Thomas from Hopewell Junction, NY
I thought you might appreciate the following sentiment. After all the lack of loyalty by college coaching staffs, it's nice to see Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin AD) say this in regard to Paul Chryst: "I wouldn't think it would be right for him to leave after one year. I wouldn't feel right, and I don't think it would be appropriate for me to hire him back after I asked someone to do me a favor and help him get that job. So Paul's going to stay at Pitt." A stand up man, for sure.
Barry Alvarez is my kind of guy. He's a straight talker and an honorable man and he not only resurrected football at the University of Wisconsin, he re-created it. He's the best thing to happen to Badger football since they stopped wearing those silly-looking helmets with the jagged W on the front. There's also a good story that goes with all of this, and it involves the Packers in an indirect but significant way. Alvarez is from the Pittsburgh area and he has friends back there, one of whom is a childhood friend who is a major Pitt booster. Once upon a time, Alvarez tried to get the Pitt job; more on that later. Anyhow, he has a fondness for that program and he worked to sell Pitt on Chryst, who interviewed for that job twice. Neither interview was a home run – Coach Chryst is not an interview kind of guy – but Alvarez pushed hard for Chryst and, it's been rumored, sold Pitt with this line: "It's time you stop winning the press conference on Tuesday and start winning the game on Saturday." He got Chryst the job; there's no question about it. Of course, Alvarez never thought he'd need a coach a year later. Here's the part that involves the Packers: Alvarez interviewed for the Pitt job back in 1990, but Paul Hackett got it. Hackett would then add to his staff a young volunteer assistant named Mike McCarthy, who would later go with Hackett to Kansas City to work on Marty Schottenheimer's staff. A career was launched and you know the rest. I'm always intrigued how little changes might alter the entire course of history. What if Alvarez had gotten the job at Pitt instead of Hackett? Maybe Alvarez would be the AD at Pitt today. What about McCarthy? Where would he be?
Patrick from Short Hills, NJ
Is the game so much faster and requires so much more strength than it used to that players with even minor injuries cannot contribute as much as their backups? I would be curious to know how many games starters missed on average in the Lombardi days vs. today.
I think you're saying the game is so much more demanding today that players can't play with injury, whereas the game of the past was slow and unathletic, therefore, the players then could play with injuries and not experience much of a decline in their performance. Let me tell you, Bob Hayes and Gale Sayers weren't slow, Jim Brown wasn't unathletic, "Big Daddy" Lipscomb wasn't weak and there wasn't a great player from that era that wouldn't be a great player in today's game. Let me tell you something else the old guys weren't: timid. They were tough and they played hurt which, in my opinion, is the definition of toughness.
Andy from Calgary, AB
Hey, Vic, what really shows that a team is hot? Is it simply a winning streak or is it by winning those games in a certain way?
It starts with the injury report. All of a sudden, the injury report begins to shrink. All of a sudden, it's not a big deal and reporters stop asking questions about injuries. September's injuries have healed and a season of bumps and bruises have become a callous that protects those that remain for a postseason run to the Super Bowl. Only the strongest of the strong remain, in a game that has always been about endurance. Also, hot teams have defenses that seem to know where the ball is going. Nobody gashes them. Every yard is a struggle. Offensively, hot teams have forged an identity. It's almost as though they're using the same six plays over and over. They're predictable, but they can't be stopped. Finally, hot teams have a calmness about them. There are no more ups and downs. They know who and what they are.
John from Grand Forks, ND
"After a touchdown or field goal, instead of kicking off, a team would get the ball on its own 30-yard line, where it's fourth and 15. They can then choose to go for it or punt." I read this article on nfl.com. What do you think? No more kickoffs?
Here's my counter proposal: The team that wins the coin toss may elect to begin the game by taking possession of the football at its 30-yard line, first and 10. The team that owns the option to begin the second half may elect to do the same to begin the second half. That'll eliminate more kickoffs and add excitement to the game.
Dino from Racine, WI
Do you think we should keep Cobb as a return man?
Yes, I do, and I think this is the time of the season when it is most important that he continue to be the Packers' lead return man. Late in the season, when the weather turns cold and windy, kicks fly shorter and lower. On average, more kickoffs will be returned in December than any of the other months of the season. The opportunities to make big plays in the kicking game emerge late in the season. This is when a player of Randall Cobb's ability can really become a playmaker in the kicking game. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if it happens this Sunday night.
Ralph from Bridgeport, CT
Rod Woodson said the Packers are not a physical football team because they do not control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. What do you think of the Packers as being physical?
The line of scrimmage defines the physical battle; Rod Woodson is spot on. When you're coming off a game in which you've allowed a back to rush for 210 yards, people are going to snipe at you.
Robert from Harvel, IL
Vic, in your opinion, what is the maximum amount of points an NFL defense can allow in one game and still be considered a good defensive performance?
It was long-believed that if you held an opponent to fewer than 20 points, you should win the game. I think that number has been moved closer to 24 points. It varies according to a team's style of play and expectation.
Tom from Indianapolis, IN
When did agents start representing players and coaches during contract negotiations?
It began in the 1960s. Jim Taylor is a good study on the subject. I consider Dave Meggyesy's book, "Out of Their League," to be a defining literary work on player struggles in the '60s.
Mark from Stewartville, MN
Vic, why couldn't Bret Bielema have waited until after the Rose Bowl to announce he was moving on to Arkansas?
Recruiting is the fly in the ointment. It's something the NCAA needs to address. Ultimately, however, I think the answer lies in buyouts. If schools are going to lose coaches to other schools, they should at least be compensated for it. I think this is especially true as it pertains to mid-major programs that routinely lose their coaches following a successful run. I think schools should insist that coaches they hire agree to big buyouts or no deal. That's the leverage the mid-majors possess. If those coaches want a chance to launch their careers, then they must be required to agree to a substantial buyout. Kent State and Northern Illinois just gave us a super entertaining football game, and both coaches are already gone. It makes you wonder why they even bother trying to be good? The last time Kent State went to a bowl game, Don James was their coach, and then Washington grabbed him. It's difficult to be a fan of programs that are abused like that, but if that's how the big boys are going to treat those schools, then they should at least have to make a sizable donation to the athletic department when they do it. Big buyouts might also promote greater patience.
Tim from Albuquerque, NM
Vic, Tom Coughlin took over the Giants in 2004 after they went 4-12. At the introductory press conference, he was asked how he would turn the team around and I remember he said there were three things the Giants would do: control the line of scrimmage, tackle better and eliminate penalties. How about that as a recipe for success?
Did he also say the Giants would acquire a franchise quarterback by effectively trading for the first pick of the 2004 draft? Forgot that one, huh? Let me tell you something about Tom Coughlin: He ain't goin' nowhere without "The Man." He selected Steve Beuerlein with the first pick of the 1995 expansion draft, and he traded with the Packers for Mark Brunell the night before the Jaguars' first draft.
Skip from Woodstock, VT
Archie Griffin recently said: "The game used to be about tackling, now it's about hitting." Agree?
I understand the inference, that defenders go for the "sting" tackle instead of the wrap-the-arms form tackle, but I don't think the players are to blame. I blame it on the coaches who've preached and taught their players to "stay off the ground." It's produced a culture of high tacklers. How do you wrap, lift and drive when you're standing up? It's going to be a difficult trend to reverse, now that two-a-days are gone, full-pads practices are limited and the whole practice regimen has been softened to the point of being little more than playbook practice.
Don from Greensboro, NC
You named five past players you would like to entertain over dinner. Would you invite Sammy Baugh to join the group for after-dinner cigars?
Baugh was a little before my time. I invited Joe Namath but he sent his regrets.