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.