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Inbox: The talent is there and so, too, is the potential for greatness

Sterling Sharpe’s Hall of Fame case gets stronger by the year

S Darnell Savage

Ingrid from Superior, WI

Wes, the two things that came up in my head from reading the II this past Wednesday was "The baloney stops here" and "They are who we thought they were." Keep up the great work! And hopefully you get your vacation soon.

Two more Inboxes to go. I'm looking forward to the break.

Jordan from Cross Plains, WI

What position do you think we will go for in the first two rounds of the draft? Also, which free agents do you think we will sign?

Did I mention how much I'm looking forward to the break? I'm really, really looking forward to it.

Dan from Oak Creek, WI

Good morning Wes. I also don't get too wrapped up in the GOAT nonsense. It's fodder for sports talk shows to drive clicks/views and get fanbases fired up to defend "their guy." Beyond that, "of all time" feels like a broken argument anyways. It's not always easy to objectively compare players from different eras, played under different rules, etc. And, unless the argument is constrained to "until now", future players may eventually lay a legitimate claim to the title.

The GOAT conversation is out of control. I don't like getting into nonsensical debates or wasting my time talking about things that cannot be objectively proven. Tom Brady is really, really good. Aaron Rodgers is really, really good. That's good enough for me.

Jim from Port Washington, WI

Hi Wes, just a comment in regards to Bruce from New Canaan, CT on Rodgers vs. Brady. My brother, Bill, likes to say Rodgers is the best QB but Brady is just the most accomplished.

That's certainly another way of looking at it. Everyone has a right to their opinion. It's just not my goal in life to argue for or against matters that cannot be quantifiably proven.

Kevin from Grand Rapids, MI

I love the progress those in the WR room made this past year and am excited for Devin Funchess to join in. What's the book on him – possession guy, deep threat, slot?

Funchess brings a little of everything to the party. I expected him to fill that Jimmy Graham role in the offense as a hybrid receiver with size who could play the slot and perimeter. I'm sure this was a difficult year for Funchess, but glad he did what he felt was best for him and his family. And if Funchess wants to play in 2021, I hope we get to see him in this offense with Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard and possibly an incoming rookie.

Al from Green Bay, WI

For those who are concerned about the performance of Detroit and Washington with Joe Barry as DC, they should remember that Bill Belichick was the head coach in Cleveland for five years, amassing a 36-44 record before getting fired. Players, not plays. And to a certain extent - players, not coaches. I am optimistic to see what the 2021 Packers defense can do. What are realistic expectations for a Year 1 DC?

The D-Train may have pulled into the station for service, but given all the talent the Packers are set to return, the expectation I have will be for the defense to take the next step. It's Barry's job to make sure Green Bay gets there.

Scot from West Palm Beach, FL

A cook is only as good as the ingredients he has to work with, you say. It my contention the Packers' ingredients are Za'Darius Smith, Kenny Clark, Adrian Amos and Jaire Alexander. Maybe add Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage. Other than that you have a bunch of below average bodies. If Brian Gutekunst doesn't upgrade the talent, it doesn't matter who the DC is.

You just named three Pro Bowlers (two of which were All-Pros this season) and two former All-Rookie team members in Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage. Do you expect the Packers to have a Pro Bowler at every defensive position? Furthermore, do you know how many players Tampa got on this year's Pro Bowl team? One. The talent is there and so, too, is the potential for greatness.

Mike from White House, TN

The Bears just hired Mike Pettine as their senior defensive advisor. In cases like this who has the upper hand, Pettine knowing what the weaknesses of the Packers' offense or LaFleur knowing Pettine's defensive tendencies?

Neither. I think these things are overblown. Pettine might know a thing or two about the interworking of LaFleur's scheme but the Packers have played more than 2,000 offensive snaps with LaFleur as the play-caller. The film is out there and NFL teams constantly are taking notes. Conversely, who's to say how much the Bears adopt Pettine's philosophies. It's Sean Desai's defense, after all.

Alex from Charlotte, NC

So everyone's been asking about our big-name free agents, but I haven't seen anyone ask about our Golden Boy Nathaniel Hackett. Is he still under contract for next year? Has he received any interest outside of Green Bay for other OC/HC positions? Thanks for keeping us in the loop.

I don't know the status of the coaching contracts (Pettine's deal expiring was news when it broke). However, it sure sounded like Hackett would be back in 2021 during LaFleur's season-ending news conference. With all the head-coaching jobs spoken for, I have no reason to think Hackett wouldn't be back in Green Bay this year.

Jeff from Wentzville, MO

Wes: "...didn't the NFL say a couple years ago that it wanted its referees to do a better job of identifying the perpetrator and not flagging the second guy?" There was a play in the first half where the Tampa Bay center went after a KC D-Lineman, initiating first contact. The refs called the retaliation. Can they/do they/should they review this like they do plays?

It's not the first time that's happened, either. I'll repeat what I tweeted last month – Ryan Jensen is something else. When you get under the skin of someone as even keeled as Kenny Clark, that's saying something. Not sure I'd want that to be my legacy in the game but Jensen is the one with the ring, I guess. It's an impossible thing to review. Refs just need to be aware and get the call right.

Ryan from Elmhurst, IL

Is the expected timing of this year's salary cap announcement within normal parameters?

I haven't heard a set day yet but it reportedly will be announced earlier than past years.

Shaun from Cottage Grove, WI

If I have heard correctly, there are 12 main free agents on the roster. Looking into the crystal ball, how many get re-signed? Who do you think is the "most important"?

Aaron Jones and Corey Linsley are the two dominoes that have to fall first. Once their futures are sorted out, the Packers can determine how they'll proceed.

Stefan from Berlin, Germany

More a thought than a question on LeRoy Butler: If one assumes Canton is there to keep the greatest memories alive the following conclusion is inevitable: the person we owe one of the utmost iconic moves of the league to must be in. Athletic abilities, accolades and achievements aside, the Lambeau Leap and its "inventor" deserve a bust in bronze or even (green and) gold.

They'll talk fervently about the Lambeau Leap whenever Butler gets in, but it's clear to me at this point that it doesn't mean a hill of beans to the Hall of Fame voters, which is disappointing.

Jeff from Modoc, IN

Wes, do you think the reason John Lynch got in ahead of Butler has more to do with what he has done in football since his retirement from his playing days, and not strictly his accomplishments on the field?

Lynch's brand is bigger. He's stayed in the public eye longer since his career ended, through commentating and now as San Francisco's general manager. Based strictly on merit, it's not debatable which safety was the better player.

Thomas from Altoona, WI

My favorite LeRoy Butler play was the sack in the Super Bowl. He ran Dave Meggett over on the way to Drew Bledsoe. He had to sack Bledsoe one-handed, because Meggett was holding on for dear life. That play alone should be enough to get him in.

If it wasn't for that first Lambeau Leap, Butler's sack of Bledsoe could easily be the definitive moment of his 12-year NFL career. It also probably was a better representation of what he brought to Fritz Shurmur's defense, too, than the fumble recovery for a touchdown.

Terrance from Sun Prairie, WI

Who else from previous Packers teams should be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Rick Gosselin, who has been a voice for many overlooked senior candidates, had an interesting column this week where he talked about the uphill battle Clay Matthews Jr. faces after his modern-era eligibility expired last week because of all the other senior nominees who are deserving. In that column, Gosselin makes a case for Ron Kramer, Boyd Dowler, and Lavvie Dilweg. Cecil Isbell also was a finalist for the Centennial Slate, while Sterling Sharpe and Gale Gillingham have arguments, as well. That's why I'm focused on Butler getting in as a modern-era player – because the line is longer than you think for seniors.

Perry from Ishpeming, MI

Happy Friday Wes! I'm all aboard the Butler for HOF bus! I had a Broncos fan friend of mine argue that Steve Atwater made it because he changed the way the safety position was played. I nearly fell out of my recliner laughing. Seriously though, why is there not more love for Sterling Sharpe to get in? Megatron gets in playing nine years (three All-Pro, five Pro Bowl), Sharpe had seven seasons (three All-Pro, five Pro Bowl). Terrell Davis got in only having four good years out of his seven. I don't get it! Signed, Frozen and frustrated.

Atwater was a really good player. Lynch was a really good player. Butler was a really good player who changed the way the position is played. They're three in the same. I do feel Sharpe's case gets stronger by the year with Megatron (first-ballot), Davis, Atwater and Kenny Easley all getting in.

Dennis from Wauwatosa, WI

I frequently see Eli Manning mentioned for Hall of Fame but never Jim Plunkett. Plunkett won two Super Bowls and was MVP in one. Is it just that he was before your time and you never saw him play?

I know who Jim Plunkett is and what he accomplished. The reason you see Eli Manning, though, is because people are asking about Eli Manning. The problem with Plunkett is his career statistics are average and he never appeared in a Pro Bowl. Whatever you think of Eli, he was the MVP of both Super Bowls in which he played and voted to four Pro Bowls. He also threw for the eighth most passing yards in league history. He has a compelling case that's going to garner a lot of discussion in those HOF meetings.

John from Fairbanks, AK

Hi Wes. Enjoy those roast beef sandwiches. My doctor says I can't. I'm wondering if Aaron Rodgers is playing Pebble Beach this year. Can you refresh our II recollection of how he and his usual pro partner originally teamed up? Thanks for the great solo effort.

Good question. Not this year. The Pebble Beach is taking place this weekend, but this year's event only features pros. I'm not sure how Rodgers and Jerry Kelly's friendship started but the two have become very close over the years.

Ryan from Sun Prairie, WI

The II is not an "Offseason/training camp, regular season and playoffs" season. It is year-round.

Sure, but it's kind of like tourism. Of course, you have the locals but there's also the passersby who inevitably being their submission with "Sorry if you've already addressed this…"

Jordan from Virginia Beach, VA

If teams are taking on the contracts of the player they receive in a trade, why does the trading team end up taking on "dead money?" In the case of the Jared Goff/Matthew Stafford trade, why don't the Lions take on all of Goff's remaining contract and the Rams take on Stafford's?

New team takes on the remainder of the contract, but the former team still carries the "dead money," aka the leftover proration of the signing bonus, on their cap. It's no different than if the traded player was released.

Jim from Eau Claire, WI

Wes, the guys on "PTI" had an idea that after the regular season is over no teams could hire new coaches until after the Super Bowl was over. I thought this was a great idea and would level the playing field for the coaches that are still in the playoffs. What are your thoughts on this idea?

It's not a bad idea, but there really aren't any excuses anymore since the NFL now allows teams to interview potential head-coaching candidates regardless of whether their team is still playing. If you want to pursue a coach, you're free to do so without "falling behind."

Jake from Athens, GA

Wes, in your "5 things on Joe Barry," you mentioned that, in addition to being the linebackers coach, he was also officially the assistant head coach with the Rams. Do we know anything about what exactly his additional responsibilities were there? And now that he's with the Packers, do you have any sense for how his role will differ, if at all, from Mike Pettine's?

Every team approaches that "assistant/associate head coach" job differently. Winston Moss had that title for 12 years in Green Bay. I'm not sure what that entailed in the meeting room but I believe Moss led individual drills in practice. Obviously Sean McVay thought enough of Barry to give him that title when he was hired by the Rams in 2017.

Steve from Marinette, WI

I have seen the video of Tom Brady throwing the Lombardi trophy from one boat to another several times. That really bothers me as it seems to show no respect to Vince Lombardi, his teammates or all the others in the league who worked to try to hold that trophy high! What say you?

From the lack of masks to the trophy toss, the whole video made me cringe. Whatever.

Rob from Muskego, WI

What's the most "I get paid to do this?" thing you do for your job? The sort of thing where you'd say, "Sorry honey, I'd love to help you empty the dishwasher but I need to do some work tonight." Then, you proceed to do something such as research Madden stats or watch "The Pat McAfee" show.

It was the time I had to call my wife and tell her I was going to miss dinner because I had to commentate the "Madden NFL" Tournament. Don't get me wrong. I had a blast doing it. But once the stream was over, I sat at my desk and thought to myself, "Fourteen years in journalism and communications to get to this moment."

Robert from Verona, WI

Wes - with the offseason upon us, are there any movies (new or classic) that you're looking forward to viewing? My wife and I have done a pretty good job of introducing our kids to some of the '80s classics ("Ghostbusters," "Uncle Buck," "Short Circuit," "The Karate Kid," "The Goonies," "Field of Dreams," and many more I don't have the space to list) and I think we may need to check out the latest "Bill and Ted" movie with them next. What's on your list?

I've never seen "Tombstone" start to finish. I'd like to change that this offseason.

Shawn from Blaine, MN

For Jordan Love, I want your first-rounder this year, your fourth-rounder this year, and I want David gosh-darn Putney just because I feel like it!

Special teams! Get Putney!

David from Minneapolis, MN

I thought to win the Super Bowl you need a QB on a rookie deal (Seattle, KC)? Or was it with a great defense and a Hall of Fame QB (Broncos, Saints, Colts)? Or isn't it getting hot at the right time (Eagles, Giants, Packers)? No, it was culture over content (Steelers, Patriots) wasn't it? Now the only way is to go all-in (Bucs)? Wait, the Bucs went all in, got hot at the right time with a HOF QB and a great defense, oh and said QB brought a culture with him. How about just be you and Go Pack!

David with the walk-off. Have a good Friday.