Rocco from Green Bay, WI
Vic, I'm torn about this upcoming season. I'm fed up with all the boneheaded malarkey in regards to the sport and politics and no longer wish to support the NFL. However, I grew up very close to Lambeau Field, and grilling out and watching the game has become a family tradition. I'm not going to say who I'm for or against on the issue, because my question is likely relevant to people on both sides of the aisle. How can a person reconcile taking a stand in the only way they're able, by not being a consumer of the product while still following the team that's so near and dear to their heart? Is such a thing even possible?
I don't fault you for the way you feel. The NFL should've stayed out of this fight. Let the POTUS fight with the players. Allowing itself to be drawn into this drama has worsened the situation. If I'm a fan, I want to know where the players stand or kneel. I want to know how and to whom I should cast my support. Freedom is always a better way.
Jesse from Akaska, SD
The NFL needs more characters like Boss Hog. Maybe Aaron Rodgers will ride in like John Wayne, if and when he signs? John Travolta with paint cans? We need more meaningless funny.
Marty from Grafton, WI
Vic, this is not directed at any one coach or coordinator, but do you think one's message or message delivery can get stale? And if so, do you think a new coach is needed?
You don't win with messages, you win with talent. The Packers added a lot of talent on defense this year. Clearly, they believed they lacked talent on that side of the ball.
Kevin from Silverdale, WA
Vic, I know you feel teams fire coaches too fast (and) it doesn't give them time to acquire and install the proper players for their style, but how do you justify retaining a coach who is 1-31 in his first two years?
If you believe in him, you stick with him. Are we above belief?
Eric from Wausau, WI
Vic, if you were to list the three most impressive rookies you've covered in your three-plus decades as a journalist, who stands out to you, and what qualities (other than being professionals) did they share?
Actually, it's five decades. The three rookies are Franco Harris, Tony Boselli and Fred Taylor. They're all good guys.
Colin from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, digging the new porch picture. I was reading Rob Demovsky's analysis on Brian Gutekunst's press conference and he said, "You can't leave here and not have a banner hung because that's what this place expects." It really rung with me because he said "that's what this place expects." Now, I know winning isn't everything, but man this really struck a chord with me. What are your thoughts on this quote? And do you think championship football resonates within the halls of Lambeau?
Actually, I find those words kind of smug and I've tired of that kind of rhetoric. I think the Packers need to stop playing the it-means-more-to-us card and start playing some defense. Coach Noll said "losing has nothing to do with geography." In my opinion, winning has nothing to do with geography, either. You win with talent and toughness, not with tradition.
Brad from Basalt, CO
Vic, several owners now own pro soccer teams and I see the new owner of the Panthers is looking to create a team, as well. While I can see how this helps the already wealthy owners make more money, doesn’t this seem bad for the NFL in the long run?
I don't like it. I think it's disloyal. Are you a football man or are you a soccer man? You can't be both.
Jared from Rigby, ID
What do Super Bowl teams look like in training camp?
They come in three varieties: 1) on the verge, 2) in their prime, 3) hanging on. If you have a choice, pick on the verge. It's a beautiful thing to watch.
Kevin from New Orleans, LA
Vic, given your history with the Jaguars and their fabled cap disaster, what are your thoughts on their current cap situation? To me it looks as though they may be sitting in the toughest situation in the league.
The Jaguars were unfairly and nearsightedly awarded an advantage the other teams don't possess. The Jaguars are playing with a bigger cap than the other teams, as a result of the uncapped year. Hey, the other teams stupidly allowed it. I'm glad the Jaguars are making them pay the price.
Matt from West Allis, WI
Vic, I read Mike Pettine gave a great speech at the start of training camp. Who are some of the greatest speakers you have heard and what kind of impact does that have on a team?
Great speeches last until the first time you get knocked on your butt. Coach Noll didn't believe in pep talks, and his team seldom got knocked on its butt. Bill Cowher was big on pep talks, and when his team got knocked on its butt, he would give it another pep talk. Coach Cowher was also blessed with a lot of really good players. Check out this All-Cowher defensive team: NT, Joel Steed and Casey Hampton; DE, Aaron Smith and Kimo von Oelhoffen; LB, Levon Kirkland, Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, James Farrior, James Harrison (I'll stop there); CB, Rod Woodson and Ike Taylor; S, Troy Polamalu and Carnell Lake. It's been my experience teams with great talent either don't need pep talks, or respond well to them.
John from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, years ago, I watched an NFL Films segment about the occupations of football players during the offseason. I'm not sure of the date the film was produced, but the mid to late '60s seems accurate. They mentioned there were a multitude of master's degree holders and a few PhDs. When did playing professional football become a viable means to earn a living?
Coach Noll didn't like the word retirement. Instead, he would refer to a player leaving football as "moving on to his life's work." The advent of free agency made football a player's life's work.
Patrick from Ashland, WI
It's sad I have never heard of those three nose tackles, with as much football as I have watched. When I watch a game, what specifics should I look for in a nose tackle?
He must hold the point of attack. In other words, he must refuse to be moved. He doesn't have to defeat the block, just resist it, and that often means resisting the combined force of two men. Nose tackle is a grunt position. Its demands define how a real man plays the game.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
Is there any drill in training camp that is an indicator of live-game success?
Half-line drills are as good as it gets. I applaud Coach McCarthy for being committed to them. A strong running game begins in training camp in half-line drills.
Dave from Chippewa Falls, WI
Does the NFL Network have any redeeming qualities? I consider it to be a huge opportunity wasted. What do you think?
I think it does a fantastic job with the Indianapolis scouting combine, and I love NFL Network's game coverage during the season. "A Football Life" is NFL Network's best artistic work, and occasionally I'll stop and watch some old videos. At all other times, the programming is meaningless. The ex-playerspeak is laughable. It's welfare for the washed up.
Abhi from Rockville, MD
Vic, what is the story behind orange juice and your formal attire?
It's mimosa. It was Easter Sunday.
I'm sorry I deleted the name from I don't know, either
Vic, what is your favorite sports-related gift you have ever received? Do you still have it?
During the last game ever played at Three Rivers Stadium, on Dec. 16, 2000, my reporter friends walked down to my old press box seat and peeled the seat number off the position at which I sat for a long time and sent it to me. I had it framed within a picture from that game. It's sitting on the wall in front of me as I answer your question, as if I was looking out the press box window.
Samuel from Jacksonville, FL
Is David Garrard better than Blake Bortles?
If Bortles had Garrard's arm, you wouldn't be asking me this question.
David from Ashwaubenon, WI
But, Vic, the asterisk!
It was wonderful. The whole thing was beautiful. It's an example of how much fun sports can be if we don't take ourselves too seriously. I am so proud to have been a sports writer.
Kabir from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
Should Le'Veon Bell send a present to Todd Gurley? The Rams extending Gurley's contract resets running back compensation. Is this a fleeting moment, or the new reality?
The Rams are full of themselves and behaving recklessly. Running back will remain a largely undervalued position because its supply is plentiful.
Patrick from Ashland (wherever that is)
My dad was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan from way up here because he wanted them to beat the Yankees in the '40s and '50s. He loved the Packers before I was born. Care to share any dad stories?
My father took me to the first pro sports game I ever attended, a Phillies-Pirates game. As we walked into Forbes Field, I noticed the game had already begun. Moments after sitting down, Ted Kluszewski hit a home run for the Pirates, the game was over and the teams left the field. I was immediately upset at my father for arriving so late to the game. "The game is over, dad," I said. He then explained what I had just seen was the continuation of a suspended game, and the full game would begin shortly. I felt wonderful.
Scott from Mt. Lebanon, PA
Did you have a ritual for the first day of camp with each of the teams you covered?
No, but Chuck Noll had a first-day ritual that became a routine I eagerly anticipated every year. Chuck began each training camp with a spirited Oklahoma drill he used as a tone-setter for camp. He would create matchups that got everyone's blood pumping, including the fans'. It was great writing because the drill almost always included a fight. The fans knew where the drill would be conducted because they would see the blocking bags strategically placed on the ground, and the fans would gather around that area well in advance of the start of practice. It was the No. 1 event of training camp every year and it included such headline events as Mike Webster vs. Jack Lambert and Joe Greene vs. Steve Courson. One of the most memorable was Ray Mansfield vs. an undrafted linebacker named Jim Rosecrans. Rosecrans initiated a two-bout fight with the always willing Mansfield. It was a beauty and so were the interviews with each player following practice. Rosecrans was an unknown rookie trying to make the team; Mansfield was an aging veteran trying to hang on. It was the kind of classic confrontation Coach Noll was adept at creating. It was proof Coach Noll had a reporter's feel for good storylines. In Jacksonville, I waxed nostalgic with Jack Del Rio about the Oklahoma drill, for which Jack had a similar fondness. We made a deal: He'd do it and I'd promote it. I hyped it for weeks in advance of training camp. Jack allowed me to pick a couple of the matchups, and I'd survey "Ask Vic" readers as to what matchups, within reason, they'd like to see. It became the No. 1 event of Jaguars training camp. Crowds were huge. One year, a fire truck pulled up outside the fence and raised its ladder so the firemen could sit on it and watch the action. Nobody does the Oklahoma anymore. We're above such mundane pursuits as blocking and tackling. We need to practice our plays.
Matt from Madison, WI
Do you think Casey Hampton or Haloti Ngata make the Hall of Fame? Is the lack of nose tackles in the HOF because they don't produce numbers? Whose the best nose tackle you ever saw?
Nose tackles don't sack the quarterback. That's why there's a prejudice against them. They are largely viewed as chopping blocks or obstacles. Their skill at defeating blocks is unappreciated. Curley Culp, Elvin Bethea and Joel Steed are the best nose tackles I've seen.
Mike from Missoula, MT
Vic, are you aware of any sports writers who transitioned into the operations side of a team?
Ernie Accorsi immediately comes to mind. Ernie has a degree in journalism and worked for three major newspapers before beginning his career in sports. My favorite sports-writer-turned-football-executive story belongs to legendary scout Bill Nunn. Bill had been the sports editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, the country's first African-American newspaper. One of his duties as sports editor was to pick an All-HBCU football team every year, which made Bill a man of great influence in black college football. When Bill went to Grambling, for example, Eddie Robinson rolled out the red carpet. The Steelers made Nunn a part-time scout in 1967, and then Coach Noll wisely made Nunn full time two years later, when Noll became coach. With his vast knowledge of HBCU football, Nunn opened the door for the Steelers to draft Mel Blount, Frank Lewis, Ron Shanklin, Glen Edwards, Ernie Holmes, L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White, Joe Gilliam and John Stallworth, to name a few. Former NFL GM Dick Haley told me he thought sports writers with a feel for football talent made good scouts because of their ability to write reports that accurately expressed their opinions.
Adam from Stevens Point, WI
Vic, in your opinion, how difficult is it to transition to a zone blocking scheme, and how well have teams done in the past afterwards?
Zone blocking is an effective scheme that requires little in the way of talent to execute. Any big body can do it. Just wall up and move laterally. You don't even have to push anybody because the defensive linemen will move with you. The onus is on the back for identifying when and where to cut behind the wall and run to daylight. Teams with cutback runners do well with that scheme, and cutback runners are a dime a dozen. The charm of the zone blocking scheme is it allows teams to focus solely on a lineman's ability to pass block. Find five left tackles and teach one of them to snap a football. That's how you draft linemen for a zone blocking scheme.
Dave from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, I grew up a Miami Dolphins fan. I’ve always been bothered that (Jake Scott) is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He played in three consecutive Super Bowls, contributing to winning two of them while being named MVP in one of them. He had 49 interceptions during his nine-year NFL career from the safety position. He was a very good punt returner and special teams player. Why isn’t he in the HOF?
For the same reason Donnie Shell isn't in the Hall of Fame: He was a safety. It wasn't the premier position back then that it' s becoming in today's game. Safeties were last-line-of-defense players. They were centerfielders who provided support to the real stars of pass coverage, the bump-and-run cornerbacks.
Daniel from Altoona, WI
Vic, I was watching some old footage of college games. I noticed how close to the line of scrimmage the running backs were. What was the advantage/disadvantage of this? What is the advantage/disadvantage in today's game?
In the old days, so to speak, offensive lines were taught and schemed to come off the ball low, hard and in unison. They were fashioned for their ability to drive, trap and pull. Everything up front back then was about speed and quickness. In that sense, the game was much faster than it is today. A back's job was to hit the hole quickly, with speed, lean and fury. Everything happened in a flash, as the hole would open and close in the bat of an eye. I covered a Pitt-Penn State game in 1976 that turned on a halftime adjustment by Johnny Majors, who moved Tony Dorsett closer to the line of scrimmage, to take advantage of holes that were opening quickly. That kind of tactic wouldn't work today because today's lines don't drive block. Heck, they can't even move the pile to gain a yard on third and one. Today's schemes favor pick-and-poke runners. They hide behind linemen that stand up at the snap of the ball and dance around as though they're Lipizzan Stallions. The day of the drive blocker is gone forever. The rules won't allow it.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
Perhaps premature to ask, but what Week 1 matchup are you most looking forward to watching?
Falcons-Eagles, 49ers-Vikings, Steelers-Browns and Texans-Patriots all interest me, as do several other games, but I don't think you have to look any farther than Bears-Packers. It's oozing intrigue. Is Aaron Rodgers back? Is Mitch Trubisky ready? Are the Bears for real? No opener is a must-win game, but try to convince yourself of that fact if you're a Packers fan.
Isaac from Abiquiu, NM
Vic, what, if any, storylines are you looking at during training camp season?
Have the Packers satisfied their need at cornerback? Can James Conner and rookie running back Jaylen Samuels replace Le'Veon Bell? Can Blake Bortles take his game to a higher level? Those are some of the storylines confronting the Packers, Steelers and Jaguars but, frankly, I don't think today's training camp regimens are intense enough to provide answers to any substantive questions.
Dylan from Morgantown, WV
What's your favorite non-football book?
The Moon Is Down, by John Steinbeck.
Bill from Jenkinsville, ID
Where do you think the next Packers Hall of Fame quarterback is: 1) a gleam in his daddy's eye; 2) elementary school; 3) high school; 4) college.
Pat from Seneca, SC
What uniform numbers do you associate with a single player?
Johnny Unitas -- 19, Jim Brown -- 32.
Patrick from New Smyrna Beach, FL
Looking back to the 2000-2010 seasons, I'm amazed at the depth of elite running backs. In that decade, 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns often didn't get you to All-Pro or even to the Pro Bowl. Was there a rule change that helped accomplish that or was there just a perfect storm of generational talent at the position that was able to rack up stats the likes of which hadn't been common before or since? Is that era the golden age of the feature back?
Offense in general exploded in that decade. The major point of emphasis on the chuck rule caused it and the emphasis defenses had to assign to pass coverage and rushing the passer helped open the running lanes. The '60s and '70s are the decades that represent the golden age of the feature back: Jim Brown, Jim Taylor, O.J. Simpson, Franco Harris, Larry Csonka, Tony Dorsett, Walter Payton, Earl Campbell, and on and on. Every team had one because they had to have one. Teams were defined by their running back, and running backs were often the first overall pick of the draft.
Rick from El Cerrito, CA
What did you think of the British Open?
My No. 1 thought is it was a delight to watch NBC's coverage of the event. It was vastly superior to FOX's coverage of the U.S. Open. I hope the money was worth the switch because, otherwise, the USGA made a big mistake in dumping NBC for FOX.
Randy from Aurora, CA
Vic, in all your years of reporting, what was it you enjoyed most about training camp?
I enjoyed covering the plight of the desperate dreamer. It was his chance to reach out and grab his dream. I saw Donnie Shell do it. I saw Frank Pollard do it. I saw Montell Owens do it. I don't think today's desperate dreamers have the same opportunity to realize their dream. How can you out-hit the competition if you're not allowed to hit?
Brian from Pleasant Prairie, WI
I agree on your Mt. Rushmore of QBs. I also think Brady deserves the spot over Manning. My question is what would Aaron Rodgers need to accomplish to supplant Brady on your mountain?
This is a question that needs to go away. It can't happen. Brady is the best from this era. He's got the rings and the Super Bowl MVPs to go with them. Brady defines the era in which he's played.
Jon from Wright City, MO
Vic, I have embraced your “players, not plays” philosophy and I find a lot of fans in all the major sports do not tend to have that same philosophy. My question is what do I look for in coaches to know if they are a good coach or a bad coach? How can I tell if the talent is poor or the coach is not tapping into all that talent? When should a coach be fired?
Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh and Jimmy Johnson were a combined 4-42 in their rookie seasons as head coach. Combined, those three coaches would go on to win nine Super Bowls so, clearly, their teams lacked talent when they inherited them. Fans need to control their expectations and show some patience. Noll was 5-9 in his second season and 6-8 in year three. By today's impatient standards, Noll would've been fired after year three. Instead, the Steelers' patient ownership saw the improvement and felt the greatness that lie ahead, and remained committed to a man who would win four Super Bowls in six years. The answer to your question, Jon, is you'll know a good coach when you see one. His qualities are undeniable. His team improves in all ways. The longer he coaches it, the more dramatically its arrow points upward. His players respect him and it shows in their effort. They win with consistent execution, not with will-of-the-wisp schemes that excite one week and disappoint the next. Good coaches have an identity and it becomes their team's identity. Their teams impose their will. They make big plays at big times in the game. They are resolute. One more thing: Good coaches have good ownerships. Without a committed owner, a good coach may lack the time and support required to win.
L.J. from Chicago, IL
In your response to the naming of a London team, you stated they’ll carry the relocated team’s name with them. Not always. It’s still not the Tennessee Oilers now, is it? And it sure as heck wasn’t the Baltimore Browns.
The Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee to Atlanta and they're still the Braves. The Giants and Dodgers moved from New York to California and they're still the Giants and Dodgers. The Athletics were originally in Philadelphia and spent time in Kansas City before moving to Oakland, and they're still the Athletics. The Colts are still the Colts, the Cardinals are still the Cardinals, and the Rams moved from Cleveland to Los Angeles to St. Louis and back to Los Angeles and they're still the Rams but, you're right, a few fleeing franchises have elected to rebrand themselves. The Chiefs, for example, were originally the Dallas Texans. The Brewers were the Pilots when they played in Seattle. As for the Oilers, they remained the Oilers when they began their move from Houston to Tennessee. They were the Oilers when they played in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis in 1997, and they were still the Oilers when they played at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville in 1998. They didn't become the Titans until their third season in Tennessee. The Browns? Art Modell left the name behind as a peace offering.
Fred from Jacksonville, FL
Tony Brackens on your All-Vic Steelers, Jags, Packers team as defensive end. Did I read that right? With all those defensive linemen on the Steel Curtain? Can you tell us about Tony Brackens and what made you choose him?
Brackens might be the best natural pass rusher I ever covered. He was a playmaker. He could and did take over games. He turned in a Joe Greene-like performance in Baltimore one year; his play dominated and decided the game. He wasn't great against the run, but I've never covered a defensive lineman who was better in space than Brackens was. I largely felt he was under-used. It wasn't until Dom Capers came along that Brackens' talents were fully utilized. A knee injury compromised and cut short what could've become a Hall-of-Fame career.
Pete from Minneapolis, MN
Vic, what’s a run game coordinator?
He specializes in coordinating the strategy and execution involved in the running game. He would report, for example, what he observed on tape of the opponent's run defense. He might detect a particular flaw the run game might attack. It could be something that might've escaped a broader look at the opponent. A run game coordinator provides greater attention to detail to a phase of the game that isn't getting the attention it once did. The days of endless nine-on-seven drills in practice are over because padded practices and contact drills have been greatly reduced. I like the idea of a run game coordinator. If I was a head coach, I'd at least assign to one of my offensive assistants the task of finding a way to convert third-and-one downs. Converting third and one has become so difficult and critical to the outcome of games I might even name a third-and-one coordinator. The ball shouldn't have to be thrown to gain a yard.
Kelly from Koloa, HI
Vic, as a reporter, what makes a good question?
I think a good question allows the interviewee to talk on the subject beyond yes and no. A good question doesn't accurse, it explores. A good question invites thought and commentary. For example, "What did you think you could do offensively?" is a good question. It's broad enough to allow commentary without causing the interviewee to become defensive or beg off the question because it might reveal specific strategy. It's a fair question and it's deserving of a respectful response. "Should you have run more screen passes?" is not a good question. Why? Because you're not going to get a good answer. It goes to strategy and talent evaluation. It's very unlikely a coach or quarterback is going to say, "Yeah, we should've run more screen passes because their linebackers stink." A good interviewer asks questions that can be answered. The tough questions, or at least the ones fans think are tough, are really just show-off ambush questions. It doesn't require much interviewing skill to get a coach, for example, on camera and ask him point blank, "Who's to blame for this defeat?" That's not a question, that's a statement. The interviewer has already formed his opinion and he wants the coach to help write the story.
Jim from Maple Grove, MN
Vic, of course it's about the money. When we're talking about NFL star level money, how much of it is about paying the bills, and how much of it is about keeping score?
First, you take care of business, and then you play the game. Yes, it's a game of the heart, but only after it's a game of the wallet. I feel sorry for fans who won't accept that fact. They're doomed to wallow in delusion and sentiment.
Jimmy from Vero Beach, FL
Years ago, I read "The League: The Rise and Decline of the NFL," by David Harris, based on your recommendation. It's one of my favorite books I've ever read. Are there any other books that give an insider's view of the league? I'd love it if you'd ever post an extensive list of your favorite books. Thanks for increasing my joy.
"The Making of the Super Bowl," by Don Weiss, is a must read for any fan who wants to know how pro football became America's sports obsession. Weiss gives the best account of the roots of the modern game I have ever read.
David from Madison, WI
Would you share any tales of the old Houston air attack?
The "Red Gun" offense moved the ball up and down the field as though it was playing against air. Ernest Givens and Haywood Jeffires were a great pass-receiving combination, and Warren Moon was perfectly suited for the four-wide attack. It was near the goal line where the problems surfaced. The Oilers' run and shoot offense didn't have a tight end on the roster and it wasn't very good at pounding the ball. It liked open spaces and, as the field tightened, the Oilers tended to stall.
Jonathan from St. Joseph, MO
Even though I prefer an Eddie Lacy style running back, isn't a Le'Veon Bell style more sustainable?
I think Bell is the prototype for the future, which is to say a big back who runs with finesse. Saquon Barkley strikes me as the same type of back. He's a big back with light feet and a stop-and-start style. He likes to hurdle. I like guys who drop their pads and punish, but those days are fading away.
Christopher from Hagerstown, MD
Vic, I'm thinking about getting a kayak to do a little lazy water fishing. Do you recommend a sit-in or sit-on type?
For lazy water, you want a sit-in kayak. They cut the water and move more quickly, gracefully. For rough water or for riding the waves in the ocean surf, you want a sit-on kayak.
Dan from St. Michael, MN
My wife met Phil Villapiano recently and brought me home an autographed football. I wasn't familiar with him and I'd love to hear anything about him you could share with me.
He was a darn good linebacker for the '70s Raiders. My special memory is from a moment late in a 1977 game between the Steelers and Raiders, a game the Raiders won. I was down on the field, standing with a couple of other reporters, as Villapiano walked by. He was headed to the locker room with a knee injury. Villapiano looked at us and said, "The Steelers are history!" I smiled. That was the last game he played that season, and the Steelers would win two more Super Bowls.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
If you could pick a coach from the pre-1978 era to coach in today’s game, who would you pick?
Your question was answered a long time ago. It's Bill Walsh. The 49ers saw in Walsh what Paul Brown missed. Walsh's ways as de facto offensive coordinator of the Bengals would become the future of the game. In my mind, Walsh is the mastermind of post-1978 offense. He taught everyone how to use the passing game as an extension of the running game. Walsh is the father of dink-and-dunk offense.
T.J. from Tampa, FL
Vic, what’s your latest quarterbacks Mt. Rushmore look like?
Unitas, Brady and Graham are set. It's the fourth guy I debate. I could go with Peyton Manning, but he's from the same era as Brady. I could go with Dan Marino, but he never won a championship. I'll go with Joe Montana. Those four quarterbacks offer a solid representation of success since the passing game became prominent.
Eric from Lansing, MI
Vic, I have learned from you not to set my sights on the Super Bowl as the goal of the season. Instead, there are many other basic dramas to watch. If you break the season into four-game segments, what is the drama at each stage, from your perspective?
The first four games of the season let you know what you have in the tank. The next four let you know if you need a tune up. The third four-game stretch lets you know if the heater is working. The final four games tell you what you have under the hood.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, what signs of decline did you see in Tom Brady's game last season?
He began to sack himself. Surrender is the beginning of the end.
T.J. from Tampa, FL
In your eyes, what’s Darrelle Revis’s legacy?
For a short time, he was the best cornerback in the game. That makes him an unforgettable player, but I don't think he's a Hall of Famer because his time was too short.
Pete from Chapel Hill, NC
Vic, what would you name the team in London?
A team in London will have relocated from another city, which means it'll carry its name with it. My hope is that name won't be Jaguars.
Anthony from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, would contract negotiations be easier if the NFL forced all contracts to be guaranteed? Is that something you would like to see?
It would be a game killer. Incentive would be extinguished. Anybody who thinks these guys don't play for the money is either naive or chooses to delude themselves. The number of games lost to injury would explode. Effort would suffer. The old college try would be replaced by the guaranteed money flop. The only way to cope with the problems associated with guaranteed money would be to shorten contracts. One-year contracts would become the norm, which means the players would be free after every season. Roster turnover would be huge and the subsequent loss of identity would erode a team's fan base. I don't think it would be good for the game.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, what is the hardest thing for an aging, accomplished athlete to relinquish? Is it the money, the attention, the accolades?
It's the money. It's always the money. If you think it's anything but the money, then ask yourself this question: How many of these guys would play for free?
Samuel from Jacksonville, FL
I've only lived through three presidents in my lifetime. Have you ever seen a president backtrack like what Trump did after the Putin meeting? Is there precedent for that?
It's sheer genius. Speak and write in action-word phrases and you can always say you made a mistake. Did Kennedy get the not in the wrong place? Did he mean to say ask what your country can do for you, not what you can do for your country?
Bret from Mililani, HI
Do you think someone will pay Le'Veon Bell close to what he is asking for, or will he make less than what the Steelers have offered him? What do you think of the whole situation?
I think he's going to find out he's a running back.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
If the Titans are the surprise team in the positive, what team do you expect to not live up to projections?
I have a feeling the clock might've struck midnight in New England.
Ryan from Bloomer, WI
Vic, you have spent the majority of your career with good, stable franchises accustomed to lots of success. What are some signs or attributes somebody can look for in a team as an indicator of how well run an organization is? Could you share an (example) of some red flags you have seen in your career?
There are a lot of indicators. Good franchises have strong leadership at the top, instead of a lot of high-paid executives in a multi-layered structure that becomes Machiavellian. Good franchises also have a long-term strategy. They live in the present, but it's according to their plans for the future. In other words, the cap is their master. I don't like what I'm seeing in the Rams. They're all in for now and I think they should be preparing for their future, when they move into that new stadium and become confronted with its huge debt service. I'm not sure the fan base in Los Angeles is strong enough right now for the Rams to establish anything lasting. I kind of saw that in Jacksonville. There was a mania in the beginning to be real good real fast, which the Jaguars were, and I think it hurt the Jaguars' future. I think it spoiled the fans. The steel was never hardened by the fires of losing. Expectations were high right from the beginning and it caused the Jaguars to treat the salary cap and their future with disdain. By year six, the franchise was capped out and headed for a long run of darkness. That was bad management, in my opinion. Good franchises are disciplined. They do things fans don't like but the fans know have to be done. Good franchises don't hear the howl of the wolves.
Braden from Milwaukee, WI
Aaron Rodgers is trying to break the mold on contracts. Could the Packers offer Rodgers a contract that pays him $20 million a year -- this number hits the salary cap -- but then make him a partner in the organization as long as he plays for the team, and pay him .06 percent of the net revenue each year? In this scenario, it would be an extra $13.5 million. Is that legal in NFL contracts?
You pay it, you cap it. The commissioner would flag any attempt to circumvent the cap.
Dan from Saint Peters, MO
For as fortunate as the Packers were to have Rodgers fall to them in the 2005 draft, were they nearly as unfortunate to have Le'Veon Bell go just before them in 2013?
That's the charm of the draft. You rely on mistakes being committed by the teams above you in the order. Sometimes the competition makes a mistake and you get lucky, and sometimes you make a mistake and the competition gets lucky. Teams in desperate need of a quarterback passed on Aaron Rodgers, and the Packers benefitted. In 2013, the Packers passed on Bell and drafted Datone Jones, and the Steelers benefitted. Looking back on those two situations begs the question: What were they thinking? It happens.
Brian from Kingston, NY
What is the most beautiful throw you've ever seen?
It's Terry Bradshaw's game-clinching touchdown pass to Lynn Swann in Super Bowl X, and Bradshaw never saw it. He was knocked unconscious by a blow to the head from Larry Cole after releasing the ball.
Ben from Indianapolis, IN
I'd like to hear a Gabe Rivera story, if you have one.
First of all, he was going to be a great player. He was going to be a dominant defensive lineman, the next Joe Greene. When I saw Rivera had died, I recalled the sad days following his car accident. I remember the flight back from Seattle. It was the game immediately following Rivera's accident. Coach Noll updated the players on Rivera's condition and then said, "Drive safely on your way home." Then I remember the players leaving the airport parking lot as though they were competing in a demolition derby. I think it taught me something about men who play football. I also remember the two-beer ritual ending shortly after Rivera's accident. Back then, each player was handed a plastic bag with two beers in it as the players boarded the plane for its return flight. It was that way all over the league. I think Rivera helped end that insanity. It's one of the ways I'll remember him.
Phil from Marietta, GA
Before the rule changes that liberalized blocking, how in the world did linemen keep the defense off the QB long enough for him to complete the seven and nine-step drops that were the norm at that time?
By chop-blocking and leg-whipping and collapse-blocking and any other means they could use to get the job done. A high-low combination block was common back then; all of the feared pass rushers faced it.
Bill from Phillips, WI
Do you think it possible for the NFL to establish a percentage of the cap a team can be allowed to pay a quarterback? This would help manage what other players can get.
The players wouldn't agree to it. A cap within a cap would limit free agency.
Jason from Morrisville, NY
Vic, in regards to the Bell contract situation with the Steelers, do you expect the Steelers to run him until the wheels fall off this season?
I'd do just the opposite. I'd prepare to pound with James Conner. It wouldn't bother me should Bell decide to sit out the early part of the season. He'd be fresh for a late-season run, which would help the Steelers shift gears and take their game to a higher level when it matters most, and Bell would be motivated to kick it into high gear for a run to free agency. I think the Steelers need to play their cards right with Bell, and then bid him farewell and hope he gets a big deal in free agency that'll bring the Steelers a nice compensatory pick.
Jim from Central New York
Love your description of a football pro. What is your description of a reporter pro?
He's committed to his craft, but he does it without creating enmity among his subjects. The best reporters I've known have been faithful to their readers and respected by the owners, coaches and players on whom they report. It's a difficult blend of truth and personality, but it can be done and, in my opinion, it defines a reporter.
Barry from Hayward, WI
Vic, could you rank the divisions by strength for this upcoming season?
1) NFC South, 2) NFC West, 3) AFC South, 4) NFC North 5) AFC East, 6) AFC North, 7) NFC East, 8) AFC West.
Tim from Peshtigo, WI
With Rodgers still having two years on his current deal, wouldn't it be a little wise to make sure this collarbone doesn't become a Tony Romo situation before guaranteeing a ton of cap space to him? I do believe he is the best in the game and worth it when healthy, but how bad would it be for the franchise if this collarbone became an annual problem and they paid Rodgers $120 million in guaranteed money?
It would cause the franchise to go dark for a long time.
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.