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Maybe leaguethink really isn't dead


Shawn from New York, NY

You've mentioned in the past that playbooks are hundreds of pages thick. It seems as though coaches are calling all the plays off the laminated card they carry. Are the plays that are run during a game limited to what's on that card, or are those cards only used for play-calling in certain situations, while the rest of the plays are called in by the offensive coordinator in the booth from the complete playbook?

The plays card you see a coach holding in front of him during a game is the game plan. Those are the plays from the playbook that have been selected for use in this particular game. They are the plays that were run during practice. They don't include all of the plays in the playbook. At some point in the season, when a team determines its identity, it settles on the plays from the playbook that fit that identity. Just as golfers have favorite clubs they like to hit, football teams have favorite plays they like to run. Those plays become their identity. Everybody knows you're gonna run them, but you keep running them and you continue to have success running them because your execution of those plays overcomes the predictability of those plays. Everybody knew the 1960s Packers were gonna run the "Packers sweep," but nobody could stop it. It was the identity of the '60s Packers. Look at all the great teams. They are known for specific plays that were as predictable as they were unstoppable: the Cowboys' lead draw, the 49ers' sprint right option, the Steelers' trap, the Raiders' bomb, the Redskins' counter trey. Great teams don't take what you give them, they take what they want. What will become the signature play of this era in Packers football?

Tom from Plymouth, MN

Which Packers on the current team do you see eventually getting into the Hall of Fame?

Charles Woodson is a lock. If he retired right now, five years later he'd likely be elected to the Hall of Fame. Donald Driver will be a strong candidate. He plays a position that'll make it very difficult for him to be elected, but as his career stands right now, he'd be a candidate. Kevin Greene has been a semifinalist. That's as far as you can go right now. You don't dare project young players' careers into the future because this is not a game of longevity; one injury can change a career. When a player begins to approach 10 years in the league, then you can start examining his Hall of Fame potential.

Tom from Fairborn, OH

Point, counterpoint: Super Bowl wins, NFC 24, AFC 21. Just win, baby.

When you examine how we got to 24-21, it's amazing that the series is as close as it is. The AFC dominated early and late, and the NFC went on a crushing roll in the 1980s and into the '90s. The point, counterpoint stories are meant solely to present both sides of the issue. I took the AFC's side because I have spent my entire career covering the AFC; Mike Spofford has been an NFC guy. As I look forward, I think the NFC appears to be a little stronger, but that can change very quickly with a star player here or there. Frankly, I think Aaron Rodgers is the guy who tilts the field in the NFC's favor. That tilt, however, is ever so slight.

Jesse from St. Louis, MO

Do coaches build their offenses around their quarterbacks or do they develop their quarterbacks to fit their offenses?

In the old days, when it was said that it took five years to develop an NFL starting quarterback, I think you could say quarterbacks were developed early in their careers to fit their offenses. The running game was used to buy time for the quarterback to develop. These are not the old days. The quarterback has to be a star player for a team to be a championship contender. These days, if you're developing your quarterback to fit your offense, you need a new quarterback. In today's game, the quarterback is the centerpiece to everything you do on offense.

Sam from Greensboro, GA

Vic, passion story from a Packers fan of 70 years. On Jan. 1, 1967, I was serving in Vietnam. We had been in the field on ops for about 60 days and came into the MACV compound at Bao Loc for a little New Years R&R. The compound radio operator was also a Packers fan and over a couple of drinks he invited me down to the commo bunker to listen to the Packers game against the Cowboys. He had set up a series of ham radio operators that kept a channel open (with a few interruptions) and relayed the whole game. So, we are hunkered down in the bunker rooting for the Packers and about the middle of the third quarter the compound gets hit by a mortar attack. I ran up to make sure there wasn't a penetration being attempted and, convinced it was only a harassing event, told my NCO where I was located but not to call unless they were at the gates. He was a Bears fan, so he understood; some of them are OK. Anyway, we sipped a few brewskies and cheered the Packers to victory with fireworks as a background. Thought I would share.

Good story.

Aaron from Denver, CO

You're right; first leap was at Lambeau. I've been wrong for 18 years. What was the last year the Packers played at County Stadium?

The last time the Packers played a regular season game in Milwaukee was on Dec. 18, 1994, when the Packers defeated the Falcons, 21-17.

Kevin from Salem, NH

I've been watching You Tube and game clips of Alex Green and I'm really liking what I'm seeing. Do you believe if we have a preseason and he plays well that he could work better with Ryan Grant (if healthy) than Starks or Jackson as a No. 2 running back?

I think Grant and James Starks will compete to become the Packers' featured running back, and that Green will begin the slow development of his talents for the future. It doesn't have to be that way, but I think that should be the expectation.

Ryan from Menomonie, WI

What kind of tactics do you think McCarthy will employ to keep his players hungry for another Super Bowl title now that they have their rings?

The magic is in finding players that are self-motivated. It has to come from within, Ryan. You can't make somebody want it. Pep talks wear out. They last until the first time a guy gets knocked on his wallet. Clearly, the Packers have a roster full of self-starters. They proved that last season when they began playing their best football just as it appeared they were going to miss the playoffs. When a coach has a roster full of that kind of competitive spirit, he plays to it. He challenges his players to be better. He stokes the competitive embers inside each player. That's what Coach McCarthy will do.

Trevor from Ocean Springs, MS

Seriously, you think the NFC South was the toughest division last year? Granted, three teams finished with double-digit wins, but I think you need to look a little closer. The NFC South played the NFC West (which was a joke last season) and the AFC North (two good teams, two awful teams). Six of those eight teams were below .500 at the end of the season, and throw in the two division games each team played against the Panthers and then you realize all three teams played half of their season against subpar teams. In fact, all three teams lost to Baltimore and only the Saints were able to beat the Steelers. The NFC South was good, but not the best. You have to beat the best to be the best, and when the teams in the South didn't play bottom-feeders, they consistently didn't match up, and I believe that is a strong reflection of such a soft schedule. I would have respected your opinion if it weren't so offensively incorrect. I stand by my opinion that you, Mr. Vic Ketchman, are a talentless hack whose scribblings leave me disappointed and uninspired. I have tried to like you, Mr. Vic Ketchman, but you are absolutely terrible. It is obvious that you are making no effort on your end to be even the slightest bit tolerable.

I agree with you, on the NFC South thing. I'm a big schedule guy and I should've identified the fact that the NFC South did play a rather soft schedule last season. The NFC North, on the other hand, played a killer schedule. You've made a compelling argument and you've convinced me, on the NFC South thing.

Kylon from Ipan Talofofo, Guam

I was just watching the first "Lambeau Leap" video and I was thinking what if instant replay would have overturned the fumble that led to the score. If it did, then imagine Lambeau Field without the "Lambeau Leap." Any suggestions for another Packers celebration?

The "Leap" was in the books, at that point; replay review couldn't have overturned it. LeRoy Butler invented something with that spontaneous leap of his, and there would be no stopping it. What I find most intriguing about the "Lambeau Leap" is that the NFL continues to exempt it from its excessive celebration rule. The "Lambeau Leap" fits every definition of excessive celebration, yet, the NFL has grandfathered it and without significant complaint from other teams. That's what amazes me. Maybe leaguethink really isn't dead.

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