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Inbox: There's never just one reason

The culture of accountability has been established

CB Tramon Williams
CB Tramon Williams

Chris from West Allis, WI

Spoff: "I could totally see myself guiding one in about 20 years." I like to preorder my tickets for that tour please. Any chance I could get an early-bird discount?

When the time comes, I'll be sure to set up a code word for II readers when they buy their tour tickets.

Gerald from Santa Fe, NM

Insiders, do you think that the run-threat/throw-threat quarterback ala Mahomes and Jackson is the prototype QB of the future? If so, do you think the careers for that model can last (like Brady, P. Manning, Rodgers) due to the wear and tear of option running?

Mahomes and Jackson will have to change their games eventually to have the longevity of the others you mentioned, but I do think that's the "young QB" prototype in the sense of being able to have success early in an NFL career.

Joe from Bloomington, IN

Mahomes is a generational talent who's just getting started. That's the point to focus on. The Chiefs' biggest problems are Mahomes getting injured and Lamar Jackson.

I take it from your tone you're dismissing the salary-cap concerns once Mahomes gets paid. I wouldn't be so quick to do that. Lots of folks said the same kinds of things you did after Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowls. Seattle hasn't been back to an NFC title game since Wilson got the big money, and that organization has a tremendous coach and GM.

Paul from West Allis, WI

Has a base line for the locker room (camaraderie, accountability, cohesion...) been set, or will it change with the comings and goings of new personnel?

The culture of accountability has been established, but the other elements will naturally be in flux as players come and go. It's the nature of the game.

Packers CB Jaire Alexander celebrates his birthday on Feb. 9. Take a look at photos of him from the 2019 season.

Jeff from Belton, TX

Are you going to take a vacation? The draft combine starts soon then FA and then the draft.

I think Wes and I are going to alternate weeks off in March after the combine. But one of us will always be around to cover any news that breaks.

Philip from Collinsville, IL

What should the Packers acquire this offseason?

Preferably good players.

Nic from London, UK

I know it changes year to year, at least to some degree, but what do you think is the identity of the Green Bay Packers these days? It used to be our passing. For the Chiefs it's the sudden point explosions, the 49ers the physicality in the trenches, NOLA maybe WR1, the Texans it's Watson magic out of nothing...What, if anything, do other teams fear about us? It's OK if there's nothing, I just wonder how we're perceived.

I don't think anyone feared anything in particular about the Packers. Their identity, as I said numerous times, was being the better team at crunch time in close games. The Philly game was the only one the Packers lost when they were in it down the stretch. Opponents simply had to be prepared to beat the Packers for four quarters.

Josh from Houston, TX

Mike, your use of the terms "gross" and "net" for punts confused me. How are these values calculated? On a punt from the 45 that goes for a touchback, is the gross 45 and the net 25? How are penalties counted?

Gross is the distance of the punt from the line of scrimmage to where it's caught, where it's downed, or to the goal line. To calculate the net, subtract the return yardage (or 20 yards for the touchback, as noted). If the returner loses yardage, that adds to the net. If he makes a fair catch, gross and net are the same. If there's a flag, the penalty yardage doesn't count in the net. But the point from which the penalty is marked off is the net measurement. Hope that helps.

Roger from West Bend, WI

Yesterday's question and answer regarding analytics in football and how it applies left me thinking there's too many variables as well as raw power from individuals. Seems like it's a much better fit for baseball, actually makes sense.

Very little happens in a vacuum in football. It's the ultimate team game. That's part of the danger in getting too drawn in by raw numbers. Sample sizes are also much smaller. They play 10 times as many games in baseball in one season. In baseball, a lot of times analytics dictate decisions. I think it's more productive in football if they inform and occasionally guide rather than dictate.

Daniel from Rothschild, WI

What is it this year with everyone wanting to find reasons a team shouldn't have won? "They got lucky." "They played a weak schedule/division." "The refs favored them." Why can't people accept that maybe, just maybe, the better team won?

They were better on that day in that moment, and it could have been for any number of reasons. That's the game. That's why we watch.

Clifford from Brockport, NY

Regarding the punting stats of JK Scott, wouldn't you agree that it's not how well you hit them but when/where you hit them? In my limited opportunity to see the games, he seems to not perform well when his punts could make a crucial difference.

I would categorize Scott as up and down in the key moments. He hit some significant punts at key times for the Packers, and he also had some letdowns. Finding a more consistent level throughout an entire season is on the horizon. That's his next step.

Justin from Los Angeles, CA

All these questions about when to give up on a guy, I'm curious: Who's the latest bloomer you've seen in your time on the beat, and how long did it take him to find his groove? And what do you think took him so long?

A couple of guys that come to mind are Kyler Fackrell and Tramon Williams. Fackrell didn't really start making an impact until Year 3. Williams went from a late-season practice-squad addition as a rookie, to making the 53 his second year and playing mostly special teams along with some nickel and dime corner, to full-fledged nickel in his third year, to top-two corner in Year 5. There's never just one reason. Sometimes it's a guy's learning curve and development, other times it's opportunity and players in front of him. If a guy can play, he'll eventually find his way onto the field. I've always believed that.

Fred from Shorewood, WI

Not a question, just an observation. The game was there for the 49ers to claim it if Garoppolo had had put the pass on a dime, as all NFL quarterbacks are expected to do. Late in the fourth quarter with SF trailing by 24-20 Emanuel Sanders was open two steps beyond the defenders and Garoppolo missed him. I believe the situation was third-and-10 and it was a brilliant call by Shanahan, but his quarterback couldn't execute it. I tend to think Rodgers would have delivered the pass on the dime.

Two steps is a little generous. I'd say one. And yes, the play was there to be made. QBs make and miss their share, and Rodgers is no exception. If Garoppolo hits it, Mahomes still has about 90 seconds to bring it back the other way, so you never know.

Adam from Chippewa Falls, WI

Who is the third-best head coach in Packers' history: Holmgren or McCarthy?

No disrespect to McCarthy, whose place in team lore is secure, but I'd give the nod to Holmgren. Two Super Bowl appearances in seven years, taking over a team that had won very little for a quarter century, puts him solidly third.

Charlie from Racine, WI

I think Paul from Hennepin, MN, was asking about the shareholders' meeting, usually held right before training camp in July. Any date yet?

Oh, sorry. But no, nothing has been announced yet. The date usually is finalized just after the draft.

Dave from Germantown, TN

When reporters say the Packers have about $30 million in cap space, do they subtract the salaries of the free-agents-to-be from the Packers' total salaries and then compare the balance to the cap? Or is the estimate of cap space simply the difference between the Packers' 2019 total salaries and the cap?

They're looking at the contracts currently have on the books for 2020, plus any dead-money figures carrying over from prior transactions, compared to the anticipated cap. If they're factoring in a player being released to free up cap space, that's their projection. A portion of cap space (usually around $7-8 million) has to be set aside to sign the draft class, too.

Chrissie from Yuma, AZ

What do you do during the offseason?

Well, we still write this column six days a week. We cover the combine, Prospect Primers, the start of offseason workouts, the draft, rookie minicamp, OTAs and mandatory minicamp. My biggest personal offseason project is managing and editing the entire Packers Yearbook, which starts in early spring and then publishes just before training camp. The pace is much slower from February through July but there's still plenty to do, and we get all but a couple of weekends off.

Tim from Lino Lakes, MN

It's been said the WR position is deep this year. Is that due to the large number (55) invited to the combine or are there really that many top-flight receivers?

We'll find out for sure when the draft actually takes place, because that's when we really find out what teams think of players. But the early reports indicate there are a lot of potential high picks at receiver as well as quality prospects through the middle rounds.

Jeremiah from Denver, CO

Hey Mike, good to hear you're restoring your football muscle after what must be a grind fans cannot appreciate. I'm curious if you have any thoughts about Tom Izzo and what he consistently does for MSU. It seems he never has quite as much talent as other big-time programs, but is almost always in the mix in the tournament. In your years on the beat, have you ever thought there's something universal about good coaches, regardless of the sport in which they ply their craft?

Don't shortchange the talent Izzo brings to East Lansing. They have plenty, and I think what he does often is what all good coaches strive to do – get their team to peak at the right time. The coaches who can push their team to another level when it matters most are the ones with the longest, most decorated careers.

Andy from Danvers, IL

With Wisconsin hosting Notre Dame at Lambeau on Oct. 3, is there any way the NFL would give the Packers a home game on Oct. 4? That would make for an incredible weekend in Green Bay, but it would probably put a huge strain on the stadium crew to get Lambeau turned around so quickly. What are your thoughts on the possibility of two games on that weekend?

That is not my expectation. I believe the Packers will be putting in a scheduling request to be on the road that weekend for the sake of the field.

The free community event, focused on getting kids out of the house to enjoy non-strenuous physical activity, took place Saturday, Feb. 8, on the Lambeau Field Atrium's main floor and fourth floor.

Robert from Seattle, WA

Can't you phase in a new system? Wouldn't that have been better than knowingly going into the season where you'd have ongoing miscommunications between QB and WR, multiple wasted timeouts per game and excessive delays of game?

You can't "phase in" a new system because there isn't enough practice time during the regular season to introduce completely new concepts and be able to rep them enough to be game-ready. You'd be trying to operate on a limited playbook for 16-plus games. You have to introduce the bulk of the playbook in the spring and summer. Tweaks and adjustments are made along the way, but the problems you referenced were not any more significant this year than previously in a system that was in place for a dozen years.

Dennis from Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Are player contracts split so they earn less if they're inactive on game day? (P.S. to Spoff: Andre the Giant, nose tackle.)

Some players have game-day roster bonuses in their contracts that pay them more if they're on the active 46, but not everyone. How about Andre at goalie?

Darren from Alice Springs, Australia

Do you think management had their eyes on the ILB spot last year with the 12th pick until the Steelers moved up and got Devin Bush?

I've wondered that all along, but they'll never tell us.

Nick from Prescott, WI

My 6-year-old son told me a kid at school was chortling the other day. Vic is still setting his legacy. I have not taught him indubitably yet, but I am working on it. The wisdom in the Inbox is all encompassing.

We do our best. Happy Monday.

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