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QBs will test defense again


The regular writer of "Ask Vic," Editor Vic Ketchman, is on vacation. Staff Writer Mike Spofford is temporarily filling in to answer your "Ask Vic" questions. Vic will resume writing his daily column on Monday, July 9.

Steve from Hazelwood, MO

Mike, did Vic phone in that answer to 15-year-old Logan, or do you in fact have some sarcasm in your soul? Why don't you pick on someone your own size?

The sarcasm must seep in by osmosis. Too much exposure, even in just 17 months (but who's counting). Another reader demanded I apologize to Logan for being so "demeaning" to a teenager, so I guess I have to work on it. I suppose I should have asked Logan if he's an all-state defensive lineman or something, just in case. He's a local kid and knows where I work.

Stephanie from Appleton, WI

With the 2011 season exhibiting the ability Matthew Stafford has, putting himself in the company of Marino, Brees and Brady at the age of 24, do you believe he is the biggest threat to our defense this year (seeing as we play them at least twice)?

He could be, but it's the NFC North as a whole that is becoming a very strong quarterback division. Stafford may not be in the company you mention just yet, but yeah, he could be on his way. Jay Cutler had the Bears 7-3 last year before he got hurt, and he has Brandon Marshall to throw to now. Christian Ponder looked the part as a rookie last year for Minnesota and should continue to grow if the Vikings surround him with the right pieces. When I look at Green Bay's 2012 schedule quarterback-wise, I see games against Brees, Matt Schaub and Eli Manning outside the division, plus possibly Matt Flynn if he wins Seattle's starting job. The Packers also face the No. 1 overall draft pick again, Andrew Luck, after seeing Cam Newton last year. The Packers' defense will be tested, you can count on that.

Belto from Canton, NC

Mike, that was too easy. No other DPOYs have won the Heisman because we haven't had any defensive Heisman winners but Woodson. What about the rings and the Pro Bowls? How many Heisman Trophy winners have won MVPs and rings then?

All right, all right. If I must dig deeper, I will. Some quick research has revealed five players who won both a Heisman and NFL MVP (since the '61 Associated Press award we talked about last week). They are Paul Hornung, O.J. Simpson, Earl Campbell, Marcus Allen and Barry Sanders. I believe only Hornung and Allen have Super Bowl rings in that group. Winners of both a Heisman and Super Bowl MVP are Roger Staubach, Jim Plunkett, Desmond Howard and Allen. So, it appears Marcus Allen is the only player to have won a Heisman, an NFL MVP, a Super Bowl ring and a Super Bowl MVP. Does that cover it? Don't give me Pro Bowls, puh-leeze. Interestingly, this all started yesterday with the question about Woodson, who won his Heisman in a fairly close vote over Peyton Manning. Had Manning won that Heisman, Allen wouldn't have emerged alone in this discussion.

Hansen from Waukesha, WI

Are there any quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame that had a losing record as a starter?

I guess Independence Day means me handling everyone's independent research projects. (Happy 4th to all, by the way.) OK, there are a couple of HOF QBs with losing records, depending on whether or not postseason results are included. According to, Sonny Jurgensen (69-73-7) and Joe Namath (62-63-4) both had regular-season records under .500 as starters, but Namath was 2-1 in the postseason, so he comes out exactly even. Warren Moon (102-101-0) avoids the short list if his 3-7 playoff record is not included. Dan Fouts (86-84-1, plus 3-4 in playoffs) stays just above the line either way.

Steve from Madison, WI

Hey, backup to Vic, what kind of player was Anthony Hargrove for Seattle last year? Plugger? Rusher? Does he have the game that will make him worth an eight-game wait?

Statistically, Hargrove wasn't as productive last year with the Seahawks (three sacks) as he was earlier in his career for the Saints (five sacks in the 2009 Super Bowl season). But he's the right body type (6-3, 282) for a 3-4 inside rusher in the nickel, so the Packers are going to see what he's got. Now that his eight-game suspension has been upheld on appeal – though Hargrove may still seek other legal remedies before this is over – I think the question becomes how the Packers handle him in training camp and during the preseason. They want to see him perform in this scheme, but how many snaps/reps can you devote to a guy who is suspended for half the season at the expense of other players who have to get ready to play right away? There's only so much preparation time to go around. Knowing McCarthy, I'm sure he has a plan, and we'll find out what it is soon enough.

Rich from Nashville, TN

Nice work so far, Mike. Are you surprised how many personal questions Vic fields and have you started getting a flood of these questions, apart from last week's sock inquiry?

You're asking me if I'm surprised how much Vic likes to talk about himself? Ha, good one. I will confess I'm not entirely comfortable when the professional and personal worlds collide, because as a journalist I was trained not to become the story. Also, I consider myself a rather ordinary, average guy, to borrow a line from Joe Walsh, so I don't like to assume my life interests others. But if people's inquiries are simply their attempt to make the impersonal online world a tad more personal, I'm cool with it. I've tried to share a little about myself while keeping the focus on football. That's what we're here for.

Adam from Bath, PA

What makes you think that Green's record will last awhile when there's a rising star in James Starks?

Simple math. Green's 1,883 yards in 2003 required an average of 117.7 yards per game over a full 16-game season. Last year, the Packers scored more points than anyone else in the NFL and didn't have a single 100-yard individual rushing performance. In fact, the Packers rushed for more than 117 yards as a team only three times in 16 games in 2011. The Packers aren't going to change their offensive philosophy anytime soon, and the league is trending the same way the Packers are. I know Mike McCarthy won't be here forever, but I think the league trend is a long time from changing.

Dave from Chattanooga, TN

Vic, my son, Scott – who knows nothing about football – thinks Barry Sanders' performance in 1997 was the single most outstanding season for a Central Division running back. But, he's always been a closet Lions fan. I like Paul Hornung's performance in 1960, but I don't think the Central Division existed then. What do you think the best performance was?

Ah, the grand four decades-plus of the NFC Central, from 1968 through 2001. Yeah, Sanders in '97 is tough to top. I'll give your son that. Sanders rushed for 2,053 yards with 14 straight 100-yard games. If I were to put another one up to compare, I'd go with Walter Payton in 1977. Payton rushed for 1,852 yards in a 14-game season. If you go by yards per game, it's Payton 132.3, Sanders 128.3. Both players had a pair of 200-yard games, both added about two catches per game for around 10 yards per catch, and both were well into double digits in TDs. That's a close call.

Troy from Stevens Point, WI

Following up on Patrick's question (from yesterday), what made up Reggie White's mind to come to Green Bay? What helped convince him to come here?

As various readers pointed out in their follow-up notes (thanks for chiming in), there's more to the story. For those who already know it, bear with me. In 1992, White's last year with Philadelphia, the Eagles played the Packers in Milwaukee and White really drilled Favre on a sack, apparently separating his shoulder. When Favre popped up and said, "Is that all you've got?" or something to that effect, and finished the game, White was impressed and filed that away. Also, legend has it White got a message on his answering machine following his free-agent visit to Green Bay, and the message said, "Reggie, this is God. Come to Green Bay." Suspicion was Mike Holmgren left the message, though I'm not sure Holmgren ever fessed up to it, or if such a message ever really existed. But that's the story.

Dan from Norwich, UK

Hi Mike. I feel sorry for Sam Shields. How is a converted wide receiver supposed to improve his tackling when so little real contact is allowed in practices these days?

Your point is well-taken, but Shields doesn't want anyone's pity. There's a ton of competition for his job now, with young cornerbacks like Davon House and Casey Hayward on the rise, and a veteran like Jarrett Bush still in the mix. Shields is in for a heck of a battle in training camp, and he knows it. As an undrafted rookie picking off two passes in the NFC Championship, he was an incredible success story. His second year was a bit humbling, as it was for everyone on defense. If Shields is going to prove he's a long-term answer, now's the time.

Balazs from Budapest, Hungary

Dear Mike, I was wondering yesterday, and the Buccaneers' story with Eric LeGrand came to my mind. In the Packers' history, has there been anything similar to his gripping story?

Nothing immediately comes to mind. But your mentioning the Packers, Buccaneers and Eric LeGrand all at once made me recall – and I don't mean to suggest this story realistically parallels LeGrand's – that impressive comeback of Chad Clifton's following the Warren Sapp hit in 2002. For Clifton to recover from that severe pelvic injury and play nine more productive seasons at one of the game's most demanding positions, and to make the NFC Pro Bowl squad twice along the way, was remarkable. He played in all 16 games five times and 15 games twice in those nine years after the injury. I'll be interested to see after a few years how Clifton's career here is remembered. I hope fondly.

Mark from Dodgeville, MI

Please explain the rule that negates pass interference if the ball is ruled uncatchable (if the receiver is more than 5 yards downfield). If there was enough contact to warrant a flag, shouldn't the pass interference call simply revert to a 5-yard illegal contact penalty instead of no penalty? Thanks.

Illegal contact can be called for contact made beyond the 5-yard zone but only if that contact occurs before the pass is thrown. Once the ball is in the air, contact deemed pass interference is only a penalty if the ball is catchable, because pass interference is a spot foul – the logic being that if the receiver would have been able to catch the ball, those are the yards he would have gained. (Well, not exactly, depending on where the contact occurs, but you get the point I think.) If he couldn't have caught the ball, he's not going to be awarded those yards.

Greg from Dayton, Ohio

Mike, here's a question to which I've never gotten an answer, not that I've asked it all that often. In the (in)famous "instant replay" game in 1989 against the Bears, it was ruled that Majkowski was not beyond the line of scrimmage when he threw the winning touchdown. I've always thought, though, that penalties were not subject to review and that once the flag flew it should never (under the rules) have been submitted to the replay official in the first place. Am I totally wrong on this?

You raise an interesting point, and I don't remember all the machinations back then of the replay system, which was in its infancy and wasn't the coach's challenge system we have today. But I think the rule that covers the Majkowski situation is that "illegal forward pass" has always been listed as being subject to replay review. That's what the Majkowski play was (or wasn't). Even though it's technically a penalty, it's reviewable. "Touching of a forward pass by an ineligible receiver" and "too many men on the field" are also penalty situations that are currently reviewable. As an aside, did you know the Bears were so upset by that call that they had an asterisk placed in their media guide for years next to that loss? Though that has often has been attributed to Mike Ditka, it was actually the doing of Mike McCaskey, Bears president and CEO at the time. McCaskey led the charge to get rid of replay review a few years later, largely because of that game, and then it came back in the current coach's challenge format. I don't know how long the asterisk lasted, but it's no longer there.

Tony from St. Paul, MN

Mike, loved your story about Vic calling you in stereo from 10 feet away. Do you have any other Vic stories for us?

We've got a lot of great outtakes from video shoots that unfortunately we can't share. Let's just say Bill O'Reilly would be proud, and that's the last time you'll ever hear anyone associate Vic with Bill O'Reilly.

Kevin from Kennewick, WA

Hi Mike. You hold the fort very well in Vic's absence. I've noticed that the website structure has changed since you took over the site. Is this the way it's going to be when Vic comes back or is this just your freedom to do what you wish with this site? I like seeing "Ask Vic/Mike" on the daily current bar.

I'm flattered you think I have the kind of power to make unilateral changes when the boss slips out of town. I'm even more flattered you're implying I have the technical skill to snap my fingers and change everything back to the way it was when Vic returns. Seriously, though, the new look was a group effort and was in the works for a while. We wanted to give "Ask Vic" a more permanent, stationary location on the upper right side of the home page. We realize change requires adjustments, but we hope readers are getting used to it.

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