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Matthews made the big play


Daniel from Fond du Lac, WI

In an effort to get to know you better, Vic, what is your favorite football story; the one you love telling that will give us an insight into who you are?

Vic: I've got a lot of football stories and I plan to tell them all, Daniel, but I'd like to cite a story that was told to me, by David Marannis in his book on Vince Lombardi, "When Pride Still Mattered." At the same time that I was reading the book, I was diagnosed with colon cancer, so you can probably understand why the book hit me as hard as it did. There's one particular scene from the book that brought tears to my eyes when I read it. Paul Hornung had just come to Lombardi's bedside, a final visit, if you will. Lombardi knew Hornung's visit had been saved for last; the procession of visitors would now end. After Hornung left Lombardi's hospital room, Lombardi turned to his wife and said, "Well, Marie, it's just you and me now." My fascination for the life and times of Vince Lombardi caused that scene in Maraniss' book to stick with me. The relationship between Hornung and Lombardi fascinates me. It should've been all wrong: a loose-living, playboy kind of guy and the rigid, disciplinarian coach that loved him. What made the Lombardi-Hornung dynamic so perfect? Why did Lombardi love Hornung so? How could he not, huh?

Luke from Quoddy Village, ME

I hope you're all settled in and Jake isn't too overwhelmed by the temperature drop. I guess this would be a good time to ask what you thought of the Super Bowl. Passing games and clutch defense carried the day and I believe made it a great game. Your thoughts?

Vic: Jake's still in Florida. He wanted to wait until spring before he made the move. Teddy doesn't care; he'll do whatever Jake does. It was a good Super Bowl. It had big plays, the majority of which were made by the Packers. The Packers saw a weakness in the Steelers secondary and they exploited it, but I maintained throughout the postseason that the Packers defense was every bit the star Aaron Rodgers was. The bottom line is the Packers dominated throughout the postseason; the Steelers gave the Packers their best game. The Steelers' running game was the only phase of an opponent's offense the Packers defense didn't dominate in the postseason. Ben Roethlisberger made two critical mistakes in the first half and the Steelers appeared to be in the process of finally digging out from the hole Roethlisberger put them in when Rashard Mendenhall fumbled early in the fourth quarter. Clay Matthews forced the fumble. In my opinion, it was the play of the game.

Walt from Toms River, NJ

The one issue that disturbs a lot of football fans is "America's Team" being the Cowboys. How can they believe that in all 32 cities the fans recognize the Cowboys as the number one team? Fan base is one thing but will this title ever go away?

Vic: It's not about their fan base. The "America's Team" thing is a product of the 1970's, when the AFC dominated and the Cowboys were the only team in the NFC that was worth watching. As a result, CBS, which televised NFC games back then, showed Cowboys games ad nauseum, which is how they got the "America's Team" title, which they dubbed themselves. It made sense because more of America saw the Cowboys than any other team. It didn't bother me until they painted those blue and red stripes on either side of the 20-yard line. That's when I started to get nauseous, but the Cowboys have always had a gift for self-promotion.

Don from Macclenny, FL

Prior to last year's draft, you talked of how this year would be far deeper at QB. What do you think now after several of the top guys had ugly seasons?

Vic: It's not about what a guy did in college, it's about what he's gonna do in the NFL. You know the Vicisms from my days at and the Vicism that applies here is: It's a crystal ball business. The scouts get paid for knowing what a prospect is gonna do, not for knowing what he's done. Dan Marino had a disappointing senior season in college and it caused him to drop to the 27th overall pick. How did that turn out?

Joe from Greenville, SC

Who is the pre-combine, high-profile guy to avoid in the draft?

Vic: Who's the next Jamarcus Russell, right? You know, you're supposed to want the top pick of the draft because it's so valuable, but I'm not sure I'd want it in most years. In the last 12 years, the first overall pick has produced quite a few busts: Russell, Alex Smith, David Carr, Courtney Brown and Tim Couch immediately come to mind. Go back and look at some of the first-pick names: Ki-Jana Carter, Dan Wilkinson, Steve Emtman, Jeff George, Aundray Bruce. Hey, that's a lot of wasted money. The problem is you have to find a guy who's worth the money that goes with the position, and I don't know if that kind of player exists in most years. That's one of the questions facing the Panthers in this draft. Is there a player in this draft class who's worth the money that goes with being number one overall?

Mark from Oregon, IL

With three out of four teams making it to the NFC Championship in two straight seasons, what does this say for the NFC North? Would you say a strong and competitive division or still mediocre, with the Lions' awful reputation still lingering?

Vic: Ndamukong Suh is already altering perceptions about the Lions. If Matt Stafford can overcome his chronic arm problems, the Lions are likely to become a force in the division. The NFC North already has the reigning Super Bowl champion and the team it beat in the NFC title game. I think the Vikings are the only question mark in the division: How quickly can they re-tool at quarterback? I've been an AFC guy my whole career. I'm looking forward to covering the NFC and the territorial rivalries of the NFC North.

Nathan from Salt Lake City, UT

I have been following your column for the past four years and will continue to do so. I wanted to know how you felt about this year's crop at safety? Who to keep an eye on?

Vic: Ahmad Black of Florida and Quinton Carter of Oklahoma are considered by some to be the top safeties, but I'm not seeing them mentioned as first-round picks. I've had a couple of scouts tell me it's a weak crop of safeties. That doesn't mean you can't find your guy, but it would suggest that everybody isn't gonna find their guy.

David from Rockledge, FL

What part of Packers history intrigues you the most?

Vic: It's the Lombardi years. Lombardi's impact on football was overwhelming. Every coach wanted to be Lombardi, but only one made it work. Why? What did he have the others didn't?

Marty from Tucson, AZ

What is your background and do you claim any field of expertise? My claim to fame is that I lived in Green Bay during the Lombardi era and attended the "Ice Bowl."

Vic: I've covered the NFL for 39 years. I have no expertise. I'm just a guy who likes to watch and then write about what I saw.

Andy from Saint Paul, MN

The scouting combine seems to be, to paraphrase Shakespeare, "a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing." My meaning is that the top players are the top players and everyone already knows who they are and approximately where they are going to be selected in the draft. With all of the scouting that has already preceded the combine, is this just a way for the NFL to keep a semblance of interest among the fans or does it really have value?

Vic: Since you quoted Shakespeare, I'll quote Noll: "Never fall in love with a guy." That's draft talk. The combine affords an opportunity to look into a guy's knee and into his heart, so to speak. His ability to play football is best measured by the tapes of his performances in what the previous general manager I covered referred to as "padded exposures." What those "padded exposures" don't tell you is the age of that player's body, in football years, and his ability to assimilate himself into a locker room setting. The combine gives a personnel department a good look at the former and a peek at the latter.

Mike from Onalaska, WI

When a player is traded for or newly signed, what do they have to go through in terms of finding housing, transportation, etc? Do most stay in hotels, rent rooms, buy houses? Who does their cooking, laundry, etc.?

Vic: Each team has a process for relocation. Let's face it, the NFL is a relocation business, for players, coaches and front office people, too. It's even a relocation business for editor/producer guys. I'll use myself as an example. I'm living in a hotel and driving a rental car. The hotel I'm in has a laundry room – Saturday was laundry day – and I rotate restaurants nightly; last night wasn't so good. It's not such a bad life. The hotel I'm in offers free breakfast in the morning and free beer at night. It's the first free-beer hotel in which I've ever been a guest. I think more hotels should provide free beer.

Keith from Fishers, IN

What do you see as the biggest needs in the upcoming draft? I think the defense, especially if everyone returns from IR healthy, is going to be mega-strong. What about going after depth on the offensive line and a star running back?

Vic: I don't know enough about the Packers to pretend to know their needs. I'm a value drafter. I especially like going after the premium positions early: passers, pass-blockers, pass-rushers and pass-defenders, which is a way of saying quarterback, left tackle, defensive end and cornerback. You have to get those guys early. I'm not opposed to addressing needs later in the draft, provided it's not real reachy.

Dale from Protivin, IA

What television stations and networks covered the Packers games in the 1960's? Was it just local Wisconsin or national coverage?

Vic: Prior to Pete Rozelle's time as commissioner, teams negotiated individual TV contracts. Rozelle made a league TV contract the centerpiece of his "pool the revenue," leaguethink agenda. It produced the turning point in the NFL's rush to popularity. The NFL's contract in the '60's was with CBS. The AFL cast its lot with NBC.

Erik from Abbotsford, WI

Being from Pittsburgh, Vic, how does it feel to be writing for a team that beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl?

Vic: I'm devastated. I cried all night.

David from Anchorage, AK

How does Lambeau Field compare with the other stadiums in the NFL?

Vic: It's the only stadium in the NFL that could achieve shrine status with bench seats. That, in my opinion, says it all about the pro football experience in Green Bay. What do you think the reaction would've been had they put bench seats in Cowboys Stadium? So why does it work in Green Bay? Tradition, that's why. Nothing beats tradition.

Ryan from Chamberlain, SD

My dad and I went to do some clothes shopping. To go with a blue sport coat, my dad asked me if I'd rather have gray pants or khakis. I looked at him and said, "When in doubt, buy the khakis."

Vic: You're wise beyond your years, Ryan. Gray is OK, but you can't wear it with brown. Khakis you can wear with anything. It looks equally good with Steelers black, Jaguars teal or Packers green.

John from Weatherford, TX

Why would a seemingly intelligent guy move to Green Bay from Jacksonville in the middle of winter? More importantly, why did the Packers website people think they needed you?

Vic: I don't know. Why is Dallas building an 18-lane highway at DFW when they can't even plow the snow off a two-lane road?

Grant from Madison, WI

Are there any plans to put a temporary roof over Lambeau from November-January?

Vic: I don't ever wanna read such blasphemy again.

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