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If you like schemes, this is going to be your year

Posted Apr 28, 2014

Which teams are real contenders to win it all?


Josh from Milwaukee, WI

What if they took the extra point and made them have to run/pass the ball for the point every time?

What if we just eliminated the PAT conversion? Just award seven points for a touchdown. We have overtime to break ties. Why do we need a two-point conversion play? Why do we need the conversion play at all?

Craig from Little Rock, AR

Vic, I’m sitting in the hospital right now waiting for my son Henry to be born. I plan on reading him your column every night before bed. I want him to know and remember the NFL the way I do and the way you portray it. Promise me you’ll still be writing this column 6-7 years from now, when he’ll actually get to remember it.

Six, seven years? That might be pushing the boundary a little bit. By then, I might be asking who won the Packers game, in March. Let’s consider this question: How will the Packers have changed when Henry is old enough to be a fan? Will Aaron Rodgers still be the team’s quarterback? Will the Packers still be the team to beat in the NFC North? Will they have won another Super Bowl? How might the Packers be different six, seven years from now? How are they different today from how they were six, seven years ago? The pace of change in this league is stunning.

Vince from Budapest, Hungary

Vic, so who are the teams whose fans you believe can feel they have a real shot to win it all?

Roughly half the league. In the NFC, I think the Packers, Lions, Seahawks, 49ers, Eagles, Saints and Panthers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. In the AFC, I would say the same of the Patriots, Bengals, Ravens, Colts, Broncos, Chiefs and Chargers. Which teams might jump up? Falcons? Bears? Cowboys? Steelers? At least one team (Chiefs last year) will come out of nowhere, and at least one team (Falcons and Giants last year) will fall far beneath expectations.

Paul from Farnborough, UK

Is it as much fun interviewing players in this modern era than, say, the 1970s? Were there more characters back then who weren’t suppressed into giving dull, stock answers in order not to offend anyone?

It’s not as much fun today and that’s our fault. We caused this pullback by scaring teams and players into restricting access and guarding commentary. Any misstep in responding to a question will result in overkill analysis. Why do we do it? Because it produces views and ratings? The fans want controversy and the media gives the fans what they want, and the explosion in media platforms has created a mania for controversy. The changes in the interview landscape during my time covering the game are mind-boggling. When I started doing this, the team’s PR man gave the beat reporters a little black book that contained the home phone number of every player, coach and team executive.

Drew from Gilbert, AZ

This weekend, I saw a picture that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix posted of himself wearing a Packers shirt. Any chance it’s a message that means Thompson is going to trade up for him?

Maybe it’s a message that Ha Ha wants to be drafted by the Packers. Or maybe it’s not a message at all, just a shirt.

Erick from Cooper Landing, AK

Vic, do any teams draft to fill immediate need? Has it ever worked out?

Everybody drafts to fill immediate need, but they attempt to do it and still pick from the top of their board. If they can’t, then they have a decision to make, but those instances are becoming the exception to the rule.

Lynn from Rockford, IL

Fox Sports had a fan mock draft with the following options available for the Packers selection at 21: Calvin Pryor, Odell Beckham, Jace Amaro, C.J. Mosley, Darqueze Dennard. I chose Dennard. Who would you and who would Tony Pauline choose?

From that list, we would both select Mosley.

Ryan from Arlington, VA

Earl Morrall, a distinguished member of the fraternity of football, is gone. Any memories of him you’d like to share?

The 1972 AFC title game was my second-ever playoff game. Morrall was the league’s comeback player of the year in ’72, when he replaced an injured Bob Griese and led the Dolphins to an undefeated season. In the ’72 title game, however, Morrall got off to a slow start and was replaced in the first half by Griese, who was recovered from his injury. I remember thinking to myself that football hadn’t been very kind to Morrall. He was the NFL MVP in 1968, when he replaced an injured Johnny Unitas and led the Colts to the NFL title, but he was benched in the Super Bowl and now he was being benched again, with the Super Bowl on the line.

Tim from Portage, WI

I was wondering if you could give insight on how players feel when a player of their position is drafted?

They feel challenged. I suspect they experience a degree of insecurity. I remember Keyshawn Johnson doing TV commentary when the Panthers drafted a wide receiver high, and Johnson talked about looking forward to working with the young receiver and mentoring him. I laughed. He knew what it meant. When they start talking about mentoring young players, you know they know they’re on the way out. Torry Holt is one of my favorite players. He was asked about mentoring young receivers. He said, “I’ll mentor them. I’ll mentor them all the way to the bench.” Why did we stop talking like that?

Cal from Stevens Point, WI

Vic, I love to speculate about the draft, but it seems as though many fans are worried, especially with the safety position. We should be excited about an influx of new young talent. I’m confident that one way or another, the Packers are going to address any areas of concern. I can’t wait to sit back and enjoy how they do it.

Worry is paralyzing. It denies us enjoyment. You’ve got the right attitude.

Leonardo from London, UK

Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith might be good evaluators of talent, but hasn’t their strategy of giving up picks for targeted players harmed Atlanta’s talent depth, as the past season injury slate showed?

When you trade away picks to move up, you have effectively traded away players that might’ve addressed long-term depth. It’s a crap shoot. Maybe you would’ve spent those picks on players that wouldn’t have been successful, or maybe you would’ve used those picks to achieve depth, or even find a star. The Falcons traded five picks to Cleveland to move up and select Jones. With one of those five picks, the Browns selected Greg Little, who caught more passes than Jones did in 2011, each receiver’s rookie season. What if Little had Matt Ryan throwing him the ball? Was the trade up necessary at a position I like to refer to as a “dime a dozen”? Jones was a difference-maker for the Falcons in 2012, and that justified the trade, but we’ll never know what the Falcons would’ve done with those extra picks. It’s the great mystery that always shrouds trades up. On whom would those picks have been used? When you trade up, make sure you hit a home run, and never look back.

John from San Francisco, CA

You’re very similar to a politician in the way you answer nearly every question by circling back to yours or Ted Thompson’s select football principles. Sometimes, especially in the offseason, we want to operate in the what-if realm. Please let us. What if we trade up for Khalil Mack?

You lose picks and possible future depth. Make sure Mack’s a star and never look back.

Paul from Lansing, IL

II nam novi anglorum?

I already promised those tickets to someone.

Chad from Tarpon Springs, FL

Vic, I know why I like the Packers but I don’t know why I like football. Could you articulate why you like football?

I like its physical confrontation. When I fell in love with football as a kid, the game was all about toughness, and that’s what drew me to it. As much as we’re attempting to soften it and make it more about speed and athletic ability, I still think it’s a game of physical confrontation and toughness. If that ever changes, I’ll likely fall out of love with football.

Joel from Hebron, KY

The last year or so you spent a lot of time talking about what are fair expectations vs. unfair expectations. I believe it is a matter of your personal definition of success. With that being said, Vic, what is your definition of success and what is a realistic expectation for this team next year?

My definition of success is being a championship contender year in and year out. The reverse-order draft makes a fall inevitable, but success is limiting those falls in number and in length. My expectation, for lack of a better word, for the Packers this season is for them to be championship contenders, which means being in the playoffs. At that point, I will adjust the goal, but I never do that until the first goal is met. Why not? Because I would be denying myself the enjoyment that goes with experiencing the pursuit of the playoffs. I wanna smell the roses, so to speak. Last December was wonderful. It was some of the most enjoyable football I’ve ever covered.

Shyheem from Elizabeth City, NC

Vic, will Julius Peppers play 3-4 defensive end or OLB in our defense?

I think he’ll play both. I think Dom Capers is going to empty his bag next season. If you like schemes, this is going to be your year. Can the Packers execute those schemes? I think that’s the bigger issue.

Paul from Bayside, WI

Kevin Greene and now Joel Hilgenberg have left the Packers organization to spend more time with their families. I know these are not 40-hour, punch-the-clock type jobs, but what kind of time commitment is required of the Packers staff in order to successfully perform their jobs?

My guess is that coaches work 80-hour weeks during the season. We’re into a generation of coaches now that made a lot more money playing the game than the Bart Starrs and Forrest Greggs did. In most cases, today’s assistant coaches achieved financial security during their playing days, which offers them the flexibility to make these kinds of career decisions when family demands them. The old guys had to coach to make a living.

David from Jacksonville, FL

Vic, how do you feel about the NFL giving the Seahawks fewer prime-time games because they were too dominant at home in prime time? Why is it OK for the Broncos to dominate at home?

It’s because the Broncos have Peyton Manning and the Broncos dominate with offense, and Manning and offense drive TV ratings. The Seahawks win with defense, and it doesn’t drive ratings nearly as well as offense does. How do I feel about it? I’ve seen enough of Manning.

Michael from Waukesha, WI

I’m sick and tired of hearing all these draft rumors and predictions. Just pick ’em already. Will the draft be this late in the year from now on? Say it isn’t so.

I have a feeling the draft will remain a May event. It’s about the sweeps TV ratings periods, which are November, February, May and July.

Andrew from Wichita, KS

Vic, I know you have a high opinion of Jim Harbaugh, and I agree with you that he is an excellent coach, however, I also believe his brother to be the better of the two. Given the choice, who would you choose as your head coach, Jim or John?

I got the same “I don’t have that list in front of me” response from John when I asked him a question at the recent NFL Annual Meeting, that I got from Jim in a conference call last season. The difference is John said it with a smile; Jim said it with an edge. I like the edge. I’ll take Jim.

Terrie from Louisville, KY

Could you explain why you feel “the game is going to continue to evolve to favor mobile quarterbacks”?

If your quarterback can’t move, he’s going to invite an all-out rush. You don’t want that unless he can play like Peyton Manning. Not many guys can play like Manning.

Tony from River Falls, WI

Who has the bigger advantage, a cold-weather team at home against a warm-weather team, or a warm-weather team at home against a cold-weather team?

The warm-weather team at home in the heat against a cold-weather team has, in my opinion, a much greater advantage than a cold-weather team at home in the cold against a warm-weather team. I saw visiting teams in Jacksonville unable to answer the bell for the second half. I can remember seeing visiting teams’ locker room floor covered with IV tubes. I saw Chad Brown collapse in the huddle. In the opener one year, the Cowboys (they trained in Oxnard, Calif.) moved up and down the field on their first two drives of the game and took a 10-0 lead, and then slowly faded and lost the game.

Dan from Bangkok, Thailand

Vic, can someone please spearhead a campaign to get Jerry Kramer inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame?

You can’t spearhead a campaign. There’s a process for being elected to the Hall of Fame and Packers fans need to understand how that process works. Cliff Christl did an outstanding job explaining the process in his most recent story on packers.com.


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Do you have a question for Vic? Your question could be posted on packers.com. Vic has covered the NFL through 42 seasons, including 23 years covering the Steelers and 16 years covering the Jaguars.

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