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Letters To LeRoy Butler


With Seattle coming to town again, how will the Packers coaching staff alter their game plan from the Seahawks' first visit to Lambeau to avoid a Wildcard loss? Will we see any more of an emphasis on the run vs. the pass, or vice versa? GO PACK!!! - Karly (McFarland, WI)

Whenever the Packers play teams that are familiar with their schemes and tendencies, one of the first things they look at is themselves. During practice this week the Packers will add new wrinkles to what are basically the same old plays. They'll mix and match personnel. They'll move men in motion. And they'll look for new ways to take advantage of favorable match-ups in the red zone.

You'll have to wait until Saturday for the full Packers-Seahawks breakdown, but I can tell you now that this is one of those situations where the Packers' offensive balance is a great attribute. It's not so much about whether they'll run or pass more, it's about when they'll run and when they'll pass.

The Packers can do both, and Seattle will have a lot to be prepared for.

Can you (or anybody) explain why Seattle would have replaced the Packers as a Wild Card when we beat them in a head-to-head game? Looking at the tiebreaker rules, head-to-head games seem to be at the top of all the lists? - Vince (Keizer, OR)

Quite a few people are still confused about this, so quickly:

In the event of a two-way tie, the Packers would have advanced over the Seahawks because of a head-to-head victory. But because the Dallas Cowboys also finished at 10-6, it was a three-way tie.

And since the Cowboys didn't face either the Packers or the Seahawks this season, the head-to-head portion of the tiebreaker would have been thrown out, to be followed by record within the conference, record in common games (minimum of four), strength of victory, strength of schedule, etc.

How much confidence will the Packers have after winning four straight to close out the season and get in the playoffs? Now they're about to play a team they beat earlier this season that plays poorly on the road. Is there reason to be concerned that they'll be overconfident? - Ryan (Mississauga, Canada)

Everyone has tagged Seattle as a team that can't win on the road, but the Packers and their fans need to be smarter than that.

First of all, the NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and the Seahawks are coming off a road win at San Francisco. Secondly, that win over the 49ers was a must-win, just like this game will be Sunday.

So if you're Seattle, you don't think about the games before, you look at last week and say, 'Okay, we can do this.'

That said, the Packers will be very confident heading into the playoffs. And they should be, having won four straight with their backs against the wall.

But Coach Mike Sherman is great about keeping things in perspective. He kept the players together earlier this season when they were 3-4 and things looked ready to fall apart, and he'll keep them together now, reminding them that there's more to the playoffs than just getting in.

I just think the Packers are too hungry right now to look past Seattle.

LeRoy, I think your column provides a great insight into the game from a great players point of view, and for that I thank you. Since you have played in more than a couple of playoff games, how far can emotion carry one team beyond another with obviously better physical talent? - John (Flanders, NJ)

John, that's a great question! Certainly in the playoffs, I think emotion can be the No. 1 factor in deciding wins and losses. Talent-wise there isn't that big of a gap, so desire and emotion often lead to better execution.

But you can't just create desire. You either want to do everything it takes to win from the moment you arrive at the stadium or you don't. It's not about pregame speeches from the coach. It's all about the player.

Does that mean that when teams lose or play poorly that they don't care? No. But by the end of the season the talent and the skill-level is pretty well set, and about the only thing a player can turn up a notch is emotion and desire.

Part of that is believing that you can win. Just look at that New England team that beat the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl a few years ago. Everyone else counted the Patriots out, but they believed.

Did the Patriots have better talent than the Rams? Probably not. But they won the Super Bowl rings that year.

In my humble opinion, Javon Walker has been the coming into his own as player this year. He's big, fast and now has the confidence to go out and make the play. It has been a real treat to see him come from a decent receiver to a real threat whenever he is out on the field. How do you see Walker this year and going into next year? - Tim (Battle Creek, MI)

I think Javon Walker is an outstanding talent. To me, he's just like Randy Moss except he's bigger, blocks better and plays harder.

Now the thing that Randy Moss still does better than almost anyone is make plays. Walker is starting to do that, but he needs to keep doing that before I'll compare him to Moss in that respect.

The one thing you shouldn't do though is judge Moss as a better receiver than Walker based on statistics, because the Packers distribute the ball to so many different players that one guy is never going to put up Moss-like numbers in Green Bay.

But that's just fine. What wins football games is making plays when it counts. It doesn't matter if that's 10 times a game for a player or twice.

By my count there are at least five coaches getting fired at the end of the NFL season. Why are teams so quick to fire a coach? Isn't it the players' fault as much as the coach? - Mack (Milwaukee, WI)

Absolutely! I'm glad you asked that question.

When a team fails, it's not just the fault of the coach, it's the fault of everyone: coaches, players and the organization.

What bothers me more than anything is that all the coaching hires these days are recycle jobs. A coach gets fired from one team and then hired by another. And if you think about it, that doesn't make sense.

If a guy can coach, he can coach. If he can't, he can't. By hiring and firing all these coaches, what so many teams are saying is that the act of making a change will make them better just because they're bringing in fresh blood.

Maybe they think the only thing a coach does is motivate his players. Well, why should a coach have to motivate a guy making $3 million a year anyway? Those players should be able to motivate themselves.

It's not like people just get picked up off the street to play in the NFL. Making it in pro football requires hard work and it's a dream to get the chance to play. A player shouldn't want to waste a single moment of that. And if a player 'quits' on a coach because he doesn't like him, that's a shame.

And if the organization quits on a coach after just a few seasons, that's even worse.

If you're a team trying to win the Super Bowl, guess what? Only one team a year does that. Are all the other coaches bad coaches? No.

If you're a team trying to rebuild like Arizona, is one fresh face going to turn it all around? No.

Coaches should get at least five years to prove themselves. And if they don't do it, don't hire some guy that got fired somewhere else. Hire someone new.

That's one of the reasons I really credit Ron Wolf, because he gave head coaching jobs to Mike Holmgren and Mike Sherman, who didn't have head coaching experience in the NFL before they came to Green Bay. Wolf gave them a chance and both of those guys are among the best in team history.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't feel sorry for these coaches who get all this guaranteed money and get fired too fast. They're well compensated. But people need to get a grip.

Turn on the radio and you'll hear fans calling for coaches' heads all season long. Well, that's fine. Fans have a right to their opinion just like anyone else.

But suggesting someone should be fired is a strong statement. And if you think a guy is a good coach, then he's a good coach whether the team has lost four in a row or won four in a row. If fans liked Coach Sherman heading into this season, I hope they didn't back out on him when the Packers were 3-4.

But if they did back out, they better not be back on the bandwagon now that the Packers have won four straight to get into the playoffs.

A coach can coach, or he can't. It's that simple. Wins and losses are major measuring stick, but football games are about more than just the head coaches on opposite sides of the field.

This is not a question, rather an apology. I was one of those Packer fans who began to doubt our quarterback. But I should have known better. Please tell Brett Favre I am sorry for his loss and that our family has faithfully lifted him and his family in prayer. He is without question the only quarterback this Packers fan wants. Go Pack! - Michael (Arlington Heights, IL)

Michael, I respect your honesty. And on behalf of Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers, we forgive you. But don't let it happen again!

In all seriousness, I hope that most fans have the ability to take the good and the bad with every player, because none of them are perfect. And the thing people have to keep in mind is that all these guys are doing their best.

Do you think Favre wanted to throw 21 interceptions this season? Of course not. But the Packers are pretty happy he threw an NFL-best 32 touchdowns.

These guys are human, just like you and me. They have great intentions, they do their best, but it doesn't always work out. And just like you and me, NFL players have families and lives off the football field.

I'm sure Packers fans wouldn't want Favre or any other player to give up on them, so I sure hope the fans never give up on their team either.

How far, realistically, do you feel the Packers can advance in the playoffs? - Kurt (Bowling Green, OH)

Well, it has to happen step by step, but I think the Packers are the favorites this weekend playing the Seahawks at Lambeau Field.

If the Packers win, they'll play at either Philadelphia (if the Carolina Panthers defeat the Dallas Cowboys) or St. Louis (if the Dallas Cowboys win). Both games would be tough, but I like the Packers' chances in Philly more than in St. Louis.

And if the Packers can get through that game, there's no reason to think they don't have the stuff to go all the way.

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is providing exclusive analysis to with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays and a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website,*

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