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I'm gonna throw a lot of names at you


Bob from Fargo, ND

Everyone is always concerned about who the best quarterback is, but who is the worst starting quarterback you've ever seen?

It would be a tie between Terry Bradshaw and John Elway in their rookie years. I covered Elway's first game and he had to be pulled at halftime. The Broncos tried to stick with him through his rookie year, but it got so bad that eventually he had to be benched in favor of Steve DeBerg. The following year, Elway began to show improvement. Bradshaw completed just 38 percent of his passes and had a passer rating of 30.4 as a rookie. These were first-pick-of-the-draft quarterbacks that went on to win a combined six Super Bowls and earn induction into the Hall of Fame. It was common in those days for rookie quarterbacks to struggle. Dan Marino is one of the few, maybe the first, that lit it up in his rookie season. The game was very different back then.

John from La Crosse, WI

I feel that if the NFL went to pay per view, it would go the route of boxing. I remember boxing being huge in the 1960s and '70s, with Ali, Foreman, Frazier, etc., fighting on TV. The beginning of the downward trend in boxing, in my opinion, was pay per view. Agree?

Boxing was made for TV. The ends of rounds are perfect for commercial breaks and running to the refrigerator. The ring allows the camera to focus on a condensed area. Today's technology makes boxing an amazing TV visual. So why doesn't it appear on TV more prominently? There are at least two main reasons: 1.) Pay per view offers a bigger payday. 2.) Boxing isn't popular enough to deliver the ratings free TV needs. When I was a kid, the "Gillette Cavalcade of Sports" Friday night boxing show was a staple of our lives, just as football is today. All of the big names fought on that show, including Rocky Marciano and Sugar Ray Robinson. It seemed as though Gene Fullmer was always on that show, which he probably was because you knew that when Fullmer was fighting, the fight was gonna go the distance. When boxing was married with pay per view, its popularity began to decline. The reason for it is simple: More people are going to be exposed to something on free TV than they will be on pay per view or, as it was called back then, closed circuit television. The NFL has a wonderful relationship with free TV; it's been a success story for both. Football is TV and TV is football. There is, however, a delicate balance between exposing the sport on TV and protecting its box office appeal. It's critical that this balance not be endangered.

Neil from Bristol, WI

I read some comments made by Troy Aikman. He believes football will be supplanted as the No. 1 sport in the U.S. someday, and that there are a number of missteps being taken. What is your take on all of this? Is the NFL's popularity at risk?

I read his comments and they primarily cite two reasons for what Aikman believes will result in a decline in the game's popularity: concussions and too many games being shown on TV. In regards to the concussions, which clearly shortened Aikman's career, I think we all know that the league has identified this as a major problem and it is attacking it vigorously in attempting to find a remedy. As for the potential for overexposure, I'm going to disagree with Aikman. I remember hearing my father and his cronies, back in the 1960s following the NFL's first network TV contract and the explosion of football it produced on TV, making the same claims. If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times: Football is overexposed, he would say. Well, 50 years later, the proliferation of football games on TV continues to skyrocket. As I said, football is TV and TV is football. They are inseparable. America has to have football; it can't live without it. As I see it, the No. 1 threat to football is the continued increase in salaries. Very few markets can pay New York prices for entertainment. I think the league will be successful in its attempts to make the game safer, and I think it'll be vigilant in making sure the sport isn't overexposed. My hope is that the league and its players will join in giving the same attention to the cost of the game the fan must absorb.

Gary from Greenwood, SC

I pay almost $400 a year to DirecTV for "Sunday Ticket" to watch the Packers games because I do not live in Wisconsin. If that isn't pay per view, I don't know what is. The Rubicon has been crossed, my friend.

That's not the same. If you lived in Wisconsin, the Packers games would be available to you on free TV. I'm sure the Panthers games are available to you on free TV. You're paying a cost for bringing a specific game to your TV. There's a difference.

John from Trego, WI

Name three players in this year's draft that would be of interest to Green Bay, should they still be available at the 28th pick.

I can't play that game, John, because I don't have a clue what the Packers' board looks like, and Ted Thompson certainly isn't going to share that information with a member of the media. What I can do is throw a lot of names at you this weekend from the combine. The fact that I'm using those names would suggest that they at least address a need for the Packers; that's the best I can do at this point. I'm in Indianapolis now and a story will be posting shortly after today's "Ask Vic" posts. It's a story that'll throw some names at you.

Milt from Albany, NY

Everyone always talks about the importance of a quality left tackle. I assume that is because it's important to protect the quarterback's blind side. But there are left-handed quarterbacks. For those teams, isn't the right tackle the more important position?

It would be the more important pass-blocking position, provided the defense's best pass rusher is on that side of the field. In nearly all cases, a 4-3 defense's best pass rusher is the right defensive end. If he's an especially athletic guy, he can move around, but that's the exception, not the rule. Against a 3-4, the premier rusher tends to come from the defense's left side, and that's by design, since that isolates him on the right tackle, who is usually the weaker pass blocker of the two tackles. Don't think in terms of blind side, front side. Think in terms of matchups.

Neil from Cheddar, UK

Can you tell us why, in the Packers Hall of Fame, the Super Bowl trophies are given more prominence than the previous NFL titles? We talk about 13 world championships, not four Super Bowls?

They all count one in my book, and they're all worthy of celebration, and the Packers' pride is attached to all 13 championships, not just the four Super Bowl titles. Nobody respects the traditions of the game more than I do, and nobody defends the old guys more staunchly than I do, but I think it's only fair to acknowledge that the four Lombardi trophies shine a little brighter, because of the explosion in the popularity of the game they represent. The 1958 NFL title game is considered to have been the birth of America's awareness of pro football. Prior to that, football was the college game.

Mark from Stewartville, MN

Vic, what was the average player salary when you started covering the NFL 40 years ago? Was it easier for the average fan to identify with the players back then, when players' and fans' salaries were more comparable?

I think the minimum wage for an undrafted rookie in 1972 was right around $12,000. I'm not sure what the average salary was, but I remember writing that Jack Lambert got $35,000 in salary and a $15,000 signing bonus as a second-round pick in 1974, so I'm gonna guess that the average wage at that time was about $50,000 a year. Did fans and players more readily identify with each other then? I don't know. The players were still larger-than-life people back then. I can remember being paralyzed with awe when I saw Bobby Layne come through the players' gate.

Vic from Pepin, WI

In your opinion, would bringing back bump-and-run coverage lessen the amount of concussions due to the fact the corner is closer to him and the receiver has less of a chance to run at full speed?

We had some serious bump-and-run being played in the '70s and concussions were common. Let's not forget about Darryl Stingley. I understand what you're saying, but I think the more important change would involve getting those safeties out of the middle of the field. That's where the danger is. A couple of weeks ago, I suggested a rule that would require everyone to be within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball. Hey, maybe it's time for the NFL to do what the NBA did and go to mandatory man-to-man coverage; no double-coverage and no peeling off to defend against another receiver until the ball is in the air. I don't know what the answers are; I'm just throwing some thoughts around.

Kris from Las Vegas, NV

Who was the last free agent from another team that Ted Thompson signed?

Duke Preston in 2009. The Packers signed none in 2010 and won the Super Bowl, and signed none in 2011 and won 15 games before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion. In addition, they have a very clean and trouble-free salary cap, which protects the team's future.

Bruce from West Bend, WI

If Melvin Ingram is the BAP when it's the Packers' turn, would you ask him to gain weight to play defensive end or lose weight to play outside linebacker.

I'm sensing more and more that there's a disconnect between what a 3-4 is and what the fans' expectations are for it. Ingram is not a candidate to play end in a 3-4. If he ate banana cream pie from now until training camp, he would not be a candidate to play end in a 3-4 because Ingram is not a hold-the-point, two-gapping defensive lineman. He's a quick-twitch, first-step edge rusher. What we're going to find out on Monday, hopefully, is whether Ingram has the speed to be an edge rusher as a linebacker, or if he fits better as an edge rusher with his hand on the ground in a 4-3. His estimated 40 time is right at 4.8, that's right on the cut line for an outside linebacker.

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