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Core players make Packers young team


Garrett from New Knoxville, OH

I personally think Peyton Manning is a better QB than Brady. People often bring up how many rings each QB has. Brady had a grade A defense to sit back on; Peyton, however, did not. Imagine if Peyton would've been on the Patriots team and Brady on the Colts? How many rings would Manning have then? Brady?

Brady would probably have more. The postseason seems to have been a barrier for one and a launching pad for the other. You've focused on the defenses, but you didn't mention the offenses. Manning's offense was littered with first-round picks: Edgerrin James, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark. Brady won three Super Bowls with a supporting cast of low-round picks and castoffs: Antowain Smith, David Patten, Troy Brown, David Givens, Christian Fauria, Corey Dillon.

Richie from Truckee, CA

How important do you think the QB/coach relationship is? Ditka seemed to rip McMahon constantly, but they still won. Other than that, I can't think of a team that still won championships while having such a rift between QB and coach.

Roger Staubach's relationship with Tom Landry was so strained during the two-quarterback years that Staubach asked to be traded. Otto Graham told me in an interview I did with him a few years before he died that the angriest he had ever been in his life was when he was benched in a game by Paul Brown, and then heard Brown say to an assistant coach, loud enough for Graham to hear, that at least they had a quarterback in the game now who had the guts to stay in the pocket. The relationship between Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll was heated from beginning to end. Noll routinely "undressed" Bradshaw along the sideline during games early in Bradshaw's career. In Bradshaw's final season, 1983, when he missed all but one game due to elbow surgery, he suggested to reporters that he should be allowed to travel to road games so he could be a mentor to Cliff Stoudt. When told of Bradshaw's comment, Noll said: "If he can't play for us, he can't help us," and that ignited another war between the two. The relationship between Johnny Unitas and Don Shula was terse, to say the least. Shula sent a play into the game once and Unitas called time out, went to the sideline and asked Shula if he wanted to play quarterback. Didn't Bart Starr draw a line in the sand with Vince Lombardi early in their relationship? If you study coach-quarterback relationships, I think you'll find that most of them had an edge. Football is an edge game. As Tom Coughlin once said to me, "I don't want people walkin' around here with smiles on their faces."

Herb from Palm Desert, CA

Sorry, Vic, but I think your reliance on postseason performances when rating players has gone a bit too far. To wonder if "part of (Brady's) game has left him" fails to consider basic variables such as small sample size and team turnover. Players don't just lose that special skill. At what point does one just say that postseason success depends an awful lot on luck and begin to realize that every game is a big game during a 16-game season?

I wasn't doing a market survey or a scientific analysis; I was just giving you my opinion and it's my opinion that as players get older and they sense that they don't run as fast, jump as high, throw as hard or recover from hard hits as quickly as they did when they were young, they tend to lose some confidence in their ability and that frays the nerves and allows doubt to creep in for the big games.

Trent from Clinton, UT

I believe the NFL should play at least a few preseason games at neutral sites in bigger, non-NFL markets. Your thoughts?

I began covering the NFL right at the time that the league was getting away from playing preseason games at out-of-the-way places. The big problem with playing preseason games at neutral sites is that the game has to be promoted. It has to be sold on its own merits, instead of tucking it inside a season-ticket package. In the strong pro football towns, such as Green Bay, the two home preseason games are viewed as part of the season package; you can assign any price or value you want to the preseason ticket because the total cost of a season ticket is largely understood to be the cost of seeing eight regular-season games. When you start separating preseason games from regular-season games, that's when cost becomes an issue. It's an issue for franchises that aren't sold out on a season-ticket basis. The fans complain that the cost of a preseason game is too high, and that would be the same complaint you would hear for preseason games played at neutral sites.

Sam from De Pere, WI

The Packers have a large group of running backs that stepped up last year, without Grant being in the lineup most of the season. What is the most likely outcome for the upcoming year, with Grant returning and the remaining players at the running back position?

The most likely result is that all of them will find a role in which they can contribute. I think it's most likely that Ryan Grant and James Starks will share the load. Good coaches, and Mike McCarthy is a very good coach, find ways to include good players, not exclude them.

Mariano from Milwaukee, WI

Before we start talking about retiring No. 4, I think we should see where No. 12 is going, don't you think? They both won a Super Bowl. If Rodgers wins another, can they really retire No. 4 (and No. 12 too)?

You wanna know what I think? I think we talk too much about retiring numbers. I don't go to the game to see a number play. I go to see a player play. Put any number you want on a guy; I'll know him when I see him. Hey, the old-timers wore several numbers. I covered a team that didn't wear numbers on their practice jerseys. The coach wanted everyone to get to know the individual players according to their movements, not their numbers. It worked. I think I wanna stop thinking about numbers for a while.

Rob from Oshkosh, WI

In your response about rivalries, you didn't mention Ravens-Steelers. I wouldn't call it a traditional rivalry but it is certainly more than an era rivalry. How would you characterize it?

Rival gangs?

Tom from Nottingham, England

Hi, Vic. I love the column. I read it every morning at work with a coffee here in the UK. Quick question: I know the Packers have a young team, but are they the youngest Super Bowl champions ever? Thanks.

I couldn't find an answer to your question. Frankly, I don't think the average age of a roster is what should be used to determine a team's relative age because a lot of young teams stock their depth chart with older players that are stop-gap role players, and a lot of older teams load up their depth chart with young players that are affordable alternatives. In my opinion, a team is only as young as its core players, the most important of those being the quarterback. Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, Greg Jennings, Nick Collins, Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, etc., are young players that protect the future of the Packers. The 2001 Patriots that won the Super Bowl had a lot of older players on their roster, but they had a quarterback who was just in his second year and that made the Patriots a young team, regardless of the roster's average age. Again, you have to look behind the stat to see what the truth is.

Tom from Richmond, VA

I've read lots of opinions regarding whether the shortened offseason will favor the Packers. I believe it won't hurt us for the obvious reasons that we've got most of our key personnel in place and we're not making radical changes in our playbook / schemes. Do you agree?

Yes, I do. If I was the GM of a team in rebuilding, I'd let it rip this season. I'd turn the roster over as quickly as I could because I think it'll be veritably impossible to be competitive with a young roster this season; too much time has been lost. If you're in rebuilding, this is a good season to commit to it.

Lance from Scappoose, OR

When did you know writing about football was what you wanted to do?

I knew it was what I wanted to do the first time I covered a city council meeting. I really mean that. I was an intern at a newspaper, mostly in the sports department, but I was being used in news, too, to help fill in for news reporters on vacation. Well, I was sent to a city council meeting one evening. It lasted until nearly 11 o'clock and it was so boring, so disinteresting that it depressed me. I had no idea what they were arguing about and I remember driving home that night thinking that if I couldn't cover sports full time, I was going to find another career.

Tim from Menomonee Falls, WI

I saw the question from the dad who was disappointed his sons didn't get to see players from past decades play. Why doesn't the NFL make telecasts of individual games from past decades available on DVD? It would be great for both young and old fans. The NFL could take the profit from the sale of these DVDs and pay the pensions and cover the cost of the health care of retired players.

Pete Rozelle was adamant about protecting the value of NFL telecasts. Is it possible Pete saw NFL Network in the league's future?

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