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Inbox: The Packers' window is far from closed

QB Aaron Rodgers
QB Aaron Rodgers

Scott from Bellevue, WA

It's nice to hear a professional writer also has a tough time writing performance reviews.

I'm with Wes. It's my toughest assignment every year, too.

Kristen from Surprise, AZ

I was so excited to see Jack Vainisi's name in the Inbox! I had never heard of him, but then one of his cousins moved into our neighborhood (somehow he's a Bears fan!) and I'm enjoying the subsequent research. Thank you for the link to Cliff's article. These kind of connections are so fun.

You can forgive the cousin for being a Bears fan. Jack Vainisi's brother Jerry was the Bears GM when they won their lone Super Bowl in 1985.

Mike from Ames, IA

Appreciated the mention of Sterling Sharpe among Packers injuries that we wish wouldn't have happened today. I was just getting into football as a youngster in the early '90s, and it felt to me like he was the best receiver in the world at the time. It doesn't get brought up as much in connection to the '96 team, but don't you think what Holmgren's teams accomplished is even more impressive considering they lost a Hall of Fame talent just as they were ascending?

Sure, that's one way to look at it. I also think it's no accident Favre won the first of his three straight MVPs right after Sharpe left. Sharpe was a tremendous security blanket for Favre and helped him considerably in finding his way in the NFL. But I think Favre elevated his game, and elevated the games of those around him, when he didn't have a Canton-level receiver anymore (no disrespect to Brooks, Freeman, etc.). He was forced to do more and it pushed him to another level.

Joshua from Houston, TX

I would like Rodgers to have been healthy, but if we're talking career-ending injuries I would like to add Jermichael Finley to the list of Sharpe and Collins for players that I wish could still play after getting hurt.

A popular sentiment. I totally get where Wes was coming from on Rodgers' calf injury in '14, but I've always wondered what the offense would have looked like that year with Finley.

John from Green Bay, WI

I loved Thursday's question regarding which three Packer injuries you would undo. Mine would be: Robert Brooks, Craig Newsome, and Brian Williams. Guess that clearly identifies the era in which I came of age, huh? In that scenario it makes one wonder if there would have been more SB appearances in the early Favre era.

No era is immune. Others brought up Tim Lewis and Eddie Lee Ivery, whose injuries impacted the '80s teams. Willie Buchanon in the '70s to an extent. Sometimes guys are never the same. It's an incredibly unfortunate part of the game. Always has been.

Robert from Verona, WI

As a fan (and probably as a coach or GM) it's always tough to watch young players who struggle for their first few years, and then have a breakout year right before their rookie contract is up. Kevin King seems to be a player who didn't contribute much early (largely due to injury), but is looking like he will be peaking right when he is due for a new contract. The question is whether he'll be the next Nick Perry or Casey Hayward. I sure don't envy Gute as he makes those decisions.

Well, he doesn't have to make it now. Another year will build the case one way or the other.

Dana from Eau Claire, WI

Can you actually see Brady or Brees playing for other teams? How about Cam Newton or Winston? A lot of teams may have different looks next year – want to give a prediction on some of these FA QBs?

As everyone knows, I'm not into predictions, but the guy who's the toughest for me to see playing in another uniform is Brees. I think he either plays for the Saints or retires.

Rob from Katy, TX

How does the QB domino situation affect the NFC North?

Not much, unless the Bears and Lions decide to move on right now, which it doesn't sound like they're planning to. Although the NFC North is matched against the NFC South and AFC South schedule-wise this year, and the Saints, Panthers, Bucs, Titans and Colts are all being mentioned as potential riders on this QB carousel. So in that vein, the NFC North will be impacted by how all this shakes out.

Sal from Hailey, ID

Regarding our linebacker position, moving on from Blake Martinez (if that is the decision) should require an addition with both brains AND speed. Do you think there's any chance that the team doesn't find that guy this offseason, and instead pushes forward with Oren Burks and Curtis Bolton? I don't know enough about them to judge if either would have what it takes to act as defensive QB.

Others have mentioned Ty Summers, too. I think those guys will have their places on the 2020 Packers, but the team will be looking for more options. I don't see inside LB as a position where improvement can come strictly from within. Additions will boost competition and depth. That's how GMs think regardless.

Jeff from Chandler, AZ

I just watched the video highlighting Aaron Jones' season. It was fun to review all of his key plays. Seeing them back-to-back I really noticed how great he is at seeing small seams in the defense and making a decisive move through the hole with explosiveness. I love his team attitude and polite, low-key demeanor. He was an important piece in the success of the team, maybe the most important. How often have you seen an athlete with his skills and talent still remain super humble?

I don't want to make it sound like every guy who becomes a star changes for the worse, because that's far from the truth. But it's rare for a guy to reach his level of success, and the interview dynamic remains no different than when he was a rookie fighting for snaps. That's actually true with Jones.

Kent from Lewiston, ID

In response to Mike's answer about having more offensive change in 2020 versus adding more defensive pieces, I believe Andy Reid and KC already made that adjustment with a middle-of-the-pack defense and top-tier offense. The traditional-type QBs without wheels are quickly becoming dinosaurs. Mike, your insight is spot-on and I think we are all afraid the window closed with the here and now, regardless of arm strength and intangibles. Speed kills and that pushed KC over the top. Thoughts?

I don't disagree the Packers need more speed at the offensive skill positions, but there will always be a place for accomplished, veteran quarterbacks who know how to read defenses, make adjustments at the line, and get the ball to the playmakers. Smarts and savvy can still go a long way at the position, and while Rodgers can't run around as much as he used to, he's not just a statue in the pocket, either. Moreover, Brees had a grand total of 30 rushing yards over the last three years and the Saints posted double-digit victories every year. There are different ways to get it done. I think as Gutekunst continues to improve the roster while LaFleur works on maximizing what he has to work with, the Packers' window is far from closed.

Mark from Minneapolis, MN

I thought the 49ers vs. Chiefs Super Bowl included some short-yardage as well as "chunk" plays that both teams have previously used, but also new wrinkles I had not seen before. When Coach LaFleur mentioned in his post-season presser the growth of Matt Ryan in Year 2 under himself and Kyle Shanahan, does II feel 2020 could include executing what we have better (offensively) or adding some "wiggles" and "waggles" (or both)?

All of the above.

Take a look at photos of Packers S Will Redmond from the 2019 season.

Kyle from Osceola, WI

Mark Gastineau called. He wants his record back because Favre went down too easy. Oh lord.

Jared Allen and Justin Houston have since tied Gastineau's mark with 22 sacks in one season, so I don't think it's worth losing sleep over anymore. But I admit Gastineau's sack dances were reason enough to watch Jets games as a kid. He was a pioneer of defensive celebrations.

Al from Green Bay, WI

In his article "Packers by the Numbers" (good read, by the way), Spoff referenced the 13 interceptions. What I didn't realize was that five players had two or more picks! Wow. I won't even ask when that has last happened. I'm guessing it's been a while.

Not since '15, but it also happened in '14 and '12. The really crazy year was '11, when eight players had multiple picks. That hadn't happened in Green Bay since '81.

Dennis from Rhinelander, WI

Do you have any information if Raiders GM Mike Mayock will be bringing his scouts with him to the combine, or will he be leaning on the Prospect Primers and II to create his draft board?

Ha, good one.

John from Ledgewood, NJ

Last week Mike said there was no one thing Packers opponents feared when they played them. If you could choose one phase of the game your opponent would fear, what would it be? Thanks.

If I had a HOF QB, I'd say the running game, because defenses constantly would be on their heels. It's not realistic to build a road-grading offensive line that also pass blocks to the level needed to protect a HOF asset at QB, though. In a vacuum, I'd say pass rush, because aside from turnovers, nothing impacts a game more than disrupting the QB.

Scott from Fredonia, WI

Hey Spoff, at what dates does every team need to be under the cap? I'm curious as to when the Vikings might start making moves to get under the cap.

March 18, 3 p.m. CT. Same as the official start time for free agency and the new league year.

Thomas from Milwaukee, WI

What other teams besides the Vikings are tight against the cap and might have to make some salary subtractions? The offseason trade market seems to be heating up more and more each year and I think it should be getting more attention as a legitimate avenue to improve the 2020 Packers.

The Jaguars and Steelers are the next two cap-tight teams, for what it's worth.

Elliot from Minneapolis, MN

It seems weird to hear that offense is more of a need than defense. When is the last time that has happened with a Packers team?

Probably 2011, the year after they won the Super Bowl, when they took offensive players with their first three, and five of their first six, draft picks. Unfortunately, the only one who panned out was Randall Cobb.

Craig from Laramie, WY

I enjoyed both Nikhil's question and Wes's response about "how to watch" football. I loved the paradox (irony?) in Wes's description whereby, at the snap, he watches to see how the defense attacks (goes on offense) and how the offense reacts (goes on defense). Made me wonder if you, Spoff, also have an approach to watching the game for a fuller appreciation and grasp of what's really going on? Continuous improvement is not just for the players.

We have the advantage of watching games from the press box, so we can train our eyes anywhere we please. My approach is similar to Wes's. Before the snap, I'm looking at the offensive formation and how the defense is matching up personnel-wise. After the snap, I'll trade off looking for different things. Sometimes I'm focused on whether or not the offense is trying to sell something with play-action or misdirection, and whether the defense is buying it. Or I might just look at the line of scrimmage and see which way it's moving. Or I try to see where the QB's eyes are aimed and have mine follow what he might be seeing.

Dominic from Chesapeake, VA

Mike, I respect your baseball knowledge and since we are in the "dead zone" I would like your opinion on Pete Rose's chances to be in the Hall. He was my childhood idol, but I lost all respect for him with everything that led to his departure from baseball. Now, I feel like he has paid his dues and it is time for baseball to welcome him back. With the recent Astros scandal, along with the steroids era, it seems to me his harm to baseball pales in comparison and he never bet against his Reds!

Rose is never getting into Cooperstown, and I can respect that stance. I'm not going to get into comparing scandals because you're talking about an individual (Rose) vs. a team (Astros) vs. a league-wide issue (steroids). But I will say the argument for Rose that he never bet against his team is a complete whiff. If a manager bets on his team to win, he's going to go all-out with every pinch-hit decision and pitching change to win that day, the next several days be damned, which is not what baseball is about. And if he doesn't bet on his team to win, is he really trying to win that day or just saving all his key guys for when he's laying the big money? He undercut the integrity of the game immensely, which is why gambling is the most unforgiveable sin.

Jean from Lakeland, FL

Are winners made in the offseason?

Only if baloney is your favorite lunch meat. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. Hug someone close to you today.

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