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Inbox: The discussion is coming

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Richard from Madison, WI

So, didja getcher money's worth?

We may not see another championship Sunday like that ever again. Wow.

Dale from Kansas City, MO

My heart breaks for the city of New Orleans. There were some legacies rewritten with a no call.

A friend of mine trademarked it via text as soon as it happened: No call in NOLA.

Tanner from Oklahoma City, OK

I cannot remember an NFL season so full of controversial calls/non-calls. It’s heartbreaking to see incompetence (of the NFL, not the official) cost a team a chance at a title. I’ll take an extra 30 minutes of game time for more replays to be sure the best team wins. This has to change this offseason now, right?

Sean Payton said the phrase to Erin Andrews right after the game. “More replay.” I think it’s inevitable, but I also believe a result like this was inevitable. Calls get missed all the time, but if the “safety official” I’ve been advocating for the last several years were involved, he’d have called the helmet hit and the fiasco is averted. I’ve said it many times, what the league asks the officials on the field to do is unreasonable. DPI? Most certainly. Illegal hit on defenseless receiver? Absolutely. But ask one guy to watch for too much and he ultimately sees nothing. The league did this to itself.

Amy from Bayport, MN

Well Mike, you called it all season long. Drew Brees and the Saints should be playing in the Super Bowl. Travesty. That’s the word that comes to mind. Will this disaster be enough to force the NFL to enact real change in the replay and review policies?

The discussion is coming. Potential action is less predictable. If penalties become reviewable, where do you draw the line? Is there no longer a line? What about the missed facemask on Goff? Not as egregious an oversight, but still. Does the challenge system change to two-strikes-and-you’re-out, with no limit on correct challenges? Does the challenge system need to go away? There’s a lot going on here that will continue to evolve over several years, in my opinion. But the 2018 NFC title game at the Superdome could go down as a seminal moment in that evolution, just as the last conference title game in the same venue was at the root of the overtime rule changes at the start of the decade.

Kevin from Asbury Park, NJ

I understand that we don't want to add hours to a game by reviewing every call, but that no-call at the end of the Saints game was an insult to our intelligence as spectators.

That’s what the NFL must now grapple with. The league in effect told Payton on the phone after the game, “Sorry, they blew it.” Does it want simply to hope something like this won’t happen again, or take steps to lessen the odds it will?

Ron from Henderson, NV

Did the Bountygate gods just take back the Saints’ Super Bowl XLIV?

I thought that happened a year ago in Minneapolis.

Freddie from West Valley City, UT

Did you agree with either call – not to go for it on fourth-and-goal with five minutes to go, and/or attempting a 57-yard field goal at sea level in OT? The fates were smiling on McVay.

The first decision was more surprising to me. The Rams ran so much misdirection stuff on short-yardage, including by the goal line, I wondered if he was out of calls he felt comfortable with, so he just kicked it. The 57-yarder would have been good from 67. What a kick. His nickname is Greg the Leg for a reason.

Donna from Darien, WI

Wow! I guess the Saints were beatable on their home turf.

Yes and no, let’s be honest. But as much as I believe the Saints were robbed, I give the Rams a ton of credit. To be down 13-0 in the first half and 20-10 in the second half, in that building, and hang in there says a lot about their team.

Matthew from Glasgow, Scotland

Have the Saints missed their turn?

I guess we’ll find out next year. I think they’ll still be a formidable contender in 2019, but you never know. I’ve called the 2011-13 Niners the best team I’ve seen over a three-year span not win it all. For now I’m calling the 2017-18 Saints the best team I’ve seen over a two-year run not make it to the big one.

Aumed from Moorhead, MN

Is it not time to give both teams a chance in overtime regardless of how the first drive plays out? A game like the Patriots vs. Chiefs should not be decided on a coin flip.

It wasn’t decided by a coin flip. It was decided by the Chiefs not stopping the Patriots for 75 yards. If the field had been 500 yards long, it felt like the Chiefs were not going to stop the Patriots. Wes called it. The game came down to the KC defense vs. Brady, and after two big fourth-quarter stops, it was three drives, three touchdowns. I know I’m in the Inbox minority here, but I have no problem with the OT rules as they are, just as I didn’t have a problem with them in Seattle four years ago or Arizona three years ago. The Rams were in the same position as the Chiefs and their defense made a play in overtime. Kansas City’s didn’t. Whichever part of your team takes the field must do its job in order to win. I don’t want the college OT.

Bruce from New Canaan, CT

To paraphrase Pedro Martinez, the Patriots are every NFL team's Daddy.

What does that make Dee Ford?

Joe from Columbia, MO

Absolutely zero parity in the AFC. Nothing against the Pats, but it's kind of sad and, in my opinion, makes for bad football.

I didn’t want New England to win, either, but if you can’t set that aside and appreciate an instant classic like that for what it was, I can’t help you.

Mike from Algoma, WI

Great games this Sunday. Which team do you think was hurt worse by inexplicable officiating? I’d have to say the phantom roughing the quarterback called on KC. It’s bad enough to miss an obvious call, but infinitely worse to imagine something happened.

The situation and context matter. The phantom RTP was on second down. It would have been third-and-7. Who knows? The right call in New Orleans would have ended the game. The Saints are kicking the game-winning field goal with no more than 10-15 seconds left on the clock. Hurt worse? Not close.

Gary from Warsaw, IN

OK, so do the Packers get the 29th or 30th pick?

30th.

Brittany from Indianapolis, IN

Is it too early to start thinking about drafting our next quarterback to follow Rodgers?

In my opinion, yes.

Graeme from Tucson, AZ

So the Patriots get to the Super Bowl once again. For all of the attempts at equality in this league they always find a way even with many years of low draft picks. Why? Well in my opinion it's the O-line and if the Packers are going to be there again that is where their focus needs to be. Protect the QB and create lanes to run. Brady wasn't sacked once by the best sack defense in the league. It's not a coincidence that he is still playing at 41, is rarely hit and has been so successful.

His timing and accuracy on third down have something to do with it, too, but I won’t argue with your larger point. For as back-and-forth as that AFC game was, it was clear which team was consistently better in the trenches.

Caleb from Pine Island, MN

Shields up! It was great to see Sam Shields out on that fake punt. Good for him.

That was the exact same fake punt the Rams ran against the Packers earlier this year. Even same side of the field.

Mark from Sturgeon Bay, WI

When does the salary cap switch from the highest paid 51 to 53?

At cut-down time, everyone on the roster – active, IR, practice squad – must be under the cap.

Robert from Salem, WI

How are the Packers situated relative to the cap?

A better question for when the new league year starts on March 13. A lot can happen between now and then.

Richard from Menasha, WI

Other than Matt L, which new Packers coach is going to have the greatest impact on the upcoming season?

I’d have to say special teams, because that phase more than any other needs a full reboot.

Dick from Albany, NY

Could the Packers’ offensive woes be explained by too much of a reliance on the metrics that big plays win games? I kinda get the feeling that MM was hyper-focused on getting those big plays rather than just moving the ball. That could explain our poor third-down situations and conversion percentage.

Did you just come up with that, or have you been reading my Inbox columns the last few weeks and you’re proving my thoughts are expressed articulately enough for the masses?

Tyler from Richland Center, WI

Alright Insiders, I have a good question for you. With the draft approaching, do the Packers and other teams have a draft board of players before the combine and before they are ranked by analysts? Or do they have both? Which one do they stick to? Keep up the good work.

The Packers, like most teams I imagine, build a draft board prior to the combine. After the combine, pro days, pre-draft visits, additional film review, etc., they re-examine the board and make revisions, finalizing everything before the draft. It’s a collaborative, ongoing process that sets up the GM to make heat-of-the-moment decisions with confidence, knowing all the homework has been done. As for the analysts’ rankings, I don’t know how much they pay attention to those, but there may be one or two they consult to see if they’re overlooking anything.

Andy from Tomah, WI

Do you have a sense for what rules changes may be on the table for the upcoming year? What's a catch is always a hot topic but there seemed to be more controversial calls in other areas this year than years past.

Getting this question a lot. In March, the competition committee circulates its new rules proposals to the media prior to the owners’ meetings at the end of the month. We’ll find out then.

Neal from Fort Worth, TX

Early returns seem promising on Gute’s first draft class. Alexander, EQ and MVS all contributed. My question to you is, of the large number of FA acquired either before or during the season, who (other than Breeland) do you feel made the most impact this past season?

I’d have to say Tramon Williams. His versatility and veteran leadership were both vital to a secondary that dealt with a lot of injuries and moving parts. I think both qualities could pay dividends for the Packers and Mike Pettine in 2019 as well.

Day two of the leadership event held at Lambeau Field was geared toward 140 male Brown County middle school students.

Wayne from Seoul, Korea

With an entirely new coaching staff and some shift in philosophy on the offensive side of the ball, do you anticipate there being an adjustment period for the personnel department and coaches to get on the same page in terms of player acquisition and the types of players they want? I think we all witnessed some periods of disconnect during TT's tenure.

That’s debatable given the long period of stability and success, but there was certainly no disconnect during transition times. When McCarthy first arrived and wanted a zone-blocking offensive line, Thompson drafted Colledge, Spitz and Moll in 2006. When Capers came on board with the traditional 3-4, he drafted Raji and Matthews in 2009. It won’t take long.

Richard from Brodhead, WI

Will the Packers dig into free agency or the draft to fulfill their need at pass rusher?

I think so, yes.

Paul from Beaver Dam, WI

Mike, J'mon Moore suffered from drops last year but for me, more importantly he struggled to grasp the playbook. He was severely out-snapped by the other two rookie WRs. With having to learn an entire new playbook and terminology this coming year, do you believe this guy can turn it around?

I’m not writing him off. I’ve got a story coming soon, possibly later today, on his very introspective comments right after the season ended. His attitude and self-awareness will give him the chance he needs.

Karl from Fort Collins, CO

New coaches, new players, and good rookies in Year 2 could all bring exciting times. But the biggest question is Rodgers’ physical condition after the tough year past. Will we hear anything on his condition in the postseason, or will we have to wait until preseason and in-season play makes it evident?

Last year, with the Super Bowl just a half day’s drive away, I was fortunate to catch up with Rodgers on the red carpet at the NFL Honors show and get the update on his shoulder. This year, it’ll probably depend on whether he’s in Atlanta during Super Bowl week and does any national interviews, like on radio row or something.

Joey from Groveland, MI

Shortly after my grandpa passed away, a snowstorm buried my grandma's house in over four feet of snow. We drove up north and shoveled her out. My reward, a home-cooked meal and control of the TV. We watched the Packers defeat the Steelers in last-second fashion on a small, fuzzy, black-and-white television to win the division. That weekend I became my grandma's favorite grandson and a lifelong Packer fan.

What if Thigpen had caught the ball?

Dar from Mansfield, TX

While many here are focused on the extra first-round pick as a means to trade up, trade down, or procure their favorite FA, my bet is Gute sees the bigger picture. The Pack owns six of the first 111 selections. You can fix a lot of problems and add a ton of talent if your first six picks are likely in the top 100 players on your draft board. Just sayin’.

As I keep sayin’, this is a draft opportunity unlike any his predecessors enjoyed. He must make it count.

Dan from Toledo, OH

Interesting that the league that prides itself on parity has one conference that a new team represents each year and the other participant is always the Patriots. Based on the free-agency era, this has to be the most impressive run of professional football right?

Since the advent of free agency, no question. I’ll be honest, I struggle to process it all with Brady. On the one hand, part of me feels this was his most impressive non-Super Bowl victory in the postseason, given the opponent, environment, late-game moments, etc. But at the same time, if not for a defender inexcusably lining up offside, we’re talking about Brady throwing three picks – one early in the end zone, another leading to a go-ahead score, and a third to lose the game. He lost two Super Bowls when the Giants made ridiculous catches, he won two when the Seahawks and Falcons wouldn’t just hand the ball off. And it all started with the “tuck rule,” since deleted from the books. I’m fine calling him the greatest ever, but he makes my head hurt. Or the game does.

Josh from Benton Harbor, MI

As I sit and watch Mahomes I can’t help but hope that he is like a fine wine. What an entertaining talent.

It appears he’s just getting started. I suspect he’ll age slowly.

Patsi from Riverside, CA

Wow. Let's hope the Super Bowl can match up to that.

I concur, though it’ll be difficult. It’ll also be hard for me to look past the belief the wrong team is playing the Patriots. But, oh well. Only one game left. Might as well enjoy it.

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