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How do you avoid the inevitable price of winning?

Patriots have done it with affordable replacements


Daniel from Delft, The Netherlands

Vic, every week I go and check our opponents' websites to see how they think the game will turn out. Lions columnists are upbeat about their chances on Sunday. Their main theory is to pile pressure on Rodgers so he doesn't have time to make plays. I look at it as if they are more worried about our quarterback than how they can capitalize on their own offensive weapons. So Rodgers holds the key between 2-2 or 1-3?

Of course he does. The Bengals beat the Packers by stopping Aaron Rodgers. He's "The Man."

Steve from Cincinnati, OH

A well-accomplished varsity basketball player from my high school interviewed at Gallaudet for a coaching position, without knowledge that it's a school for the deaf. He was hired, then quickly shocked when the revelation that he just accepted a position at a school for the deaf hit him. He learned sign, became a successful assistant and was hired back as head coach at the high school he played at due to his maturity at Gallaudet.

You can't stay the same and grow to your full potential. When we embrace real change, challenging transition, we force ourselves to grow. I never knew how to operate a snowblower. I've grown.

Kyle from Helena, MT

With the yearly turnover of which teams are good, how have the Patriots remained one of the best teams in the NFL for so long? I know Brady has a lot to do with it, but other teams with franchise quarterbacks have had bad years.

The Patriots have done a sensational job of replacing players. They have embraced the philosophy of pro football being a game of replacement better than any team in the league. Most impressively, they've found replacements from other team's castoffs. Dan Connolly is one such example. It wasn't too many years ago that I was interviewing Connolly for a story on a good-looking undrafted guard from SEMO who had a chance to make it with the Jaguars. He did, briefly, before being cut. Since then, he's been with the Patriots for seven seasons. He's become a fixture on an elite team. The Patriots have been outstanding at finding affordable talent and plugging it into their system. In my opinion, that's Bill Belichick's greatest coaching quality.

Mark from Stewartville, MN

Vic, the Packers' final drive to defeat the Cowboys in the "Ice Bowl" is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen on a football field. It brings tears to my eyes. Your thoughts?

If I had covered every professional football game ever played, the "Ice Bowl" and the 1958 NFL title game would be tied for the most beautiful games I had ever covered.

Thaddeus from Collegedale, TN

Vic, I do not play Madden, but I always thought if one team received to start the game, the other got the ball in the second half. I cannot recall ever seeing a game when the same team received the opening kickoff in both halves. Has it happened recently?

I haven't seen it happen recently, but I've covered games in the past when it's happened. It happens when wind is the dominant feature of the game. Games played in tropical-storm weather, for example, are candidates for producing a game when a team kicks off to start both halves. Here's a likely scenario: Team A wins the coin toss and elects to receive. Team B has first choice to start the second half and more than anything it wants the wind to its back in the fourth quarter, so it elects to defend a goal to start the second half. Team A then elects to receive the second-half kickoff.

Jordan from St. Louis, MO

If there's a price to pay for being good (and I believe this Packers team is good now and will continue to be for years), what do we do to stay in the black and reduce the bite when it's time to pay our bill?

Teams on extended runs at the top usually spent some years toward the top of the draft acquiring the players that have produced this run of winning. That run of winning, however, has caused the team to spend all of those years drafting near the bottom, and it's difficult replacing players from the top of the draft as they get older with players selected from the bottom of the draft. As a result, you're forced to hold onto the old guys, and that not only damages the age of your roster but it takes a toll on your salary cap. How do you defeat that seeming inevitability? By finding good players at the bottom of the draft, or by finding ways to patch with castoffs. They are both daunting challenges. The bottom line is that nobody wants to believe their run of winning will ever end. Then, one day it hits them. Their team is old and its young players aren't good.

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