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You must hurry the quarterback


Liz from Cedar Falls, IA

"Aug. 23, 2007, 9:18 p.m. Rodgers looks great. Why have the Packers waited? It's time to move into their future." Good call, Vic.

Yeah, that's it. Little did I know then that I would be covering that quarterback in his MVP season.

Jim from Winterville, NC

A few years ago, you had reservations about the younger Manning. Mainly, I think it was about his pocket awareness, throwing off the back foot and his propensity to chuck and duck. What changed this, coaching, maturity or a better line?

You hit on some, you miss on others, and I missed on Eli Manning. I covered him on a Monday night in 2006 when he was absolutely horrible. He was extremely skittish that night; he refused to step up in the pocket. If ever a quarterback looked like a deer in the headlights, Manning did that night. He looked scared. I thought he was a bust, and so did a lot of other people. Then came his championship season in 2007, when he caught fire at the end of the season and stayed hot through the playoffs. It resurrected his career, but he failed to match it until this season. This is the season Manning became a legitimate star quarterback. What changed him? First, I think he has to get credit for dedicating himself to being a better player and overcoming criticism in a place where criticism can be most extreme. I think Tom Coughlin gets credit, too, for maintaining his belief in Manning. What I'm seeing now is that Eli is the polar opposite of his brother. Eli tends not to knock your socks off until crunch time; that's when he comes to life and I love that about him because that's the quality in quarterbacks I admire the most. I was wrong about this Manning. He's not a bust. He's a star.

Brett from Glen Rock, NJ

I can't help but feel Jermichael Finley had a down year, despite putting up decent numbers. Do you think he'll be able to take that next step and be an All-Pro type of player?

The next step for Finley is to play as efficiently and dependably as he does spectacularly. That's what will make him an All-Pro type of player.

Juanus from Los Angeles, CA

With the retirement of Ricky Williams, how does he fit in the history of Vic Ketchman football? For a person that took two years off from football (one voluntarily and one involuntarily), he was still able to come back and win a rushing title.

He fits in a category with another great running back talent I covered: Barry Foster. Both men could really play the game, but they didn't love the game enough to realize their full potential and achieve greatness.

Kim from Seymour, IN

I am curious about the way NFL players are paid. When do they get their first and last paychecks for a season and how does a bonus fit into that?

They get their first paycheck the week after the regular season opener, their last paycheck following the final regular season game, and bonuses are paid on prescribed dates. For example, his contract might provide that he is to be paid a roster bonus on the first day of the league year, or on a specific date in March.

Hans from Front Royal, VA

Vic, I keep hearing the same refrain: Pressure with four, cover with seven. My question is, can this be consistently done with the 3-4 scheme, where the pressure comes from the linebackers, or is it best suited to the 4-3, where those four are on the line?

You can pressure with four in a 3-4 scheme, but you're probably going to have to do it more creatively than you would do it in a 4-3. Why? Because the defensive linemen in a 3-4 aren't usually pass-rush types; they're run-stuffers that are better suited to hold the point than they are to move the pocket. One of the ways to get pressure with four in a 3-4 is by use of the zone-blitz. You drop an end or the nose into coverage and shoot a linebacker. You can rush the same number in both defenses; they each have seven up front. The difference is that the 3-4 is lighter and more mobile up front, therefore, it has to accentuate its movement capability by employing more scheme. The 4-3 tends to play it straight, which is fine, provided you can find four down linemen that can stop the run AND rush the passer. That's the tough part. The 3-4 allows its coordinator to mix and match.

Grant from Honolulu, HI

Got any stories of Todd Haley? I find it intriguing that he never played football at any level, yet, he was chosen as head coach of the Chiefs. Well, that didn't work out, but now he's the Steelers offensive coordinator.

Did it really not work? I mean, he took a down-and-out team and led it to the playoffs in his second year as coach. What happened to the Chiefs this season was all about injuries. Haley had the Chiefs back in playoff contention, but then he lost his quarterback and that was too much to overcome. I don't think he deserved to be fired, but that's today's NFL. So how has a guy who never played the game gotten so far in the coaching ranks? Well, his father was the director of player personnel for the Steelers when Todd was young. I remember him as a skinny-legged ball boy at training camp. His father used to talk to me about Todd's golf career. His father then went to the Jets, where Todd got hooked up with Bill Parcells, and that's when Todd's football career blossomed. As you can see, Haley has a pretty strong football pedigree that has allowed him to overcome the fact that he didn't play the game.

Chris from Brentwood, TN

When I saw the Pats let Bradshaw score, one of the first things I thought was what if somebody had suggested to Nitschke or Butkus that they should let somebody score so the offense could get the ball back?

It was a different game back then. It was more a game of strength and will and toughness than it was a game of strategy. I honestly believe that had Vince Lombardi ever ordered his defense to lie down and allow the opponent to score, he would've suffered a loss of esteem and respect among his players that would've dulled his message to them.

Nick from Conneaut, OH

Vic, if you could cover a Super Bowl in any city, whether it had a team or didn't have a team, had a dome or didn't have a dome, where would it be?

New Orleans is my favorite Super Bowl destination.

David from Maineville, OH

You mentioned Greg Cook. I don't know if you heard or not, but he passed away suddenly just a couple of weeks ago. Great quarterback.

I didn't know that and I'm sorry to hear it. There are some that think he might've become the quarterback of the 1970s, were it not for the arm injury.

Lewk from Davenport, IA

Vic, did you see Aaron's MVP acceptance speech? I don't think that chip on his shoulder is ever going away.

That's fine. Football is an edge sport. I like it when a guy is a little testy. It lets me know football matters to him.

Gary from Puyallup, WA

Seattle has submitted the paperwork to the NFL requesting to host a future Super Bowl. Do you envision this possibly happening? What would be the pros and cons of a Super Bowl in Seattle?

There's only one con, the weather. Seattle has the airport, the stadium, the hotels, restaurants, attractions, practice facilities, etc., to comfortably host a Super Bowl without chasing everybody all over the region. I love Seattle. The question is: Does the NFL wanna play the Super Bowl in a cold rain? Hey, why not?

Aaron from Washington, DC

Vic, now that the season is over, as you look back, what is the biggest impact the lockout had on the season?

I don't think the lockout is the issue. I think the issue is the CBA the lockout produced. This is a CBA that might change the game. It took control away from coaches and put it in the hands of the players. I'm talking about, of course, the limit on padded practices the new CBA provides. Basically, the new CBA has introduced a softer approach to the practice regimen, and now we're going to wait to see how that has impacted the game. Will it cause a decline in blocking and tackling efficiency? I think that's a fair question. If it does, then the lockout and the CBA it produced will have literally changed the fundamentals on which the game is built.

Nick from Cedarburg, WI

In a previous "Ask Vic," you stated that Joe Namath could have thrown for 6,000 yards in todays' game and that he had all of the physical tools of a great quarterback. I'm 19, so I've never seen anything but highlights of him, but am I missing something? Looking at his career stats, the guy has thrown 173 touchdowns to 220 interceptions. Is this a product of great defenses, game style or what?

Yeah, you're missing a lot, Nick. You need to get your head out of the stats books and get it into the history books and learn about the evolution of the game. You're missing things such as offensive linemen not being allowed to use their hands to block, holding penalties being 15 yards instead of 10, defensive linemen being able to use something called a "head slap," quarterbacks being live to the ground, defensive backs deliberately striking receivers in the head on passes over the middle, something called "bump and run," and the arm strength necessary to take seven-step and nine-step drops and still deliver a strike into a small window against that bump-and-run coverage. I doubt that Drew Brees is big enough or has the arm strength to have played in that game. Learn about the evolution of the game. You won't regret it.

Tom from Indianapolis, IN

Apparently nobody else remembers the Chiefs-Chargers game this year when Philip Rivers fumbled as San Diego was trying to run out the clock and set up a field goal. The Chiefs ended up winning in overtime. There are no guarantees.

How about the Ravens? I can give you example after example of teams playing for the field goal and losing, but I can't recall one example of a team being allowed to score a touchdown in the final minute of a game that ended up losing that game.

Gary from Davenport, IA

Vic, I can think of an instance where letting the other team score worked. In 2003, the Patriots trailed at Denver by one point with three minutes remaining and had fourth and 10 at their own 1-yard line. The center intentionally snapped it out of the end zone to make it a three-point game. New England got off a good free kick to help flip the field position, held the Broncos to a three-and-out and scored a touchdown with 30 seconds left to win. Same coach, slightly different strategy and different result.

That's not the same. I can give you several examples of teams benefitting from taking a safety. Give me one example of a team winning after having allowed a team to score a touchdown, and it has to have been from a situation in which the alternative was to have allowed a walk-off field goal attempt.

Roger from Rice Lake, WI

I would like to see the rule on completed catches changed. Make the receiver come down with both feet flat and in bounds with firm control of the ball. I'm getting tired of this toe-tapping stuff. Also, do something with the holding calls. If a 300-pound player can't get away from someone grabbing his jersey, he shouldn't be out there.

Hey, let's just line up everybody at the 1-yard line and let it rip. Three tight ends, a fullback and a 240-pound running back seven yards deep in the backfield and let's party, baby. Let's do it 10 times each. The team that gets into the end zone the most times wins. Yeah, I like that kind of party, baby.

Daniel from Houston, TX

Vic, The 12-men-on-the-field issue has a simple fix. I'm assuming the refs count players before the play starts. Upon counting 12 dudes, blow the whistle, move the ball up five yards and make sure the clock doesn't move.

Just treat the play as you would a false-start violation. The field judge is responsible for counting the number of defensive players on the field. As soon as he counts to 12 and the ball is snapped, he blows the play dead. The clock is returned to where it was at the snap of the ball.

Andy from Denver, CO

I did a little research and it turns out that four of the past five Super Bowl champions have ranked either first, second or third in the league in sacks. You may not need a complete defense to win championships in today's NFL, but it looks like you at least need an elite pass rush.

I agree. In today's game, you must hurry the quarterback.

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