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Shovel or wait? That's the big question

Posted Dec 19, 2012

What if Aaron Rodgers played for the Packers during the Lombardi years?


Joe from Bloomington, IN

You wrote that McCarthy wants the opponent to respect the Packers’ run game. Do you see that working the same with McCarthy’s special teams trick plays opening things up a bit for Randall Cobb?

You can apply what I’m going to write to all facets of the Packers’ game. Coach McCarthy is a very aggressive play-caller and game-planner. He’s not what I would refer to as a field-position coach. He often goes for it on fourth down near midfield or orders a long field goal attempt that flips the field when missed, and he uses special teams more aggressively than any coach I’ve ever covered. Sometimes these strategies backfire in the present, but even when they fail they have a long-term positive effect because they make future opponents hesitant in their game-planning. An aggressive coach creates fear in his coaching opponents. All of the risky, tricky and cast-caution-to-the-wind things the Packers have done this season will help them in the postseason without even using those same tactics in the games. Coach McCarthy’s reputation precedes him. He’s a feared play-caller and decision-maker.

Chris from Knoxville, IL

What does the free agency era mean and what was it like before 1993, if that’s when it started?

That’s when it started and before that teams were compensated when they lost a player in free agency. Losing a top player would result in the team signing that player having to pay a heavy price in compensation, as much as two first-round picks. Walter Payton hit free agency and nobody even sniffed at him. In those days, once you had a player on your team, he was yours until you didn’t want him. Prior to 1993, there was also no salary cap, so you could load your roster with as many good players as you could afford. The Redskins were a deep-pockets team that fixed a lot of their draft mistakes by throwing money at the problem. The salary cap era is not about excess, it’s about efficiency. The old game was about maintenance. Today’s game is about replacement. You have to be willing to let players go in free agency or you’ll ruin your cap.

Jim from Berkeley, CA

Fess up, is the real reason you express so much disdain for soccer is because you're a smoker? As we know, many NFL players also smoked, especially in previous years. However, the aerobic demands and level of overall athleticism is so much greater in soccer you simply won't find too many players willing to compromise their lungs in that manner.

That’s not it. I just think soccer is incredibly boring and if they were playing the World Cup in my backyard, I’d close the blinds.

Steve from Kettering, OH

With so many players and staff on the sidelines, what would happen if they were to intentionally or unintentionally touch a player during a play? Say, to push his momentum back inside the line?

Let’s take it to the extreme. What if a player came off the sideline and tackled an opponent that appeared to be running for a touchdown? The violation is termed a “palpably unfair act” and the referee may award a touchdown or any distance penalty he considers equitable.

Jake from Appleton, WI

How was working with Costas?

It was easy. I asked the question and then sat back and allowed myself to be entertained by the answer. I have a lot of respect for his work.

Connor from Islip, NY

Why is it that defensive linemen have separate roles and rotate often but offensive linemen are expected to play every down?

Timing and continuity are as important to the running game as they are to the passing game. Backs and linemen have to know each other. They have to know each other’s tendencies and the speed at which they play. A good back knows his left guard plays low and tends to get to the defender’s legs, which might beg the back to hit the hole quickly, whereas his right guard plays higher and is more of a masher, which might demand a little more patience in the back’s advance. The idea of rotating defensive linemen is to keep fresh bodies on the field so they’re never taking plays off. Offensive linemen are able to pace themselves because they know what play is being run and what it demands of them.

Jim from Sandy, UT

As a young boy growing up in Oshkosh, I spent many Sundays huddled around the TV with my dad and my uncles watching the Lombardi-era Packers. Their passion for the game got me hooked. Vic, what got you hooked?

It was a practice by the high school team in my hometown. I was very young and happened to wander upon the practice, and I was hooked forever. I knew precisely at that moment that this was for me. The smacking of the pads was frightening in a thrilling way. I lived for the day when I could wear that uniform, and the only time I remember missing a game is one of the favorite memories of my life. I had missed school because I was sick, and my parents wouldn’t allow me to go to the game on Friday night, so I sat on the porch, wrapped in a blanket, and listened to the cheering and the fight songs that were being played, and I knew exactly what the final score was. The morning newspaper confirmed it. Where and when I grew up, you had to be undefeated and untied to play for the league championship. For example, in Joe Namath’s senior year, his team was the only undefeated and untied team, so they won the league title without having to play a championship game. Our school had a powerhouse team in 1963. We all knew its season would be decided by one game late in the season, against another powerhouse team. It was the first true heartbreak I had ever felt in my life.

Nick from Hollandale, WI

Vic, I've seen you post that this is your kind of season. One that provides adversity and growth. I do like those aspects of the season, and definitely believe they’re big for heading into the playoffs. Wouldn't you agree with me, though, that the 15-1 season was better? We took what we wanted and could dominate teams with just an offense. I'm a dominate-and-do-your-job man each week. What about you?

I like crunch-time drama. We’ve had a lot this season, and I think we’re going to have a lot more.

Joe from Sherman, IL

With today's 24-hour sports TV and all of the social media, how do you think Don Chandler's made/missed field goal in the 1965 playoff game with the Colts would have been covered/discussed?

It would’ve rivaled this year’s Seattle game.

Ed from Lompoc, CA

All you are is sarcastic and you really know nothing about football. Hard to believe you have the job you have.

I agree. I have to pinch myself every day. Be that as it may, I’ll be in the press box at Lambeau Field on Sunday, watching and writing and eating the free food, and here’s the best part: I get paid to do it. I’m out there, Ed, and I’m lovin’ it.

Danny from Logan, WV

Aaron Rodgers is an amazing talent at quarterback. He sometimes makes the incredible seem normal. What would Lombardi think of him?

Lombardi would’ve loved him. He would’ve loved Rodgers’ talent, his courage, his feel, instinct and aptitude for the game. Lombardi would’ve also required that Rodgers hand the ball to Hornung and Taylor more often than McCarthy would’ve had him throw it to Dowler and Dale, but I have no doubt that had Rodgers come to the sideline and said he wanted to sneak for the winning touchdown, Lombardi would’ve told him the same thing he told Starr. Imagine how wonderful it is to be Bart Starr and relive that moment for the rest of your life.

Wes from Marengo, IL

What are some of your most and least favorite team mascots?

The first one that comes to mind is my alma mater’s: Golden Flashes. I never understood what a Golden Flash is. What does a Golden Flash look like? How do you put it on your helmet? When I was at Kent State, our mascot was a guy in a ridiculous costume riding on a horse. What does a horse have to do with a Golden Flash? It’s possibly the worst nickname in sports history, but all of a sudden I like it. Why? Because they’re winning. Winning makes everything good. It even makes bad good. Just win, baby.

Kelly from Minden, NV

Do you think the concussion problem will result in a drop in the quality of players?

I don’t know the answer to your question, Kelly, but it allows me to tell a story about a per chance meeting I had with former 49ers running back Roger Craig on Tuesday. He was at Lambeau Field for a business presentation. We talked about the old days, yada yada, and what I found out is that a man who was the ultimate pounder, a guy who didn’t miss a game in his first seven seasons in the league, took no injuries with him into retirement. He’s a competitive marathon runner now who runs 45 miles a week. A lot of players aren’t as fortunate as Roger to leave the game with a young body, but it’s not as though every player is a broken down heap by age 50. I think the concussion mania has caused us to have a distorted image of life after football.

Dale from Kettering, OH

I've noticed that the faster the league makes the game, the longer a hamstring injury keeps you out. Is it the new ACL?

I like the first part of your observation. The game has become so fast that players can't perform adequately with an injury. That means the faster the game gets, the more money it’s going to cost the teams. Maybe they should make the game slower.

Richard from Davis, CA

People in Boston say Bill Belichick is the opposite of draft and develop, he’s screw up and you're outta here. Would you say the Packers and the Patriots represent successful implementations of opposite philosophies?

The Patriots are very definitely a draft-and-develop football team. The difference between the Packers and the Patriots is the Patriots have been bigger players in secondary or cheap free agency. They’re a little more aggressive on the pro personnel side, whereas the Packers are more willing to rest with their draft classes.

David from Bangor, ME

Vic, the Packers more frequently had big plays last year, and I believe we can in part credit the difference to how defenses have tailored their game plan to the Packers offense. Why do these adjustments not take place sooner, say midway through last season? How long do defenses need to scheme to stop a team’s bread and butter?

In Sunday’s game, on the play when Julius Peppers hit Aaron Rodgers late and the Bears were penalized for roughing the passer, the Bears appear to have blown a coverage. They rushed six and one of the rushers probably should’ve been covering Jermichael Finley, who was wide open but Rodgers wasn’t able to see Finley because the rush got to him. Coach McCarthy was asked to explain the scheme on that play. He said, “It’s football.” Let’s think on that for a while before the “Cover Two” headache returns.

Jarrod from Moncton, NB

What team do you see going into Atlanta and giving the Falcons their biggest headache this postseason?

These Falcons are a little different than that 2010 bunch. That was a run-the-ball, stop-the-run team with a 1,371-yard rusher and a young quarterback that fed off the run. This Falcons team is a throw-the-ball team that struggles most on defense against the run. The best way to beat the Falcons is to run the ball and keep Matt Ryan on the sideline. It’s not as though you can’t throw on them, but a strong running game is what they fear the most. The 49ers should match up well against them. I think the Giants match up well against the Falcons, but the Giants didn’t have Ahmad Bradshaw last Sunday and that was the big difference in that game. The Falcons want to get you on that fast Georgia Dome surface and play you in space. The Packers can play that game with their young and ascending secondary.

David from Arlington, VA

Got any plans for the end of the world on Friday?

I forgot about that. We have a big snowstorm coming on Thursday. I should probably hold off on the shoveling.

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