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LeRoy Butler running away with No. 36 vote


Randall from Lake Helen, FL

Who were the original teams of the NFL prior to the AFC coming in?

The merger of the NFL and AFL in 1970 is what I consider to be the most significant organizational event in the league's history. It was the crowning achievement in driving the popularity of professional football. There were 16 NFL teams: Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Colts, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins; and there were 10 AFL teams: Boston Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Houston Oilers, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers. To create two 13-team conferences, three teams had to be persuaded to move from what would be the NFC to the AFC. Bitter feelings still existed from the 10-year battle between the rival leagues, and most still viewed the NFC and the AFC as the old NFL and AFL, and not two conferences within the same league. So how did they persuade three teams to move to the AFC? They paid them to make the move. The Browns, Colts and Steelers each received $3 million to move to the AFC. Carroll Rosenbloom was the owner of the Colts and Rosenbloom wasn't about to pass up that kind of money; he would later trade franchises to become owner of the Los Angeles Rams. After Rosenbloom, however, it was difficult finding an owner willing to move into what was largely considered to be the enemy's league. The Browns and Steelers agreed to do it because they had a rivalry that demanded that if one goes, both go. Art Rooney, the owner of the Steelers, needed the cash; the move didn't sit well with Art Modell, the owner of the Browns, but the money sounded good and Modell knew he had to go where the Steelers went. There's a funny story that goes with that decision, as told by an old sportswriter who was in Modell's hospital room when Rooney paid a visit. It was during the time when it was being decided which teams would go to the AFC and Modell was suffering from one of his legendary ulcer attacks. The sportswriter asked Rooney what he was gonna do, and Rooney said he was gonna go wherever his old buddy Art Modell went. With that, Modell winced with pain.

Richie from Truckee, CA

"Iron Mike" (Michalske) didn't get the love. LeRoy was a great player. I loved watching him play, but he still took a back seat to Reggie White on that defense. How does a safety get more attention than a pulling guard smashing into a lane looking to knock someone's teeth out?

The fan has spoken.

Daniel from Sugar Land, TX

Is it me or is time of possession the most misleading stat of all-time? If teams hold onto the ball a long time and settle for field goals and the opposing team comes out and scores on a three-play drive, then what's the point?

Of all-time? No. Once upon a time, time of possession was the most important of all stats, other than the score, of course. In the day of run-the-ball/stop-the-run, time of possession said it all. It meant you were winning the battle of the line of scrimmage. Back in those days, it was said that time is points. Those days are over. This is a pass-the-ball/stop-the-pass league now. Time of possession isn't nearly as important as it once was, but I think you're being too dismissive of it. Even in today's high-paced, pass-happy game, last season's Super Bowl teams were still in the top 10 of the league in time of possession; the Steelers were fifth and the Packers were ninth. Once upon a time, TOP sent a message about the running game and winning the battle up front; now it sends a message about efficiency and sustaining drives. Even today, I don't know of a coach that doesn't like ball control.

Dave from Oregon, WI

Love your forum; don't always agree with your opinions, but they're just that, opinions, well defended by you, I must add. What do you think of the winner of the coin toss electing to receive to begin the second half? Lovie Smith has been vilified in the Chicago press for such a move in the NFC title game. Years ago, I noticed Joe Paterno (a pretty good coach) doing that, and came to believe it was a good choice. Of course, it can backfire on you (just ask Lovie), but when it works, you can put a game away in the last few minutes of the first half and the beginning of the second.

Coaches elect to do what they believe suits the personality and attitude of their team. If I was a coach, the wind would be the first criterion in my decision. If there was a significant wind, then I would want the wind at my back in the fourth quarter. The most likely way to make that happen is to exercise your choice (I'd elect to receive) to start the game, and not defer the choice to the start of the second half. That puts your opponent in the position of getting first choice to start the second half and it's likely he'll elect to receive, which will then allow you to pick which goal to defend. You elect to defend the goal that puts the wind in your face in the third quarter, which means the wind will be at your kicker's back in the fourth quarter when he attempts to kick the game-winning field goal. When do you defer? When you have a defense you believe will get you a three-and-out and flip the field to start the game. Matt from Beloit, WI

You will be condescending with your answer, I'm sure, but what I get about you is that you want a player who performs in the playoffs. I get that, but you have to acknowledge there are some situations that are different. Emmitt Smith was a great postseason runner and Barry Sanders was not, but can you honestly say Sanders would not have been great running behind the Cowboys' Pro-Bowl linemen? Emmitt was great but that line opened up holes I could have run through. Meanwhile, Sanders had to make his own holes and had no easy yardage. Is Smith the better runner? Yes, but if roles were reversed do you really think Smith would be the best running back? Not even close.

So even though Smith is the better back, you want me to penalize him because he had better blocking? Even though one guy got it done in the postseason and the other guy didn't, you want me to assume that the guy that didn't would've if he had better blocking? Is that logical? Does it make sense to ignore achievement and pick according to what you think would've happened? Too much wiggle and jiggle. Drop the pads and run. That's what Smith did, and he did it in big games and with big injuries. How do you not respect a guy that drops his pads while playing with a separated shoulder?

Rob from Brooklyn Center, MN

What year did the supplemental draft start in the NFL?

The supplemental draft began in 1977. It was a well-intentioned plan for allowing players to enter the league that missed the filing deadline for the regular draft. It also created an entry portal for players that, since the filing deadline, might have lost their college eligibility, or have realized a hardship. As I look back on it, I think the advent of the supplemental draft was an admission by the league that it was going to have to come off its long-standing requirements for eligibility for the draft. I think the league saw that it had to soften or it was going to spend a lot of time in court. The supplemental draft was a good mechanism for showing good intentions. Like all good things, though, people find a way to use them to gain an unfair advantage, and that's exactly what the Browns and Bernie Kosar did in 1985, when they conspired to use a loophole in the rules to avoid the regular draft and qualify for the supplemental draft, for which the Browns were positioning themselves to draft Kosar. Pete Rozelle conducted a hearing on the whole thing, but there wasn't much he could do about it.

Gary from Citrus Hills, FL

Seems like a no-brainer to me that the players will get together before or after the ring ceremony to discuss or participate in some type of practice arrangement. Your thoughts?

I'll watch from the grassy knoll.

Sean from Menominee, MI

I don't understand why people aren't getting your preference for people with strong postseason stats. Crunch time is when the pressure is really on, when a player (or team) gets overwhelmed by it and cracks. It's the same as considering the Super Bowl champ the best team in the league. They are the only team that always won when it mattered the most. Getting it done at crunch time is what separates the great from the almost great. Would you agree with that?

Of course, I agree. It's the only reason to play the games, to crown a champion. So, after we crown that champion, are we supposed to, say, ignore what he did? Fantasy football changed a lot of perceptions of what winning football is. In fantasy football, stats, not wins, are king.

Duane from Newnan, GA

Do you ever look up the cities/towns of the people who send you questions?

I'm intrigued by the hometowns. I love geography and, on occasion, I'll check on the spelling of a hometown and I'll read on it a little bit. The best thing about moving around is getting a feel for different places and its people. I think "Ask Vic" provides a little bit of that. It has a travelogue quality to it.

Mike from Wonder Lake, IL

One of the judges involved in the NFL labor case recently stressed that the two sides should come to an agreement soon, or else (to paraphrase) they will be given a ruling that neither side will like. What do you think that could possibly mean? Can you give us any scenarios?

I don't know what that means but it sounds ominous. I wish I had a legal background, so I could understand this stuff better. Can the judge order the two sides to play through the litigation, as the two sides did back in 1989-93? I don't know. Nothing beats agreement; that's the one thing I do know. The final chapter in this story will be about an agreement. The only mystery is: How long will it take to get there?

John from Duluth, MN

The eventual CBA could possibly include a salary cap. Some argue that artificial restraints should not be placed on a team's desire to fill its roster with whomever they wish, while others maintain a cap ensures all teams enjoy the highest probability of financial health. What's your position?

I was a big salary cap supporter when it was instituted in 1993. I think the concept of everybody having the same amount of money to spend on players is sound. The problem with the cap, we found out, is that because it is determined by gross revenue, it becomes a means for high-revenue teams to pass their player costs on to low-revenue teams. All of a sudden, a system designed to promote a level playing field does just the opposite. It becomes a tax on the "poor," so to speak. Revenue-sharing was an attempt to level that field, but I don't think it's the answer. In my opinion, for a salary cap system to work, it has to cap spending without it being attached to revenue, and that's going to be a difficult system to create.

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