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Lombardi might invite me into the cornfield

Accountable coach demands accountable players


Billie Jo from Ward, AR

Vic, the wildcat didn't seem to last too long in the NFL. Is this because teams figured out how to stop it, or because the talent pool required to run it ran dry?

It didn't last because there was nothing to it. Hike and run forward isn't much of a scheme. It only worked for as long as it did because the newness of the scheme created hesitation. Once defenses played against it on multiple occasions, they became comfortable and confident in their execution. It was as simple as this: The quarterback was not a passer. It took defenses time to understand that simple logic. Don't hesitate. Attack the runner as though he was just a runner because that's exactly what he was, just a runner. The read option is the flip side of the wildcat. In the read option, the passer is a runner. He can run and pass, so he must be treated with the respect reserved for a player than can run and throw. Schematically, the read option can last. Can it last physically? Can the passer stay healthy if he's a runner? Pat White was drafted to be a wildcat quarterback who could run and pass. He was hit so hard he never returned to the game.

Eric from Lubbock, TX

So the Ravens are gutting their roster, but now they sign Dumervil to a big contract? I don't get it.

The Ravens were not willing to push any more money out on older players whose contracts would outlast the players' bodies, and they weren't willing to give big contracts to young players they didn't consider worthy of those contracts. If I were the Dolphins (Dannell Ellerbe) and the Browns (Paul Kruger), I'd be a little concerned. The Ravens are very astute talent evaluators.

Kaylib from Milwaukee, WI

I was reading a report that mentioned that Alec Ogletree has "character baggage that teams must take a hard look at." It then went on to say he has strong "football character." Is there a distinction between character and football character?

Ogletree got a DUI right before the combine; it's what you don't want on the eve of the most high-profile event of the draft evaluation season. Football character refers to a player's conduct within the game. A player with high football character respects his coaches and teammates. He gives a top effort and sets an example others want to follow. He is never a distraction. He's a 60-minute, whistle-effort player with a strong work ethic. In my opinion, we have a tendency these days to get a high-minded about young players. We want them to be angels off the field and devils on it. When I see a player such as Ogletree, I think of a lot of great players I've covered that came into the NFL with character issues and then grew into mature men that became examples on and off the field. If a player can be exemplary on the field, he can be the same off the field. He may just need some lifestyle coaching, and some time to allow him to mature.

Nick from Toronto, Ontario

How much do you think the focus on safety is driven by actual concern, or by the pocket books of the owners? Lawsuits are expensive. Thoughts?

Intent is a big thing. By fixing what's perceived to be broken, the NFL is sending a message that it has a strong intent and commitment to the safety of its players. The message is now that we know the dangers of the game, we are addressing them. I think it's a message that should work to the league's advantage in a court of law and in the court of public opinion. I have no doubt this commitment to player safety is in part lawsuit driven. It's also driven by the NFLPA, with whom the league must partner in maintaining labor peace. Whatever the motivation is, player safety is a good thing and I applaud efforts to achieve it. My concern is for going too far or going there faster than necessary. Has this become a pursuit driven by panic? Once the box is open on these changes, there's no putting them back in.

David from Milwaukee, WI

Vic, I had never seen the Peterson hit on Gay until I read about it in this column. To me that looked like a dirty hit. I didn't think, "Oh, man, Peterson is a beast." I thought, "Wow, what a cheap shot." Peterson went head hunting so Gay couldn't tackle him. If defensive players can't use their heads, why should offensive players be allowed to?

When it happened, not one person suggested that there was anything dirty about what Peterson did in running over Gay. Not one! Now, all of a sudden, you are of the opinion that it was a cheap shot? I'm in shock. I get a lot of questions from people asking what Lombardi would say about this or that. I think if Coach Lombardi came to life and read what you have written, he might say to me, "Come with me, Vic. Come into the cornfield. Unitas is there. Alex Karras just arrived. You'll like the games they play there. We need someone to cover them."

Paul from Ossian, IN

Vic, over the past couple of years I've heard you talk about your impression of the Packers at different stages of your life and career. I'd be interested to hear you summarize all of your impressions of the Packers organization from the "Ice Bowl" to Aaron Rodgers.

The years between Lombardi and Holmgren were spent trying to resurrect Lombardi, and the franchise got old. It didn't grow with the game. Bob Harlan and Ron Wolf stepped in and ended all of that. They brought the franchise into the new NFL. That's really all you need to know.

Tasha from Galt, CA

Baseball has Babe Ruth. Basketball has Michael Jordan. Hockey has Wayne Gretzky. Football has?

You could put a lot of names in there: Unitas, Brown, Lombardi all fit.

Jake from Tucson, AZ

Is Adrian Peterson the last great running back?

Old style? He might be.

Steve from Frankfort, IL

Vic, after reading the article done with Coach McCarthy, McCarthy doesn't shy away from admitting and taking responsibility for his team not being prepared or disciplined enough. I do appreciate his honesty, but most coaches won't admit anything that may threaten their job security. Your take?

He's promoting accountability. How can a coach expect his players to be accountable if the coach isn't accountable?

Luis from San Angelo, TX

What happened to the fullback position? I found out recently that Jim Brown and Franco Harris were fullbacks; I assumed they were halfbacks. Could what happened to that position happen to the quarterback position in an effort to devalue it?

You're caught up in meaningless terminology. Brown and Harris and Larry Csonka were fullbacks that played in the era of "pro set" or "split backs." That's just what they were called in those formations. Ernie Green was Brown's blocking back and Green was a halfback. Rocky Bleier was Harris' blocking back and Bleier was a halfback. Don't get caught up in scheme and terminology. In the single wing, the quarterback was a blocker. Concern yourself with function. Tight ends aren't tight ends unless they're tight to the formation, but we call them tight ends even when they're split from the formation. I'll never get that one.

Chris from Brentwood, TN

Brett from Colorado quoted the statistic wrong. They looked at all the plays from Week 16 and found five penalties. I think the new rule will create a lot more, like the emphasis on quarterback hits created phantom penalties such as Nick Perry's at Indy.

As a result of this rule change, flags are going to fly like hot dog wrappers in the wind next season, and as sure as I am typing these words, one such call will be judged by Packers fans to have caused the Packers to lose, and this column will become radioactive. What I'm having trouble understanding is the impetus to this rule. Not once in all the years I've written "Ask Vic" has a reader ever taken issue with running backs lowering their heads. No one has ever written, "Vic, the league has to do something about running backs spearing defensive players." Not once! Now, all of a sudden, my inbox is filled with outrage. Are we just bored? Is that it? My question to the competition committee is this: Was this necessary? Did we really need to make an issue out of something that had never been an issue?

Mike from Socorroi, NM

Can players under contract use the team facilities during the offseason? If so, can they have any interaction with coaches that may be around?

They may use the facilities prior to the official start of the offseason program, but they may not speak to coaches about football. I wanna go on record as saying this is the dumbest rule ever invented. It's like living with your wife but not being allowed to talk about marriage.

John from Grand Forks, ND

I am taking my salary cap seriously this year. I went into free agency just to take a look and I found two pair of khakis at the thrift store, all of the tags still on them and in my size, only $5 each. I had to talk their agent down but I got them both for $5 total. My salary cap didn't even flinch.

Khakis always outlive their contracts, and they allow you to buy an expensive sport coat you can wear with them and they look fine, if you know what I mean.

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