Nathan from New York, NY
Vic, who is the team to beat in the NFC North?
It's Minnesota. The Vikings are the division's defending champion and I think they upgraded themselves in the offseason. I'll also be interested to see what a healthy Dalvin Cook will do for their offense.
T.J. from Tampa Bay, FL
What were your thoughts on Warren Sapp’s legal hit on Chad Clifton in 2002?
It was cheap and unnecessary. It was unprofessional.
Brett from Ohio
You say the kickoff is unimportant but I think Brett Favre might disagree with you. Do you remember watching MVP Desmond Howard in Super Bowl XXXI? It might not have ended the same way without Howard's explosive return. The Pats had all the momentum until that play. Put the ball on the 20 and it would have been anyone's game. Also on a fun note, imagine if the Pats had won? What would we say about Favre if he didn't win a Super Bowl? I think kickoffs are pretty important.
Your argument isn't convincing. It's one of the few memorable plays in a sea of ceremonial touchbacks and unexciting 20-yard returns. Frankly, I'd rather the ball have been put on the 20 for Favre to be the star of the game, instead of someone who became the weakest MVP winner in Super Bowl history. As for onside kicks, I've never liked them. I consider them to be a cheap trick to undo what nearly three hours of football had proven.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, what are your memories of the Playoff Bowl game for third place that took place in the '60s? Should that game be reinstated in lieu of the Pro Bowl game?
It was weak but the NFL was underexposed in the early '60s and for a few years there was room for an extra postseason game, even if it was meaningless. Pro football needed the exposure and the players needed the money. That's not true today. The NFL might have to pay the players more money to agree to play in that kind of game today than they pay the players in the Super Bowl. The risk of injury is too great for the players to agree to play that kind of game.
Zach from Virginia Beach, VA
Vic, what are your thoughts on Marcus Mariota? He was able to lead the Titans to the playoffs and a win over the Chiefs. Do you think he can improve his game to take them higher, or is he topped out right now?
He played through a debilitating injury that dogged him all of last season, and I believe it was the reason for his decline in performance. In the playoff win over the Chiefs, however, he was sensational. He threw and ran with equal aplomb. He was the star of the game and with that performance Mariota gives the Titans reason to believe they have a quarterback who can lead them to a championship. I think the Titans could be a surprise team this year. The Jaguars are the new power in the AFC South, but the Titans and Texans have exciting young quarterbacks. I think Mariota could make the Titans the team to beat in the AFC South.
Joe from Bloomington, IN
I just watched the Ryan Shazier injury. He lowered his head and drove it into the oncoming torso to make the tackle. How stupid is that?
It's not as stupid as your question is insensitive.
Anthony from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, 2007 had to be one of the most fun seasons in Packers history. From it being completely unexpected to just completely fun to see Brett Favre have success again, it was almost everything a football fan could ask for. Acknowledging this was before your time with the Packers, do you have any outsider insight on that season?
The playoff loss at home to the Giants was a stunner. I kept waiting for Favre to get hot, but he just kept looking colder. In retrospect, I think the Packers ran into a team of destiny.
Matt from San Diego, CA
Do the Packers have any difference-makers on the defensive side of the ball?
If Kevin King, Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson don't make a difference, the Packers won't improve on defense. The Packers have invested a lot of high picks on cornerbacks. They desperately need a return on their investment.
Dan from Jacksonville, FL
Rank your top three Steelers receivers of all time.
1) Antonio Brown, 2) Lynn Swann, 3) John Stallworth. Hines Ward is my favorite Steelers receiver because he turned the hunter into the hunted.
Dan from Nitro, WV
What city should be next to get an NFL franchise?
I think it's time to give London a try. In my opinion, the NFL needs to grow its product globally or it's going to feel more and more pressure from soccer. The world is getting smaller. I think hockey and basketball, for example, are benefitting from being international. The NFL has stopped growing. It needs new territory. I think a team in London should be the next step.
Steven from Montclair, NJ
We often hear stories about players saving their paychecks for retirement and living off endorsement money. Do you have any good stories from your career about how a player managed his money?
Lynn Swann arrived at his rookie training camp driving a Plymouth Scamp. Two years later, after winning the MVP Award in Super Bowl X, Swann drove into training camp in that same Plymouth Scamp. That's how a savvy young player manages success.
Jerry from Savannah, GA
Vic, what does it mean for a player to be a pro? What exactly does that look like?
It means being consistent and dependable. A pro is a player teammates can rely on being physically, emotionally and mentally prepared to play at his highest level. He treats his profession as a craft and he draws his esteem from the quality of his performance. Most of all, a pro's motivation comes from within. He's a self-starter. He doesn't need pep talks. He knows what to do and how to do it, and his effort is always focused. He leads by example.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
Who had the best motor of any player you covered?
It's a running back named Frank Pollard. He was the consummate pro.
Braden from Milwaukee, WI
The Browns have been the laughing stock of the NFL because of a 38-122 record over the last 10 seasons. As you've said, winning cures all, but do you think a re-branding will be necessary? The orange helmet, the brown uniform and the dog pound just seem blah and a losing tradition doesn't help bring in a new wave of fans.
I think the Browns should return to the uniform design of the Jim Brown era. That's the franchise's identity. The current uniforms are Joe's Bar-like.
George from Akron, OH
The national anthem and military should not be associated with sporting events. When the national anthem played in the '70s, few paid attention. After 9/11, things changed. Now we are ordered to stand and be obedient by stadium announcers. I find it insulting and want to sit despite being a combat military veteran. Let them play football. If you want the red, white and blue, the Fourth of July is for you. Can we remove or reduce politics from sport?
Sports played on the feeling of patriotism to help build its fan base. There's no taking it away now.
Noor from Jakarta, Indonesia
Vic, if you can pick a quarterback from any of the 32 teams to start a Super Bowl game, who would he be? Why?
It would probably be Aaron Rodgers, and it's because I believe he's the most talented quarterback in the game. I saw some signs of decline in Tom Brady's game last year. I can't help but wonder if the cliff is at hand; it happens that quickly. Age is also the issue with Drew Brees. My last look at Rodgers wasn't good -- he wasn't the quarterback I know in that game in Carolina -- but I'll assume he's back to normal and ready to play at his usual high level. Ben Roethlisberger is a two-time Super Bowl champion and has the crunch-time grit I like. Matt Ryan is a wonderful quarterback but he hasn't gotten it done in the big games and that bothers me. Russell Wilson continues to surprise me but, by and large, I consider him to be limited talent-wise. I like what Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott bring in the way of talent and toughness. I'm not sold on Jared Goff; I need to see more. Why am I not gaga about Cam Newton? I love everything about him, but just when I think he's going to take his team to the highest level, he becomes the reason they lose.
Anthony from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, how would you describe today's QBs compared to the past? Much more analytical, less creative?
Today's quarterbacks are ball distributors. The quarterbacks of the seven- and nine-step drop era were throwers. They looked for the big ball and they had the long-range arm to deliver the bomb. I didn't even know what a check-down pass was until the late '80s.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
In order to devalue the QB position, do you see contracts like Kirk Cousins' going out of vogue? Guaranteed money like that for solid but not premier talent is dangerous for the cap.
Think supply and demand. To devalue the quarterback position, it needs to be broadened so it includes more men who can play it. Increase the supply of talent and you'll decrease the demand for talent. That's what college football has done. Some ambitious and creative coach will find a way to use quarterbacks in the NFL that will appeal to the abundant supply of athletic types in the college game today. Maybe that'll be accomplished by having a stockpile of those types of quarterbacks on an NFL roster. Instead of two quarterbacks on the roster, how about four or five athletic types who appeal to a variety of formations and design. I think the key lies in design and commitment to it. What team will be the first to commit to a new way? That question excites me most about the future of professional football. I think we're headed for change at the quarterback position. It happened when the move was made from the single wing to the T formation, and it can happen again. Create and commit.
Stephen from Jacksonville, FL
In what ways does Leonard Fournette need to improve from his rookie season for the Jaguars to be a better running team this year? Do you think his less than stellar yards per carry average and the team’s rushing production decrease over the second half of last season are as concerning indicators about him as some have suggested?
I don't want to see him get lighter. I like him the way he is. He's a naturally big and pounding running back. If that changes, he's not Leonard Fournette. I think he needs to talk to Fred Taylor and get a tutorial on diet, conditioning, lifestyle and embracing the attitude of a professional football player.
James from London, UK
Vic, do you think the Patriots' success in running the ball by committee and continually making a success of it means teams like the Steelers are unlikely/unwilling to pay Bell or the other premier backs the money they seek?
Contrary to popular belief, the Patriots did not invent professional football. Specialization and replacement at running back has existed for a long time. Samkon Gado anyone? Le'Veon Bell is a rare talent. He's a big back who runs with finesse and is at his best in space. When he gets into the open field, he can drop his pads and flatten defensive backs. Bell is a powerful goal-line runner who smells the chalk and moves the ball across it. His only weakness is short-yardage running, and I think that's more by choice than design; he looks for the big run too often. The Steelers recognize Bell's talent and worth, but the simple fact of the matter is he's not a quarterback and it's difficult to pay him quarterback money and pay the quarterback, too. Bell is going to find out the Steelers are in the majority. Running backs are undervalued because their supply is great. At the peak of Sean Alexander's career, the Seahawks couldn't get a third-round pick for him. Yeah, affordability is a major concern at running back. It's a position of specialization and replacement.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, what is the most important thing for an NFL player to learn early in his career?
He needs to learn to be a pro.
James from Garibaldi, OR
If you could choose two specialist quarterbacks from the last 30 years to have on a team, who would they be and how would they be used?
Give me Kordell Stewart and Kyle Orton and I'll conquer the world. Yeah, I'm being facetious, but think out of the box a little bit. Think of a slash in the same backfield with an average quarterback who doesn't kill your cap. One complements the other. Stewart and Neil O'Donnell did that in 1995 and they nearly took down the Cowboys. I think the Ravens might try to do the same with Lamar Jackson and Joe Flacco.
Blake from Normal, IL
If you could start a franchise with any running back, who would it be and why?
Until recent domestic violence allegations, I would've said LeSean McCoy is the guy. He's everything a modern-day back needs to be. He's quick and decisive between the tackles, has the speed to get outside, stick his foot into the ground and soften the edge, and he's special in the screen and swing-pass game. One more thing: He's tough and will play hurt. He's a truly dependable, every-down back.
Skip from Wisconsin
Talk about no tackling, if Tatum had simply just tackled Fuqua instead of trying to take his head off, the "Immaculate Reception" would not have happened.
Tatum said they called him "assassin." I can think of another name they should've called him.
Milan from New York
Vic, I am old enough to have seen the 1958 game. What I remember is not only Ameche and Unitas to Moore, but the sideline passes to Raymond Berry to move the chains. No one did that before Unitas. Johnny should have patented that.
In the 1958 NFL title game, Johnny Unitas taught professional football how to play quarterback for the next six decades. That's why a case can be made for considering him to be the greatest quarterback of all time.
Scott from Menomonee Falls, WI
Vic, I love the picture of you and the dog you are holding. He/she is gorgeous! What is the dog's name, are you his or her human and what breed is he or she?
Her name is Etta Mae and she's a lowchen. She likes long naps, soft blankets and rotisserie chicken. I dog-sit Etta Mae on occasion, and I'm her go-to guy during thunderstorms.
Old Man from Weatherford, TX
Vic, I'm excited you will be expanding your blog. I think it's the best coverage available today! What are your thoughts about the kickoff rules changes. Seems like it could encourage returns and possibly have the opposite effect the NFL is trying to enable.
I asked myself how many kickoff returns I can remember in my 45 years covering the NFL. I could only remember a couple. By and large, the kickoff is an unexciting and unimportant play. Just put the ball on the 20 and let's go.
James from Columbia, MD
How do you think your life would have been different had you been growing up today?
I doubt high school football would hold the fascination for me it did when I was young, and that leads me to believe I wouldn't have made football my life's work, as Coach Noll would say.
Don from Mascoutah, IL
Vic, I know how to make soccer watchable. It comes down to eliminating flopping. This is radical, but the issue can be resolved with one simple thing: the elimination of penalty kicks.
I have another idea: Sentence the losing team to life in prison. I'll watch it then.
Glen from Eugene, OR
How do I watch a preseason game? You mention it's about talent evaluation. What I see is a third-and-8 with a pass being dropped, followed by another punt. I don't know if the receiver messed up or the quarterback hurried his throw because the guard got beat on a rush. I find these games difficult to watch. Any pointers on how to get more out of them?
Find the one-on-one matchups and watch them. The coaches have created those one-on-ones to help them evaluate talent. The young players who win their one-on-ones usually make the team.
Charlie from Wisconsin Dells, WI
Major League Baseball was the national pastime during a period when people were more civil and respectful towards each other. The NFL has replaced MLB while our society has more animus and intolerance towards each other. How much do you think the violent and confrontational nature of football has contributed to football overtaking baseball?
I get the sociology factor, but the emergence and rise of television is what drove the popularity of football. The 1958 NFL title game is largely considered to be the turning point in pro football history. It's the first real football TV moment I can remember, Alan Ameche running into my living room, so to speak, to score the winning touchdown in overtime. With that play, the modern era of pro football was born. It was perfect for TV and Pete Rozelle had the vision to see how he could marry the NFL to TV and fuel the rise of each. In 1958, in many markets, TV would sign on late in the afternoon and sign off at 10 p.m. with the news and the national anthem. No market had more than three TV channels and some didn't have that many. If you look at the histories of the NFL and TV, you'll see parallel growth. Baseball is a good TV sport -- the half-inning breaks are perfect for commercials -- but MLB didn't have Pete's vision. MLB didn't pool the revenue. MLB continued to market its TV rights on a team basis; there was no growth. I agree, pro football rose in popularity because it was the perfect sport for a new American society, but TV was the headliner in that new society. TV changed us, and the NFL was part of that change.
Alan from Albuquerque, NM
Vic, I’m reading "Jim Brown: Last Man Standing" and found this quote attributed to Brown: “Players today get hurt too easily. And some of them are fat. I’d say 75 percent of them are fat. The player that is 280 once was 220. What’s that about? They’ve changed the rules, so now you got these sumo wrestlers up front. They’re not throwing a passable block in pro football today. What they do is not blocking, not even close. They just run and push people. They don’t make any real contact, they just get in the way.” It sounds like an unflattering description of zone blocking and rules change in general. What’s your opinion?
I agree with Brown. Blocking and tackling have never been worse. What does it say that blocking and tackling are no longer the game's foundation?
Braden from Aurora, CO
Vic, what are your thoughts on the NBA “super teams” being assembled? Could this ever happen in the NFL?
Basketball is a two-man game, which is primarily why I'm not an NBA fan. What's happening in the NBA can't happen in the NFL because there is too much available football talent and too many ways to utilize that talent to allow domination by one or two players. Nick Foles and the Eagles are the perfect example.
Chris from Lexington, KY
Is there any merit to the thought the Packers defense (and/or offense for that matter) will be better, at least for the first half of the season, simply because we have a new coordinator with un-scouted looks?
It can happen. The Packers will try to make it happen. Be that as it may, good teams are defined by December and January. If another month of the season defines you, you're not a good team.
Dave from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, I grew up a Dolphins fan in Steeler country during the early '70s. Though the '72 Miami team was undefeated and played in three straight Super Bowls, I rarely see them mentioned in the greatest team category. Why is this?
The '72 Dolphins played a terribly weak schedule, and the overall perception of the Dolphins' time at the top was stained by their mass defection to the WFL.
Sean from Phnom Penh, Cambodia
How similar are Rodgers and Bradshaw? I watched the '74 AFC Championship game and felt as if you could swap the two of them and almost not notice; the zip on the ball, the mobility and the way they escape tackles.
Aaron Rodgers can do anything Terry Bradshaw could do, but Bradshaw couldn't do some of the things Rodgers does. For example, Bradshaw refused to check the ball down and lacked dink-and-dunk passing touch. Rodgers is the best quarterback I've ever covered, but there's no denying what Bradshaw did in the postseason. His postseason stats would represent the best season of his career. When the games got big, Bradshaw got bigger.
Bob from Kennesaw, GA
You've mentioned there have been too many rule changes. If you could have the NFL go back to the rules of a certain era, which one would it be?
The head-shot hits on receivers in the middle of the field were largely a product of the '70s. "Night Train" Lane was an ambush hitter in the previous era, but he's the only one I can remember. The top safeties, such as Larry Wilson, were form tacklers and interceptors. The rules of the '50s and '60s worked largely because attitudes were right for them. I agree with the commissioner: The culture needs to be changed. The rules promoting player safety are the result of a violent culture and I believe that culture emerged in the '70s.
Sean from Arlington Heights, IL
Vic, I’m interested in hearing more about your Brady/Unitas comparison. Obviously, they’re both pure pocket passers and regarded as the best quarterbacks of their time, if not all time. To me, though, their styles are fairly different. With the exception in 2007 with Moss, Brady has largely been a get rid of the ball quick, dink and dunk passer, while Unitas had to hold onto the ball and throw it downfield. What are the similarities you see?
The defining similarity I see is their ability to survey the field, find the open receiver and utilize all of their weapons to distribute the ball and attack defenses where they are vulnerable. They have amazing pocket poise that's punctuated by fearlessness. Johnny Unitas more or less invented the back-out-of-the-backfield pass with Lenny Moore. When Tom Brady swings it out to Dion Lewis, I see Unitas and Moore.
Greg from Cuenca, Ecuador
Vic, in finance there is a saying people go broke slowly, then all at once. I believe the same is true for sports. The decline in a player's performance can be almost imperceptible, and then it's all at once.
I call it the cliff. Peyton Manning is the most recent example of it.
Jared from Rigby, ID
Vic, I recently read an article by Cliff Christl in which he mentioned unlimited free substitution. I hadn't heard of that, so I started reading up on it. I realize the change was made a while ago, but I'm wondering if you have any insight into how it changed the NFL?
It created the age of specialization. All of a sudden, we had pass-rush specialists, two-down run-stuffers, nickel linebackers, dime safeties, etc. It's ignited the strategy era, but I think it's cost the game some personality and identity. I wouldn't mind seeing a reduction in substitutions. I hate seeing the feature back leave the field on third-down passing situations.
Brian from Little Rock, AR
Fred Taylor is one of my all-time favorites. Can you explain how Fred was scammed out of millions of dollars and then later had his money recovered?
His signing bonus was apparently pirated to the Cayman Islands. Fred's new agent, Drew Rosenhaus, assembled a recovery team and found the money. It was a career-changer for Fred. It lifted his mood and taught him a lesson about guarding his money and his career. He stopped staying up late at night playing video games and eating junk food. Fred became a true pro and a dependable star running back. He's the most explosive running back I've ever covered.
Ben from Hilo, HI
You've mentioned the four cornerstone positions are left tackle, pass rusher, quarterback and cornerback. With so many of the league's premier rushers coming from the right, does right tackle now match the importance of left tackle?
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
If you could start a franchise and take one QB from an existing team, who would you choose?
Carson Wentz, but depending on what happens this year, I might change to or include Deshaun Watson.
Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL
Do you find yourself following the Packers, Jaguars and Steelers more than other NFL storylines in retirement? Do you maintain inside sources with those teams that provide you more insight about them than you might have in other places around the NFL?
Yes and yes.
Anthony from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, you've long held winning in today's game with the defense isn't sustainable. But winning in the NFL isn't sustainable, unless you really have Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. So my question to you is: Are teams too quick to pay QBs?
I've long maintained the key to sustaining success in the salary cap era is finding a way to devalue the quarterback position. I think we're getting close to the day that happens.
Matt from Madison, WI
When the leagues merged, do you think there was a chance Al Davis would be the commissioner instead of Pete Rozelle? How different would the NFL be if that had happened?
Davis had a divisive personality. He promoted confrontation and steered decision-making to favor his position. He was all-wrong for the new NFL. It needed a consensus builder, as Rozelle was. Pete was perfect for the new NFL. He was every owner's friend except Davis, who maintained his grudge against Rozelle for as long as Pete was commissioner. That's not what a leader does. Davis would not have been an effective leader of the peace time NFL.
Randy from Medicine Hat, AB
I like a game that is played conservatively, in which the coaches give up yards and points grudgingly. I liked the "Martyball" era, but very few games are played like that these days. Can those days return, or are they gone like the Dodo bird?
You might see that type of game from time to time, but that era of football is gone forever. The league doesn't want it and won't permit it. It bothers me to say that because I believe the league has interfered too much and too often with the rules in an attempt to manipulate the game. The game isn't being allowed to evolve, it's being forced to change.
Matt from Winfield, IL
When you were working, what did July Fourth mean for you professionally. How has your view changed in retirement?
For much of my career, the Fourth of July meant the end of summer. Training camps would start shortly after, as rookies would report a week ahead of the veterans. Retirement changes everything. I've never smelled so many roses and they've never smelled better. Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at the beach, during which I was treated to the annual South Carolina coastal fly-by. It's a really cool tradition that included two F-15s thundering down the South Carolina coast at low altitude, followed by a succession of vintage planes. An old-fashioned chicken and baked beans cookout was punctuated by the most delicious watermelon I've ever eaten, and the night concluded with a fireworks display on Big Bay Creek. The best part is summer is just beginning for me. I love retirement!
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
There are always stories of players we want to see make it. Have you ever come across such a despicable player you rooted against their success?
If there was such a player, Jack Tatum was that guy. I thought he was a fraud. He was an ambush hitter. He loved to hit you when you couldn't hit back, but I watched him turn his back on Franco Harris when Harris tore through the middle of the line, his knees up around his eyeballs as he charged toward the goal line in the play that capped the drive that changed the game in the 1974 AFC Championship. Tatum called himself "Assassin." I had other names for him, especially after what he did to Darryl Stingley in a preseason game, and refusing to express remorse for it.
Chris from Norway
You say patience requires a strong defense, and that it's difficult to stick with the run game when your defense is average at best. To me that sounds like saying the passing game is better than the running game, because the running game is more likely to end the drive. What am I not getting?
What you're not getting is the mentality that believes you throw to score, you run to win. Think on it.
John from Peoria, IL
What pass rush will become more important, inside or outside?
An inside rush has always been the preferred path to the quarterback because it's the shortest path to the quarterback and it collapses the pocket by making him step out of it instead of up into it. Getting penetration up the middle is also the most difficult path to the quarterback because there are three blockers in the middle of the line and the congestion is greatest. Nobody's on an island in the middle. What Aaron Donald is doing is extraordinary. You don't scheme what he's doing. He's just whipping his man, which is to say nearly every man against whom he plays. Donald might be the greatest pass-rushing defensive tackle I've ever seen.
Kelm from Wisconsin
In retrospect, was there anything in particular you noticed that jumped out at you in the camps of the teams that went on to win Super Bowls that uniquely made you sit up and take note they might have something special going on?
There have been several of those moments in my time covering football, but they didn't always coincide with winning a Super Bowl. It was obvious the Steelers had something going in 1974 when they drafted Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster. I remember the early Bill Cowher years and seeing a collection of talent emerging on defense: Levon Kirkland, Joel Steed and Chad Brown joined Rod Woodson, Greg Lloyd and Carnell Lake. I could see the speed increase on that defense and I knew good years were ahead for it. I saw it happen on the offensive side of the ball in Jacksonville under Tom Coughlin; the addition of Fred Taylor was the exclamation point. Then I saw it happen on the defensive side of the ball under Jack Del Rio. He inherited Marcus Stroud and John Henderson, and then added Mike Peterson, Rashean Mathis and others, and it was obvious the Jags were going to be a force on defense. The 2014 Packers had that kind of feel to them in training camp. Eddie Lacy was a dominant back in that camp and the Packers offense had that take-what-we-want look to it all great offenses have. The addition of Julius Peppers made the defense look formidable. That was a championship team betrayed by four minutes of mindless collapse.
Jacob from Port Huron, MI
Who was one person, not in sports, you wished you would have had a conversation with?
Nicola from St. Helen's, UK
How do I enter the NFL draft as a woman from England?
Everybody is automatically eligible for the NFL draft once in their life. If you're older than 22, your year of eligibility has probably passed and you are a free agent to sign with any team in the league.
Michael from Buffalo, NY
If you could've worked for any other team in the NFL, which would it have been?
It would've been a team that would've paid me more money and offered me more career opportunity and advancement than the team for which I was working.
Adam from Winterpark, FL
I’ve always been fascinated at the level of talent and physicality the Steelers have maintained at the linebacker position. Growing up in the '90s, I absolutely loved Greg Lloyd. Was he as cheery off the field as he seemed on it? Any good stories?
Cheery? He was a brooding, largely anti-social man, but I was OK with that because football isn't a happy game. I remember he wore a t-shirt that said something on it like "They don't pay me for my disposition." My favorite memory of Lloyd is from a training camp media day. At that point in his career, Lloyd had largely become non-conversive with the media, but he was a star player and that made it necessary to get some kind of representative quote from him. In a group of reporters, I asked him: "Greg, what are your thoughts, if any, on the upcoming season?" It might be both the best and worst question I ever asked a pro athlete. I think the "if any" part angered Lloyd. His response was, "Just to get the hell away from you guys." I used the quote.
Anthony from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, do teams constantly need to change the playbook from year to year, or is it a fine tuning that's required?
Good teams don't change the playbook. They add wrinkles to stay fresh and keep opponents honest, but their base philosophy and bread-and-butter plays remain the same. They win with identity and execution. Everybody knew the Lombardi Packers were going to run the Packer sweep, but nobody could stop it. Everybody knew the "Steel Curtain" Steelers were going to run the inside traps, but nobody could stop it. With the '80s 49ers, it was "sprint right option." The '90s Cowboys ran the lead draw with Emmitt over and over. The best teams in history have been the most predictable teams in history.
David from Madison, WI
When did quarterbacks start looking off defensive backs?
I'm sure it's a tactic that goes back to Otto Graham and beyond, but Johnny Unitas took it to a higher level. Unitas invented the game that's played today. He is the father of modern quarterbacking. Watching Tom Brady play always reminds me of Unitas.
Steve from Montclair, NJ
Was there ever a record set you thought you would never see broken?
I'm not a records kind of guy. I just don't delight in them as others do. There's one, however, that intrigues me. Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak continues to be unapproachable. I'm stunned.
Shane from York, NE
Vic, I attended the same high school as Mike Webster. Do you have any Webster stories?
I've told it before but I think it bears repeating. At Super Bowl XIII, platforms were built for the players to conduct postgame interviews. I was standing at the rear of a crowd of reporters assembled at the platform bearing Webster's name. When Webster came to his platform, he hooked his arm under mine and lifted me toward the front of the crowd. Memories make us rich.
Jason from Honolulu, HI
You shared some of your favorite quotes from coaches you covered. Here are some of my favorite quotes from you. “It’s about the money.” “Players not plays.” “It’s a game of replacement.” “It’s a young man’s game.” These quotes provide the answers to many football questions about why a team or player decided this or that. However, my favorite Vic quote is not about football: “Memories make us rich.” When I’m sitting around with old pals, our stories are always about the experiences we shared with each other. “Remember that time when…” So to you, Vic, I say thank you for the memories: guy wires, fighting crows, 998 Oaks…
This column is one of my greatest treasures, and I owe it to the readers.
Eric from Hudson, WI
Vic, did you catch the stunning match between Russia and Spain this weekend? The game ended with a score of 1-1 and was ultimately decided on penalties.
I think you know the answer to your question. Please don't ask me questions about soccer, folks. I hate soccer intensely and there's no chance I would ever watch one second of it. I was at breakfast this week and in walked a boobish-looking man wearing blue athletic shoes and bright-green checkered socks. My mood immediately deteriorated. "Ask Vic" is not a place for soccer. "Ask Vic" hates soccer and would steal the ball and poke a hole in it if they were playing the World Cup in "Ask Vic's" backyard. If "As Vic" was the POTUS, the first thing "Ask Vic" would do is outlaw soccer and imprison anyone found playing it.
Tucker from Juddville, WI
Vic, human confrontation is at the crux of what makes football great. What is your favorite recollection or example of that essence you've seen in another sport?
I think a 3-2 count with the bases loaded and the winning run in scoring position in the ninth inning or in an extra inning of a baseball game is a classic pitcher-batter confrontation, especially if it's between two stars of the game. There's nowhere to turn for either player. It's not about strategy now, it's about one player's will against another's. Baseball is a sport of thrilling human confrontation; there's just not enough of them.
Dave from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, I thought Jack was a good coach but for his insatiable desire to fire his assistant coaches. Don’t you agree this was his downfall?
He was ahead of his time. Everybody's doing it now. The fans demand it. They demand the dismissal of any position coach or coordinator whose unit under-performed, and even the most esteemed head coaches of the most stable franchises are complying. Jack Del Rio's problem in Jacksonville was he didn't get the quarterback he needed to get over the top. The Jaguars went seven years without drafting a quarterback. During that time, they passed on Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco. That's woeful draft strategy and that's why I said I would swim the St. Johns Rivers if the Jaguars didn't draft a quarterback in 2011, which was the year I left for Green Bay. The Jaguars drafted Blaine Gabbert that year. They had to do something.
Chris from Cincinnati, OH
Vic, I agree with you on the lack of respect for players of past eras. The players of the pre-Super Bowl era weren't coached to death on how to run a 40, but they had obvious game speed and skill. Why do today's fans have to use a stat to prove and understand player performance?
There was no combine in the pre-Super Bowl era, and the combine didn't really become a popular event until the '90s, so fans didn't have combine measurables to support their opinions on players. Now, they have 40 times, bench press numbers, cone drill speeds, vertical and broad jump results, and even leaked Wunderlic results to use in supporting or attacking a personnel move. Here's what my eyes tell me: Nobody today gets through a hole faster than Tony Dorsett did, nobody today runs with more power than Earl Campbell did, nobody today has a better arm than Dan Marino did, and nobody today rushes the quarterback better than Lawrence Taylor did. I don't need numbers to define those players' talents.
Paul from Cumming, GA
Forbes released a fairly interesting article this week regarding the Atlanta Falcons' "Fan First" pricing approach for stadium concessions. The short version is that implementing lower food and drink prices leads to more time spent in the stadium by fans, and more money spent on other things. Do you think this could become a league wide trend?
Teams will do whatever it takes to get the fans' money. In my opinion, any fan who can't go three hours without eating deserves to be gouged for a hot dog and a beer.
Dave from Savage, MN
You wrote recently about Jim Kelly's extreme toughness. I agree, but the toughest QB I ever saw for a full season was Craig Morton of the "Orange Crush" Broncos. He got crunched constantly and kept getting up. Any memories of the QB or the team?
My enduring memory of the 1977 Broncos is they were the first team to fully popularize the 3-4 defense. They made it a hot defensive strategy.
Timmy from Wilmington, NC
That great quote by Chuck Noll ("Leaving the game plan is a sign of panic ...") got me thinking. Do you think McCarthy is too quick to leave his own game plan when down by 10 or more points? Just from my casual fan observations, it seems he gets very pass happy when trailing another team.
It's difficult to stick with the running game when Aaron Rodgers is your quarterback, and it's especially difficult to do that when your defense is middle of the road at best. Coach Noll's patience was supported by the "Steel Curtain." Nobody has referred to the Packers defense in such romantic terms. "Green Mush?" In 1976, with Terry Bradshaw sidelined for most of the season, the Steelers shut out five opponents and allowed just 28 points in the last nine games. When you allow just over three points a game, you don't have to abandon the run.
Thierry from Paris, France
Vic, what aspect of pro football was your biggest surprise when you started to work for a team ? Would it be the same if you were starting now?
I had covered pro football for a long time before I began working in the employ of the Jaguars, followed by the Packers. So nothing really surprised me, but the importance the Packers place on image struck me as out of the ordinary. Neither the Jaguars nor the Steelers were as formal as the Packers. Packers press conferences are guarded, to say the least.
Chris from Lexington, KY
No disregard for past players. I'm asking because I don't know. Do you think the training camp and practice regimen of the past produced players with better football skills than today's players? And are today's players stronger and faster due to advances in nutrition and strength training?
The players of yesteryear were far better blockers and tacklers than today's players, whereas today's players are more adept in their grasp of playbook strategy. I marvel at the ability of today's quarterbacks to manage the scheme and its adjustments in front of a stadium of howling fans and as the play clock ticks toward zero. That wasn't the game of yesteryear. In the old days, the offense broke the huddle with a burst and the ball was snapped quickly, with the emphasis being on coming off the ball low and hard and moving the line of scrimmage. Today's players are bigger and stronger because the rules and evolution of the game support size and strength. Bigger and stronger is better. A former GM friend of mine was fond of saying size defeats speed, and that philosophy became common practice at the tackle positions. Speed? Hey, there were a lot of fast players in the old days. Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, for example, are the fastest wide receiver tandem I've ever covered.
Jake from Jacksonville, FL
Have you ever seen a quarterback that was a late bloomer? By late I mean five years after being drafted. I guess what I am really trying to ask is is there a chance Blake Bortles can reach the level of quarterback play the Jaguars need?
In his fifth season, Terry Bradshaw was benched. Back then it was said it took five years to develop an NFL starting quarterback. Times have changed. The game has been softened and streamlined for today's quarterbacks. They can make a 10-year career out of doing little more than hitting the check downs. In the old days, bump-and-run coverage required seven- and nine-step drops and being able to zip the ball into tight windows 20 yards or more downfield. That's a 30-yard throw and that requires great arm strength, the ability to look-off defenders and having a feel for exactly when the receiver is going to get a step of separation. Yes, I think Bortles can be "The Man," but this would seem to be the year it has to happen and, in my opinion, for it to happen he must get rid of the wobble on that ball.
Brett from Marietta, GA
The Packers were my team but Jack Lambert was my football hero. Do you have any notable stories you'd care to share about the guy who, for me, defined what tough, smart and dependable meant on the football field?
One night, in the San Diego hotel bar, a comely young woman asked Lambert what his sign was. He said, "Feces."
Matt from Verona, WI
Why are media allowed in the locker room at all? Let the players clean up in peace; ask questions when they're done.
That's the way it is with the quarterback, but the majority of players wouldn't go for that. They want out of there as fast as they can.
Mike from Somerset, WI
Vic, last years weak defensive backfield performance has me questioning what the Packers have in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. What do you expect from Clinton-Dix this year?
The first thing we need to know is how Mike Pettine plans to use Clinton-Dix. Is he going to be used as a centerfielder, or in run support as an extra body in the box? Whatever his role is, he needs to execute it. He seemed lost in space last season. That needs to change.
Jim from Maple Grove, MN
Vic, Chatty seems to like Green Bay's chances this year. Was he just pandering to the home crowd? What do you think about his comments on the team?
I think he believes what he said but I also think his Wisconsin roots sensitized him to the Packers' offseason moves. I'm OK with that. Do I think the Packers improved in the offseason? I do. I think they solved their problem at cornerback, and that'll go a long way toward improving the defense. Do I think the Packers improved more than any other team in the league? I don't. If the Browns aren't that team, then John Dorsey's got problems.
Steve from San Diego, CA
Vic, my definition of denouement is the "Ice Bowl." Do you agree?
It was certainly a dramatic conclusion to the Lombardi era of Packers football. What if the Packers had lost that game? Would Lombardi have resigned as coach? Would the Lombardi Trophy bear another man's name? As I've written, one play changed the course of history in a lot of ways. For that, I give the credit to Bart Starr, but credit and blame ultimately belongs to the head coach. Yeah, I agree, the "Ice Bowl" defines the Lombardi era of Packers football and, in many ways, the NFL's rule of professional football, just as Super Bowl III dramatically defines the rise of the AFL and the subsequent merger of the two leagues.
Derek from Eau Claire, WI
Which team that missed the playoffs last season is most likely to make the playoffs this season?
The 49ers would be the consensus choice, but I think there are some other contenders. How about the Texans with DeShaun Watson back under center? How about the Raiders with Jon Gruden in control? In the NFC, I expect the Cowboys to be improved and I look forward to seeing what the Cardinals can do with a settled quarterback situation. And what about the Bears? Opening day in Green Bay looms large.
Karl from Albuquerque, NM
Vic, why are there no more Howard Cosells?
It's because the current craze in second-in-the-booth broadcasters is for them to be ex-players who can tell us how to attack cover two. Cosell called it a long time ago. He predicted the "jockocracy" in which we now live. He described it perfectly: Players reporting on players. Cosell was an entertainer with a broad knowledge of sports and a grasp of the big picture that allowed him to cut to the heart of the issue, instead of hiding behind cover two and minor details. TV doesn't have the courage to give us another Cosell. It continues to pander to an audience that wants to affix strategical blame, instead of understanding the real meaning of what they've witnessed.
Tom from Charlottesville, VA
Vic, how does your blog's current viewership level compare to when you wrote the column for packers.com? Thanks for doing what you do.
It's a fraction of what it was with packers.com, but so is the number of columns I write each week. Readership has far exceeded my expectations and that's why we're going to increase the number of columns per week. It's time to find out how fast this car will go.
Derrick from Rockaway, NJ
What is the funniest thing you ever saw in a locker room while covering your teams?
It was while covering the Steelers, during the controversy of the female reporter in the Patriots' locker room. The league ordered its teams to provide locker room access to female reporters. Chuck Noll was outraged women would be permitted to meander about a room full of naked men, so he devised a dress code for the following Sunday's postgame locker room. When the Steelers' locker room door swung open and the media walked in, all of the players were standing in front of their locker stalls wearing white, floor-length, terry cloth robes. Media and players burst into laughter. I don't remember seeing the robes the following week.
Richard from Jacksonville, FL
As a connoisseur of the running game, how long do you think (if ever) it will be until someone breaks Ladainian Tomlinson's single-season touchdown record set in 2006 (28 rushing and 31 total)?
The record will be broken when some team finds the next Sam Cunningham and makes that player their touchdown leaper. Pro football is a game of specialization. I'm surprised that player hasn't emerged (Marcus Allen was good at it and so was John Henry Johnson back in the '60s.) What's special about Tomlinson's record is he was an every-down back.
Jason from Honolulu, HI
Could you share some of your favorite quotes from the head coaches you covered?
Chuck Noll: "Leaving the game plan is a sign of panic, and panic is not in our game plan." Also, "Pep talks last until the first time you get knocked on your ass." Bill Cowher: "Rush the quarterback!" Tom Coughlin: "I don't want people walking around here with smiles on their faces." Jack Del Rio: "We will stop the run." Mike McCarthy: "At the end of the day ..."
Tony from Onalaska, WI
Do you think players of yesteryear were less injury-prone than the players of today? Has 21st century football lost its toughness? If so, when did it disappear?
Players of yesteryear had to be tougher than players of today or they were out of work. It's that simple. An injury would get you cut. I remember covering a player named Tom Brzoza. He sued for having been cut while recovering from a shoulder injury. He forced an injury settlement and that created a new sensitivity for releasing injured players. It also inspired the players union to seek more CBA protection for injured players.
Mike from St. Petersburg, FL
I still lament the narrowing of the hash marks by the NFL. Do you think that change also led to an increase in successful field goal percentage?
It almost certainly did. Moving the hash marks toward the middle of the field effectively widened the goal posts.
Allen from Zephyrhills, FL
We've heard you talk before about moving the hash marks and the explosion of thousand-yard rushers, when it was intended to create more passing. How and why do you think they missed the mark on this evaluation?
The head slap wasn't outlawed until 1977, and offensive linemen weren't permitted to use their hands in blocking and defensive backs weren't forbidden to chuck receivers more than five yards beyond the line of scrimmage until 1978. Those were the changes that stimulated the passing game. In 1972, when the hash marks were moved toward the middle of the field, the first thing an offensive lineman did when the ball was snapped was to grab the front of his jersey with his hands. At the same time, the defensive lineman was using a hand to strike the offensive lineman in the head. If the offensive lineman got his hands the least little bit away from his body, it was holding, and holding was a 15-yard penalty back then. Drive over! Meanwhile, receivers were having to deal with bump-and-run coverage from oversized cornerbacks who were downright nasty. Until '78, the rules favored defense.
John from St. Augustine, FL
Given that the draft is so homogenized, what in the world would cause a team like the Jaguars to draft a guy like Matt Jones in the first round? I feel like everyone except Razorback fans thought it was dumb.
Not true; a lot of fans loved the pick. I remember Jones making a one-hand type of catch late in a preseason game in his rookie season. The crowd went wild. Frankly, I didn't think it was anything special, but I understood the fascination with Jones. He had a country boy flair to him that was popular with Jaguars fans, and as wide receivers go, he was the great white hope. Was it a dumb pick? I think it was a desperate pick. The Jaguars were throwing receivers at Byron Leftwich, in an attempt to make the new regime's first pick the centerpiece of its rebuilding. When you consider Jones was picked ahead of Aaron Rodgers, it becomes a pick that defines the new regime's failure.
0.J. from Tampa, FL
Vic, do you believe Jerry Rice could come back today and be productive, as he has stated he could?
Louis from Columbus, OH
Vic, your idea about single bar helmets got me thinking. Do you think CTE existed in earlier generations of football? Was it undiagnosed, or did slower, smaller players just have less of it?
John Mackey is thought to have suffered from CTE. Mackey was big and fast, in any era. The disregard today's fans show for the players of past eras angers me.
Tucker from Juddville, WI
Vic, I may be wrong but if I had to guess I would tag you to be a Paul Newman guy. If so, what's your favorite movie or performance of his?
It's Slap Shot. I think it's the definitive sports comedy.
Leo from Dallas, TX
I've been watching football for (let's say) 15 years and both college and NFL games can be ruined by a taunting penalty. What was it like in the '70s and '80s?
If you taunted in the '70s, you were going to be the victim of payback. I didn't begin seeing taunting on a wide scale until the late '80s. I remember Greg Lloyd slapping the ground three times in counting out Al Toon following a knockout hit. I don't remember seeing stuff like that in the '70s. Cheap shots and intimidation, yes, but not taunting.
Skip from Wisconsin
If we have to accept a decline in play in the first few games of the regular season, can we then expect a decline in ticket prices for those first few games?
Will you agree to pay more for tickets to big games in November and December?
Keith from Springfield, MO
After all of the years you have had to watch the NFL, what has been the biggest on-field change to the game rules did not intend to implement?
It was moving the hash marks toward the middle of the field in 1972. The intent was to stimulate the passing game. The result was an explosion of thousand-yard rushers and a continued decline in the passing game.
Mike from Chicago, IL
Vic, do you think the NFL would ever consider an inter-conference playoff system? If so, how could teams be seeded? It just seems to me there are many years either of the conference championship games are the true Super Bowl.
In the '70s, the AFC title game was often the true Super Bowl. The Raiders' Super Bowl title ring from the 1976 season, for example, includes the score of their AFC title game win over the Steelers, in celebration of what Al Davis considered to be his team's true championship win. In the '80s, the NFC title game was often the true Super Bowl. Those days of conference dominance have ended. Parity has been achieved. Free agency has helped create that parity, but I think it's mostly the result of an homogenization of draft opinion. The grading of draft prospects seems to have been narrowed. It's almost as though there's a uni-board. In that kind of system, the inverse draft order has a true leveling effect. In terms of creating competition, the management of the game has never been better. I don't see a need to change anything about the game's structure.
Derrick from Rockaway, NJ
It appears there are a number of refs leaving the NFL. Is the NFL devaluing refs and these men see that? While it's most likely a combination of a few things, what do you believe is the biggest factor?
It might be the result of disillusionment. Why did Dean Blandino leave? That one stunned me. He had climbed the mountain of his profession. Have we made the game too difficult to officiate? Has the eye in the sky become overwhelming? Are expectations and criticism too much to endure? The money TV has to offer is a huge factor, of course, but I can't imagine Jim Tunney or Tommy Bell taking off the stripes to go to TV, and I believe men such as Blandino and Gene Steratore possess the same love and dedication for their profession Tunney and Bell did. The use of video replay to officiate football could become the worst decision in the history of the game. It has depersonalized a sport built on human confrontation. Here's one more thought: The NFL created personalities with all of the explanation rhetoric, and now TV is stealing those personalities.
Dave from Chippewa Falls, WI
Do you have any good Jim Kelly stories to share?
He's one of four Hall of Fame quarterbacks -- Johnny Unitas, Terry Bradshaw and Dan Marino are the other three -- whose final game I covered. I'm proud of that distinction. Kelly is as tough as any quarterback in the history of the game. I'm proud of his Western Pa. roots: Kelly, Marino, Montana, Unitas, Namath, Blanda and more. He resurrected the football program at the University of Miami. I don't think that's acknowledged often enough. My favorite Kelly story is from a scene from a spring press conference with Terry Bradshaw. The Steelers PR man brought Kelly into the room to introduce him to Bradshaw. The PR man introduced Kelly as a local kid on his way to Miami. Bradshaw did his best Bradshaw imitation, fawning over Kelly and pretending to know of him. When the moment had passed, Bradshaw turned to me and said, "Who is that guy?" I explained and Bradshaw said, "Big kid." Memories make us rich.
Brian from Tiffany, WI
I recall semi-pro teams existing in the '60s and '70s. Can you envision semi-pro ball coming back, playing real football to fill that niche?
Men risking injury for nothing more than love of the game and a burning desire to block and tackle? I don't envision that kind of football returning.
Jeff from Yorktown, VA
When will you start the additional weekly "Ask Vic" posts?
I'm thinking the preseason might be a good time to start.
Mike from Somerset, WI
Vic, what in today's era of football do you see as special/ unique on the field that did not exist in previous eras?
The management of the game on the field has never been better. Quarterbacks are coaches and coaches are strategical geniuses. I'm in awe of the ability to implement strategy as the play clock ticks toward zero and 70,000 fans howl.
Tom from Brookfield, WI
In true Vic fashion, no special teams on the dream team. If you had to add a kicker, punter, returner and gunner, whom would they be?
Kicker -- Gary Anderson. Punter -- Bryan Barker. Punt returner -- Louis Lipps, Randall Cobb (tie). Kick returner -- Maurice Jones-Drew. Gunner -- Montell Owens.
Adam from Wausau, WI
How would you have persuaded Kordell Stewart?
Kal from Redondo Beach, CA
You don't feel like football is already the sport of gambling? Ninety-five billion dollars a year is the number I hear.
Symbolically speaking, if the day ever comes the NFL is able to put a little box on top of our TVs for us to place a wager as the kicker is about to begin his run up to the ball, pro football will become the most lucrative business in all the world. Nothing would be real and our culture would collapse into moral decay. That's the power football gambling possesses.
Nick from Fairfax, VA
I’m having a rough day. Could you tell me a true football story?
Johnnie Dirden is my all-time favorite football story. He sat in a darkened room and looked through a slightly opened door to see who was knocking on it. "They can't cut you if they can't find you," he told me. That's my kind of football.
Jim from Rockford, IL
Surprised to see T.J. Lang as one of your picks for guard. Lang over Sitton? In your opinion, what makes Lang the better guard?
He would've been the better tackle.
Jimmy from Vero Beach, FL
Can you give us the behind-the-scene scoop on what happened in 2003 with Phil Savage and the Jaguars non-hiring? Would Phil have passed on Terrell Suggs for Leftwich? Reggie Williams over Roethlisberger? The Jags could have avoided the dark years.
Savage was standing off to the side. It was a foregone conclusion he was going to be introduced as the Jaguars' new personnel boss, at the press conference that announced Jack Del Rio as the team's new coach. Apparently, Savage and the Jaguars couldn't get together on money, and the Ravens sweetened Savage's role in Baltimore, and the Savage/Jaguars deal shockingly fell apart. What if Savage had taken the Jaguars job? I tend to believe he would've drafted Suggs, which might've left him to draft Roethlisberger the following year. Wow! Think about how that might've changed pro football history. I have, often. It might've changed my life dramatically.
Sean-Luc from Oceanside, CA
In 2000, the Packers had 51 scheduled practices for training camp. This year there are 15. Have the CBA practice rules weakened football as a product? Which teams benefit from this change?
When I began covering the NFL, training camp was nine weeks long. It began shortly after the Fourth of July. There were two-a-days every day, and they were always full pads and full contact. Nine-on-seven drills were a staple and the Oklahoma drill was a tone-setter. Roster sizes were unlimited, the preseason was six games long and the starters played more as the preseason droned on. Relative to that regimen, training camps don't exist any more. They're glorified OTAs. Yet, today's fans are steadfast in their belief today's players are better than those of the bygone era, which means either the NFL doesn't need training camp, or the league has done a sensational job at deceiving the fans.
Mike from North Hudson, WI
Vic, it came as a surprise to me the new Packers GM doesn't have the authority to hire and fire the head coach. What are your thoughts on this?
I think a head coach needs to be all things to the franchise he's going to lead, which means he needs to satisfy more than one segment of the franchise's criteria. A head coach needs to be a good fit in all ways and for everyone, not just not for one man's needs.
Mark from Madison, WI
Where do you stand on centers?
An accomplished center is of critical importance to the running game and success against 3-4 defenses. If you're playing in a division with a butt-kicking nose tackle, you better have a butt-kicking center or you've got a big problem.
Bill from West Chester, PA
Vic, Green Bay has had many busts on first-round picks the past 10 years. I think the Packers should identify the top 50 players in the league, excluding QB, and go to the teams those players play for and offer the first-round pick they got from New Orleans for that player. To me, a proven, top-quality NFL player is worth more than a first-round crapshoot. Your thoughts?
Players, not plays, and picks, not players.
Rich from York, PA
Vic, do you think Kordell Stewart could have been taught to be a more proficient passer?
I think Stewart and the Steelers made a big mistake in changing his role from a "Slash" to an every-down quarterback. Stewart should've never insisted on being a quarterback. He was unique. He was the first of a kind and nobody was as good at it. He might've become the greatest big-play receiver in Steelers history. He also might've become the greatest big-play rusher in Steelers history. His combined run, pass, catch ability is the greatest of any player I've ever seen. It was Bill Cowher's greatest display of coaching genius to make Stewart a "Slash" in his rookie season. If he had been retained in that role, the Steelers could've patched in an ordinary every-down quarterback and made Stewart the centerpiece of what would've been the most unique and intriguing offense in the league. I fault the Steelers for not persuading Stewart to accept that role.
Jimmy from Vero Beach, FL
Would a pitch clock (similar to a basketball shot clock) help speed up the game of baseball? Watching the pitcher hold the ball for long stretches is the epitome of boring.
I'd like to see what would happen if one ball was eliminated from the game: Three balls and you walk. How would that speed up the game? Might that force pitchers to nibble at the corners and waste pitches up and in less often, and might that create more action in the game? What if baseball experimented with three balls you walk in spring training, or in a minor league? Why does baseball have to be so stubborn to change? Vic to baseball: Do something. You're dying!
David from Boise, ID
Vic, did the Packers' less-than-satisfactory performance last year warrant the organizational changes?
Time demands change. It was time for the Packers to be new. They had gotten old on many fronts.
Dave from Rochester, MN
Vic, what are your thoughts on the Packers' structure for management? Murphy is the clear head of the organization, with Gutekunst, McCarthy and Ball in a triumvirate beneath Murphy.
In my opinion, football had created a cozy, self-protective fiefdom that needed to be penetrated by management. In other words, the walls needed to come down. I think that's happened and if Mark Murphy is the leader of this movement, the Packers' future is in good hands. Murphy is one of the most impressive football men I've ever known.
Ben from El Paso, TX
What were the results of the survey?
Five days a week is the clear winner, but there is strong sentiment for three days a week during the offseason. I'm thinking of this: Three days a week until about midseason, then go to five until after the season is over, and then go back to three a week in the offseason.
David from San Francisco, CA
Vic, how can we evolve this site to take questions from fans of every team and not so heavily tilted towards the Packers? I love my team but I want to recommend your site to my friends.
The survey confirmed most of my readers are Packers fans, but I was surprised by how many "NFL in general" results I received. How does the column evolve? That's up to the readers. I don't ask the questions, I just answer them. That's why I say the readers write the column.
Nathan from San Diego, CA
Vic, I recently read an interview with Coach McCarthy in which he was echoing your opinion about the decline in the quality of the first few regular season games. He said he was trying to address this by giving younger players more opportunities, which he is doing by excusing vets from mini-camps. Do you think this is an effective approach?
I think McCarthy was using the decline-in-quality issue to tell you what he's going to do in the preseason: Rest his starters. In other words, the decline in the quality of play in the first few games of the regular season is just something we have to accept because risking injury to frontline players is something McCarthy won't accept.
Todd from Milwaukee, WI
Where does free agency fit on the scale of what's depersonalized football? It's about the money, as you say. If it's not personal for the players, why should the fans feel a personal loyalty to the individual and their confrontation, rather than to the team? It's all gotten to be so mercenary, it's discouraging.
It's always been about the money. Why did Jim Taylor finish his career with the Saints? Any fans who think money isn't the driving force of professional football are either naive or intentionally deceiving themselves. Frankly, I think pro football's mercenary quality is its charm. It's play for pay. It's a cold and harsh philosophy, and something about it warms me.
Cindy from Los Angeles, CA
Vic, as football has grown in popularity, how would you characterize the change in the fan base? When it was a niche sport, was there more of a connect between fans and the reality of the game? I dislike fantasy because there are no points given for things that matter in the game of football (blocking and winning), and the focus on stats over the game really distracts fans from the essence of football.
Fantasy football, video games, jersey sales, etc., are all part of a leaguewide marketing approach that has transformed football from a regional to a national sport. TV, of course, has played the biggest part in this. I think the creation of Monday Night Football is a perfect example of the movement toward creating fans across team lines; the entire country watching one game. When I was a kid, I saw the Steelers and the Colts; that's all we saw in the two-team network that was Pittsburgh-Baltimore. Pete Rozelle negotiated a leaguewide deal with CBS and the national movement was on. That's the major change in the fan base. We are as familiar with other teams' players as we are with those of the team in our own market. It's all part of Rozelle's leaguethink approach, and fantasy football has taken it to levels not even Rozelle could envision.
Josh from Tucson, AZ
What are your thoughts on the crowds at the U.S. Open? It is to the point where I have to mute the TV because the constant "get in the hole" after every drive, amongst other stupid phrases, gets tiresome after the first half hour. Give me tinny music and azaleas in the spring; at least the Masters will boot folks who insist on acting foolish for the benefit of being heard on camera.
TV created this problem and I think TV has an obligation to fix it.
Matt from Iowa
If you could build an offense/defense with players from the Steelers, Packers and Jags from the years you covered those teams, who would be the starters?
Tackles--Tony Boselli and Leon Searcy; guards--T.J. Lang and Gerry Mullins; center--Mike Webster; receivers--John Stallworth, Lynn Swann and Jimmie Smith/Keenan McCardell (tie); quarterback--Aaron Rodgers; running backs--Franco Harris and Fred Taylor.
Defensive linemen--Joe Greene, Ernie Holmes, L.C. Greenwood and Tony Brackens; linebackers--Jack Lambert, Jack Ham and Clay Matthews; cornerbacks--Mel Blount and Rod Woodson; safeties--Charles Woodson and Donnie Shell.
Mike from Dacula, GA
I went to college in Charleston and have vacationed every summer in Hilton Head, while growing up in the Green Bay Area. Just got back from a week down at the beach with my wife and daughters. After many trips over the years, I am still in awe at the serenity, charm and natural beauty of the SC low country. My favorite (and the kids, too) is spotting alligators around the many lagoons and ponds. The primitive look of them has captivated me since I was a kid. I’m curious as to what attracts you the most to the sea islands of the SC low country?
People like you.
Dave from Savage, MN
You have written you don't plan to ever write a book, fiction or non-fiction. If you wrote a novel, do you have a theme or a premise or a setting or a character or a style you would start with?
If I wrote a book, it would be about me, not because I want others to read it, but because I'd want to read it. I think it's important for everyone to read about themselves, which is a way of saying examine ourselves. Football would be the biggest part of what I'd write about myself. It's dominated my life, and maybe that's not such a good thing.
John from Vacaville, CA
Vic, I’m curious about your take on the Phil Mickelson putting drama on the 13th hole Saturday. His comments immediately afterward indicated he intentionally broke the rule because in his mind the two-stroke penalty was a better outcome than the likely result if the ball rolled off the green. The commentators seemed particularly distressed about Phil’s reputation and the integrity of the game, however, I don’t see his actions any differently than a cornerback grabbing a receiver when he knows he has been beaten for a touchdown. Your thoughts?
I'm not buying his explanation. I think he just lost his cool. I think he tried to embarrass a course that was embarrassing him. He made himself look foolish. That's his penalty.
Dave from Madison, WI
Vic, do you feel optimistic for the future of football?
I love football and I worry about its future. I think the CTE thing is real and I don't think football as I've known the game can survive. I think it has to undergo radical change, and I'm not sure its popularity can endure much more softening. What worries me most about the future of football is the potential for it to become the sport of gambling. It would be a perfect fit and the money would flow like water. Gambling could save football, and that's what worries me most, because gambling would surely destroy whatever remained of the most meaningful game I've ever known.
Matt from Eau Claire, WI
Vic, what are your thoughts on Blake Martinez? Opinions on his play seem to vary considerably.
Martinez and Jake Ryan are the same guy. They need to play next to a thumper. They need a big guy next to them who would jam the inside running lanes and allow them to chase the ball.
Nathan from Prague, Czech Republic
If a team from this decade played a team from the '70s that was of equal standing in the league, which team would win?
If the game was played according to today's rules, the team from this decade would win by a lopsided margin. If the game was played according to pre-1978 rules changes, the team of the '70s would win, 10-7, or something like that. The big corners of that decade would get up on the receivers, jam them, force the quarterback to hold the ball and take deep drops, which would allow the rush to take the quarterback down and take the quarterback down hard. Neither team is built to play in an era other than the one they're in.
Ben from El Paso, TX
Why do you enjoy golf?
I like hitting a ball with a stick. I especially enjoy being able to do it at my age. Golf is a game played in beautiful surroundings. I enjoy its rules and its code of honor. I enjoy its rub-of-the-green mentality. As a spectator, I enjoy its travelogue quality.
David from Hilliard, OH
Is it fair to say if the Rodgers era ends with only one Super Bowl trophy in Green Bay, it indicates Mike McCarthy was overrated as a head coach?
Only someone who lacks a feel for the game and whose sensitivity to it has been dulled by the mania to be No. 1 would make such a ridiculous claim. McCarthy is a great coach. In my opinion, he's one Super Bowl win away from the Hall of Fame.
Jeremy from Lethbridge, Canada
Vic, I'm a viewer who largely missed the Marino era. Given his stats and highlight reels, it seems he should have had more playoff success. What happened to him and the Dolphins during his run to hold him back?
The Dolphins lacked defense and a running game. They were a one-trick pony. Sound familiar? I guess Don Shula is an overrated coach.
Greg from Cuenca, Ecuador
Vic, I agree division games in September don't sit right. Still, here we are. So isn't it incumbent on the coaching staffs to change their preseason routines? I would think the veterans would be required to take more snaps in the preseason. This, of course, would come at the expense of giving the new guys more opportunities.
Coach McCarthy will find ways to get his team ready to open the regular season, but I don't think increasing play time in the preseason for his frontline players will be one of those ways. The risk of injury is too great. Coaches just aren't willing to accept that risk.
David from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, how are you feeling about the situation between Rob Rogers and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette?
The newspaper is shifting its editorial position to the right. Rogers' cartoons have been critical of the current POTUS. Cartoons are editorials. Rogers and the newspaper are a bad fit. This isn't something new.
Kal from Redondo Beach, CA
Do many South Carolinians identify with the Carolina Panthers as their team?
South Carolina is college football country. Frankly, there's not much identity left beyond Clemson and South Carolina.
Mike from McFarland, WI
If the players saluted a North Korean soldier instead of kneeling, would the NFL fine them?
The outrage would know no bounds. Left and right would finally agree on something. I'm sad for Otto Warmbier’s parents.
Steve from New Britain, CT
An op ed writer thinks fantasy football has hurt NFL team loyalty since it promotes viewing players as individuals rather than as team members. He also claimed this leads many fans to not really appreciate watching a football game as intended, since it was meant to be a team sport. Does fantasy football rub you the wrong way?
I think fantasy football has desensitized fans to what football is, which is to say a human confrontation. Fantasy football has turned the game into love of stats. Similarly, video football has turned football into love of strategy. It's turned football for video game lovers into plays, not players. I think it ultimately hurts the game because it depersonalizes it.
John from Philadelphia, PA
Have you ever seen the movie The Program?
Yes, it's the worst football movie ever made. About halfway through the movie, I was hoping James Caan was going to get gunned down, again, at the New Jersey Turnpike entrance.
Matt from Madison, WI
I recently read an article about Big Daddy Lipscomb. It made it sound like some details of his death were very sketchy. Did you ever hear anything about him possibly being murdered? It sounds like some of his teammates thought that was the case.
There was a feeling Big Daddy was murdered. Here's what I believe to be true: He was one of the three or four best defensive linemen I've ever seen; he might be the best ever. He could take over a game like no player I had seen until Joe Greene came along. Reggie White possessed that same quality. Now, we're seeing Aaron Donald do it.
Scott from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, reading that you are considering having more content on your site made my week. I don't ask a lot of questions, but I read everything you write because I appreciate your honesty and factuality. Will writing more cramp your style during your retirement?
I don't think it would because writing this column is an early-morning activity for me, and that's what I enjoy most about this column. I like getting up early and feeling my fingers on the keyboard as a fresh cup of coffee sits comfortably to my right. I like having done something before the rest of the world wakes up.
Matt from Oshkosh, WI
Vic, do you ever spend time upstate? I loved road tripping to the Atlantic as a kid (Savannah and Tybee Island being my favorites, by far), but the Greenville/Asheville area is easily one of the most beautiful slices of the country, with a great mix of hip and history.
I'm vacationing at Lake Lure, NC, this week. I live in the low country and I love spending time in the high country. It's the best of both worlds.
Dave from Chippewa Falls, WI
If you were growing up today, what would your first tattoo be?
I don't like tattoos. I think they're ugly and I don't understand the concept of using one's skin to make a statement. What if your opinion or taste changes? There would be no first tattoo.
Mike from Somerset, WI
Vic, Terrell Owens is taking a knee to speak out against the writers. I am OK with it. The writers rarely take into account the background of these men that take the field. They are quick to shame athletes that have had to overcome far more than most. Many of these men will never overcome their early informative years. Where is the compassion?
Wait, I'll get my violin.
Greg from Cuenca, Ecuador
Vic, if it's not whom you play, but when you play them, I'm glad the Packers are playing the Bears first.
Because the Packers will be getting the Bears before they become a contender? OK, but the site of the game, Lambeau Field, makes it a must win for the Packers, in my opinion. I'm not a fan of playing division games in the first few weeks of the season. In my mind, the league is still in preseason mode in the first couple of weeks, and division games are too important to be wasted on teams that aren't in regular season shape.
Clark from Boise, ID
Vic, just watched "A Football Life," featuring Charles Woodson. Amazing athlete and person. How does he stack up with the Deion Sanders?
Sanders did two things exceptionally well: cover receivers and return punts. Woodson was a more complete football player. He was a good enough cover man to play cornerback, and a good enough tackler to play safety. I acknowledge Sanders' greatness as a cover corner, but his unwillingness to tackle was a big turnoff for me. I have greater respect for Woodson as a football player.
Chase from Sunnyvale, CA
Is it safe to say when expectation becomes hope, you're in need of a new coach?
Usually, that means you need new players, but the team usually fires the coach because to admit it needs new players means it doesn't even have hope. Teams fire coaches for the purpose of resurrecting hope.
Eric from Green Bay, WI
Vic, Cowboy fans booed the team when they drafted Zach Martin instead of Johnny Manzel. Martin is now the highest paid guard in NFL history, healthy and dominant. Manzel is a backup in the CFL. What lessons should fans derive from this story?
The lesson is: Get the big guys early.
Bill from Sheboygan, WI
What are your plans for the dead zone?
I'm going to vacation a little, and I'm also going to make some decisions about the future of "Ask Vic." I've gotten a lot of emails from readers wanting the column to publish more often. A survey will appear in the column, asking readers to chime in on the subject. The column's numbers are strong enough to warrant an increase in publishing volume. I'll look at the survey results and then announce my plans.
Dave from North Potomac, MD
"The Packers want to run the ball, but they always seem to fall back on the pass." Vic, is this due to a lack of commitment in play-calling, lack of execution of the runs called, or a quarterback going to a pass audible too often?
It's the result of poor defense. You can't run the ball if you can't play defense. The best Packers running game I covered was in 2014, which just so happened to be the best Packers defense I covered. A good defense breeds patience on offense.
Omar from 998 Oaks, CA
Deion Sanders and Terrell Owens were the NFL prima donnas of the '90’s and 2000’s. The football era when you were covering the Steelers, there seemed to be none. Why is that? And why is there an explosion of them now?
In the '70's, look-at-me behavior got you cut in half. The star running backs from that era -- O.J. Simpson, Franco Harris, Larry Csonka, Earl Campbell -- were very humble. Lynn Swann was targeted by the Raiders' Jack Tatum and George Atkinson, and I think one of the reasons for it was Swann had some swagger that rubbed the tough guys on defense the wrong way. I remember Swann appearing on Mister Rogers; it's one of the all-time great Mister Rogers episodes. Swann performed ballet. The message to kids was: Tough guys don't have to be bullies, or something like that. Well, Swann's appearance on Mister Rogers rubbed some people in pro football the wrong way. Pro football was a tough-guy game when Swann played, and it didn't like one of its Super Bowl MVPs making pro football look soft. Quarterbacks had to be especially careful of their behavior. They were live to the ground back then. As Joe Namath said, "We're the trophy." Let me put it this way: Aaron Rodgers would not have done "The Belt" back then.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, what was the greatest story you never wrote?
I got a call one day from a man in a town where I worked for a newspaper. His wife had died, he had lost his job and he and his son we're packing up the house and moving because he couldn't pay the mortgage anymore. In the process of cleaning out the attic, he found a baseball card his grandfather had given him years ago. "Hold onto this card. It'll be worth a lot of money some day," the man said his grandfather had told him. "Who's the player on the card," I asked him? "Honus Wagner," he said. Oh, my, I thought. At the time, I was writing freelance stories for Beckett Football Card Magazine. I knew the people at Beckett and I knew their baseball magazine was the baseball card bible. I told the man who to call. I said he might have something of great value and somebody at Beckett would immediately know if that was true. The man thanked me and I asked him to call me back and let me know what happened. Hey, I wanted to be the first to write this story if, in fact, he had the Holy Grail of all baseball cards. I didn't get a call, so I called him. He told me a guy from Beckett was on his way to Pittsburgh to look at the card. In the meantime, he was told to take the card to the nearest bank and put it in a safe deposit box. He said he was also told not to talk to anyone about the card, which especially included me. I knew what that meant. He had THE card. I was never able to find out what happened, but I have a feeling it's the greatest story I never wrote: Laid off steel worker forced to sell his home strikes it rich.
Beau from Lancaster, PA
Vic, who is your U.S. Open pick?
Jim from Maple Grove, MN
What do you think about the Packers playing one-third of their most critical games in the first two weeks of the season? Would the NFL ever consider scheduling inter-conference games for every team in the first four weeks of the season?
I don't think the Packers can win the NFC North Division title if they don't win both of those games (Bears, Vikings). You have to win your home games. I favor scheduling as many inter-conference games as possible in September, as they count the least toward playoff tiebreakers. I think it can be done and still give TV feature attractions.
Matt from Oshkosh, WI
Vic, someone is reading your site. It looks like the Ravens are experimenting with two-QB sets. How long until this becomes more than just a gadget package?
As college football dumps more "New Age" quarterbacks onto the NFL, the obvious reaction is to feature those players at what they do best, which is to say play in space. Two-QB sets create space. In my mind, it's going to happen, and I think it'll happen sooner than later.