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Inbox: It's a new year and new opportunity

The Packers are right back in the thick of this thing

Head Coach Matt LaFleur, QB Aaron Rodgers
Head Coach Matt LaFleur, QB Aaron Rodgers

John from La Crosse, WI

Do you think that the Packers are in the mix to win the next Super Bowl?

Yes. They're right back in the thick of this thing. Don't believe me? Just ask the oddsmakers. Good morning!

Craig from Johnson City, TN

I was sad to hear of the passing of Willie Wood. He and Herb Adderley were my favorite players on the Lombardi teams. Guess I always liked defense and especially defensive backs.

Wood's story is touching on so many levels. I can't think of many Pro Football Hall of Famers who went undrafted. He worked for everything he earned in the NFL from the moment Bill Butler wrote that letter to Vince Lombardi. In addition to a remarkable playing career, Wood broke down barriers as the first African-American head coach in the modern era of pro football. He lived an extraordinary life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his friends, family and children.

Jessi from Sterling, KS

Those final 9:21 minutes of the game was very "Aaron-esque." What a fantastic Super Bowl comeback that was! Couldn't be more thrilled for Andy Reid. What a long-awaited victory, gives a little perspective on winning seasons and how hard it is to make it and win. Did you doubt the comeback or expect it?

It reminded me of Aaron Rodgers. We already knew never to doubt Patrick Mahomes' ability to engineer a comeback but he took things to another level this postseason.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, Patrick Mahomes completed 29-of-42 passes, threw two picks, and had a 78.1 passer rating. After leading the Chiefs to a remarkable comeback victory, did he become the Super Bowl MVP with the worst QB stats recorded in the history of the big game?

I don't know if I'd go that far. Eli Manning was named Super Bowl MVP in 2008 with an 87 passer rating and no rushing yards/rushing TDs. Any way you slice it, Mahomes played like an MVP when it mattered most. There were no slam dunks for MVP. He was as good of a pick as any.

Subhadeep from Middletown, CT

What a great SB! D almost was the winner but this specific one went back to O. I am wondering what Richard Sherman's response today will be for someone who always has lot of smack talk but also backs it up with his plays. The TD drive where Chiefs went up 24-20 Watkins first beat him to grab the long pass followed by Williams ran around him to get to the pylon and score the TD.

He was a consummate professional after the game, which is exactly what I expected. Sherman was the first to say he needs to be better. I've always been a big fan of Sherman as a player and competitor. As someone whose career is based on narratives, Sherman is a brilliant promotor of the game.

Mike from Hastings, MN

I saw absolutely no difference between George Kittle's OPI, which was called, and Kyle Rudolph's OPI against the Saints, which apparently wasn't even reviewed. Do you?

Yes, it was the full extension of the arm in front of the side judge. Was it OPI? I don't know. Do I understand why it was flagged? Yes. They're going to call that more often than not.

Chadro from Janesville, WI

Hey Wes, what was up with Kyle Shanahan's clock management? Why not call a time out before the punt when they were getting some momentum after the two-minute warning? Then why burn time outs at the end of the game when it was clearly over? What was up with all that? Overall pretty entertaining game. Oh yeah, the "dead zone" begins so does the bologna officially start?

I respect the heck out of Shanahan. He's a brilliant play-caller and excellent football coach. To his credit, Shanahan answered every question after the game. I would've liked to see them be a little more aggressive at the end of the first half. I get the 49ers were getting the ball back after halftime and Kansas City still had timeouts, but it was a possession game at that point. Afterward, Shanahan told reporters he treated that two-minute situation like any other game where he's getting the ball in the second half – except it isn't. It's the Super Bowl. If you trust your QB, you gotta take the timeout and give him every second to work with. I had no issue with the ending sequence, though.

Tony from Oak Lawn, IL

A lot of discussion will be had over Shanahan passing more than running in the fourth quarter with a ten-point lead. However, I can't help but think of the 2014 NFC Championship Game and how conservative the Packers went and how it cost them. He was playing to win, and it doesn't always work out. Two totally different games, but it shows there is no right or wrong way to try to finish a game. It's execution.

Conversely, you won't hear me say a peep about the play-calling in the fourth quarter. Shanahan was trying to shut the door on a KC team that's a threat as long as there's time remaining on the clock.

Nenad from Novi Sad, Serbia

Hello Insiders, I presume many will submit similar question, but wasn't it better if Damien Williams stopped short of the end zone? It would have ended the game. Instead, the 49ers got the ball and a very slim chance for a comeback. I don't like that glory hunting mentality over team first thinking. What's your take on this?

It was the right decision. The game wasn't over. San Francisco still had timeouts.

Greg from Downers Grove, IL

Congrats to Andy Reid and the Chiefs for a great game and finishing strong. What is up with the NFL for not recognizing the need to have cameras at the line to achieve as well as the goal line during the playoffs and SB? With all the money the league and the networks spend, the cost for six more cameras is a drop in the bucket. C'mon man!

Ha. My boss and I had the same conversation when I got into the office Monday morning.

Kathie from Pasadena, TX

The two U2 halftime performances. First after Hurricane Katrina and the emotional one after 9/11 when they showed the list of those that lost their lives that horrible day.

That's a good pick.

Sandy from Green Bay, WI

Numerous players spoke openly about Coach Matt LaFleur encouraging and embracing a player-led locker room, and how they felt that was a factor contributing to the team's success. What changes were incorporated this year that led to the Packers describing themselves as being player-led?

We've talk about all the little things LaFleur did to promote culture and chemistry, but at the end of the day, I think it was the trust he showed in the locker room to take care of business. When there were issues, LaFleur was quick to address them and move forward. From Day 1, he set the expectations for the room and the players met them.

Mike from Chaska, MN

Are you surprised at the Coach of the Year selection? I was disappointed ML didn't win this award. First year coach, 13 wins, win the NFC North, No. 2 seed, all after a losing season the year before. Nothing against JH but makes no sense!

If Mike McCarthy didn't win it for 15-1 in 2011, I'm not sure how John Harbaugh ran away with it this year. They both had MVP QBs. I thought Harbaugh would win but I was surprised Kyle Shanahan and LaFleur weren't closer in the balloting given their team's impressive turnarounds. Knowing LaFleur, he's not losing any sleep over it. It's on to 2020. It's a new year and a new opportunity.

Linda from Lyndon Station, WI

I might be a little prejudiced but it seems to me that we have some of the most likable players on our team. Is personality something that is considered when looking at new members, or is production and statistics the only factor?

I've had many people, both inside the organization and outside of it, mention this was one of the best locker rooms the Packers have had in recent memory. Character was an emphasis when Green Bay ventured into free agency last March and that played out on the field.

Mike from Ames, IA

Is it good news if there's hardly any Packers news the rest of February?

I think so. February, April and July are good months to stay off the NFL radar.

Bruce from Norfolk, MA

Much has been made about Nick Collins leaving the game early due to his neck injury. What was the specific injury? Given medical advancements, is the injury today still considered career ending?

Ten years later, I think it would be the same situation. Collins had a herniated disc at the C3/C4 level, which required surgery. The fusion ensures quality of life but a herniation that high makes football players, especially safeties, vulnerable to re-injury because of the strain the surgery puts on the neighboring discs and potential nerve damage that close to the brain.

Andy from Kalamazoo, MI

Dang Wes, after reading your HOF case for LeRoy Butler in today's Inbox I had to drop my phone in a bucket of ice water to keep it from bursting into flames. Thanks for making it so clear! Where do I vote? P.S. Thanks to you and Mike for a great Inbox and website of stories this season. Looking forward to next year!

On a personal level, I'm happy for Atwater. He sounds like a great man. And I hope John Lynch gets in someday, too. I just don't like how Butler has been viewed as a lower-tier safety. It's not right. He has six more years of modern eligibility. It would be a crime if he's not enshrined in that window.

Mike from Franksville, WI

First Jerry Kramer, now LeRoy Butler. Once again, Packers fans are left stumping for the last remaining player of an All-Decade team not to be in the Hall of Fame. Steve Atwater's out of the way so theoretically Butler should move up in the pecking order, but do you think Charles Woodson being a likely first-ballot Hall of Famer next year hurts Butler's chances for 2021? What are the odds two Packers DBs make it in the same year?

The incoming class in 2021 is tough but you never know. Woodson and Peyton Manning are first-ballot Hall of Famers, so that's two spots. Megatron probably is too.

Bernabe from Monterrey, Mexico

I know you meant first team all decade, but Carnell Lake and Tony Boselli and others haven't been selected. I found it surprising that Atwater got in, to be honest, but two safeties getting in should help Butler's future considerations.

I keep telling myself that.

Taylor from Loves Park, IL

I really am upset kickers don't get selected to the HOF. They make the most points and in most cases are the ones who largely make last-second points to win games. It is points that win games, not stats. They are highly underrated when it comes to the HOF. They aren't behind-the-scenes players. They are right before our eyes. They are the ones who start the game. They need more love.

The days of kickers winning MVP awards may be behind us but have no fear, Taylor. Adam Vinatieri will be in Canton in the not-so-distant future.

Zach from Stevens Point, WI

Missed a couple of IIs so I apologize if this has already been asked/answered, but which former Packers can we look forward to watching play/coach in the XFL?

Here are the notable names I noticed: Winston Moss (LA), Jerry Fontenot (LA), DuJuan Harris (LA), Donatello Brown (Dallas), Josh Hawkins (Dallas), Malachi Dupre (DC), Jhurell Pressley (DC), Carl Bradford (Houston), DeAngelo Yancey (NY), Marquise Williams (NY), Justin Vogel (NY), Christine Michael (STL), Dillon Day (SEA), Jordan McCray (TB), Jake Schum (TB), Joe Callahan (Team 9) and Marwin Evans (Team 9).

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

Do you think that the 49ers should have played their starters more in the preseason?

I legitimately laughed, Derek. Thank you for that.

Lynn from Butler, IN

Do you believe Patrick Mahomes is the coming of the next Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady?

He's special. As long as Mahomes stays healthy, I can see him carrying a torch for the NFL over the next 10, 15 years.

Elliot from Minneapolis, MN

So what is Mahomes' contract going to look like? I'm guessing it'll make Rodgers' contract look like peanuts.

He'll be the highest-paid player in NFL history if he wants to be.

Brian from Menominee, MI

I've been hearing more about a potential uncapped year in 2021, and am wondering if you think that could be dangerous for today's NFL? One of the wealthiest owners recently stated doing whatever it takes to win. Signing free agents is never a guarantee for success, but it could also pull talent from several other teams. Also, would there be anything stopping a team like the Chiefs from signing Mahomes to a $200 million+ contract and taking a $120 million cap hit in the uncapped year?

There was an uncapped year before the last CBA and it wasn't a big deal. Teams still need to be fiscally responsible to remain under the cap once the new CBA is agreed upon.

JR from East Moline, IL

It seems to me that the biggest obstacle between Mahomes and the amount of championships he wants to win is whether he wants a large amount of money he'll never be able to spend or a small amount of money he'll never be able to spend. And just to be clear, if I were him, I'd take as much as I could get.

I don't know about any of you but I've yet to turn down a raise in my 14 years doing this writing thing. If it doesn't make dollars, it doesn't make sense.

Andy from Lancaster, PA

Happy Super Monday to you II! Quick question about the salary cap: With Equanimeous St. Brown on IR the entire year and never having been added to the 53-man roster, did he get paid? Did anything count against the salary cap? And did this year count as one of his four years on his rookie contract?

Yes, yes and yes. Players on rookie contracts who were taken on the third day of the draft usually have split-salary language worked into their contracts. So they do get paid – just not the full amount.

Eric from Bloomington, IN

While I appreciate Joel from Yagur, Israel's enthusiasm, I think he got a little carried away. Andy Reid has palindromic win numbers 121, 131, 141, etc. as well as 202 and 212. So 111 was not his last palindromic win before Sunday. Still cool, though, and couldn't be happier for the guy.

I was told there would be no math.

Dylan from Belgrade, MT

How'd your oil change go? Synthetic?

Smooth. My car is primed and ready for Thursday's trip to the Bucks-Sixers game.

Andrew from Fullerton, CA

Hey Wes, I had a dream last night that I was looking to buy a house in Green Bay. In my dream, the name of the street we bought our house on was called Hodkiewicz Lane. So you have a street named after you in my dream world, which is nice.


Markus from Aurora, CO

Good morning, Insiders! I'm glad the Chiefs were able to prove that the 49ers are beatable in the postseason. At least this year. What's next?

A lot of quiet Sundays.