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Inbox: It works because he's genuine

Head Coach Matt LaFleur
Head Coach Matt LaFleur

Andy from Verona, WI

Happy New Year, congratulations on podcast No. 500, and your haircut looks great. What question would you like to answer to start off a new year of Insider Inbox?

Not this one. Oops. Let's try this next one.

DT from Bozeman, MT

Imagining 180 minutes of football to go, one play at a time.

Enjoy every snap of the upcoming postseason folks, the Packers' and everyone else's. I think we're in for a wildly entertaining January.

David from Los Angeles, CA

Mike, not a question, but a comment. Great WYMM segment on Patrick. If he stays healthy and continues to play like that, we'll be negotiating again with him in less than two years. We got a good deal. New Year's resolution? I want to remain calm while watching Packers games. I have failed miserably this year. You'd think we were 3-13. You guys do great work!

You have my permission to delay working on that resolution until September. It's playoff time, man.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Gentlemen, as much as I love listening to Wayne and Larry call a game, I love even more the chance to see a video clip of the dynamic duo. Matching the sound with images really brings the calls to life. Do you ever have a chance to see them work during a game? It's like pulling back the curtain to reveal the wizard(s).

I've never had the pleasure, as we all have our game-day duties to carry out. But that would be a treat sometime.

Ross from Roswell, GA

Gents, so who will be this year's "Howard Green"?

Everyone obviously wants Bryan Bulaga to get through the protocol and return, but maybe it's Jared Veldheer. You never know.

Stefan from New York, NY

This season for MVS reminds me a bit of Year 2 for Davante Adams. Many drops and miscues and fan indignation. Has Adams ever discussed what led to his down year? Is it a matter of overthinking in Year 2 and not just trusting your instincts/technique?

Adams was playing hurt much of 2015. That's all it was. He was playing mostly on one leg. Then when he finally got healthy and burned Washington for a TD in the wild-card game at the end of the first half, a teammate fell on his leg early in the second half and he was injured again. MVS was playing through some injuries earlier in the season, but he hasn't talked about them and I don't know if he's fully healthy or not. The deep routes he's run in recent weeks would seem to indicate he's fine, so I think it's just a matter of him not yet recapturing his previous comfort level. So the situations aren't exactly parallel.

Jason from Ringle, WI

Looks like the 2020 regular-season schedule is almost home games or dome games, with five of the eight away games being in a dome or retractable-roof stadium. Just an observation.

That would be the most since 2012, when it was also five of eight. The only difference is St. Louis then, New Orleans next year (and the different Minnesota facility).

Steve from Elkhart, IN

I really believe this season will pivot on those two losses at the Chargers and the Eagles that we should have won. If we win one of those we have home-field advantage. Your thoughts.

That's easy to say, but the Saints could be saying the same thing about their November loss to the Falcons, and the Packers won a handful of games that came down to the wire and could have gone the other way. That's the NFL. Looking back is a waste of time. It's all about what's in front.

Eric from Kenosha, WI

Happy New Year! Which Green Bay Packers do you believe are deserving of an All-Pro nod this season?

Za'Darius Smith, Kenny Clark and Bryan Bulaga should all be legitimate candidates in my opinion.

Paul from Bay View, WI

I was surprised to learn yesterday that some of the coaches may have a say as to who the new GM is with some of these teams hiring new coaches. Seems like Gute and Matt may have been ahead of the curve in this sense. I know lots of media outlets were surprised at Matt's hiring by the GBP but I think it had to do a lot with how they would mesh together as a team. What are your thoughts on this?

Mark Murphy definitely took that into consideration in the search process he and Gutekunst underwent. It's a piece of the puzzle for sure.

Sean from Monroe, WI

The last time there were six teams going into the playoffs at 12-4 or better was the 2011 season. This year there are six teams at 12-4 or better (four at 13-3 or better). That year the Giants slipped into the playoffs as a division leader at 9-7 and won the Super Bowl. This year the Eagles make the playoffs at 9-7 as a division leader, seemingly slipping in with the heavy hitters. What do the Packers need to watch out for to prevent an upset like the Giants had that year?

It's not about watching out for anything, or even surveying the whole field. You prepare for the team you have to play. The Packers are going to do some preliminary work on all three possible opponents this week and then zero in starting Sunday night. Nobody's record matters anymore. The regular season determined positions and locations. But that's it. Now it's about who plays their best football.

Jerome from Omaha, NE

Can you tell us more about RB Tyler Ervin? Not only has he provided a spark in the return game, I see him in more offensive sets. For someone new to the Packers who were in a playoff push, what about him got the coach's attention and confidence to use him?

Speed and shiftiness. Jamaal Williams' injury obviously played into increased usage in Detroit, but I think the coaches see a player who can be dangerous in the open field and they want to give defenses another guy to think about.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

Wes's two surprise teams were the Packers' success and the Chargers' fall. Chargers won all their one-score games last year and lost those games this year. Packers were the opposite. A great pass rush gives you life when those games might have gone a different way while the offense gathers itself; seems to be the difference between this team and prior year versions.

The margins in this league remain small, which is why key plays at key times dictate how a season goes. Are you making them, or are the other guys?

Nic from Minnetonka, MN

I always think it's hard to beat a team twice and even harder to beat a team three times in the same season. Therefore I wouldn't hate our chances going back to SF or receiving Philly and would really really like to avoid getting the Vikings again. Is that nonsense?

Not at all, but neither Minnesota nor San Francisco is a possible next opponent, so worrying about them now is a presumptuous waste of energy.

Patrick from St. Louis, MO

By this time next week only three of the top 10 sack leaders from 2019 will still be in the playoffs, and two of them are Packers. That's got to count for something, right?

Pass rush is one way to rule the postseason. The Giants and Broncos won three of the last dozen Super Bowls that way.

John from Livermore, CA

What individual or group benefits the most from the bye week of rest in your opinion?

The trenches. The offensive line is banged up, and a fresher defensive front is never a bad thing (see pass rush comment above).

Dan from Tomah, WI

Haven't the Browns learned anything over the years? You cannot build an entire franchise in two years and expect a Super Bowl. I loved what Dorsey built in Cleveland. The owners were all-in when they hired him, but now they disagree with his direction? Good luck to them getting the right people in there now. No one will trust the ownership enough to take the jobs.

I don't know if I'd go that far, and I won't pretend to know the ins and outs of that organization and who was ultimately responsible for what. But the situation goes to show when a mistake is made with a head coaching hire, there's a ripple effect. Everyone knew Kitchens was a huge, unproven risk, given the direction the team appeared to be heading, and when such risks backfire the fallout can be enormous.

Jim from Des Peres, MO

Reason for encouragement: the fourth quarter. Unlike recent years the Pack is strong at the end, not fading.

This been one of my ongoing themes about this team. In their 13 wins, I would argue they've been the better team in the fourth quarter 11 times, all except Dallas and Chicago (the second meeting). They also were the better team in the fourth quarter vs. Philly but came up just short. Crunch time counts. A lot.

Dave from Roswell, GA

Ironic. The new rule on PI was put in due to the debacle last year that cost the Saints, and it failed miserably costing the Saints again. I'm sure the league office heard from the Seahawks, but do you think the Saints chimed in as well?

If they did they're only distracting themselves. The Saints can't be thinking about that at all. Any negative energy they might have felt Sunday night can't linger. The Vikings did take a bye, they're going to be rested and ready, and they seem to be embracing the "nobody gives us a chance" theme.

Check out photos of Packers players hard at work during weight room practices.

KB from Kaiserslautern, Germany

Al Riveron's justification for not reviewing for PI is a total insult to everyone who loves watching this game. Which does the NFL need to get rid of more, the rule or Riveron?

I believe that's the precise choice I proposed on Monday, both here and on "Unscripted." I best leave it there.

Matt from Waukesha, WI

Refereeing and replay will be divisive at any level (see Ohio State vs. Clemson), but I feel the college game has much better officiating protocols in place. I wouldn't mind seeing the NFL adopt some version of the targeting rule. Maybe adopt it as is but with an ejection for the second offense? Do you think that would be feasible?

The command center can review helmet hits for possible ejection, and it has done so. There's a lot more discretion applied to the ultimate punishment, however.

Kenton from Rochester, MN

Regardless of how deep the Pack make it into the playoffs, I think we can agree Matt LeFleur is the real deal and as Wes said, he's proven himself a "leader of men." However, his leadership style seems different from the Lombardi, Shula (and Ron Rivera) style of "my way or the highway." ML seems more willing to listen and adjust based on player feedback and the players seem to appreciate that. Is that your perception as well? Is this the style of a new generation of head coaches?

I wouldn't peg it as generational. I think LaFleur is just being himself. He's developed his way of relating to people as he's gained more responsibility and leadership. It works because he's genuine, not because of his age. A room full of dozens of professional athletes will see through a phony leader, young or old, pretty quickly.

Adam from Wausau, WI

Hi Mike, this weekend we saw a linebacker and an OL catch a pass for a touchdown, and it got me thinking...Has Rodgers ever completed a touchdown to anyone besides his main skill players in his career? If memory serves me correctly he tried once to Peppers, but for some odd reason I think it fell incomplete.

He did try once for Peppers, at New Orleans in 2014, but didn't connect. All of Rodgers' TD passes have been caught by receivers, tight ends or running backs. If you want to stretch it to make an exception, it would be the five TD passes he threw to Spencer Havner, who originally came to Green Bay as a linebacker before converting to tight end.

Mike from New Orleans, LA

"As Lazard said a couple weeks ago, he's thrived at every level of football he's ever played. So why would it be a surprise he's finding success now in Green Bay?" I would imagine every NFL player has thrived at every level of football or they wouldn't be on an NFL roster, right?

Indeed, and he's another example of the expert evaluators getting it wrong. Happens all the time. The other way, too. I think his comment is about the fact that he didn't surprise himself. None of these guys ever surprise themselves. If they do, their chances of lasting diminish.

Mike from Ames, IA

As far as I can tell, we have four guys on the roster (Rodgers, Crosby, Bulaga, Williams) who played on the 2010 Super Bowl team. And it's 2020! Those four sure bring a lot to the table this time of year, don't they?

Experience is invaluable. Youthful ignorance isn't bad either, in certain proportions. All can possess various levels of hunger. The right mix makes it happen.

Scott from Martinez, GA

So the Packers play at 6:40 EST on Sunday 12 Jan 2020. My question is simply, why so late? I don't recall a Sunday playoff game starting this late in the past.

I was a bit startled by that, too. This is the first year the league has used the time slots for conference championship Sunday on divisional round Sunday as well. It's to improve TV ratings, naturally.

Mike from Exeter, PA

I've seen a lot of fellow GB fans bellyache over the way we've been winning this year, feeding into us being overrated. My argument is that the way we've played this year says more than a team winning 41-17 every other week. That winning games like this will matter come playoffs. We used to lose these type of games. Am I nuts?

Not at all. The Packers will have to play better, particularly on offense, to win in January, but the ways they've won games gives them a lot to draw upon in the big moments.

Joshua from Mankato, MN

The Billy Turner designed jacket Rodgers wore was pretty sharp. Do you think he could convince Rodgers to wear a puffy shirt?

He doesn't wanna be a pirate.

Bill from Hillsville, VA

Having been an avid Packers fan since the Lombardi era, I'd like to take a moment to thank Wes, Spoff and all those involved in bringing this season to life for us. Regardless of playoff results, this has been a season to remember. Thank you for your considerable effort in keeping us informed and involved. Now speaking of Lombardi...

You're welcome, and Happy New Year everybody.

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