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.