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I missed on Rodgers in 2005 draft


Scott from Greensburg, IN

I believe Bart Starr's ranking on most national publications' lists of top quarterbacks suffers from overlapping the pre-Super Bowl and the Super Bowl eras. Personally, I find it laughable when younger sportswriters are hesitant to rank him with Montana's and Bradshaw's four championships because three of Bart's came before the Super Bowl era. Your thoughts?

Starr is high in my rankings and I have nothing but respect for what he did. He is, truly, my kind of quarterback. In my opinion, the only criticism that can be applied to him, and no quarterback is without critics, is that Starr played in a watered-down NFL. The emergence of the AFL spread the talent thin in both leagues and, frankly, the AFL might've had the better quarterbacks. I think the evidence of that is the AFL's wins in Super Bowls III and IV and the AFC's domination of the NFC over the next decade. Half of the teams in the NFL had fallen on hard times in the 1960s, the result of the bidding war between the two leagues, and were not competitive. I can remember the Steelers being in such bad financial shape that they drafted a running back named Dick Leftridge out of West Virginia in the first round, solely because they knew they could sign him for an affordable amount of money. This was on the heels of having traded a star player to the Cowboys for the draft rights to Texas tackle Scott Appleton, who then promptly signed with the Oilers of the AFL. That was the NFL of the '60s; it was slowly losing the war to the AFL. The '60s were a tumultuous time in pro football history. It was a golden age for the Packers, but a dark time for most other teams.

Jesse from Sioux Falls, SD

Do you think Mario Williams is the top free agent this offseason? What are the chances of the Packers signing him?

Williams is a former No. 1 pick that was becoming a premier pass rusher as a 4-3 defensive end, when the Texans switched to a 3-4 and Williams was moved to linebacker. Williams was doing well as a linebacker until his season was ended in October due to a pectoral injury, for which he had surgery. Linebacker is not his natural position and I think he's going to get a lot of money from a 4-3 team to put his hand back on the ground. I think this is a situation reminiscent of what Aaron Kampman did, except Williams is going to get a lot more money than Kampman did.

Neil from Cheddar, UK

Great "Ask Vic" (on Thursday). What is the music you use on it?

Some days are Frank Sinatra and "I've Got the World on a String," and some days are Simon and Garfunkel and "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and some days are Led Zeppelin and "Kashmir." Yesterday was "Kashmir."

Ryan from Cottage Grove, WI

Hey, Vic, do you have any indication what our salary cap for this year looks like?

The Packers would seem to fit into a middle group of teams that are neither tight against the cap, nor flush with room. They have the room to keep their own people, is how most cap people would describe it. Counts and amounts, in my opinion, are misleading because a team can instantly create a lot of cap room by restructuring contracts and pushing money out. What's most important is to study how a team capped itself. When you do that, you understand a team's philosophy and how it relates to its mode of operation; it tells you in advance what they're likely to do. For example, the Eagles are a big roster bonus team. They pioneered the use of roster bonus, which is a way of prepaying on your cap because roster bonus, unlike signing bonus, must be declared in full in the year it's paid. It's like paying a second salary. The use of salary and roster bonus is a way of hard-capping yourself, and teams that do that are vigilant about protecting their futures. That's why the Eagles were able to spend big last summer; they had used roster bonus to prepay on future caps. The Steelers are vigilant about getting bang for their buck. They don't like paying big signing bonuses; they tend to overpay in salary because it gives them maneuverability. If a guy turns out to be a bust, they'll cut him and his salary immediately comes back to their cap, and they avoided losing a lot of money in signing bonus that won't come flying forward onto their cap in the year they cut the guy. The negative to this approach is that you're always going to be tight against the cap, but when they identify a player as being worth the money, that's when they restructure his contract by converting salary to signing bonus and pushing the money out. It's a show-me philosophy. The Packers are what's called "flat," which means their players' contracts tend not to spike in a particular year. The Packers are very good cap managers; they make sure there are no surprises, and that's a formula for staying out of trouble. Cap management is a fascinating science; it tells you everything you need to know about how a team operates and what it values.

Jordan from Riverside, CA

If Peyton Manning has to retire this year because his nerves don't heal, and you had a vote, would you vote him into the Hall of Fame?

Absolutely, I would. I like my quarterbacks to have impressive postseason records, but there's no denying Manning's greatness.

Brett from Hattiesburg, MS

Do you think there's any chance the Packers will need a veteran quarterback next season?

Brett, huh? Well, Brett, I favor youth. I've been accused of favoring it to the excess, but nobody feels that way a few years down the road when that youth has all of a sudden become the strength of a team's roster and is providing the security of a bright future. I think there are some intriguing quarterback prospects in this draft and I'd like to see the Packers tap one of them, with the idea that Graham Harrell can develop into Aaron Rodgers' backup. Should OTAs reveal doubts that Harrell is ready for that role, then go ahead and sign a veteran quarterback at that point. That's my opinion. I don't know what the Packers' opinion on the matter is.

Brett from Glen Rock, NJ

Vic, what's your take on Rob Gronkowski's post-Super Bowl antics? I can't imagine any great player in the history of the game that would do that after a loss with the magnitude of that game.

You're obviously referring to his "Dirty Dancing" episode at the Patriots' postgame party. He shouldn't have done it, not because there's anything wrong with it, but because it was certain to meet with criticism from fans that believe a player should be in his room crying after losing a game. I don't know what that accomplishes, but it's what fans expect and want. As far as I'm concerned, do whatever you want; it doesn't matter now.

Matthew from Storrs, CT

What are your thoughts on creating a rule so that players can't wear sticky gloves?

I like it.

Andrew from Columbia, MO

I just finished a great book about Bart Starr, and learned how incredibly different the game was in that day. Having a 1:1 touchdown to interception ratio and a 50 percent completion rate was considered a great season. How different was his game?

Efficiency was his game, but you didn't dare call him a "game manager" because he made big plays at big times. When the Packers needed to make a play, they turned to Starr. That's not a game manager. The game was so different back then. By the way, I watched the HBO Joe Namath documentary last night. It's one of the best things I've ever seen. Namath's commentary throughout the documentary is razor sharp and introspective. It makes the documentary what it is. The game owes him so much.

Ed from Des Plaines, IL

In the same blog from 2007 in which you raved about Aaron Rodgers, you also stated "[James] Jones looks like a world-beater." Nobody bats 1.000.

Huh? What's wrong with James Jones? He's been a productive receiver for this team for a long time. He averaged 16.7 yards per catch and caught seven touchdown passes last season. I don't know of a team that wouldn't want those numbers. If you wanna talk about not batting 1.000, then talk about my opinion of Rodgers coming out of Cal. I was very leery of him as a draft prospect, due to the failures of previous Jeff Tedford quarterbacks: David Carr, Joey Harrington, Akili Smith, Kyle Boller. Yeah, I liked what I saw in that 2007 preseason game, but I missed the boat on Rodgers coming out of college, just like a lot of other people.

Ed from Des Plaines, IL

Forget about putting 12 men on the field. Just have your defensive backs tackle all the receivers at the line and sit on them. Defensive holding and illegal contact are both just 5-yard penalties.

Tackle the man without the ball? They have enough trouble tackling the man with the ball.

David from Maineville, OH

Hey, Vic, after watching the Packers play their division rivals for one season, what do you think?

The NFC North is just as I expected. It's a division of geographic rivalries. It reminds me of my days in the old AFC Central.

Damian from Superior, WI

Dear Vic, I don't know how to fix it, but you're really popping your Ps in "Video Ask Vic."

I hate when I do that.

Brian from Sparta, WI

Why is it that no one seems to want to put any blame on Tom Brady? The pass that Welker dropped was a terrible pass.

I don't agree. It was a beautifully thrown ball. Brady saw a defender closing on Welker from the right, so the ball had to be thrown to Welker's outside, but it also had to be thrown with enough air under the ball to allow Welker to adjust to it, and it was. It should've been caught, it wasn't and that might be the reason the Patriots lost. Players, not plays.

Craig from Laramie, WY

Discussion of giving up points brought back recollection of my grandfather's exploits while a quarterback at Boston College in 1939. "Chuckin' Charlie" O'Rourke (grampa) took the fourth-down snap with a 19-16 lead over Georgetown and two minutes left. Grampa ran around for a full minute and then took an intentional safety. He then punted and the defense preserved the victory in what Grantland Rice called "the greatest college football game I've ever seen."

Grampa must've been very tired.

John Neptune Beach, FL

In 1996 and in section 409, everyone around us expected Tony Brackens to let the Falcons running back score in order to get the ball back with time to win the game, but Brackens tackled him short of the goal, forcing a Morten Andersen chip shot.

And Andersen who, at the time, was the most accurate kicker in NFL history, hit the ball fat and missed the kick, which sent the Jaguars into the playoffs, where they scored upset wins in Buffalo and in Denver before losing in the AFC title game in New England, which lost to the Packers in the Super Bowl. OK, so there's an example of not allowing the score having worked. Again, I ask: Can somebody please give me a definitive example of the opposite strategy having succeeded?

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