|49ers RB LaMichael James carries the ball against the Packers in the NFC Divisional playoff last January.|
The regular writer of "Ask Vic," packers.com Editor Vic Ketchman, is taking some time off. Staff Writer Mike Spofford is temporarily filling in to answer your "Ask Vic" questions.
Mark from Dallas, TX
It seems like the Packers have often found the Patriots willing trade partners when trying to fit their picks to their slots on draft day (five trades in the last decade, with two last year). With the Patriots short several picks traded for players this year, do you think this will impact how much or how easily the Packers can move around in the draft this year?
I doubt it, but you never know. The trades with New England were partly a function of like-minded draft philosophies – fitting a pick to the value of its slot. Philadelphia has been a trade partner in two of the last three years, too. I don't think there's any way to predict a specific trading partner because no team's situation is the same year to year. That said, I'm curious to see over time (not necessarily this year) if any draft/trade relationships develop between the Packers and the other GMs who came from here – Seattle's John Schneider, Oakland's Reggie McKenzie, Kansas City's John Dorsey. Those relationships, and like-minded approaches of value-drafting, can produce activity.
Gary from Millston, WI
With the 49ers having 14 draft picks this year, nine of them in the top five rounds, how can any team realistically think of catching them soon? To quote Vic, it's players. Well, if that's so, they sure will skim a lot of cream off the top this year.
It's actually 13 picks with eight in the first five rounds, but it's hard to imagine the defending NFC champion's 53-man roster has room for a baker's dozen, and anyone they try to slip through to the practice squad will be available to any team. I think the larger question is how many higher picks in future years will the 49ers potentially stockpile by making trades with their overload of picks this year. Or will they package a bunch of picks for someone they've targeted high in the draft this year. William from Savannah, GA, wrote in discussing those same scenarios. That's what I'll be watching for.
Dan from Lake Tomahawk, WI
Hi Mic. (Otherwise you would be Vike, and I couldn't stand that.) How do you view the Packer offensive line? A lot of people think it needs vast improvement, and I think Rodgers makes them look a lot worse than they really are by holding the ball so long to avoid INTs and find more wide open receivers.
That's a loaded question, so bear with me. The 51 sacks must be reduced, obviously. That's an ugly number. I thought Green Bay's offensive line, and therefore the offense in general, was at its best last year from halftime of the Seattle game in Week 3 to halftime of the Indy game in Week 5. Cedric Benson was hitting his stride in the running game then. In those eight quarters, or the equivalent of two full games, he rushed for 145 yards, Rodgers wasn't sacked in 82 pass attempts, and the Packers put up 60 points. A lot to like. What went wrong? Benson went down. Then Bulaga went down. Lang, who was playing with an elbow brace most of the year, was needed at tackle until Barclay emerged, so the center switch couldn't be made until late December. Five different starting line combinations and four different feature running backs were used in a span of eight games. Some of you will call me an excuse-maker. OK. But that's the way I see it, and if the Packers get healthy up front, add more line depth and competition in this draft, and find the right back to pair with Harris for a 1-2 punch on the ground, they'll be better for it. As for Rodgers holding the ball too long, those who regularly read my chats last season have heard me say this. I don't disagree that he holds the ball too long at times, but no one complains when he holds the ball and scrambles for 7-8 seconds and finds Cobb in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. That approach will lead to some otherwise avoidable sacks. You have to take the good with the bad. Sorry for the long answer.
Andy from Calgary, Alberta
Hey Mike, I'm confused about yesterday's WR signing. How can the Pack sign a guy who hasn't yet played pro ball? Wouldn't he be eligible to be drafted in a week?
Sederrick Cunningham was eligible for the draft last year and wasn't drafted. He has been a free agent since then.
Leigh from Port Washington, WI
Mike, you said two Packers staff members will be in New York City for the draft. Who are they and do you know why they were chosen to represent Green Bay?
They are assistant video director Chris Kirby and assistant equipment manager Bryan Nehring. I wrote a story a few years ago for the Packers Yearbook about their annual trip to the draft. This will be their 10th one. They were originally asked by then-coach/GM Mike Sherman in 2004 and have been personally asked to return every year by Ted Thompson. They both consider it a tremendous honor. Prior to that, Kirby's former boss, longtime video director Al Treml, had made the trip with his wife, and I surmise his retirement led to Kirby's involvement.
Matt from Champlin, MN
Hey Mike, what's the deal with the Packers oftentimes lining up with five wideouts in a goal-line situation? I understand how well they can throw the ball, and package mismatches, but beyond that, is there any benefit? Wouldn't the mere threat of a run be beneficial? Clearly you can't have a traditional handoff with five WRs. There's little chance of anyone running the ball if Rodgers is contained; no play-action, no draw, just straightforward, "We're passing, try to stop us." They seem to do this an awful lot. Even if it does work, it drives me nuts every time they do it!
I tend to prefer seeing at least one back in goal-line and short-yardage situations to keep the defense honest, but those formational/situational parts of the game plan are made after hours and hours of studying the opponent, tendencies, matchups, etc. The coaches have plenty of reasons – more than I could ever come up with or that they'll share. Armchair play-calling is a favorite pastime of many, and I'm not saying game plans are infallible, but I find it far more productive to focus on the execution of the play than the call. The plays called in the game are the ones that have been practiced all week. Remember that.
Daniel from Houston, TX
Mike, I know that, in terms of what it meant to our season, Aaron Rodgers' tackle of Brian Urlacher was/will be the most significant tackle he'll probably ever make. But my "favorite" tackle came in a Monday night game on Nov. 24, 2008, when he blasted Jason David at the 3-yard line after David intercepted his pass. I don't even think they have this video anymore, but I'll never forget it.
Rodgers certainly wasn't happy with himself and took it out on somebody. Otherwise, all I remember from that second half at the Superdome in New Orleans, when things started to snowball the wrong way, was how loud it got, how much my head hurt, and how badly I just wanted to get home.
Andrew from Appleton, WI
With all this talk about Seattle and San Francisco being so far under the cap because they have lucked out at the QB position, it almost seems like it's a burden to pay Rodgers or any other elite QB. Don't get me wrong, I love having Rodgers – and wouldn't let him go – but could the Seattle way be the new way to do things?
Barring the unforeseen, the Seahawks and 49ers aren't going to start over at quarterback when Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick are ready for their next contracts, if that's what you're suggesting.
Skip from Rozet, WY
We like to talk about the great players that put up huge stats and win all the awards, but who is the most important player on the Packers that is truly a team player, doesn't ask for and doesn't get the notice, but is a difference-maker?
That's some tough criteria, but I'll go with punter Tim Masthay. The punting on this team was a real problem area in 2008 and '09 before Masthay came along and settled in during the second half of 2010. His development has been fun to watch, and he has made a real difference.
Pat from Altoona, WI
Is there any last-minute evaluating of current players going on now right before the draft?
Medically, yes, but coaches cannot do anything on the field with current players in the offseason program until Phase 2, which begins right after the draft. As for the draft prep, the personnel department meets daily for roughly the final two weeks prior to the draft to finalize the board. Any long, drawn-out discussions occur then, not when the team is on the clock.
Mark from Stewartville, MN
Mike, what is your view of Pat Summerall as a football broadcaster?
He provides a ton of memories from growing up, that's for sure. I remember watching a lot of games on CBS with my dad, and we'd always appreciate the announcers who didn't just talk but actually taught us something about the game. Summerall was one of those, and he was able to do so in few words and at very poignant times. I really enjoyed him and his partnership with John Madden. When I see the current info-graphic screens that define modern broadcasts, with the score, down-and-distance, time clock, etc., framing our viewing, I'm reminded Summerall called play-by-play much of his career without all of that, and it wasn't needed with him. That's probably the best compliment I can give.
Tom from Wentzville, MO
Mike, Super Bowl wins aside, which Packers team was the greatest of our lifetime? The '96 Packers (Super Bowl champs), '97 Packers (Super Bowl losers), 2010 Packers (Super Bowl champs), or 2011 Packers (15-1)? Remember, the '96 team had a hard time moving the ball midseason until they picked up Rison, and the 2010 team was a wildcard team.
It's hard to argue with the '96 team that led the league in scoring offense and scoring defense. They hit a rough patch with injuries but it knocked them off stride only briefly. As for others you didn't mention, I've always felt the 2007 team was pretty darn good. I don't know exactly where I'd rank it amongst your list, but not getting to see a Super Bowl between that team and the undefeated Patriots was regretful, to say the least.
CJ from Edinboro, PA
Mike, we know about Vic's vision of a game of basketball on grass, but where do you see the game going in 10 years?
More safety measures are coming. That's a given. I wouldn't be shocked if three- and four-point stances are eventually outlawed. Formations will become either more or less restricted, depending on which direction is determined will reduce high-impact collisions. As long as the changes don't affect fantasy football, and safety measures don't, the game's popularity won't change.
Kurt from Mayville, WI
Hey Mike, glad to hear you are from Platteville. I went to college there and whitewashed the "M" each year. Did you ever get to experience that? I'm also reminded of the days when the Bears held their training camp in Platteville and other NFL teams held their camps in other Wisconsin cities. Do you think we'll ever go back to those days?
No, never whitewashed the "M" but saw it done. For those who asked, Platteville's "Big M" is the world's largest "M" made of whitewashed stone on the side of a large hill outside of town. I always figured the whitewashing gave it some magical power. Unfortunately, I think the days of training camps throughout Wisconsin are over. It was fondly called the "Cheese League," with the Packers here, the Bears in P-ville, the Saints in La Crosse, the Chiefs in River Falls and Vic's Jaguars in Stevens Point. Teams are keeping their camps closer to home now for convenience and, I believe, to keep the positive economic impact more local.
Ric from Longmont, CO
In case the horse hasn't quite been beaten to death...People are forgetting that there was alliteration built into Vic's word to describe fans. It needs to start with a "W." Wild, Waiting, and...as such, I still like "Winsome."
So does Vic, Ric, and I bet he likes your name, too.
Steve from St. Charles, MO
Sorry, Mike. The very concept of a single word to describe the millions of Packer fans is ludicrous. Both Vic's and yours are inadequate, but capture aspects that most of us share. Does that make us "fervently winsome" or "winsomely fervent"?
Ha. I'll let Vic make that call.