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Bart Starr was the Packers' best player

Fans have gone terminology crazy


Denny from Jacksonville, FL

Vic, I have read your column for years. Do all teams think their team is the only great team, or is it just in Wisconsin?

What you're sensing is pride of ownership. Packers fans are different; the stock sales, in my opinion, have made them different. They display an ownership quality other teams' fans don't possess. One of the best examples of that is the respect with which the readers of this column treat the comments section. When I took this job, I campaigned for an increase in fan interaction. I wanted a vibrant comments section to accompany our stories. I want the fan to have a voice. I knew, of course, that I'd have to make sure it stayed "clean," because vulgarity wouldn't be tolerated and that would be the end of the comments section. I remember that in the beginning I explained that to our readers and it is with pride that I tell you that there have been only a few occasions in my two-plus years here that I've had to delete a comment because of vulgar language. In today's world of sports, that is a tremendous compliment to the readers of this column, that they are able to debate each other without losing respect for each other and the forum that affords them the opportunity to debate. In my opinion, the readers of this column believe it belongs to them and that's exactly how I want them to feel, because with ownership comes responsibility. I think that's what you're sensing. Packers "owners" feel a strong need to support the franchise in every way.

Bob from Washington, DC

I also avoid sports bars, but I'm wondering how you respond in the press box to a great play. I stood when Rodgers tackled Urlacher in the NFC championship game, but also when Barry Sanders somehow plowed through each of 11 Packers defenders on a long run to the end zone. It is a game with those moments of awesome greatness.

Yes, it is, and it is at those times that I respond by writing about those moments as quickly and as capably as I can, so my readers might also enjoy them.

Joe from Clio, MI

Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC thinks it's inevitable one or two teams will be placed in Europe, with two American cities serving as a home base for those teams. Can you ever imagine this game going global to the point where it's literally all over the world?

I've written that in this column. I've even speculated that Orlando is the likely place for an international team to be headquartered stateside. Yes, I can see the day when there are multiple international teams, but I believe it's far into the future. The immediate future and the Jaguars London experiment is going to determine how far into the future a commitment to an international movement is.

Chris from Newbury Park, CA

I waited all draft to hear a safety pick. Big-time mistake and the consequences will be similar to last year.

I have no doubt that should you be correct, you will return and remind us of your prediction, but what if you're wrong? Will you return and remind us you were wrong?

Danny from Anchorage, AK

Everyone says you can't truly judge a team's draft class until three or so years later, but no one ever actually goes back and evaluates them after three years. So let's do it. What do you think of the Packers 2010 draft class?

Bryan Bulaga is a starting tackle. Mike Neal, after two injury-shortened seasons, is making a move on playing time and appears to fit into the team's future. Morgan Burnett is one of the league's best safeties. Andrew Quarless is coming off a year lost to knee reconstruction, but he has established himself as a tight end of worth. Marshall Newhouse was the Packers' starting left tackle for two years and is now being challenged to hold his job. James Starks was a late-season star in his rookie year, turned in a solid season in 2011, and is being challenged to hold his job following a disappointing season in 2012. C.J. Wilson has been a dependable defensive lineman. That's seven picks and all of them are still on the roster. That's how you build a healthy salary cap and keep your roster young and developing.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

Your thoughts on the line shuffle?

It confirms what Mike McCarthy had previously said, that he was disappointed in the play of the left side of his offensive line last season. More emphatically, I think news of potential changes on the offensive line tell me Coach McCarthy is open to change. He's challenging his linemen to advance their careers by competing for a job.

Jeff from Saint Paul, MN

Recently, Geno Smith has been criticized by anonymous sources about his attitude. Is there a difference, from your perspective, regarding using an anonymous source versus someone who will go on the record? Also, should readers treat information from anonymous sources differently?

Some newspapers won't permit their writers the luxury of quoting anonymous sources. I believe it's all about the byline. A trusted writer deserves a degree of freedom. A credible, veteran reporter has sources he can trust. When I see a byline with a name I respect, I'll trust his anonymous sources. When I see anonymous sources being thrown around by reporters or websites that don't engender that kind of trust, I tend to disregard what I've read. It's a personal thing. Do you believe news from an anonymous source because you trust the reporter who wrote it? Or do you believe news from an anonymous source because you want to believe it, because it's entertaining and titillating? I think the latter is the bigger problem. College conference realignment news is the classic example.

John from Georgetown, TX

Will the Packers ever announce the 2013 undrafted free agents they signed?

When they've passed their physicals and they've signed their contracts, they'll be announced.

Matt from Bremerton, WA

Do undrafted and tryout players have to prove more or are they weighed independently of their pedigree?

Once they get to this point, all players are judged by the same eyes. Draft position clearly creates advantages – you're not going to cut a first-round pick – but undrafted players and tryout players (Jarrett Boykin was a tryout player last spring) get every bit the look that high picks get because history has proven time and time again that you find football players where you find football players, regardless of the school or the round of the draft that produced them. I sense Packers fans are excited about the team's two seventh-round wide receiver picks. Why not? The late rounds of the draft have produced a lot of top receivers, which is why I maintain that wide receivers are a dime a dozen.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Who is the X receiver for the Packers?

James Jones and Jordy Nelson fit the prototype of someone big enough and strong enough to play on the line of scrimmage and beat the jam, and fast enough to stretch the field.

Jim from San Marcos, CA

All the talk about Jones, the return of Perry, etc., to improve the defense next year. Nothing said about Jerel Worthy. Improving, falling off the bench, what's with him and anonymity?

He suffered a torn ACL late in the season and underwent knee reconstruction. His situation is similar to Andrew Quarless' last year. We have to wait and see if Worthy can make it back this year.

Dustin from Bowling Green, KY

Zero technique is a 34 nose that lines up even with the center. One technique is a 43 nose that lines up shaded on the center.

A 34 nose tackle can play one technique and a 43 defensive tackle can play zero technique. Again, don't concern yourself with formations; concern yourself with function.

Taylor from Sheboygan, WI

Why do we make it so hard on ourselves? My answer: Google defensive line positions.

I'm not a naturally bright person, but I've developed a degree of media street smarts and my invitation on Friday for readers to define the defensive line numbering system was sheer genius, if I must say so myself. Nothing could be simpler to understand than the numbers of the bodies and gaps along the defensive line, but today's fans love football terminology and the sophistication it allows them to feel, and they love to make it difficult. My inbox is full of explanations, several of which don't agree with the others. A lot of readers want to know now about A gaps and B gaps. The TV analysts, the Jaws and the Mayocks and the Grudens, have made the fans terminology crazy. What bothers me is that, in my opinion, the terminology obstructs learning. Penetrate and disrupt is a better way to describe a three-technique tackle; use language that defines the player's function, instead of stuffy-sounding terminology that requires a translator to explain.

John from Milwaukee, WI

Vince Lombardi was once asked who his best player was, and he replied, "Hornung, because he had to win." By that standard, who is the best player on the current roster, and who are the best players you have seen over the years?

With all due respect to Coach Lombardi, I strongly believe Bart Starr was his best player. The Packers won titles without Paul Hornung; they didn't win under Lombardi without Starr. You could say that about some other players on that team, but I think everyone would agree that Starr was the difference maker. Aaron Rodgers is that player on today's team. When I covered the Steelers in the '70s, it was Terry Bradshaw. He's famous for having said the Steelers could lose with him, but they'd never win without him, and Joe Greene agreed. In my lifetime, football has always been about the quarterback. If your quarterback isn't your best player, odds are you're not going to win a championship. The Ravens won without their quarterback being their best player, and it's been done by a few other teams, but they are the exception, not the rule.

Jeffrey from Englewood, FL

The answer to your Howdy Doody and Vince Lombardi question is: Aaron Rodgers is a great QB; you, Vic, may not be. But it is the coaches' job to put the players in a position to win. If Aaron Rodgers listens to Howdy Doody, and you listen to Vince Lombardi, you should win.

What if I can't do what Coach Lombardi tells me to do? Jeffrey, when I read something as what you're suggesting, I truly worry about the future of the game because you have completely lost an appreciation for the human confrontation that is the game's charm. You've turned it into chess. You've turned it into people thinking, instead of people playing, people aspiring, people reaching down inside themselves and overcoming pain and fear. Your opinion, though I know it is well-intended, saddens me. What can I do to help you get a feel for this game? How might I help you understand what it feels like to leave the huddle after hearing your number called, and hear the crowd and the voice inside yourself challenging you? I very much want that for you, Jeffrey, and I want it for all the young fans that are missing the best part of what football provides.

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