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Inbox: They’ll use it as motivation

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Nate from Kewaskum, WI

Matt Hasselbeck said he was called by a contending team this season at age 43. When you're 83 years old and the Packers call you, asking to come back to write an Insider Inbox or two, what's your answer?

What did Wes bring for lunch?

By the way, fair warning: Until the last few posts, today is focused primarily on follow-up thoughts from the conference title games, because the questions were endless, and we still have an entire offseason to talk about the Packers. Here we go.

Tom from Burlington, WI

I don’t disagree that both teams have a chance under the OT rules, but given the rule changes to substantially benefit offenses, you have to admit there is a flaw to those rules, no?

Sure. It’s not entirely fair, and my endorsement of the current system was not to be interpreted as believing it’s totally fair. But I’m not sure football lends itself to such an overtime structure. I don’t like the straight “guaranteed possession” idea because Team 2 has a distinct advantage with fourth-down decisions. I’m willing to offer that edge so a first-possession field goal doesn’t decide games anymore, but beyond that I don’t like one team getting essentially an extra down on every series. Others have suggested a full 10- or 15-minute period to be played out, but if Team 1 gets stopped, Team 2 kicks a field goal, and Team 1 drives down for a winning TD before time expires, how fair is that? I haven’t seen the “a-ha” solution.

Miguel from Guadalajara, Mexico

I know some people argue that in OT the defense is on the field too, but it is unfair that the D can’t end the game unless there is an improbable pick-six. It would be more exciting and fair if the offense doesn’t score on the first drive then the defense wins the game. That way the offense can win with a TD, keep the game going with a FG, and lose if the D makes a stop; besides, if you win the toss you can choose to kick if you trust the D more than your offense.

Hmmm. Sort of like a wrestling tiebreaker from my prep coverage days. Well, that would eliminate the fourth-down advantage because it would apply to both teams, and it makes the coin-toss decision much less of a no-brainer. I didn’t say “a-ha” but you have me thinking.

Mark from Bristol, UK

Do the Patriots dominate if they are in the NFC? They get a free run every year in an abject division (surely one of those franchises could have built a decent team at least once in the last 18 years). Get a good enough record for home-field advantage most years. I contest this would not have happened in our conference. Agree?

Not a new thought, but I wanted to look up the QBs, because that’s where the parity clearly has been evident in the NFC. Over those 18 years in the AFC, Brady has now been to nine (!) Super Bowls, Peyton four, Big Ben three, Gannon and Flacco one apiece. No NFC QB has been to more than two Super Bowls, and only three have doubled up – Wilson, Eli and Warner (with two different teams). An additional dozen NFC QBs have reached a Super Bowl in that time: Johnson, Delhomme, Newton, Foles, McNabb, Grossman, Brees, Rodgers, Kaepernick, Hasselbeck, Ryan, Goff. All that said, I think this postseason Brady had his toughest 1-2 to beat at QB to get to the Super Bowl (Rivers, Mahomes) since 2004 (Peyton, Roethlisberger), but even then Big Ben’s rookie year was nothing compared to the young Mahomes’ MVP season, and Arrowhead was no picnic. My point? As tired as everyone is of the Patriots, this might be the most impressive postseason run, so far, of Brady’s career.

Josh from Benton Harbor, MI

If I’m not mistaken, the Rams’ last appearance in a Super Bowl was Tom Brady’s first Super Bowl win. I remember rooting for Brady because he was the underdog. Now I’m rooting for the Rams. I think it’s interesting that the dynasty began against the Rams and could possibly end against the Rams.

End? Says who?

Take a look at photos of Packers G Justin McCray from the 2018 season.

Sandy from Green Bay, WI

Do you feel too much is being asked of the on-the-field officials in the NFL as they are expected to be watching for more and more infractions?

You mean do I think on a pass toward the sideline with a defender closing in, is it difficult for an official to make sure the receiver isn’t contacted early in a way that restricts his ability to make the catch, isn’t hit with a leading helmet and/or in the head or neck area, gets both feet in bounds with control, and completes the process of the catch before going to the ground, without the ball moving? Uh, yeah. It’s insane, and as of now, only some of those stipulations have been subject to replay review. My face turned blue long ago. By the way, I’ve seen several readers getting on board with my old “safety official” idea. It’s not crazy, right?

Blaine from Fennimore, WI

Would the line-of-scrimmage laser be the same kind as the goal-post laser? Don't think anyone would be offside ever.

Yikes.

Doug from Green Bay, WI

"If you make all significant penalties reviewable within two minutes and all of overtime reviewable, it would encourage the side judge to throw the flag and take a look at it." But then when they are in the mood to use the "clear and obvious" standard, the defense will get numerous penalties on bang-bang plays. On days where they just use the "whatever Al Riveron thinks he sees" standard, you will see a lot of reversals.

Well said. The NFL had plenty to clean up before this latest mess, and I’ll continue to maintain the “call on the field” bias is outdated now. But whatever the rule or new rules, consistency of application is the key, and that’s been lacking.

Jim from Marietta, GA

Did you happen to think Coach Reid passed a chance to win the game when he went for the tying FG with 11 seconds to go? I felt it was plenty of time to take another shot to the end zone.

I’ve seen this suggested, but I think he made the right call. With the Chiefs having no timeouts from the 21-yard line, the Patriots could put a lot of traffic in the end zone to create a deflection and maybe a pick. A shorter pass, the defense could come up and make the tackle. Game’s also over on a sack. Intentional grounding to avoid a sack and you’re out of field-goal range. I’d have kicked it then, too.

Bob from NY

What are your thoughts about Andy Reid calling timeout with a little over one minute left in the first half and the Patriots showing no sign of stopping the clock? Third-and-4 is not too hard to convert. The Chiefs were doing nothing for 29 minutes. Go into halftime down one score and regroup. It was inevitable the Patriots were going to score. Also, no timeout when his team was exhausted at the goal line in overtime. Both announcers commented on this.

At the end of the half, the Pats were slow-playing it, knowing if they converted they’d still have time at least to get in field-goal range, but not leaving enough time for the Chiefs if they had to punt. That’s a tough spot for any opposing coach, but giving up 68 yards and a TD in three plays after the first down became worst-case. A timeout on the goal line in OT was desperately needed after Burkhead ran 10 yards to make it first-and-goal on the 5.

Jake from Franklin, WI

What is your opinion on pick plays? I was rooting for the Chiefs but watching that pass to Watkins just seemed cheap. It's already tough enough playing defense without receivers running into you while you're trying to cover.

I found Belichick’s disgust at the pick play to be rich with irony. To also answer Bob from Chalfont, PA, if there’s one rule I wish would be clarified and officiated in the defense’s favor, it’s this one.

Bruce from Green Bay, WI

Dee Ford deserves a lot of attention this offseason as he becomes a free agent and is a dominant player at his position, but does his lining up offside during crunch time in a championship game take away any attention he will receive? As much as bad calls change the outcome of games, so does committing penalties.

I don’t think it’ll damage his prospects in free agency. It’s not a mistake anyone makes twice in that situation, right? Other readers have pointed out New England’s left tackle was maybe “off the line” and got away with it. But if he was lining up that way all game and Ford was still onside all game, the mistake is on Ford. He owned it.

Steven from West End, NC

Guys, if you were a player on the Rams and go on to win the Super Bowl, would you feel there's an "asterisk" on it?

No way. Though I do believe the Rams will use the “you shouldn’t be here” storyline as motivation. I certainly would.

Jerr from Albany, NY

Are we ignoring that the Saints a) didn’t stop the Rams from scoring at the end of regulation and b) turned the ball over in OT? They had plenty of opportunities to win and couldn’t capitalize, not to mention their poor clock management prior to the no-call.

Yes, the Saints had their chances, and I didn’t like the first-down play, but here’s the thing – that no-call was as close to a game-ending “fail mary”-type call as you’ll get without it actually being the last play of the game. And it wasn’t just one penalty that was missed but two, both obvious. Either would have put the Saints in position to run the clock down to around 10 seconds and kick a chip shot to go to the Super Bowl. The outrage is justified, because your a) and b) above never should have occurred. To answer others, the missed facemask earlier on Goff? Sure, the Rams probably score and go up four points, but then the whole perspective on the Saints’ drive changes, including play selection in the red zone. These weren’t tit-for-tat missed calls.

Jacob from Ironwood, MI

After the missed PI call, I've seen it brought up that the commissioner can reschedule or overturn the end result of a game. While I am not advocating for this to be used, I am curious if, after the “Fail Mary” game, this rule was brought up by angry fans or others? Any recollection? Don't mean to bring up painful memories, but if ever a game deserved to be reversed, that one would fit the bill. Or are there other games more deserving?

I don’t recall it being brought up, and even if the commissioner had been inclined to exercise it, he never would have due to the labor dispute. Such a ruling would have shifted even more leverage to the officials’ union, which already had plenty.

Jason from Hurst, TX

If a die-hard Texas Rangers fan can’t even escape the Nelson Cruz “warning track” play in the Packers’ Insider Inbox then I don’t even know where to go anymore...

We’re an equal opportunity reminder of fan misery.

Jim from Vienna, VA

Replay: 1. A replay team assigned to every game. 2. They and they alone determine what plays are reviewable. No coaches’ challenges. 3. 10 seconds to determine if a play should be reviewed or before the ball is snapped. 15 seconds to review the play. If no decision, play stands. 4.       Penalties subject to review: PI, RTP. 5. Plays reviewable: catches, fumbles, first downs, touchdowns. That’s it.

I think the time intervals need to be longer, but I’m in favor of limits. Safety violations also need to be reviewable, along with in-bounds/out-of-bounds calls. But otherwise, I think that’s a reasonable framework.

Sam from Harlan, IA

I am humored by all the talk of getting penalties "right" by using replay. The idea of a catch is very subjective as all have been commenting on. It seems as if a lot of pass interference calls would be the same way (barring egregious ones that we recently witnessed). What are the chances that pass interference replays would befuddle us as much as catch replays?

A lot of replays show just as much contact initiated by the receiver, especially on contested deep balls, and therefore we might have more no-calls and fewer penalties of 40-plus yards.

Trevor from Carmel, NY

The no-call was terrible, and in the age of social media, it's even worse for the game. While the stakes were slightly less, this will change the rule just like Jerry Rice's fumble did. But I can't help but wonder that the butterfly effect of what happened will net us something special at 30 that we might not have had at 31 or 32. That ending will impact many legacies, Brees, Payton, McVay, Goff...but it's possible we are overlooking one right in front of our nose.

I guess we’ll find out.

Nick from Portland, OR

For the draft, I get the allure of packaging both first-rounders into a top five pick, but how far could we move up with our mid-second-round pick and the Saints’ 30th? Could we possibly get into the top 20? Wouldn’t picking say 12 and 19 be enticing?

The chart puts the value of those two picks at around 15, actually. It’ll all depend on the board.

Scott from Green Bay, WI

Great story on J'Mon Moore. Not many people anywhere on the planet are willing to take full and complete responsibility for their shortcomings. What can he do in the offseason (besides know the playbook, which all receivers say they need to know) to improve in processing the mental part of the game faster?

Study as much film as he can. All the situations and formations, over and over. “When the defense does this, I have to be alert to this, and Rodgers is going to expect that.” That sort of thing. It’ll be interesting to see if a new offensive system works to Moore’s advantage. Hopefully it doesn’t wipe out all the progress he made.

Brandon from Omaha, NE

Call me too idealistic, but the Packers are four moves away from being highly competitive again. 1) Protect the QB by beefing up the O-line (see 2018 Colts). 2) Establish the run (see 2018 Seahawks). 3) Sign/draft an elite pass rusher (see 2018 Bears). 4) Sign/draft a playmaking safety (see...*sigh* 2018 Bears). If they can make at least two of those things happen, along with the new coaches doing their part, this team will be back. Am I in la-la land or is that a fair assessment?

A vast improvement on special teams also must be on the list. Overall, it’s more than one player here or one there. Roster depth must improve, too. I thought the Packers took a major step forward in that area on defense in 2018, because they reached far into the depth chart and stayed competitive on that side of the ball. But you’re always looking to get deeper, and better players on special teams can improve that as well.

Joachim from Kass, Germany

Hi Mike. Your we'll-play-the-Chargers-in-London prediction is now officially a bunch of hooey. Care to take another tilt? What's our best chance of seeing the Packers in the Old World in the upcoming seasons?

Hooey indeed. I have no idea anymore. The part of the equation I did not know was that even when the league has leverage over a team to make it “host” a game internationally (such as the Chargers residing in a temporary stadium), that team can still protect one home game from being moved. The best chance now is for another team waiting for a new stadium, or a future Super Bowl host (over which the league also has leverage), to be hosting the Packers but have another home game on its schedule it deems more valuable to protect. I’m not even going to venture a guess anymore.

John from Onalaska, WI

Spoff, it's going to be too late once you read this, but I thought I'd let you know that "Dodgeball" is playing on MTV right now. Of course you're at work too...

Can I get a replay?

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