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Staff restructuring is ingenious


Bill from Menomonie, WI

Vic, can you give a concise and coherent explanation as to why Jerry Kramer is still not in the Hall of Fame?

Twenty-five years after a player has retired, he has expired his regular eligibility for election to the Hall of Fame and his eligibility is then passed on to the senior committee, which was the case with Kramer. He has already been nominated once by the senior committee and failed to be elected, but that doesn't mean Kramer won't be nominated again. Bob Hayes expired the 25-year "clock," was nominated by the senior committee and failed to be elected, and then succeeded in being elected to the Hall of Fame the second time he was nominated by the senior committee. I think the same will happen for Kramer and I hope it happens in his lifetime; it didn't for Hayes. Why has Kramer not been elected to the Hall of Fame? Jim Ringo and Forrest Gregg are the reasons. Three members of one offensive line are difficult to justify.

Jason from Beaverton, OR

So I know the Packers had one of the worst defenses in the league, but they were like No. 1 in takeaways. What do you think they need to work on in the secondary?

Some years ago, a defensive coordinator whose defense had accumulated a lot of interceptions but had allowed a lot of yards and touchdowns, diplomatically said to me that when you intercept a lot of passes, it usually means you're playing a lot of trail technique. Translation: The coverage needs to be tighter.

Dan from Madison, WI

Vic, have you noticed more or fewer draft busts coming out of the first round? Were teams better at projecting players in the past or better now?

I think teams are doing a better job of playing it safe in the first round now than they did years ago. The money that goes to first-round picks is too big to be reckless with the selection. I think we're seeing fewer boom-bust type wide receiver picks early in the draft. I think we're seeing a lot more big-guy early picks; the "hit" percentage at offensive tackle is the highest of any position in the first round. The old philosophy was that you could manufacture offensive linemen; the philosophy today is that you gotta get the big guys early. Eighteen linemen (offense and defense) were selected in last year's draft; only three wide receivers were picked.

David from Sammamish, WA

I think one of the most memorable and disgusting images of the Super Bowl was when Vince Wilfork was pumping his fist when Bradshaw fell into the end zone.

I remember thinking to myself, "There's a Jim Marshall moment."

Tom from Waunakee, WI

What would it take for the Packers to bring in Mario Williams or Cliff Avril? It sounds nice to me.

Signing Williams would probably require making him the highest-paid player on the team. It would likely trigger a chain reaction.

Sean from Long Beach, NY

"Football is two things. It's blocking and tackling. I don't care anything about formations or new offenses or tricks on defense. You block and tackle better than the team you're playing, you win." Do you think Lombardi and his philosophy would still win football games in today's league?

No, and that's why he would've changed. Lombardi was about winning. I don't think he would like the game as much the way it's played today, but he would've adapted his style of coaching and his philosophies to suit the new game and he would've won because he was a leader of men. That part hasn't changed. Great coaches are leaders of men. Anybody can draw plays.

Mike from Houston, TX

In Super Bowl XXXII, Mike Holmgren tells his team to let the Broncos score to maximize the amount of time his team has to drive down the field and score a touchdown. In the 2007 playoffs, the Seahawks play defense and hold the Cowboys to fourth-and-1 at the 2-yard line, a chip shot field goal. Romo fumbles the snap, comes up short of the first down, and Mike Holmgren's Seahawks hold on to win the game. What do you think Mike's call would have been at the end of this year's Super Bowl?

The circumstances aren't the same. The Seahawks got the ball back with 1:14 to play, so they would've had time to rally for a game-winning field goal, had the Cowboys not failed in their field goal attempt. What would Holmgren have done had Romo scrambled for the first down? That's where it gets interesting. Would he then have ordered his defense to allow the score, or would he have gambled that Romo would've fumbled another snap? Fun stuff.

Tom from Chesterfield, VA

I don't believe we have one prototype 3-4 defensive end on the roster. Don't you see this as a primary need during the coming offseason?

The need is for an influx of young talent, but not because the Packers lack prototype 3-4 defensive ends. All of their defensive linemen are 3-4 ends, which is to say 4-3 tackles. What they need, as it pertains to rushing the passer, is another Clay Matthews. That's who rushes the passer in the 3-4, linebackers.

Jeremy from Stony Plain, Alberta

What do you make of Donald Driver saying he'd take a pay cut to stay with the team? Is this a sign he's worried about not being on the team next year, or is he just that kind of guy that puts team development over his needs?

Donald Driver is a consummate pro. He gets it. He understands that it's a young man's game, which is why he's kept his body young, and he understands the need for youth to be served, especially as it pertains to the draft-and-develop philosophy and the salary cap. Hines Ward is going through the same thing. We need to let this play out. Driver and the Packers are not adversaries, but they each have a business interest to protect.

John from San Marcos, CA

The Lions apparently have cap problems because they had very high (expensive) draft picks for so long. Is this the down side of parity or does that only happen if Matt Millen is your GM?

I would have to examine the Lions' cap and the way it's structured to answer your question, but I'm not ready to declare any team as having a cap problem and here's why: Speculation is that a new TV deal is likely to explode the cap upward, which would create a lot of room for teams in the future and allow them to restructure contracts now and push money into the future when that cap room is expected to be plentiful. We'll see.

JayAre from Fairborn, OH

"This upcoming season, Nike will make the NFL uniforms. I want to know if the Packers will be changing uniforms anytime soon. Who decides what uniforms are worn?" Best answer ever: Vince Lombardi.

I'm glad so many readers got it. When you have a period in your history of the kind of fame the Packers enjoyed during the Lombardi years, you don't change your uniform design. That's your identity forever more.

Tim from St. Croix Falls, WI

Vic, whenever people hear the name Joe Willie Namath, they immediately think about his Super Bowl III victory. Do you think he would still have a bust in Canton if he had lost the Super Bowl?


Kent from Appleton, WI

Define pure passer.

Jackie Sherrill is fond of telling the story of the first time he observed Dan Marino throwing a football in practice. Sherrill claims to have told Marino, "Son, don't ever let anyone change your throwing motion." I think that defines a pure passer.

Jeff from Topeka, KS

With the offseason comes the period when rule changes occur. What's on the horizon for the next year? What would you like to change? I'm thinking it is time to move back the goal posts or make them narrower. I also think the defenders should be able to bump the receivers a few more yards before it is a penalty.

The spring owners meetings are when decisions are made on rules-change proposals. I don't see anything major happening, as it did last year with the kick line being moved up five yards. I like to tinker with radical ideas and how they might impact the game, and one idea in particular intrigues me: I'd like to see the impact of requiring that all players position themselves within 10 yards of the ball at the snap. What that means is that safeties couldn't drop deep; no more "Cover Two." My thinking is that it would result in more deep throws, which would result in the safeties turning and running at the snap of the ball out of fear of getting beat deep, and that might help open the running lanes, too. I don't like nibble passing. I think it's boring. I like deep balls, such as the one Mario Manningham caught in the Super Bowl. I like pounding the ball between the tackles and throwing it down the field, and I think a rule forcing everyone into a tighter box might encourage both.

Tim from Mazo, WI

Discussing it with my dad, my favorite thing to do, I feel one defensive player leaving can't drop a team to the basement, but I feel adding one can make it elite. He believes the opposite. How do I win the argument?

One more Clay Matthews might help convince him.

Rick from Chatham, Ontario

I don't follow college football all that much but, as the draft approaches, I get familiar with the big-name prospects from the big-time schools. When picking later in the draft order, is it common to look for physically talented players who played on bad teams or in bad schemes?

Yeah, teams will take a home run swing on a guy late in the draft. The Saints did that last season when they drafted Greg Romeus in the seventh round. He was coming off ACL and back surgery, but he was a guy that would've been a first-round pick had he entered the draft the previous year. Teams are also looking for role players, especially players that offer distinct special teams ability.

Jason from Summerville, SC

Vince Lombardi breathed, ate and slept Packers, but for one year he joined the Washington Redskins. Did he have a lasting effect on the Redskins as he did on the Packers?

No, he didn't have time to have that kind of impact on the Redskins, but I've long believed that had Lombardi lived, he would've become a national political figure as a result of being in Washington. We were heading into some very difficult times when he passed. We were just coming out of Kent State and we were in the middle of an anti-war divide. Watergate was on the horizon and so was Nixon's resignation. I think Lombardi would've become much more than a football coach, and based on what I've read of him, I think he would've aspired to that end. Coaching in Washington would've facilitated it.

Brooklyn Park, MN

We now have a former QB (Van Pelt) as our RB coach, a former RB (Bennett) as our WR coach, and a former OL (Fontenot) as a TE coach. Further, we have four returning offensive coaches (Clements, McAdoo, Fontenot, Bennett) that are now in different positions than they were in 2011. What do you make of the shuffling and the seeming misalignment of coaches' playing experience with the positions they're coaching? It seems like a lot of tinkering for an offensive system that didn't seem in need of much work.

I think it's ingenious because it's all about growth within the staff. It's a way of promoting people and keeping them from being grabbed away by other teams. It's a way of maintaining continuity. It's a way of bringing new vision and viewpoints to a room of players. I'm especially intrigued by the appointment of Alex Van Pelt as running backs coach because that, in my opinion, goes right to the intent for backs to be more involved in the passing game. The first word that pops into my head is "H-back."

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