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So ends the great defense debate


Rob from Elkhorn, WI

With the defenseless Patriots now the favorites to win the Super Bowl, will this game end the debate about whether defense really championships?

I don't even know why there was a debate in the first place. In 2011, pro football was very definitely a game of offense. To appreciate how the game has tilted to offense, all you have to do is compare the stats of today's quarterbacks to the stats from the best season of Johnny Unitas' life. The stats of the great quarterbacks of yesteryear would put them at the bottom of the league rankings today. Conversely, the stats of the top defenses in today's game would rank at the bottom of the league in the old days. There's not much defense to be found anywhere in the league. It's a game of offense and that trend is going to continue next season because that's what the league wants. Offense rings the cash register.

Bryce from Milwaukee, WI

Is 4-3 the way to go now?

Why is the 4-3 the way to go now? Because the Packers defense had a bad season? I like the 3-4 because it offers a larger pool of pass rushers. The 3-4 offers more flexibility and allows for more scheming. The thing I dislike the most about the 4-3 is that it demands that you find and pay every-downs ends, which might be the most overdrafted and overpaid position in the league. The Giants make it work because they struck it rich in drafting every-downs ends. It won them one Super Bowl and it might win them another one. The list of teams that have failed to find those ends and destroyed their cap trying is long.

Steven from Appleton, WI

Why, when Vince Lombardi was coaching, lame tackling would not be acceptable?

He could do something about it. It's all about player salaries. As players made more money, teams had to back off the daily contact in practice. Players literally became too valuable to risk injuring in a tackling drill. It has reached the point now that coaches are limited in how often they can practice their teams in full pads. Full-contact practices are non-existent these days. In Lombardi's day, the "Oklahoma drill" was a training camp staple. It was a drill teams did on a routine basis and the intent was to teach blocking and tackling. NFL Films once captured Don Shula running an "Oklahoma" when he was Colts coach; I've seen the film clip several times and it always makes me smile. If a coach tried to run an "Oklahoma drill" in a practice these days, he might have a player file a grievance against him. If he conducted an "Oklahoma drill" in training camp and a player developed concussion-like symptoms, the media would vilify the coach. I wonder what Coach Lombardi would think about all of this.

James from Oakland, CA

Do you think this is the year we finally address the OLB position opposite Clay?

I think it's something the Packers would like to address. I'm at the Senior Bowl this week and there are a lot of intriguing linebacker and rush-backer prospects I'll be watching in practices. Courtney Upshaw of Alabama and Andre Branch of Clemson are two such players.

Chuck from Mobile, AL

Defense would seem to be the priority, but can the Packers address questions at RB and T adequately in the draft or will the incumbents have to do?

You can't draft everybody, and you certainly can't move into position to target every position. Before we go one step further into the postseason draft evaluation process, let's all remember that the Packers are a best-available-player team, and that makes questions about addressing needs very difficult to answer. The Packers have pressing needs on defense. If they can address those, I'll be satisfied. I don't wanna see them pass on good players because they don't play a position at which the team has need.

Joseph from Las Vegas, NV

What do teams do when their season is ended prematurely? Did the Packers have a few days of debriefing?

They submit themselves to an exit physical, they provide updated contact information to the football ops people, they meet with the coaches, they clean out their lockers and they're gone. There is no awards banquet.

Andre from Port Austin, MI

After watching the conference championship games, could it be that special teams wins championships?

Special teams certainly lost championships on Sunday.

Spencer from Lakewood, CA

I'm writing this right after the Vernon Davis penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, when he climbed onto a camera stage. Why is this any different than the Packers doing a Lambeau Leap? He didn't use a prop, per se.

The "Leap" is grandfathered which, frankly, sounds like a silly excuse. The whole thing is ridiculous. Why would a man of Davis' esteem feel the need to step onto a camera podium to call attention to himself? Maybe Mike Singletary was right. I don't get it and I don't understand why coaches can't discipline their players to refrain from post-play celebrations. Obviously, they can't, and that's why I think the celebration circle is the way to go. I think coaches should designate a celebration area along their sideline, where players could dance for the crowd and the TV camera, but without risk of penalty. Upon doing something amazing, such as making a tackle, the player would sprint to the celebration circle and begin his celebration. Players would be allowed to place into the celebration circle whatever props they would intend to use. They could put phones in there, rubber duckies, capes, whatever they like. The dancing could go on and on. I know it's something I would really enjoy.

Andrew from Miamisburg, OH

What are the chances of us franchising Matt Flynn and then trading him to Miami?

That's what I was hinting at in Friday's column. You have to know you can trust the other team to trade for Flynn and, most importantly, do a deal with him, because he would have to be franchised before trading is allowed to begin.

D.G. from De Pere, WI

How do you see the pros and cons of moving Woodson to safety?

The positive is that you'd be lengthening the career of a great player. The negative is that you'd have to find a replacement at cornerback, but eventually the Packers are going to have to do that anyhow. I think the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Chris from Pitman, NJ

Vic, I was wondering if you truly think the Packers were outplayed by the Giants or just made too many mistakes? They showed very little emotion, dropped many passes and turned the ball over more than they did in any game this season. I think they didn't give themselves a chance with all the mistakes, but I wanna know what you think.

As I've said, I think the Giants are a very good team that matched up well against the Packers. Watching yesterday's game, I couldn't help but notice that the 49ers were about as geeked up for that game as any team I've seen for any game. So how did all of that emotion work for them? The 49ers' special teams players were jumping up and down and bobbing their heads and taunting and showing extreme emotion on every play. So why didn't it work? Is there actually something else you have to do, such as catch the ball?

Toni from Great Falls, MT

Why did the CBA take away padded practices? What was the purpose?

The owners relinquished an element of control of the game to the players for the sake of getting a CBA that would end the lockout and protect the future of the game. In my opinion, the control of the game the players achieved in CBA negotiations makes them more accountable than ever for the product on the field. They got what they wanted: less-demanding practices that'll help them be rested and fresh on Sunday. Now they've got to find a way to be better tacklers. The coaches can't do it for them; the coaches have had that capability taken from them. The players have to do it for themselves and, in my opinion, they are accountable for it.

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