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The three seasons of Green Bay


William from Quezon City, Metro Manila

Why did it take six games to figure out a plan to protect the quarterback?

It wasn't the plan, it was the execution of the plan. I'm beginning to think Madden isn't the whole problem. I'm beginning to think the proliferation of ex-player analysts on NFL Network and ESPN, who live for the chance to impress fans with their knowledge of football X's and O's, are the problem. They're poisoning fans with their excessive analysis of strategy, when they know everybody is using the same strategies and it's the human confrontation that's the difference between winning and losing. It's become an ex-player scam; they're holding fans hostage with terminology fans feel they must know to be able to impress their fellow fans. I'm looking for the ex-player TV analyst who will tell me the story of the human confrontation. That's one of the reasons I love talking to Jerry Kramer. He tells that story. By the way, you are the first person from Quezon City to ever have a question published in "Ask Vic."

Josh from Monroe, WI

Do you think fans of the 14 AFC teams that are .500 or below are pointing to parity rather than the fact that the NFC is simply dominating them this season?

I don't know. Did fans of NFC teams point to parity when the AFC dominated the NFC from 1997-2008?

Jeff from Topeka, KS

Can you tell us a little more about how teams, like Houston, get to be teams that get low? Is it a different technique they practice, because they run the ball more, or what exactly?

It's mostly a result of the stretch play. It promotes cut-blocking on the back side of it; that's where the back tends to run as he cuts back against the flow of the pursuit. It's a nasty little play because it demands that defenders get upright and run to the ball. In that upright position, they are vulnerable to the cut block.

Scott from Sheboygan, WI

If the NFL wants to do something about reducing concussions, why not suspend a player without pay for a game if he is flagged for leading with his helmet, with more serious suspensions to come for each additional penalty the player draws, similar to the substance abuse suspension process?

In flagrant cases, such as the one that involved the New England safety, Meriweather, I think a suspension is warranted and can be applied. What about cases where the offensive player dropped his head into the defensive player's head, as in the Harrison-Massaquoi play? Do we suspend the offensive player, too, for leading with his head? You see, that's where the line gets blurred, and that's why I say the league is asking defensive players to do what can't be done.

Nick from Toronto, Ontario

I get "players, not plays," but does that mean great players make coaches great, or do great coaches make players great? Or both?

Great coaches make players good. Great players make coaches great.

Aaron from Washington, DC

I'm sure you don't keep tabs on high school sports, but you'll be saddened to hear that two Oregon teams combined for a state-record 172 points. Yes, this was a football game. Ending score was 106-66.

Why tackle? Somebody might get hurt.

Sean from Vermontville, MI

Vic, I couldn't agree with you more when you advise against wearing favorite-team apparel because it would make fans vulnerable to being targeted by mean-spirited fans of the home team. Two years ago, my wife and I attended our first game together at Ford Field. Even though she was seven months pregnant with our first son and the Lions won the game, a woman threw popcorn in her face on our way out of the stadium. I've decided I'll never return to Ford Field, and would think twice about attending any game outside of Lambeau.

Team apparel has become the equivalent of a country's flag. When you wear a team's jersey, you're flying its "flag." I think the greatest changes in the game haven't been on the field, but in the stands. I remember my father buying tickets for three dollars, and he complained about the price. You never saw a fan wearing a team jersey back then, because there was no way to get one unless you played on the team. The fans sat in their seat, instead of standing for most of the game, and if the quarterback motioned for silence, even if he was the quarterback of the visiting team, the crowd got quiet.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Do you see a particular crew scheduled to call a Packers game and expect a long night? Are the personalities for these crews well established?

Referees and their crews have specific identities. Jeff Triplette has a reputation for not overturning plays that have gone to replay review. If I'm covering a game Mike Carey is doing, I'm going to eat a little more before the game because Mike's never seen a violation he didn't penalize and this one could go long. Some crews have reputations for being pre-snap conscious; others love to call pass interference. Ron Winter had a reputation for replay-review controversies, but now all crews have that reputation. These guys are really good at what they do, but there's a human confrontation element to their games, too, and we have to live with their foibles and personality differences, just as we have to live with the players' and the coaches'.

Steve from Saint Charles, MO

Vic, do you agree that catching the ball is the essence and primary purpose for a receiver's existence on a team? If so, isn't a drop simply not doing their job?

Yeah, and bad punctuation is one of the primary purposes of my existence, but sometimes I use a semi-colon when a comma should've been used, and I'll bet you even drop a pass every so often, too. A possession receiver must limit his drops. He's on the team for one reason, to catch the ball. That's not true of the speed receiver. He's on the team to stretch the field. Two of the fastest players I've ever covered had terrible hands. Dwight Stone was a converted running back who was the fastest thing I had ever seen. He was known as "Hands of Stone," but when he came onto the field, secondaries backed off the line of scrimmage. They were scared to death of him because every defense fears the deep ball. Stoney opened up a lot of room for underneath receivers by his mere presence in the game. The same was true of Alvis Whitted. Every time a ball bounced off his hands, I'd say, "Clang, clang, clang went the trolley." It was as though his hands were webbed. Whitted played nine seasons in the NFL; Stone played 14. Obviously, catching the ball was not the primary purpose for their existence on the team.

Dustin from Eau Claire, WI

Vic, is it safe to say the Packers are at their best when playing in a dome? It just seems we are so much faster in domes, which match our rhythm. Is a wild-card a blessing in disguise?

Reliant Stadium really isn't a dome. It has natural turf, and not a real good turf, at that. Lucas Oil Stadium is definitely a dome, with a hard, fast, artificial surface. I really don't want to use Lambeau Field as an excuse for losing.

Hans from Front Royal, VA

Vic, in the "Tuesdays with McCarthy" column, he mentioned the three seasons of football. You must have chuckled at yourself when he mentioned this.

It intrigued me when I read what the coach said. I never thought of it in those terms. In Jacksonville, there's summer, and then there's late summer. In Green Bay, there really are three distinct seasons within a football season; there's a short summer season, a similarly short fall season, and then the inevitable winter. The coach is a romantic.

Rick from Fountain Valley, CA

Here is a recent quote of yours: "The day and age of controlling noise has long since passed. It can't be done. At Sunday's game in Houston, the Reliant Stadium scoreboard actually encouraged fans to make noise to disrupt the Packers offense. We've turned fans into players." Do you know what the league is thinking regarding crowd noise?

It's thinking that crowd noise is good for the game because it breeds popularity, which is evident in attendance, TV ratings, fantasy football participation, etc. The fans want to be part of the game and the league is happy to grant their wishes. It wasn't that long ago that if a coach used a press conference to encourage crowd noise, he'd be fined. Who needs to read about the Roman Empire? We're living in it.

Alan from Rochester, MN

The sack by Watt at Houston when he ripped off the helmet on A-Rod, why was that not called a hit to the quarterback's head? Sure looked illegal to me.

It wasn't called because it probably wasn't seen. Lots of violations aren't seen, and that's fine with me because I think the officials are seeing enough.

Richard from Lake Havasu City, AZ

Cover two, isn't that more of a run defense? Bud Carson, the father of cover two, employed it to stop the run by playing Mel Blount and J.T. Thomas up close. Do you think the real reason cover two worked so well for the Steelers is because Jack Lambert was fast enough to cover tight ends leaving the safeties to roam free?

The Steelers were playing cover two before Lambert arrived. Carson became the team's defensive coordinator in 1972. I was a very young reporter when I sat with Bud and he used an old-fashioned projector shining its light on his dorm room's wall, and he explained the principles of cover two, which is a defense designed to deny the deep pass. Cover two is light up front, employing a very predictable seven defenders in the tackle box to defend against the run, but as Bud said with a smile, "You can do that when you have Joe Greene." George Perles took cover two to greater heights two years later when he created the "stunt 4-3." That's the defense that was created for Lambert. It turned Greene sideways so he could occupy two blockers and allow Lambert to run to the ball unencumbered.

Jeff from Albuquerque, NM

The Sun rotates, as does the Earth. It never rises or sets.

I have to believe Hemingway knew that.

Mark from Winfield, IL

Vic, Cedric Benson is out with a Lisfranc foot injury and so are some other high-profile players. This description has apparently been around forever, but why have I only noticed the term this year? Is it the proliferation of sports information or did I miss the memo?

We're gaga about injuries; that's why you're noticing them more now. We're talking about them more. Mike McCarthy's press conferences are primarily medical reports. What I don't understand is why we continue to question coaches about the details of injuries they will under no circumstances divulge. Every coach's intent is to couch his injury report in such a manner that no one will know what the truth is, and do that without lying. It requires talent to do that, and coaches have that talent, but we keep asking the same questions and getting the same stealth replies.

Nate from Monroe, WI

I was wondering when a coach is fired, do they still collect the full season's pay?

They are paid according to what remains of their contract. If they take a job with another team, the team that fired them pays the difference in compensation between the two contracts, if the old one provides for higher compensation.

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