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Bears bear John Fox's stamp

Datone Jones is beautiful blend of scheme and execution


Tyler from Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Vic, one of the things I noticed this week was the impact Datone Jones made after the bad punt. How would you characterize his development to this point in his career?

This is year three of Jones' career and he's showing signs of being an impact player, but not only as an Okie end. Coach Capers is using Jones in a way similar to how Coach Capers used Tony Brackens in 1999. Brackens was a 4-3 defensive end, but Coach Capers effectively used Brackens as a hand-on-the-ground outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense that included a lot of 3-4 principles. Jones is effectively being used as a standup defensive end, doing a lot of the same things Brackens did but out of a different stance and formation. That's why I say think function, not formation. Coach Capers is a scheme genius, but he'd be the first to tell you players make schemes work. Jones is making it work. We're witnessing a beautiful blend of scheme and execution.

Joe from St. Bonifacius, MN

I know you're probably tired of these questions, but I'm genuinely curious. What would have happened if the squirrel had run onto the field and interfered with a play? For example, it got stepped on by a ball carrier. Would it just be a replay of the down?

The down would count but the squirrel would likely be dead. They're high in cholesterol, you know.

John from Kalamazoo, MI

Sunday afternoon, I watched a good football game with the people I love most. Win or lose, football time has always meant family time for me. That's what I'm thankful for.

I'm thankful for my December friend. It's going to be a month of big games, and I'm going to watch them and write about them, and that's a special friend I never take for granted.

Mark from Winfield, IL

Vic, what's your opinion of Randall Cobb? Some very uncharacteristic drops by him on Sunday.

I saw him take his eyes off one throw, possibly trying to run before he caught the ball, which could be an example of trying to do too much. My opinion of Cobb is he'll become Aaron Rodgers' go-to guy in December, and he'll be one of the veteran core players who will lead this team to its destiny.

Brian from Muskego, WI

Whatever happened to the weak side vs. strong side terminology? You don't hear that being used anymore. Is it an obsolete reference now that teams do so much more with tight ends and pre-snap motion?

The tight end always defined the strength of the formation, but bunch formations have changed that. It's more difficult to identify the strong side of formations these days.

Damien from Sierra Vista, AZ

I just read the article about the pep rally in Phoenix next month. I'm from Wisconsin, but a career in the Army led me eventually to a post in southern Arizona. I don't get home very often for a game, so I'm excited for the event. Can you provide some details about what I can expect during the pep rally?

I'll do that, but I must regretfully inform you the "thing" will be a no-show at the pep rally. I apologize for misleading those I might have lured to the event by promising a "thing" giveaway. The "thing" is gone. I threw a fistful of them in a cup following "Ask Vic Day." My cup runneth over with the "thing," but what I didn't know was I had long ago stuck a baseball in the cup, so I didn't have as many "things" as I thought I did. I just noticed the error. I'm still trying to figure out why I kept that baseball.

James from Cornell, WI

On Thursday, they retire Brett Favre's number in Green Bay. Do you have a favorite Favre memory you'd be willing to share?

I wasn't covering the Packers during Favre's years. I have no doubt I would've loved covering him, but I was in the AFC and didn't cover many of his games. I did, however, cover his first start, against the Steelers in 1992. He played well and a career was launched. I talked about that game in a video interview I did with Bill Cowher a couple of years ago.

Brad from McChord Field, WA

Vic, I'm curious of your opinion of Richard Rodgers. Do you believe he's the tight end of the future?

It's available to him. He can be that guy. He has the movement and ball-catching skills to develop into a big-time, pass-catching tight end. He's shown signs of it; 36 catches and five touchdown receptions. In my opinion, the challenge for Rodgers is to become a greater deep-seam threat and in-line blocker.

Acer from Ewa Beach, HI

What are your thoughts on the college rule for targeting (helmet to helmet) being an ejection? Do you think the NFL should go that route, as well?

As it pertains to the game that's being played, I think it's excessively penal and I don't want to see it employed in the NFL, but I understand what college football is trying to accomplish with the targeting penalty. It's a message penalty, and the message is: Head shots will not be tolerated. I think it's a good message. It might save some kid from being paralyzed for life. As much as I don't like the penalty's immediate impact on the game, I applaud college football's long-term approach toward making the game safer. Keep the penalty.

Andrew from Los Angeles, CA

What are your thoughts on the IMG Academy? Is this the future of high school football?

Private schools are dominating high school football, and I think we appreciate the special advantages they have. Once upon a time, they weren't members of their state associations, because they didn't have defined enrollment boundaries; private schools played in their own separate associations and conducted their own championships. The courts changed that, and now they compete on the same level with schools that have defined boundaries. In my opinion, the town teams will struggle to compete with the private schools and academies. IMG Academy fielded a team for the first time in 2013. This year's team has been lauded as the most talented high school team in America. Six of the nation's top 100 seniors are on IMG's roster. Tuition is pretty high ($70K a year), but I'm sure there are programs (wink, wink) that could help alleviate that burden. If this is the future of high school football, then high school football has no future, because that's not high school football.

Dale from Kettering, OH

A two-point conversion shows up on the scoreboard, but it doesn't exist statistically. How'd that happen in the stat-happy NFL?

It's been that way forever. A conversion attempt is an untimed down. The thinking was you shouldn't include stats from a play that didn't consume time from the clock. It wasn't a big deal then. It shouldn't be a big deal now.

Dave from Cleveland, OH

Vic, I was at a Cavs game last night and noticed how the players directly address the fans to get pumped up before the game. Do you think there's room for that in the NFL? Personally, I'd like to see it.

I'm an old fuddy duddy when it comes to this stuff. If it increases your enjoyment, I'm for it, but I don't need it.

Justin from Titonka, IA

Who do you expect to make the college playoff? Does Iowa have a chance?

I think the Big 10 champion deserves a representative in the four-team playoff. If Iowa wins the Big 10 title, it deserves a shot at Alabama. Let me know how that works for you.

Josh from Great Falls, MT

Capers is using Datone Jones in unusual ways. Is he the next Julius Peppers? He may not have Peppers' athleticism, but he did have some results.

There's a big difference between "some results" and a Hall-of-Fame career. Jones is doing some nice things. His arrow is pointing up. Can we just leave it at that for now? Let's not create suffocating expectations.

Justin from Knoxville, TN

Vic, the Bears are a well-coached team and you can tell by the way they've improved since the season began. What is one area of their improvement that sticks out to you personally?

They lost their first three games by a combined 59 points; they've lost three since then and by a combined eight points. There's the difference. They're competitive with everybody they play now. The stats bear John Fox's stamp. He's doing in Chicago in his first season as coach what Mike Zimmer did in Minnesota in his first season as coach last year.

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