Insider Inbox


It's still a crystal-ball business

Posted Feb 15, 2018

It comes down to the wire way more often than not

George from Hutchinson, MN

Welcome back from your Emerald City vacation, Mike. Did you ask the great and powerful Wizard of Oz to bestow upon you the gift of heart, brains or courage? Or did you just settle for those magical ruby red slippers you love so much? Just keep repeating, there's no place like Insiderland.

And, once again, we’re off. So we might as well get going.

Sean from Helena, MT

Do fans really think that players don't improve in the offseason? Remaining status quo as Corey Linsley gets stronger, smarter, and deeper into the system...that's not status quo, that is getting better.

I’m glad I got back in time to weigh in on this little discussion. You make the second-contract investment in a player because you project improvement. You expect development to continue. If not, someone else likely has a different projection and is willing to pay the player more. That’s how it works. Sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re wrong. It’s still a crystal-ball business, just like it was when you drafted the player in the first place.

Andrew from Simi Valley, CA

Shouldn’t the Vikings and Lions have a tougher schedule since they are playing the two other first- and second-place teams and the Packers are playing the third-place teams?

The difference between any division rivals’ schedules is just those two games. In 2018, the Vikings play the Saints and Eagles, the Lions get the Panthers and Cowboys, the Packers face the Falcons and Redskins, and the Bears see the Buccaneers and Giants. Everything else, as far as the NFC North is concerned, is the same, with the division matching up against the NFC West and AFC East in their entirety. The Packers’ schedule becomes, statistically speaking, tougher than the Vikings’ because Green Bay plays a 13-3 Minnesota team twice while Minnesota plays a 7-9 Green Bay team twice. Get it?

Joe from Manchester, England

How do you think Matt Patricia will do as head coach for the Lions in 2018 and do you think the NFC North has a case for being the strongest division?

Right now the NFC South, with three double-digit win teams, is the league’s top division until someone says otherwise, but things can change quickly in this league. I expect Patricia to re-define Detroit’s defensive identity, which not long ago was based on the Lions’ defensive front of Suh, Fairley and Co. That’s no longer the case, but a defense with something to hang its hat on, and an offense with Stafford at quarterback, can and will contend.

Wilson from Bowling Green, KY

Next season, nothing looks like an easy game. If we don’t land big hits in the draft and maybe free agency, we could easily miss the playoffs next season as well.

The Packers could have easily missed the playoffs several times during the eight-year run, too. It’s never easy. From 2009-16, only twice did the Packers clinch a playoff spot less than 15 games into the 16-game regular season. It comes down to the wire way more often than not.

Dale from Owatonna, MN

Micah Hyde made the Pro Bowl. Doesn't that warrant more than a fifth-round compensatory pick?

Right or wrong, size of contract weighs far more heavily in the formula than performance.

Scott from Hamlin, NY

Dearth, good word. We use it all the time in beekeeping but hardly see it anywhere else.

May your next nectar dearth be your last. I love it when the Inbox makes me look things up and learn.

Mark from St. Pete Beach, FL

I read the Q&A about the read-option with interest. Having played option QB and DE/OLB I have my own opinion about that situation. But, I have to ask, how long do you think the read option would last in the NFL if DCs started having their outside rushers smash "The Man" every time he took a step to carry out that fake regardless of what the RB did? (I suspect the read-option would die a swift death.)

That’s why the NFL’s “version” of the read-option, based on my observations, is more a change-up than a staple, and the QB doesn’t carry out the fakes in as exaggerated a fashion as the college QBs do. He knows exactly what he’s doing with the ball, and he’s doing it quickly.

Dan from Twin Lakes, WI

Speaking of Packers players whose careers were cut short due to injury, let us not forget Robert Brooks from the Holmgren era and/or my boyhood hero, Travis "The Roadrunner" Williams who played for Lombardi (and also wore No. 23, which ties into the Hester question and answer).

I don’t know much about Williams, but regarding Brooks, I’ve always looked at him as possessing the perfect makeup for a Favre go-to guy after Sharpe was forced to retire. Brooks was quiet and reliable with game-breaking athletic talent, an ideal piece to the puzzle as Favre came into his own. His 1,497 receiving yards in Favre’s first MVP year was a franchise single-season record that stood for almost 20 years. Think about that.

Kevin from Rockton, IL

Presuming the availability of both Insiders, do both of you see all posts generally, or just the posts designated to you on your particular day? I have a favorite Insider, so I need to know.

It depends.

Tom from Oxford, MI

I believe the NFL would never award a Super Bowl to Green Bay. However, what do you feel the chances are that they may be able to host the NFL Draft?

I could see it, but it will still be a while. The Packers suspended their application to host the draft until the old Brown County Arena across Oneida Street is replaced, which should happen early next decade.

Alex from Charlotte, NC

What position on offense and defense is your biggest target to fix during the draft and free agency, and who are you looking at to help fix the position?

I’ll get a better sense of both markets when we get back from the combine early next month, but the positions at the top of my list for both immediate and long-term reinforcements are pass rusher and corner on defense, and tight end and receiver on offense.

Jim from Ithaca, NY

Three running backs were taken in last year’s draft with what I would say has shown a great result. Players who contributed and then some. If the Packers were to spend three picks on one position in this draft, which position would it be?

Pass rusher.

John from New Haven, CT

Hey Spoff, I need to write a 250-word essay about whatever I want to get in to Yale Law School. What would you write yours about?

I’d have no chance. My grandfather was suspended from Yale during prohibition. You can guess why.

Cindy from Crown Point, IN

Will the Packers be able to pay Rodgers what he will undoubtedly command for his new contract in light of recent developments? How will this affect the salary cap?

They’ll be able to pay him, and the impact on the cap will depend on the structure of the deal. That’s Russ Ball’s job to figure out, and I have no doubt he will.

Dan from St. Louis, MO

With all those compensatory picks and drafting 14th, I'm pumped for this draft. Last time the Packers had this kind of draft real estate, they got three Pro Bowlers who were crucial to a Super Bowl win and numerous playoff runs. Is that the bar for Gutekunst?

You’re referring to 2009, but the Raji-Matthews double will be tough to match without trading back into the first round as Thompson did back then. Lang wasn’t a starter on the XLV team but obviously emerged soon enough. I look for another draft like 2014 – when additions like Clinton-Dix, Adams, R. Rodgers and Linsley all established themselves, came on strong late, and had the Packers right where they needed to be. That was also the year free agency yielded Peppers and Guion. Both modes of player acquisition proved fruitful that year, and that’s what the Packers need again.

Travis from Fort Walton Beach, FL

Insiders, I've been reading all the Q&As regarding who the Packers will draft, and honestly I'm a little confused. The draft isn't meant to fill roster gaps in 2018...more so for the expected gap in 2019 or 2020, right? Why do we keep assuming the 2018 draft class are going to be starters during the 2018 season?

You look for your top picks to play right away if they play a position of immediate need, and you look for others in the draft class to be capable of stepping in if called upon. Again, I reference 2014.

Benjamin from Bear, DE

Here's my question for you, sir. If there's one question waiting for you in your "Inbox" that you're dying to answer, hoping a reader will ask, what would that question be?

Not this one.

Reagan from Hartford, WI

I am curious. We hear about all of the head coaches and GMs that were produced from the Ron Wolf era. Where did Ron Wolf get his start? Who were his predecessors? Clearly he received a good NFL education before his time in Green Bay.

One of my favorite things about Wolf is he’s always quick to remind any interviewer that he was the GM of the 1976 expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who went 0-14. He’s not only self-deprecating about it, but he wants it known it was part of his on-the-job educational foundation. That winless team was playing for the NFC title three years later, too.

Jeff from Poynette, WI

Regarding the NFL’s reduced viewership, I rarely watch the Packers live. I record most games and watch later (of course, I have to stay isolated from society until I watch). My question: Am I counted as a viewer if I do not watch the game live?


Gary from Davenport, IA

A big deal was made when Shaun White won America's 100th Winter Olympics gold medal. That means Madison's Eric Heiden has won 5 percent of all the gold medals in American Winter Olympic history. And he did it in a two-week period. Do you think that was one of sports' greatest achievements?

Undoubtedly. I was 7 years old when Heiden won the five golds in Lake Placid, and I definitely didn’t appreciate at the time what he accomplished. He was like a track star who won the 100, 200, quarter-mile, half-mile and mile races all in the same competition, setting an Olympic or world record in each race. It was unreal.

Sawyer from Colby, WI

Now that OC Joe Philbin is back in Green Bay, do you think McCarthy lets him take over play-calling duties?


Charlie from Ali Al Salem, Kuwait

My brother-in-law told me about his experience with some friends at a Brewers game a few seasons back. It was during a time when Ryan Braun was subjected to heckling. Braun was impervious. He shrugged them all off like a real pro. When it got really quiet one of the friends yelled, “Hey Ryan, I ate at your restaurant and they undercooked the tilapia!” That was the one that got him to turn around. Spoff, do you know any good heckling stories fit for print?

I’m not big into heckling, but I enjoy good-natured humor. Once I was sitting in the right-field bleachers at Wrigley, where everyone was trying to get Sammy Sosa to acknowledge them. With the game out of hand late, the Cubs third baseman fielded a grounder and threw it wildly over the first baseman’s head into the stands. Sosa was practically laughing at his teammate, so I hollered down, “Hey Sammy, you gotta back up that throw!” He turned and gave me the two-fingered, double chest tap. Timing is everything.

Brandon from Orlando, FL

When you two post questions that reference a question from the previous day, does the website get credit for all the clicks we make to go back and read the previous day's question? If so, brilliance on your end.

All in a day’s work.

Keith from Lincoln, IL

I’m 30 years behind her, but I want a “Mugs” in my assisted-living home when I get there! Thanks for highlighting her story!

My favorite part of Wes’s fun piece was that “Mugs” ran the football betting pool.

Blaine from Bagley, WI

I have now watched “The Shawshank Redemption” because of you guys and I have to say I loved it. Any other classics you suggest watching during the offseason?

Shawshank is for any season. Not that I needed to be reassured, but when I saw the reference while I was away, I knew the column was in good hands.

Rocco from Green Bay, WI

Spoff, aside from the occasional "Napoleon Dynamite" reference, your associate, Wes "Don't-Get-Me-Started" Hodkiewicz held down the fort pretty well. As for a question, somebody mentioned Chris Odom yesterday, and I remember reading several articles from different sources saying his arrow coming out of college is pointing straight up. What was your take on him at the end of the season, and headed into 2018?

I feel as though I know very little about his on-field abilities, frankly, but he’ll get a chance to show what prompted the personnel department to make the waiver claim when he gets a full offseason program and training camp in Green Bay. Let’s see what Pettine has in store for him. Redshirt years are rare in the NFL, but Odom essentially got one. It’s up to him to prove why, because second ones are even more rare.

Chad from Tarpon Springs, FL

Do you ever find yourself dreaming about the Insider Inbox?

Don’t get Wes started.


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