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Matthews proof one guy can make a difference


Zach from Waukesha, WI

Vic, you told Alex it's never courageous for a player to tell a coach he needs to sit down due to injury. I agree with you wholeheartedly that football is a tough game for tough men, but I have to disagree. I think the moral courage to know the next guy in line is going to perform better because number one has an injury is huge. Putting the team before the individual seems pretty courageous to me. Counterpoint?

Fans don't buy tickets to see moral courage; they buy tickets to see men push themselves to their physical limits. The fan wants to know it matters that much to the men the fans are paying to see play for the team the fan loves more than sanity allows the fan to admit. It's a game of the heart.

Greg from Danbury, CT

Penn State and $60 million! What message does this send to other programs? I think it sounds something like clean it up guys, and do it now. Somehow, I get the feeling Penn State is the tip of the iceberg.

I don't get that feeling. The NCAA had this dropped in its lap by law enforcement. This went beyond the arena of athletics. The Freeh report's findings were so pointed, so damning of the chain of command and the winningest coach in college football history, a man with a statue in his honor and his name pasted with reverence all over the annals of college football, the NCAA had no choice but to render the punishment it did. It had to be harsh and it is. On the wall behind where Joe Paterno's statue once stood, so did these words from Paterno: "When I'm gone … I hope they write that I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach." I think this might be the most startling development in sports history.

Jacob from River Falls, WI

What is the biggest impact you have seen a first-round defensive pick make for a team that was near the bottom of the league in defensive stats the year before?

Do we have to look any farther back than Clay Matthews? It can happen. One guy can make a difference. Matthews is evidence of that.

Richard from Lake Havasu City, AZ

Vic; what are your thoughts about the "46 Defense?" Was it the best one you have seen? Can you play it today?

The "46 Defense" is essentially "Cover Zero." The fundamental design of the "46" is that you put your corners in man to man coverage and accept the risk of allowing a deep pass, in exchange for sending the "house" to get a sack. Once in a while, you'll see a team play "Cover Zero," but not very often. Why not? Because you either need two Darrelle Revis' or two Lawrence Taylors' to make "Cover Zero" work, and I don't know of a team with either. The 1985 Bears didn't have two Darrelle Revis', but they had a lot of Lawrence Taylor types: Richard Dent, Wilber Marshall, Otis Taylor, Dan Hampton. That's what made the "46" work. The Bears got to the quarterback. The "46" is a classic players, not plays defense.

Mark from Grafton, WI

I know the NFL is moving to a high-scoring, aerial-attack league, but would you rather see a stellar offensive performance or a complete defensive shutdown of an opposing team? I think I would prefer to see a complete defensive shutdown. In today's game, it would almost feel like watching a pitcher throw a no-no.

I prefer a blend of the two. I need to see the defense offer enough resistance to allow an appreciation for when the offense moves the ball, and I need to see enough offense to believe the defense isn't playing against a bunch of stiffs. I like the old-fashioned 20-17 game. The old saying was score 20 points and you should win the game. I liked it, but those days are over. I think you need to score closer to 30 points to have an expectation of victory today. It's the new normal, and I think it's going to go higher. The game is evolving.

James from Carlsbad, CA

With the explosion of offense that we are going through, I am wondering what this will do to players' Hall of Fame chances. Will wide receivers have an increasingly hard time getting into the Hall of Fame? And with running back being less involved in the game, will they be able to make it with lesser stats than guys of the past?

It's all relative to the era in which players played. To make it into the Hall of Fame, a player has to have been one of the very best players of his time. There is no statistical standard for election to the Hall of Fame. A player's peers are his standard. He is judged against them. Yeah, it's going to be tougher for wide receivers to get into the Hall of Fame because there are more of them with big numbers. An emphasis on the passing game, however, might drive up the number of wide receivers elected to the Hall of Fame. I think it already has and that's become a concern; the selection committee doesn't want to turn this into the Hall of Fame of Wide Receivers. We know greatness when we see it. We don't have to confuse the issue with stats and trends. Is he one of the greatest players of his time? We'll know the answer.

Tyler from Kenosha, WI

I realize it's a passing league now, but I believe it's very important for the Packers to be able to run the ball, not so much in the regular season, but toward the end of the regular season and in the postseason. When the weather turns around, the Packers have to become more balanced. In our Super Bowl year, the running game helped us out tremendously in the Eagles, Bears games. What do you think?

The running game isn't something you can turn on and off according to the weather report. If you want to be able to run the ball in January, you have to commit to it in September. I don't think the majority of fans want to see that happen. I get questions asking me why the Packers ran the ball in the final four minutes of the game while trying to protect a two-score lead.

John from Union Grove, WI

My quarterback on Madden throws for 6,000 yards.

Life imitates art.

Nick from Toronto, Ontario

I know McCarthy is saying improved tackling is a goal this offseason, but it seems like he says that every offseason. Have you seen anything that can make me think this year will be any different?

I think we have to wait until they start practicing before we can know what Coach McCarthy's plan is for improving the team's tackling. Check back in a week or two.

George from Hutchinson, MN

With the passing game becoming more prevalent, and the rushing game becoming more absent, should a team become more conscious about having a veteran backup QB, due to the increased possibility of having the starting QB getting injured from increased pass rushes?

You need a good backup, whether he's a veteran or a young, ascending guy. Matt Flynn was a young, ascending guy and he gave the Packers a lot of security at the position last year. The belief is Graham Harrell is a young, ascending guy. This training camp and the preseason will go a long way toward defining where he is in his development. Again, we have to wait.

Jesse from Lansing, MI

Do you think Stafford is one of the top quarterbacks in the league? I think he's just average and that Calvin Johnson makes him look good.

I think Matthew Stafford is on the verge of stepping into the class of elite quarterbacks in the NFL, and I suspect it might happen this season. Johnson certainly doesn't hurt Stafford's pursuit.

Bram from Colorado Springs, CO

Loved the answer about when it's courageous to sit down if you're hurt. Can you imagine if a player on Lombardi's team told him he couldn't play because he had a headache?

What if Lombardi hadn't gone back into the game to make the game-saving tackle on the goal line to preserve the 0-0 tie with Pitt in 1937, one of the bloodiest games in college football history? Earlier in the game, he had sustained a massive mouth gash that required 30 stitches to close. Would he be Lombardi if he had said, "Sorry, coach, I gotta sit this one out"? Would he have been the same demanding coach that willed his players to win? I don't know, I'm just asking.

Charlie from Morgan Hill, CA

Please give us your view of what Bo Jackson would have accomplished and how he would be viewed with the greatest if the hip injury didn't derail him? He had incredible size, speed and athleticism all in one.

He could've become the next Jim Brown, but I think his desire to become the next Willie Mays had as much to do with derailing his football career as the injury did. You can't play half a season and become the next Jim Brown.

Andrew from Jacksonville, FL

Did you run into Bart Starr while he was at your shared mailbox at Lambeau?

No, but I met him on Saturday night at the Packers Hall of Fame banquet, and I thanked him for the handsome and sturdy mailbox he built. He enjoyed the story and I loved telling it.

Scott from Palos Park, IL

I agree it's never courageous to say, "Coach, I'm hurt and need to sit down." However, that doesn't necessarily make it cowardly either, agreed?

If you can't go, you can't go. It doesn't matter what others think; they can't validate our courage, only we can. It only matters what we know to be true. We answer to ourselves.

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