Jeremy from Jacksonville, FL
While it's been continually upgraded, the stadium in Jacksonville is approaching 30 years old (half of it is even older than that). This was briefly touched on during the state of the franchise presentation and it piqued my interest then, and even more so after the Wembley deal was announced. Do you think the team and the town will start planning a rebuild, or is the Jags' time in Jax limited to the remaining life of the "Gator Bowl?"
Eventually, a new stadium will be built in Jacksonville, but I don't think that time is near at hand. First of all, Everbank Field offers competitive revenue streams, including suites, clubs, the Bud Zone, etc. The facility also offers a large footprint, which has allowed it to upgrade the grounds adjacent to it to accommodate the team's training needs. The locker rooms and signage have been updated, so I don't see a deficiency other than the stadium's original problem, that it yawns too much side to side, which causes its upper decks to be distant from the field and giving the stadium a less-than-intimate feel. Everbank has served Jacksonville well. It's housed the Jaguars for 23 years, hosted a Super Bowl and continues to be the site of the Florida-Georgia game. It also possesses something else: a big piece of my heart. I have fond memories of the 16 years I worked in that stadium, and I look forward to visiting it next November.
Jerry from Savannah, GA
Vic, what’s the story behind the picture of you on the airplane? Who took it?
I'm on the bus on the way to the airport following a game in my final season covering the Packers, which would've been 2015. A co-worker took the picture and sent it to me. I know it's my final season -- it might even be my final game -- because I'm not wearing a tie. In the last few games of my career, I decided not to wear a tie. Hey, what are they gonna do, fire me? I quit, right? My goal was always to have my game story and column written and posted before the wheels were up on the plane. As this picture is of me on the bus, I can confirm I was writing my game story. I always saved my column for last, as writing the game story helped me achieve perspective.
Beau from Lancaster, PA
Vic, fans often use "we" when referring to their favorite team. Did you use "we" when you were employed by your three teams?
I was employed by the Packers and the Jaguars. I covered the Steelers for a newspaper. I have never, ever referred to a team I was covering as we or us. To do so would be an embarrassment to me and an insult to my profession and my colleagues, and it would be a betrayal of my readers' trust. The teams I've covered wouldn't have liked it, either. I always believed they wanted me to be a credible link to their fans, and I don't know how a media member can achieve credibility with the fans by surrendering his or her objectivity. In my opinion, any fan who wants a media person to refer to his or her favorite team as we or us is looking for a friend, not the truth.
Dave from Chippewa Falls, WI
Would you have gone for two against the Cardinals?
No. I consider that to be an act of desperation and it's just not in my personality to let it all ride on one play. That's not to say I don't understand why a coach would go for two in that situation, because I can make a strong case for doing it. I just don't like the desperate quality of it. I think it sends a bad message to your team that could have a lingering effect on its performance.
Anthony from Chicago, IL
Vic, I don't quite have a question, just a quick story I think you'll find pretty cool. I work for a family-owned company in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago as a mattress salesman, and every once in awhile I have an athlete stop in to buy something. A couple of days ago, I had a gentleman walk in to buy a couple of pillows. While writing up the order, he mentioned his name was Taylor Gabriel, the receiver that was just signed by the Bears. While we were chatting in the store, I had another guest who was looking to purchase a bed for her daughter, who is blind. As we were going over pricing, the guest was visibly upset, saying she couldn't afford the mattress she wanted. Overhearing this, Mr. Gabriel stepped in and decided to buy the mattress for her. Both of us were stunned, and my other guest was so happy she was brought to tears. Needless to say, even as a Packers fan, I will be rooting for Mr. Gabriel to make a Pro Bowl this year. Also, thank you, Vic, for enlightening me to some of the more subtle nuances of this beautiful game.
Ben from Chicago, IL
What football topics interest you these days now that the draft has occurred?
This is speculation time, and any and all versions of speculation are permitted and justified. Free agency is over, the draft has been concluded and we have a pretty good idea of what each team will be taking to training camp. Opinions are what interest me from now until kickoff on opening day, at which point the baloney stops, except I won't say baloney.
Leif from Frederic, WI
Vic, best and worst pick from the Steelers draft.
I think Mason Rudolph will become the Steelers' best pick. I think he immediately upgrades the backup quarterback position and I think there's a strong possibility he can become "The Man" when Ben Roethlisberger retires. Terrell Edmunds, the Steelers' first pick, might be their worst, but only because the feeling is they reached for him. The Edmunds situation is interesting. The Steelers obviously fell in love with him and have a particular role in mind for him. I suspect he's going to be used as a "box safety," which means the Steelers would go light at linebacker. The other safety the Steelers drafted, Marcus Allen, is a similar type of big, heavy hitter. Still, Kevin Colbert wouldn't have reached for Edmunds if he didn't have reason to do so. I suspect he had information that another team was hot on Edmunds for the same reason the Steelers were, and would've "reached" for Edmunds, too.
Ben from El Paso, TX
For a sports journalist, where is the line between covering drama and creating it? How has it changed since you started your career?
If you're referring to the difference between fact and fiction, the truth has always been the line that separates the two. The truth is the pure defense. Otherwise, I know of no such line because I've never created drama, only found it in circumstances that otherwise would've gone unnoticed. As a reporter allowed to get close to the team and cover it on a daily basis, I consider it to be my obligation to find the drama and present it to my readers so they might more fully appreciate the game we love. I've written about a journeyman receiver named Johnnie Dirden, and how he described to me his attempts to hide from "The Turk" on cutdown days. Dirden was acting out a somewhat daily drama. His story gave my readers a feel for the intensity of training camp. The Aaron Rodgers saga in 2013 is an example of drama. I didn't create it, but I made sure I heightened it and sensitized my readers to it. Why? Because it was real. My reporter's instincts told me, "Vic, get this right because we are heading for something dramatic and defining." Would you agree the game-winning touchdown pass against the Bears was such a moment? I saw the lights explode!
Jake from Knoxville, TN
In terms of roster-building, offenses and defenses are both placing ever greater emphasis on versatility. What do you think is going to be the next step in the strategic progression of the game?
I think we're headed for multiple quarterbacks in the game at the same time, the result of college football producing so many run-pass types. It would be a scheme nightmare for defenses to face a two-quarterback set, since one of them would be the equivalent of a running back, or even a receiver. If I was a head coach, it would be one of my offseason projects. I'd ask my offensive coordinator to create a two-quarterback series of plays. I don't think the Steelers went far enough with the "Slash" stuff. I think there's a lot more left in that concept, especially if you have two quarterbacks with that kind of run-pass ability. In time, I think that will become the norm.
Jeff from Sun Prairie, WI
What do you think the NFL would be if players could sign anywhere they want coming out of college but there was still a salary cap?
The rich, glitzy teams would grab the headlines and slowly destroy their caps. The meek would inherit the earth.
Dave from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, you’ve covered some terrific wide receiver tandems, including the great Steelers Hall of Famers Swann and Stallworth and the Jaguars' Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell. I saw the former play on television and the latter play every home game live in Jax from 1996-01. What are your thoughts on these two dynamic receiving duos?
I had this conversation with Keenan several times. I would tell him the big difference was Swann and Stallworth won four titles. Swann and Stallworth were each big-play, long-touchdown-pass receivers, whereas Keenan was the consummate possession receiver, but I also saw Keenan make a lot of big plays with possession receptions. Keenan and Jimmy got the stats, Swann and Stallworth got the rings. That's the big difference.
Aaron from Wausau, WI
What were some memorable Joe Greene quotes?
"Don't you understand? There's some honest to God human confrontation going on out there."
Eric from Lansing, MI
Tell us a memory about the NFL you don't write about.
It's from 1977. I was a young reporter sitting at a table in a San Diego restaurant with some big names in my profession. Through the door walks Pete Rozelle, who sees our table and walks over to say hello. He begins going around the table and shaking each guy's hand, acknowledging them by name. I'm thinking to myself, "This is going to be embarrassing; he's not going to know my name." When Pete gets to me, he says, "Hi, Vic, how are you?" I never felt better in my life.
Justin from Canton, NC
Vic, I couldn't agree more on players having an edge. When did it change? When did fans start wanting their players coddled more than coached and pushed? Imagine if our bosses all kept our feelings at the forefront of their minds and not the profit margins. I loved your quote from Poslunszny from his childhood. A lot of us that played had a moment like that at some point.
Fans want to believe the players feel what the fans feel, but they don't and they shouldn't. Fans feel love. Love doesn't win football games. Tom Coughlin once fined a player (Ben Coleman) for walking down the hallway with me and laughing. Coughlin said it was "out of media time." Seeing it angered me, he added, "Hey, I don't want guys walking around here with smiles on their faces."
Dan from Golden, CO
"If Mayfield isn't the Browns' starting quarterback by midseason (I think it'll be earlier), the Browns will have made a terrible mistake." Couldn't disagree more. The Rams waited on Goff, who was way more groomed and ready to start than Mayfield, and that seemed to have been a huge benefit to him.
Coach, the Browns didn't win a game! The Rams were competitive. How about the Eagles and Carson Wentz? If the first overall pick of the draft can't play on a team that didn't win a game, worry will quickly replace optimism.