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Don't let losing ruin your life


Marc from Ponte San Marco, Italy

Vic, how is your preparation for winter in Green Bay differing from that of when you and your family were back in Jacksonville?

About a month ago, I took the golf clubs out of the trunk of my car and replaced them with the new, three-piece, combination telescopic ice-scraper, broom and hand-held ice-scraper ensemble I purchased this fall. I was feeling very snow-worthy until Mike McCarthy told me his snow-blower has heated handles.

Ted from Dayton, OH

Who is the toughest kicker/punter you have ever covered?

Bobby Walden. He was a dour, old veteran with an attitude and he didn't like it when a punter was brought into training camp to compete with him. I remember watching him stand next to a young punter in training camp, staring right at the kid as he punted. He'd say, "Didn't get much hang time on that one, did you, kid?" I can even remember the kid's name and school: Joe Horn from Slippery Rock. He was a smallish punter and Walden referred to him as Shoe Horn, that little old boy from Rollin' Rock. After a couple of days of Walden sniping at him, the kid was shanking everything. Those were the old days when the players' financial protections weren't what they are today. If they got hurt, you could cut them and owe them nothing. Players were extremely defensive of their position and place on teams and competition for their jobs was more the enemy than opposing teams.

Jon from Lewisburg, PA

Could you tell me about the differences between the AFC and the NFC? I don't really have a feel for what the difference is in culture, but you mentioned in an earlier article that there is one. I'd like to hear about it.

The difference in culture is a result of the difference between the NFL and AFL. The NFC, which is the old NFL, is full of large-market teams: Giants, Eagles, Redskins, Bears, etc. Don't forget that the Rams were in Los Angeles when the leagues merged. The AFC, which is the old AFL other than for the Browns, Colts and Steelers, is full of small-market teams, the result of the AFL having to cast its lot with young towns on the rise. Some of those towns, such as Houston, have grown into large markets, but they weren't big when the AFL began play. I always thought the large market, small market difference between the two conferences caused the NFC to be a little smug. Of course, the AFC wiped that smugness off the NFC's face in the 1970s, immediately following the merger, with a decade of on-the-field dominance. That was good for the league because it put everyone on equal footing and ended the AFL-NFL wars forever. In the years after the merger, NFC teams continued to function with the reserve of the establishment NFL that it was, and AFC teams continued to be aggressive and more accepting of change, which was the personality of the AFL. Those cultural differences have eased.

Don from Swaledale, IA

The Packers need to return to being the hunter not the hunted. What say you, Vic?

They've only lost one game.

Thad from Chesterfield, VA

I keep hearing that teams have the blueprint to beat the Packers by getting to the quarterback. Isn't that every team's blueprint against the team they are playing?

Of course it is. The defensive blueprint for beating any team in the league begins with rushing the quarterback. It's what a team does behind its rush that defines the blueprint. Does it play aggressive man defense, or soft zone? Does it blitz to get pressure, or does it drop its linebackers into the deep zones? The pass-rush must be a constant. If you don't get pressure on the quarterback, it doesn't matter what you play in the back.

Mike from Johnstown, PA

If you were the GM for an expansion team, what position would you want to draft in the first round and why?

If you're an expansion team, you would be picking at the top of the draft, so you're likely going to be staring at a premium-position player at the top of your board: passer, pass-blocker, pass-rusher, pass defender. If the next Aaron Rodgers is there, you take him. If the next Anthony Munoz is your top-rated guy, you take him. If the next Lawrence Taylor is there, you take him. If the next Darrelle Revis is there, you take him. That's what you're looking for, the next one of those four players.

Matt from Bremerton, WA

So if the big-guy receivers aren't real tight ends, then what should we call them?

If they're not tight to the formation, they're wide receivers. It's that simple.

Neil from Cheddar, UK

Jerry Kramer said, "We never lose, sometimes the clock just runs out." Is that how this team feels? The clock just ran out?

The Packers put that loss in Kansas City out of their minds days ago. They're not thinking about the clock running out or anything else about that game. They have moved on because the business of professional football demands it. You can't allow yourself to hurt for more than 24 hours because the next guy you face is already beginning his preparation to whip you.

Jeff from Bogart, GA

Joe Theismann did a power rankings article and he said he felt after the K.C. win over the Packers, the Packers were in no way deserving of the No. 1 ranking. In fact, he put them at sixth behind Baltimore and Pittsburgh, both of whom got smoked this week, and behind New Orleans and San Francisco. I was wondering what your thoughts were on this? He sure took a beating by many football fans for that blog and I personally think he deserved it.

My thoughts are that if you hadn't called this to my attention, I would've never known about it. My thoughts are not on power rankings because we have reached the point in the season that my thoughts are about one thing only, playoff seeding. That's the only power ranking that matters.

Joe from Milwaukee, WI

Why do you think McCarthy appears "untruthful" in his approach in talking about injuries?

I have never once heard him tell a lie about a player's injury status. I'd also tell you that I've seldom heard him provide much information on player injuries, but that's consistent with every other coach in the league. Coaches are afraid of their opponent gaining a competitive advantage by acquiring information that doesn't have to be revealed, so they provide the bare minimum. As Chuck Noll would say when I'd ask him about his conference call with members of the media that cover the upcoming opponent. "Fine," he'd say. "Not much information was passed." Noll called it the "mushroom theory." Keep 'em in the dark and feed 'em a lot of you know what.

Kit from Boston, MA

With the 49ers playing on Saturday, the Packers will know if they have clinched home field before they play this week. Personally, it would mean more to me to see the team earn the top spot with a win rather than have it handed to them with a loss by San Francisco. What do you think? Does it matter?

No, it doesn't matter. Get home-field advantage, then begin preparing for the playoffs. It's real simple now. Forget about the undefeated season and power rankings and stats and records. It's about one thing and one thing only: Win the Super Bowl.

Rusty from Rockledge, FL

According to the Mayan calendar, the world is supposed to end exactly one year from today. Do you have any special plans for the last year of human existence?

The problem with these doomsday forecasts is you can never trust them; they're always wrong. Now, if I knew I could trust this one, then I'd spend the next year of my life playing golf, eating food that's bad for me, smoking those cigars in my study the doctor said I can't smoke anymore, and making sure I spend my last dollar on the last day. You know, when I think about it, it doesn't sound like a bad way to go. I'm not afraid of dying. I'm just afraid it'll hurt.

Lucy from Appleton, WI

Last year, our defense was one of the top defenses in the league, and we were able to consistently get pressure on the opposing quarterback. This is often not the case this season. Why is it that our defense is not winning their one-on-ones as much this year?

I don't know.

Rick from Chatham, Ontario

I see where the Packers picked up OT Herb Taylor. I know they have a tackle on their practice squad and I'm not sure why they didn't promote from within. What do the practice squad guys do?

Develop their talent. That's the purpose of the practice squad and too few teams use the practice squad for that purpose and that's why they don't have jars on the shelf. The Packers use the practice squad the right way. How do I know that? Because every Tuesday doesn't bring a rash of practice squad cuts and signings. That's what teams do that use the practice squad the wrong way, which is to say as a supplement to the active roster.

Ben from Hudson, WI

I understand your stance on watching your team and not letting it ruin your day, week, etc., however, my way of thinking is that you have to suffer the losses in order to fully appreciate and relish the wins. It doesn't bother me that I feel utterly destroyed when my team loses a heartbreaker (like KC), just as long as I feel immense euphoria when they accomplish something great.

Hey, if you can handle the emotional swing, go ahead. My concern is for people that can't bridle their hurt. Losing a football game is never reason for depression or, worse, domestic dispute. The game is over, but life goes on. Don't let losing ruin your life.

Sam from Fort Wayne, IN

Vic, at the beginning of the season, you made a video claiming the Christmas Day game would be the best game of the year. There is nothing I want more for Christmas than for a dagger to be driven through the heart of the Bears' playoff hopes.

A Christmas dagger? Should we be talking like that? Anyhow, when I looked at the schedule when I did that video, I was torn between the Bears game on Christmas, the Lions game on Thanksgiving and the Giants game, as to which would be the best game of the year. As it stands right now, I think the Giants game is the defining game of this season, but it will quickly be replaced by whatever happens in the postseason.

Lee from Northbrook, IL

Your columns have been an outstanding combination of wit, information and a mild dose of sarcasm that jump-starts my day. My question is what team do you root for outside of the office? What is the team that gives you white knuckles and house-shaking joy?

I root for "Team Ketchman." It has team members all over the eastern half of the United States, and when I get good news, I have joy. At all other times, I worry.

Adam from Stevens Point, WI

What are the main advantages and disadvantages of man and zone coverages. It seems like man coverage is far superior to zone, if you have the players to match up.

You don't worry as much about miscommunication and blown assignments when you're playing man. There's your man, beat him. Of course, that's easier said than done, and on those occasions when their man beats your man, it can end in a big play. Zone coverage denies big plays, but it requires a lot of communication and precise execution in passing receivers from one defender to the other. A lack of timing or execution in passing those receivers on from defender to defender results in gaps or soft spots in the coverage and that's the point in the route quarterbacks will attack.

Tom from Stryker, OH

What jersey will the Packers wear if they make it to the Super Bowl?

The AFC is the home team for Super Bowl XLVI, so the AFC team will get first choice of which jersey it wishes to wear.

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