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One loss doesn't make it all wrong


Gary from Austin, MN

How would you rate the importance or value of all positions on the team from quarterback through special teams?

The premium positions are quarterback, left tackle, right defensive end in a 4-3 or rush backer in a 3-4, and left cornerback or featured cornerback, depending on the scheme. The right cornerback is often referred to as the "squat" corner because he'll squat at 10 yards in zone coverage, whereas the other corner is often left one-on-one with the receiver he's covering. Some teams will designate their best cornerback to cover one receiver, regardless of where he lines up. In short, the premium positions are passer, pass blocker, pass rusher, pass defender. Beyond those four positions, the value of the other positions is determined by who's playing them. If you have a star safety, then safety is an important position. Guard is largely considered to be a position of less importance, but not if you wanna run the ball and you have a John Hannah-type guard leading the way. The same can be said about return men. Randall Cobb appeared to be a very important player as he was running back that kickoff 108 yards. In a 3-4, nose tackle is clearly an important position. If he doesn't do his job, the rush backer won't get a chance to do his.

Stuart from Ottawa, Ontario

Is getting another outside linebacker to assist Matthews in pressure on the quarterback at the top of Green Bay's drafting list?

I think that goes without saying.

Adam from Stevens Point, WI

Why can't big-market GMs just offer huge guaranteed money in a player's contract, and pay them less over a year-to-year basis and avoid the salary cap?

That's risky stuff. You're talking about loading up on signing bonus, which can be amortized over the life of the contract, and keeping salary, which must be declared in full in the year it's paid, at a minimum wage level. You can even take that to the extreme by deferring a portion of that signing bonus. What you're doing, though, is pushing money into the future. You're robbing the future for the sake of the present and that's a formula that ruined a lot of teams' futures. It collapsed the Jaguars and cost Tom Coughlin his job. It's risky because should the player become injured or his skills decline to the point of needing to be replaced, he's on your cap but not on your roster. That's called "dead money," meaning a significant portion of your salary cap is being dedicated to someone that isn't on your team, and in the case of a player that was released or traded, all of that remaining amortization comes flying forward into that year. "Dead money" can become so significant that it'll hold a team hostage; they might even have to wait until a certain date to release the player, so they can spread his "dead money" over a couple of years. I like the Eagles' way. They like to pay a roster bonus, which must be declared in full in the year it's paid. It's a way of paying in the present and making room for the future. I think it's an especially good strategy for a team in construction, a team that's not ready to be a Super Bowl contender, so eat up room now and make room for later when a player here and a player there might make the difference.

Otis from Pearland, TX

Vic, do you think it's possible the increased emphasis on player safety might actually result in an increased emphasis on defensive fundamentals? If a defensive back can't blow up the receiver anymore, he better be able to at least tackle him.

That's the idea. The league has to get its players to think that way. It's going to take time. Football has been played with a "blow it up" mentality for a long time, and now the league is asking its players to think in terms of just getting the man to the ground, not blowing him up. At the same time, coaches are still urging their players in practice to "stay on your feet," to avoid injury. That, in my opinion, results in a convoluted message. How do you practice getting a man on the ground by staying on your feet? The game is being played too high. The target needs to be lowered. When the league and its coaches are able to accomplish that, head injuries will decrease dramatically.

Hans from Front Royal, VA

Vic, parity is talked about as the strength of the NFL, but in the Super Bowl era, 45 out of 46 title games have featured at least one of only 13 different teams, and 35 out of 46 have been won by one of only nine different teams. That's 80 percent of the titles being won by a third of the league. Is that really parity?

I don't think that's how the league defines parity. The league believes parity is achieved when the majority of its teams are playoff contenders into the final weeks of the season. Frankly, I don't want a league in which everyone takes turns winning. I think it's healthy to have a defined top third, middle third and bottom third. I think we need premier franchises that serve as standards for the rest of the league to pursue.

Adam from Niagara, WI

The Wisconsin state assembly just passed a bill to make 12/12/12 "Aaron Rodgers Day." What are your thoughts on this?

My primary thought on this was that I wouldn't be surprised when the schedule comes out to find the Packers would be playing at Lambeau Field on that day, but then I found out it's a Wednesday, so I have no thought except that I will certainly be writing a story about it on that day.

Koigi from Lynchburg, VA

I know McCarthy is not a feature back type of coach, but I think we are deep at running back with all of our backs healthy. Do you really think they would draft another back this year with all our defensive needs?

Yeah, I do, because I think running back is one of those positions at which you must be vigilant at staying young; the rather brief shelf life of running backs demands it. A deep stable of running backs makes a coach feel good, even for a coach that wants to feature the pass.

Ric from Longmont, CO

I have a friend that does not believe the Packers are a small-market team. More accurately, he does not believe the size of the media market in Green Bay disadvantages the Packers due to their nationwide appeal. Is he right?

I agree with him and I've been saying it for years. The Packers have long been a regional franchise. It's Wisconsin's team, for sure, and the Packers' drawing power reaches outside state lines. The franchise's high profile, of course, makes it appealing to the media. The Packers are a big franchise that just happens to play in a small market.

Cason from Aberdeen, SD

What would you think about the 49ers picking up Flynn?

I think that would largely depend on their opinion of Colin Kaepernick, who they drafted with the fourth pick of the second round of last year's draft. That's an awfully high pick to have used and quit on a guy.

Richard from Lake Havasu City, AZ

Why do the Packers have so much trouble running the ball? Is it because the offensive linemen are not good drive blockers, or because we don't have running backs that can sustain a running game?

It's because the Packers offense is meant to feature the pass. A little more balance would be preferred, but I didn't see the imbalance as a problem last season. I thought the Packers were able to use the running game effectively. I'd like to see it aspire to a little higher level, but I didn't hear anyone complaining, and that includes me, when the ball was flying up and down the field.

Jason from Austin, TX

Would you rather have a team full of above average talent but no superstars, or a team with a handful of superstars but a lot of below average talent? Do you know any examples where this scenario played out?

I think you're describing the two teams in the Super Bowl. I think the Patriots are a team with a handful of super stars, and I think the Giants are a team with a more even distribution of talent. Each team, however, had the same thing: a star quarterback. That's the key. You have to have "The Man."

Keith from Oviedo, FL

I know the Packers feed off the draft primarily, but Thompson is reluctant, if not dead against filling certain holes with top tier free agents. Having followed the Packers for 40 years, you could see the pass rush debacle coming when they let Jenkins go.

At this time a year ago, we were praising the Packers for their draft-and-develop philosophy. Why doesn't everybody do it the way the Packers do it, right? So now, because of one loss, all of that is wrong? Because of one playoff loss, in a season that had 15 wins and threatened to set an all-time consecutive wins record, the Packers need to change their ways? I don't follow that logic. Sometimes, no, make that all of the times, you need to be able to accept defeat without letting it change your convictions. "If you can make one heap of all your winnings, and risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, and lose, and start again at your beginnings." That's the way of the NFL. The good teams are the ones that start again at their beginnings.

Jonas from Tromso, Norway

Has any player ever openly stated before the draft that he wished to be drafted by one certain team?

Eli Manning expressed the wish to play for the Giants and John Elway expressed the wish not to play for the Colts. Those two cases are connected. Ernie Accorsi was the general manager for the Colts when they made Elway the first overall pick of the 1983 draft and then traded Elway to the Broncos, and Accorsi was the GM of the Giants when he vowed to get his man when he traded for Manning after the Chargers had picked him first overall.

Paul from De Pere, WI

"Everyone knows the puts his helmet on and has receivers block him." Is that a reference to McCarthy as a coach at Pitt? Never heard that story. Do you know it? Could you share it?

Alex Van Pelt was referring to a story from when Mike McCarthy was a young, volunteer assistant coach at Pitt. McCarthy was working with the wide receivers at that time and he would put on a helmet and pick up a blocking bag during blocking drills, and then lay into the receivers as they attempted to block him. Clearly, McCarthy established himself as a rather intense, young coach. What's most amazing about those days is the talent that came off the Pitt staff: McCarthy, Jon Gruden, John Fox, Marvin Lewis, Chris Petersen and Shawn Slocum were all assistants at Pitt at that time.

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