"Ask Vic" is published M-W-F through the football season.
Bill from Sheboygan, WI
When are you going to two columns a week?
The offseason routine begins next week. I'll post on Mondays and Thursdays.
Chevin from Jacksonville, FL
Do you have any general thoughts you would care to share concerning the status quo and foreseeable future of the Jacksonville Jaguars?
If the Jaguars get it right, they can become the dominant team in the AFC South for a decade.
Ramiro from Jurupa Valley, CA
Assuming Rodgers is coming back, what are Green Bay’s biggest position needs this offseason to get over the hump and reach another Super Bowl?
On offense, they need to add an offensive lineman, running back and wide receiver. The needs on defense can't be defined until the team hires a defensive coordinator. If the new guy shifts the scheme from a 3-4 to a 4-3, the Packers would need to address right defensive end. Draft one? Move Rashan Gary from linebacker to end? In a 4-3, I would see Za'Darius Smith as somewhat of a misfit. He's not a drop-into-coverage linebacker, he's a pass rusher but, in a 4-3, offenses would scheme to demand he drop into coverage more often. The other fits up front wouldn't be a problem. Kenny Clark would actually benefit from a move to a three-technique tackle. In the back end, the Packers need to address cornerback, but that position is at such a premium every team needs to address it every year.
Justin from Waukesha, WI
You've long held the mantra of players, not plays. Plays seem to stem from a coach's or coordinator's system. If that is the case, does the coordinator matter if the talent is there? To what degree does a coordinator matter and why?
In a perfect world, your talent is so good you only need one scheme. I covered the Steelers when they had that kind of talent on defense. They won their one-on-ones. They stopped the run with seven, sacked the quarterback with four, almost never blitzed, denied the deep ball by playing two deep safeties, and erased the boundaries with big cornerbacks that smothered smaller receivers. Those days are long gone, along with the head slap, bump-and-run coverage, quarterbacks live to the ground and offensive linemen blocking with their elbows. Scheme is critically important in today's game, but scheme depends solely on the ability to execute it, and that's why it's still players, not plays. A coordinator's main task in today's game is evaluating personnel to create matchup advantages and avoid matchup disadvantages. In simple terms, scheme personnel, not schemes. I thought Mike Pettine did an outstanding job in 2020 of scheming to avoid matchup disadvantages against the run. As I've written several times, Pettine was aided by the Packers' penchant for getting leads early and forcing opponents to pass.
Vernon from Eau Claire, WI
Are teams ever concerned a QB prospect is too smart and, from the player's standpoint, how's this remedied?
Too smart? Matt Stafford's chalk talk session at the combine is legendary. It helped make him the first overall choice of the 2009 draft. I think you're referring to the resurrected audible situation on the Packers. Intelligence has nothing to do it; authority and control do. Coach LaFleur needs to exercise both.
Ryan from Carmel, IN
What would all-in honestly look like?
I continue to get this question, so I must have failed in my attempts to answer it. I'll try again. All in looks like the movie "The Bucket List." You have a good time, and then you die.
Cliff from Washington, DC
Vic, football fans can get irrationally emotional over a loss, to the point of screaming, cursing, getting violent and letting it ruin their day. Was it always this way? Did football fans in the Lombardi era get as emotionally invested as they do now?
They were every bit as emotionally invested as today's fans are, but they were more grounded and dignified than today's fans. Players didn't celebrate every little thing they did and fans didn't throw tantrums, and it's because reserve was valued.
Ben from El Paso, TX
What do you expect to see in this year's Super Bowl and what do you want to see? On a personal note, I will be receiving my first vaccine dose on Saturday. You predicted we would be celebrating a vaccine during the Super Bowl. While there is still a lot of work ahead of us to get to where we can all celebrate, I will personally be celebrating a vaccine this Super Bowl weekend.
I watched the previous meeting between the two teams and the Chiefs were blowing out the Bucs until the Chiefs decided winning wasn't good enough; they stayed aggressive too long and it allowed the Bucs to make a game of it. I expect to see the Chiefs win, and it could be lopsided, but the Bucs are better defensively now than they were in that first meeting, and Tom Brady is the ultimate in a crunch-time quarterback. His skills aren't what they were in his prime, but he still has the ability to will a team to victory. He is without a doubt the greatest quarterback of all time. I'll say Chiefs win, 30-24, but I won't be shocked if it goes the other way.
Kasey from Charlotte, NC
I need clarification on pushing salary cap money out via converting it to signing bonus. If a player is a cornerstone piece of your team who you don’t plan on getting rid of, like a Rodgers or Bakhtiari, why is it a bad thing to convert some of their contract into signing bonus?
Within reason, it's not a bad thing; all teams do it with their core players, especially quarterbacks. It becomes a problem if you push too much beyond the player's career expectancy. The Patriots did a great job of winding down Tom Brady's amortization. Ben Roethlisberger's dead money, should the Steelers not restructure him, is $22 million, which is acceptable for a quarterback who has given the Steelers nearly two decades of greatness. If the Packers go one more year with Rodgers on his current deal, his dead money will be down to $17 million. There's no getting around dead money for a quarterback. It's the other positions that are a bigger concern. If Bakhtiari suffers a setback, his dead money is a killer.
Justin from Athens, GA
Love has to be No. 2 on the depth chart going into next season, right?
If there's a preseason and he doesn't come out of it as the Packers' backup quarterback, we can stop talking about this.
Justin from Athens, GA
What if Joe Paterno hadn’t turned down the Steelers job?
I love the question, so I'm going to get wild with it. If Coach Paterno had taken the Steelers job, Coach Noll would've been a consideration for the Raiders job, which John Madden was offered and accepted a week after the Steelers hired Noll. Al Davis was said to have had a high regard for Noll. Maybe Paterno would've come to realize college football is where he belonged. Maybe in 1973 Paterno would've left the Steelers for Pitt, where Johnny Majors became the head coach and won a national championship in 1976. Under Noll, Bill Nunn became a full-time scout and is responsible for several HBCU products drafted by the Steelers: John Stallworth, Mel Blount, L.C. Greenwood, Donnie Shell and many more. Do the Steelers win four Super Bowls without Nunn's influence? Nunn likely wouldn't be a finalist for the Hall of Fame without the opportunity Noll provided. What about Penn State, two national championships, a move to the Big 10 and the Jerry Sandusky scandal? History is so fragile. If I've learned one thing in my life, it's to not be afraid of change. Change has a plan for us.
Lane from Winter Garden, FL
When players on offense break the huddle, is it important for talent-position players to keep a poker face as to not alert defensive players about a run or pass play? Conversely, are defensive players reading the offensive players’ faces to gain an edge?
They don't read facial expressions as much as they read body language. If a guard leans to one side, he could tip a running play to that side. If an offensive lineman leans back on his haunches (unless it's third and long and everybody knows it's going to be a pass), he could tip a pass play.
Eric from St. Paul, MN
Vic, with the lack of combine and interviews this year, would this be the best year to trade away picks for players or future picks?
I think it's just the opposite. I think this is a great year to have extra draft picks. It's going to be full of opt-out players on whom information will be old and unreliable. I have a favorite opt-out player. His name is Jaylen Twyman, a defensive lineman from Pitt who I saw play due to my interest in that program. He was dominant in 2019 but I'm not seeing his name in first-round mocks. I think the 2021 draft could be a game-changer. Mistakes will be made and opportunities will abound.
Jeffrey from St. Clair Shores, MI
I do not understand the all-in philosophy since there is no guarantee other than for wrecking the future. Get me in the playoffs and anything can happen. Why can’t people see that?
I agree with you, but that's not why I chose to answer your question. When I was a boy, my uncle owned a cabin on Harsens Island on the St. Clair River. I nearly drowned in that river when I got hit on the head by a boatlift winder, knocked out and thrown into the river. I remember coming to my senses in the water, swallowing water as I swam for the surface, and then clinging to a bulkhead until I was able to climb to safety.
Ben from Phoenix, AZ
This week, my whole division learned we might be laid off in the coming months. Thanks for continuing to write this blog. Sports really is an escape sometimes.
I hurt for all of you.
Jason from Austin, TX
Vic, if you were Jordan Love, what would your reaction be to what's going on right now?