"Ask Vic" will publish on Mondays and Thursdays through the offseason.
Tom from Bismarck, ND
Vic, there's no question in my mind that Bud Grant ... was the greatest special teams coach of all time. Grant's Vikings teams were fundamentally as solid as any teams I've ever seen. His use of real talent on special teams, not second and third stringers, was what separated them from the rest. Your greatest special teams coach or team?
I covered teams that had big-name special teams coaches, pioneers of a sort: Bobby April, Frank Gansz, Larry Pasquale, Pete Rodriguez, Joe DeCamillis. I can remember some big special teams plays, but I don't think I've ever fully appreciated the value of special teams and the importance of their coaches, and I think I know the reason. When I began covering football, special teams were something the Steelers did in the final five minutes of practice, as most of us began walking up the hill toward the lunch room. Chuck Noll was head coach, offensive coordinator and special teams coach. There didn't seem to be much of an emphasis on special teams and I developed a cavalier attitude toward them. Late in my career, I began to see the importance of special teams, but I think Coach Noll poisoned me forever. His regular centers were his long-snappers, he won Super Bowls with a punter and a kicker he was afraid to use, and the collective practice time he spent on special teams wouldn't have made for one good nine-on-seven drill. Yet, they never seemed to be a problem. I remember former Steelers "GM" Tom Donahoe saying, "The more time we spend on special teams, the worse we get." And I remember thinking, "Just kick it out of bounds."
Kirsten from Madison, WI
Is mortgaging the future in order to win championships now an acceptable strategy if you actually win those championships? What should be the goal, being a perennial contender or racking up the occasional Lombardi Trophy? What's more profitable?
You're describing the dirty little secret: The Super Bowl isn't the goal; the goal is making it into the playoffs every year. The problem with mortgaging your future to win it all now is it creates self-inflicted rebuilding, which creates an expectation for losing. Periods of darkness are devastating for a franchise. The goal is to contend for the playoffs every year; it gives a franchise a steady heartbeat. The Broncos won the Super Bowl just three years ago, but the effects of what it took to do it have left the franchise in a state of mediocrity and in search of a coach and a quarterback who can lead the franchise out of its darkness. I don't think winning a Super Bowl is worth years of hopelessness.
David from Washington, DC
Can you imagine being a kicker named Blewitt?
He didn't blow it against Clemson, did he?
Adam from Wausau, WI
Are sports fair?
No, they seem to unfairly favor the economically disadvantaged.
Todd from Wauwatosa, WI
Comfort is a bad thing. Was comfort the unintended consequence of the program Mike McCarthy ran that did him in?
I never liked the attitude that seemed to promote a separation of the Packers from the rest of the league, the idea the expectations in Green Bay were different from the expectations and demands every other team in the league is facing. I think it's arrogant to believe winning a championship means more in Green Bay than it does in Jacksonville, or that Green Bay aspires to a higher plane because of its history and tradition. I think that attitude can cause a culture of hubris. Nobody is above losing. Vic to Packers: You've won one Super Bowl in the last two decades; so have the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Jack from Chicago, IL
Vic, I am not a soccer fan, but I did read the U.S. women's team was criticized for beating up the Thailand team in the World Cup tournament, 13-0. It made me shake my head. We debate whether how much we won by was right or wrong instead of celebrating a dominating performance. Jack to the rest of the World Cup contenders: Look out!
Yeah, Thailand got what it deserved, for working for nine cents an hour and dumping all that cheap clothing into our country. USA, USA!
Tom from Elkport, IA
Vic, watching journalists interview Matt LaFleur, am I seeing some deer in the headlights, I’m in over my head looks? If you were interviewing LaFleur, would a fair question be, “Coach, are you ready for this assignment?"
It's not a fair question; he shouldn't have to defend himself before he coaches his first game. We'll find out if he's ready for his assignment the first time he faces a crisis. Chuck Noll was challenged by Roy Jefferson, who wanted to see how far he could push the new coach. Noll traded him. Bill Cowher faced an immediate crisis in his first training camp. Barry Foster, the player on whom Cowher intended to build a power running game, was a holdout. Cowher remained calm and committed, the crisis eased and Foster led the AFC in rushing. Tom Coughlin was challenged by Andre Rison. Coughlin cut him and took the team from 4-7 to the AFC title game. Every coach faces an early crisis. Mike McCarthy had major issues early in his career with Charles Woodson and, of course, the Brett Favre saga. Matt LaFleur will answer your question with actions, not words.
Vincent from Seattle, WA
In honoring a player memory (in this case Bart Starr), which uniform form do you like better, helmet number sticker, or patch on the jersey?
Jerry from Savannah, GA
Vic, I like the U.S. Open being played on the West Coast. Championship golf until 10 p.m. ET. I’ll take it. Were you able to stay awake?
I was glued to the TV for four days. It's the best golf I've ever seen.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, what do you watch for in preseason in order to forecast how successful a team will be in the regular season?
I watch for nothing. The preseason is meaningless.
Stephen from Jacksonville, FL
I wouldn’t necessarily say the Jaguars locker room is putting off a toxic vibe but there does seem to be many distractions coming to the forefront. From Leonard Fournette’s maturity concerns to Telvin Smith’s cryptic messages and outright disappearance, to Yannick Ngakoue’s contract dispute to Jalen Ramsey’s regular bold commentary. These off-the-field issues paired with the offensive concerns and key defensive departures give reason to believe the Jaguars might be heading for a rough season. Is there any hope to think they’re gonna be good this year?
The Jaguars have talent. They need someone to bring it all together and Nick Foles has to be that player. If he plays up to his contract, he'll take the spotlight away from the distractions and give the Jaguars the freshness they need, the freshness they seemed to have two years ago.
Nick from Owego, NY
What was your best day ever at work?
It might have been my final day at work. It was a Friday in the middle of winter, so there wasn't much to do other than to write a column and say goodbye. I remember sitting in my office with the door closed, and allowing the memories to wash over me. It was wonderful.