"Ask Vic" will publish on Mondays and Thursdays through the offseason.
Aiden from Jacksonville, FL
What do you think makes the difference between successful franchises and franchises that have been down and out for long periods of time? QB, GM, head coach, owner? Is it a bit of luck, systematic approach, or combination of both?
Generally speaking, the answer to your question is defined by the quarterback position. A bad pick at that position will always cost a coach his job and often it'll claim the GM, too. Gene Smith hung his hat on Blaine Gabbert and it cost him his job. If you look at Gene's timeline you'll see the quarterback pickings were slim -- Tebow, Claussen, Kaepernick, Ponder -- so you might say luck is very much a part of success. Hey, what if the Steelers had lost the coin flip to the Bears for the first pick of the 1970 draft? You have to have "The Man," and that's never been truer. The question facing the Jaguars is: Do they have "The Man?" Before they lose the leverage their draft capital affords them, they must answer that question.
Ben from El Paso, TX
For the next slow news day, would you be willing to assemble your power rankings for NFL uniforms? The colors drew me in as a child. From their pristine appearance at kickoff, they became a canvas for grass, mud and blood. Thank you again.
I'll give you a top five, in alphabetical order: Cowboys -- clean, distinctive and traditional. The star was genius. Forty Niners -- For a team named for a gold rush, there's something special about the shine of the 49ers' gold. Giants -- The most beautiful blue I have ever seen. Packers -- They scream Lombardi! Steelers -- They are the team of steel, right down to the uniform colors that once defined Pittsburgh's night skies.
Randy from Colorado Springs, CO
I've seen a steady decline in the quality of the game over the past 10-15 years. Rule changes, inadequate preseason training/preparation, incessant TV commercial breaks and seemingly a penalty on every play. The Packers roster in 1962 was 36 players, so I think the talent pool is probably a bit (diluted) with larger rosters and more teams. What, in your opinion, will be the nail in the coffin, relegating pro football to a has been?
The league won't let that happen because it knows what the fans want. The fans don't want better, they want excitement and the league is giving it to them. The offensive line play today is pathetic, and the tackling is even worse. Just watch the last two minutes of the game; that's all you need to see and, frankly, that's all the fans want to see. They want to see last-minute heroics and they want it to be their team doing them. Solution: Passing and parity. Everybody gets a quarterback and everybody gets enough wins to keep coming back.
Dan from Tulare, SD
I see how you tucked quarterback away in the middle of the team.
I arranged the positions as I remember them having been announced by the public address announcer. Maybe they do it differently now; I don't know.
Doug from Gardiner, ME
Picking three Steelers linebackers and excluding Clay Matthews is ridiculous. Lambert and Ham, OK, but LeVon Kirkland? Matthews in his prime was as disruptive as Lawrence Taylor. Perhaps the Packers had a soft defense, but Matthews was an outstanding -- and entertaining -- player.
Compare Matthews to Taylor? Talk about ridiculous. I began covering the Packers the season after Clay's big year in 2010, so I missed his best season. In the years I covered the Packers, Clay was a very good player, but I don't think he was ever a great player. Injuries cost him effectiveness and then there are those last four minutes of the 2014 NFC title game. In crafting this answer I looked at Matthews' and Kirkland's stats. They are as I expected. Matthews has been a starter in 150 games; Kirkland 155. Matthews has six interceptions and 17 passes-defensed; Kirkland 11 and 20. Matthews has 17 forced fumbles and five recoveries; Kirkland 16 and nine. The big separation comes with sacks and tackles, and that's because Matthews was a rush backer and Kirkland was a run-stuffer. Matthews has 91.5 sacks and 519 combined tackles; Kirkland 19.5 and 1,026. I think it's important to note Kirkland was a three-downs inside backer; he did not come off the field on third down. I think you can build a case for either player. I loved Kirkland's ability to stuff and drop. Those kinds of linebackers are a dying breed. If you'd like, I'll take Kirkland off the team and pick someone else. Kevin Greene would be that guy; he has 160 sacks.
Paul from Cumming, GA
What makes a player a great in any era type of guy?
The answer is the evaluator's eyes and his or her ability to recall accurately what they saw. You can't use stats to compare players from different eras. When somebody does that, they immediately disqualify themselves from credibility. I believe a credible opinion must come from an astute observer who witnessed at least two eras: the pre-1978 rules change run-the-ball era and today's wide-open, high-scheme pass-the-ball era. I'm fortunate to have witnessed much of the first and all of the second. I can tell you without hesitation Rodgers would've been as much of a star in the pre-1978 era as he is today. Za'Darius Smith? Not as much. I believe every player on my all-time team would've starred in either era. That was a major criterion in my selection process.
Malthe from Copenhagen, Denmark
At his recent press conference, Mike Pettine said he did not want his front to sacrifice push and disruption up front to improve gap integrity. I always thought a 3-4 defense was all about two-gapping and control.
Ironically, Dom Capers always stressed stopping the run first. The truth is you have to be able to do both, but as I've been preaching in this column for a long time, if you don't stop the run, you won't have a chance to stop the pass. Eight pass attempts! It was an embarrassment. That must never, ever happen again. It's about a football team's manhood.
Jeff from Republic, MO
Growing up a Packers and Notre Dame fan, my favorite player was Paul Hornung. In the spirit of Memorial Day, I’ve been thinking of players such as him actually serving in the military while active. I think your job started after this was the standard. Do you have any memories of players and teams dealing with military service?
Rocky Bleier fought back from a shrapnel injury that forced him to walk with a cane.
Mike from Neenah, WI
Should Rashan Gary be a defensive lineman instead of an OLB?
Apparently the Packers think his talents are better suited for linebacker. I'm not a big fan of using the 12th overall pick on a player who'll be making a position switch. Gutekunst said he fell in love with Gary and he was the Packers' guy long before draft day, but I can't help but think the Packers had targeted another guy and got caught off guard when that player was picked ahead of them.
Steve from Lake Stevens, WA
Knowing the Steelers of the '70's as well as you did, if you were an opposing coach, how would you have attacked them in your game plan?
The teams that beat them got turnovers. I don't know how you game-plan to do that, but I think it begins with playing great defense and forcing them to make plays. Game plan? The best I saw used against them was by the Chargers. They had their linebackers take exceptionally deep drops to allow their defensive backs to drop even deeper and take the home run ball away from Bradshaw, Swann and Stallworth. That game plan was successful because the Chargers scored points and forced the Steelers to pass. This was in 1979 and though the Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl, the defense was in steep decline and they really weren't the Steelers we had come to know. They were no longer run the ball and play defense, they won with a big-play passing attack for which Bradshaw has never gotten the credit he deserves. He carried that team.
Pete from Chapel Hill, NC
Vic, you are the Packers GM. The league has allowed you to pick any one of all the free agents available this year and get him for free. Who do you pick?
If it's now, I pick Patrick Mahomes and trade him. If it was before the draft, I pick Mahomes and trade Rodgers. I'll take the cap hit on Rodgers because Mahomes' bonus amortization stays in Kansas City and my only cost this season is his $825,000 salary. His salary explodes in 2021, but by then Rodgers is off my cap and I'm doing a new long-term deal with another future Hall of Famer. What you're suggesting is ridiculous, but it's good cap practice.
Frank from St. Louis, MO
According to Mike Pettine, "effort" was a problem for his defense in the NFC Championship game. That's absolutely shameful. How does that happen?
Maybe it's just an attempt to rationalize a loss or challenge his players after an offseason in which the Packers didn't do much to correct the problem with personnel.
Barry from Skokie, IL
As a child, I read dozens of youth sports novels and in my latter years have amassed a collection of pre-1960 books. The virtues promoted in those stories -- good sportsmanship, teamwork, effort and the like -- have helped form the core values I have tried to carry through my life. Did you read a lot of those books as a kid?
I read lots of them. "Fullback For Sale" was the first. Hey, it was the baby boom, we didn't have cell phones, video games or the Internet. We were a tailormade audience for affordable paperbacks that told a simple story of the difference between right and wrong. I'm not sure they'd sell today.
Gabe from Jacksonville, FL
Not even an honorable mention for Stroud/Henderson? I can’t pretend I know better than you, but that surprised me.
I didn't do honorable mentions, but Henderson would've been my next defensive tackle pick. I came close to picking him over Holmes, but I didn't want to favor a player for the purpose of team balance. Holmes was the better player.
Jason from Austin, TX
If your all-time team played a few years during each era, which position group would have the hardest time transitioning through the different eras?
It would be cornerback, followed by offensive linemen. Pre-1978 rules change cornerbacks were big guys who relied on jamming the receiver. They couldn't mirror as the game today dictates. Ken Riley might be one of the exceptions. By the same token, today's smaller corners couldn't support against the run as the pre-1978 corners were required to do. As for offensive linemen, there was a change in prototype at that position following the '78 rules changes. Previously, they were smaller, more mobile guys who could pull and trap. Once the rules allowed linemen to use their hands, they got bigger to accommodate the explosion in the passing game. Conversely, I can't imagine any of today's offensive linemen being successful without being able to use their hands to block. The '78 rules changes changed the game forever.