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Has Clay Matthews made ILB premium position?

Monday Night Football controversy has fans frustrated, and they love it


Aaron from Los Angeles, CA

One guy I've been very impressed by is Damarious Randall. It seems like every time he's in the game he's batting a ball down or making a good tackle. How good has he really been, and how good do you think he can be?

He passes the eye test very easily. Randall has all of the physical tools you want in a cornerback. He's playing well and he's going to play better as he gains experience. The next event in his career will be a big play. It'll launch him to a higher level.

Lewis from Leicester, UK

The last three weeks the defense has held two top-five running backs and one who has had a good start to the season under 50 yards. Could the identity of this defense be about stopping the run, or could it be about making big plays when the game is on the line, like the fourth-quarter interceptions?

What's with all of the concern for identity? We're only four games into the season. What this defense does in December is how history will record it; that will be its eternal identity. For now, it's a defense on the rise. That's good enough for me. Don't try to manufacture identities. They'll happen on their own, but not now. We've got a long way to go before we know what the true identity of this team or any part of it is for the 2015 season.

Kevin from Neptune, NJ

Any thoughts on Philbin getting fired? Was it just a case of impatience or was Philbin clearly not the man for the job?

There are very few coaches that could've survived the Richie Incognito controversy. It tore that franchise apart and it happened on Joe's watch. He took the fall. The next Dolphins coach will likely gut the roster to make the past go completely away. Joe is an outstanding football coach and man who paid his dues by working his way up through the system. He'll no doubt have a chance to return to coaching when he's ready to do so.

Erik from Corona, CA

The defense has been playing at a high level. Jayrone Elliott seems to be making big plays every week. Do you anticipate him getting more playing time?

Elliott, Nick Perry and Mike Neal are competing for playing time. That's exactly what you want. Everyone has a role. As a player stacks success, to use Mike McCarthy's words, his role grows. Elliott's role has clearly grown.

Mike from Jacksonville, NC

Vic, I'm currently a senior in high school who loves football and dreams of one day being a sportswriter. You and your columns have always been inspirations to me. Did you have any sportswriters who inspired you to write while growing up?

I read everything I could get my hands on, but I wasn't inspired by sportswriters, I was inspired by the games they covered. I loved sports. I loved the games and jumped at any chance I had to go to a game. I went to see the Duquesne Tamburitzans because I thought it was a basketball team. It turned out to be an ethnic dance team. If I've inspired you, I'm flattered. Remember this: To be a good sportswriter, you have to love games and love to write about them. If you have those two loves, you'll succeed.

Cliff from Granville Ferry, Nova Scotia

On the Rodgers-to-Rodgers TD pass on Sunday, Aaron looked like he had two computer processing chips up there in his noggin operating simultaneously and at full capacity. One was directing his location to avoid the oncoming rushers, while the other was looking downfield for open receivers. Have you ever seen another QB pat his head and rub his tummy so effectively?

That play looked awfully similar to Richard Rodgers' touchdown catch in the Dallas playoff game last season. Aaron Rodgers started moving around to avoid the rush in Sunday's game, and Richard Rodgers ran down the back line of the end zone toward the side of the field to which Aaron Rodgers was moving. Aaron found Richard because Aaron knew he'd be there.

Brian from Rockford, IL

What is your favorite dinner spot in the San Francisco area?

It used to be the Spinnaker, but those days are gone because the 49ers don't play in San Francisco anymore. Levi's Stadium is beautiful, but it's not in, as Tony Bennett sang, the city by the bay, and that has me concerned because the 49ers' identity is romantically tied to the city by the bay. Make no mistake about it, Santa Clara doesn't have a Golden Gate Bridge.

Pat from Altoona, WI

I see the inside linebacker position becoming a higher paying position in years to come. Would you consider that a fair assessment? What are your thoughts on the future of the position?

The position has become more important in this major point of emphasis period because coordinators are attacking the inside linebackers in the checkdown and short passing game – look at what Tom Brady did in last season's Super Bowl – but you might be taking it too far. Inside linebackers that can stop the run are generally considered to be more plentiful and easier to find than outside linebackers that can rush and cover. Inside linebackers are generally considered to be two-down players, which has also lessened their value. The Packers' situation is unique because they have more depth on the outside than they have on the inside; that's what triggered Clay Matthews' move to the inside. He made the move to accommodate talent that couldn't make the move. It's a rare situation.

Tyler from De Pere, WI

I saw a football play made last night. In any other circumstance, it would be celebrated as a great defensive play that won a game. Again, we have controversy. The rulebook is so saturated with garble we end up complaining rather than enjoying the game, and I don't see us coming back from this. It will be difficult to deregulate rules, as we have come so accustomed to garble.

I couldn't have said it better myself. We spend half the day making plays, and the other half of the day tearing them apart. There isn't a big play that happens in any game that I consider to be in the books until I've seen the replay. Replay is king. We can't cheer until replay tells us we can cheer. We have too many rules, too many interpretations and too many judges of each, and that includes the newest eye in the sky, the TV officiating expert. The Immaculate Reception is the first playoff game I covered. Fred Swearingen walked to the center of the field, turned to the press box side, paused, and then raised his hands. There was no explanation, just two arms that said this is the way it is and this is the way it'll continue to be. I wish it was still that way.

Chai from Salem, OR

What is the league going to do about flag mania and now, after MNF, where the correct call would have put the Lions in a favorable position?

The league is going to continue doing what it's doing because the popularity of football continues to grow. The league is giving the fans what the fans want, controversy. Don't blame the league. Don't blame the media. This is your game. You wanted replay. You wanted absolute correctness. You continue to celebrate frustration.

Eric from Denver, CO

Sounds like you've fully come around to Clay's move to the inside.

It's a game changer, no question about it. What I like about the move is it was made for the right reason, to get the best 11 players on the field. I remain concerned for all of the banging Matthews has to take at the inside position. He has no free side; he's got blockers coming at him from both sides. If he can stay healthy, I'm all for the move, but he is without a doubt the star of this defense and he must be on the field for this defense to be effective.

Jeremy from Chicago, IL

Vic, I thought Aaron Rodgers' answer to your question about his home was brilliant. On a related note, why do you think Rodgers says he's from Butte Community College when introducing himself on TV? There must be a good reason why he doesn't say Cal.

He's probably appreciative of the opportunity Butte gave him and wants to acknowledge it. Everybody knows he played at Cal. Maybe he wants to make sure Butte gets credit for first identifying his talent.

Shaun from Boise, ID

I heard Ray Lewis agree with you that the NFL has too many rules. Unfortunately, this will never change. It gives fans and players a me-against-the-world mentality, not to mention the drama everyone loves to hate.

It also drives ratings on NFL Network and gives the ex-players something to discuss all week until the next weekend's blown calls.

Tyler from Madison, WI

The complaining is gone because our demons are exorcised in the defeat of San Francisco and Seattle. I believe whatever the outcome of this season, you will see less gloom and doom, less panic.

I never knew Packers fans were so vengeful. Maybe they're not as winsome as I think.

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