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Inbox: The expectations are where they should be

You never know what you’re in for until the ride starts

Linebackers Preston and Za'Darius Smith
Linebackers Preston and Za'Darius Smith

Randy from Sheboygan, WI

I want to say thank you to the whole organization for a great season. If anyone would have told me at the beginning of the season that we would end up one game away from the Super Bowl, I would not have believed them.

Fortunes can change fast in the NFL and you never know what you're in for until the ride starts. Good morning!

Charles from Omaha, NE

Wes and Spoff, have you two ever considered collaborating on a book about football?

I would love to write a book someday. But right now, I'm struggling to find time to write my performance review, let alone a 100,000-word exposé on the virtues of laser goalposts.

Ryan from Sun Prairie, WI

We have talked a lot about growth potential on offense with the second year of Matt LaFleur's system. Do you see similar potential being in the third year of Mike Pettine's system? Ignoring the personnel changes.

Most definitely, because I don't expect nearly as much turnover on the defensive side of the ball this year. Only three defenders – Kenny Clark, Tramon Williams and Blake Martinez – started both the 2018 and 2019 openers against Chicago. With the amount of talent returning on defense, the expectations are where they should be entering Pettine's third year as coordinator.

Ryan from Colfax, WI

I've had this question since midseason but with free agency upcoming it seems more topical. How does a team like Baltimore not know what they have in a player like Za'Darius Smith and allow him to walk? For him to only start 16 games for them over four years is baffling to me.

The Ravens knew what they had in Smith but they also had a very deep rotation of pass rushers. They can't all play. Remember they also let Terrell Suggs walk last offseason and still fielded a top-five defense in both yards and scoring. Baltimore's loss was Green Bay's gain, though.

Brian from Lake Geneva, WI

Hi fellas, I've been holding this question for a while. Why are bye weeks all scattered around during the season? To me, it would make more sense to do them all within two weeks in the middle of the season. The games on bye weeks could be inter-conference, so the first bye would be Bears/Vikings and the second would be Packers/Lions for example. This would give a decent game to watch, to see how the other teams within the division are doing. Any thoughts?

You gotta keep games on television at all times, especially with Thursday/Sunday/Monday Night Football being omnipresent. The league also needs to offer ample Sunday options for networks and NFL Red Zone subscribers. Oh, and then there's that fantasy football thing. Putting all byes in a two-week stretch would be an unmitigated disaster for the NFL.

Mike from Franksville, WI

If you could undo three injuries over the course of the Packers' history, which three would you undo?

Sterling Sharpe, Nick Collins and Aaron Rodgers' calf injury in 2014.

Trevor from Carmel, NY

I think it's dawning on me now how long ago 2010 was, when we have players who were drafted after that season retiring after a lengthy and productive career. Congrats to Davon House. I think my favorite memory of him will be the ride he hitched with a fan after he missed his flight in 2017.

The best part of that story is House didn't even need to attend that OTA practice. Players can miss a certain number of days and still receive their full workout bonus, so House could've easily called in sick and nobody would've been worse for wear. But he didn't want to do that. As the eldest cornerback in the room, House wanted to be accountable to his teammates. It reminded me of when A.J. Hawk took a taxi from Minneapolis to Green Bay for the same reason.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

Wes, your story on Davon House was inspirational. I'm curious, does a story like that come about because you have a special relationship with that person and ask to write it, or is it next person up? You certainly made it feel from the heart regardless.

House expressed a desire to the organization to retire with the Packers and I called him up. I enjoyed covering him as a player but how it all came together was as simple as that.

Richard from Greenwich, NY

Hi guys, you're on the clock in the second round after selecting an ILB in the first. There are two closely rated players on your board: a shifty slot receiver/returner and a big-bodied, sure-handed WR. Essentially a Cobb or Jordy choice. Which way do you go?

I think a natural slot receiver would really help this offense.

Estillac from Belém, Brazil

Wes, in your answer to Statham from Pineview, GA, you mentioned schedule requests made by the teams. I want to know if the TVs can also make schedule requests and if the NFL considers them.

Absolutely. You think it's a mere coincidence the Packers and Patriots always play during November TV sweeps?

Niels from Bridgetown, Barbados

Thank you for the story about Allen Lazard. Those were strong words of praise from Davante Adams, making me even more looking forward to seeing the further development of Allen Lazard, who hopefully will take over the WR2 spot for a while. The Pack still needs improvement on WR3 and down even if the above happens.

With that story, I wanted to debrief with Lazard about what was a remarkable year for him individually and also explore how far a young player can come in a calendar year. The Packers look to have found a gem in Lazard but even more will be asked of him and the rest of the young receiving corps next season.

Paul from Minneapolis, MN

I was kind of down on Jake Kumerow because he wasn't a game-breaker or stretch-the-field receiver. Good, but not great. Then, I went to the Vikings game at U.S. Bank Stadium with great seats so I finally saw him up close. He made some amazing blocks but only one catch. Is this enough to stay with the team?

Kumerow's biggest strength is his willingness to do the dirty work, both on offense and special teams. It's what led him to collecting NFL paychecks for five years now. This is a big season coming up for Kumerow, who turns 28 on Monday. He's had big moments but can he string them together on a more consistent basis?

Mark from West Bend, WI

Wes, with it looking like WR is going to be a focus this offseason, do you think the Packers will try to fill the open WR coaching position prior to the combine in order for that person to be involved in potential prospect interviews and field activities?

The Packers definitely will fill that position before the combine. They want the next receivers coach involved in the process. I'd expect an announcement in the next 1½ weeks.

Dean from Vienna, VA

With ILB as an identified need, and what the team did with Matthews in the past, could you see Kyler Fackrell moving inside successfully? He could then flex outside as any new draftees develop.

I've always felt Fackrell was a very versatile outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme but an outside linebacker nevertheless. Maybe a 4-3 team would see things differently. In this defense, however, he's an outside linebacker.

Bob from Fort Atkinson, WI

Given the fact that Jared Veldheer apparently did a better than adequate job replacing an injured Bryan Bulaga last season, could he be signed as the short-term replacement at a more reasonable cap number and then draft an eventual right tackle in this year's draft?

I liked what I saw from Veldheer. I don't know if I saw enough in 100 snaps, though, to feel comfortable moving on from Bulaga, one of the most proven commodities on the entire roster.

Matthias from San Antonio, TX

If Jack Vainisi wasn't in Green Bay, Vince Lombardi was quoted in "When Pride Still Mattered" as saying his coming to Green Bay had a lot to do with Jack. Any chance your history team will do a special on the brilliant young scout who brought Hornung, Kramer, Starr, Nitschke and Taylor to Green Bay?

As a matter of fact, Cliff has written a lot on Vainisi. This is a really good introduction from Cliff on Vainisi and Eddie Kotal for those who aren't familiar.

Tim from Chicago, IL

Hey Insiders! Hope your offseason is off to a great start, and even though you're still working, you're appreciating the slower pace. In response to Alexa and Spoff about what time players need to be there on game day, I think a precedent was made by THE coach, "If you're five minutes early, you're already 10 minutes late." So at least two hours and 15 minutes before kickoff? Have a great week!

That begs the question – when did Lombardi require players to be at the stadium? That's a good Dave Robinson question.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Should Tom Brady and Philip Rivers retire?

Absolutely not. The NFL is a marathon. If you stop running, it's hard to catch back up. Brady and Rivers can still play and should keep going. After all, both QBs are one year removed from monumental years. Get back on the horse, even if it's not the same one you rode before.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

It could all evaporate into nothing, but the likely major veteran QB moves of Rivers, Dalton, Mariota, Winston, Newton, Bridgewater, Foles, Brady, and maybe more by the time it's over, are pretty stunning.

I'm not that stunned. The base-line salary for an average quarterback has risen so high. QBs want to get paid but teams also have to be intelligent with their resources. That's what has brought us to this point.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

This offseason is shaping up to have unprecedented quarterback movement before the draft. It feels like once the first FA QB is signed, the rest of them will start coming off the market quickly. Which team do you see being most likely to act first in signing a FA QB, which QB do you think it will sign, and why? Assume Brady is not signing with NE.

It's a "Madden" player's dream franchise mode. I have my eye on Tampa Bay. Do the Buccaneers re-sign Jameis Winston or bring in an established veteran? That was a championship-caliber defense in 2019 but the offense just made too many mistakes.

Chet from Mission Viejo, CA

Hola Insiders, do you see any chance of the Packers making a run at signing Taysom Hill (he is a restricted free agent) as a backup to No. 12 and eventual replacement?

This Hill thing is getting completely blown out of proportion. The Saints could slap a first-round tender on him before the start of the new league year and that will be that.

Dale from Wilton, WI

Who do you think are the best bets for franchise tags, if they do not reach a contract by the tag dates?

My best bets are Dak Prescott, Dak Prescott and…maybe Dak Prescott? Beyond that, I imagine Chris Jones will get tagged, especially after how well he played in the postseason. It's also possible the Titans tag Ryan Tannehill to take a closer look at whether he could be "the man."

Nikhil from Washington, D.C.

Good morning II, I'd like to be better at watching football and hoping you can provide some pointers. I read the book "Take Your Eye Off the Ball" some years ago and my wife made fun of me for reading a book about how to watch TV. When you are watching a game, what do you look for before the snap and what do you watch for after the snap?

That book is actually sitting on my desk as we speak. As a good friend once told me when watching training camp, focus on one area/position each day. Because if you try watching everything, you won't see anything. I think the same applies to watching the game on TV. Pre-snap, I'm looking for how the defense matches personnel and what the quarterback does to counteract that. Once the ball is snapped, I'm looking at how the defensive front attacks and how the offense reacts.

Take a look at photos of Packers WR Geronimo Allison from the 2019 season.

Ross from Roswell, GA

Gents, I saw where one of you was stepping back from viewing football (XFL) for a while. Having viewed a little of it this past weekend and notwithstanding the quality of the product itself, it seems some of the innovations they are employing may have some merit. Just the overall pace of play is refreshing. Any thoughts on anything you saw that may be incorporated into the NFL down the road? Thanks again for the great content.

I commended the XFL for its pace of play but I feel like it's much more important for that league than the NFL. Fans aren't invested in XFL franchises and players like the NFL product. There's no built-in emotional attachment, so it's critical to keep their attention and a faster pace helps accomplish that goal. The NFL may require a bit more patience but it must maintain the integrity of the product. Personally, I wouldn't be interested in watching an NFL game with a 25-second play clock. It's too radical. I'm a millennial but my attention span isn't that short.

Sean from Monroe, WI

I watched the first weekend of XFL. Many of those players had at least a little NFL experience, but for whatever reasons aren't in the league anymore. Do you think NFL teams will scout XFL for potential players, or stick with NFL free agents/trades and a draft class younger than XFL? Also, would there be any type of contract signed to keep players from going to a competing league?

XFL holds the rights to its players, but there is a window once the season is over for NFL teams to negotiate with the league's best prospects. It's similar to the AAF last year when Garrett Gilbert, Jayrone Elliott and other standouts signed to NFL rosters.

Joe from Vegas, NV

So begins the dark time when I stop visiting the Inbox daily. The Pack will either draft, or they won't. The free agents will stay, or they won't. The Inbox will play it down the middle, either way. Good luck Spoff/Biff! I'll return after Independence Day after the madness.

*Sadly waves goodbye*

Rand from Hudson, WI

"Job descriptions create limitations. Attributes open doors." Wes, I lead a team of 12 people and I'm always looking for tools to add to my leadership toolbox. Mike's quote sums up my philosophy perfectly, thanks for that! Next team meeting I am going to have them tear up the formal description (company generated) and write their own. Can't wait to see what the results are. I appreciate the nuggets you and Mike provide in II as some football principles translate nicely to the rest of us.

It's too bad Joe will miss out on wise nuggets like that this offseason.