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Inbox: That's precisely what LaFleur focused on

O’Connell’s decision is predicated on finding a QB who will protect the football

Vikings QB Jaren Hall
Vikings QB Jaren Hall

Eric from Kenosha, WI

Good morning. In other NFL news, is the Russell Wilson trade now the most unfortunate in history since Herschel Walker, or maybe the trade Dan Devine made for the Packers in the '70s?

I don't know where it ranks, but it's certainly up there now.

William from Scranton, PA

Hello II, weighing in on the RTP topic. I am pretty sure that grabbing the horse collar in the pocket is still legal. Grabbing the horse collar of a QB after they transition to a runner just out of the pocket would then be a penalty. Also, as far as I am aware facetious is the only word in the English language that has every vowel in alphabetical order.

Good to know, on both counts. But I wouldn't bank on not getting flagged for a horse collar in the pocket, no matter what the rule says. Good luck with that one.

Kirsten from Madison, WI

Do you think the Packers' disciplinary action against Jaire Alexander was affected by other circumstances? If, for example, the team hadn't already played several games without him, or if he had played better against Carolina, would the team have been more skittish about benching him for a game?

Neither Alexander's availability nor performance had anything to do with the suspension. LaFleur suggested there had been other issues behind the scenes prior to the self-anointing as captain ("it's never one thing" and "we're at that juncture" were key lines in that regard), but he didn't divulge any details regarding what else may have occurred or any previous disciplinary measures that led to getting to this point.

Woody from Cincinnati, OH

Merry Christmas II, I'm still confused about the coin flip and the term "defer." Someone said defer means the team that won the coin toss is waiting to decide if they want to kick or receive until after halftime, and thereby gives the other team the choice to kick or receive at the beginning of the game. Is that right? Or does deferring always automatically mean that the coin toss winner will kick to start the game and receive after halftime? When did the term defer come into play anyway?

At the point you asked the question "Is that right?" the answer is yes, that's exactly right. The NFL began allowing teams winning the coin toss to defer their choice in 2008. Prior to that, the coin toss winner chose whether to kick, receive or defend a certain goal, and the loser got its choice for the second half. Deferring the choice has been around in college football a lot longer.

Kyle from St. Charles, MO

Beating the dead horse for a minute, but I honestly wonder why the NFL chooses to retain the "defer" choice at this point. It only serves to lend itself to scenarios that played out Sunday with Jaire. Seems like an easier solution would be to just ask the coin flip winner if they want to receive now or to start the second half. Has any team ever intentionally chosen to start both halves on defense?

Not that I know of, but as noted above, one of the options always built in for either half is which goal to defend, though it's virtually never exercised as a primary choice. But it's available in case crazy weather prompts a team to want its offense going one direction or the other in a particular quarter.

Donn from Oshkosh, WI

Is it just my imagination or are kickers missing more extra points this year?

It's your imagination, and the Packers' four misses probably have colored your perception. League-wide, kickers have made 96.2% of PATs this year, the highest percentage since the kick was moved back to 33 yards in 2015.

Ray from Phoenix, AZ

The glass for the third-round draft curse has been shattered by both Tucker Kraft and Sean Rhyan. Both have done a great job developing into big-time contributors. How many third-rounders do we have right now for this next draft?


Grant from Green Bay, WI

Yes, the defense was atrocious against the Panthers, and the Packers made them look better than they were. But it's also fair to point out DJ Chark had more than a couple of highlight grabs. While Barry's defense deserves to be lambasted, the Panthers did make some jaw-dropping plays difficult for even the best defense to stop. To paraphrase Spoff, the gap between the best and worst teams isn't as wide as most fans think.

It never is. Just this past week, the red-hot Bills, division-clinching Lions, surging Seahawks, and first-place Eagles were all pushed to the final snap by sub-.500 clubs, while the playoff-hunting Broncos, Chiefs and Colts were all beaten by such teams.

Mark from Deerfield, IL

Mike, can you explain the difference between scheme and play calls on defense? It seems no matter what the scheme is, the DC can rush three, four, five or even six. He can play two deep or one high. He can have the CB in the receiver's face or off 10 yards. They have personnel packages of all types. They all mix pressure and coverage. So, is it scheme or philosophy that determines play calls on defense during the game?

Typically, it's situational with the goal of not being predictable.

Mutt from Blaine, MN

Good morning II. People ask what needs to happen on defense and the short answer has been generate turnovers. But there's a lot that goes into creating the chaos resulting in turnover opportunities. Pressure plus DB in proper position. LBs closing passing lanes. Many others I'm sure. Can you narrow in on what area you think improvement would result in more takeaway opportunities?

Creating some doubt in the QB's mind as to what he's seeing and reading, both with the front and coverages. I'm no X's and O's guru, but to me, any sliver of doubt can cause a moment's hesitation, which can be the half-tick needed for the pass rush to get home or the timing of the play to be disrupted and/or the throw to be off target. In short, easy reads, smooth timing and pinpoint throws do not lead to turnovers.

Matt from Fitchburg, WI

I think it's obvious that Joe Barry doesn't intentionally have guys like Preston Smith cover guys like Justin Jefferson, but it seems like we see those mismatches happen quite frequently. Is there something to be said about a coordinator not being able to prevent those mismatches, or are those types of mismatches just going to happen?

They're going to crop up on occasion based on personnel and alignment. It happens. Again, I'm no expert, but I think the key is having a check built into the call, and everyone recognizing the mismatch soon enough to make the check and get adjusted before the snap without throwing the whole unit off.

John from Jupiter, FL

Morning Mike. What do we know about Jaren Hall? Strengths? Thanks.

All I know is he's thrown 10 passes in the NFL, and I believe O'Connell's decision is predicated on finding a QB who will protect the football. The Vikings have turned the ball over 30 times this season, 24 via interception or lost fumble by the quarterback.

Adam from Long Branch, NJ

Gut reaction to Jaren Hall: Great, an inexperienced, fifth-round rookie is playing QB in a must-win game against the Packers. However, Hall's mobility likely played a role in the decision. That, and maybe less turnovers. I truly hope the Packers look back at the Tommy DeVito film, because Hall strikes me as that type of QB who will look to tuck and run.

That's precisely what LaFleur focused on when I asked him about Hall on Thursday to lead off his press conference.

Darrel from Pueblo, CO

II, Kraft has been impressive since he took over from Luke Musgrave. Can't wait for next year to see them both on the field at the same time. Does GB run a lot of two-TE plays or would they create some to get those two guys on the field together?

LaFleur's offense has a ton of two-TE sets, and they've been running them plenty without Musgrave in the lineup. There will be no shortage of thoughts and ideas when the time comes.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

Good morning Mike! Your comment in the Mid-Week Chat was interesting regarding some Packer fans only watching Packer games. In previous years that would have been me until playoff time when I would notice that teams make plays both good and bad not just the Packers. This year I have watched more non-Packer games which has led to a more balanced viewpoint. Speaking of bonehead plays, did you see the Lion defender miscue Sunday that almost cost them the game? I was livid considering our playoff situation.

I did not, but I tortured myself watching highlights of Seattle's comeback over Tennessee, and saw the Titans surrender a third-and-14 with two minutes to go on the Seahawks' game-winning drive. I almost lost my stolen lunch.

Mark from Deerfield, IL

While there are many plays that contribute to a win or loss, and the win or loss could mean the playoffs, I have a nomination for the under-the-radar key play of the year. The missed two-point conversion against the Giants was huge. It allowed the Giants to win instead of tie with a FG. In overtime we could have won. A wise man once said, "One man can make a play, one play can make a game, one game can make a season." Do you have a under-the-radar key play?

That two-point play was big, but the Giants subsequently had a first down on the Green Bay 22-yard line with 42 seconds left and two timeouts. If a field goal had only tied the game, they might not have settled for it. The one that sticks with me is the questionable holding call in Denver when the Packers had crossed midfield with two minutes left. They got shoved back to the other side of the 50 and never got to try a game-winning kick.

Dave from Germantown, TN

A lot of people are comparing Jordan Love's stats to Aaron Rodgers' stats in their respective first X games. I am wondering how Love's stats compare to Rodgers' stats last year. It seems to me that indicates whether the Packers have a QB equal to what they had last year since the game has changed since Rodgers' first year. Do you have those numbers?

Rodgers in 2022: 350 of 542, 64.6%, 26 TD, 12 INT, 32 sacks, 91.1 rating. Love in 2023 (w/2 games left): 321 of 514, 62.5%, 27 TD, 11 INT, 29 sacks, 91.8 rating.

Jerry from Rockford, IL

Good morning. I feel a little dirty. Is it wrong to root for the Detroit Lions? Does it hurt the Packers if Detroit wins the top seed in the NFC? It would be great for the NFL if they get a bye and only need two wins to get to the big game. Has there ever been a team that deserves it more than the Packers after our drought in the '70s and '80s? Not counting the Bills after losing four Super Bowls in a row. I would love to be in the big game, but if we don't make it there, go Detroit. Not sorry.

No need to be. I'm not one to ever root for division rivals, but that's me. You do you. Detroit getting to host a playoff game for the first time in 30 years should create quite the atmosphere at Ford Field.

Kent from Homosassa, FL

Should Detroit face Minnesota in the first round of the playoffs will it be the first time two teams have played each other three times over four weeks?

Maybe, but I'd just as soon not find out.

Clipton from Pasadena, CA

Hi Mike, like most Insiders I really enjoy the WYMM segments. I'm not sure if the shroud of silence which conceals the inner machinations of the Inbox includes it, but if not when do you typically choose the subject, during the game or after you watch the film? Have you ever picked a subject then changed your mind after seeing something else on film that catches your attention and you think might be more interesting?

Sometimes I have an idea in advance which the film confirms, other times that idea changes as you describe, and yet other times I start watching the film with no advance thoughts and just see what I see. On occasion, like this most recent version, the final product is a combination of all that.

Benjamin from Bear, DE

The Packers can win out, lose out, or split, and the season will be a success in my eyes. Serious questions at QB and WR were answered and yes, the D needs a few things shored up, but with five picks in the first three rounds those issues can be addressed. The salary cap will allow the Packers to be involved in free agency to address needs not covered with the draft. My Packers' glass is half full and only getting fuller. Yes, winning would be great, but 2024 looks good to me. Your thoughts.

Right now I just want to beat the Vikings.

Gary from Sheboygan, WI

Insiders, how many Week 18 games besides the Packers vs. Bears game are TBD?

All of them.

Tim from Clear Lake, IA

I respectfully disagree with Jeff from Janesville calling this a "really tough season." Has it been maddeningly frustrating...yes. But there has also been "Can you believe it!" moments. And in between we've learned a lot. We have a QB for the (un)foreseeable future. We have a tantalizing group of receivers. The future is ours to see (watch), que sera, sera. Enjoy the (rollercoaster) ride!

From my seat, every season is exhausting in some form or fashion. Yet every time it gets to this point, I don't want it to end, rollercoaster or not. Happy Friday.

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