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Inbox: It puts the defense in a better place

The two-week window for franchise tags is open


Steve from Chardon, OH 

So, Mike, since your two favorite high school books are "LOTF" and "OMAM," can we conclude that you didn't read anything after your freshman year?

You did catch the part about me being an English major, right?

Tim from Charlotte, NC

Love the four-pane pic (video) of LaFleur and his coordinators. Everyone has a smile except Pettine with his trademark scowl.

Yet the funniest line in the auditorium Monday was Pettine's about having "a thick book on what not to do" as a head coach.

Paul from Mason, OH

I hear we are planning on focusing much more on the run and our two young running backs. How much do you think having a consistent running game could benefit Aaron this year?

All you have to do is look at the stats from 2014. Lacy and Starks combined for 1,472 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, and Rodgers won the MVP with 250 fewer passing yards and seven fewer TD passes than in 2011.

Todd from Sandy, UT

Would a pass-catching RB in the mold of NE RBs Michel and White make sense since the Packers are changing offensive scheme now? I like GB's backs, but would another third-down complement help create diversity on offense?

I think Jones can be that shifty, pass-catching back, but I'd prefer the offense to have more than one option in that category.

Bob from Chalfont, PA

Are there specific players that you want to see at the combine, or do you treat it as a blank slate and determine who stands out?

We actually don't watch much of the workouts. We're mostly tied to the media center where the players are available for interviews. I like to go in with a handful of "can't miss" press conferences, and then adjust from there.

Noah from Green Bay, WI

Who looks good in free agency? Do the Packers have a chance of landing Dee Ford?

The two-week window for franchise tags opened Tuesday. We'll soon know which top players are actually on the market.

Luke from Eagle, CO

Was thinking about swinging deep at a certain position each year and how it may be of great benefit. Swing on three WR and hit on at least one. WR position handled for a bit. CB, take a chance on a few hopefully hit on one or more, etc. Seems better than only taking one or so at each position each year and potentially missing on just one guy. And when it's time to rotate the stock (of a single position) you're able to. What do you think of that strategy?

Taking repeated swings at one position in the same draft usually arises from a stark need, so when you have to, you do it. You'd prefer to avoid being in that spot in the first place, but it happens.

Tyler from Cross Plains, WI

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I noticed a lot of our new assistant coach hires last coached in college or coached a large portion of their career in college. My question is, what differences are there between coaching in college and coaching in the NFL, if any, and will there be a learning curve for these new guys?

There's always a learning curve, but there aren't many guys on the staff who've never been involved in the NFL. I can't speak to all the differences, but scheme volume is one of them. There's a lot more to study and prep. The tradeoff is NFL coaches don't have to spend any of their time recruiting, like college coaches do.

Dan from Kewanee, IL

English major you say. I can't find "gonna" or "dunno" in any dictionary. If this doesn't stop I'm going to have to increase my blood pressure medication!

I allow myself some latitude after all the editing necessary for the questions.

Bill from Magnolia, TX

As a former Wisconsinite exiled to Texas some 40 long years ago, I must inquire about the use of "y'all" in your responses not once but twice in the 2/19 II. Was one or more of you intrepid scribes recently and repeatedly exposed to our favorite contracted collective pronoun, or is there a deeper meaning to this?

Speaking of informalities, one of my grad school friends was from the south, and he insisted he was going to take his master's in journalism to write books and not for newspapers or magazines, so he'd be able to write the way he talks. I throw in the occasional "y'all" in his honor.

Gary from Hope Mills, NC

Everybody is screaming about a need for an edge rusher, but I've not heard much about Fackrell. Does he not rank as a top rusher? I thought he has made great leaps these past couple of years and only seems to be getting better.

I love what Fackrell did last season, but with Matthews (3½ sacks) a pending free agent, Perry (1½ sacks) coming off another injury-plagued year and Gilbert (2½ sacks) not yet a proven full-time player, the Packers have to address the present and future of the position. Pettine is great at scheming sacks, which is how inside linebackers and DBs contributed 11½ of them over the course of last season, but when you can win consistently off the edge and not have to scheme pressure, it puts the defense in a better place.

Scott from Kissimmee, FL

I was beginning to think in my lifetime that I would not see the Red Sox break the curse or the Cubs win the World Series. Fortunately, I have witnessed both. But I am thinking that, especially after 53 Super Bowls, I may not in my lifetime see the holy grail (three-peat) of consecutive titles in the Super Bowl era of the NFL. If it happens in my lifetime or whenever, given the nuances of the sport would you not consider it perhaps the greatest team achievement in professional sports?

It would certainly be in the conversation. I'll digress for a minute to the greatest individual athletic achievement, which I think I watched on a movie screen while on vacation. If you haven't seen "Free Solo," holy cow. Just, holy cow.

Dave from Eau Claire, WI

Given that the Packers appear to be looking to run the ball more than in years past, has there been any indication that the team will change their past philosophy of drafting tackles to turn into guards? Wouldn't it make sense to start drafting real guards who can plow holes in the running game? Or does the highest priority still go to protecting QB1 at the expense of the run blocking?

That's not the reason the Packers often drafted tackles and turned them into guards. They drafted tackles because they're usually the best offensive linemen on a college team, and the transition to guard for a talented lineman with the right body type is not difficult. Sure, a Quenton Nelson comes along every once in a while, but I take nothing away from Lang and Sitton as run blockers.

Jeff from Eveleth, MN

Spoff, the Packers played a game 53 days ago? You call that a game? I can't wait for the restart.

Understatement of the offseason.

Venny from Montgomery, AL

In the past 10 seasons are there any players worth noting that have made a significant jump in draft stock based on combine performance? The only one I can remember is John Ross with his 40-yard dash time of 4.22 seconds two years ago.

Significant jumps from combine workouts are rare because of the cautionary tales like Mike Mamula from many moons ago. Rankings always shift here and there, but I hear more about guys shifting the wrong way after a poor workout than the other way around. It doesn't define a player, but it never looks good to perform poorly for a workout you've supposedly been training months for.

Take a look at photos of Packers DL Tyler Lancaster from the 2018 season.

Evan from Middleton, WI

I know the "baloney" as an official stop date/time but does it have an official start date?

It's a feel thing.

Brian from Lawrenceville, GA

We are three weeks from the start of free agency. Will we hear anything from Mr. Gutekunst in regards to the future of Cobb, Matthews, and others before March 11?

Probably only if he re-signs anyone before then. I'm sure he'll be asked about the pending free agents at the combine next week, but past experience would indicate definitive answers one way or another won't be forthcoming.

Nic from London, UK

Does Roethlisberger get a bit of a pass because he won two SBs early? The plays I remember from those were more about Randle El, Ward and Holmes than him. Since then he's been great at times, but is any other elite QB as vulnerable on the road, carrying a worse record against a direct playoff foe (Pats) or benefited from having arguably the best skill players at their position (Brown and Bell)? Not hating, just saying it seems the media has been polishing that HOF bust for a while.

That's a lot of broad strokes to sully a CV. He's only faced Brady in the playoffs twice, once as a rookie. He's 3-6 against him in the regular season, with two of the losses by three points each and one of those the Jesse James fiasco. His career winning percentage on the road is .596 (at home, .748). He's won three AFC titles, one the all-road route just like Rodgers. The final drive to beat the Cardinals in the Super Bowl had to cover 88 yards after a first-play holding penalty – all him, 84 passing and a 4-yard scramble – and the last throw to Holmes was right where it needed to be. He's 13-8 overall in the postseason, the most recent loss when he put up 42 points on the Jaguars, the No. 1 defense in the league in '17. Since the three Super Bowls, he's led the NFL in passing yards twice and gone to four additional Pro Bowls. His career passer rating is on the edge of the top 10 all-time. Sure, some opportunities have gotten away, as they do with all the greats, but I'm not sure what else you could want for HOF credentials.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Hypothetical, the Packers grant you one day to be a fly on the wall in the draft war room this year. Would you pick Day 1, 2, or 3 and why? For me I'd have to say Day 1 with all the trade possibilities at 12 and 30.

Definitely Day 1, even in a year with just one pick.

Craig from St. Paul, MN

Best coach to never win a Super Bowl or NFL Championship? It cannot be Bud Grant as the Vikes were NFL champs before losing to the AFL. Speaking of Grant, he always loved coaching against a first-year coach, as the newby was finding out the time it took for all the extra stuff about the job. So while I am getting my hopes up for this new staff, those hopes are tempered.

That's a reasonable approach, though I'll say the sheer size of coaching staffs now compared to Grant's day can really help a first-timer make a smooth transition. Your question is a tough one because there are so many good candidates. If I narrow it down to best coach to never get to a Super Bowl – which removes guys like Andy Reid, Marv Levy and Dan Reeves – then I'm choosing between Don Coryell and Marty Schottenheimer.

Lee from Conifer, CO

All of this talk of the "poking and prodding" at the combine made me think about the medical part from a different point of view; that of the physicians and their assistants. Do these guys have to have a file on EVERY player at the combine, or just the ones that their teams are interested in? The latter makes me think that they might miss out on a gem. The former makes me think that that's a LOT of work! Do you have an inkling of how the doctors' side of this whole process works?

The medical staffs examine every player, for a number of reasons. There's no need to advertise your interests to other teams, right? Also, young players drafted or signed by other teams will come available all the time later on, so you want that prospect file to contain as much information as you have access to for potential down-the-road discussions and/or decisions.

Matt from Rewey, WI

This time of year, with staff now put together, are the coaches focused on prospects or are they working on playbook and schemes?

Both. The coaches will do some prep for the combine because they'll be involved in interviewing players. Also, between now and the draft, the scouts will ask them to review film of certain players and write their own scouting report for the file. But I believe the bulk of their time is being spent on the playbook, because they want to have it all ready to present to the players in early April.

Malcolm from Fennimore, WI

Insiders, what is your favorite quote from any football player?

"I think we can run the table. I really do."

Scott from Sauk City, WI

Hahaha, ankle guards. Good burn, Spoff! Are you surprised to see that he got $300M for 10 years? There's been lots of talk about the depressed free-agent market in MLB, and I think that the Brewers may have benefitted from it with Cain, Grandal and Moustakas. I'm not gonna complain about it, because I'm thrilled that my team is "in it to win it." With all of the players grumbling about collusion, do you see another strike before the next CBA?

The grumbling seems to keep getting louder.

Trevor from Carmel, NY

In one hand, you have a vial of truth serum. In the other a remote control to send you back to any year since 1919. You are able to go back in time and ask anyone affiliated with the Packers any question, and get the honest truth. Who do you choose, what are you asking them and why? Go!

I'd go back to somewhere around 1968-69, and I'd want to ask Vince Lombardi this: Of the eight Pro Football Hall of Famers who played on all five of his Green Bay championship teams – Gregg, Starr, Nitschke, Adderley, Davis, Wood, Jordan and Kramer – which player was the most indispensable to his and the franchise's legacy. Why would I ask that? Because I'm not 100 percent convinced he'd say Starr, no disrespect intended, and I think the answer would be really intriguing.

PJ from Minneapolis, MN

To your comment about the most important position in a team sport being the QB, what about the seeker in quidditch? In fact, I still don't see the point of all the hullabaloo of beating bludgers or throwing quaffles through hoops if the points don't amount to anything more than what catching the snitch will do, and literally end the match. In fact, has there ever been a quidditch match not decided by the seeker?

Wes, when are you coming back?