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Get it the right way, or get it my way?


Ryan from Fargo, ND

I was opposed to coaches' challenges when they were first introduced, but I am used to them now, so much so that I am in favor of a slightly different system: A coach should get two incorrect challenges a game. As long as the coach's challenge results in an overturned call, he keeps his timeout and gets to keep challenging until he's wrong twice. If the rule is there to keep the refs honest, why limit it? Doesn't everyone want the refs to call a fair game?

Vic: Actually, a lot of people don't want a fair game, they just want a win. Here's why I would prefer that we not increase the number of challenges available to the coach: I have to go to work on Monday and I'd like to get some sleep before I do.

Jarle from Harstad, Norway

To explain Friday's question, let's say Lovie Smith was out of challenges on the Nick Collins interception that was overruled this year. If Collins returns it for a TD, the new rules would allow the booth to review and overturn it since it is a scoring play, but if Collins went out of bounds at the 1, it could not be overturned. Do you think players will do this on plays they know or think will be overturned?

Vic: I thought the intent was to get it right. Isn't that what this whole replay movement is about, or is it just moral mumbo jumbo? Are we now looking for ways to cheat the truth, not for the sake of getting it the right way but for the sake of getting it my way? If that's the intent, then get rid of replay and go back to getting it wrong. At least it won't take as much time.

Mathias from Stuttgart, Germany

When talking about an expansion team in Europe, why is everybody always talking about London? When NFLE was discontinued, there were only German teams and Amsterdam. Also, Germany had the largest attendance and currently has the third-largest number of active players, just behind the U.S. and Japan. Why isn't a team in Germany considered?

Vic: I think Frankfurt would be number two. Why London? Well, I think you start with 12-14 million people in its market. It is also home to more than 100 of Europe's 500 largest companies and it is generally regarded as one of the world's two greatest financial centers.

Joe from Virginia Beach, VA

How tired are you of draft questions and greatest of all-time debates? Greatest of all-time is a matter of opinion, guys, and we're all entitled to an opinion.

Vic: You're right, it's strictly a matter of opinion and that's what makes it so much fun.

Luke from Appleton, WI

You often tell us fans that you've learned to just watch and not cheer. Was the transition from being a fan to becoming just a watcher difficult when you decided to become a sportswriter?

Vic: It wasn't difficult because I was very quickly awed by the presence of some of the giants of the industry with whom I was sharing the press box. I just watched what they did and did the same and I saw that they sat, watched and did their job without reaction. In time, I came to enjoy it and I came to realize that it helped give me a greater understanding and appreciation for what I was seeing. I became a connoisseur of football and now it's the only way I watch any game. Even when I'm sitting at home watching a game on TV, I just watch, and I prefer to watch games on TV alone so I can study them without interruption. It's just become a habit. It's how I watch football.

Tom from Fairbanks, AK

Vic, regarding Coach McCarthy being a play-caller that is "scary," is that scary good or scary bad?

Vic: If you're a Packers fan, it's scary good. Coach McCarthy has a special aptitude for offense and, make no mistake about it, today's game is about offense. We are in the midst of a revolution in the game like I have never seen. Yeah, we experienced a similar movement in the early-1980s, right after the rules changes of 1978 opened up the field and gave birth to the "West Coast offense" and "Air Coryell" movements, but defense soon found a way to deal with those strategies and balance was restored to the game. I don't think that's going to happen this time. I think we're in an offensive explosion that is going to continue. I think we're heading for Arena League-type scores. The days of batter-ball are over. Football is all about offense now. It's about play count and scheme and play-calling. It'll always be players first and plays second because plays can't work if they're not executed by players, but it's plain to see that today's game promotes and rewards the execution of a high-tech strategy more than it does the execution of a baseline strategy, and that's why you need a head coach who either is the creator of a high-tech strategy and approach or demands it from his offensive staff. The Packers have that guy.

Ronald from Yuba City, CA

I'm just wondering why the sack record only goes back to the early 1980s. Is it because they cannot find film for all of the teams during the '60s and '70s? This way you could compare Deacon Jones, Mean Joe, Dick Butkus, Joe Schmidt, Tommy Nobis, etc.

Vic: They just didn't keep it as a stat until then. Why not? Because it was not considered to be a valid indication of what happened. The defensive tackle collapses the pocket and forces the quarterback to flush into the arms of the defensive end and the defensive end gets credit for the play. That's an accurate description of how a lot of sacks are registered, and now you have to pay that defensive end according to that sack but you know it's the defensive tackle who's the better player and you'll have to pay him accordingly. I've covered defensive coordinators who mockingly referred to the sack as the "almighty sack" or the "sack god." I still don't think sacks are an accurate barometer of individual play as much as they are an indicator of the total defense's play but, as the game's popularity increased, the people responsible for its marketing began to create more and more statistical categories. Why? Because fans love them. I'm not sure when the passer rating stat was created, but it wasn't until the rules changes of '78 that it became a hot stat. That's when nearly everything about the game changed; with the rules changes of '78. Prior to that, pro football was a game measured by the examination of brute force. Since then, we measure the game according to an ever-increasing proliferation of stats. I don't need those stats, however, to judge the people you mentioned. All of them would've been megastars in today's game. As far as comparing them to today's players, that still wouldn't have been possible because you didn't have the in-the-grasp and outside-the-tackle-box rules and other such adaptations that made sacking the quarterback different in different eras.

Dante from Bay View, WI

Suppose the Packers have no intention of drafting a particular player. Would they delete his name entirely from their board or would they simply assign an absurdly low grade to this prospect?

Vic: My guess is they would scout, grade and rank that player as they would any other player. When teams have decided they won't draft a certain player due to injury or character concerns, they'll put a red dot next to his name, but they leave him on the board according to where his grade ranks him. Why? Because you need to know who's available and who the other teams might be considering with their picks.

Mark from New York, NY

Vic, I don't usually try to respond to other readers' posts, but Burnell from Moline, IL, may be overlooking the toughness the QB position demanded way back when. The skirts were off and it required that anyone who played the position endure things that would be penalties in today's game. Try calling a play in the huddle after a headshot has you seeing double.

Vic: You're right. Let's examine how the game was played prior to the rules changes of the late '70s, which included allowing offensive linemen to use their hands to block and eliminated the "head slap" from the arsenal of defensive linemen. Prior to those rules changes, the first thing an offensive lineman did when the ball was snapped was grab the front of his jersey because if he got his hands the least little bit away from his body, it was going to result in a holding penalty and holding back then was 15 yards, not 10. Meanwhile, at the same time the offensive lineman was grabbing the front of his jersey, the defensive lineman opposite him was smacking the offensive lineman in the head. The cornerbacks were jamming the receivers all over the field and impeding their progress, which allowed more time for the pass-rush to get to the quarterback, who had to take a seven-step drop to buy time to throw and, when the rush got to the quarterback, he was live to the ground and blows to the head not only were allowed, they were encouraged. Oh, yeah, and quarterbacks, for the most part, called their own plays back then. How many quarterbacks in today's game could hold up under those rules and demands and still throw for the yards, touchdowns and passer ratings they do today?

Eric from Parker, AZ

Vic, I really like your response to who in Packers history you would like to talk with. I agree with all three and would probably add Johnny "Blood" McNally, just because his story is fascinating to me; however, I am curious to hear which top three you would pick in NFL history. So, if you could sit down with anyone in NFL history, who would be your top three?

Vic: I sat next to McNally at a banquet a long time ago. He was elderly but I detected a bit of an edge in him even then. Anyhow, if I could sit and talk with three guys from NFL history, they would be Jim Thorpe, Art Rooney and Pete Rozelle. Rooney was a great storyteller, Rozelle is probably the most important man in NFL history, and Thorpe remains a mystery. As I've said, he may be the greatest player of all-time but history offers us very little in the way of a snapshot of his statistical contribution to the game.

James from Puhi, HI

Why can't some modern teams be the best teams to ever play? What about the top five teams from the last 20 years?

Vic: I won't consider teams from the salary cap era in the all-time debate because logic dictates that the cap limited how many good players they could have. Apply the cap to the Packers of the '60s, Steelers of the '70s, 49ers of the '80s and Cowboys of the '90s. It would not have permitted the Packers of the '60s, for example, to have Hornung and Taylor on the team together. It would've been one or the other, not both. Kramer or Thurston, not both; Gregg or Ringo, not both; Dowler or Dale, not both; Nitschke or Robinson, not both. The teams from the pre-cap era had unlimited payroll potential for building their rosters and they didn't have to worry about losing a guy in free agency. When those teams were in their primes, they didn't have to worry about subtraction; they were only in addition. Look at what happened to the Cowboys of the early '90s when they ran into the advent of the cap. They went into subtraction: Irvin or Harper, not both. As far as the top five of the last 20 years, certainly the 1996 Packers would be a consideration. I assume that's what you're seeking.

Taylor from Mukwonago, WI

What is your view on the ordeal of re-signing James Jones and Cullen Jenkins?

Vic: It's not an ordeal, it's the way the game is today. This is not a game of maintenance, it's a game of replacement. That's just the way it is in this era of unrestricted free agency. You can't keep everybody. You have to be willing to allow players to leave and confident in your ability to replace them.

Jesse from Elk Mound, WI

Why does it take a player like Michael Irvin only three years to be inducted into the Hall of Fame and make a player like Jerry Kramer wait four decades to still not be inducted? Who's casting these votes and how do they evaluate these players?

Vic: A player is not eligible for election to the Hall of Fame until five years after he retires. He is elected by a committee of media people; one representative from each franchise in the NFL. They evaluate the candidates based on their performances and honors, and usually one member of the election committee will make a presentation to the committee supporting the election of that player.

Michael from Milwaukee, WI

Welcome to the Packers organization and I hope you will be around for as long as you want. What exactly are the players dissatisfied with in the former CBA and what are they looking for in the next CBA?

Vic: They're looking for Mo Money. We're all looking for Mo Money. He's a good friend to have.

Alek from La Canada Flintridge, CA

Do you think the Packers should draft Mark Ingram for depth?

Vic: You don't draft for depth in the first round.

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