"Ask Vic" is giving you your Christmas gift early so you can spend tomorrow with kith and kin without interruption.
Dave from Savage, MN
A lot of us are interested in seeing more of A.J. Dillon. How is playing time determined during a game? Doesn’t the running backs coach typically make those decisions?
Play time is largely determined during the days leading up to the game and then plugged into the game plan. It's a decision made collaboratively between the head coach, the coordinator on that side of the ball and the player's position coach. There has to be a plan. If a sideline becomes too fluid it becomes chaotic. Plan and then execute the plan.
Mark from Missouri
Mel Blount made football the scheme-happy, offensive shootout it is today. Want to level the field between offense and defense? Revert.
Bump and run is gone forever. The fans couldn't tolerate 10-7 scores and the player safety movement can't allow a return to bludgeon ball. Everything about the popularity of today's game is built on the explosion of yardage and points. Fantasy football is the perfect example. The kind of leveling I envision is more subtle. Let's start with forbidding offensive players from assisting the runner. Blockers should be in front of the ball carrier, not pushing from behind. Let's also get rid of that stiff-arm-to-the-face privilege offensive players enjoy. Just do those two things and the field will level a little.
Scott from Lawrenceville, IL
There is a photo of Jordan Love (at the 12-23 practice) in wind up mode. His feet appear too far apart and he looks like what you describe as long. What I want to know is what did the GM that picked him see that made him take him?
He saw a big, strong, athletic quarterback who can stress defenses with his feet and be developed as a passer. The second part will determine whether or not Love will become "The Man."
David from Wisconsin
Is it better to commit to a 3-4, 4-3 or play a hybrid system?
I prefer a 3-4 base defense because it deepens the talent pool and the playbook. The Steelers have long been a 3-4 team, but T.J. Watt plays with his hand on the ground, just as Kevin Greene did. So, isn't that a four-man front? Please, don't trap yourself in terminology. Think function, not designation.
Will from Salt Lake City, UT
Who are some individual players you have seen that have been quietly having a good year? Something that may not be on a stat sheet.
I am greatly impressed by the Packers' offensive line. Brian Gutekunst has quietly built a young and ascending group. Not needing to spend a high pick on a left tackle has allowed it to happen. David Bakhtiari is a grossly underrated player.
Casey from Minneapolis, MN
Aaron said he attributes some of his success this year to a renewed emphasis on his footwork, timing his drops with the receivers' routes and playing within the offense. I know that is a staple of the West Coast system. How precise is that timing? Wouldn’t it be easy for a defense to play press man and disrupt the route?
The concept is the quarterback will begin his throwing motion as his back foot reaches the depth of the pocket. In a shotgun, it's positioning the feet to be ready to throw. It's called throwing on rhythm and Rodgers has done a lot of it this year. We often see it as a receiver breaks underneath a receiver who's clearing out the space.
Barry from Hayward, WI
Vic, how do you stop Derrick Henry?
Make him run laterally. That's what the Packers will try to do. They'll play him inside out and that'll put a lot of pressure on the outside linebackers to set the edge.
Steve from San Diego, CA
Why do you think Coach LaFleur never pays homage to the history of the Packers? I get living day to day but it seems to me not to soak the soul of the Packers into your vision is to ignore your DNA.
A little bit of that is OK, but too much becomes smug and nauseating. Coach McCarthy reveled in the Packers' tradition -- he genuinely loved it -- but sometimes I thought it was over the top. There were times I hoped those bikes would wreck.
Brian from Yakima, WA
Does it seem crazy it took almost an entire season to figure out the Steelers' weakness? Are defensive coordinators too conservative, or were the Steelers just good at hiding it?
The Steelers coaching staff did a great job disguising their weakness and playing to their strength, which is to say a quarterback who was willing to change his game. After a career of throwing the ball deep, the script was flipped on Roethlisberger and he willingly accepted his new role. I think he saw it was for his own good. In my high school coach's words, the Steelers can't block a toilet seat. The Cowboys were the first team to see it and attack it. At that point, the word was out and it was just a matter of time before the Steelers would get to where they are now. Can they flip the script back to what it was previously? If they can't, they may not win again. In my opinion, it's blow-it-up time for the Steelers. Time at the bottom of the draft has caught up to them and there's no eluding it any longer. They are old and depleted up front. They need a complete rebuild.
Todd from Prairie du Chien, WI
How would you fix college football?
It begins with recruiting. Reduce the number of scholarships and stiffen the rules for rescinding them and there'll be more talent available to the lesser programs. In turn, those programs will get better and that'll attract more fans to their games and grow their fan base, and that's good for college football in general. I would also increase eligibility to five years but eliminate red-shirting.
Connor from Greenville, SC
Justin Herbert is "The Man." What can the Chargers do to finally kick the snakebitten, lovable loser part of their DNA?
They're doing it. Draft good players.
Adrian from Inglewood, CA
Can Trevor Lawrence keep the Jaguars in Jacksonville?
A commitment from ownership is required to keep the Jaguars in Jacksonville. I understand fans' excitement for the potential to have the first overall pick and use it to draft Lawrence, but I don't like that it's become a foregone conclusion. Everybody needs to slow down. This needs to be given deep thought as to how it might be strategized. The first overall pick in a draft that includes Lawrence could yield a treasure trove of draft picks and/or players. Let the phone ring! Do the homework necessary to rank the quarterbacks in a visionary way. Is Lawrence really that much better than every other quarterback in the draft? That's the question that needs to be answered before Lawrence is made the Jaguars' pick.
Bernabe from Monterrey, Mexico
I always wondered why Tom Flores and Jim Plunkett are not in the Hall of Fame. Are they the only two-time Super Bowl-winning HC/QB combo to not be named to the HOF?
They lack body of work. Marty Schottenheimer, for example, has the body of work but lacks championships. I prefer a candidate have both.
Ian from Wisconsin
Why would the Packers not go all in on Rodgers' last few years? If it works, great. If not, you save enough money with a new cheap QB to rebuild fairly quickly.
Wrong. If you go all in you don't rebuild fairly quickly, you deepen your dead money and kill your cap. Unless you get lucky, you're going to go dark for an extended period of time. The Broncos? Do you remember how everybody thought going all in was the right thing for them to do? How's that working for them now? They haven't been to the playoffs since. Imagine the howl if that was to happen to the Packers. Frankly, I was surprised by the Packers' decision not to go all in this year. After spending big in free agency in 2019, I figured they'd do the same this year, but they didn't. If the Packers go all the way this season, I would support going all in and trying to extend the run. Otherwise, I think I'd begin turning my attention to the future and life after Aaron Rodgers.
Ben from Hilo, HI
It's 1970. The Steelers lose the coin flip and the Bears use the first pick to draft Terry Bradshaw of Louisiana Tech. What does the ghost of Christmas yet to come show Vic about how his reporting career turns out?
Those teams helped me launch a career as a sports writer and Bradshaw was a big part of them. They were loaded with great personalities that helped me learn my craft. How would it all have been different? Maybe the Steelers would've drafted Mike Phipps and not realized their destiny. Or maybe they would've drafted Ken Anderson in round three the following year and Anderson would now have four rings and a bust in the Hall of Fame. Isn't the draft wonderful?
Tim from Ottawa, Canada
What are your thoughts on Sean Payton?
He's a great coach. He's not just an offensive coordinator. He knows the importance of defense.
Rafael from Cairo, Egypt
The Jets lost the first overall pick and now keeping Darnold around is an option. I remember at the beginning of his career you were quite excited about his play. What do you think was the reason for this decline and, more importantly, is he still recoverable?
He's a big guy with a great arm. His problem is he came out of college too early and was unprepared to play in the NFL, and the Jets have failed to develop him. What might another team do to reclaim his potential? Darnold would interest me much more than Wentz.
Bill from Forest Park, OH
The Steelers better start looking for a quarterback. Thoughts?
He's 38. You either enjoy stating the obvious or delight in the fact. How many teams can say they're set at quarterback for the long-term future? I got 10, and that's being liberal.
Tom from Bismarck, ND
Are we starting to get a glimpse of what it means to be acting like Pittsburgh people? The Ju-Ju thing is just senseless. Remember, he learned from the masters over the past half dozen years. Honestly, all of the idiotic celebrations for the simplest of football plays is so far out of hand it borders on insanity, not by the players, but for what must be a majority of fans who, apparently, tune in to watch it. Just between you, Ju-Ju and me, I don't know one person who thinks the celebration craze is good for the game.
I hate it. Smith-Schuster made a fool of himself. Aaron Jones' pregame routine is pukey, too. Smith-Schuster is in the final year of his contract; maybe he's trying to draw attention to himself. I doubt he'll be re-signed by the Steelers. Dime a dozen.
Don from Weaverville, CA
In the past you characterized Andy Reid teams as soft. Is that assessment still operative?
Yes, I still see Reid's team as soft. It's a scheme team. The two best teams in the league are scheme teams, which goes to show what can be accomplished with scheme when you have players who can execute it. The two best teams also have the two best players. Is it the scheme, or is it Mahomes and Rodgers?
Mike from Bergen, NJ
If I were Mike Tomlin, I'd take my "bye" in Week 16 and rest my starters, since the result is irrelevant in the larger picture. I would tell my team the playoffs start Week 17 and we would start by beating the Browns for the division title. Do you agree with that strategy?
I like the way you think. Here's another thought: If there's no homefield advantage in a Covid season, take both weeks off. Shut it down. What does it matter? The Steelers don't hang division title banners on their walls.