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The most important week of the year

All we have to do is wait and watch


Mark from Bristol, UK ran a feature about the Packers' best and worst draft picks, but only included the Super Bowl years. They suggested the Packers "knocked the ball out of the park" in the drafts leading up to their dominance of the 1960s. How much do you think that was drafting and how much was coaching?

I think we all know the importance and value of sound coaching. Only a fool would suggest that Vince Lombardi wasn't important, but I'll also tell you this: Even the best coaches don't win without talent. It starts there, and that makes this the most important week of every year for every team in the NFL. What's going to happen on Thursday, Friday and Saturday will determine much of what will happen for the next several years.

Mike from Altona, Manitoba

I do love your column, Vic, and I just want to say we better draft somebody big in round one.

This is widely considered to be a big-guy draft, especially as it pertains to defensive linemen, and the Packers are widely considered to have a need for big men. That doesn't mean a big guy will be at the top of the Packers' board when it's their turn to pick, but I think the abundance of big-guy talent in this draft makes it likely one might be at the top of their board at pick time. To quote Mike McCarthy, "Five seventy-nine is a number that'll stick in our focus." I won't be offended if the Packers pick a big guy for their defense in round one.

Jessie from Hemet, CA

Just watched Clay Matthews on the NFL channel and was wondering why people think it's the player's responsibility to figure out if their contract could hurt the team getting other players. He had a great answer and my thought is pretty much the same: Isn't that the reason we have a front office to figure out those cap numbers?

The player's responsibility to the team and to himself is to play well enough to be worth the biggest contract possible. The team's responsibility is to fit all of the pieces of the puzzle so they create a winning picture. All of the pieces aren't the same size. You can't win without the big pieces, and that means you have to find a lot of little pieces, some of which have to be changed on a yearly basis. That's the challenge of the salary cap era: Lock up the big pieces for the future, and find the little pieces you need to finish the picture. In the salary cap era, pro football is a game of replacement.

Sean from Brighton, MI

With Matthews signed and assuming Rodgers will be signed soon, does this mean we can assure ourselves that for the next 5-7 years we will have two of the most elite players on both sides of the football at sought-after positions? Sounds like Super Bowls to me.

That's the plan, but 5-7 years is an extremely long projection in the NFL. I wouldn't look much farther out than the next 2-3 years.

Bob from Washington, DC

Welcome back, Vic, and I hope you are well. The Packers have another Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit, and I've always thought the long weekend after gives them an advantage the following week. Is that true in terms of wins and losses?

Mike McCarthy promotes the "extra bye week" a Thursday game creates. My focus is on the game itself, especially in this case because this is a game that could determine the outcome of the NFC North. Does playing on Thursday favor one team over the other? My answer is that it normally does not, especially in this case because the Packers and Lions know each other well enough that they don't need a full week of preparation. That would change, however, if one of the two teams experienced a minor injury to a major player in the previous game, and it was an injury that needed an extra day or two to heal. Should that occur, then playing on Thursday becomes a distinct disadvantage for that team.

Eric from Raleigh, NC

Vic, I hear you talk a lot about how wide receiver fever will ruin a team. I think that is correct but it applies no more to the wide receiver position than any other position. Did you consider the reason the Packers receiving corps is so good is because most of them were drafted early? Cobb, Nelson and Jennings were all drafted in the second round.

I don't know of another kind of position fever. I'll tell you that you'll never regret getting offensive line fever or cornerback fever. Have you considered the reason the Packers receiving corps is so good is because none of them were drafted in the first round?

Joseph from Wessington, SD

Of the top 25 paid players in the game today, 14 of them are quarterbacks; nineteen of the 25 are offense, which leaves six for defense.

The game has always been tilted toward offense. Look at the Hall of Fame. That tilt is increasing and, in my opinion, that makes it critically important to be able to find affordable fixes on defense, and to be willing to let players go on defense and be able to replace them, because you're going to spend a lot of money locking up star players on offense.

Court from Butte, MT

In regards to the bye week, why not just make it equal and give half the league Week 8 off and the other half Week 9 off?

The league's Week 8 and Week 9 schedules would be awfully weak, and TV wouldn't like that.

Niko from Chicago, IL

Hey, Mike, great job holding down the fort in Vic's absence. Vic's philosophy is players, not plays; this is how he justifies us getting destroyed by physical teams such as the 49ers and Giants. Yet, Ted Thompson is considered this amazing talent finder. So what gives? Our coaches are doing a good job, and we find good young talent, but they're not good enough to stop anybody, ever. It seems like we're content being around 9-11 wins a season and, hopefully, getting a hot spurt once in a while, like in 2010. I know teams like Vic's Jaguars would kill for that, but the Packers should be better than that. The Patriots, Giants, Ravens, Steelers, they've all won multiple Super Bowls in the 2000s. Obviously, we've managed the cap very well and field a good team, but is good all we'll ever be? Rant over. Signed: Frustrated Packers fan.

Mike's gone, Niko, and I'm not a woe-is-us kind of guy. If you apply analytics to the Packers' performance for an extended period of time, all of the analysis is positive and there aren't many teams in the league that wouldn't "kill" for the Packers' record. Maybe the Packers' performance isn't the problem. Maybe the problem is a lack of appreciation for the good times Packers fans have enjoyed for a long, long time.

Anthony from Baraboo, WI

Vic, the Packers don't have two away games in a row all season. Do you think this will give the Packers any kind of advantage, or is it the only silver lining in a tough schedule?

It's the ultimate in routine, and coaches love routine.

Bob from Menasha, WI

If the Packers have the chance, which running back would you like to see them take from these names and why: Eddie Lacy, Stepfan Taylor, Montee Ball or Kniles Davis?

Running back no longer commands the high-pick attention it once did. Teams are trying to find that guy down the line a little bit, and that's why I like Taylor. I think his lack of combine speed will make him outstanding value in a middle round. Lacy is a true pounder, and I'd be fine with picking him because he would immediately address short-yardage downs, but you might have to spend a first-round pick to get him.

Chris from Coquitlam, British Columbia

"I neglected to mention Datko yesterday in my discussion of the offensive tackles, and I should have noted him. It was an oversight." This is the difference between you and Vic, Mike. You can stand up and admit when you've made a mistake. Man up, Vic. Hope you are doing well, nonetheless.

I hope you're doing well nonetheless, too, Chris.

Carl from Washington, DC

Do you think playing in Lambeau last year would have helped at all against the 49ers? It was frigid cold out, which would have slowed a warm-weather team down a bit. Plus, Kaepernick might have been rattled by such a loud crowd. If the Packers had won the "Fail Mary" game, was there a chance to win in Lambeau?

Yeah, I think it would've favored the Packers to have played at home in the postseason, but what good does it do to look for excuses? When I saw the schedule, I said to myself, "Good, we won't have to wait long." It's the first game of the year, which means we can start talking about it now and we won't be guilty of looking beyond the next game. The 49ers will have spent an offseason on deepening their commitment to the read option; the Packers will have spent an offseason committed to stopping the read option. It's great theater, and all we have to do is wait and watch. I like to watch.

Bill from Raleigh, NC

Aside from the important and monumental challenge of playing San Francisco, I do not understand the hysteria about the read option. Colin Kaepernick is great because he can pass, run and has the body to absorb hits. To this point, no one else can do what he can in the medium term.

I didn't understand the hysteria about the wildcat. The Dolphins reached to draft Pat White and then he nearly got killed on a sideline hit and that was the end of the wildcat. Will the read-option experience the same fate? We'll see.

Eric from Milwaukee, WI

Hey, make a realistic and honest opinion. What will the Packers' record be at the end of the season? I say 9-7.

I don't think 9-7 will make it into the postseason, and I consider the Packers to be a playoff team, therefore, I would expect their record to be something better than 9-7. I'm not into predicting records. For me, it's about whether or not a team makes it into the playoffs; that's all.

Joe from Bloomington, IN

What one word would you use to describe Ted Thompson?


Conor from Milwaukee, WI

This column has gotten so much better in Vic's absence. Here's an idea: Switch off every so often with Vic on this column; he seems to get too worked up over it and bummed out by it anyway.

I'm thinking of a word.

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