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Need to run to achieve true identity


Manny from Las Vegas, NV

I don't get you. You say football's a tough game and talk about winning the point of attack, play until the end. Then when the Bucs do that you say you wouldn't shake the coach's hand. Are you saying a team should accept defeat when they can still do something about it?

Let's see, how many "Miracle at the Meadowlands" plays are there in NFL history? As I've said, I've changed my mind; the league did that for me when it released a statement on Monday that effectively condones crashing into the center's head when all would appear to be lost. I'm all for it now, and I'm all for offenses running up the score, too. I remember covering a game between the Oilers and Steelers late in the 1980 season. The two teams were bitter rivals, but they had a deep respect for each other. The Steelers faced a fourth-down play from near their goal line, trailing 6-0 with time running out. They had to go for it, which they did, and they failed to convert, and that was the end of the Steelers' Super Bowl run. The Oilers took over and when they got over the ball looking like they were going to run a play, Bum Phillips leaped from the sideline and began yelling, "No, no, no." The Oilers then went into victory formation. I've always thought it was an example of Bum's class and the respect he had for the game and his opponents, but on second thought, he should've probably punched it in one more time, gone for two and rubbed it in as hard as he could.

Jeff from Agat, Guam

I've decided to wear a shirt that is half black and half white and see which side is cooler by the end of the day.

Finally, scientific proof.

Pete from Victoria, BC

So when was the last drop kick in pro football? Was it ever common?

It was once common, but that was back when George Halas had hair and Curly Lambeau was on his first marriage. The only successful drop kick in the NFL since 1941 was executed by Doug Flutie on Jan. 1, 2006, for an extra point after a Patriots touchdown vs. Miami. It was the final play in Flutie's football career and Bill Belichick elected to give Flutie a chance to punctuate his career with a drop kick.

Shawn Von from New York, NY

Vic, does the First Amendment allow you to comment on trading Greg Jennings? I think we should.

I've already commented and I didn't even go back and read the First Amendment. Has it come to that? What I've said is that as long as the Packers have access to the franchise tag, they will be able to retain their rights to Jennings, as was the case last winter with Jermichael Finley. Why trade Jennings now? He's a really good player this team needs to be the best it can be.

Jon from Lewisburg, PA

Vic, why did you have to make me aware of this? I read a few questions about excessive celebration, and the next thing I know Cam Newton is doing some kind of Superman touchdown dance after scoring on a quarterback sneak to bring the score to 23-7, Giants. I could have gone my whole life without taking note of this sort of thing.

The final score was 36-7, but what the heck.

Nick from Toronto, Ontario

Vic, you've said a lot about how the media's relationship with players has changed during your career. With all the ridiculous questions, do players today actually enjoy talking to the media, or is it just something they put up with because they have to?

Some players enjoy it, other players tolerate it. I think it's only natural for reporters to gravitate toward those players that welcome the media. What I think you fail to understand, however, is that when players talk to the media, they're talking to the fans. The media is merely a link between the players and the fans. We carry their message to you. We ask the questions you want answered. You might think the questions are ridiculous, but they pretty much mirror what I receive in this column.

Mike from Jacksonville, FL

In regards to celebrations while losing, I fully expected you to share the story of Mike Peterson and what basically resulted at the end of his Jaguars career. While extreme, that one stands out as an example that illustrates your point, given the resulting fallout that occurred over an untimely celebration.

Mike celebrated a sack when the Jaguars were trailing by a couple of scores on a day when they were playing very poorly, and during the head coach's address to the team a day or two later, he took exception to the sack dance, and that led to a confrontation that caused Mike to be suspended and effectively ended his Jaguars career. In the process, I lost one of my go-to guys in the locker room and one of the players in my career that I most respected and genuinely liked. All because of a sack dance. That's stupid.

Kris from Suring, WI

Maybe that's why Michael Jordan is one of the best athletes of all time and Vic Ketchman is a sports journalist, because Jordan liked to point at scoreboards.

Do you really think that's it? Do you think it might have more to do with the fact that I'm 5-9 and Jordan is 6-6? That he can jump over my head?

Bryce from Iron Mountain, MI

In other words, you have the right to speak, but it would be better for you and everyone else around you if you kept your mouth shut.

Or that you would express your respect for your teammates and the team's pursuit of victory by using your right to free speech responsibly. I don't think players should have to be gagged. They should be mature enough to know what not to say.

Michael from Granite City, IL

Why do the Packers continue to try and force the back-shoulder throw? Why don't they get back to the slants?

The back-shoulder throw is one of the safest passes in the game; the slant is one of the most dangerous. What makes the back-shoulder throw difficult is the timing required to execute it. What makes it attractive is that it's seldom intercepted. The opposite is true of the slant. It's the easiest of passes to complete, but it's also the easiest to intercept because it's a pass that is thrown into traffic and it's a route that, when overused, can be sat on by the defense, especially if it's overused in a particular down and distance.

Patrick from Sterling, IL

I used to think having a good coach was important, but not too important. Now seeing what Harbaugh has done with the 49ers and to a lesser extent even what the Rams are doing this year, I'm slowly changing my mind. How can having a great head coach make the difference between a mediocre club and a winning club?

A great coach can make a team great, but not if the team lacks talent. Bill Parcells is a great coach, but he didn't enjoy the same success in Dallas that he did with the Giants. Parcells didn't have George Young in Dallas. Yeah, I think Jim Harbaugh is a sensational coach, but I'll also tell you that every aspiring head coach in the league had their eye on the 49ers job when Harbaugh got it. It was no secret the 49ers were accumulating talent while they were losing. Harbaugh inherited a team that was ready to get over the hump, and then he gave it the push it needed. First, it's talent, then it's coaching.

Tony from Killeen, TX

McCarthy says he's confident the offense will hit its stride soon. Do you think it's a problem of not knowing their identity? Last year, they were known for making deep plays all game. Years ago, they were leading the league in yards after the catch. Which type of offense would you prefer to see come back?

Defenses are forcing the Packers to throw underneath and run the ball by playing two safeties in the middle of the field and by dropping their linebackers a little deeper than normal. That's a defensive strategy that invites the run because it only includes seven defenders in the tackle box and the linebackers are more concerned with pass than they are with run. For the Packers to get back to their identity of a year ago, which is to say receivers running free in the secondary, they've got to make those linebackers respect run and play action, and force one of those two safeties to at least peek into the backfield in his attempt to decide whether the play is a run or pass. When that happens, the big plays will return and so will the Packers' true offensive identity.

Ben from Columbus, OH

Nice Woody Hayes reference. Did you ever meet Woody Hayes? Any good personal stories about him?

I was working in the hometown of Doug Plank, the former Ohio State and Bears safety of "46 defense" fame, when his hometown decided to celebrate his success with a dinner in his honor. Hayes, Plank's coach at Ohio State, showed up unannounced and graced me with an interview and conversation that delighted me and forever shaped my opinion of him. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to him. When it came time for him to speak, however, he launched into an angry pro-Vietnam speech that caused heads to drop. It was classic Woody Hayes. He was never above speaking what was on his mind. I like that.

JayAre from Fairborn, OH

Vic, I really enjoy your work but I have to say, I don't think you have quite grasped the emotions of Packer fans. For you to tell us to relax just won't work. For most of us, we feel we are a part of the team, because we have spent a lifetime cheering for them, but you would never tell your team to relax. While winning the Super Bowl this year would be awesome, that's not good enough. We want them all.

Then you have my permission to go nuts.

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