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The MVP debate: Here's a different spin on it


Russ from La Crosse, WI

Would you agree that yards allowed is meaningless compared to forced turnovers and points allowed?

No, I would not agree. I don't think yards allowed is meaningless at all, especially for a high-powered offensive team such as the Packers, because yards allowed goes directly to time of possession, which means yards directly impacts the points scored in a game because time is points. When a team is controlling the ball on you, your quarterback is on the bench. That's right where the Packers' opponents want Aaron Rodgers, on the bench. Twenty-four minutes possession time is not good enough. It worked against the Bears because the Bears couldn't score, but I see possession time in the postseason as a potential problem because the quality of opposition is going to dramatically improve. I don't think Coach Capers wants anybody to make excuses or allowances for his defense. He's going to challenge them to play better in the postseason, in every way. I think it's imperative that the defense plays better in the postseason.

Gary from Puyallup, WA

Time permitting, how many of the college bowl games are you planning on watching? Any players in particular who pique your interest?

I try to watch a little bit of all of them. I have a mental checklist of NFL prospects on each team, and I try to get a look at each of them. For example, the running back from Boise State, the guy who returned the kickoff for a touchdown, blew me away the other night. I didn't know anything about him. I do now.

Tom from New York, NY

The Packers defense has been effective in the red zone but ineffective between the 20s. To what do you attribute this disparity?

As the ball nears the goal line, space shrinks. All of a sudden, the open space the offense was able to find between the 20s is gone. A bend-but-don't-break defense is indicative of a defense that might be a step slow in the open field, but is very skilled in the execution of its technique and once the field begins to shrink, the defense finds that step it was missing between the 20s and combines it with the execution of sound technique to stop the opponent.

Sean from Oconto Falls, WI

With the potential of seeing the Lions again in the playoffs, could we see a more vanilla game plan this week, or is that not really possible with a division opponent, seeing as they know you so well?

Mike McCarthy will show the Packers' potential playoff opponents what he wants them to see. They'll see bread-and-butter stuff they could find on a preseason tape, and they might see something glitzy that McCarthy wants them to waste time working on but which he has no intention of using in a postseason game. What they won't see is what Coach McCarthy wants to use in a postseason game and is something they haven't previously seen and will have to defend unscouted.

Dan from Windsor, Ontario

Don't you get the feeling defense will always win championships? The one game the Green Bay defense doesn't get a turnover, we lose.

OK, I surrender. Defense, not Rodgers and Brady, win championships.

Brandon from Two Rivers, WI

I was reading an article about the Bears game in which Coach McCarthy said the offensive line would all get game balls. I was wondering if the handing out of game balls is something they just say or is it actually real footballs they give to players?

The equipment manager is usually responsible for preparing "game balls" to be presented to their winners. The ball might have the date of the game, the final score and the player's name painted on it.

Jeff from Colorado Springs, CO

What do you think about teams throwing when the game is decided, just to get a guy a record (i.e. Drew Brees)?

It's what the fans want. They want records. They want fantasy points. They want a controversy they can debate. Years ago, somebody would've paid for doing that kind of thing, but I think we've reached a point in the game that players and coaches understand that the fans' fascination for records and fantasy points and controversy are a big part of what drives the popularity of the game, and the game's popularity is what pays the players' and coaches' salaries. Hey, I don't like it, but I'm a dinosaur and I've learned to just accept it. Your question reminds me of something I saw Bum Phillips do a long time ago. It was the final seconds of the game and I was on the field headed for the tunnel to the locker room in the Astrodome. The Oilers' opponent had turned the ball over on downs at its one-yard line. The Oilers offense ran back onto the field and when it didn't line up in victory formation, Bum began running toward the field screaming, "No, no," and then he frantically called time out and instructed his quarterback to take a knee. That's my idea of professional football.

Kim from Overland Park, KS

Vic, with Drew Brees starting to turn heads down the stretch, a part of me wonders how much of a chance he has to snag that MVP award away from Rodgers (even with that fabulous game against the Bears). My question is just how is the MVP decided?

There's no official NFL MVP. There are MVP awards presented by the Associated Press, Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers of America, and Sports Illustrated. The most prominent MVP award is presented by the Associated Press, and the winner is selected by media members. I believe Aaron Rodgers will win the award. I think he should win it and I hope he does, but here's a little different spin for you: Should Brees win the MVP and have to play a postseason game in Lambeau, that trophy will get real, real heavy.

Milan from Springfield, OH

Why can't the Packers stop the run? Is it because they are not physical enough?

They were stopping the run fine early in the season, and then the mania for more pass-rush began and that's when the run-defense began to show cracks in its dam. What happens when a dam gets a leak in it? It begins to weaken all around that leak, and I think that's what happened to the Packers defense on Sunday. Coach Capers is in a tough spot. He's gonna have to be able to predict run or pass according to down and distance, because I don't think this is a defensive line that can play the run on the way to the quarterback.

Patrick from Hopkins, MN

I waved at you at the game. I was the guy in the Packers jersey.

I saw you and I waved back. Did you see me? Man, it was really stuffy in the press box on Sunday. It made me wish I was outside in the fresh air.

Jason from Charleston, SC

Is there a purpose for the Lions to try and win this Sunday, besides just for pride?

They can pick their wild-card round opponent. I think that's incentive to win, but at what cost? That's what they have to weigh, the risk-reward factor. The Lions won't have a bye. They'll have to step directly into the playoffs. If it doesn't matter to them who the play, then they could use this week as their bye.

Chris from Wyoming, OH

I thought the Packers showed great clock management at the end of the first half on Sunday. We used our timeouts judiciously and when it appeared we were getting into a situation where we could have used another timeout, it appeared to me Rodgers/McCarthy called a play and showed a formation that basically forced Brian Urlacher to call a timeout because the Bears weren't able to match up properly to what the Packers were showing.

Mike McCarthy is the best game-manager coach I've ever covered.

Josh from Monroe, WI

I got Jerry Kramer's "Instant Replay" for Christmas and I haven't been able to put it down. When I'm not laughing my head off, I'm standing in awe of Lombardi's coaching. I know the game has changed a lot, but don't you see a lot of Lombardi in McCarthy?

I see a lot of Tom Coughlin in Coach McCarthy.

Andrew from West Chester, PA

In their first playoff game, the Packers will play either the Lions, Falcons, Giants or Cowboys. Which of these teams do you feel could give the Packers the most trouble, and which should we be crossing our fingers for?

I'll take a dome team in Lambeau in January, if you know what I mean.

Mark from Seattle, WA

I meant to ask you for your take on the Steelers playing Roethlisberger last week when he could barely walk and certainly could not move around in the pocket. For that matter, they still had him in with two minutes left, down 20-3, if I remember the score correctly. I thought it was ridiculous.

It's a tough game for tough guys and teams draw their strength from such displays of grit and determination. When your quarterback plays hurt, everybody has to play hurt. He sets a standard of commitment for everyone on the team. This is the human confrontation part of the game that championship teams win. You must defeat adversity. When you do that, the team grows in esteem and confidence. It develops a sense of itself. Most of all, its investment increases, and the greater the investment, the greater the commitment. That's why you let your quarterback play hurt.

Alex from Minneapolis, MN

I just have one question: What does it take to get into the "Ask Vic Hall of Fame?" I haven't missed an article yet. Does that help?

No, that won't do it. I know greatness when I see it.

Ken from Des Moines, IA

Watched Bears-Packers with a bunch of friends Christmas night and your column came up. Consensus: Love it. Now you say Capers is concerned about the rush-defense. So is everyone. Do you see any signs for optimism?

Coach Capers is my greatest source of hope. He's the best defensive coach I've ever covered and if he can't get it done, it can't get done.

Jessica from Butte, MT

Point-counterpoint: To rest or not to rest?

No, we're gonna go with something else because I just don't think not to rest is an option. I think to some degree key personnel will play sparingly, possibly for both teams.

John from Duluth, MN

I'm serious about this idea. So the Packers cannot rush the QB. On third and long or so, why not drop all 11 into coverage?

You're describing the "Ketchman Prevent." I invented it a few years ago, but the intent is to use it when teams are up against the clock and the quarterback isn't likely to run because that's something the defense would want him to do. It's a 0-0-11 scheme that invites the quarterback to stand in the pocket and pat the ball until the clock expires. If nobody is open, that's all he can do, right? The way I figure, 11 have to be able to cover five.

Marcia from Denver, CO

In Sunday's game, Donald Driver went over the 10,000-yard rushing mark. Why was there no mention of this important accomplishment?

This story mentioned it.

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