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Inbox: It opens up some interesting options

The rest is window dressing

TE Luke Musgrave, TE Tucker Kraft
TE Luke Musgrave, TE Tucker Kraft

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Matt from Waunakee, WI

Mike mentioned he's no hiring manager. Did Mike hire Weston?

Nope. Was part of the process, but wasn't my call. I did not strenuously object, though, nor have I reconsidered.

Jeff from Montclair, VA

So...anything happen late yesterday?

Wes left me with the Thursday morning Inbox and then the big news broke. Maybe the proverbial worm is turning …

Mike from San Diego, CA

And coming out of left field for the new DC position … Jeff Hafley! Can't imagine he was on anyone's bingo card. Do you know much about him or have any gut reactions to the hire? From what I read he seems like the anti-Barry with his emphasis on press coverage.

I don't know much about him other than what Wes and I put together in the 5 things piece. His one year as Ohio State's co-DC really jumps out at me. It sounds like a lot of emphasis on hands in the dirt up front and press man on the outside, but we'll see what he feels is best with Green Bay's personnel.

Bob from Eagan, MN

Now we know why LaFleur got no votes for coach of the year. Hires a complete nobody for a professional team. That would be like me hiring a kindergartner to be a Uber driver. Sad, Sad, Sad.

So glad everyone's keeping an open mind. If more than 10 years total in the major college ranks as position coach, coordinator and head man, plus seven years as an NFL assistant, is a kindergartner to you in the coaching business, well, I can't help you. You've clearly got it all figured out. You weren't alone in your disdain for the hire, but if we're being honest, there's no way to know how this goes. With a Packers team whose arrow is pointing straight up, I think Jeff Hafley just earned the opportunity of a lifetime, and I suspect he'll do everything in his power to make the most of it. I'll also say I don't recall knowing a lot about LaFleur five years ago, either.

Mike from Bel Air, MD

Hey Mike, what do you think of the new DC? My son worked for the head recruiter at Rutgers when he was there. He said he was good. They had one of the best defensive backfields that year.

He's worked under some pretty good defensive minds in the NFL, he's made an immediate impact at a couple of short stops (Ohio State, Rutgers), and his defenses at BC had some definite strong suits. Other than that, I'm in wait-and-see mode like everyone else (should be).

Ross from Hudson, WI

So, can the former BC HC and new GBP DC help bring more W's? That is the question. I didn't know anything about him but everything I've read says he has improved the defense on every team he's been a part of. Very encouraging.

With that, I'll shift gears to all the questions I answered before the big news broke.

Michael from Santa Ana, CA

Pittsburgh plays "Renegade" when they need a stop from their defense. Why don't we play "Immigrant Song" by Zeppelin? We are from the land of ice and snow after all.

Please no. N. O. That Zeppelin song has been a staple of the incessant noise at the Metrodome/U.S. Bank Stadium for as long as I can remember. I hope to never hear it at Lambeau. Ever. I heard it on the practice field in training camp once, and I almost lost my mind. Wes can confirm.

Dave from Germantown, TN

I know the Packers espouse taking the best player available in the draft. Based on looking at the roster, free agents and possible releases, I expect the Packers' draft to look as follows: 3-5 cornerbacks or safeties, 2-3 inside and outside LBs, 2 O-line jars on the shelf and 2-3 running backs. How do you see the Packers' draft sorting itself out?

What you just outlined sounds about right to me.

Joe from Dartford, UK

Do you think Dan Campbell's decisions in the Niners game could have a long-term impact on his players and their relationship? The team worked so hard to get to that point, only to be let down by their head coach's decision-making. That must be a bitter pill for the players to swallow. There could be some bridge building required by Campbell to regain the team's trust and confidence in him. Your thoughts?

I highly doubt one bitter heartbreaker diminishes any relationships, no matter how it went down. By all indications, Campbell's players love him, and honestly I can see why from their perspective. I have no doubt he's a great coach to play for. Players analyze all the other stuff way differently than the rest of us do.

Bob from New Britain, CT

Mike, do you have access to statistics that tell us how often Dan Campbell's offense successfully converted fourth-down opportunities this past season? We know he leaves his offense in there on fourth down much more often than other coaches. Can we trace this (at least in part) to his team's converting on fourth at a much higher percentage?

The Lions' 40 fourth-down attempts and 21 conversions both ranked second in the league (to Carolina's 48 and 23). Detroit's percentage ranked 12th.

Jason from Austin, TX

I think a fumble through the back of the end zone should be loss of possession. Players can't be reckless with the football that close to paydirt. If they're going to change the rule however, I think the opposing team should get the ball at the 1-yard line instead of the 20. I think getting the ball at the 20 is too big of a gift. Treat it like a goal-line stand and make the team work for any breathing room.

Interesting thought.

Chase from Carmichael, CA

I appreciate the "our house" justification, but it always FEELS wrong. It's almost like we need a jump-ball equivalent for balls that get fumbled out of bounds. Or just put a forcefield on the boundary that keeps the ball in bounds requiring a recovery.

As soon as the league implements laser goalposts, the boundary forcefield will be next.

Donald from Philadelphia, PA

Regarding the fumble out of the back of the end zone: I'm so tired of rule changes to help offenses. This rule feels like the only one that favors the defense, and it happens only a handful of times per NFL season. So if they're going to take this away from defenses, what procedural rule would you want changed to favor defenses to balance it out?

Eliminate the illegal contact penalty. Make contact beyond five yards legal until the pass is thrown. If there's grabbing, it's defensive holding. If the ball is in the air, it can be DPI when warranted. But contact at the top of a route stem with players jousting for position, for example, should not result in an automatic first down. College football functions just fine without this foul.

Chuck from Richfield, WI

Thanks Spoff and Hod for keeping the II train chugging. Do think the NFL will review intentional late-game offsides penalties? The Ravens' Roquan Smith offsides "jump" seemed quite intentional to keep the Chiefs from running the clock and having an easier first-down yardage. I actually commend the referee for calling a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty instead of offsides. Are there options for the offense to decline the offsides penalty and continue to run the clock?

It was obviously intentional, and the personal foul was the right call for the unnecessary and excessive contact. The offense could decline it, but then the defense could just do it again and create a game-halting death spiral until the penalty is accepted or unsportsmanlike is called on the defense for repeated attempts. Not much the league can really do.

Vern from Omaha, NE

Some good TE discussion in the Inbox this week, and I love our talent there. I watch KC a lot and am baffled by Travis Kelce's production. He is not the fastest guy, not the biggest, have a huge wingspan, jump the highest, etc.  … and is clearly Mahomes' preferred target. Especially in a gotta-have-it situation. How does he get so open? They move him around a lot, but from what you see is it superior scheme? Matchups? Vision and savvy? Familiarity and trust with his QB? Or just talent?

The Chiefs scheme concepts for Kelce, but he and Mahomes are masters at reading a defense the same way Rodgers and Adams were. Both parties know before the ball is snapped when and where there's a chance to make a play together, and they usually do.

Dan from Richmond, VA

Watching the Ravens self-destruct last weekend reminded me of the Packers' early-to-mid season woes: penalties, bad route-running, and a myriad of other ways we kept shooting ourselves in the foot. But with GB, you could chalk that up to youth and the inevitable growing pains. Not so with the Ravens. So how do you explain such gaffes by such a seasoned team in the postseason? The daunting pressure of expectations? KC's defense is solid, but that can't account for all of it.

Bad days at the office happen. Just because it's the biggest stage doesn't mean they won't. But you called the Ravens a "seasoned team" in the postseason. Dating back to 2018, they were 1-4 in playoff games until beating the upstart Texans in the divisional round this year. They were supposed to shake that playoff reputation. I thought they would, but they didn't.

Ben from Guffey, CO

To your answer to Mike from Catonsville, that's why I'm so excited to have the opportunity health-wise to have both Musgrave and Kraft on the field at the same time more. With their growth in blocking, we might be able to run against heavier boxes, which would then in turn make the play-action that much more dangerous.

It opens up some interesting options for sure.

Mark from Garden City, ID

Over the years, a lot has been talked about the RBs and the need to learn pass blocking to be a three-down back. It seems that's why a lot of promising young RBs don't see the field as often as we fans would like (Aaron Jones for recency). They all seem to learn it, though. Is there a Tom Clements of RB pass protection that deserves recognition?

Yes, his name is Ben Sirmans, and he's an outstanding position coach.

Bob from Jackson, TN

Hello II. When Jordan Love signs his new extension when the Packers are able to in mid-May, will any part of his signing bonus go toward the 2024 cap or not until the extension goes into effect in 2025?

The signing bonus gets prorated cap-wise for five years beginning with the year the bonus is paid, so the first 20% of the bonus will count on the '24 cap.

Tinger from Red Wing, MN

Am I right in assuming that ending way above expectations and being the youngest team in the NFL will lead to the Packers being a lot more attractive to free agents?

Dollars and individual opportunity speak loudest in free agency. The rest is window dressing.

Charlie from Waukesha, WI

Jim Harbaugh has never had a quarterback like Justin Herbert. AFC West could become exciting.

I was thinking about this the other day. Harbaugh took the Niners to three straight NFC title games (and one Super Bowl) with Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick as his QBs. They were good, but I think Herbert is better. If he can turn that defense around, look out.

Magus from Yorkville, IL

Gentlemen, I look at the roster and the only hole is MLB. Draft or sign a beast like: Fred Warner, Wagner, Ray Lewis, Singletary, Urlacher … all other positions groups are solid and just need depth. Other than best available, what position group needs the most attention?

That's it! Just find a Hall of Famer for the middle of the defense! I'll pass that on to the guys upstairs.

Justin from Los Angeles, CA

After the last two weeks, I keep thinking of a Casey Stengel quote: "Most ball games are lost, not won." Against both Green Bay and Detroit, San Francisco didn't make any big mistakes to lose in crunch time, and their opponents did. Same with Kansas City. Maybe "who blinks first" is overrated and we should be paying more attention to "who blinks last"?

Everyone knows my thoughts about being the better team at crunch time. As for Stengel's quote, I've always felt in baseball more than any other sport, games are lost rather than won. But I think that's rooted in the fundamental aspect that makes the game so different: Baseball is the only one of the major sports in which the defense has the ball.

Steven from Balsam Lake, WI

I think your claim of the NFL having great parity was once again disproven this season. Kansas City once again, and San Fran once again. In the past 20 years, Brady, Manning, or Mahomes have represented the AFC in the Super Bowl 15 of those 20 times (plus Brady one NFC appearance). Repeat champions have become common in the NFL. There's a great argument that MLB, and heck even the NBA, have much, much greater parity than the NFL. Fans are sick of the same old Super Bowl teams.

Well, first off, the Chiefs are trying to become the first back-to-back Super Bowl champion in 20 years. But to me parity isn't defined by looking only at the last couple of teams standing. Six teams that made the playoffs in '23 didn't make it the previous year. That's almost half the field, and that's commonplace in the NFL. Plus, the Packers and Lions both took the Niners to the brink. Same with the Bills and Ravens against the Chiefs. Any of those four games could've gone either way. The fact the Niners and Chiefs won them is a testament to their teams' performances in the clutch and some good fortune involved, not evidence of lack of parity.

Dan from San Antonio, TX

One of the best things about the Inbox is learning new vocabulary. Thanks to Brian of Sugar Land, I now know the meaning of "fatuity." I felt kind of foolish and stupid for not knowing that.

Join the club. Happy February.

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