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Cowboys, 49ers were Packers' roadblocks


Kevin from Kennewick, WA

Per your video: preseason must win? Twenty thousand comedians out of work and you make a good joke. Thanks for the laugh, Vic.

Yeah, it was a joke, but I was surprised by what I found when I did the research on the preseason records of teams that went on to win the Super Bowl in each of the previous 10 seasons. I wasn't expecting 24-16. I was expecting something closer to .500. I'm not sure what to make of it, but I think we have to consider the possibility that the preseason does offer some hint of what we are to expect, unless, of course, the coach has intentionally kept his lead personnel out of action. There has to be some allowance for that. I'm not a big stats guy, but what struck me the most is that 24-16 equates roughly to 10-6, which has traditionally been the standard for getting into the playoffs. That has to say something.

Carlos from Lima, Peru

I was wondering why the 1996 Packers couldn't become a dynasty. They had the quarterback, the coaching staff and the defense to make it; however, we would always come up short in the playoffs. What's your opinion?

The Cowboys and the 49ers are the reasons the '90s Packers weren't a dynasty. Those Packers teams got pinched in their run by the Cowboys and 49ers. Those two teams were dynasties, one that carried through the '80s and into the '90s, and the other squarely in the '90s. Simply put, you can't have two teams of the decade. The '90s Packers were a good bunch and they will be remembered as such, but they weren't a match for the Cowboys. The 49ers were the Cowboys' true challenger back then. They were two deep-pockets, big-spending franchises that were on runs and they paid little heed to the salary cap era that was descending on them, and that's why they both went away for a long time. They sustained their runs for as long as they could, but when their runs ended, the curtain came down hard. The Packers' run in the '90s just unfortunately coincided with one of the great short-term hauls of talent the league has ever seen, which is to say the drafts that delivered players such as Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Mark Stepnoski, Leon Lett, Darren Woodson and a whole lot more. In my opinion, the team that Jimmy Johnson assembled was as powerful a collection of talent as the game has ever seen.

Justin from St. Augustine, FL

What happened to the "46 Defense?" If pressure is a key to a successful defense, why don't we see it anymore?

The major point of emphasis of the chuck rule in 2004 is what happened to the "46." The "46" puts its corners in man-to-man coverage and without help over the top, and when the NFL became vigilant in enforcing the 5-yard chuck rule in '04, that was the end of the "46" because you didn't dare put your corners on an island; it was going to result in big plays for the offense. Jeff Fisher is a product of the "46" and he used a lot of the "46" and its concepts as head coach of the Titans, but even he stopped doing it when he saw what the major point of emphasis would do to the game. Hey, Fisher was on the competition committee that approved it. He knew.

Robert from Mishawaka, IN

Do you think mandatory, knee, thigh and hip pads could cut down on some of those minor injuries, such as bruises, hip pointers, etc.?

Yes, I do. Thigh pads take away the charley horse-type injuries. Hip pads would've probably prevented the hip pointer Sam Shields got in practice last week when he fell hard on his side. I know the NFL is focusing on the head, but if we're going to do the player-safety thing as aggressively as we're doing it, shouldn't we put all of the pads on? By the way, Terry Bradshaw came up with one of the funniest one-word answers in football TV broadcast history last night, while in the booth with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman during the telecast of the Eagles-Steelers game. The trio was having a spirited discussion on player safety and Bradshaw was talking about the good old days of the '70s, when the game was so vicious, and Buck asked him: "So, are you against player safety?" "Absolutely," Bradshaw said. I couldn't stop laughing. It's a shame players don't talk like that anymore. Why can't we have fun without taking every word a guy says and nailing him to the cross with it? Good for you, Brad. Don't ever change.

Rob from Oshkosh, WI

How do people get into coaching? Where do they start?

Usually, it's in the kitchen or family room at home, or in whatever room they were in when they first asked their mother or father to sign the consent form so they could play football. When that piece of paper is signed, a young man begins his schooling to become a coach, if he elects to make that his career. I don't think you have to play the game to become a coach – Todd Haley didn't but, of course, his father was an NFL personnel director – but the preponderance of coaches at all levels of the game did, in fact, play the game. A few years ago, during a Jaguars practice, Jack Del Rio playfully wagered with his kicker that if he made a certain percentage of his kicks, the coaches would run. If he fell below that percentage, the players would run. Well, the kicker topped the standard, causing the coaches to run sprints as the players cheered them on. It was nearly too painful to watch; they could barely get back and forth across the field. I'm talking about top NFL players, such as Del Rio and Ken Anderson. They limped and they were stiff-legged; some could only shuffle. I told Coach Del Rio that he should never do that again because any player seeing that would have second-thoughts about playing football. So, how do you become a coach? You begin by playing a game that's so demanding of the body that you develop sensitivity and understanding for what you'll one day demand of your players. You know the old saying: Never ask someone to do something you wouldn't do yourself. Yeah, I think it helps to have played the game.

Jim from New Paltz, NY

How do the Packers assure that the fans are just fans attending practices and not, say, a scout?

By not charging admission to practice. NFL rules forbid teams from sending scouts to training camp practices that are free to the public. If a team charges admission to practice, it's fair game. The Redskins made that mistake a few years ago. They charged admission and the Cowboys sent a team of scouts to the Redskins' training camp.

Michael from Spartanburg, SC

I just read on that Rex Ryan said that Mark Sanchez is an elite quarterback because he has won four playoff games. Do you think the term "elite quarterback" is used too often in the league today?

It might, but I think we might also be attaching too great a meaning to the word elite. It just means a select group, and that means that those quarterbacks at the top of the rankings, especially those with Super Bowl titles, are elite, or among a select group. Rodgers, Brady, Peyton Manning, Brees, Roethlisberger are elite quarterbacks. Some would put Eli Manning in that group, too. Sanchez is not an elite quarterback, but he plays at an elite level in the postseason and that's my kind of guy. He's on his way to the elite level.

Dan from Bowling Green, OH

Watching most of the preseason kickoffs sailing into the end zone, and taking it as a precursor for even more in the regular season, my question is why doesn't the league just scrap the kickoff altogether and only do it for onside kicks? Seems to be a bit of a waste to have a coin toss to basically see who's going to start each half at the 20.

We need to scrap everything after one week of the preseason? We can't wait and see how this plays out, Bill, I mean, Dan?

Scott from Greensburg, IN

I was wondering what your thoughts are concerning using B.J. Raji in the backfield on occasion again this season.

I'm OK with it, if it really works, but I'll add this caveat: Raji is one of the best defensive linemen in the game, and I'd sure hate to see him blow out an ankle or a knee by getting cut in the hole, which is what defensive linemen are going to try to do to a 300-pound guy like that. If you can cut a guy that big and get him stuck in the hole, you can literally use him against his own ball-carrier. Gimmicks are fun, but Raji is valuable goods.

Patrick from Hopkins, MN

What was it like covering an expansion franchise like the Jags? Being Packers fans, we always like to talk about the history of our team.

One of the charms of covering an expansion team is that you don't have to learn about the team's history, you get to witness it, every step of the way. I loved my time in Jacksonville. Now I'm in a place where the tradition and history humble me, and I like that, too. Viva la difference.

Evan from Baltimore, MD

Why is it that the starting squad usually gets the most playing time in the second and third preseason games?

Coaches want to build to a crescendo. The third game is usually when the cymbals clash, as coaches will use Week 3 of the preseason to establish the routine of a regular-season week. They'll game plan for the Week-3 game, and they'll present the game plan to the players, as they would during a regular-season week. Most importantly, they'll play their starters into the third quarter, which means they'll get their starters into the habit of having to answer the bell after halftime. Week 3 is when you declare your team as ready to begin the regular season. Week 4 is for resting starters and getting them 100 percent for the start of the regular season, and for making the call on a few depth-chart battles and bottom-of-the-roster competitions.

Patrick from Hopkins, MN

The Eagles' so-called "dream team" didn't look so great with the first team on the field last night. Does this show that putting together the big names doesn't always pay off or should we take this with a grain of salt since it's still preseason and they're working the kinks out? I see arguments for either option.

They beat the Ravens in Week 1 and lost to the Steelers last night. With a win over the Browns next week, the Eagles could pull into a first-place tie in the AFC North. That's a big game.

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