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No kindness; everything should be tough

Posted Mar 5, 2013

What's wrong with winsome?

John from Superior, WI

Why would a player sign a back-loaded contract, knowing the $32.793 million in the final year will never make it to him because his deal will be restructured?

The player signs the deal because he’s satisfied with the real part of the contract and has had it explained to him that the final years are just window dressing. When the overall worth of the deal is known, it becomes great advertising for the agent, who also has a stake in all of this. That’s why you should never believe total worth as the real value of a contract. Every contract has to be examined to determine what its real value is.

Greg from Bellevue, WA

This past weekend, I heard Gil Brandt say the first 10 picks of the draft were roughly equal talent-wise. He said picks 11-35 were roughly the same, as well. If that is true, would you expect more or fewer draft-day trades?

I expect as much trading as we’ve had in recent years because teams are trying to fit themselves to the pick. As I’ve said, all teams pick from the tops of their boards and all teams pick for need. The way to do that is to move to where need and value meet, if you can’t acquire both where you are. This is one of the ways teams have learned to master the salary cap. It’s important not to pick players out of order. If you do that, you’re going to overpay for the talent level you acquired and that’s going to mean a waste of cap room over an extended period of time. The NFL puts its teams in a draft order. Then the teams put the draft prospects in an order, and then the teams re-order themselves to fit where the players they want to pick fit. That’s the new drafting way in the NFL.

Georges from Montreal, Canada

I’m completely sold on this BAP stuff after the Jaguars what-ifs. Let’s say the Jaguars are completely in love with Fisher, have him far and away as number one on their board and they can’t trade back. If you pick him up, you have two players on your team making left-tackle money and only one starting left tackle. If you let him go, you’re letting the next team draft him. Which way do you go?

This is where it gets tough and I don’t have an answer for you except to say what I would do: Pick him. Since you brought up the Jaguars, I’ll give you the best real-life example of the scenario you created. In 1996, the Jaguars signed free agent Leon Searcy to the richest contract for an offensive lineman in history. The previous year, the Jaguars had drafted Tony Boselli. With Boselli and Searcy at the tackles, the Jaguars didn’t need Jonathan Ogden when they picked Kevin Hardy with the second overall pick of the ’96 draft. Who doesn’t need Jon Ogden?

Eugene from Manlius, NY

If the league can schedule the next Super Bowl in New York City, why is there no move to have one at Lambeau?

There aren’t enough hotel rooms. I’d like to think Lambeau Field could host a Big Ten title game, but I doubt there are enough hotel rooms for that, either.

Conor from Milwaukee, WI

If you ever called me a winsome fan to my face, I would tell you to go fly a kite. Why do you even have a job? Mike Spofford could easily do your job and not (anger) the Packers fan base. Not cool, Vic. Not all of us fans are illiterate and can see the low blow that winsome is. So if our appearance is the only attractive thing about our franchise, why don’t you leave? Frankly, I am sick of listening to you belittle Packer fans every day. Shut up or get back to Packers football. Winsome? How about passionate or traditional? So many words are better than winsome.

You can call me winsome anytime.

Mark from Stewartville, MN

Vic, would the classic Lombardi Packers sweep work in today’s NFL?

No, the three-technique tackles in a 4-3 and blitzing inside linebackers in a 3-4 would blow it up. Today’s defensive schemes are gap-based, which means they’re all about penetration and penetration would disrupt the flow of the sweep by taking out the pulling guards. The Packers sweep was a slow-developing play, which was OK back then because defenses played a two-gap scheme that is best described as read and react. Penetration is the enemy of slow-developing running plays. If Lombardi was coaching today, my guess is he would be using a zone-blocking scheme, being that he was the coach that invented the whole run-to-daylight concept. I also think he’d replace his sweep with a signature trap play. I don’t understand why more teams don’t trap-block more often against penetration. That’s what you want; get that guy up the field and then kick him out. Maybe we’ve reached a point that linemen are so big and there is such little room to maneuver up front that intricate blocking schemes just don’t have the space and time to function.

Lester from Plymouth, MN

Why won’t you talk about Johnny Jolly?

I never saw him play. Frankly, until I came to Green Bay, I had never heard his name.

Daniel from Houston, TX

Definition of winsome: generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence; cheerful, lighthearted. Why, thanks, Vic. Can you elaborate on what you mean by this?

All fan bases are passionate. That’s why they’re called fans, which is short for fanatic. Most fan bases are also loyal and supportive. Are Bears fans any less passionate, loyal and supportive than Packers fans? What distinguishes one fan base from another is its personality. That’s where the Packers fan base is unique. It has a wholesomeness to it that, in my opinion, makes it winsome. It has an innocent beauty that keeps it forever young. I see it every time I make that walk from the press box to the Atrium on game day for the pregame radio show. I see smiling faces. I don’t see groups of staggering drunks bellowing bad language. I see wholesome joy. Jaguars fans came to games dressed like they were going to the beach. I liked that. They’re waiting for a winner. When they get one, look out. Steelers fans came to games ready to rumble. I can remember like it was yesterday games in Cleveland when, all of a sudden, we’d see the whole section standing up, and that meant it was time to pick up the binoculars and play that favorite game, “Find that fight.” Somebody in the press box would find it and say, “In the middle of the section,” and I’d look there and then I’d see the arms going up and down. Then another section would pop up. It was double entertainment: the game on the field and the fight in the stands. That’s not the Packers fan base. There’s a joyfulness in Lambeau Field that makes Packers fans delightful to observe. Charming, innocent and attractive are good things. I can’t imagine why anybody would take offense to being described as such.

Kevin from Greenfield, WI

I just read that the salary cap for next season is going to be approximately $2 million higher than last season. Do you think this will have any effect on the Packers personnel decisions in either free agency or their current roster?

A two-million increase is flat, which is why so many teams are having to restructure contracts, but it’s OK for the Packers because the Packers are flat-cappers. They are always prepared for years of little increase because the Packers’ cap doesn’t spike in any one year. They’ve created room in this offseason and they might create even more room. I think we know the reason for it.

Ben from Milwaukee, WI

Te’o plays outstanding football and has a bad combine and he’s free-falling. Stepfan Taylor plays great football and has a bad combine and it doesn’t matter. You’re killing me, Vic.

Taylor played in the Senior Bowl, Manti Te’o didn’t. Taylor’s strong performance at the Senior Bowl softens his failures at the combine. Te’o doesn’t have a Senior Bowl performance to do that. His only other postseason performance is the national title game, and that was not outstanding football. By the way, it didn’t start there. You can go back to the Pitt game. Taylor and Te’o will each have a chance at their pro days to mitigate the effects of their poor combine workouts. If they have strong pro days, what they did at the combine won’t weigh heavily against them. As it stands right now, both players have fallen, based on their combine workouts. I never said it didn’t matter that Taylor had a bad workout. The difference is, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen something good from Te’o.

Joe from Bloomington, IN

Vic, in your judgment, were there fewer injuries in the days of Lombardi?

There were fewer of the catastrophic soft-tissue injuries we’re witnessing in today’s game. Torn biceps and quads, where the muscle literally rolls up in the arm or leg, didn’t happen in the Lombardi era. I never heard the word labrum until about 13 years ago. Now I hear it constantly. Torn ACLs were the death knell of a football career in the Lombardi era; ask Gale Sayers. Torn ACLs were rare back then. Now, they’re commonplace and players recover to become better players. It’s not that there are more injuries now, it’s that there are more injuries of a serious nature now. Players in the Lombardi era played hurt, but they couldn’t have played hurt with the types of injuries today’s players are sustaining. Have players gotten too big for their bodies? I think they have.

Dan from Saint Peters, MO

Vic, I’d like to thank you for the football knowledge in this space. I’ve learned patience is the key to keep a franchise relevant and successful over the long haul. Is the name of the game nowadays simply to be a playoff team and hope you’re the hot team heading into January?

That’s the dirty little secret. The Super Bowl is not the goal. The goal is to make the playoffs every year, which keeps your stadium full and your owner happy. If you do that, then every so often you might be the hot team in January and go the distance. It’s how you last a long time in this league. Winning a Super Bowl won’t do it, but making it into the playoffs every year will.

Curt from Portland, OR

Vic, for what it’s worth, I think I represent most Packers fans when I say I don’t expect Aaron Rodgers or Clay Matthews to offer my team any discounts when it comes to extending their contracts. I understand no such kindness will be shown to them when their skills begin to decline, so I’m happy to see them cash in off my team’s payroll.

That’s right; no such kindness will be shown to them when they can’t play anymore. That’s the way it should be. That’s what makes this game so good. It’s dog eat dog. It has that edge to it that goes to the heart of the game. Football is not about kindness. Football is about toughness. I like teams and players that are tough negotiators. Everything about football should be tough. The day it stops being tough is the day I fall out of love with it.

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