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Hutson was bigger, stronger, faster


Bob from Tucson, AZ

Do you think the camera showing all 22 players at once should be shown on TV coverage? A story claimed this was the key view to understand what is happening during a play. What do you think?

If you want to view the game as a coach would, then a full-frame view of the game is the way to go. If you want to view the game for entertainment, which is how I think most people want to view the game, then a closer view of the ball is required. I'm having trouble understanding this need for knowing the coverage, blocking scheme, etc. What does it matter what it is? I know it's a product of the "Madden" generation, but I've never known it to be as intense anywhere else as it is here. I want to see faces. I want to see the critical one-on-one confrontations up close. Most of all, I want to see the quarterback. He's "The Man." He's the game. The look in his eyes and the calm or panic in his feet and body language tell me what I need to know about the game I'm watching. I'll trust the TV analysts to tell me what the coverage is.

Dave from Brookfield, WI

With all the speed on the field, can straight up north/south running make a comeback?

That kind of power football requires an all-out commitment to it. You can't quit on it in the second quarter because it's not working. Do today's fans have the kind of patience to allow for the kind of commitment that continues to run the ball against a stacked box? I don't think so. I think the days of power football have gone the way of the dodo bird.

Mark from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

An article in this week's "Mayo Clinic Proceedings" studied high school football players from the 1940s and 1950s and compared them to non-football players of the same time. The authors found no increase in dementia, Parkinson's disease or Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS) in the football players. This was before the era of rigid helmets. Do you think this supports your theory that rigid helmets make head injuries more likely?

That's not my theory. My theory is that the advent of the facemask made head injuries more likely because it allowed players to use their head as a weapon. The facemask was invented in 1953 and recommended for use by the NFL to its players in 1955. I think that's the timeline that should be studied.

Jeff from Seattle, WA

In baseball, nobody is ever as good as the players of yesterday. The old-time players are untouchable; however, with football, people quickly forget about the greats and think today's players are the best there ever was. Can you account for the difference?

It's age; baseball is much older than pro football is. Twenty of the 32 teams in the NFL didn't exist prior to 1960. That means the fans of those teams have no players for those teams prior to 1960 to defend. That lack of historical perspective results in disdain for the great players of the NFL's early years. The feeling is that if it happened before my team was a team, then it couldn't have been any good. There's your bigger, stronger, faster crowd. Everybody now is better than everybody then because the bigger, stronger, faster crowd doesn't know much about the early years of the NFL, nor do they have an emotional attachment to it. Green Bay has the kind of history and tradition that allows for an appreciation of the great players that helped make this game what it is today.

Matt from Great Bend, KS

You always say the defensive ends in a 3-4 are not pass rushers but two-gappers, and I get that, but I think it should be said that if they only have one blocker on them, they need to win the one-on-ones with some consistency.

Two-gapping means having a responsibility for the gap to your right and the gap to your left, and that requires that you play on the head of the blocker and play him down his middle, lest you get shoved to one side or the other and lose gap integrity, as coaches like to say. Trust me, Matt, two-gapping is not a strategy for rushing the passer because it allows for only one kind of pass-rush technique, bull-rushing, and that's more of a strategy for collapsing the pocket than it is for getting to the quarterback quickly. To sack the quarterback in today's get-rid-of-the-ball-quickly game, somebody has to come free, and that's usually a gap rusher who beat somebody off the ball.

Bill from Winkiler, Canada

More education, less sarcasm, please. What is five technique?

Outside shoulder of the tackle.

Danny from Milwaukee, WI

Do you think the Packers defense will be much improved this coming year?

Yes. That's not sarcasm. I'm being very serious now. It's May. The time for levity has passed.

Lewk from Davenport, IA

How dominant would Don Hutson be in today's game?

He'd be Wes Welker, except better, because Hutson was bigger, stronger, faster.

Chris from Viroqua, WI

Vic, what drives the popularity of a sport?

The anticipation of human confrontation and the tension it creates.

Bubba from Pocatello, ID

Vic, I've never failed a physical in my life. What does it mean when a player fails a physical?

It usually means he has a pre-existing condition for which the team is not willing to accept liability.

Greg from New Britain, CT

Why do teams' draft boards look so different when many are essentially using the same info (via the scouting combine alliances)?

Different schemes require different standards for different positions. Ends in a 3-4 are usually tackles in a 4-3, and 4-3 ends usually have to be able to play linebacker in a 3-4. Teams that drive block want big, road-grading blockers. Teams that pull and trap want blockers that possess mobility, and they tend to be a little smaller than the road-graders. Teams that stretch block usually like taller, thinner blockers that can screen and slide. Each team has a personality that causes it to value one player a little more or less than another team would.

John from Jacksonville, FL

If you were NFL commissioner, what would you change, if you were attempting to change the game from a pass focus to a run focus?

You'd reverse the rules changes of 1978 and take the protections off the quarterback.

Mark from Coarsegold, CA

I have always admired the great sportswriters, with my favorite being the late Jim Murray of the LA Times. I was wondering if there are any writers out there now that you enjoy reading?

There are entertaining writers everywhere, but we're lacking a Murray, and that's because writers of his skill don't come along very often. Murray had a wonderful ability to bring his subjects to life. His column about his eyes is still the most beautiful sports story I've ever read. We need him badly today because we've become too angry, and I think today's sports writers have a tendency to promote that anger, instead of softening it. Murray was always a tonic for anger; he gave us perspective. I would love to read what he would've written about "Bountygate."

Todd from Vero Beach, FL

Vic, football is and always has been a collision sport, which seems to leave most people with a love it or hate it feeling for the game. There was a national cry to ban it in 1905, all the way to the oval office, but it managed to survive in a more tempered form with some prudent rules changes. One of the beauties of football is its evolution, yet, it has always maintained at its core the art of collision.

It was much easier to protect the art of collision in 1905, when 19 men died from football-related injuries, because most of those deaths were the result of blunt-force trauma from the flying wedge. The wedge was outlawed and steps were taken, as motivated by Teddy Roosevelt, to establish a safety-conscious ruling body that became what is today's NCAA. In other words, there was more room for growth and development than there is today. One of the steps taken to help soften the game was the creation of the forward pass, which helped open the field and take the game away from its dangerous, mass-player formations. Protecting the art of collision today is going to be a more difficult thing to do.

Joe from Clio, MI

In your opinion, how has Mark Murphy done in his tenure as CEO?

Well, the Packers have won a Super Bowl and the team is in a Lambeau Field development project that will be totally funded by private money. I think history will record Murphy's leadership with a smile.

Steve from Denver, CO

Who do you predict will be the NFL's biggest surprise next season? Bills? Bengals? Skins? Rams?

Of those four teams, the Bills would get my vote.

Dave from Bellingham, WA

The talk that long-term effects of concussions lead to depression and may have contributed to Seau and others killing themselves is very sad. It seems like there could at least be two factors at play with modern players that might contribute, the speed of the game and player size being one. The other I wonder about is that today's players live football year round; in yesteryear, they had jobs and other responsibilities outside of football. It makes me wonder if it's really hard for today's players to adjust to retirement and find some kind of fulfillment. What do you think is going on?

I think those are all valid concerns. I want to know about the impact of steroids use. I think we need a study on that. The league has been vigilant about testing; it was the first major pro sports league to have it. I fear, however, that a lot of players have tried and succeeded at cheating the testing process. How do we quantify the impact of something that's been camouflaged? Where's the truth? Does the game deserve all of the blame?

Jason from Summerville, SC

If player X leaves Green Bay and signs with Chicago, does player X give away secrets to help his new team beat the Packers?

Of course he does. When you get a player, you get everything he has to give.

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