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Great quarterbacks are winners


Mark from San Diego, CA

Obviously, the loss of Ray Lewis for the Ravens is devastating. Many analysts are saying how the loss of the emotional leader is a big deal. How important is a team's emotional leader and who would you say is the Packers'?

I'm not big on emotional leaders. I'm big on each man doing his job. When that happens, the head coach is the leader, which is at it should be. From time to time, a veteran player of such great esteem, a Ray Lewis or a Charles Woodson, comes along and the locker room looks to that player for example, but I think there's a tendency for fans and media to exaggerate that player's spiritual impact. Hey, when you're staring across the line of scrimmage at a guy whose skill threatens to embarrass you, you're not thinking about that pep talk you got from your teammate. I also don't agree with you that the loss of Lewis will be devastating for the Ravens. If you watched that Cowboys-Ravens game, you saw the Cowboys run it down the Ravens' throat. I think the loss of Lardarius Webb will be a bigger problem for the Ravens.

Kurt from Gresham, OR

Is there any chance the league will take action to further restrict what players and coaches can say to the officials? Through the first three quarters of the Thursday night game, the best highlights are all of Jim Harbaugh yelling at officials. This is not what I'm looking for in a football game.

I agree with you that the constant baiting and bashing of officials has become unattractive. I prefer to think of a coach as a man of esteem and self-control, not a mad dag on the loose. It's easily remedied: Start flagging coaches for bad sideline behavior.

Lane from Calera, AL

I know you are usually asked questions about Green Bay, but this has really been on my mind lately. With such a domination of college football out of Alabama, do you think we will ever get an NFL team?

No. You should continue your efforts to dominate college football.

Mike from Florence, KY

You keep harping on the draft-and-develop theme. You must not remember the 1990s when Green Bay signed Reggie White and what that did for the team. They never would have made it to two Super Bowls if they hadn't landed the biggest free agent signing of that era. Reggie also attracted other key free agents to the team.

What if they hadn't gotten him? What if he had decided to sign with another team? I much prefer the odds of landing talent from a pool of 300 players, than the odds of landing that one great player. There aren't many teams that've built sustained championship runs by acquiring the bulk of their talent in free agency or the trade market. What Ron Wolf did here in the '90s is unique. It was also at the beginning of unrestricted free agency and the salary cap era, and no one was quite sure how to approach both and, as a result, teams weren't prepared to manipulate their cap effectively enough to hold onto their high-end players. Teams do a much better job now of holding onto their core players. I don't think a GM could do today what Wolf did then. I think he saw an opportunity and took advantage of it. Don't forget, two expansion teams were in their respective conference title games in just their second seasons. I think that's a strong example of how ill-equipped teams were to manage their salary caps and free agency back then.

Aaron from Washington, DC

Do you think an offensive coach could succeed as a defensive coach?

Tom Landry and Chuck Noll were defensive coordinators that became their teams' offensive play-callers when they became head coaches. Good coaches can coach any position on either side of the ball. Bill Cowher was a special teams coach that became a defensive coordinator. Vince Lombardi was an offensive coordinator with a special aptitude for defense. Today's game is much more specialized and I think it's a mistake for it to be that way. If coaches don't grow, the creation of new ideas and concepts will halt.

Dan from Irvine, CA

Howard Cosell and his MNF halftime highlights: "He could go all the way." Ahh, those were the days. That's all we had back then for overall highlights.

"He threw to THAT MAN, Russ Francis, the almost perfect tight end of the New England Patriots, and he could go all the way. Patriots 23, Jets 14. And now we move on to further action. Lambeau Field, the memory of Vince Lombardi still fresh in the minds of Packers fans …" Why did we divorce romance?

Sean from Grand Prairie, TX

You said that back in the day coaches didn't fear the media like they do today. What changed? Was there a certain turning point or was it gradual over time?

Social media certainly provided the greatest change. It's frightening for coaches to think of how they're on display at all times, that the slightest misstep will be instantly broadcast to the world. When you're under that kind of scrutiny, you tighten down and wall up. Coaches don't dare be themselves in today's media environment. There was another event that changed relationships between coaches and the media. I'm talking about Watergate, because it caused newspapers and the media in general to change how they executed their roles. All of a sudden, the watchdog mentality that had always existed in the news room was forced upon the sports department. I think we started taking ourselves too seriously. Reporters stopped flying on the team charter. They stopped going out to dinner with the team's PR man the night before the game. Relationships chilled and it was unnecessary because the NFL PR mantra back then was "any ink is good ink; just spell the name right." Watergate had a huge impact on American journalism. There's a famous Joe Paterno story from that time. Paterno was a reporter's dream. He developed close relationships with the reporters that covered the team and he gave them information they otherwise wouldn't have been able to acquire. He hosted a night-before-the-game dinner for the guys that covered the team and I think it was at one of those dinners that he was asked when he would retire and he jokingly replied that he wasn't going to retire and leave college football to the Barry Switzers and Jackie Sherrills of the world. One of the reporters quoted Paterno on that. Paterno called Switzer and apologized, and the media's access to Paterno was never the same again.

Bob from Mount Joy, PA

I love this column format and knowing it's the technology that made this type of forum possible, giving the fans more of a voice, it made me wonder about technology advancements that have made your life as a reporter more enjoyable and what has made it less enjoyable for you?

I can't think of one breakthrough in media technology that hasn't made my life as a reporter better. The Internet changed everything. I spent most of my life working for a P.M. newspaper, which meant I was always having to featurize my leads and deal more with analysis than scoop-type reporting. With the Internet, everybody writes for an A.M. I began my career working with a Royal portable – it was the typewriter of choice for reporters – and carbon paper. Now, I write my stories on the bus and on the plane and I send them back to the office from 37,000 feet. Instead of going back to the office when the plane lands, I go home. The difference is difficult for even me to comprehend.

Nick from Houghton, MI

Vic, here's my take on stats. If you know how to read them, stats can tell you a lot about a team. They can give you an idea of why they're winning or losing, or of how likely a team is to beat another team. At the end of the day, however, the only thing that matters is the W or L.

Yesterday, a friend said to me, "Has there ever been a great quarterback that played on losing teams in college?" My guess was that there were probably several great quarterbacks who played on losers in college, but I started going through them in my mind and I was coming up blank. So I sat down and began checking the college careers of all the modern-era Hall of Fame quarterbacks. I'm still working on it, but as it stands right now, Dan Fouts and John Elway are the only modern-era quarterbacks I've found who played in losing programs in college. I right away checked Unitas at Louisville, Jurgensen at Duke and Bradshaw at Louisiana Tech. Each program enjoyed some of their best days when those quarterbacks played there. What does it all mean? I think the interpretation is distinct and broad. Great quarterbacks are winners on every level, and great teams don't make quarterbacks great, great quarterbacks make teams great.

Jon from Norfolk, NE

Vic, having watched many hours of film in high school and college, don't forget the way that hot projector bulb melted the film. Guys today haven't a clue.

Now look what you made me do.

William from Savannah, GA

Vic, to change the subject a bit, I wanted to get your thoughts on Lance Armstrong. Cheating is cheating, but does it make it a little more palatable when it leads to so much money being donated in the fight against cancer?

Yeah, I guess so. I've been around the block enough times to know when to apply my reporter's natural instinct for cynicism. When I had cancer, everybody was bringing me his book to read. "You can do it," they'd tell me. It didn't make me feel any better but I think it made them feel better. Well, I read the book and it gave me a preview of chemo that helped me, but I never bought the bicycle stuff. If you've hung around locker rooms as long as I have, you know it just doesn't happen that way. I feel sorry for the people who drew their strength from that. Look inside yourself, not inside others. We all have to be self-starters.

Jerome from Osteen, FL

Vic, can you believe the comments Shannon Sharpe made about Rodgers?

Players reporting on players; I never liked the concept. Hey, chips are good, right? Rodgers might throw seven touchdown passes this week.

Ralph from Bridgeport, CT

Do you think we have the talent to be a great defense like the 49ers or the Seahawks?

I don't know. What I do know is that it didn't happen overnight for those teams. Patrick Willis was a first-round pick in 2007.

Patrick from Minneapolis, MN

When did you see "quarterback controversy" really start to be a regular term in the league? I feel like that's a phrase used every time a team doesn't have "The Man."

It's been around as long as I can remember. I've used that term in connection with Bradshaw-Hanratty, Bradshaw-Gilliam, Woodley-Malone, Malone-Brister, Brister-O'Donnell, Brunell-Beuerlein, Brunell-Leftwich and Leftwich-Garrard, but I'm absolutely sure I'll never use it again. Rodgers is going to take me to the golf course, and I don't have a tee time.

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