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Play it straight or guess


Greg from Bellevue, WA

You're right that Ted Thompson did not trade for a running back in 2010, even though Marshawn Lynch was supposedly available. Knowing what you know now of Lynch and his play in Seattle, wouldn't you have made the trade?

I think Lynch is a fantastic running back, but I would not have made that trade and it's because Lynch has a laundry list of puzzling arrests and run-ins with the law. Most of them were head-scratchers and led to nothing, but they would've scared me away.

Charlie from Bella Vista, AR

Who won the 1963 College All-Star game?

Charlie, you would not make a good defense attorney. Never put the defendant on the witness stand, which is what you've just done, and now I'm going to convict him. Yeah, the college all-stars won the 1963 game against the Packers, 20-17, but that was the college all-stars' first win since 1958 and their last win in the series. The college all-stars then lost 12 in a row, scoring three or fewer points in five of those games. It effectively ended the event because people got tired of watching a team full of undrafted free agents mop up the best players college football had to offer. Guilty as charged.

Mark from Scottsdale, AZ

It seems to me the "players, not plays" mantra minimizes the importance of game planning. What say you?

Not at all. It's critical that coaches know what their players do best and then create a game plan that utilizes a team's talent fully. What you're not understanding is that X's and O's don't move; only players move. You can create the most ingenious game plan in the history of football, but if the players don't execute it, the plan is garbage. Good players and bad plays will usually beat bad players and good plays.

Eli from Rechovot, Israel

The Packers have Masthay holding when Crosby kicks field goals. Why not have Harrell or Cobb, or someone else who can pass do it?

Because they're practicing with the offense, not with the specialists.

Jim from Manitou Springs, CO

Vic, I've always felt the offensive line is more important than searching for that next great running back. Mike Shanahan proved that to me in Denver. He had great back after great back. I attribute that more to the line than to the back. What are your thoughts?

Line coach Alex Gibbs helped create a blocking scheme in Denver that fit a particular type of runner, a cutback runner, and the Broncos did a great job of finding runners that fit that scheme. That's the key, finding backs that fit the scheme. Arian Foster is a perfect fit for that same scheme in Houston. A back that doesn't fit that scheme will not flourish in it, regardless of how well the line blocks for it.

Nick from Portland, OR

I've been noticing that returners on punts have been trying to get cute and hover close to a bouncing ball. Blockers don't seem to be too afraid of it, either. Seems like a change from not too long ago when everybody cleared the area. Have you noticed this lately? Are coaches coaching something different these days?

Returners hover near the ball so they can scoop it up and run with it without risk of losing it, should a member of the punt team touch the ball and not control it.

Nick from Toronto, Ontario

In honor of Halloween, listed their scariest players of all time. Jack Lambert, Lawrence Taylor, Jack Youngblood, Merlin Olsen all made the list. Anyone you would like to add?

I've often believed that had Jack Tatum and Ernie Holmes been put into a space capsule and shot into space, only one of them would've come back.

Richard from Davis, CA

You said Mike Thomas' amortization is going to stay in Jacksonville. What does that mean?

When a player receives a signing bonus in a new contract, the signing bonus money is spread out evenly over the life of the contract. That's amortization. When a player is traded, if it's after June 1, all of the player's remaining amortization accelerates into the following year's cap. The Jaguars have lots of cap room available on their 2013 cap to absorb Thomas' amortization, which effectively becomes dead money on their cap. In similar cases, teams that don't have a lot of room on their cap would have to restructure contracts and push money onto future caps to make room on the next year's cap to absorb all of the dead money that would come onto that cap as a result of the trade. That's one reason teams don't trade.

Tony from Saint Paul, MN

Coach McCarthy seemed fired up in yesterday's press conference, commenting: "We can't worry about what music is being played at pregame." Are coaches contractually obligated to have a press conference every day?

The league requires that coaches comply with a minimum standard of media relations duties. I often get the feeling that if Coach McCarthy and the media were put into a space capsule and shot into space, the media wouldn't come back.

Roger from Indianapolis, IN

The late Alex Karras wanted field goals banned after Tom Dempsey's 63-yard field goal beat the Lions in 1971. The goal posts eventually were moved back to the end line, like in college. Would you favor raising the crossbar to 12 or 15 feet to limit the number of long field goals that change the outcome?

No, but I wouldn't complain if field goals were banned.

Jon from Lynchburg, VA

Notice more grandmas per capita in Lambeau than in other stadiums? Perhaps that was what you meant by the walker reference. I've been to Lambeau only twice, but it really hit me that there were a lot of grandmas in the stands, more than other stadiums I've seen. There's a certain charm in a loudly cheering, football-savvy grandma.

I've noticed the same thing. I think Lambeau Field is the grandma capital of the football world. That's part of the charm of Lambeau. Every age is represented. It's as though the whole town is there. My favorite football grandma story is from when I was covering the Jaguars. It was from their inaugural season, 1995, and they were playing at Three Rivers Stadium. I was walking behind Tom Coughlin as the Jaguars left the field following the game. I noticed an old woman standing above the centerfield gate, and she was giving it to every player who was leaving the field. She looked up and saw Coughlin coming and her eyes lit up. Then she opened fire on him with language that would make a dockworker blush. Coughlin kept his head down but just before he passed through the gate he took a look above him to see who was assailing him. Looking for someone to express his surprise, he turned, saw me and said, "That's an old woman!" I said to him, "She's probably some kid's grandma."

Kyle from Madison, WI

Hey, Vic, Coach McCarthy regularly mentions that he "keeps a finger on the pulse of the team." What does he mean by that?

He's referring to the mood and overall state of the team. Is it energized? Is it fatigued? Is it focused? Is it distracted? A coach needs to know where his team is physically and emotionally. If it gets the least little bit left of center, he needs to do what it takes to bring it back to center.

Paul from Ossian, IN

Vic, I've read your column since you arrived in Green Bay and I've often heard you talk about human confrontation. What's the greatest example of human confrontation you ever covered?

The first example that comes to mind is of Dwight White getting out of a hospital bed the morning of Super Bowl IX and being part of one of the greatest defensive performances in NFL history. He sacked Fran Tarkenton for a safety, the only points scored in the first half of the game. White had spent the week of the Super Bowl in the hospital with pneumonia. He lost 20 pounds. Dwight and I shared the same birthday, which was right in the middle of training camp, and we'd always wish each other a happy birthday as we passed each other on that day every summer.

Jeff from Minocqua, WI

Would you explain how the West Coast offense utilizes the offensive line in the scheme?

The West Coast offense is a short-set, quick-throw scheme that minimizes the potential for a sack. It's a dream scheme for offensive linemen.

John from Casablanca, Morocco

Which division in the NFL do you consider to be the toughest in the NFL at this time?

I think it's a tossup between the NFC East and North.

Nick from Houghton, MI

So, basically, whatever your team is good at, you want opposing defenses to think that if they overplay one side, they'll get gouged on the other.

You want to be so balanced that opposing defenses are left to play it straight or guess run or pass according to your down-and-distance tendencies. When you get a defense guessing, you can reach into the play-action and misdirection sections of your playbook and find big plays. If they play it straight, they become predictable. If they guess, they better guess right.

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