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Inbox: No one was apologizing for it

There’s a lot that goes into route running


Dan from Lake Geneva, WI

If the new guy Devin Funchess, catches touchdown passes in bunches, I'll buy you guys some lunches.

And we're off, so we might as well get going.

Dan from Rothschild, WI

Non-football question. Say the NBA comes back and finishes the season with a shortened schedule and the Bucks win the championship. Does the shortened season cheapen the championship, with an asterisk in the record books? I'm sure opposing fans will see it that way, regardless of how the Bucks were playing before this all started.

Has history shortchanged the 1982 Washington Redskins, 1995 Atlanta Braves or 1999 San Antonio Spurs? To my knowledge, no. Maybe in the immediate aftermath there's a temporary asterisk, but over time it goes away.

Tom from Columbiana, OH

I know this is a touchy subject, so I don't expect to get an answer, but I'll be that guy. Why do we need to create opportunities for minority coaches? Setting rules for who you can/can't interview/hire based on race is discrimination. As a "minority" myself, I never answer the race/ethnicity question because there's nothing more disrespectful to my ancestors than using them to get a leg up. It's insulting; it's like I must be inferior based on which box I checked. Hire the best applicant.

I think teams will continue to do that, because the league's expansion of the Rooney Rule is not telling anyone whom to hire. It is a touchy subject, and your personal feelings on the matter aren't to be discounted. But the NFL's current head coach/GM numbers reflect a lack of opportunity. Only three of the last 20 head-coaching hires have gone to minorities, and only two of 32 current GMs are minorities. Those numbers are alarming in a league where roughly 70 percent of the players are minorities. So there's something to be said for job searches creating opportunities for those who haven't regularly walked within the circles of decision-makers, which the Rooney Rule proved effective at doing in roughly its first decade-plus of existence. Rebooting the rule to promote a more diverse look at the applicant pool for leadership positions across the league makes a lot of sense.

Ross from Roswell, GA

Gents, how much validity do you think there is to the notion that not having any "early" picks that need to make a big contribution is an advantage to the Packers with the virtual offseason program? Knowing that what you had in place at the end of 2019 is for the most part what you will be putting back on the field this year.

We'll find out. The jump to the NFL is not a small one. I think teams relying less on rookies could have an edge in the early stages of the season, but the advantage will wane over time.

Jim from McLean, VA

Hi Mike! Did you see the tweet by T.J. Lang? Hilarious story! I agree that the networks would have to bleep some on-field chatter if the NFL plays to empty stadiums.


Paul from Northglenn, CO

Curious, can you provide the contractual differences of the Christian Kirksey and Martinez deals?

Martinez got three years, $30.75M with $19M guaranteed. Kirksey got two years, $13M (incentivized to $16M) with $4M guaranteed.

Keith from Indianapolis, IN

Let's start the Packers' revitalization story watching the hated Bears win the 1985 season Super Bowl and then going on to the 1986 (4-12) season after which they drafted Don Majkowski in the 10th round. I feel that was an important pick and he provided me as a young kid with hope for a franchise comeback. His 1989 season was amazing and it signaled the comeback with the first victory against the Bears since 1984. Do you feel that The Majik Man started the upward trend? I do.

With all due respect to Majkowski, whose '89 season was outstanding, no. He couldn't stay healthy in '90 or '91, and the Packers went 4-12 in games started by other QBs those two years. Then Majkowski was 0-2 in '92 when he got hurt again in Week 3 and Favre came off the bench. The revitalization starts with the hiring of Wolf late in '91 and the trip to Atlanta on Dec. 1 of that year, when he told Harlan he was going to watch Favre in warmups, and then said he was going to trade a first-rounder for him. Wolf was planning to replace Majkowski from the moment he arrived on the scene.

Matty from Durango, CO

I'd trade 0.2 seconds slower in the 40 for a receiver with hands so sticky they have to shake the ball off. So sticky they nailed a Gorilla Glue endorsement. So sticky they…you get the picture. Have there been any Packers ball catchers whose lack of drops more than made up for other shortcomings?

As far as guys I covered, James Jones comes to mind. He was never a speed-burner or overly shifty, and he had to shake off a case of the drops in 2010. But then his hands became as reliable as anyone's, and combined with his experience and savvy, what he did for the Packers in the '11, '12, '13 and '15 seasons ranks right up there.

Matt from Minneapolis, MN

It is clear that Rashan Gary can be utilized on passing downs along with the Smiths to create pressure. Do you think he or Za'Darius Smith could be utilized creatively on early downs to stop the run? Could you line them up at defensive tackle to penetrate or even at inside linebacker as a hammer against blockers?

I don't see it at inside linebacker, but I do see varying fronts Pettine can try against the run.

Mike from Bronxville, NY

I read Aaron Rodgers ' take on the lockdown and I want to provide another perspective. I caught the virus in March prior to lockdown and I wish we were shut down sooner because the long-term effects post-recovery have been difficult. I'm 30 and now have trouble breathing and with even walking up stairs. I can't wait to go to restaurants and bars again and to watch Packers football again, but I also can't wait to feel well again. I get his point but this is about safety. No one should go through this.

I'm sorry for your ordeal, Mike. I hope you have brighter days ahead. Everyone wants sports to come back, including me, but it isn't as easy as just playing without fans, and the risks are real. I would expect the NFLPA to take very seriously the health protocols that will be put in place in order to play again. I wouldn't blame a single player for saying "no thanks."

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

Is there any more misguided convention than the sit-and-develop argument for QBs? Did AR12 develop because he sat for three years or was he really pretty good from the get-go and we just never saw it? A rookie QB will have some lesser stats such as a worse TD/INT ratio (Manning/Deshaun Watson) but in big-picture terms the idea that a field-tilting talent never saw their potential because they started too early does not have any evidence to support it.

Mike McCarthy said the smartest thing I've ever heard on this subject. He believed it was less about whether a young QB was ready to play than whether the team was ready for the young QB to play. Meaning, good or bad situations matter, whether or not a QB has been sitting.

Blake from Itasca, IL

What defensive players do you see coming back from injury/competing for a starting role/second year having the biggest upside or impact in the overall performance of the squad? I'm keen on all of them.

My top five list of young players whose continued development will impact the 2020 defense the most would be Gary, Darnell Savage, Kingsley Keke, Josh Jackson and Oren Burks.

Nic from London, UK

I bristle at the bad-faith arguments made about the Dez non-catch in GB. People confuse not liking the rule with a bad call. That rule was the same all season long and correctly applied in that situation. The rule seeming illogical is a separate matter. Michael Adams not getting called for facemask in '09 against Arizona is a non-call where an existing rule was not applied. What is a genuinely bad call the Pack has benefited from in the playoffs?

Interesting question. I remember a somewhat questionable call toward the end of the Barry Sanders shutdown game ('94 wild card) when the Lions were threatening to score, but I can't recall the details nor that it was anything overly controversial. Otherwise, Cobb pushed off on the halftime Hail Mary vs. the Giants ('16 wild card), but no one in Packers Nation obviously was apologizing for it.

Chris from Sherwood, WI

When reading evaluations of receivers I often see that some are described as excellent route runners. While it sounds like a polite euphemism for being slow, it must be very important because it is used to describe Davante Adams. What contributes most to a receiver being a good route runner? Is it the precise footwork, acceleration off the cut, or knowing when and at what angle to make the cut? And why in the heck is not every professional receiver an excellent route runner?

There's a lot that goes into it. It's about an economy of motion, getting in and out of breaks smoothly without extra steps or body movements that can slow you down. It's also about making certain routes all look the same as long as possible until the crucial moment. Reading defenses plays into it, too, taking the correct option based on the coverage when options are built into the route, and doing the first two things I mentioned while making those decisions on the fly.

Ben from Rochester, NY

All the commentary on radio and or TV announcers have me considering which of the major sports is the most difficult to announce. My choice would be hockey especially with the influx of European players. Your opinion please?

The difficult names just require doing more homework, but I'd still say hockey. Who has possession and is dictating the action can be unclear and/or constantly changing without much actually happening.

Mike from Madison, WI

Let's not forget one of the best play-by-play announcers of all time, Paul Braun for 40 years with Wisconsin Badger hockey!

And Braun could handle the aforementioned challenges of hockey without a hitch. Some great memories of my youth were listening to his broadcasts on UW hockey's public TV replays, without knowing the final score. Ah, the joy of sports in the pre-internet world.

Daniel from Washington, DC

Hello! Love the all perspective and information on this column. I have a more technical question regarding pre-snap motion. Recently just thinking of running offenses like Jim Harbaugh's 49ers, sometimes the offense would have up to three consecutive players in some pre-snap motion, and mess all the defensive run-gap assignments up. How much pre-snap motion is allowable (play clock)? What if the QB has already started his cadence? Can the same player motion, get set, and motion again?

The most important regulations regarding pre-snap motion are only one player is allowed to be in motion when the ball is snapped (any other players in motion prior to the snap must re-set), and no motion can be forward at the snap. If a player is motioning out of the backfield, moving forward first, he has to be moving laterally (or be fully set) when the ball is snapped.

Robert from Verona, WI

When taking the tour of Lambeau Field, visitors aren't able to enter the Packers' locker room. Are there any other areas of the stadium that are off-limits to the fans that you think are particularly interesting? I'd love to see the office/meeting room environments that the coaches work in, including those areas where film study and team meetings occur.

The neatest parts of the team-only space aside from the locker room are just some of the areas they walk through. I've mentioned before the hallway from the locker room to the tunnel with all the murals depicting memorable Lambeau Field games. There's another hallway on the other side of the locker room that has smaller murals of all the Pro Football Hall of Famers and glass encasings of the retired jerseys. That hallway is off the lounge/entrance area, which has replicas of the four Super Bowl trophies.

Flowers were in full bloom around Lambeau Field on May 12, 2020.

Dennis from Wisconsin Rapids, WI

A writer for the NFL Network named Za'Darius Smith as the most underappreciated player on the Packers. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I decided to fire off a question to you: Do you think anyone else in the world shares that opinion?

Smith may still be a tad underappreciated nationally for the impact he had on the Packers in 2019, but I don't think he's underappreciated amongst the fan base.

Walt from Toms River, NJ

Back in '90-'91 I attended my first Packer game. I was debating what jersey number to buy and ended up buying a No. 91 jersey for Brian Noble. Unfortunately, he ended his career two years later. Basically the past 30 years no one of great value was to wear that number again. Jayrone Elliott was only there three years. Since the jersey was the number only I was hoping someone would rise to star level since folks ask me who is No. 91. Do you know what good players wore this number since the Lombardi era?

Speaking of underappreciated, you're aware of the guy on the current team who had 12 sacks last year, and then two more in the playoffs, right?

Matthew from High Point, NC

Did a member of the Vikings staff infiltrate the Zoom meetings with Rodgers and Coach LaFleur to pump in crowd noise?

Happy Wednesday.