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Good franchises know how to lose


Aaron from Washington, DC

Seeing our playoffs come to such a quick end made me think of one question: What would have happened if our players had team workouts during the lockout? Maybe that was the key to repeating.

Thanks for the laugh. If I'm thankful for anything in the 2011 season, it's that I wasn't stupid enough to jump on the players-only-workout train. How embarrassing.

Michael from Omaha, NE

Long-time reader of this column and I'm going to continue reading for as long as you write it. Could you please add more sarcasm? I can take a joke so you don't have to worry about me taking what you say way too seriously.

I'm being terribly misunderstood. Stuff is just coming out wrong. I'm actually a good guy, really. Maybe it's time for a "Nice Vic" column.

Ryan from Hastings, MN

I hate to say this as a life-long football fan, but after that loss to the Giants, I may never watch another game. It's a shame to waste a 15-1 season like that. I can honestly say I hate football right now and I don't think it will ever be the same for me. I absolutely hate the Giants. Thanks for nothing, Packers.

It wasn't a waste for me. In 40 years, I had never covered a team that had only lost one game in the regular season. It's the best regular season I've ever covered, which means I'll never forget it. That qualifies as a waste? Not in my book. I think you're just having trouble right now overcoming your disappointment. Hang in there. It'll pass.

Mark from Seattle, WA

I'm not a defensive coach, but please explain the reasoning behind rushing only three linemen on third-and-long situations. Yes, we lost and I accept that; the Giants just outplayed us and are a good team that made few mistakes. Yet, I still cannot understand why we rushed three linemen when we should have been putting pressure on Manning.

If you can't rush, then you better cover. That's the reasoning, Mark. They couldn't get pressure on Eli Manning, regardless of how many guys they rushed. The more guys rushing, the fewer guys covering, and that makes you vulnerable in the secondary. One more thing: Coach Capers made a point of saying on Friday that the Giants were a team that believed in the principles of maximum protection. They would routinely protect with seven and send only three into the pass routes, and I saw evidence of that on at least one occasion on Sunday. Having covered Tom Coughlin's teams for a lot of years, I know that to be true. Everything on Coach Coughlin's offenses begins with protecting the quarterback.

Brett from Thibodaux, LA

I've seen a lot of people on here that don't like you. I just wanted to let you know that your articles are the only reason I came back to the website after a tough loss. You bring a certain comfort that I can't get elsewhere. Thank you for covering the Packers.

It's not that many people, really. More people like me than don't like me.

Sara from Davis, CA

I think we should keep Donald Driver for his good will alone, plus, he can play. Do teams ever consider good will?

Yes, when they're sure a guy can play. Play first, be nice second.

Chris from Anchorage, AK

Thinking about draft picks and the busts over the years, as well as the home runs, are there certain positions that are more difficult to draft for? Let's leave quarterback out of the equation.

The success rate on first-round left tackles is strong. When it comes to big guys, what you see tends to be something close to what you get. Drafting wide receivers in the first round, however, has been extremely risky. The busts are nearly as many as the hits. That's why I say get the big guys early. Nothing will cripple a roster and a team's salary cap faster or more effectively than drafting busts in the first round.

Mike from Bakersfield, CA

Vic, after Sunday's loss, I went to my mom's house. She decided it would be funny to cook a NY Giants cake and mock me. Is it OK for me to stop loving her as much?

When you lie down on the therapist's couch and he asks you to tell him about your mother, tell him about the cake.

Karl from Santa Fe, NM

I've been reading your column regularly and wonder if you have any advice to give people who think they might like to work for an NFL organization, as to how to go about getting involved.

If you look at the resumes of people employed in the NFL, what you'll see is that their careers tended to start humbly. Mike McCarthy was a volunteer coach at Pitt. Tom Coughlin coached at Rochester Institute of Technology; I didn't even know they had a team. I covered a lot of high school football games. What I'm trying to say is that the NFL isn't where you start, it's where you end.

William from Jacksonville, FL

Could this year be proving that you can get by with poor defensive stats but you still have to have a pass rush? The 49ers, Giants and Ravens can all get to the QB with the rush. The Patriots appear to be the lone exception.

I think your observation is on the money. You have to be able to affect the quarterback, unless you have Tom Brady. If you have Tom Brady, you don't have to do anything but have Tom Brady. Anybody who doubts that, remember this: Bill Belichick was 5-13 and possibly on his way to being fired, when he put Brady in the starting lineup. One man, when he's as great a player as Brady is, can hide a lot of warts.

Richard from Davis, CA

When he drafts the best available player, does a GM really have them ranked so precisely that he always has one best player at the top, or does he have a small pool of might be the best players so he can get some flexibility to take position played into account?

You're either BAP or you're not BAP, if that's what you mean. I know one GM who, after all of the grades are in and the players are ranked accordingly, throws out the hundredths and groups all of the players in the same tenths. In other words, a guy who's a 4.93 is grouped with a guy who is a 4.92. The feeling is that the process isn't precise enough to separate players according to a hundredth of a point. That's where need might break the tie.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Did the Packers appear tight or appear to get tight on Sunday?

They lost to a good team that is scorching hot right now, Paul. It wasn't about being tight or being rusty. I don't buy into the philosophy of it's not about them, it's about us. Sometimes it's about them.

Tim from Menomonee Falls, WI

It seems the Packers may lose one or a few assistant coaches during the offseason as they seek fame and fortune elsewhere. Does the Packers personnel department keep records of coaches around the league and colleges to help Mike McCarthy find replacements?

A GM always keeps a book on coaches rising in the ranks. Pro football isn't a game of maintenance, it's a game of replacement, and a GM has to be ready at all times to replace players and coaches.

Elten from Pleasant Lake, IN

I think some of your readers mistake a subtle, dry sense of humor for sarcasm. Anyway, in your last column, you said they need to move into a position to address needs. What if BAP dictates offensive players when they pick?

Then you move to where BAP dictates defensive players. What you're doing is fitting yourself to the pick, instead of fitting the pick to where you're picking. When you do the latter, you run the risk of losing value, and BAP drafting is all about value. Fitting yourself to the pick usually demands a price. Is the price right? That's the question you have to answer. If it's not, then you have to be disciplined enough to sit where you are and draft the best available player, regardless of position, or trade back and recoup the value of that pick. Again, it's all about value.

Jeff from Chicago, IL

You mention not wanting to mortgage a portion of the team's future to get a high-priced free agent now. My question is, is it worth risking the team's ability to be competitive in five-plus years to improve the odds of success in the next 1-2 years? My feeling is that we have a team that is just a few pieces away from being one of the best ever, and the window to capitalize on this opportunity is relatively small. Do you risk that long-term success for a more predictable short-term result?

Do I? No. Here's why: You can't guarantee that the player you're mortgaging the future of the franchise to acquire won't get hurt. In my opinion, the Super Bowl isn't the goal. The goal is to be a playoff contender every season. If you do that, every once in a while you'll be the hot team going into the postseason and you'll win it all. Mortgaging the long-term future of the franchise for the sake of the present creates down years; it can even send a team into rebuilding, and that's when the continuity of the franchise is at risk. All of a sudden, you're firing your coach, your GM, etc. There's a total crash of the franchise and you've got to hire all new people, none of whom come with a guarantee. Good franchises are stable franchises and stable franchises know how to lose. They know how to not let a loss cause them to lose their sense of balance and discipline.

Walt from Indiana, PA

Capers and LeBeau are so 35-40 years ago. One and out! Agree?

They are so three Super Bowl titles in the last seven years. You've lost your sense of balance.

Dan from Hudson, WI

We saw the 3-4 defense struggle with pass defense all year. Is it time to replace Capers?

Junk the 3-4 and go back to the 4-3? If that's what you're saying, where are the true 4-3 ends and three-technique tackle you need to play a 4-3? Do you have the pass rushers you need to play a four-man front? What are you gonna do with Clay Matthews, make him a strong-side linebacker and drop him into coverage on the tight end? Here's my suggestion: Stick with what you have – it won a Super Bowl a year ago – and find some players you can plug in where you need them. Losing will make us do stupid things. It makes us angry and want to punish people and effect dramatic change, all of which are ways of making ourselves feel better. It's also a way of creating calamity.

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