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Angry Packers fan speaks up for passing game

What defines a successful preseason?


Brian from Fond du Lac, WI

Wow, Vic, way to pigeonhole fans of the passing game as being casual fans. I suppose belittling another person's perspective makes you feel better about your own? Wake up, man! The most hardcore NFL fans of today love the passing game and abhor run-first, low-score games. When did the passing game take off, Vic? Didn't you say it was 1978? Now let me see, that's 34 years ago. You know, back when baseball was America's game, for good reason. Since then, we've had Montana, Elway, Aikman, Favre, Manning, Rodgers, Warner and Brady. In other words, it's not casual fans that prefer today's NFL, just say anyone under 50 and also anyone over 50 with a pulse.

And that's the name of that tune.

Jeff from Sheboygan, WI

I was looking at the preseason rankings that have the Packers at No. 8. Do you think that's a fair assessment?

Eight would make them a playoff contender. Yeah, I think that's a fair assessment.

Hubert from Madison, WI

Vic, I keep reading people asking you the same questions about preseason and comparing today's preseason to those of Lombardi's. Isn't another reason early eras cared more about winning is because back then teams typically kept the same rosters, so it was more of a practice than an evaluation?

That's part of it. There's also another and even greater reason teams played their regulars longer and harder in preseason games during the Lombardi years, especially in the early Lombardi years: Professional football was still attempting to sell itself to the public. In Lombardi's first year as Packers coach, the Packers didn't play any of their six preseason games in Green Bay. They played in Milwaukee, San Francisco, Portland, Ore., Bangor, Maine, Winston-Salem, N.C., and Minneapolis. In subsequent years, they would play in Columbus, Ga., Jacksonville, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and New Orleans. It was common for NFL teams to play preseason games in non-NFL markets back then. The preseason had a carpet-bagging feel to it. Teams were trying to find ticket-sales money without tapping into their own fan base. They were also trying to make new fans for the league, and you don't do that by putting on a bad show.

John from Rhinelander, WI

Hey, Vic, I know the preseason is all about player evaluation, but do you think when the Seahawks roll into town there will be more incentive to play a bit harder given these two teams' history? Or is it just another opponent?

If it's possible for a preseason game to have an edge, and I can't remember ever having covered one that did, that one will.

Tim from Aurora, CO

Vic, why is it taking Casey Hayward so long to return from a hamstring injury and why do injuries like this seem to occur so frequently? Are players not properly conditioning themselves?

These are the most conditioned athletes I have ever covered. I have no explanation for the continued and growing rash of injuries league-wide. Every day seems to bring on a new hurt, and they are seldom minor.

Tony from Madison, WI

Can you describe the difference between a running lane and a hole in the defensive line?

A hole in a drive-blocking scheme is predesignated and relatively static, as compared to a zone-blocking scheme running lane, which might be one of multiple lanes from which the back might choose as the blockers and defenders move laterally.


Caleb from Wasilla, AK

Vic, you said Clay Matthews would be especially good as a weak-side 4-3 linebacker. What distinguishes weak side from strong side and how would the outside linebackers' roles change based on weak or strong side?

Weak or strong side is determined by the offensive formation and how the defense reacts to it. In the old days, when football was a running game, the tight end determined the strong side of the formation. Nowadays, bunch formations are doing that. It varies based on the philosophy of the defense. In a 4-3, the strong-side linebacker is often involved in pass coverage; weak-side linebackers are an extra middle linebacker but with more freedom to chase the ball and make plays. Matthews could play either.

Mike from Fairfield, CA

Vic, please explain to all of us why a team's record in the preseason matters? I have been a Packers fan or over 20 years, and have not seen a correlation between any team's preseason record and its chances of making the playoffs. Enough already about the loss to the Cardinals, other than to evaluate the performances of the individuals.

Here's the bottom line about grading a team's preseason: It's not defined by its record in the preseason, it's defined by its record in Sept. There are two purposes for playing preseason games: evaluate talent and prepare for the regular season. Both purposes are of equal importance, but the evaluation of talent can never be permitted to interfere with the preparation of the team for the regular season. If a team that is 0-4 in the preseason begins the regular season 4-0, it had a great preseason. It's just that simple.

Bart from Williams, OR

Vic, you have made reference to a mythical casual fan the NFL has tried to attract by emphasizing pass plays. Is it politically problematic to say it's women viewers that are the casual fans you reference? My own mother, who went to college on an athletic scholarship, loved the pretty pass plays of football. Seriously, the fans of today are more into stats and schemes than their jobs and families. Casual fans? I think not.

Yes, it is politically problematic to say that, so I won't say that. I think it is statistically accurate, however, to say that 50 percent of the Packers' season ticket holders are women, which is as it should be for a business attempting to access the total market. Take a look at crowd shots from the Lombardi years. There were more cigars in the crowd than there were women. Don't ever think the people in the league office are stupid.

Steve from Flushing, MI

With no field goals or extra points attempted against Arizona, does it put more pressure on Crosby and Tavecchio over the final three preseason games?

I think it put more pressure on Mike McCarthy to create competitive scenarios, which he has on each of the first two days of practice this week. In two head-to-head confrontations this week, Mason Crosby is a combined 15 of 16 in field goal attempts, and Giorgio "Don't Call Me Sergio" Tavecchio is a perfect 16 of 16. I agree with Mike Singletary: I like this kind of party, baby.

Robbie from Charlotte, NC

What exactly happened between the 2011 season when we were throwing the ball wherever and whenever we wanted, and last season when every team had us figured out?

The Packers had a respectable running game in 2011. James Starks and Ryan Grant combined for 267 carries and 1,137 yards. Combined, they were the equivalent of a feature back. The Packers' No. 27 rush ranking that season is misleading. The Packers' passing game was so dominated by big plays that it was impossible for the Packers' running game to get the yards it needed to move up the rankings. As a result of the threat the Packers' running game posed, defenses had to respect it. Go back to the Week 3 game in Chicago. The Bears overplayed the pass and the Packers gouged them with the run. In 2012, however, the Packers' running game didn't command respect for much of the season. The top three running backs combined didn't rush for a thousand yards. Defenses overplayed the pass and that took the big play out of the passing game. Rankings don't tell the whole story, but the tape does. When your opponent sees a threat, they won't ignore it. When they see that you pose no threat with one phase of your offense, they'll turn all of their attention to the other phase.

Tom from West Bend, WI

Are fans really smarter than coaches and management?

It would be politically problematic to say no, so I'll say yes.

Keith from Lake Geneva, WI

Vic, I just read one of the comments that you replied to about a guy who hates the running game. Well, I'll say this, I love the running game. When I watched what Barry Sanders could do with his feet, it was amazing. Ray Rice is the little train that can do everything. Adrian Peterson, despite being a Vike, is amazing. I love ground and pound, wear down the defense, then burn them through the air.

You got me all fired up for half-line drills today.

Jeff from Albuquerque, NM

Not that my expectations were high, because I was evaluating individual performances as a fan; however, Arizona's twos and threes whipped ours. What does that say about our depth?

It doesn't say much about that depth in that game, but your question demands an answer based on a very small sample.

Matt from Jersey City, NJ

Why do the Packers choose to run out of shotgun so often?

When a team with a passing attack its opponents fear goes into shotgun formation, the opponent will tend to overplay the pass.

Joshua from Neenah, WI

Vic, you say players, not plays. I know Capers employs a 3-4 defense and since entering Green Bay hasn't changed. If he had players that better suited a 4-3, do you think he would change? After all, it's the players that make the difference, not the schemes, right?

Coach Capers was the coordinator of a 4-3 defense in Jacksonville in 1999 that, heading into the final month of the season, was on pace to set an all-time NFL points-allowed record. He stayed in a 4-3 because Tony Brackens was more of an end than an outside linebacker. You weren't expecting that answer, were you? Players, not plays.

Steve from Lodi, WI

I couldn't help but notice the similarity between the 50-yard Rodgers-to-Jones play and the 50-yard Rodgers-to-basket play from the training camp video.

Watch these.



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