"Ask Vic" will publish on Mondays and Thursdays through the offseason.
James from the UK
Vic, that was the most disappointing divisional weekend I can remember. Where was the drama?
This hasn't been a great season for me. The games have been over-officiated, all three of my former teams failed to make the playoffs, and the playoff games to date have been a disappointment. Has the NFL tinkered with the game too much? I've considered the possibility. Anyhow, we've reached the final four. They're the four best teams in the league and they offer an interesting clash of two great quarterbacks at the ends of their careers vs. two upstarts. It's the best of the old vs. the best of the new. Maybe what's left of this season will save it.
Vincent from Seattle, WA
Vic, who are your picks for getting to the Super Bowl?
In the AFC, I'll accept no excuse from the Chiefs. They have it all. They are significantly more talented than the Patriots and the game will be played on their turf. Bill Belichick out-coached Andy Reid in Super Bowl XXXIX. I don't see that happening this time. In the NFC, I think the Rams are the better team but I think the environment tilts the field too much for the Rams to overcome it. I see a Chiefs vs. Saints Super Bowl.
Terry from Alpine, CA
Vic, love your work. Mentioned earlier in the year to not drink the Charger Kool-Aid. Bad defensive game plan; slow or not able to adjust. Cheap ownership could have kept the team in the East. Brady had to laugh, up 21-7.
Rivers and the Chargers defense were equally bad. The outcome was decided before halftime. The Chargers began helping Patriots players up off the ground and exchanging smiles. They looked like a team that wanted a burger and an aisle seat.
Tom from Pine River, WI
I expect the guy in the broadcast booth to provide informative insight during a game, but fumbling around trying to finish an obvious point while the next play is developing becomes tiresome. The Patriots/Chargers game became tiresome.
I muted the TV. Chatty feels too great a need to explain everything. The explanation for the Patriots' easy win didn't require chalk talk. The Chargers weren't ready to play. They looked cold. Derwin James whiffed on an easy sideline tackle because he was afraid to hit the ground. Just say what you see.
Tom from Bismarck, ND
Vic, the Chargers, with a better record than the Ravens and the Patriots, having to make two 6,000-mile round trips on consecutive weekends seems pretty unfair. I realize these things can even out over time, however, the Patriots consistently having first-round byes is truly absurd. I quite honestly love the way they play the game, with a great QB and a great coach leading a no-nonsense group of players, many of whom other teams might think of as afterthoughts, but the 20-year level of poor to mediocre teams in the AFC East is unbelievable. No, they wouldn't be getting these playoff breaks if they played in the AFC North or the NFC East. The Patriots' lack of competition, within a division, is not likely to come this way again. They certainly know how to reap the benefits and, to that end, congratulations.
I acknowledge the validity of your point. It's become the go-to explanation for why the Patriots have been so much more successful than the Packers, and I think it has merit. Be that as it may, there are those who would say the Packers of the '60s benefitted similarly from a watered down NFL.
Ryan from Hayward, WI
What are your thoughts on the loud music playing between every snap when the Cowboys were on offense? I personally felt it was over the top. Seems like they’re just trying to be more like the NBA. Is this just LA culture? Or is it the future?
It's been happening in New Orleans for a long time and, even though the NFL has strict rules governing when music and other such artificial noise must be turned off, I still believe the home team is being allowed to shape the stadium environment unfairly to its benefit. I think the NFL should be more aggressive in controlling artificial stadium noise. In my opinion, homefield advantage has become too great, and artificial noise and message boards that prompt fans are the reasons for it, especially in domes. The competitive balance is being lost and the NFL needs to address the issue.
Derrick from Rockaway, NJ
While the Rams offense is considered new and innovative, a lot of their plays remind me of what you would see in the old Wing T formations, 3-4 variations of a single play with multiple fake hand-offs in the backfield for misdirection. Also, everything is predicated on the run. Is this a fair comparison?
The Rams use finesse movements to disguise what they really want to do: run the ball with power. They have a road-grading offensive line that knocks opponents off the ball and creates wide running lanes. Power is the real genius of the Rams offense. When you can run the ball with power, you can do anything you want.
Samuel from Jacksonville, FL
The Colts did a disservice to Andrew Luck, making him throw so much this season. His arm looked shot against the Chiefs. I wonder what the long-term ramifications will be.
It looked like he was throwing bricks. He had a great comeback season, but his arm isn't what it was a few years ago. His skills might be eroding.
Chad from Kansas City, MO
Well, Vic, the Packers are going to be new one way or another. I don't have any expectations for this coming year, but I am excited to watch. Football is good.
When a team hires a new coach, it places a blank canvas in front of him. What picture will Matt LaFleur paint for us? Will it include a lot of bold brush strokes that speak of quick, decisive action, or will his brush paint subtle and measured changes to the canvas, the result of a patient and disciplined attention to detail? Will the image emerge quickly, or will we have to wait a couple of years before we can appreciate LaFleur's creation? Will we love it, or will it disappoint us? Creating a football team is very much an art form.
Richard from Koblenz, Germany
Vic, you said stats are for people who haven't had a chance to visually analyze a team. What do your eyes tell us about LaFleur’s statistically bad Titans offense?
They tell us the same thing they told us when Mike Mularkey was the head coach: the Titans have a struggling quarterback. There's no play-caller I respect more than Mularkey. He's balanced and creative. If he couldn't do it, it couldn't be done. Frankly, LaFleur stepped into a bad job. It says a lot about him that he used it to become a head coach.
Steve from Lake Stevens, WA
When the head coach is the play-caller, what are the responsibilities of the offensive coordinator in a game?
He's responsible for coordinating the offense. I don't understand why fans struggle so much with the distinction between play-calling and coordinating an offense or defense. They are distinctly different tasks. As coordinator, the coach is responsible for having the personnel in his substitution packages at the ready. He's responsible for identifying and communicating scheme and personnel changes by the opponent, and assisting the play-caller in scheming to counter those changes. He's responsible for practice regimens, breaking down film, detecting trends and flaws. He evaluates personnel and how it might be utilized to create matchup advantages. Play-calling is play-calling; that's all. The play-caller has to be left alone to order his thoughts. Andy Reid looks like a mad scientist. Matt Nagy covers his face with his play-call sheet as though he's hiding acne. Doug Pederson appears to be in a trance. When the offensive coordinator isn't the play-caller, he does the grunt work. When the offensive coordinator is the play-caller, another assistant coach (usually the quarterbacks coach) does the grunt work.
Geoff from Denver, CO
Was it really possible to get a look into LaFleur’s “football soul” so quickly? The whole thing seems rushed to me.
We won't know what LaFleur's true colors are until his team is on a losing streak and he has to hold it together. That's when true coaching ability, especially the ability to be a leader of men, surfaces. Chuck Noll was 1-13. Bill Walsh was 2-14. Jimmy Johnson was 1-15. That's when their football souls were revealed.
Brian from Yakima, WA
Vic, are you surprised McCarthy wasn’t more sought after, considering his resume and eight head jobs were open? It seems like NFL decision-makers like the young guys.
I don't think he was ready to take on a new job. I think he needs a year to rest and regenerate, and maybe that was apparent to teams that considered hiring him. Mike McCarthy needs a year to miss the game and, maybe more importantly, he needs to let the game miss him. Why do I have this feeling he's going to be the next coach of the Minnesota Vikings?
Jeff from Ogden, UT
Complacency? That's not what I saw. This was a roster with little talent. Why is it the click bait continues to focus on Coach McCarthy and not the real problem? This roster is a disaster. Upgrades are needed at eight spots for this team to reach the playoffs.
Complacency is a way of saying there was a lack of desperation, and that's usually the result of a lack of competition. McCarthy got stale? Maybe the roster got stale.
Jim from Anthem, AZ
Vic, how important is it LaFleur retained Pettine?
Continuity is good. Defense isn't LaFleur's specialty and I'm not sure he knows the assistant coaches on that side of the ball well enough to reshape the Packers' defensive staff. Retaining Mike Pettine is a logical decision. Not retaining Joe Whitt, in my opinion, is a mistake.
Pat from Collierville, TN
Vic, after watching the playoff games this weekend and seeing these young QBs, do you think the Packers overpaid Rodgers? It sure seems these young QBs are playing at a higher level than Rodgers, or is it the systems they are playing within?
A year ago, I wrote about the challenge the NFL was facing in having to replace a generation of great quarterbacks: Brady, Brees, Roethlisberger, Rivers, Rodgers, etc. I think the league sensed that challenge before I did, because the position has never been easier to play.
Hill from Denver, CO
What did your eyes tell you about the Colts this past weekend? It looks like knocking the Titans and Texans out of contention on the road in back-to-back weeks had them rinsed.
The bye week beat the Colts. The Chiefs were rested and ready. Their quick start was too much for the Colts to overcome. Andy Reid had his team ready to play.
Robert from The Netherlands
The four winning teams this weekend outrushed their opponents by an average of 135 yards and when the Saints needed a first down to seal the win, they ran it up the middle for 12 yards on third-and-10. Seems like no matter how much they change the rules to favor the passing game, having a strong running game is still required to have success in the playoffs.
When you can run as well as pass, you don't have to take what the defense gives you, you can take what you want.