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Six words to describe NFC playoff field


Jerry from Des Moines, IA

What does it say for the preparation of Coach McCarthy, his staff and the players to beat the Lions with the second string? It would be like the Giants not having Eli Manning, Jason Pierre-Paul and Corey Webster and still beating the Cowboys. Wonder if that would have happened? What do you say?

I don't like the words "second string" because they refer almost solely to a player who might become the hottest property in free agency, and I think you would agree, Jerry, that having allowed 575 yards on defense isn't reason for celebration. What the win over the Lions says is that the Packers have real depth of talent on offense. It confirms the value of the Packers' draft-and-develop philosophy and, most of all, it speaks for Mike McCarthy's ability to develop quarterbacks. Matt Flynn was selected in the seventh round. Think about that. Is he the next Tom Brady, who was selected in the sixth round? What Flynn's performance on Sunday tells me is that Coach McCarthy truly is a quarterbacks guru and I'm looking forward to seeing what he does with Graham Harrell.

Jeff from Stevens Point, WI

Do you think Suh didn't know he sacked Flynn (not Rodgers)?

I don't know. I think he had that one planned and he was gonna use it regardless of who the quarterback was. I get a kick out of the guy. I don't know what it is about him, but he makes me giggle. It's like having two kids do the same wrong thing, but one of them makes you angry and the other one makes you laugh. Suh makes me laugh. I'm already looking forward to the next thing.

Robbie from Elburn, IL

What one word would you use to describe each team in the NFC playoffs?

Lions—young; Falcons—underrated; Giants—powerful; Saints—explosive; 49ers—physical; Packers—poised.

Paul from Spencerville, IN

In a recent interview, Aaron Rodgers was asked what NFL records he would like to set in his career. Aaron stated that no quarterback has ever won five Super Bowls and that was a good goal. That's what I want in a player: team goals before personal accolades. I thought you of all people would appreciate Mr. Rodgers' response. Just win the next three games, baby.

I covered Terry Bradshaw, who won four Super Bowls, and every time I see an all-time ranking of quarterbacks and don't see his name, I laugh and then stop reading because I know this is a ranking that's going to be all about stats and records. When I look at an all-time ranking of quarterbacks, it better have Bradshaw and Bart Starr in there somewhere or it's garbage. Rodgers can start nosing his way into my "rankings" with another Super Bowl win; two Super Bowl wins put you on the radar. Championships trump everything. When you win championships, you don't care where you're ranked because you've got the rings. It's the guys that don't win championships that have to concern themselves with rankings because without the rankings, they have nothing. I can't tell you who the MVP of the 1958 season is – don't care who it is – but I know Johnny Unitas led the Colts down the field to the winning touchdown in overtime of the '58 title game. I don't know who the MVP of the 1967 season is – don't care who it is – but I know that with the season on the line, Starr put the burden of victory on his shoulders and scored the winning touchdown. I don't know who the MVP of the 1979 season is – don't care who it is – but I know that late in the game and with the Super Bowl on the line, Bradshaw hit John Stallworth deep twice and clinched win No. 4. I remember championships, not records and awards.

Rob from Champaign, IL

Was Rodgers actually calling the plays, or just relaying the plays into the headset?

Mike McCarthy told me Rodgers called the plays in the first half. It was McCarthy's way for Rodgers to play the game without exposing himself to injury, and I think that was absolute genius.

Jerry from Orlando, FL

I've noticed that people who think you are annoying continue to read your column. Do you cast voodoo spells over readers?

I once agreed with a reader's angry evaluation of my writing and advised him to never read my column again, and that really made him angry.

Herb from Pahrump, NV

How'd you keep me so positive? I always have been a spaz on football game day. Win and enjoy; lose and move on. Thanks, Vic.

I just don't wanna see football become hurtful, especially for young fans. Life is tough enough as it is to add entertainment to our burden. Our children need us in defeat. These games are the biggest things in their lives – they certainly were in mine – and they look to us for perspective when they're confronted by emotions they don't understand. I think one of the problems we have in dealing with defeat is that we feel a sense of responsibility for it. That's a mistake. We bear no responsibility. All we can do is watch. I think that's the message that works with kids and with ourselves, too.

Steve from Two Rivers, WI

Vic, the right guard for the Lions would turn toward the quarterback and then turn back and tap the center on the leg to apparently initiate the snap. I thought no one on the offense was allowed to move just prior to the snap once the line was set. Is there some special rule I am missing?

Was it a motion that would simulate a play? Linemen are allowed movement; they're permitted turn their head, but they're not permitted to snap it upward or jerk it right or left in a manner that would cause the defense to think the ball has been snapped. Is their movement simulating a play? That's the key consideration. Even when they're in a two-point stance, they're not permitted to move in a manner that would simulate the start of a play. Linemen are given license these days to help deal with crowd noise, but their movements must be even and subtle. My guess is that's what you saw.

Holger from Guayaquil, Ecuador

So what's the big difference between snow angels and end zone dancing after a touchdown?

The rules say a player can't go to the ground to celebrate. It's that simple. I don't think that rule was in force for the "Ice Bowl," which means Bart Starr probably could've done a snow angel after his game-winning touchdown. I don't think we would've even known what he was doing back then; we were so clueless to stuff like that. I think most people would've thought he had sustained a head injury during the play.

Dan from Eagan, MN

I wonder if the dirty play of the Lions reflects poorly on the Ford brand. After all, the Lions are synonymous with the Ford name in the Midwest. Thoughts?

If 0-16 didn't hurt sales, I don't think Mr. Ford should be concerned at all about the team's current image.

John from Grand Rapids, MI

As a lifelong Packers fan, I felt badly that the Lions were victims of a bad call in the end zone Sunday. The receiver clearly had two feet in the end zone, though the referee called it incomplete. I wanted McCarthy to throw the red flag. Has an opposing coach ever asked for a review of a bad call against his opponent? That would have been a class act that only the Packers could have been capable of.

Congratulations, on your induction into the Packers' wing of the "Ask Vic" Hall of Fame.

Belto from Canton, NC

Now that you have an interview posted, what is your take on Aaron Rodgers? We know what you think of him as a QB, but is it not just cool how laid back he is?

I didn't get a sense of laid back. I got the sense of a guy for whom football is the most important thing in his life and who carries his edge for the game through everyday life. When I interview someone, the first thing I decide is whether or not he's telling me the truth. Is he letting me see what's inside? Is he giving me the real answer? There's no doubt in my mind that Rodgers was giving me real answers. I know that because he didn't make stuff up to answer questions to which he didn't have answers. Some questions turned him off, others caused him to warm to answering them. That's what gives a one-on-one interview the edge it needs to have been good. I thought his response to the question about being happy in Green Bay was most telling. He thought on it. He spoke slowly, deliberately and elaborated. He made sure he expressed himself accurately and fully, and there was no doubt in my mind he believed what he was saying. He really, really cares about football and the Packers. Isn't that what we all want to know about players?

Carlos from Brookings, SD

Vic, I truly believe Aaron Rodgers should be MVP, but don't you think it would be the sweetest revenge for Rodgers if Brees won it and then the Saints lost to the Packers in the NFC championship? Aaron Rodgers' career has been all about sweet revenge.

You could make a point that every player's and every coach's career is about sweet revenge; if you play or coach long enough in this game, you will face rejection. Drew Brees was rejected by the Chargers. Dan Marino fell to the 27th pick. Joe Montana wasn't good enough to be a full-time starter at Notre Dame. Johnny Unitas was cut by the Steelers. Jim Brown suffered racial discrimination in college. You have to be able to overcome the adversities the game presents and use the edge it provides in a constructive way to advance your career. Rodgers has done that. Brees has done that. Hey, whatever it takes. Just win, baby.

Brian from Oshkosh, WI

After Flynn's performance on Sunday, the haters are now saying Rodgers is a "system quarterback." I don't buy it. Your thoughts?

All quarterbacks come from a system, but neither Rodgers nor Matt Flynn are "system quarterbacks" because that's a term that refers to a quarterback whose skills limit him to one system. Rodgers has no physical limitations. He has the size, arm strength, mobility and aptitude to play in any system, therefore, he is not a "system quarterback." Flynn's first sideline pass on Sunday appeared to sail in the wind and it caused me some suspicion about his arm strength, but then he made throw after throw against the wind and into the honey hole to which "Cover Two" demands, and that erased any doubt about his arm strength. Flynn can make all of the throws and that means he can play in any system. I think we have to acknowledge that Coach McCarthy has a system for developing quarterbacks, but neither Rodgers nor Flynn are "system quarterbacks." Those guys can play for anybody.

Matt from New York, NY

I just wanted to address the people commenting on the snow angel. Per Mike Pereira, you cannot go to the ground in celebration; even if you are already on the ground, you need to get up. "Lambeau Leap" and goal post dunking are celebrations that have been grandfathered into the rules. I hope that clears up some things.

It's very important to know the celebration rules. If you're not sure about the rules, then don't celebrate, or go to the celebration circle, where you can do anything you want. That's what I'd do. I'd go to the celebration circle and dance like crazy.

Brad from Calgary, Alberta

I thought compensation picks for losing a free agent is based on what round that player was drafted. In Matt Flynn's case he was a seventh-round pick, so would they not get a seventh-round compensatory pick when he signs with another team?

You're confusing the rules regarding restricted free agents with the rules regarding unrestricted free agents. There is a tender level for RFAs that would return original draft pick compensation for having lost an RFA to another team; in other words, the team signing the RFA would have to give their pick in the round the player was originally drafted to the team losing the player. A team signing a UFA is not required to return compensation to the team losing the player; compensation is given to that team the following year by the league in the form of extra picks at the end of rounds, after the team's gains and losses in free agency are weighed against each other.

Chris from Burlington, ON

Vic, what was your most admirable play/game/moment from the Packers this past regular season?

The final minutes of the Giants game were the defining moments of the season for me. I think they symbolize the season in that the offense has always been there to save the day.

Garrett from New Knoxville, OH

Let's say we're in the pre-1978 rules changes era. It's the season finale and you lose your star running back as the Steelers did. Would losing the running back or the quarterback in the season finale in the pre-1978 rules changes era be a bigger loss?

Losing the quarterback has always been the greatest loss a team could sustain, at any time in the modern era of football, but losing your star running back pre-1978 was a much bigger deal than it is today. I'll give you a specific example. In 1976, the Steelers lost Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier in a playoff win over Baltimore, which meant they went into the AFC title game without two players that had each rushed for 1,000 yards. They had no chance.

Lynn from Appleton, WI

Vic, what has surprised you the most about living in Wisconsin?

I didn't have to pay for a wood-destroying organism inspection when I bought a house. It's so cold termites can't live here, so I have that going for me, which is nice.

Bart from San Diego, CA

Would you compare and contrast my two favorite coaches, Mike McCarthy and Mike Tomlin.

You're talking about two coaches that, on the surface, are polar opposites. McCarthy is about offense, Tomlin is about defense. McCarthy calls plays, Tomlin allows his coordinators to call plays. That's where the differences stop and the similarities begin. Look at their demeanors: Calm, poised, strong and demanding. They neither pout nor make excuses in defeat. They are leaders of men, and that's a trait common to all great coaches.

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