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Jim Harbaugh knew he needed better passing game to get over the hump


Dirk from Munich, Germany

Is a big, hairy, ugly pounder enough to turn the Packers into a power running team, or do you have to have the right kind of offensive line, too?

A good back doesn't need the "Five Horsemen" in front of him, as long as what's in front of him can at least occupy its blocks. The back's personality is the personality of the team's running game. I don't think anything drastic has to be changed in the Packers' personnel or scheme to produce a power running game. Get somebody that moves the pile and can convert those third-and-ones, and everything will change.

Jay from Milwaukee, WI

Do you think they should get rid of the zone-blocking scheme? After two years, it hasn't worked.

Jay, and everybody else like Jay, you're beating a dead horse when you do the scheme thing with me. The scheme isn't the problem. They run the zone scheme in Houston and Arian Foster, an undrafted player, won the league rushing title. I never expected Packers fans to be as scheme conscious as they are. I know it's a trend among fans nationally, as a result of the Madden craze, but I also think it has something to do with Packers fans' unconditional love for the players. I get the sense Packers fans believe so completely in the players they cheer, that any flaw in their performance must be the fault of the scheme. Zone blocking is an ingenious scheme. Any back with good feet can succeed it. Jerome Bettis is the epitome of a pounder, but Bettis was light and quick on his feet, and he would've been just as successful in a zone scheme as he was in a road-grader and trap-and-pull system.

Bill from Honesdale, PA

While I, like most fans, enjoy the draft and the speculation and interest it provides, am I the only one who has an inherent problem with a billion dollar business being able to dictate where and for whom potential employees can work and be able to cap their salaries? No other business I'm aware of would dream of attempting this and, if they did, they would be hauled into court in a heartbeat. As a journalist, would you be OK with being told where and for whom you could write, and have your salary capped besides? Why does the capitalist free market system not apply to these young men?

Two answers here, Bill: 1.) The players agreed to it; it's called a CBA. 2.) The system you're questioning pays the players millions of dollars. You pay me what they're making, and you can send me to Greenland to cover global warming.

Shane from Brodhead, WI

Do you think the Super Bowl still should be NFC vs. AFC, or take the top teams and have a drawing to see who plays?

I get the feeling you wouldn't be asking this question if the Packers were in the Super Bowl. Hey, this is Week 2 of "Our Great Pain." We can do this. We can start moving forward now. The two teams in this Super Bowl are deserving. They each went to No. 1 and won.

Eric from Spring Grove, PA

In the past four years, the Packers are 47-17 in the regular season with two NFC North championships and a 5-3 record in the postseason with a Super Bowl championship. This is an outrage!

Where do I sign up for that?

Brandon from Norfolk, VA

Marcus Lattimore or Eddie Lacy? Does either fit the bill as the power runner you're referring to?

If Lattimore hadn't suffered the leg injury, he'd be a top-five pick. This is a doctor's pick. The team doctor would have to convince me Lattimore can make a full recovery. If I get that assurance, I'd pick him where he fits. Lacy is, indeed, a pounder, but does he have Bettis' feet? That's the issue with him. T.J. Duckett was supposed to be Bettis, but it never happened because he didn't have Bettis' feet. The combine and pro day drills are going to define Lacy as a prospect.

Ben from Milwaukee, WI

Is it common for sports writers to have a background in scouting? I often read articles in which the writer critiques a player, college or professional, saying things like "has trouble getting to the second level," or "struggles getting off blocks." Do you and/or others watch hours of tape to determine these things or do you go off what a scout tells you?

Some writers have a scout-like bent to them. They love coming to Mobile and going to the combine because they love the scouting process. I know other guys that do everything they can to avoid these things. I like the scouting process, and I'm playing scout this week at the Senior Bowl in my reports, but I also have Tony Pauline sitting on my hip at the practices, and I know and talk to a lot of scouts. I tend to repeat what I'm told, especially when it supports what my eyes saw.

Daniel from Conroe, TX

The Packers' schedule next year is brutal. They play eight teams that were over .500, six playoff teams, the eventual Super Bowl winner and Super Bowl runner-up. Out of the 16 games to be played, 10 will be against serious playoff contenders, and if you want to believe Dallas and Pittsburgh are always contenders, then that goes up to 12 games. Only four games will be played against teams that were under .500 this season, two of those games being against Detroit, which is always a tough game to win. The next season is going to prove if the Packers are as good as we want them to be. No cake walk games in that schedule.

That's my kind of season. I like challenges. I like big games. You got me excited. By the way, their schedule in 2010 was pretty tough, wasn't it?

Tony from Lake Geneva, WI

Chris Ault says the Pistol is here to stay, while Aaron Rodgers says it will go by way of the Wildcat. Who do you think is right?

I think you might be confusing the read-option scheme with the Pistol. They're not the same. The Pistol is a formation in which the quarterback is in a short shotgun position and the backs are behind him, instead of in front of him, as in a regular shotgun formation. The Pistol allows for a power running game. It helps sell play-action because the backs are moving forward when the play-fake is made, instead of everything being out of draw action, as it would be in a regular shotgun. I agree with Coach Ault. I think the Pistol is here to stay. I don't think the read-option is here to stay because I don't think the quarterback as a runner is here to stay. Hey, the read-option didn't even last from the divisional round to the conference title game. The quarterback wasn't a runner, right?

Jeffrey from Dover, DE

If the Packers are not in the Super Bowl next year, will you have a change of heart about Dom Capers?

No, but I'll have a change of heart about you.

Gregory from Milwaukie, OR

Joe Flacco did not beat Tom Brady. Joe Flacco beat the Patriots defense and performed better than Tom Brady. I understand the team with the QB that plays the best game will usually win, but I think it diminishes the other aspects of the game to say one QB beat another. Defense and special teams also contribute to each win or loss.

OK, coach.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Since losing is not an option, how do the Packers escape the "draft trap"?

It's the question of the ages. Every team has been asking it for a long time. Most teams have just accepted the inevitability of cycles. You're up for 5-6 years, then you fall down for a year or two so you can get the players you need to be up for 5-6 years. How do you avoid the inevitable fall? I don't know. Different teams have tried different tactics. In the free agency era, teams have bought the players they need to extend the team's run, and it's kept them in the playoffs for another few years, but it's also deepened and lengthened their fall because it left them with a salary cap problem that forced them to gut the roster and accept a lot of dead money. I don't like that idea. Some teams have been more proactive with the fall. At the first signs of it, they've gone into a youth movement. The idea there is that instead of accepting the downside of the up years, during which you'll be a playoff contender but maybe not a Super Bowl contender, accept the fall immediately so you might recover more quickly and become a Super Bowl contender again as soon as possible. I like that strategy, depending on where you are with your quarterback. Quarterbacks usually decide the strategy. If you've got an elite quarterback in his prime, you have to avoid the fall as long as you can. If you're at the end of the line with "The Man," then you might as well get on with it. If there's a way to beat the system, I think it has to involve packaging picks to trade up and get the star player you otherwise would miss, and then hitting home runs with late-round picks and in undrafted and cheap free agency so you find the players you missed when you traded those picks away to move up. That's a tall task.

Toby from Kingsford, MI

Some teams seem to build to a peak and win a Super Bowl, only to slide into mediocrity for a decade or two, whereas some are back for more rings in a year or two. What are the key factors that keep a team at the top, and where do you see the Packers' chances of getting back to the big dance soon?

As I wrote above, it's usually about the quarterback. He determines the length of a run. Aaron Rodgers is in the early years of what I believe will be a long prime of his career, which makes me believe the Packers are in the early years of what should be a long, sustained run as playoff contenders. When they might return to the Super Bowl is something I would never predict. The goal of most teams is to stay a playoff contender as long as they can, with the idea they might get hot late in the season and ride that wave to the Super Bowl.

James from Savannah, GA

I jumped on the Packers bandwagon back in Favre's first Super Bowl. I have been a loyal fan ever since. It really bothers me to get rid of key players like we may be doing this year. I put so much stock into these players that I just don't want to see them go. Am I just being too passionate or immature?

No, you're just being a true Packers fan. Nobody loves the players more than Packers fans. Those bicycles are absolute genius.

Luke from Muskego, WI

Vic, you are incorrigible. "Power football has returned." I remember you saying last year that power football is dead. I always thought all you were was a hindsight prognosticator. This just proves it.

I couldn't be more delighted to be wrong. Be that as it may, I will also tell you that I said you cannot win a championship in today's game without a championship-caliber passing game. Finally, Baltimore and San Francisco each have a championship-caliber passing game, and that's why they're in the Super Bowl. Jim Harbaugh knew what he was doing. He knew what his team needed to get over the hump. He's a top coach. Long live power football.

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