"Ask Vic" will publish on Mondays and Thursdays through the offseason.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, what basic questions did you ask an athlete during an interview?
The questions were tailored to the circumstances and the environment. If I was in a one-on-one situation, especially if it was with a go-to guy such as Joe Greene or Fred Taylor, I'd just simply ask for their thoughts. When a player volunteers information, that's subject matter on which he's probably willing to expound. In a media crowd following a game, however, you might not be able to take that kind of slow approach. You have to be ready to ask questions that pertain to specific events. What happened on the touchdown pass or interception? Why weren't you able to run the ball? That type of question. I always preferred the more relaxed one-on-one interviews with my go-to guys; they always yielded the best information. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Joe and Fred, and Lambert, Ham, Bradshaw and O'Donnell, and Boselli, McCardell, Searcy and Jones-Drew, and all of the go-to guys who made my job easier.
John from Garnet Valley, PA
I got to know Bud Grant a bit long after he retired. He impressed me as a decent, humble man. Even though he’s in the Hall of Fame, I don’t think he ever got his due. Same with Marv Levy. Just win, baby, right?
I think both men are respected and revered for what they accomplished in football. Ironically, you're talking about two men who each lost four Super Bowls and spent time in the CFL. Grant spent a big chunk of his career, his formative years, in Canada. I don't think his NFL counterparts knew him as well as they did coaches with whom they coached and coached against on their way up the ladder. Grant's ladder was in the CFL and I think that cast him as a bit of an outsider. Maybe that's what you're sensing.
Brett from Marietta, GA
The CBA is already starting its creep up the news cycle ladder. Money notwithstanding, what do you see as the 800-pound gorilla in the room during this go round?
I don't think there is an 800-pound gorilla in these negotiations. They won't be without some back and forth, but I don't foresee a lockout or anything approaching a work stoppage. The No. 1 issue will be the players' percentage of the revenue. The players accepted a decline in percentage in 2011 in exchange for several game-softening issues that, in effect, gave the players control of the game. I suspect this time around the players will try to get back some of the percentage of revenue they surrendered in the last deal. The money issue can never be ignored. It's professional football. It's about the money, and when they say it's not about the money, that's when it's really about the money. An 18-game season and those kinds of things are bargaining chips. Money is the issue.
Steve from Nashotah, WI
It was reported the Packers broke (just above) even for the fiscal year. Perhaps it was to be expected, given Rodgers' extension and the aggressive free agency signings. Do other teams often cut into their profit so significantly? Given the Packers’ unique ownership structure and history, is this of any significance?
Other teams do the same. Yes, football is a unique business and the Packers are a unique franchise, but be that as it may, I know of no business that enjoys a near 100 percent decline in year-over-year net profit. I have to believe this is of special concern for the Packers this year, especially given their investment in Titletown.
Will from Oakland, CA
Vic, I think I've unlocked something: Thinking back on his press comments, Coach McCarthy would regularly say the offense needed to run the ball more. He would leave it there vs. saying "I'm calling more runs but the QB keeps changing the play." Knowing the QB and the ex-coach as you do, how close is this to true? Thanks for your continued insightful, deft work!
I think I've also unlocked something: Packers fans are dangerously obsessed with play-calling. They got so sideways on the play-calling issue in 2015 they forced Mike McCarthy to strip Tom Clements of the play-calling duties in midseason, taking back the chores to the cheers of the fans who would eventually delight in McCarthy's dismissal because he called "bad" plays. When the story broke Aaron Rodgers routinely changed McCarthy's plays, the fan base went into play-calling meltdown, and Matt LaFleur is now having to deal with the Rodgers changing plays controversy. Vic to Coach LaFleur: Let it be known to one and all, including your quarterback, you're the coach of this team and it will run your plays, and the subject is not open to debate. LaFleur must move the Packers away from this mania for play-calling or he'll suffer the same fate as McCarthy.
Ken from Derby City, KY
Vic, you have to tell us John Madden's answer to the “Coach, who touched it first?” question, if it’s the only question you answer! OK?
It was 42 years ago. I can't remember the exact words, but they involved conspiracy theories, a helicopter and an Irish curse.
Ian from Texas
You said you thought the Packers did not need to lock up Rodgers last year and should have waited to see how he responded to his injury. Had they taken that advice and given how he played last year, what do you think they would be doing now.? Offering him the same, better or worse deal?
It would probably be similar to what he has, although the Packers would certainly be in a better bargaining position, given Rodgers' stats from last season. He was No. 13 in the league in passer rating and his touchdown passes were down considerably from the big years in his career. I doubt the Packers would play hardball with him -- the Favre debacle is still fresh on the franchise's mind -- but another franchise might. All of that, however, is beside the point I was trying to make when I said, "What's the rush?" My point involved using a year of what was left on his previous contract to evaluate his recovery from the collarbone injury, and to delay spending money the team didn't have to spend. Having seen the books, so to speak, and now understanding what Rodgers' contract did to the team's bottom line, do you understand why the money always feels better in your pocket than it does in somebody else's pocket. That money would've been invested, and the market's been good in 2019. Do you think the Packers got a discount on Rodgers' contract because they got it done early? I don't.
Steven from Doctors Inlet, FL
The Jaguars website is doing a series on the most memorable 25 games. Our section is where Morten Andersen missed a chip-shot field goal and put us in the playoffs in 1996. I know you referenced Rison getting cut was the catalyst to our playoff run, but the emotion after that kick was deafening. What are your memories of that game?
I remember "Ironhead" Heyward having a big game, and I remember the Falcons using the bubble screen pass play over and over. As for the kick, I was standing just to the right of the goal posts (facing Andersen). I expected to hear a thump and see a ball tumbling tightly end over end rise above the line of scrimmage and into the net behind me. I never heard a thump. I instantly knew something was wrong, and then I saw what I would've described as a bag of poop (if my editor had permitted me) wobbling toward me. Pete Prisco and I turned and looked at each other. One of us said, "He missed it." I walked to the interview room and began doing my job. All these years later, I think the moment means more to me now than it did then.
Mike from Wheeling, IL
Vic, long ago players used to come to camp and play themselves into shape. With training camp looming, how about a story of a guy who came to camp out of shape?
Ernie "Fats" Holmes, the second-best defensive tackle I ever covered, made a habit of coming into camp overweight. Coach Noll would put Holmes on a diet, and I can still see Holmes sitting over a huge bowl of salad at lunch. He appeared to be dedicated to weight loss, except he wasn't losing weight. One day, while being interviewed by a reporter, Holmes reached under his bed and pulled out a cooler, from which he took a package of hot dogs and began eating them as though they were carrot sticks. "You didn't see this," he said to the reporter.
Braden from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, I took some time off after the disastrous Packers season. I'm ready to dive into football season. I seem to be in the minority on this but I'm excited to watch football with no expectations from the Packers this year. For over a decade it's been a Super Bowl or bust mentality. This led many fans to be disappointed at the end of the year. Please grab your crystal ball and tell me, what will the 2019 Green Bay Packers look like?
This is the year, baby. There is absolutely no reason this team shouldn't go all the way. Anything less than a Super Bowl title will be a terrible disappointment. It begins in Chicago. That's a must-win game.
John from Green Bay, WI
Vic, I was glad to see the recent question about Gale Sayers, as I have recently been considering asking my own question about him. I'm too young to have watched Sayers play. Are there any players from the last 10 years or so you would compare to Sayers as far as skill set or style of play?
Running back, no, but Antonio Brown, yes. Returning punts and running after the catch, Brown reminds me of Sayers. Brown has that same combination of explosiveness and fearlessness.
Scott from Hamlin, NY
Did Manning call a game plan? Did he really change plays that much or was he given options by the coach and picked the one that looked like it would work?
Peyton Manning and Tom Moore might be the best quarterback/offensive coordinator combination in NFL history. Moore gave Manning a game plan and the freedom to execute it, and Moore never had to worry about how it was done. I remember one particular game, when the Jaguars had Stroud and Henderson up front and the Jaguars threw a defense at the Colts that invited the run and loaded up against the pass. The Colts won the game when they committed to giving the ball to Edgerrin James. Fans talk about offenses needing to avoid being predictable, but the Manning Colts had the most predictable and productive tight red zone offense in the league. They ran two plays. They ran trap and they ran trap pass, and nobody could stop them. Manning didn't call plays, he called a game plan.
Ben from Chicago, IL
If the Packers had lost an additional game last year, which would have improved their draft position, which player would they have run to the podium to announce as their pick?
Devin Bush, maybe?
Joe from Bloomington, IN
Belichick is a master of creating unexpected game plans. Is halftime too late to change a game plan?
I don't think of Coach Belichick as a master of surprise game plans. I think of Belichick as a master of fitting players into specific roles in his game plans. As for changing a game plan, Coach Noll said: "Leaving the game plan is a sign of panic, and panic is not in our game plan."
Steve from Wauwatosa, WI
Vic, is it too hot to golf down there in the southlands?
I'll tell you how hot it is: I like to hit balls at the range. I take two clubs and a wet towel with me to drape over the grip of the one lying on the ground. If I didn't do that, the grip would burn up in the sun.
Benjamin from Jacksonville, FL
Why are repeat matchups in the postseason exciting for the NFL, but considered boring in college football?
I've come to expect Alabama will win the SEC, Ohio State will win the Big Ten, Clemson will win the ACC and Oklahoma will win the Big 12. I don't enjoy seeing the same thing happen again and again. I could say the same of the Patriots in the AFC East, and maybe that's why I consider the AFC East the most boring division in the NFL. College football has to find a way to promote a more even playing field. The blowouts, especially, are killing college football.