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The greatest team of all-time debate


Chris from Fort Worth, TX

Why don't pro footballs have stripes?

They did have stripes back in the 1970s. If I remember correctly, night games were played with balls that had stripes at each end. Quarterbacks complained that the stripes were slippery and that it caused them to lose their grip on the ball. That was probably a factor in going to the stripe-less ball for all games.

Laura from Milwaukee, WI

I would like to start off by saying I love reading your column. Every day I come on, I feel as if I've learned something new about football and its history. As for my question, what was the first football game you attended, and how did it impact your love for the sport today? My first was a Packers-Bears game at Lambeau Field. I was only 10 at the time, and I remember a blocked field goal at the end of the game that caused the Bears to win in the final seconds. That game taught me about how to hold my head high when my favorite teams lose, and cemented my love for Packers football.

My first memory in life was of lying across my parents' lap and being cold, and my mother wrapping a blanket around me. It was at a high school football game and the star player in that game was a man-child running back named Cookie Gilchrist, who went on to have a great career in the CFL and with the Buffalo Bills in the AFL. Cookie passed away recently. A friend from back home sent me a link to his obituary. I stopped for a moment and thought back to the days when Cookie was a star for the Bills, and in the offseason he'd drive his Cadillac convertible down Brackenridge Ave. and Cookie would smile and wave as the kids called out, "Lookie, lookie, lookie, here comes Cookie." I wrote about that a few years ago, and somebody must've shown it to Cookie because I got an e-mail from him. I knew he was battling cancer. I think I read the e-mail a hundred times. As for the game, I don't remember anything about it, other than being cold, but I think it had an impact on me.

Arnie from South Lake Tahoe, CA

In my opinion, the Packers will not skip a beat with the loss of Jennings. The Packers have a wealth of pass-catchers. Agree?

Yeah, I do, but I wouldn't want to begin the playoffs without him. Greg Jennings is a star playmaker. You don't get better by losing star players.

Adam from Stevens Point, WI

When a player is injured and placed on injured reserve, as Grant and Finley were last year, what do they do? Do they stay with the team and go through the meetings and film study and attend all games and practices, or do they go off and rehab on their own time in their own facilities?

In most cases, they stay with the team, attend meetings and games and rehab their injuries in team facilities, but they are not permitted to participate in practices. Players on injured reserve cannot be required to stay with the team. They are free to do as they please and there have been cases in which players on injured reserve have gone home and conducted their own rehab.

Rob from Chicago, IL

Who is the mysterious Q that asks the non-fan questions to Mike McCarthy on Tuesdays with McCarthy?

I'll never tell.

Don from Schofield, WI

I think a quarterback is still a passer when behind the line of scrimmage, when he can throw at any time. Once past that, he is a runner.

So, even if the quarterback had decided to run with the ball when he was five yards behind the line of scrimmage, defenders have to baby him until he reaches the line of scrimmage and is assured that he won't lose yardage? That doesn't sound right to me.

Jason from U.S. Navy, WA

How can I get a job pushing the cutoff device button? I think I could manage that one.

It's a plum job and I think you have to know someone to get it. I wanna be the sock guy. That's the best job of all. I wanna sit in the press box and phone down to the equipment manager and tell him to tell 75 and 28 to pull their socks up.

Eric from Champaign, IL

The other night I noticed that Sam Bradford and Chris Long had all-white socks, when it was obvious that some blue should've been showing to conform to the uniform rules. I know the league is pretty serious on the uniform code. Will they be fined and how much?

I think the possibility exists that the sock guy fell asleep at the switch. It's an important job and he may have gotten lax at it. My sock drawer at home is a thing of beauty. Socks of the same kind with socks of the same kind, and with consistent spacing between the stacks. Black socks to the far left of the drawer and shades lighten as you proceed to the right. Socks that have yet to be worn are stored at the back of the drawer in a direction opposite the live-socks stacks. This allows for finding the right socks for the right pants early in the morning, without having to turn on the lights. I've always had a fondness for socks and I will not allow my socks to be washed with anybody else's socks. Commissioner, hire me. I'll be the best sock guy you ever had.

Raphael from Paris, France

Following this team in its every-day life, watching the guys work or just being together, would you say, based on your experience and knowledge of football, that this group may possess everything to be the best football team of all-time?

Yes, I would and that's exactly what I will consider this team to be should it complete a 19-0 season. When we debate which team is the greatest of all-time, we usually mix our criterion. Which is it, on-the-field accomplishments or a talent evaluation? I don't like ranking teams according to talent evaluations; that's too subjective for me. I'll allow for consideration of players in the Hall of Fame, but I think the main consideration should be for what each team did on the field. Was it dominant? Did it play a tough schedule? One thing that really hurts the 1972 Dolphins in the greatest-team debate is that they played a cream puff schedule. The 1978 Steelers and 1984 49ers played rugged schedules and at a time when the game was at its strongest, plus, they were teams on long championships runs. The 2011 Packers have faced a strong schedule and have dominated. I think what they did last season should be considered, too, because it would be part of their winning streak. If they cut through the playoffs, they will have done something no team has ever done and I think that would be deserving of the distinction greatest team of all-time.

Carlo from Canton, OH

Vic, I am officially addicted to your column and read it every day. I appreciate the detail in your answers and your candor. You've mentioned that the opponent you fear the most for the Packers in the playoffs is the Giants, and a meeting between these two teams seems more likely. I worry about the Giants' pass-rush and Eli's big-play ability to his receivers downfield. Can you elaborate on your concerns?

Yeah, I don't like 44 and 27. I especially don't like that the Giants are last in the league in rushing because that's nuts. With those two guys and all of that beef in front of them, the Giants should be a top-10 rushing team. I don't like things I don't understand. They scare me.

Blaine from Sun Prairie, WI

With all the talk about Ryan Braun and his supposed testing positive for illegal substances, I got to wondering: Do pro football players go through the same substance tests that baseball players do?

The NFL and its players union took the lead in drug-testing a long time ago, long before baseball started doing it. Baseball is new to drug-testing. Baseball went through a horrible period that stained the game and forever tainted its record book, because it didn't provide for drug-testing. The NFL has been a model for other sports leagues to follow.

Rob from Liverpool, UK

I'm interested in the replay failure last Sunday. Who's responsible for the equipment working?

The league is responsible for the installation and maintenance of the equipment. It sits in a booth in the press box and the door is locked at all times.

Steve from Ilkley, England

Is the Packers defense giving up more big plays because opponents are gambling more on the big play?

Yes, that's one of the big reasons. When you allow something, you can rest assured your opponents are going to make you stop it before they stop doing it. The Packers defense denied the big play and intercepted four passes last Sunday against the Raiders. That's on tape and teams will see it. Do that again this Sunday and future opponents will be less likely to test the Packers deep.

Zach from Woodstock, IL

In the article you wrote on Wednesday, you said Palko will not be the Chiefs' starter this week. What is Orton's status with his finger injury?

I'm thinking Romeo Crennel will term Orton a game-time decision, but I got the sense from talking to Crenel yesterday that Orton is gonna play.

Lora from De Pere, WI

A ladder for the "Lambeau Leap"? Really? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of calling it the "Lambeau Leap"?

I was just trying to have some fun with it but, seriously, what if the Packers had a star player who was shorter and couldn't make that leap. Say they had a player such as Maurice Jones-Drew, who rushes for a lot of yards and scores a lot of touchdowns. Mo is a great athlete but he's a shorter guy and I'm not sure he could make that leap. How cool would it be if he had his own ladder stationed at each end of the field? I think it would be hysterical. It does raise the question: Would the ladder be considered a prop? Hmmm.

Dustin from Jacksonville, FL

If Coach Lombardi did suddenly come back to life, which change to the game do you think he would like least, the most?

I think he'd agree with some of the player-safety rules, such as the ones that protect defensive linemen from chop blocks and "defenseless receivers" from head shots. High-low chop blocks and ambush-hitting are kind of cowardly acts, and that was never Lombardi's game. I don't think he'd like the rules that favor the passing game to the point that they've reduced the importance of the running game. Football was first and foremost a running game for Lombardi. The way the game is played today is closer in style to the way the AFL played the game in the 1960s, and I don't think Lombardi would like that at all.

Bryce from Milwaukee, WI

When can we get back to talking about player-led workouts?

It never ceases to make me laugh when I'm reminded of that ridiculous story during the lockout. How bad must it have been for that story to have actually had legs? Players play and coaches coach, unless it's a lockout, right? Every media person that advanced that story should apologize to his or her readers.

Peggy from Bloomer, WI

I followed the link you provided, to read McCarthy's thoughts about his last decision in the 2007 NFC title game. I was at that game so it is clear to me, why freeze a kicker that is already frozen? Do you think that was his logic?

I guess it was; Coach McCarthy just believed the guy was gonna miss. Hey, he had already missed two, so it wasn't as though he was teeming with confidence. What happened isn't the issue. The issue is that all of these years later, the memory is still fresh. Imagine what it's like being a coach. Imagine the nights you can't get to sleep because the memory of something keeps running through your head. That's what I got from his answer. It was a peek inside the coach's head. I wish more coaches and players would be as candid as Coach McCarthy.

Ralphy from Boomtown, CA

What happened to the live stream?

I'm getting older.

Terrence from Austin, TX

Can you explain what the "around-the-world rule" is? My two minutes of searching didn't do the trick.

The rulebook provided that the goal line extended around the world, and that a touchdown could be scored by extending the ball across the goal line outside the pylon.

Mike from Rochester, NY

Has the NFL made the quarterback too important? I understand that rules have been changed to promote more scoring and that is what is driving the popularity of the sport, but if you don't have a dominant quarterback or lose him to injury, the team is devastated. At least in previous years, you could compensate by a good running game or a dominant defense, but not anymore.

No more Tom Mattes, huh? Was that kick really good?

Brian from Collingswood, NJ

What do you think is the most important factor contributing to a typical dropped pass?

The receiver's parents.

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