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What do you want, scheme or execution?

Jon Gruden's "Banana," the rulebook, Richard Sherman and more


Derek from South Point, OH

Vic, you receive a call today from Commissioner Goodell. He asks your advice on how to quickly get the off-the-field issues in order and the focus back on the game. You say?

Provide full transparency and fix what's broken.

Paul from De Pere, WI

I thought the onside kick was a poor decision, regardless of the outcome. Is there a value beyond the tactical in what message that communicates to the team? It seemed a move born of desperation at the time.

You thought it was desperate because the play came as a surprise to you, but the players had practiced that play over and over and it was obviously in the game plan, so it didn't come as a surprise to them. The message to them, therefore, is: We'll use what we practice. Beyond that, the message is the coach doesn't coach out of fear. He's bold and he believes in his game plan and in his players. Would I have ordered an onside kick at that point in the game? I'm not that bold.

Martin from Tisovec, Slovakia

Vic, several things in the game went the Packers' way. Rodgers' interception wiped out by the penalty, the disastrous (touchdown) reception nullified because of a time out, injury to Decker and Wilkerson's ejection. Did the Packers catch a break?

Sure they did. It happens that way sometimes. What's important is that we remember Sunday's good luck the next time the Packers have some bad luck.

Jerry from Kent, WA

With September essentially being a preseason in which the games count, wouldn't it be better for competition and the game product to save the divisional games for later in the season, say weeks five or six?

I would agree. It bothers me the Packers are about to begin a three-game stretch of schedule that will go a long way toward deciding the NFC North title, at a point in the season when teams are weeks away from playing to their identities. In my opinion, this is a good time for interconference games, such as Sunday's. This would be a good time to play Buffalo, Miami and New England, and save the big division and intraconference games for late in the year when one game counts two in the standings and tiebreakers.

Shalom from Austin, TX

They may take one offensive weapon out, but they can't take out both. Defenses have been stacking the box for Lacy, which makes it easier to throw for Rodgers. I think it's okay we didn't get that many rushing yards, as long as we command respect for the run.

That's the idea, right? That's why you run the ball, to open up the pass. The running game has done its job.

Tim from Chicago, IL

True or False: Most casual fans have not achieved perspective.

False: Their casualness is their perspective and it's healthy because it doesn't threaten their everyday routine. The problem with casualness is it doesn't allow you to fully enjoy the intensity of the game. I don't want to sacrifice that; the game's intensity is its greatest treasure. So, if you want to fully experience the game without allowing it to threaten your everyday existence, you need to know how to turn it on and off, and that's when it's important to be able to achieve perspective. Perspective is the switch.

Tyler from Columbus, OH

I've been waiting for this game since my dinner was ruined last Thanksgiving. What differences do you see in Caldwell's Lions vs. Schwartz's?

These Lions are more disciplined.

Steve from Manchester, England

You make a good point about Jordy Nelson. In that case, why do we need as many tight ends active on game day as wide receivers?

Aside from the specialty roles tight ends address – extra blockers, special teams – tight ends allow a coach to do things by formation. Tight ends are most effective at creating matchups.

Matthew from Maffra, Australia

It seems like a defense can be successful with little scheming, like Seattle. Can an offense do the same or does everyone have to scheme on offense?

Scheme is important if you don't have players that can do a lot of things. If you have a roster full of specialists, you need to scheme. On the flip side, if you have a back that can run and catch, you probably need one less personnel package, figuratively speaking. So, it's all a matter of how your roster is shaped. If I was a coach, I'd rather have players that can do a lot of things so I don't have to do as many things, because scheme is not nearly as dependable as talent. Use Sunday's controversial time out play as an example. Marty Mornhinweg was desperate to call a time out because somebody – probably the running back – was out of position according to the play that was called. Mornhinweg is thinking, "Oh, no, it's all wrong, it's going to fail." So, what happened? The Jets scored what appeared to be a dramatic, game-tying touchdown on a play that was all wrong. If ever there's an example of players, not plays, that's it. How about that 37-yard option play the Jets ran? Great scheme, huh? Yeah, they had 10 guys on the field. Hey, I'm not big on scheming schemes. I'm big on scheming personnel.

Bob from Melbourne, Australia

Vic, given your emphasis on confrontation and hard-edge football, I'm surprised at how you underestimate the symbolic effect on the fan base of the refusal to engage with Richard Sherman? I know you will say Aaron will only throw to who's open, but can you not see that going to such extremes to avoid Sherman is symbolism which the fans would rather not see?

No, I can't see that because it's nuts, but that doesn't mean you can't continue to see it. I think you should spend the remainder of the season perseverating on this insanity. I think Richard Sherman should be your last thought before you go to sleep at night, and your first thought when you wake up in the morning, and all day long you should whisper to yourself, "Richard Sherman, Richard Sherman, Richard Sherman." Don't let this go. This is critical stuff. "Richard Sherman, Richard Sherman, Richard Sherman." By Thanksgiving, you should've achieved FULL CONSISTENCY.

Jesse from Waukesha, WI

Vic, in college football you root for the other teams in your conference to win nonconference games for the integrity of the conference. Does this mindset translate also to the NFL divisions?

It seems to be important to pro football fans in Wisconsin. I sensed no such importance in Pittsburgh or Jacksonville.

Aaron from Hays, KS

All the money, time and updates they put into making officials more consistent and they still blow calls. What's it going to take?

Fewer rules. Blow up the rulebook. I wrote it before Mike Pereira said it. It's too much to expect an official to have eyes in the back of his head, which he would've needed to detect that Mornhinweg is not Rex Ryan.

George from Mineral Point, WI

You are wearing Mike McCarthy's hat. Players don't lose their jobs because of injury. How do you get Corey Linsley on the field when Tretter returns?

If I'm the coach, I don't have that rule. I do anything I want anytime I want because I'm the coach. That's the rule because I subscribe to one rule above all other rules: I will do what's best for the Green Bay Packers.

Jeffrey from Appleton, WI

My dad took me to Packers games in the early 1960s. He was at the Ice Bowl as I listened to the game on the radio, as the game wasn't on TV locally. What's your fan history?

My father took me to games. It's my greatest regret that I have never taken one of my sons to a pro football game; that's what this career has cost me. I have lots of memories of going to games with my dad. One of my favorite memories is from a Steelers-Washington game. I think it was 1962. It was a late-season game and Bobby Layne stunk it up and was benched. Washington had a big lead in the second half and my dad said, "That's all; let's go." When we got to the car, it was trapped; cars to its right, left, front and back. We tried to go back into the game but the gates were closed; all you could do was leave, not enter. It was about then I began hearing cheers coming from inside Forbes Field. We went back to the car and sat inside it and listened to the radio account of a furious Steelers rally, led by Ed Brown. I remember hearing the roar of the crowd from across the street as the radio announcer proclaimed Lou Michaels' final-play field goal attempt to be good. I said, "That's OK, dad. We'll go next time." We did and we didn't leave early.

Daniel from Tehachap, CA

After watching the game on Monday night, I think the problem with our run game is we don't run enough Spider 2Y Banana. While we are at it, we should switch to a 4-3 offense and a no-huddle special teams.

I wonder how many people would agree with you.

Travis from Fresno, CA

How far in the future will one be able to watch live NFL games online, legitimately?

The Internet is the future of the NFL. The network will be the portal through which the league's games will pass, and you'll pay for it and your options for interaction will be greatly increased. I don't know specifics, but there's no doubt in my mind I am working in the foundation of the future of professional football.

Van from Collingwood, Ontario

Vic, I never realized Spider 2Y Banana was a real play until Jon Gruden said it about 10 times last night and I searched for it online. I don't know if I could ever memorize a playbook full of such ridiculous play names.

I am instantly reminded of a favorite moment involving one of my favorite quarterbacks, Bubby Brister. Bubby had talent, but it did not include command of the playbook. When Joe Walton was made Bubby's coordinator, the Bubster had a meltdown. I can remember a game in which he burned every time out in a half to avoid delay of game, because he couldn't get the play called. That was before helmet communicators. Well, in his press conference after the game, he explained the language of the plays is so long that he can barely remember it, let alone repeat it. I said, "Give us an example." He did. In his thick Louisiana accent, the Bubster burst into a five-second or more litany of disjointed sounding words that made absolutely no sense to anyone in the room. It was hilarious.

Brian from Maple Grove, MN

Vic, during the Jets game I noticed Mathews playing linebacker multiple times and Peppers dropping into coverage. I also saw A.J. Hawk line up in the nose tackle position and get thrown aside like a flea on a running play that went for big yardage. Why in the world are the Packers not utilizing personnel playing to their strengths instead of getting exotic? We wasted both Mathews' and Peppers' rush ability on multiple plays.

I thought everybody wanted scheme. Now everybody wants execution. Which is it? Let's do this: For tomorrow's column, put the word "scheme" or "execution," not both, at the start of your question. For example: "Scheme. And then your question." No equivocating or explanations. Anything more than scheme or execution and I'll delete you.

Jeremy from Atlanta, GA

Did you just hear Gruden talk about Spider 2Y Banana on MNF?

Jon Gruden's a genius. I love him and I love his commentary because he makes football fun. He knows fans have gone scheme crazy and he's gonna ride that wave. I did an interview with him last year and I regret having failed to ask him this question: Plays or players? He'll be here in December. I'll request another interview. If I get it, I'll ask him.

Nick from Plainwell, MI

Next up, the Detroit Lions. We know about Stafford, Johnson and Suh. Anybody else you believe we need to watch out for?

DeAndre Levy is one of the best linebackers in the game.

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