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Scouting departments win championships


Diana from Three Rivers, MI

What is the benefit of putting players such as Cutler and Forte on injured reserve at this stage of the season?

It allows a team to sign street free agents or practice-squad players to their active roster. The in-season rules allow a team a maximum of 80 roster players. "Roster" players refer to the sum of all players on the active roster, practice squad and injured reserve. If you have 53 players on your active roster and eight players on your practice squad, you are permitted to have 19 players on injured reserve. If you only have 17 on injured reserve, you have two roster spots to use, so you might as well move to injured reserve two players that are injured and won't play in the regular-season finale, and then sign two more players to your active roster, so you finish the season with a full roster of players.

Eric from Clear Lake, IA

How does the draft order work? Say the Colts and the Rams lose this week and end the season with the same record, who would have the first pick?

The tie would be broken based on strength of schedule. The team that played the weaker schedule would be awarded the first pick. If still tied, then the divisional or conference tie-breakers would be applied. If still tied, flip a coin.

Zach from Woodstock, IL

I do not believe the Lions will rest many starters. They are not locked in a certain wild-card spot. With a win, they would play either the Cowboys or the Giants. If they lose, they travel to either San Francisco or New Orleans, two teams that have already beaten Detroit this season. If I was Jim Schwartz, I'd be playing all-out for a win.

When he was interviewed yesterday, Coach Schwartz made it sound as though he has every intention of playing all-out to win. He made a point of saying he wants the No. 5 seed, but it wasn't because of who his team would face, it was because the fifth seed can host a conference title game, the sixth seed never can. If I was Coach Schwartz, I'd rather play in New Orleans or San Francisco in the wild-card round. I have a dome team and I would want to do whatever I could to avoid having to play outdoors in the Meadowlands. Yeah, I know, I'm predicting a little bit there, but I wouldn't mind taking a shot at the Saints coming off the emotions of that unbelievably tremendous passing record, and I really wouldn't mind a rematch with my old friend Jim Harbaugh.

Matthew from Greenwood, IN

How does a GM or scout know when a quarterback has a strong arm?

At the combine, you put him on a hash and have him throw to a spot on the far sideline 20 yards downfield. That's the throw that defines arm strength. If he can't make that throw indoors, he's got no chance of making it outdoors in January, and that's when the field shrinks.

Aaron from Jacksonville, FL

One of my favorite quotes regarding football came from John Madden during one of the 2007 Patriots games. He was commenting on teams complaining that the Patriots were running up the score. He basically said that instead of complaining, the defense needs to step up and make a play. That comment put some things in perspective for me. It's football; if you don't want Brees to pass, stop him. It's about players.

George Young told me a long time ago that "football is not a game for the well-adjusted." What if one of those players becomes angry that you're running up the score and does a mean thing? As James Harrison said: "That's the end of the wildcat." It's football. It's about players. I think a Falcons-Saints rematch in the wild-card round would be most interesting. By the way, I covered a lot of games Coach Madden coached, and he never ran up the score. He played to win; that's all. He knew the consequences associated with running up the score.

Kyle from Dubuque, IA

Vic, I was watching the Giants-Jets game on Saturday when a player ran into Tom Coughlin and injured his leg. In the event of a head coach getting a concussion, who would have the ultimate say whether the coach could continue during the game?

Coaches are allowed to have concussions.

Zach from Green Bay, WI

Who is a better quarterback, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees?

They've each won a Super Bowl and they've each turned in record-setting performances this year. I'm partial to Rodgers because of his arm strength, but the stats say it's a tie and the stats never lie. What a game it would be if those two guys were to meet in the playoffs. I guess that'll decide the issue.

Will from Kenosha, WI

Offense doesn't win championships. Defense doesn't win championships. Special teams doesn't win championships. Football is a team sport and having the best combination of the three wins championships.

I'll tell you who wins championships: Scouting departments win championships because if you don't have good players, forget about it. Here's a quote from Coach Schwartz on Wednesday that I absolutely love. Coach, why is your team so much better on the road this year? "We put good players on the team plane when we leave." I love pure truth and Schwartz spoke pure truth. You win because your airplane has talent on it.

Scott from Kansas City, MO

You say you see lots of Coughlin in McCarthy. Can you talk about that from a leader vs. game manager perspective? I never hear an ill-word spoken about Mike as a coach, but both insiders and outsiders talk very negatively about Tom's style.

Both men are offensive geniuses. They do more by formation than any coaches I've ever covered. Coach Coughlin schemes schemes a little more than Coach McCarthy, who's more of a scheme personnel kind of guy, but they're both big game-planners. They're also very direct and demanding in their approaches. Players know at all times exactly where they stand with Coughlin and McCarthy; Coughlin loves to use the words "crystal clear." In press conferences, they get to the point and don't spend a lot of time socializing, but they each have engaging out-of-press-conference personalities and love to talk football. Here's something else they have in common: Dom Capers. Coach Capers answered the call to help save Coughlin's defense in Jacksonville, and Coach Capers answered the same call for McCarthy in Green Bay. If there's a difference in them, it's that Coach McCarthy isn't as rigid as Coach Coughlin. When we did the conference call with Coach Coughlin a few weeks ago, I knew to show up five minutes early because that's "Coughlin time" and that's when the call would come, and if no one was there to take the call, that would've been the end of the conference call. Another big similarity is their practice regimens; they're identical. They are built on precision execution and regimentation, and they feature the passing game. Steelers practices were heavy with nine-on-seven drills; Coughlin's and McCarthy's practices are heavy with seven-on-sevens.

Tim from Albuquerque, NM

Vic, I recently read that when Rodgers drops back to pass, he is looking for defenders, not receivers. Do you think this is true?

I don't know for sure, but it would make sense because a quarterback knows where his receivers are supposed to be. If he finds out where the defenders are, then he knows where everybody is. The charm in all of that is being able to process that information instantly and get the ball to the right man a second later.

Christopher from Shawnee, KS

We, your loyal readers, seem to have come to a consensus that you were a bit curmudgeonly in the last "Ask Vic." Christmas go all right for you?

Yeah, it's just all of that record stuff; it makes me crazy. Hey, that record is gonna fall every year. The league is built that way these days and it's so unfair to the great quarterbacks of the past that didn't have the kind of protections quarterbacks have today, and didn't play in a game in which the pass-defense rules are similar to those in basketball. Carson Palmer is gonna throw for more yards this season than Bart Starr did in his greatest season, and Palmer didn't start playing until midseason. Mark Sanchez is getting "killed" by the media and fans in New York and his yardage total blows away those of the quarterbacks of the '60s and '70s. We are in desperate need of perspective.

Nick from Palma de Mallorca, Palma

Are you a little surprised the Packers did not try and use Cobb's overall skill set a little more this season?

New socks have to wait their turn.

Hermes from Richmond, CA

Ummm, I don't like "New Vic."

There is no "New Vic." He is what he is.

Andrew from Altoona, WI

You know and I know there is nothing better than a running back lowering his shoulder pads and sending a linebacker right onto his back and, poof, he's gone.

Once upon a time, it defined the game. Running backs were the stars of the league. Running backs in today's game have become no-name players. Maurice Jones-Drew and LeSean McCoy are the NFL's leading rushers, but a tight end named Rob Gronkowski is grabbing more headlines. It's where the game is and I'm OK with it, but I think it's critical that the league be vigilant in preserving the physical nature of the game. The pendulum must not be allowed to swing too far to one side, lest we lose the charm of the game, which always has been and must continue to be its physical confrontations and the courage they demand. A perfectly executed slant pass does not excite me nearly as much as seeing two men collide. When I see a Ben Roethlisberger limp down the runway with his helmet on for the start of the second half, his passer rating becomes meaningless. We need these acts of heroism. Stats and records might help drive the popularity of the game, but the courage with which the game is played is what will sustain its popularity because that's what the fan keeps in his heart. As a media, we need to make sure we haven't lost sight of that, too. I think we've become too stats conscious and have lost some of our sensitivity to how emotionally demanding it is to play a football game. Have we lost some of our charm?

Tim from Green Bay, WI

How important of a stat is average net yards per punt?

It defines the performance of the punt team. Gross is meaningless; it only defines the strength of the punter's leg.

Jon from Green Bay, WI

About three years ago, Ted Thompson was quoted as follows: "Worry is a negative thing that doesn't serve a purpose other than to bring you down. I think people can sometimes, with good intentions, worry themselves into the ground. You can absolutely take away from any productivity that you have. So we don't do that." I can't remember the context of the quote, but I clipped it out because of its universal meaning, and try to live by it each day.

Beautifully spoken. If you worry about something, will that fix it? No. As fans, we can't change anything. All we can do is watch. Why worry about it?

Kevin from Jacksonville, FL

If we are not winning the one-on-one battles on defense, what is the fix for next year?

If you're not winning the one-on-one battles, the team will find new players that will. That's a fact of professional football and the men who play the game are at all times aware of it. It's part of the real-life, human confrontation of professional football.

Josh from La Crosse, WI

Will the new, pass-happy Vic finally start playing Madden?

I couldn't even get the pieces to go in the right direction in that electric football game.

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