, last-second win, wore a Tony Canadeo jersey and the temperature/humidity felt like 150 degrees. The fan interactions were all very cordial. I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything. I'm just saying...

That was one heck of a football game. Miami has a rather small press box, so Ted Thompson and his personnel executives were only feet behind the writers. Their reaction when Andrew Quarless caught the game-winner is something I’ll never forget. And yes, that heat was unreal.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

Are there any players in your memory that should have had a legit career but never got a chance? Not injury issues, just the coaches and league didn't see the talent.

I used to say that about Alex Smith prior to Jim Harbaugh’s arrival in San Francisco. I don’t think many fall through the cracks anymore. There are so many personnel departments scouting every level of football. If you can play, the football will find you one way or another. It did with Mike Daniels, David Bakhtiari and several other overlooked prospects the Packers unearthed.  

Lawrence from Milwaukee, WI

You seem like you might know a thing or two about magic. Do you think breaking the Madden curse will be Tom Brady's primary motivation this season? If he does indeed break it, will it solidify his place as football's greatest wizard? If the Madden curse is broken, is it broken once and for all or will it return with a vengeance?

Calvin Johnson broke the curse in 2012 (122 catches for 1,964 yards) in 16 starts. That’s it. It’s over. You can’t pick and choose. Either it’s affecting everyone or it isn’t. Megatron put that to bed in my estimation.

Marc from Aachen, Germany

I believe what Nate from Torrington, CT, meant when asking about Favre returning to play ball has been about the fact that he already got his golden jacket. So I'd re-ask like this: Is a Hall of Famer eligible to return?

Sorry I misunderstood what was being asked, but the answer remains the same. You’re not banished from the league if you’re in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s just all Hall of Famers are well past the point of returning after being retired for five full seasons.

Chris from New Canaan, CT

I read that the NFL owners are expected to approve reduction in overtime from 15 to 10 minutes. Why not just eliminate overtime altogether? The game ends in a tie; leave it that way.

The soccer fan in me likes this idea (I know, I know), but I don’t think it would fly with the country’s favorite sport. Americans like finality.

Dylan from Stevens Point, WI

You said that the Packers will be opening up their fourth stadium in 15 years. Just wondering how many new stadiums were opened up total in that period.

Thirteen.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

How would AR's career have been different if he had been drafted No. 1 by San Francisco?

I couldn’t even fathom a guess. I’ll leave that to you in the comments below, but I’m a firm believer in destiny. One way or another, it seems Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy were destined to work with each other, whether it was in San Francisco or Green Bay.

Braden from Brookfield, WI

I heard about a new draft set-up that was proposed for the NBA. Rather than the lottery and ping pong balls, it's called the wheel. Have you heard of it? Essentially all teams are assigned a place on the wheel, and it basically sets up the draft for 30 years. GMs would know what their pick is each year for 30 years and you would have a first-round pick 1-30 throughout that 30 years. I love this idea. I wish the NFL would do it. I feel like teams like the Steelers, Patriots and Packers are punished for their success.

It sounds like a game show. While this might work out for a team like the Packers, I don’t like staking the NFL’s future to chance. If you do adapt a new system, you’re locked into it for 30 years. It’s not like you could go 10 years and decide this isn’t working. Good luck to the NBA if that’s the direction it goes.

Tobi from Regensburg, Bavaria

I have a question regarding the practice squad. If I understand this correctly, every club in the league could possibly sign a player from the Packers' practice squad (e.g., Joe Callahan). Would that also be the case with this year's draft picks if they started the season on the practice squad? What would happen to their rookie deals and how would they in the future count against the compensatory pick formula? Love your work, you are one, ahhh, sorry, three of a kind.

Any draft pick who ends up on the practice squad is first subject to waivers. If none of the other 31 NFL teams submits a claim, the player’s contract is terminated and he becomes a free agent. Assuming that player is healthy, it’s at that time the player is allowed to sign to the practice squad. Players who have been released do not count toward the compensatory equation.

Cory from Oregon, WI

The reason the Broncos can do what they’re doing is because they have a 17-year waiting list. Not as long as the Packers’, but they are not out anything because there are thousands of people waiting in line to get season tickets. The Jaguars for instance would never try what they're trying.

No problem. Supply and demand. I get it. Like Spoff has kind of alluded to, I would just give them a heads-up about the policy change prior to the season and then do the analysis afterward.

Jacob from Green Bay, WI

Being on the waiting list for season tickets since I was born, how is it fair that someone can consistently sell theirs for a profit? I looked into what the Broncos did, and they only revoked people's tickets if they sold every single ticket for the year. If you read the fine print they can revoke your tickets on a yearly basis at the team’s discretion.

Totally valid reasoning. Again, I’d give them prior warning to change their habits. If they don’t, then revoke the tickets.

Tyler from Mobile, AL

The Packers would've won the Super Bowl had it not been for the cancellation of the HOF game at the beginning of the preseason. That extra game would've provided more preparation, which would've yielded better results at the beginning of the season, which would've led to the Packers playing the Falcons at home for the NFC Championship, which would've led to the Packers being up 28-3 in the Super Bowl, which would've led to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense not blowing a 25-point lead. Say what you want, but this Patriots Super Bowl victory is all because of “Paint Gate.” The end.

Wow. That’s a new one. I appreciate you taking the time to put it all together. You sound like my cousin Tyler with all of his UFO conspiracy theories. Keep looking. The truth is out there.

Joe from Bloomington, IN

How come you two are suddenly advertising each other's articles? I thought you were archrivals.

Spoff has been known to write a decent article every now and again. You give credit where credit is due.

Steve from Toronto, ON

Mike's answer about the different floors had me wondering, how many people work at Lambeau Field: During a home game Sunday? During an away game Sunday? On a random Tuesday in late February? Middle of the week in May? Training camp?

Hundreds. A few dozen. Dozen. Half-dozen. Hundreds.

Todd from Carson City, NV

If an Insider Inbox question falls on deaf ears, does it make a sound?

Like a dripping faucet. Loud enough to annoy you from a nearby room even if you can’t hear it at the party downstairs.


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