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It's OK to have expectations, if you can manage them

What constitutes a successful season?


Jay from Minneapolis, MN

Vic, I visited Milwaukee for the Fourth, and on the drive back home I spotted a license plate that said "WINSUM."

Apparently somebody likes that word.

Justin from St. Louis, MO

Vic, do you believe Datone Jones will have an impact this year or will it take time?

I think it's reasonable to hope he'll have an impact this season, but the expectation should be that it will take time.

William from Jacksonville, FL

It's funny how people still fail to grasp the importance of a run game. Did you know the Patriots, with all of those passes and points scored, finished No. 7 in rushing? They had no vertical deep threat. So what's more important for an elite QB, the run game or the deep-threat receiver? Pound it, baby!

A strong running game forces a defense to bring an eighth defender up to the line of scrimmage, which opens up the deep ball. A deep-threat receiver backs a safety away from the line of scrimmage, which helps open up the running game. What you're talking about are the two ingredients to an offense I value the most. I want a running game that can sell play-action and open up the deep ball, and I want a deep threat that can force the defense to play two-deep safeties. If you have those two ingredients, you're going to force the defense to either play it honest or guess, and that's just what a good offense wants. I don't see it as an either/or situation. In my mind, you need to have both a strong running game and a deep-threat receiver for an offense to be the best it can be and be able to match up against any defense. The Packers didn't have that strong running game last season and, as a result, they couldn't get that eighth defender up in the box and the deep ball went away. As I've written on several occasions, if they find that strong running game this season, this offense will be unstoppable.

Rohan from Skokie, IL

I thought that for you and how you see Rodgers-Brees as a major QB rivalry, Drew Brees would immediately come to mind as a player known better for what he's done with his second team?

Ronald Reagan did better with his second team. A lot of guys did better with their second team. So did Bill Belichick.

Dan from Houston, TX

Vic, we know how you feel about soccer and golf, but what about tennis? You've got to love the Andy Murray win at Wimbledon. Getting his first grand slam win, against the world No. 1, in front of his home crowd, after a 70-year drought of British winners.

We didn't have a lot of tennis courts in my hometown, therefore, my exposure to the sport was limited. My exposure to golf was the result of a nearby nine-hole golf club where a lot of the steel mill execs belonged and played. There was a par three up against a wooded area. We'd sit in the woods and wait for balls to be hit there, then recover the balls and offer them back to the golfers when they reached the green, hoping they'd give us a tip for our trouble. I didn't begin playing golf until I was in my 30s, but the time I spent in those woods in my youth gave me an attraction for the game. I always liked the concept of hitting a ball a long way. If I had been exposed to tennis, I'd certainly have a better understanding of it and a greater appreciation for Murray's win. I've always believed the popularity of a sport on the professional level is directly related to its exposure to youth on the amateur level. In my opinion, tennis hasn't done a great job of offering itself and promoting itself to the youth of America.

Dustin from Dell Rapids, SD

Vic, a team picking up Walter Payton would have lost two first rounders, in 1982 and 1983, draft classes that featured Marcus Allen, Eric Dickerson, John Elway, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Darrell Green, Bruce Matthews, Mike Munchak, and Jim McMahon in the first rounds alone. How would a team have felt if they got Payton, only to miss out on a pick in one of the greatest QB classes of all time?

One of the big hesitations in trading picks for players is that you might be messing with fate. Maybe it'll be your turn to draft the next great quarterback, for example. What if you had signed Payton, who was certainly worth two first-round picks, but one of those picks was used to draft Elway, and 20 years later you still hadn't found a franchise quarterback? That's the fear factor. It's the fear of the unknown, and it's one of the big reasons teams are reluctant to trade picks for players.

Pete from Perham, MN

What is the definition of leaguethink?

It's 32 teams thinking and acting as one. Leaguethink is Wellington Mara agreeing to share his TV revenue with the Packers. It's the league's owners agreeing to surrender their rights to negotiate TV contracts individually, so that Pete Rozelle might negotiate for the league collectively. It's what made this league what it is today and I was happy to see we recovered some of that leaguethink mentality in the most recent CBA negotiations.

Jessie from Winona, MN

What do coaches deem a successful season? I think a team that makes the playoffs year after year is doing something right.

So do I, however, the politically correct response these days is that anything short of a Super Bowl title is a failed season. I not only don't agree with that thinking, I think it costs us an element of enjoyment and appreciation of the sport. The true joy of the game is the pursuit of victory. If your team is in the playoffs year after year, it is giving you a strong dose of that pursuit of victory. If one of those pursuits should end in a title, the team has rewarded its fans with the ultimate in success.

Brenda from Duncan, OK

Vic, expectations is a very good word for our team. A couple of years ago, the team fulfilled them beyond our wildest dreams and the bar has been set higher. The talent has been rearranged, added to and has gained more experience in some cases. Expectations is a pale word for what a lot of fans feel going into this season.

As long as you can manage those expectations, go ahead and set the bar as high as you please. I don't know what good that does because it won't impact in any way what will happen, but if that's what you need to enjoy the season, go for it. I prefer to wait and watch. For me, expectations create anxiety, and I don't want it.

Thomas from Park Falls, WI

Again, today, I see another story on the referee who stole the Seattle game from Green Bay last year. I was almost over it and then I see him continuing to say ridiculous things, like history will verify his call. Can't this guy just fess up and admit he didn't have a clue and screwed up?

Isn't that what he's doing? He's playfully mocking himself. He's extending his 15 minutes of fame as much as possible, and making some money at it in the process.

Tadd from Salt Lake City, UT

Vic, I was wondering what your thoughts are on the late Scott E. Entsminger, Browns fan. He requested to have his pallbearers be Cleveland Browns, so they could "let him down one last time."

The first thing I did was notice his age, and then calculate how old he was in 1964, when the Browns last won a title. He would've been too young to have enjoyed it. Too bad. What the poor guy experienced were some of the worst hardships in Browns history. In the prime of his life, he had to endure "The Drive" and "The Fumble," and the loss of the franchise to Baltimore. I'll tell you, if I'm Jimmy Haslam, I'd personally offer to be one of Entsminger's pallbearers, so I might send a message to all Browns fans that their loyalty is appreciated. Entsminger might have achieved immortality.

Greg from Eielson AFB, AK

Vic, my first high school football drill ever was four or five reps of the Oklahoma drill. My coach said he needed to see who his quitters were. I was one of them. I never played a snap that season, but I did track and field and powerlifting in the offseason to get ready for football again. Never again was I a loser in the Oklahoma drill. In your opinion, is that the ultimate purpose of the drill, to use the shame of defeat to toughen up softer guys and sort out winners from champs?

The purpose of the drill from an attitude standpoint was to engrain in the football team the principle of football of being a block-and-tackle sport. It was a tone setter. The Oklahoma drill introduced the element of human confrontation and the need for its participants to win their one-on-ones. In the old days, coaches were always coming up with inventions for finding out who their most physical players were. The Oklahoma was conducted in a lot of different ways to achieve its intent. I've seen it run with a back and a defender, with the defender on his back between two bags and the back with the ball in his hands a few yards away. The intent was to sell the concept of first contact wins. These kinds of drill were primitive ways to sell and establish the root demands of the game. They're gone forever because we're changing the culture of the game. Frankly, I liked them. I always thought they were a way for young men with personal doubt to eliminate that doubt. Isn't that what you did?

Doug from Chino Hills, CA

It seems to me that if we were to find a fault in Coach McCarthy's skill set, it would be his handling of challenges. He seems to not challenge calls he should and rarely win the battles he picks. Do you agree?

I don't agree at all. He's probably the best "coaches challenge" coach I've covered. There was one call last year involving a catch/noncatch – I think it was in the Saints game – that was a little bit of a fishing expedition, and he nearly got caught in that can't-throw-the-flag trap that ensnared Jim Schwartz, but Coach McCarthy and his guys up in the booth have been pretty good at using the "coaches challenge" rule to the Packers' advantage. What I continue to believe is that the "coaches challenge" might be the worst rule in NFL history. I absolutely hate the idea of coaches officiating games. I have a fundamental aversion to that concept, plus, I think it's horribly unfair to coaches that they have to bear the burden of officiating games.

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