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Inbox: He smoothed out the rough edges and his talent emerged

Roster machinations may be the ever-present storyline of 2020

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CB Chandon Sullivan

Todd from New Ulm, MN

We (I) lost a great Packer fan this evening. My best friend, Bob, lost his battle with cancer. He took me to Lambeau for the first time, and I got to shake hands with Ezra Johnson when he came out of the locker room. As Frank said, get yourself checked out. I miss my friend. I will miss our shared passion for the Pack. But Sundays will surely bring back many fond memories! Thanks for the daily Packer talk, but also for the many reflections about life. Please keep his family in your prayers.

Will do, and it's also with a heavy heart I convey the news for those who haven't heard that Frank Lamping passed away Thursday morning. May the HOF fan rest in peace.

Bob from Racine, WI

Regarding "crunch" QB/WR combinations, I was thrilled with your Dickey/Lofton choice. And, though I'd take Aaron over Brett all day long, my second choice would be Favre/Sharpe, as it's the combination that's important. Sharpe was to receivers what Favre was to quarterbacks of their time.

As much as I usually answer those questions off the cuff, I did think long and hard about Sharpe there. He broke the single-season NFL record for receptions in '92 with 108 when the second-highest total on the team from a wide receiver (not including tight ends or running backs) was 17 (Sanjay Beach). The next year he broke his own mark with 112 and the team's No. 2 receiver had 32 (Mark Clayton). My point is Sharpe produced repeatedly even when he was the only receiver a secondary had to worry about, which would make him a strong bet on a gotta-have-it fourth down.

Brandon from Orlando, FL

I always get excited to see which era Cliff's article is about, hoping it will mention my grandpa, Jug Girard. My eyes lit up when I saw his name, but then was hit by this quote: "Jug couldn't throw it in a bucket." Gave me a good laugh. I think it's a safe bet he'd be on the bench for the fourth-and-20 scenario.

I don't know much about your grandpa, but I appreciate your sense of humor and would like to think you came by it naturally.

Patrick from Milwaukee, WI

There was some news last season about Darnell Savage wanting to change his number to 21, to maximize potential jersey sales based on the popularity of the rapper/songwriter 21Savage. I recall it was blocked, as in-season number changes are not permitted. Any word on whether Darnell has requested the number change and/or would the Packers try to block to preserve 21 as an unofficially retired number (honoring Charles Woodson)?

The NFL's policy, though its partnership with Nike, requires a player requesting a number switch to buy all the would-be outdated jerseys already produced in order to take a new number. Savage decided his money would be better spent other ways. It had nothing to do with Woodson. The Packers gave Clinton-Dix No. 21 as soon as he was drafted in 2014.

Larissa from Minnetonka, MN

Who gets your "Overhyped team of the offseason that fails to deliver" award? It was the Browns last year, I'm going Tampa next year. Yes, some marquee additions and a great D/WR corps, but last season Brady was just a tad above average, Gronk was retired and over 30 with a history of back problems, and the team has been largely inept since the early 2000s. If this was 2015 maybe I would be on the bandwagon with everyone else.

Maybe you'll be right, but an offensive mind like Bruce Arians paired with Tom Brady is a combination I wouldn't dismiss too quickly.

Juliette from Hustisford, WI

If some kind of roster exception happens for players with coronavirus, and teams are constantly promoting players from the practice squads, signing street free agents, then the original players come back from coronavirus, there's going to be massive roster adjustments, maybe certain players hitting waivers that normally wouldn't. It might be an interesting year, fun to watch. It just might be the year somebody like the Cleveland Browns end up winning the Super Bowl.

The Browns have talent if they've found the right head coach. In general, roster machinations may be the ever-present storyline of 2020.

Tom from Phoenix, AZ

Good morning,

Regarding Joe from Kalamazoo's question on homefield Super Bowl victories: Though no team has never won the Super Bowl on its home turf, one team, the 49ers, won Super Bowl XIX just 30 miles south of Candlestick Park at the old Stanford Stadium. In 1979, when the LA Coliseum was the home of the Rams, they lost a tough SB battle to the Steelers 14 miles away at the Rose Bowl. I believe those are the closest to home games the Super Bowl has seen.

I believe you are correct. More recently, in 2017 the Vikings came one win from becoming the first team to host their own Super Bowl.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Gentlemen, I don't know how much impact a single position coach can have on a team, but I'm fired up about Jerry Gray. He was a stud as a player, and I love his attitude and tone, a real student of the game. I'm looking for even greater things from the secondary this year.

He's got the perfect group for a veteran coach and former Pro Bowler to work with – young, ascending players who, in the grand scheme of things, haven't accomplished anything yet but have the drive and talent to do so.

TK from Grafton, WI

"Macho Man" Mike Spofford? I can only hope that Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and "Mean" Gene Okerlund will have some influence, too!

Wes is gonna get me in trouble if my wife sees all the Inbox references to Miss Elizabeth.

Curt from Algonquin, IL

How much did the Packers' disastrous 2015 draft have to do with dooming Mike McCarthy's career as Green Bay's head coach? By 2018, in what should have been the contract year for a bulk of the class, only one player even started the season on the roster, and he was traded midseason. Not a single player was offered a second contract. With a gaping hole like that in personnel, very few coaches would look good, much less put together a winning season.

I wouldn't put it all at the feet of the '15 draft, but that certainly was a factor. A lot of other issues with personnel leading up to '18 didn't help, either (Shields' injury, Cook's departure, Perry's contract, second-round picks in the '16 and '17 drafts who never really contributed, trading a former first-round pick for a backup QB who didn't pan out, etc.), and I think as a collective whole McCarthy's coaching staffs weren't as strong in his final years. As usual with these things, there was a cumulative effect.

Vinny from Arlington, VA

Mike, would the NFL forgo preseason games and a formal training camp to get the NFL started as scheduled? Or would you expect them to have some preseason games and training camp conducted prior to beginning the season, even at the expense of delaying the NFL season start date? While there may be fans who don't care for preseason games and camp, and just look forward to the regular season to kickoff, I worry about the quality of football in the first month or two without preseason/camp.

Players will have to be allowed time to get ready to play, to handle the physical rigors of the sport. What that preparation schedule looks like is still to be determined.

Dano from Seal Beach, CA

Is there any way players on the practice squads can be protected from being picked off by other teams? (and should they be protected?) I understand practice squads may be expanded to 16 players, which is an excellent idea.

Expanded practice squads would make sense, but the union wouldn't want those players to be protected because that would be hindering their ability to earn active-roster game checks. The difference in pay is significant.

Jacob from Portage, WI

Speaking of Chandon Sullivan, the moment he caught my eye was seeing the athleticism he had during his interception in Dallas. It made me think back to the display on the field when TT infamously said "that's our ball."

I have to give Wes credit. He told me halfway through camp last summer Sullivan was going to make the team. At that time, all I saw was a young player whose physical approach to the game kept drawing flags. To his credit, he smoothed out the rough edges and his talent emerged as last season wore on. He's going to play a big role for the Packers in 2020.

John from Evans, GA

I know I'm going to be in the minority and ridiculed for this, but I don't think football should be played this season without a vaccine. It is inevitable that players, coaches, referees, and other essential individuals will get sick unless they are living like bubble boy outside of game day. This will reflect in the product on the field. Remember replacement referees and what that did to one of our seasons? God forbid someone really gets sick. Some coaches are not spring chickens, don't ya know?

I've maintained for the last three months the risks are, and remain, very real. Aside from the obvious health risks, there's also the financial risk of starting up but not being able to finish. The well-intentioned efforts of the league come with no guarantees. This is all wait and see to me.

Mike from Franksville, WI

At the time, around 2004 when the Packers had dropped a few home games, I remember fans and sportswriters saying the home-field advantage of Lambeau Field was lost, that the renovation made the stadium too "comfy" and the "edge" was gone. I never bought that, but for fun decided to check. From 1992-2002 the Packers were 74-12 at home (86%). After the renovation, from 2003-present, they've been 100-46 (68.5%). Do you think the old stadium might have somehow given the team more of an edge at home?

That's an interesting question. On the whole, I'd chalk it up more to regression to the mean when looking at such large sample sizes. With the additional seating and closed end zones, Lambeau is louder now than it ever was before, in my opinion, so I don't think crowd noise was a bigger factor previously. I will say this: Before the renovation, the visitors' locker room was rather cramped and uncomfortable. It was like a high school locker room, and substandard for the era. I'd been in there several times after games to interview visiting players in my newspaper days. The current visitors' quarters aren't a five-star spa or anything, but any change was going to improve the environment for the road team.

Dave from Glenview, IL

Hello guys, our old friend, Vic, believes the evolution of the game has made the QB position easier than ever to play. I would love to hear your perspective on that. Thanks for keeping us entertained, especially in these trying times.

Physically, I would agree with Vic. Mentally, no way. I think the mental processing required to play quarterback at a high level in this day and age, against all the varied defenses with massive and constant substitutions, is immensely difficult. That's why it's so hard to win in this league without a top-flight QB.

Daniel from DeWitt, IA

Hi, Wes and Mike. I don't have a question. I wanted to say your coverage of the present times has been much better than the news. I truly appreciate it. I write for a living, and it gets hard to stay upbeat. But, somehow, a Packer fan site says all that needs said, eloquently, in a column about lasers and goalposts. That, I think, you should both be very proud of. Keep it up. I really love you both for it.

After a day off from this column, it's worth reiterating how much we appreciate everyone's readership, especially through such slow times for sports news. Have a great weekend, everybody.

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