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Is Mike Neal the next James Harrison?

Posted Jun 3, 2013

Rodgers-Brees doesn't qualify as rivalry?

Mike from Sussex, WI


Rodgers-Brees? I like that pick but I’ll admit it’s the only one I didn’t really expect. Could you explain what makes it that good of a rivalry to you?

A lot of fans didn’t like this pick. I thought it would be a big favorite. It’s the fantasy pick. It’s the pick for stat fans. I did it for them. Do you remember back in 2011 how Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees were battling for the MVP and offensive player of the year awards? It was a big debate. Pick the guy with the yards or the guy with the wins? Rodgers and Brees were 1-2 in the league’s passer ratings. That was in a season that was kicked off by one of the best head-to-head quarterback battles we would see all season. Last year, they turned in another head-to-head gem. I’m surprised that anybody would be surprised by this pick. Even last season, a bad year for the Saints, Rodgers and Brees were No. 1 in ratings and yards respectively. In my opinion, and I think a lot of people would agree, they have been the top two passers in the league the last two seasons, and I expect them to compete again for top honors this year. That’s not a rivalry?

Mike from Dallas, TX


With respect to Hans, he’s wrong about hang time and Thorpe. In short, drag coefficients are negligible in hang time determination. Hang time is a function of launch angle and initial velocity. As launch angle is a wash between eras, if we accept that the ball was less aerodynamic when Thorpe played, then it stands to reason that not only was he one of the fastest players ever, he had an even stronger leg than it would take to punt 70 yards today. Modern fans might disdain history, but physics doesn’t.

Maybe he was just a superior athlete. Why is that so difficult to admit?

Bill from Tampa, FL


When did NFL teams start to increase the size of their coaching staffs, and what was the reason for that?

It started in the 1980’s and it was a product of specialization and of coaches looking for any edge they could find. The first leap into expanding the coaching staffs began with special teams, where there had long been a void. All of a sudden, we had special teams coordinators, and teams that had them clearly had better special teams. Then came the assistant to the special teams coordinator. Strength and conditioning was a void that was also attacked. First came the strength coach, then came the assistant strength coach and coaches. Specialization gave us pass-rush coaches, inside linebacker coaches, outside linebacker coaches, safety coaches, cornerback coaches, tight end coaches and even tackle coaches and interior line coaches. When I began covering the NFL, tight ends were coached by the receivers coach when it involved the passing game, and by the offensive line coach when it involved the running game. When I was in Jacksonville, the Jaguars once had an outside linebackers coach (strong side linebacker in a 4-3 defense) that only had one player to coach, Kevin Hardy, as weak side linebackers are generally considered to be inside linebackers.

Travis from Eau Claire, WI


Why do rushing attempts matter more than yards per gain?

That’s a theory advanced by coaches that love the passing game. They’re fond of saying it’s not about yards, it’s about carries. What they’re saying is it’s about the balance between run and pass, which means that if they run a certain number of times, they’ll make the defense have to play run. Baloney. If you’re running game is no threat, your opponents aren’t going to respect it. They’ll play pass on the way to the run, so to speak. I think we saw that last year.

Riley from Madison, WI


I feel like today football is ridiculously over-analyzed. I understand supply and demand and that football is America’s most popular game right now, but it’s just getting really stale for me. I wish the press would cool down until at least training camp begins. You’ll probably disagree because it pays your bills but, as a fan, don’t you feel the same way?

Yes, I do feel the same way. There’s too much analysis of plays. They show you a play, stop it and then tell you what the quarterback was thinking. How do they know what he was thinking? They tell you he looked at this guy and then he looked at that guy. How do they know he just didn’t look at one guy? In my opinion, we’re missing the big picture. Why? Have we become bored by the big picture and now require more views? If that’s the case, then we’ve overexposed the game and we run the risk of running out of views. I’ll tell you one view that’s not overexposed: the human confrontation. We’ve forgotten about that view.

Patrick from Cavanaugh, MD


I agree; what happened to the great sportswriters?

Two thoughts: 1.) The great sportswriters have stopped spending as much effort on writing so they can spend more time on bone-dry technical analysis. 2.) I think the great sportswriters are still there, it’s just that we have too many of them covering too many games for too many outlets. We’ve lost the big name covering the big game. Excess is watering down everything.

Devon from Clarksville, TN


What do you think the Packers have to do to become a dominant defense?

They have to stone a good offense in a big game. That’s how you make a name for yourself. You stop Adrian Peterson cold, or you go to San Francisco and make everyone believe the read-option is a dud. The Packers defense had nice stats last year, but it had bad games in big games and that’s a reputation killer.

Roger from Indianapolis, IN


At what point fairly early in a game (and by how much behind) does a team scrap its game plan and use Plan B to have a chance to win? What is the time and point of no return?

If your defense can’t stop them, you better start working on a new game plan for next year’s draft.

Tim from Reno, NV


I researched Jim Thorpe for some interesting facts. This one is my favorite: “Believe it or not, Thorpe once hit three home runs into three different states in the same game. During a semi-pro baseball game in a ballpark on the Texas-Oklahoma-Arkansas border, he hit his first homer over the leftfield wall with the ball landing in Oklahoma, his second homer over the rightfield wall into Arkansas and his third homer of the game was an inside-the-park home run in centerfield, which was in Texas.”

I once hit a golf ball from North Carolina into South Carolina on my drive, and back into North Carolina on my second shot.

Paul from Beaver Dam, WI


Vic, I know you are not a stats/records kind of guy, but if the league were to go to an 18-game season, all single-season records would pretty much be obsolete. Your thoughts?

What about when the league went from 12 games to 14 and 14 to 16? Why shouldn’t that be taken into consideration when we discuss the older players? Jim Brown rushed for 1,863 yards and a 6.4 yards-per-carry average in a 14-game season in 1963.

Todd from New Richmond, WI


If Wilson can’t see over his linemen, how does Drew Brees do it? Not just do it, either; easily, in my opinion, the best quarterback in the league.

Brees gets rid of the ball quickly; Russell Wilson is an extend-the-play kind of passer, which means the rush is going to get closer to him and he’s going to have to get out of there. Brees finds the lanes through which he can throw the ball and he gets it out. That’s how he’s dealt with his lack of height and he’s very effective at it. Not every short quarterback has his instincts for the game.

Justin from Delavan, WI


Wow, I did not know that you were that gullible. Apparently, multitudes of reporters mean it’s all true.

Yeah, that generally does mean it’s true. There have been few occasions that, when a multitude of reporters whose accounts of what they’ve all seen agree, that they’ve all been wrong.

Ron from Lakewood, WA


How does Jolly look so far?

He’s going through the process.

Dan from Thornton, CO


Is it me or does Neal look like a bigger and somehow more athletic (longer, quicker, better hips) version of Woodley/Harrison?

That’s the idea, but you’ve certainly set Mike Neal’s bar high. James Harrison is a former defensive player of the year. The more I think about it, his 100-and-whatever-yard interception return for a touchdown on the final play of the first half of Super Bowl whatever it was might be the greatest play I’ve ever seen. You would think somebody would’ve pushed him out of bounds. When the replay showed him clearly falling into the end zone as time expired, I remember thinking, “This can’t possibly have happened.”

Robert from New York, NY


Is there a twinge of madness in loving to play this game?

An offensive line coach once said to me it’s not normal to walk down the street and want to bump into people. The men who play this game have always been the kind of people that want to bump into people. They just have that inside them. Is it madness? Maybe. Is it madness for so many people to enjoy seeing men bump into each other? No, that’s normal.

James from Hagerstown, MD


Vic, can you explain why Mike Shanahan has had so much success with running backs during his career? Should the Packers offensive line and coaches be looking at Bronco and Redskin film, or is it still players and not plays?

With each no-name Broncos running back that topped the 1,000-yard mark (Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary, Reuben Droughns, Tatum Bell, etc.), the popular opinion grew that it was Alex Gibbs’ system, not the Broncos players that made it work. Yes, Gibbs’ zone-blocking system is a great scheme and it continues to turn out top backs, Arian Foster being the latest example of that. It’s working for Shanahan in Washington now, where Alfred Morris has come out of nowhere. If it’s the scheme, however, why doesn’t it work for everybody? All of those runners mentioned above are cutback guys. They’re adept at finding the daylight, sticking their foot in the ground and cutting back into that daylight. All those guys in Denver had something else in common, Tom Nalen playing center. Making any scheme work is the product of finding people that fit it. Find blockers that can move laterally and wall up, and you will have found the right guys to run a zone-blocking scheme. Find a back that can stick his foot in the ground and explode into daylight and you will have found the kind of back that can gain a lot of yards in a zone-blocking scheme. In the end, it’s always about players.

Pat from Altoona, WI


Vic, what say you about the accusations of team owners “collusion” to deflate the free-agent market?

Seems to me more like older players not wanting to realize it’s a game of replacement and youth. The precedent goes way back. At all times in the years I’ve covered the NFL, this has been a young man’s game. Players, not plays, and picks, not players.

William from Savannah, GA


Call it what you want, but the Internet has kicked off journalistic de-evolution. The Internet has been a blessing if you love cute baby or kitten pictures, however, the Grantland Rices and Red Smiths would probably be embarrassed for what passes as journalism today. How do we bring integrity to Internet journalism today? I am tired of looking at opinions and false information that are passed off as fact.

When a site betrays your trust, don’t read it anymore. You are ultimately in control. The sad fact of the matter is some of the least credible sites are the most viewed sites. Why? Because their lack of trustworthiness makes them most likely to provide the reader with shock-value information, and that’s what the reader really wants. The reader wants to be entertained, even if the news is a lie.

Marshall from De Pere, WI


I’m proud to be a fan of such a great organization, especially after reading Mark Murphy’s article. He mentioned minicamps on June 4-5 will be open to the public. Could you tell us what time?

Practice at Clarke Hinkle Field begins at 11:30 a.m. each day.

READ MORE:

Murphy Takes Five: Offseason program in the home stretch


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