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Undrafted triumphs reward scouts' work


Frank from Oak Creek, WI

I just wanted to ask you your feelings about the outlandish amount of money a team will dish out for the top draft pick? I strongly oppose paying them these monster deals when, in fact, they haven't played a single down in an NFL game nor have they won a Super Bowl. I believe Commissioner Goodell is on the right track wanting to implement some type of pay scale. Look at just one example of this money wasted on a top draft pick, Jamarcus Russell, and there are several more I can name.

Vic: I agree that top picks are commanding too much money; it's made having the top pick, having even a top-10 pick, undesirable. A lot of teams are desperate to get out of the top 10. Look at the deal the Browns cut with the Jets that allowed the Jets to draft Mark Sanchez. The Browns gave away a franchise quarterback. Forgive me, however, if I'm not real sympathetic to the cause and here's why: The teams had a rookie pool of money and they not only ignored it, they defeated its intent, which was to govern how much rookies could be paid. Under the old salary cap system, they deferred bonus money and spread it out over several years so they could make more room on their current year's cap and pay their rookies more, instead of hard-capping the rookie pay pool. The same applies to the whole cap system they had. It was a wonderful idea and they had a chance in the very beginning of its existence to make it a hard cap, but the 49ers and the Cowboys were the hot teams in the league back then and it would've meant gutting them, so the owners went with a soft-cap system and the cap vaulted from $30 million a year to over a $100 million before it vanished. It failed to govern salaries, which was its intent. Why? Because the teams failed to operate according to the spirit of the cap; they kept finding ways to defeat it and, in the process, they killed it. Whatever the new system is, it'll require safeguards.

Roland from Forest Hills, NY

Who is your favorite and least-favorite NFL broadcaster of all-time? I like Al Michaels and I think Aikman is going to be a great one, too; he seems like he really studies the teams he observes and takes the game very seriously. On the other hand, watching either Theismann or Collinsworth is hilarious; they seem to get personally offended if someone misses an assignment or makes an error in judgment.

Vic: My all-time network favorite is Merlin Olsen. What I liked best about Olsen is that he was always able to convey his message without talking down to the audience by overuse of terminology. I like Cris Collinsworth's work; I think he speaks frankly and in viewer-friendly terms and I get more out of his analysis than I do from the run-of-the-mill, cover two, nine route guys. I'm not sure I have a least-favorite guy now, but some years ago I would literally turn off a college game if Tim Brant was doing it; he speaks in riddles. I like someone that provides a soft, even delivery and some legitimate information to go with it.

Dave from Kenosha, WI

From a purely physical standpoint, has there been a bigger innovation in football than the evolution of the strength and conditioning coaches and programs?

Vic: The impact of the emphasis on strength and conditioning has been a game-changer; it is literally changing the game. Ask yourself this: What would the great players of yesteryear have looked like had they played in today's game? Dick Butkus? Forrest Gregg? Joe Greene? Anthony Munoz? I shudder to think what those men would've done had they been bigger, stronger, faster.

Andi from West Chicago, IL

I always see pictures and videos of the Packers locker room, but I have never seen what the visitors' locker room looks like. How big is it? Do the Packers treat their guests well?

Vic: I've been in the visitors' locker room – the remodeled one – a few times and I was impressed by how spacious it was, right down to what might be the biggest and best coach's postgame press conference room. The old Lambeau Field visitors' locker room wasn't so good and neither was the press box, but everything about new Lambeau Field is at the top of the league. The 2001-03 renovation of Lambeau Field was right in step with the wave of new stadium construction around the league. It turned what was starting to look kind of old and worn out into something shiny, new and state of the art. The first time I covered a game at Lambeau following the most recent renovation, I was stunned by the transformation.

Matt from Kula, HI

If the lockout lasts until the start of the season, how will the league deal with free agency? It seems teams will have planned their rosters without the benefit of their own free agents or signing any from other teams, therefore, the signing of free agents would be an afterthought and their value severely diminished.

Vic: Nobody knows any of that to be true. We don't even know what the standard will be for achieving unrestricted free agency eligibility. This is a wait and see thing. Depending on that standard, the UFA class could be greatly reduced. At some point, however, there would be a free agency period and teams will certainly have had enough time to react accordingly.

Mitch from Milwaukee, WI

I just want to give a shout out to SFC Christopher from Afghanistan. Thank you for serving our country.

Vic: You speak for all of us, Mitch, and you speak to all of the military serving our country and protecting our freedoms.

Scott from St. Augustine, FL

Recently I saw a pretty good TV show (I hope you saw it ) about Tom Brady; basically, it was an in-depth show on him and the six quarterbacks that were picked in front of him in the 2000 NFL draft. We all knew he was the 199th pick, however, I was very surprised at how good Brady was at Michigan and that he had all of the intangibles that one would want in a great quarterback in college. In your opinion, how and why did all these teams miss on him?

Vic: I've asked several of my scout friends that question and I was told there were concerns about Brady's arm strength and that he didn't throw a good-looking ball and that he wasn't especially mobile or athletic. Having Drew Henson hanging over his head while at Michigan hurt Brady, too; it created a stigma that he was a backup quarterback. One scout, however, told me the real truth. "We blew it," he said. "We all blew it." I'm not gonna tell you I gave Brady much thought back then, but I remember having watched a great bowl game between Michigan and Alabama that pitted Brady against Shaun Alexander. Michigan won the game and I remember having thought to myself that the Michigan quarterback ain't bad. That's the last thought I had about him until he became a star in the NFL in the 2001 postseason. They blew it; that's all. It happens. Hey, the Patriots didn't even think Brady was good enough to draft with their first sixth-round pick; they used a compensatory pick on him. Should Joe Montana have lasted into the third round? Should Dan Marino have been drafted after Tony Eason, Todd Blackledge and Ken O'Brien? Should Matt Jones have been picked ahead of Aaron Rodgers? Mistakes are the biggest part of the draft because they allow players to fall into the laps of the fortunate. The smart teams are the ones that know a mistake when they see it.

Dave from Pudding Skin, AL

Do you think your questioners always hail from the towns they're claiming? It looks like a rodeo roster around here sometimes.

Vic: I've checked out a few that appeared to be suspicious and they turned out to be real. Yeah, you can provide a fictitious name if you'd like; I don't mind readers hiding their identity. I would prefer, however, that they submit legitimate hometown names because I think they provide an entertaining lesson in geography. I like seeing the different hometown names.

Ryan from Irvine, CA

If you believe playing conservative at the end of the game is the right approach, then what do you attribute the Packers' tendency to lose close games? If they kept scoring, wouldn't they put themselves out of reach?

Vic: To what do I attribute their Super Bowl championship? Winning is a good thing. Enjoy it. It's not a constant.

Jeremy from Waukesha, WI

I like following a player ranking chart during the draft. Any sites you like more than others?

Vic: I like Tony Pauline's site. I found Tony years ago at a time when I needed to find a guy and he needed to be found. It's a relationship I value. He's given me a lot of hits and not many misses.

Josh from Harrisburg, PA

Are you wearing khakis in your new picture or are you leaving that up for our imaginations?

Vic: I think you know the answer to that.

Matt from Iron Mountain, MI

Was the signing of Zombo and Shields a gamble or just amazing scouting?

Vic: There are no gambles in undrafted free agency, only bargains. Undrafted free agency is when scouting departments prove themselves. I can sit in a draft room and pick off Pauline's or Mel Kiper's rankings and probably do OK, but when the draft is over, who do I call? That's when a scouting department displays its thoroughness. It knows who it wants and, in a normal year, it begins making those calls in the seventh round, as it becomes apparent to those prospects that they're not going to be drafted. Sam Shields and Frank Zombo, especially Shields, are home-run signings. Those are the kinds of triumphs that make all those days and nights on the road worthwhile.

Ryan from Cottage Grove, WI

At times last season, it almost looked like McCarthy used a "Run-and-Shoot" style of offense from the late 1980s. Some similarities I noticed were multiple shifts, redirecting receivers at the line, a lot of four-receiver formations, McCarthy saying at times most of his calls were run/pass options, etc. I know these things aren't exclusive to the "Run-and-Shoot," but it sure reminded me of the Oilers of old at times.

Vic: All of that shifting and by-formation stuff is window dressing. What I saw was a lot of Bill Walsh-like "Sprint Right Option" principle.

Kevin from Floral Park, NY

I know you have not been with the Packers for that long, but I get the sense you have a good grasp on Coach McCarthy. In a pass-driven league like the NFL is now, do you think having an offensive-minded coach is more of an advantage?

Vic: I don't think it's an advantage. First and foremost, head coaches are leaders of men. There are a lot of coaches in this league that can do Xs and Os, but true leaders of men are at a premium. That's what Coach McCarthy is. He is a leader of men who just happens to be real good with Xs and Os.

Joe from Green Bay, WI

Hillis was chosen over Rodgers for the Madden 2012 cover because of fan voting. The player on the cover of Madden has a supposed curse cast on him the year he is on the cover. If you look at previous covers, you'll see it's actually not turned out to be a favorable honor. This year, EA Sports and Madden decided to let the fans vote to see who ends up on the cover. That meant that every Packers/Rodgers fan voted against Aaron so he wouldn't be on the cover and would dodge the bullet of the Madden curse. The fact that Hillis beat Rodgers is only because all the Rodgers fans voted against him.

Vic: That's why I voted for Hillis.

Zach from Rockton, IL

Regarding the new review rules on scoring plays: Is there a review done only if a score is ruled on the field? Say a catch was ruled incomplete in the end zone. Would a review be done on that play to reverse that call?

Vic: No, there would only be a review if the pass was deemed complete and touchdown was ruled, or if the play was inside the two-minute warning and was subject to booth review, or if the play resulted in a coach's challenge. College football reviews everything; the NFL doesn't.

Scott from Derby, UK

I've been a huge Packers fan for three years now and it is my dream to one day see them play. Realistically, with the season-ticket waiting list being so long and the fact I'm from England, what are my chances of achieving this dream?

Vic: This answer comes straight from the ticket department: "There are a couple of options for this person to purchase tickets. Our tour partner is Packer Fan Tours and they can be (found) at****for tour packages to our games that may include tickets, travel, accommodations or any of the three. Another option is the NFL-sponsored TicketExchange by Ticketmaster. They may be reached at****by clicking on single-game tickets. Tickets may be posted on TicketExchange for people to purchase." Those who are interested in group sales, may purchase individual game suites now; there's no waiting list. It includes 20 tickets, two parking passes and food and beverage. There are also indoor and outdoor club seats and the waiting list is fewer than five years. To get on the waiting list or to learn more about game suites, call 920-569-7260.

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