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Processing the playbook is only part of it

Posted May 14, 2018

If the spark is big enough ...


Wick from Zeist, The Netherlands

Hello Insiders! Humble brag: Between the ages of 11 and 16, I was a ball boy for the Amsterdam Admirals. This allowed me to be one of the very few people in the world who "caught passes" (during warm-ups) from Kurt Warner and Jake Delhomme and "received kicks" from Adam Vinatieri. This had me wondering: Working near him almost daily, have you ever gotten the chance to catch a pass from No. 12?

Standing on the sideline at practice, I got hit in the leg once by an errant throw when I wasn’t looking. That might have been my chance.

Lisa from New Hampton, IA

Does it drive you nuts when people write in to you guys using only predicates, and no subject? Drives me nuts. Was wondering what you thought about it? Hope this puts an end to it. Watching for your response.

Is what it is.         

Eric from Stevens Point, WI

Gents, with having a new OC and DC, how hard will it be for our second-year guys to make that big second-year jump?

It shouldn’t alter the trajectory. In my opinion, the second-year jump is more about learning to be a pro, building and caring for the body for the grind, knowing the expectations, etc., than it is about understanding the scheme. Processing the playbook is part of it, but only part of it.

Bob from Riverside, CA

Mike, I believe with the bringing in of a new DC the Packers are allowed an additional minicamp to install a new playbook. Has that happened and I missed the announcement or is one planned? Additionally, are the Packers entitled to one for the offense since our offensive head coach didn’t change?

The extra minicamp is permitted when a team changes head coaches.

Mike from Hayward, WI

In regards to Matt’s question about players finding former success with former teams, how about James Jones for the Packers, or maybe even Matt Flynn? Those guys seemed to only be solid players in a green-and-gold uniform.

Flynn was the first one to come to mind for me. Other readers mentioned him as well as JJ, but Jones had 73 catches for 666 yards and six TDs in his one season in Oakland. The receptions were his career high.

Scott from Racine, WI

Mike, please pull Wes aside and pass on some wisdom. When your wife says she wants a gas card for her first Mother’s Day, you don’t actually get her a gas card. I just hope Wes survived the weekend so you can pass along this tidbit.

We’ll soon find out.

David from Valdez, AK

When looking at Super Bowl teams from past years, the teams who have gone to the Super Bowl have a common thing. They have amazing DBs as the defense’s identification. On the other side of the ball the common thing is amazing tight ends. They run their offense through the tight end position. My question is do you think that this is an accurate statement?

No. Denver won it all with the pass rush. Julio Jones didn’t get Atlanta to the brink playing tight end. Seattle’s defense at its peak was not just the Legion of Boom. The strength of San Francisco’s stout defense earlier this decade was front seven. The Eagles’ passing-game distribution was very balanced. I could go on and on.

Kenton from Rochester, MN

Insiders, lately I've gotten into the habit of tuning into your "Packers Unscripted" podcasts, which I have really enjoyed. However I have one quibble: The content is so well-organized and the delivery so smooth, that I don't believe for one minute that it truly is "Unscripted." What really is the preparation process for these podcasts?

Spoff: “Hey Wes, we have to plan out the show. How about we start with the two rookie corners?”

Wes: “Cool, then in the second segment we could hit on the Byrd story I wrote this week.”

Spoff: “Yeah. I had the piece on Yancey and he’s another guy we haven’t discussed much.”

Wes: “What about the fourth segment?”

Spoff: “We’ll figure it out when we get there. OK, Marv, turn the camera on. Let’s go.”

Jake from Greenville, NC

Do you know if Pettine prefers to designate a left and right corner or to have his guys travel with their marks?

It depends on the personnel available to him, and on the game plan that comes together in a given week, as it does with almost all defensive coordinators. The reason we don’t know these types of answers with Pettine is he adjusts how he plays to his players, and he doesn’t really know his players yet.

Randall from Zarczyce Duze, Poland

Mike, you recently wrote you were wavering in your opposition to bringing the DH rule to the National League. Does Max Scherzer's hitting nudge you back to the purist's position?

Not really, but watching an NL manager empty his bench with double-switches does sometimes.

Steve from Wichita, KS

Just throwing this out there to see if it sticks...we have an extra first-round pick. What would be the chances of going after either Denver’s Shane Ray or Jacksonville’s Dante Fowler to bolster our pass defense?

For next year’s extra first-rounder? No thanks.

Chadro from Janesville, WI

So Insiders, I heard that Jaire Alexander wore his Packers jersey to his graduation, and I thought, "That is what's up." Then I saw that Aaron Jones wore his Packers jersey to his graduation as well. Sounds to me like these guys are extremely happy to be in Green Bay, and I couldn't be too much happier to have them here. My question is, have you seen this before? Players wearing their team gear to graduation? Thanks for keeping it real.

I can’t say I’ve noticed it as a common trend, but the prevalence of social media could make it one. I thought the photos from over the weekend were pretty cool.

Tim from Van Nuys, CA

In regards to 10-win teams missing the playoffs, those players and head coaches of said teams will be the first to tell you they should have done the job better to get to 11 or 12 wins. They wouldn't feel sorry for themselves; this is a league of no excuses.

Amen.

Mark from Austin, TX

Totally agree with you on not expanding playoffs, and even keeping divisions and wild cards. However, what do you think about crossing conferences to rank the teams going into the playoffs, bracket style a la college basketball? The Patriots get a free ride to the top AFC seed every year while the NFC teams duke it out every year. I would love to see the Pats have to beat any combo of the Packers, Vikings, Eagles, Saints, Rams, Falcons, and Panthers to earn a Super Bowl bid. A free bye game, Jacksonville, and one decent team in Pittsburgh but at Foxboro every year. They are a great team no doubt, but their division stinks, as well as most of the AFC. It’s like watching the Cavaliers in the East, which is why the NBA is toying with this idea.

If the NFL were to ponder this, it would have to change the scheduling formula, because it wouldn’t make sense to seed for the playoffs across the entire league when NFC teams have played only four of their 16 regular-season games against AFC teams, and vice versa. I have no problem with the current system, but I don’t dismiss your idea out of hand. Can a scheduling formula be created that allows for more cross-conference games but still keeps the schedules for division opponents rather similar, so division championships are decided fairly? That’s the question I’d need the computers to answer.

Zach from Virginia Beach, VA

Check out the cajones on Wes. Assigning readers homework?

I’m not touching that. He who makes the assignments, grades the assignments.

Jeff from Brooklyn, WI

Just watched SB 45 on the NFL channel. Whatever became of Swain? That guy was all over the field in that game and I really don't remember him.

After the Super Bowl, Brett Swain played one more year in the league, with San Francisco, then tried to latch on with Seattle but didn’t make the team. He also took a run at the CFL. Solid special-teams player who wasn’t blessed with the measurables to match his desire, which allowed him to step in fearlessly during XLV.

Jim from Appleton, WI

Insiders, help me understand something. I've read articles implying the Packers are so bereft of any talent after a 7-9 campaign that they had to fire Capers and Thompson, and blow up the roster. Isn't this the team that was a game away from the Super Bowl last year? How does a team that bad get within 60 minutes of a trip to the biggest game of the year?

If the articles you’re reading don’t make sense to you, I’d suggest reading different ones. Just because somebody writes it doesn’t mean it’s true.

Arthur from Chippewa Falls, WI

Last year Ben was talking retirement. This year the Steelers draft a quarterback. Ben now says that he doesn't see how the rookie can help now, besides Ben now says he is playing three to five more years. This kind of reminds me of Favre and Rodgers. Do you get the same type of vibe?

Sort of, except I don’t recall Favre ever committing to the three to five more years.

Aaron from Wheeling, IL

Adrian Peterson WAS a great player, no question. Why don't fans, and some coaching staffs for that matter, understand that it's not what you were, but what you are and could be that matters most in the NFL.

Fans love fantasy football. Reality football includes Father Time.

Doug from Pike Road, AL

To add on to the roster question, is the money (pay) the same if you're on the 53, whether you make the 46 that week, or not? Active or inactive, once you're on the 53, is the pay the same?

Depends on the player’s contract. Some have per-game roster bonuses for being on the 46 each week.

Olle from Kallunga, Sweden

Hi guys, can you explain the difference between a play-action and an RPO play. Is there any? Thanks.

Play-action involves a planned fake handoff as the QB drops back to pass. A run-pass option involves the QB, either at the line of scrimmage pre-snap or post-snap while in the process of possibly handing the ball off, deciding whether the play will be a run or pass.

Steve from Janesville, WI

Do you think Justin McCray is more valuable as a starting guard or a super sub?

Perhaps this year is going to tell us.

Matt from Madison, WI

Geert from Old Windsor's question regarding Reggie Gilbert could have called to mind any number of similar players who never quite panned out, but all I can think of is James Harrison. Undrafted practice-squad player, cut by Pittsburgh three times and Baltimore once, four sacks in four years before ultimately becoming one of the most impactful defenders over the decade. Is the NFL a vast, uncaring void when it comes to which path one takes to get there?

Yes, and it can be just as vast and uncaring a void when it comes to the number of opportunities afforded some versus others. There are countless players who believe they’d have made it if given all the chances Harrison got, whether it’s actually true or not. A player never really knows when it’s his last chance, so it’s best to believe every chance is the last one.

Dave from Minneapolis, MN

Wilson from Bowling Green is absolutely right. Seriously, when was the last time a team with a bad record but promising young players made it to the AFC Championship Game the next year? You should feel ashamed for your flippant inclusion of a promising team in your casual conversation four months before games are played. LET’S KEEP IT PROFESSIONAL PLEASE.

This is good enough I shouldn’t have to mention the Eagles were 7-9 in 2016 and the Falcons were 8-8 in 2015, but I will anyway.

Chadwick from Reno, NV

Even though it looks as if Clay Matthews hit his prime early in his career, instead of in the middle somewhere, is it still possible from what you know or have seen as of late that he still has a top-10 defender year left in his career? I sure do miss the Claymaker. One of my favorite Packers of all-time.

I think he does, and I think the strength of the Packers’ defensive line combined with the freshness of a new playbook and coordinator might be what helps produce it. I hope I’m right.

Bill from Savannah, GA

Sticking the landing on a goal post would have to be like catching the snitch in Quidditch. Game over. You win.

If this Harry Potter stuff keeps up, my daughter is going to start reading the column.

Jesse from Akaska, SD

Shutout with 13 strikeouts in Denver is quite stout. Pretty tough for the Crew to send him back down if he keeps that up. Go Brewers!

The best part is Freddy Peralta’s family came to Colorado Springs from the Dominican Republic to watch him pitch professionally for the first time in Triple-A on Saturday night. Then he ends up getting pulled from that start so he can take the mound in the majors in Denver on Sunday, and they’re there to see it. Incredible.

Doug from Lafayette, OH

I agree with Mike’s assessment of halftime adjustments being somewhat overrated. I’d suggest a bigger proponent of halftime is the stoppage of play and its impact on momentum. Maintaining the mighty “mo” is such a key element of success in most sports. A break in action, even a short one, can turn the tables quickly. What is the biggest shift in momentum you’ve seen recently in an NFL game?

For me, it’ll always be 2013 in Dallas, down 26-3, and Eddie Lacy busts free for a 60-yard run on the first play of the second half. If the spark is big enough …

Eli from Beit Shemesh, Israel

Vikings vs Saints, Oct. 29, who should we be rooting for?

The standings will tell us. Happy Monday, everyone.


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