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Why all the hate for the 49ers?

Coach Jim Harbaugh's team is only guilty of one thing


Josh from Caledonia, WI

I was thinking of you, Vic, when they did the intentional safety. I remember you saying how distasteful it felt to you to give points to the other team. But they executed it perfect to clinch the Super Bowl.

It was the right thing to do. I knew as soon as the fourth-down pass was incomplete and I did my math on the time remaining that the Ravens would take the safety on fourth down. I also think that for the second consecutive year a play in the Super Bowl might cause some kind of rules adjustment. The Ravens intentionally held on the safety play. Why not? If they're called for holding, it's still a safety and the time isn't put back on the clock. Again, it was the smart thing to do, but I also think it might result in some conversation on the subject at the owners meetings in March, and possibly cause a proposal to put time back on the clock or penalize the violating time in some additional manner when it's guilty of holding in that situation. Remember the too-many-men-on-the-field penalty in last year's Super Bowl and the rules change it caused. Coaches are smart people. They will always find gaps in the rules, which will force more rules. By the way, if we need proof that the officials' flags were sewn to their pockets in the final moments of the game, the safety play is it.

Jason from Dillsburg, PA

Vic, is this dry, scripted delivery and over-commercialism the future of football's presentation? I am having a hard time even watching it any longer.

I'm fond of saying that something was so bad it was good. In this case, I think TV's presentation of the NFL has become so good, so absolutely perfectly flawless, it's bad. It's bad because it's become predictable. It's also become politically correct, and maybe we're to blame for that because we, and I mean the media and the fans, skewer any broadcaster that dares to be edgy. Frankly, I think TV's presentation of football needs some edge. On those occasions when I watch football at home and my wife is actually in the room with me, I'll comment on a play before the broadcaster does. Then he'll say the same thing I said and my wife will say, "How did y'all know he was gonna say that?" I'll tell her, "When yinze watch as much football as I have, yinze just know." You know what I would've liked on Sunday? Instead of telling me about "cover two" or some other mind-numbingly repetitive reason for a team's success or failure, I would've liked one of the talking heads to just go off on the 49ers. When it was 28-6, if one of them had simply said, "The 49ers are stinking out the house and that includes their coaches for not having their players ready to play," maybe I wouldn't have turned the channel at halftime to watch a documentary on the "A&T Four."

Ken from Des Moines, IA

One thing that struck me about the 49ers and Ravens was how many tough, mean players they have. Seems to me the Packers need to improve in that area. How do you scout for toughness?

It's on the tape; you can see it. There's an even better way to know if a player is tough: Ask his coaches. College coaches love to brag about their tough guys. Here's a story you might like: The head coach of a team I was covering that had become accustomed to playoff appearances but had fallen on a couple of lean years, asked his personnel director, "When did we stop drafting tough guys?" That question changed that team's course of history. All of a sudden, they started drafting tough guys, again, and they begin to win, again. Hey, it's a tough game for tough guys. Why would a team ever stop drafting tough guys?

Jim from Fond du Lac, WI

Regarding the fourth down throw at the end of the Super Bowl, I thought it was a great non-call by the refs. It was a bad play-call that looked to me like it was only run to draw illegal contact. Kudos to the refs for letting the players play. Thoughts?

How about the pass interference penalty on the 49ers a little earlier in the game, on a critical third-down play? It was a very similar play but I don't think pass interference was nearly as obvious as it was on the fourth-down play. Was that a great call because it was earlier in the game? I think that's what's angering Jim Harbaugh. There was no consistency in the way those two plays were officiated. If the first one had been ignored, I would've had no problem with the way the second one was ignored. Frankly, I don't have a problem with it anyhow. They had four shots. They didn't get it done. Winners get it done.

Brian from Rockford, IL

I'm fascinated by what goes on in NFL front offices as much as what goes on down on the field. Do the top executives from all the teams (not involved in the game) attend the functions of Super Bowl week and the game itself? Does the NFL use this as a time to get everyone together in a non-working environment?

Super Bowl week is a celebration of the season. It's more about party time than work time. What you're describing is the owners meetings in late March, which is the NFL equivalent of New Year's. Free agency and the start of the league year begins on March 12. Shortly after that, owners meet to groom the landscape for the new year, which includes voting on rules proposals.

Shalom from Austin, TX

28-6: That's my final score for the Super Bowl.

I don't know what that means, but I'll tell you this: When the score hit 28-6, the 49ers' game plan was toast. Maybe the game plan was the problem. Something was wrong because that defense wasn't ready to play, and that happened in Atlanta, too.

Don from Schofield, WI

Vic, I don't think these new running quarterbacks can get paid Drew Brees type money. I think they will have shorter careers and teams will have to keep a few more jars on the shelf.

I can remember getting on this kick about 15 years ago that the team that would take the lead in the salary cap era would be the team that would find a way to devalue the quarterback position. Maybe this is it. Maybe that's what the "New Age" quarterback is going to do. Maybe his career will be so short that he'll never get to his second contract, and teams running that kind of an offense will have to have an endless supply of guys that can run a lot and throw a little.

David from Durban, KZN

Vic, you saw something in Joe Flacco when he played in college at Delaware. I remember reading you write about him as someone to watch. What did you see then that made him attractive as a prospective draft pick and did you foresee this?

All I saw was a guy with a powerful and accurate arm. His talent was undeniable. It was in a playoff game Delaware was in, whatever they called that division back then. I also remembered hearing about this kid at Pitt that had a huge arm but was sitting behind Tyler Palko, so the kid transferred to Delaware. Flacco was that kid. So I watched and when I did, I saw a player who was so head-and-shoulders above everybody else on the field that it reminded me of one of my favorite scouting stories. A friend of mine who was a former NFL GM was, at the time, an area scout whose territory included Mississippi. He went to Alcorn State to scout a down-the-line guy. At the time, Steve McNair was a sophomore quarterback at Alcorn State. During practice, the Alcorn coach came over to talk to the scout about the down-the-line guy. While the coach was talking the kid up, the scout stopped the coach, pointed at McNair and said, "Who dat?"

Evan from Chicago, IL

Vic, after seeing our offensive line get off to a rough start, allowing 51 sacks in the season but making a slight improvement towards the end of the season, do you think the Packers will draft more offensive linemen?


Richie from Truckee, CA

Sunday's game was the first game of the season I've watched with anyone other than my wife or father. On the ride home, we decided it was glaringly obvious we are not well-adjusted individuals. Casual fans are so easily offended. I much prefer watching with hardened, rational, veterans that love and understand the game.

Veteran fans have been hardened by defeat. They get it. They understand there will be another game next week and 16 more games next season and a whole lot of seasons after that. Veteran fans don't play the game, they watch the game. Veteran fans are connoisseurs of football. They observe it and then they judge it and discuss it, rationally. They delight in their team's victory, but they never lose their sense of balance or their dignity in defeat. I like those kinds of fans.

Sergio from Winnipeg, MB

Vic, you say Kaepernick is the "New Age" quarterback, and although I don't deny his incredible talent (his speed is incredible), I don't really see a difference between him and Michael Vick. Vick was supposed to revolutionize the position, but has struggled to play the pocket game that is required to avoid injury and sustain a long career. Why will Kaepernick be any different?

I don't know that he will, but I assume he won't spend the prime years of his career in prison, and I'm absolutely sure he is a far more gifted passer than Vick ever was.

John from Neptune Beach, FL

Kaepernick was hit hard several times after he handed the ball off. Are quarterbacks with the potential to run now fair game even when they don't have the ball?

I hope they are and I hope it stays that way. Remember, the read-option only works if the quarterback is a runner. In my opinion, he must be permitted to be treated that way by the defense.

Jon from Park Ridge, IL

I want to know what your opinion is on Jim Harbaugh. I am not surprised at all that he blamed the refs. He is constantly complaining. I can't stand him.

He's a great coach. He rebuilt the Stanford program and he did it without compromising the Stanford name. Now he's returned the 49ers to the winner's circle. What I'm sensing in my inbox is anger at the 49ers. Harbaugh stinks. Kaepernick stinks. The 49ers stink. Maybe they didn't know it was their responsibility to lose to the Packers. Maybe they didn't get the memo that went out to every team in the league ordering them to lose to the Packers. Maybe the 49ers thought it was a competition. Maybe we need to spit out the sour grapes and move on. The 49ers did nothing egregious to the Packers. They didn't stomp on the Packers' logo. They didn't speak disrespectfully of the Packers. They didn't cheap-shot Aaron Rodgers. The 49ers are guilty of only one thing, winning. That's the whole idea of playing the game. You play to win the game.

Elias from Sheboygan, WI

I've always been a big fan of your writing style. You don't play favorites and call out stupidity when you see it. It's almost a Lombardi style of writing to me. It's not nice, pretty or over-the-top, but it gets to the point and explains what needs explaining. My question is, have you ever said anything in your career that has come back to bite you?

I hope so.

Robert from Seattle, WA

I, like you, don't believe professional football players need loud, inspirational speeches week in and week out, but literally everyone, including players and Coach John Harbaugh said they rode on Ray's motivation. Could we be wrong?

I don't know what the truth is. Maybe Ray Lewis is such an overpowering presence that he can lift men to perform at a higher standard by merely demanding it. I guess it's possible. What I know to be true is this: I've covered a lot of great football players. I'm talking about men of brawn and brain, from Joe Greene to Tony Boselli, and from Terry Bradshaw to Aaron Rodgers. I've never known a one that needed a pep talk, and I've never known a one that wouldn't have tuned that stuff out a long time ago. Once in a while, it's OK. Game after game, week after week, I have to believe it gets tiresome and loses its effectiveness. Lewis is a special player. He might be the greatest linebacker of all-time. He's also the foundation on which the Ravens franchise was built, therefore, no one is going to admit they've tuned him out. Joe Greene told me a story a long time ago that I believe still has merit today. He spoke of a player going into a halftime rage, imploring his teammates to win the game. Chuck Noll was a young coach. Greene said Noll walked up behind the player, tapped him on the shoulder and told him to "sit down and shut up." Then Noll calmly said, "This is what we're going to do, and this is how we're going to do it." Greene said he knew at that precise moment they had the right coach. That's what players want. They want a man with a plan for success. They want to be coached. They want to be taught. They want a leader, not a cheerleader.

Matt from Green Bay, WI

Since the Ravens won the Super Bowl and host the opening game next season, and the Packers play the Ravens in Baltimore, what do you think are the chances the Packers are the opponent chosen for that game?

It's possible, but I think it's more likely the Ravens would host the Patriots in the kickoff game. I think the Texans and Steelers would also be considerations.

Grant from Richmond, VA

That Ravens defense could not be measured by numbers.

By their heart, right?

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