Inbox: The context was getting lost

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Tyler from Crane Lake, MN

If a player at the combine decided to change positions, would the NFL still cover the full expense of that player? Or would it be only 88 percent?

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

Mark from Bristol, UK

Favorite Packers moment. Has to be the TD from Rodgers to Nelson, away in Atlanta (2010 regular season). I am sure it was on fourth down. Rodgers threw it so hard I still expect Jordy to drop it, even now on replays. Just amazing football.

That’s the Rodgers throw that still ranks No. 1 on my all-time list, and the Packers didn’t even win the game.

Karen from Everett, PA

Mike, I'd love to know your perception of Marino in regards to Favre breaking his record. I'm sure players don't love to see their records fall but most do it with grace and sportsmanship; I've always felt Marino was overtly salty about Favre eclipsing him. Am I off-base?

In my conversation with him, I never sensed that. He had a lot of respect for Favre and enjoyed watching him play. Like any great player, he didn’t want to see his record fall, but he knew it was inevitable. If anything, the context within which Marino did what he did was getting lost, and that might’ve bugged him. By the time Favre was throwing his 420th TD pass, Brady was in the midst of a 50-TD season, so it was easy to forget that when Marino threw 48 TDs in ’84 and 44 two years later, no one else cracked the 40 mark in a year until Kurt Warner in ’99.

Sue from Tomah, WI

I just read that the NFL is considering the Thursday Night Football opening matchup on Sept. 5 to be the Packers at the Bears. This is to honor the Bears' 100 years. I think it is very appropriate. The SB Patriots can have the season’s first Sunday night game.

That is the rumor, first reported by Sports Business Journal and disseminated by others. I guess we’ll see.

Marshall from Villa Rica, GA

I wonder if Craig from Appleton was referring to a situation more like the Bears signing Khalil Mack, and how that would affect the Packers’ draft board (causing them to draft a proven OL, for example), rather than our divisional rivals signing Packers FAs and Green Bay then drafting their replacements. What would you say from that perspective?

I don’t think you can get too caught up in that kind of team-building approach. Yes, division games are the most important, but more important is drafting the best players and building your team the right way, because if you leave better players on the board, you’re going to be playing against them at some point. Craig wrote back with the same Mack example, pointing out Bulaga is entering the 10*th year of his career and pondering a comparison to the top of Ron Wolf’s ’99 draft (three straight corners) after Randy Moss’s rookie year in Minnesota. I understand the line of thinking, but I believe the Packers must address their future at offensive tackle whether Mack is in Chicago or not. Back in ’99, it wasn’t just Moss, but that he joined a Vikings WR group that already had Cris Carter and Jake Reed. The game then was changing in a way that required extensive depth at cornerback, so Wolf addressed it.*

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Dan from Cross Plains, WI

Is the "draft board" actually a physical board? Or is it all electronic these days? I picture a huge white board with thousands of names on it and the room can only be unlocked by certain individuals using a three-part verification process – retina scan, fingerprint scan and voice activation.

You forgot the 16-digit code for the keypad. It is a physical board with all kinds of names on magnets that can be moved around as players are evaluated and discussed.

James from New Richmond, WI

What's your guys’ favorite part about going to the combine? And it can't be taking Wes's lunch, ’cause that's a normal occurrence.

At least one night is always dedicated to going out for burgers and beers with the primary focus of listening to Larry tell stories. He never runs out.

Russ from Henrico, VA

Regarding special teams, don't they tend to be heavy on reserve WRs, DBs, LBs and TEs? Is it possible that we struggled here mostly because reserves at these positions were needed on the first team with all the injuries suffered during the year? Lack of continuity on O and D can only breed the same on special teams. I'm rooting for the new staff, but if the starters stay healthier, special teamers would have more focus and practice for their craft.

That certainly plays into it, and there’s no denying the injuries, personnel shuffling, and lack of consistency with the lineup factored into Green Bay’s struggles last season. But special teams are also about assignments and fundamentals, which is under the purview of any player on the 46-man game-day roster. Know your assignment and execute it, and if you can’t, don’t compound the mistake by committing a penalty. A return that goes nowhere is one thing, but one that goes backwards due to a penalty is way worse. The Packers had 26 penalties on special teams accepted against them last year. It’s a nightmarish number, and the team’s most in one season this decade.

Jake from Franklin, WI

Fourth-and-12 seems like it would have too high of a conversion rate. They need to match the distance conversion rate with that of the old onside kick! Is there any way to get those metrics?

I’m sure there is. The “old” onside kick was converted roughly 20-25 percent of the time, so fourth-and-12 seems about right. What concerns me, though, is a 5-yard illegal contact or defensive holding flag, which carries with it an automatic first down, would have to count as a conversion. I’m not sure I like that. But all that said, as John from Grand Forks pointed out, it’s a situational rule – down by 17 or more, or less than five minutes left. Teams can’t use it to try to steal a possession anytime they want.

Julian from Gastonia, NC

Hi Mike, when you were living in Seville did you happen to get a haircut?

Nope, couldn’t find him.

Jeff from Athens, WI

As the free-agency period approaches I like to read about potential free agents. Today, I was reading an article regarding Pierre Garcon becoming a free agent. In the article it says, "The 49ers will be hit with $7.2 million in dead money while saving just $1.075 million on the salary cap." What does that mean? Why is the cap hit different than dead money? What is dead money?

Dead money is what’s being charged to the cap for a player not on the team. It’s usually leftover signing bonus money that was prorated over the life of the contract for cap purposes, but it all accelerates and counts at once if the player is released, terminating his contract before its actual expiration. An oversimplified example to illustrate: If a player signs a five-year contract worth $30 million that includes $10 million in signing bonus and $4 million in salary each year, his annual cap charge is $6 million – his salary plus $2 million in prorated bonus money. If the player is released with two years left on his deal, the remaining $4 million in prorated bonus money counts against the cap immediately, but the move generates a cap savings of $2 million that year, relative to the previous $6 million annual cap charge because there’s no salary owed to the player (provided it wasn’t guaranteed, which four years into a deal it usually isn’t). There are some exceptions to these types of cap calculations, but in a general sense, hopefully that helps explain it.

Joe from Clio, MI

Mike, when does the current CBA expire and what do you feel will be the main points of negotiation in the next one?

The current CBA goes through the 2020 season, so there are two years left. I think the issues we’re going to hear the most about from the players’ side are the commissioner’s disciplinary powers, the lack of guaranteed contracts, and marijuana. As usual, the revenue split that determines the amount of the salary cap will come up as well. It always does.

Bryce from Billings, MT

It may not be the type of move you were looking for, but the football move that every kid that I grew up with (including myself) tried to emulate was Deion’s high-step.

I still remember my first season regularly covering games for the Wausau Daily Herald, 1997. The Cowboys were finally coming to Green Bay after that long string of Packers losses in Dallas. Deion pick-sixed Favre, high-stepping it down the sideline, to give the Cowboys the early lead, and a sense of dread momentarily overcame Lambeau. But Dallas only scored one other touchdown that day, the Packers blew them out, and the catharsis was palpable.

Rob from Hollywood, FL

I like how Mike gives an answer basically saying multiple position groups could use help and the next day we get a question implying it was too soft on the team.

You caught that, too, huh?

Tom from Fond du Lac, WI

Hi Mike. First time submitting a question, longtime reader and fan. My question is simple. Who hires the strength and conditioning team? Is that part of the head coach’s responsibility, or does it fall under executive management?

Strength and conditioning is considered part of the coaching staff, so it’s the head coach’s call. The medical staff, on the other hand, falls under the larger label of football operations. They are separate in that way.

Mark from Austin, TX

It looks like the Ravens are all-in on Jackson. Watching him this last year reminded me of Kaepernick running all over the Packers. Most NFL defenses finally figured out how to stop that style of play. The Chargers figured out how to stop Jackson after one game, eliminating them in the playoffs. How do you predict the Ravens’ offense will fare this year?

It’ll all depend on how Jackson improves as a passer, because 58 percent completions is not going to cut it over the long haul. Kaepernick got the 49ers back to the NFC title game in his second year, but his completion percentage and passer rating never appreciably improved. NFL defenses are eventually going to force you to do what you don’t do well.

Jim from San Antonio, TX

I was at the Favre HOF induction in 2016. I’m looking forward to Woodson likely getting in on his first ballot in 2021, along with Manning. Do you think they’d reschedule the Packers and Colts for the HOF game in 2021 as a reward to those fan bases that were denied the opportunity to see the game after its cancellation during the 2016 HOF weekend? I’m waiting to book my hotel, based on your answer.

I really don’t know. With Woodson, the Raiders are obviously a possibility, and Calvin Johnson will be a first-ballot guy that year as well, which brings the Lions into the picture. No idea, frankly.

Mark from Sturgeon Bay, WI

Wes, yesterday you answered a question about characteristics LaFleur needed to improve the team, and you mentioned bring together the locker room. Who actually has more influence in that, the coach or the players themselves? I keep hearing a former player say that the locker room is controlled by the team leaders. If there is an issue, the players take care of it. Leaders who lead by example are great, but how effective are they if, for example, a player is not playing up to his ability?

That’s where the coaches come in, holding players accountable and making them earn their opportunities. When a locker room perceives fair, respectful and equitable treatment, it’s more likely to stay together and the leaders’ messages carry more weight.

Take a look at photos of Packers G Lane Taylor from the 2018 season.

Tyler from Westfield, IN

If you submit a rant about never reading II again, do you check back the next day to see if it gets posted? Seems like quite the conundrum.

Indeed.

Bob from Sydney, Australia

I get the rationale behind young backup QBs. Their arrows are pointing up and they could eventually become draft capital. But when was the last time the Packers got a return on a backup? Flynn? An older guy with games under his belt, higher salary but a steadier hand in the increasingly likely event Rodgers goes down, they're also an experienced head in the QB room watching tape and game-planning as well as analyzing from the sidelines and helping out the team on game day. Thoughts?

Speaking of conundrums, this is the one any team with a highly compensated starting QB finds itself in. Is spending on an experienced backup going to cost you the money you need for a quality fourth cornerback and/or third edge rusher, backups who will see the field plenty even if the starters stay healthy? The best answer financially for a GM is to have a coaching staff that can develop a young QB talent to step in and give the team a chance, but there’s no way to know what your chances are until the time comes. The safer way with a veteran backup requires sacrifice elsewhere. It’s just reality.

Andrew from Falls Church, VA

Finish this sentence: I would be in complete shock if the Packers…(blank)…this offseason.

…don’t sign a noteworthy free agent by the end of March.

Randy from Highland, IL

Insiders, I look at MSN daily to get news and interesting stuff. Today it listed 100 places in the U.S. everyone should see. Only four were sports-related. Augusta National golf course, the Kentucky Derby, watch at baseball game at Fenway Park and watch a football game at Lambeau Field.

I have to go see the Brewers the next time they’re at Fenway Park. Just have to. The schedule better not send them there in August or September.

Theodore from St. Louis, MO

Spoff, you've mentioned in the past covering wrestling as a reporter. I am traveling to Mizzou this weekend to cheer on my son as he competes for a state title at 195. While I am confident he can bring home the title, I still get a little anxious before he takes the mat. Do you have any stories about players’ parents’ inability to contain themselves as their boy steps on to Lambeau's turf for the first time?

Can’t say I do, and it’s even hard to imagine the emotions in those moments for the Tauscher and Abbrederis families, for example. Best of luck to your son. Wes covered his share of wrestling, too. We were just talking the other day about how when we both started we knew nothing about it, yet after a while on the prep scene we both became as well-known for covering wrestling as any other sport, probably because we had to work so hard at first to do the job right.

Dave from Whitesboro, NY

Mike, this may have been asked before but I can’t remember. When Wes is away on vacation do you, A) Make him stock the office fridge before he leaves; B) Target someone else; or C) go on a hunger strike until he gets back.

Well, I could stand to shave a few pounds, so maybe next week will be good for me. Happy Friday, everyone.

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