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Did Jermichael Finley experience epiphany in 2012?

Posted Feb 14, 2013

Packers facing difficult decision on tight end


Lewk from Davenport, IA

Vic, I know you’re not a fan of taking wide receivers early, but do you feel the same way about tight ends?

Pretty much.

Jonathan from Anchorage, AK

Vic, I keep hearing that there are no real standouts in this year’s draft. Is that how you would then rate the level of the draft?

A good draft offers depth. A great draft offers depth and star quality. A bad draft offers neither.

Jessie from Val Vista, CA

I hear you keep saying football is a young man’s game. I do think there are exceptions to that rule. I was wondering what do you consider to be young?

There are absolutely exceptions to that rule. Do you want to build your team on exceptions? Do you want to build your team on the philosophy of it’s an old man’s game? On the average, a player is considered to be in his prime between years 4-7 of his career. Depending on the position he plays, his prime can vary. I think a quarterback’s prime extends to 10 years. I think the same can be said of offensive linemen. Running backs, however, tend to have a much shorter shelf life. When a back hits year six of his career, you better start finding another one.

Grant from Denver, CO

So, if the Packers need a running game to get the big play, why did we have the big play in 2011, which was basically the same running game we had this year?

I think it took opposing defenses time to figure out how to stop the Packers. Remember, that offense didn’t explode until the 2010 playoffs. It wasn’t until late in the 2011 season, in Kansas City, that somebody figured out how to stop the Packers, although I think Tampa Bay opened some eyes toward the middle of the season. If you were one of the fortunate few that could get pressure with four, then drop seven and let the receivers come to you. If you had the corners to match up with the Packers’ wide receivers, then jam them and challenge them and use everybody else to alternatingly blitz or drop. The Giants did the former, the Chiefs did the latter. Everybody else decided they would just take away the big play by loading up the deep middle of the field, giving the run and forcing the Packers to drive long distances in many plays. It worked, mostly because the Packers couldn’t take the run and force teams to bring that extra guy in the deep middle up to the line of scrimmage to support against the run. Give football coaches some time and they’ll figure you out. What they can’t figure out is a way to scheme against balance. When you have balance, you force your opponent to play it straight.

Peter from Manitowoc, WI

Gil Brandt had a great article on nfl.com about what a long way the draft has come. Can you give us an old-time draft story?

I can give you a lot of them, but what I’m going to tell you in this answer is how different it was for reporters to cover the draft in the old days, which is to say before ESPN and Mel Kiper. It was a Monday event when I started covering it. We sat in a room and waited for the team’s PR man to come in and tell us who the team picked. There was an easel in the room and on the easel was the list of teams picking in their assigned slots in each round. Every 15 minutes or so, someone would come into the room and write some names in the appropriate slots. That’s how we knew who was picked by what team. I can remember the PR guy would come into the room and say, “Hey, Vic, one of your guys got picked,” and then he’d tell me which guy from my circulation area was picked by what team and I’d start working on that story, too. It was pretty much all word of mouth, and it wasn’t Mel’s mouth. We laughed when it was announced ESPN would do live coverage of the draft. How would they fill the time? We filled the time by telling stories and arranging pick and time pools. When I think back to how it was, compared to how it is now, I can’t help but respect the genius of ESPN and Mel Kiper. As far as I’m concerned, they invented the modern era of the draft.

Russell from Northbrook, IL

If it was up to you, would you spend most of the cap money on the defense?

If you want to lose most of your games and never be a playoff contender, that’s what you do. Russell, it’s about offense; it’s always been about offense. Most of the money has always been spent on the offensive side of the ball, and it still is.

Allan from Cary, NC

Vic, is this the worst draft class ever? No big names, no NFL-ready quarterback.

It doesn’t appear to be a good draft if you need a quarterback, and quarterbacks usually define the top of the draft. I do think this is a very good draft if you need big guys, and I think that’s exactly what the Packers need. The last four drafts and 10 of the last 12 drafts have produced quarterbacks as the first overall pick. That won’t happen this year, and that’s why this is a bad draft for teams at the top because teams at the top usually are there because they need a quarterback.

Scott from Onalaska, WI

With the serious knee injuries of Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith, do you see the Packers needing to add an inside linebacker in the draft? Were there any at the Senior Bowl that caught your eye as good fits for what the Packers do on defense?

I liked the thumper from Florida State, Vince Williams, but it’s generally thought that this is a weak crop of inside linebackers. Be that as it may, 3-4 teams must always draft linebackers. They are the stars of your defense and you don’t dare pick and choose at that position. You just pick ’em and let fate sort ’em out.

Alex from Duluth, MN

Vic, the Packers are going to have to make a tough call on whether or not to keep Jermichael Finley. What would you do with that situation? If you were to let him go, what would you do with the space that it would open up?

The cap space problem is easy: Spend it on the guys you have to re-up, and we know who they are. I agree the decision the Packers face on Finley is their most difficult. He’s a rare physical specimen who is entering the prime years of his career. It’s been said, and by his head coach, that Finley took his game to a higher level in the second half of last season. He became more dedicated, more committed. So what was that? Was that a guy having an epiphany, or was that a guy playing for the contract? You have to work with a guy day in and day out to know the answer to that question, and I don’t have that expertise. What I will tell you is this: My tendency would be to keep him, because I don’t want to play against him for the next several years. Having said that, I’ll also remind you that the cap is your friend. Be good to your cap and your cap will be good to you.

Will from Mt. Laurel, NJ

Trent Dilfer was hardly “The Man,” yet, the Ravens won a Super Bowl with him. Does just good enough exist?

You’re in ancient history. That was years before the major point of emphasis on the chuck rule, which changed the game, not to mention the current protections on quarterbacks and wide receivers, none of which existed in 2000. The Ravens won with Dilfer and the Bucs followed by winning with Brad Johnson. Neither one qualified as “The Man” and, frankly, I don’t think the NFL liked having a Super Bowl champion without a marquee quarterback being the face of the franchise. Those days are gone.

Travis from Eau Claire, WI

Can you be tough without being mean?

Tough has nothing to do with mean. Mike Webster is one of the toughest football players I’ve ever covered and I never saw him in any kind of post-play skirmish. Webster played with control, discipline and endurance. Those are the qualities that accompany toughness. Meanness is just an added bonus. I like meanness in a tough guy. It’s embarrassing in a soft guy.

Curtis from Wausau, WI

What’s the first thought that pops into your head when you hear the name Tom Landry?

I think of poise. I also think of something else. I think of how we mistake a person’s personality based on his appearance. For all the years I watched football and observed Landry as the stoic man under the hat, I thought of him as a cold dictator, and that was pretty much his image. When I became a sportswriter and was fortunate enough to interview Landry in conference calls, etc., I was stunned by how cooperative and friendly he was. I figured it was an act. Hey, I read North Dallas Forty, right? During my career, however, I’ve become friends with a lot of guys that played with Landry, coached for Landry and were scouts under Landry, and I’ve never heard a one of them say a nasty word about the man.

Felipe from Edinburg, TX

Why haven’t we drafted size on the defensive line?

I wouldn’t call the Packers’ defensive linemen small. Squat? Yes, but that’s the result of the scheme the Packers play. Teams that play the 3-4 tend to draft thicker, shorter defensive linemen – primarily defensive tackles – because 3-4 defensive linemen are anchors, not chasers. They are two-gappers that are asked to eat blocks.

Ben from Fountain City, WI

Between Montee Ball and Stephen Taylor, who would you pick and why?

I think Ball is perfectly suited for a zone-blocking scheme, whereas I think Taylor can be plugged into any scheme. Either one would be fine for the Packers, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I’m a little fonder of Taylor. I think he’s got special toughness.

Ken from Middleton, WI

Ted Thompson creates a lot of GMs for other teams. Will this allow the Packers to make better trades and draft-choice swapping with his former employees?

It doesn’t hurt to have friends. I think the answer to your question is, yes, it does help to have friends that will trade with you. Everybody is trying to trade to where the player they’ve targeted fits. You can’t get there if no one will trade with you.

Mike from Dallas, TX

What level of blame does Aaron Rodgers shoulder for the 51 sacks he took last year?

Probably not as much blame as credit he deserves for using his mobility to scramble away from potential sacks. That’s why I think the 51 sacks stat should not be ignored. It’s a problem.

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