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Draft intended to promote parity


Cameron from Bussey, IA

What do you think was the biggest reason for the offensive line's being much better last season? Was the addition of Bulaga that much of a difference-maker?

Vic: The more good players you have at any position, the better you become at that position, not only because of the depth that's created, but also because of the competition that results. It makes everyone a better player. One of the worst things that can happen to a team is to be set at every position and lack depth behind the players at those positions. It makes teams go soft. I saw evidence of that years ago when the Jaguars got into salary cap trouble and started converting salary into signing bonus on a new contract, which was a way of guaranteeing that salary and pushing money out into dummy years. It also guaranteed that player's place on the team and in the lineup. Goodbye competition; it was a killer. Football is an edge game. It's play for pay, not we pay and then you play.

Michael from Reno, NV

In the Feb. 28 posting you said the first overall pick is becoming more of a penalty than a reward, but shouldn't it be a penalty? That means you had the worst record in the league. If they wanted to make it a reward, they should have the Super Bowl champions with the first pick and the worst record has the 32nd pick.

Vic: You didn't get the memo on parity. Everything about the NFL is built on the concept of competition. Pooling the revenue, the draft, the waiver claim order, etc., were all instituted with the idea of promoting parity. The whole idea is that if you're last in the standings, you'll draft first, which will make you first in the standings, which will make you draft last, which will make you finish last, and on and on. Just never be 8-8, because 8-8 drafts in the middle, which means it'll keep being 8-8. It's a way of recycling winning, or at least leveling the playing field. Why did the Packers of the '60s, the Steelers of the '70s, the 49ers of the '80s and the Cowboys of the '90s all burn out? Because they drafted at the bottom of the order too long. I think we're seeing signs of that effect on the Colts right now. They haven't had a top draft in a long time and it's not because Bill Polian lost his touch. The draft is a system Bert Bell put into place and it has served the league well for a long time. It's not as though there weren't first-pick-of-the-draft busts years ago, it's just that they didn't have as devastating an effect on teams that picked them because the contracts those players signed didn't hold teams hostage as they do today. Frankly, I wouldn't want the first pick of the draft nowadays. I'm not even sure I'd want a top 10 pick.

Kyle from Orange Park, FL

Hate to break it to Packers fans but they don't own squat. They have no control over the day-to-day running of the team and don't share in the profits and losses of the team. I can make a piece of paper saying I own a piece of the Jags, but that don't make it so. Just sayin'.

Vic: Where's the loyalty? Where's the romantic attachment to the game and your team? Where's the selfless dedication? I gotta tell you, this is why there's a problem in Jacksonville. It's too much about what is the team going to do for me, and not enough about what I can do for the team. When you love something, truly love something, you're not looking for something in return.

Lance from Knoxville, TN

How do the Packers fans always win the "Campbell's Click for Cans" competition?

Vic: I guess they love to eat soup.

John from Seattle, WA

How many total yards in a season are needed now when considering a top running back in the NFL? Seems in the past 1,000 yards was the number, but now it seems to have evolved into a higher number.

Vic: I still think 1,000 yards rushing is a milestone of sorts, though it is certainly not what it was when the league played a 12-game schedule and the thousand-yard marker will lose a little more esteem if the league is to go to 18 games, but I still think it's a big deal if it's complemented by significant receiving stats. For example, if a back rushes for 1,100 yards and catches 50 passes for 400-500 yards, that's a pretty good year. A thousand yards rushing alone? No, that doesn't do much for me anymore. Today's backs also need to be receivers.

Tom from Kenosha, WI

You've been a delightful surprise and great therapy for Packers fans facing football withdrawal. Feel free to take off the gloves and bring on the sarcasm. We can take it and give it, with affection of course. One of the early problems with BAP before the Packers became such a complete team is that it does leave holes. Yet, it's hard to argue with Ted Thompson's success.

Vic: Yes, it leaves holes and that's why patience is required. Some would also say it creates holes by reaching for players who don't patch the holes you have and, in the process, cause you to pass on players who would've patched holes you didn't think you had but later developed.

Brandon from Tucson, AZ

Which combine workout would you say could tell you the most about a player and how he could end up in the NFL?

Vic: The 40 is still the feature attraction of the combine. It's not as important for offensive linemen as it is for running backs, receivers, defensive backs, linebackers and defensive linemen, maybe even quarterbacks, to a degree, but football is a game of speed and 40 yards is the distance at which football speed is judged.

Catlin from Erie, PA

I love the column and find it rather amusing how everyone seems incapable of understanding the fact that you don't cheer for anybody. I understand what you are saying and agree that it would be unprofessional, however, I highly doubt that you have been a sportswriter since the day you were born and unless they took the Men In Black flashy thingy to you at the start of your career, you had to cheer for somebody when you were a kid. So who was your favorite team back in the day?

Vic: I grew up going to Steelers games with my dad. In those days, the Steelers were horrible, so we never got a chance to know the agony of defeat because, well, when it happens every Sunday, it's called the routine. My dedication now is to my craft and it is the number one rule of being a sportswriter that there is no cheering in the press box. Did you see Larry Fitzgerald's father in the press box at Super Bowl XLIII? His son had just made the potential game-winning touchdown catch and TV cut to a shot of Fitzgerald's father in the press box and he was stone-faced. I mean nothing! Why? Because he's a sportswriter and he is dedicated to his craft. The fan not only can't understand that, he refuses to understand that. This is what we do for a living. It is our profession and we are every bit as dedicated to it as the players are to theirs. How could you respect me or why would you even read me if I wasn't?

David from Phoenix, AZ

If players on offense and defense are getting bigger, stronger and faster, how does the league plan to keep the officials in a mode to keep up with the players?

Vic: I don't know how the league intends to do it, but I know how I'd do it: I'd start eliminating rules and make the game easier to officiate. In my opinion, we're scrutinizing and analyzing every little thing too much. I got a chuckle from something Tony Dungy said, that he's been in the game his whole life and he still doesn't know what a catch is. Some years ago we had an officials strike and the league brought in some replacement officials to do games. We didn't expect much from them and they didn't disappoint: They called nothing and we loved it. I could go for some of that again.

Chad from Huron, OH

Regarding undrafted players, I believe we do well at attracting them because they are offered an excellent chance to compete. I know in recent years we've had plenty of undrafted players make the team. How does Green Bay compare with the league in general and more specifically with playoff caliber teams in the number and quality of undrafted players that make the team?

Vic: The two teams that were in the Super Bowl are two of the leaders in advancing the careers of undrafted players. So, if you're an undrafted player, with what teams are you likely to sign, the ones that offer an extra $10,000 signing bonus, or the ones that provide tangible evidence of undrafted players having long careers with those teams? Signing undrafted players is a lot like college recruiting. The Packers can sell a guy by using undrafted players such as Frank Zombo and Sam Shields as examples.

Zach from Woodstock, IL

I know you'd kill me if I asked another question about needs in the draft, so I'll phrase it this way: What position are the Packers weakest in and need to improve before next season?

Vic: Based on the Steelers having run the ball well in the Super Bowl and on the Packers' number 24 ranking against the run during the regular season, and considering the potential for losing Cullen Jenkins in free agency and not knowing, yet, the long-range forecast for Johnny Jolly, I would have to say defensive line would be an area of concern. First of all, it's always an area of concern for every team because you can never have enough big guys. You have to be vigilant about drafting big guys.

Robin from Bennett, WI

I miss the days of players sticking with one team for the majority of their careers. Do you think the NFL will ever get back to that?

Vic: The Packers are doing it. The team they beat in the Super Bowl is doing it. I don't think we'll ever get back to the days of entire rosters being homegrown, but the core of the Packers' roster is. The draft is still the best place to find football talent. As Mike McCarthy said, the Packers are a draft-and-develop football team and that, in my opinion, is the winning way.

Vic Ketchman is a veteran of 39 NFL seasons and has covered the Steelers and Jaguars prior to coming to Green Bay.

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