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Inbox: It's the simplest way to think about the game

The regular season should be about eliminating teams


Cameron from Brevard, NC

Does an elongated offseason mean more time off for you both? Y'all deserve it. Also, when will Spoff be taking off next, or better asked, when do you expect for the new head coach hire to be announced?

Ha, good one. If the new coach is hired while I'm away this winter, everyone in the Inbox should buy a lottery ticket.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Gentlemen, you've had the opportunity to be around some great football coaches. Which one has taught you the most about the game? Can you give an example?

Because I'm not an X's and O's expert and never will be, I always appreciated a quick tutorial I got from Joe Philbin years ago that just sprouted from a more general interview. He boiled football down for me to a numbers game. If they have more than we have, take the ball somewhere else. Generally speaking whoever wins the numbers game wins the play. If the numbers are even, someone has to make the play. I can't explain it as well as Joe does, but it's the simplest way to think about the game.

Blaine from Fennimore, WI

Seeing as most spots are locked in for the playoffs, who is your pick for NFC and AFC representatives for the Super Bowl and who wins?

Well, I've been bullish on the Saints since last January so I'm not changing my stance now. And since I'll be quietly rooting for Philip Rivers to get to his first Super Bowl, I'll take the Chargers in the AFC, but Drew Brees ultimately gets No. 2.

Steve from Middletown, KY

I'd like to see a high draft choice go to the O-line. AR needs a little more time to let the receivers get open. While more draft picks are great, I'd like to combine lower picks and move up. Wouldn't it be better to have four or five players that could definitely make the team and have an impact instead of nine or 10 players and hope half can make the team with fingers crossed? I know there's no guarantees, but usually won't the higher draft choice be the better player and increase their chance to make it?

We go through this debate every year, so I might as well squelch it before the offseason arrives. The draft is all about value, and value is in the eye of the beholder. If you're sitting at the 15th pick and you only have 10 players with first-round grades, a value analysis would dictate either trading up to get one of those top 10 guys, or trading back because no one is worth taking at 15. If you've got 20 guys with first-round grades, and little separating them, you're fine sitting at 15 and taking whoever falls. Sometimes you trade up for Clay Matthews at the bottom of the first round, other times you sit tight and draft three receivers in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds and see who rises from the group. The strategy isn't planned this far in advance. It's planned after all the evaluations are complete, the draft board is set, and you get the lay of the land.

Ken from Greybull, WY

MLB has altered their schedule so the last game of the year starts in every stadium at the same time so contenders don't have an advantage of seeing the outcomes of earlier games. Do you think the NFL is thinking about doing the same for their final Sunday? I believe it would be worth considering.

The NFL has been doing this for years, but still utilizing both Sunday afternoon time slots. That's why Jags-Texans and Jets-Patriots are both kicking off in the early window, with the No. 2 seed in the AFC still in play. In the late-afternoon slot, Browns-Ravens and Bengals-Steelers (AFC North title); Redskins-Eagles, Bears-Vikings, and 49ers-Rams (NFC No. 6 and 2 seeds); plus Raiders-Chiefs and Chargers-Broncos (AFC West title) will all be played simultaneously.

David from Clinton, IN

Did you notice how hard Bakhtiari was running on the two-point conversion interception? He gave it his all trying to chase down a smaller, faster player. Was he hurt before or after that play?

It was on that play, but he played through it to finish and it sounds like he'll gut it out for one more game. I'll admit, from the press box, I thought for sure that was his last play of the season. I don't know how these guys do it sometimes.

Scott from Palos Park, IL

MVS has had a good rookie season but he did have a clear lull as the season progressed. Is it possible that the grind of a pro season just caught up to him? I suspect this is part of why Year 2 is often a jump in production for players because they are better prepared for the length of the season.

Absolutely. Did you see my description two days ago of the 18-month grind a rookie goes through?

Steven from St. Cloud, MN

Yesterday it was asked if you were the Bears coach would you play your starters with only an outside chance of earning the bye. I do not understand how this is even a question. The possibility to knock your division foe out of the playoffs is reason enough to win. Factor in that if the Vikings win, they will play them again next week in the wild-card round. Everything about this game is screaming for the Bears to win. History showed them this when they let the Packers sneak in a few years back.

And back in 2010, unlike this year, the Bears had nothing on the line, yet Lovie Smith played his starters and went full-bore to try to keep the Packers out of the playoffs. He knew something. The Vikings' season hasn't gone the way they'd hoped, but that's still for the most part the team that played for the NFC title last year, just with a different QB. All they want is another shot, and those types of teams can be dangerous.

Markus from Aurora, CO

And the rumor mills have started to spit out "info" regarding the Packers interviewing for the new HC. Boy, this will be a long offseason until the final decision is made. Time to go in hibernation until then; or what is your thought?

The process is just getting started, but there's no telling how long it'll last. It really depends on who the choice turns out to be. I'll forewarn everybody now, will not be the place to look for commentary and who supposedly has or hasn't been interviewed. Our discussion will have to wait until an official announcement is made.

Brian from Sussex, WI

Spoff, I know you are against watering down the playoffs, but here's my argument for going to a 16-team playoff – parity. Everyone knows there is already a big advantage to having home playoff games. I think getting a week off gives the top seeds too much of an advantage. If, as you claim, the 7/8 seeds aren't playoff worthy, these will be "easy" games at home for the 1/2 seeds, but at least the 7/8 seeds get a shot, and the 1/2 seeds are brought to a more level playing field as 3-6 seeds.

Remember how Vic always talked about Hall of Fame committees being charged with keeping players out as much as letting them in? That's the way I feel about the regular season. It should be as much about eliminating teams as qualifying them, which is why I like the NFL's system and despise the NBA's and NHL's. The 16-game slate is a long, tough slog, and if half the teams in the league get to keep playing anyway, the grueling, four-month effort is devalued. The teams that handle the gauntlet best deserve the reward and advantage that comes their way – primarily, the elimination of less successful teams – not some supposedly "easy" game (a misnomer if there ever was one) in which anything can happen and/or a key player could get injured. Why should the 14-2 or 13-3 Saints, to look at this year, have to play an 8-8 or 7-9 team that didn't make the top six? The regular season decided who's better. In your system, their 14-2 accomplishment is far less meaningful, and for every December game involving middle-of-the-road teams that now means more, there's likely one involving a top team that means less. No thanks.

Jim from Marietta, GA

Would you please give us the tally of how many DBs have been active for at least one game in 2018? My guess is it would be astonishing.

I went through the data and counted 16. Maybe I missed one somewhere. In alphabetical order: Alexander, Breeland, Brice, Brown, Campbell, Clinton-Dix, Greene, House, Jackson, Jamerson, Jones, King, Pleasant, Redmond, Whitehead, Williams.

Bob from Lexington, SC

Seems like most people want a "new style offense" head coach. I would like a head coach who holds players and coaches accountable, and hires a "new style offense" offensive coordinator. Tired of special-teams players making the same penalties over and over; and hearing announcers saying the young players should come back when Rodgers scrambles, but they don't. Let the HC monitor the whole team, instead of worrying about what play he is going to call next.

I don't think you get hung up specifically on the structure. You look for leadership, a plan, and how the plan is going to be executed. When you find the best package of all those elements, you let the coach run the show how he thinks is best.

Flavio from Sao Paulo, Brazil

We have recently seen a large number of players being waived and claimed by other teams. When this happens midseason, is the claim priority based on current standings or on last season's final standings?

In the offseason and during roster cuts at the end of training camp, the waiver claim order is based on the previous season's final standings (the draft order). After Week 3 of the regular season, the order shifts to the current records and standings.

John from Whitewater, WI

Is anyone talking about the Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael as a possible head coach for next year? If not, why not?

I don't know anything about Carmichael except his name. For what it's worth, PFT reported that the league's career development advisory panel included Saints assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell on its list of recommended head coaching candidates. PFT's report did not mention Carmichael being on that list. Doesn't mean he won't be considered, though.

Andrew from Columbus, OH

Is it too quick to judge the rookie receivers? It was when James Jones was struggling with drops. Sure as heck was when Davante Adams was struggling early in his career. Jake Kumerow took four years to stick on a roster and still has a long ways to go as a player (all fan hype aside). I've got time to wait for the rookies to develop. How long do you usually wait before labeling a player?

I try not to because I'd prefer a bunch of correct amateur opinions never be known than to publicly misjudge a future star and look like a fool. Long ago I saw low-round draft picks like Scott Wells (seventh round) and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (fifth round), whose pro careers started very humbly on the practice squad, find a way to not just make it but excel. The competition is so fierce, even for spots on a 90-man offseason roster, that if the personnel experts in this business see enough in a player to give him an opportunity, you can never count him out.

Josh from Oshkosh, WI

Looking at the 2016 roster, there will be 15 probable players left in 2019 (as well as two players who were on the practice squad) and six "maybe" players left from the last time the Packers played in the postseason. So along with the coach, there will be just 15-23 players left from the last playoff game the team played, along with an entirely new regime. I know some people like to say if you have a star QB you are never in a rebuild, but it feels like a rebuild.

Call it whatever you want. Either you're getting better or your competition is, so when you don't make the playoffs for two straight years, regardless of the circumstances, significant roster change is a given.

Mark from Cranston, RI

With Reggie McKenzie recently terminated from the Oakland Raiders, would it be worthwhile to hire him as a consultant or even to work in the front office?

I fully expect McKenzie to get another GM job and a team will be fortunate to get him.

Derek from Waukesha, WI

Lots of talk about possible records being broken, but even in Mike's article Wednesday, nobody's really talked about Blake Martinez's goal for setting the single-season tackle record. Granted, he's a ways off from the current record of 195, but he's within reach of his own personal best of 144. He would need 13 to achieve it, and while that sounds like a lot, keep in mind he's hit 12 in a game four times this season. I have faith. Do you?

I don't compare tackle totals much because the coaches always adjust the press box stats after they review the film. Last year, the Green Bay coaches credited Martinez with 158 tackles and this year they have him for 136, so by their evaluation he's not going to top last year. What stands out statistically about Martinez, though, is he went from one sack each of the previous two years to five this season.

Collin from Kirkwood, MO

Even in an era where offense rules, the teams allowing the fewest points are the cream that eventually rises to the top. Last year the conference championship games featured three of the top four teams in fewest points allowed. This season, all kinds of scoring records will be passed, yet the list of top 10 teams in fewest points allowed is chock full of division winners and teams primed for a legitimate title run. After all the investments on defense, are the Packers close to closing this gap?

I think they're getting there. There are positions to address and depth to build, but since the bye week, I thought the Packers' defense gave the team a legitimate chance to win every game.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

My hope for the Packers next season is that Spoff has to post a "Path to the Playoffs."

Amen to that, and Happy Friday.