"Ask Vic" will publish on Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the football season.
Randy from Medicine Hat, AB
Why is it so hard to find a good north-south running back these days?
It's not hard to find them. The Steelers found James Conner in the third round. The truth is coaches don't value north-south runners as they should because they don't value the running game beyond the balance they want to achieve from it. Coaches are manic about creativity in the passing game, but they continue to run the same old schemes in the running game. Pounders are under-appreciated. Everybody was gaga about Le'Veon Bell's stop and start, wiggle and jiggle running style, but Conner's a better complement to what the Steelers want to do with their passing game. Why? Because you stop Bell with the same personnel you use to defend against the pass. You gotta get some big guys on the field to stop Conner. If you're not running the ball with power, you're not running the ball. I love pound and bomb.
Daniel from Richmond, TX
Vic, there is no criticism of the Packers that makes me roll my eyes more than "McCarthy's message has gotten stale." This dismisses the fact the Packers have missed on far too many draft picks and are way overpaying a handful of players. What do you think about the criticism of the freshness of McCarthy's message?
I think the message has been freshened: Fumble a kickoff when you were told not to take it out of the end zone and you'll be traded; commit a costly penalty due to a lack of emotional discipline and you'll be cut. Any player who can't understand that message is too stupid to play for me, as Brian Billick would say.
Dan from Waupun, WI
As a Packers fan, you have us ranked too high.
If they lose this week, you won't feel that way next Wednesday.
Adam from Cary, NC
How did this become "Talk Packers Weekly" with Vic? I know you direct your column to be a reflection of your inbox, and I respect that integrity, but I guess I'm sad the answer to that survey from a couple of months back wasn't shifted slightly more towards the NFL in general. I've grown somewhat tired of whiny Packers fans but, of course, I'll stick around because I appreciate your insights. Thanks for resurrecting the all-important power rankings.
I answer what I'm asked. Ask me about some other teams.
Derrick from Rockaway, NJ
Will T.J. Watt go down as one of the most disappointing misses in Packers draft history?
He had another big game last night: a sack, a tackle for loss and two QB hits. His hit on Cam Newton that caused a fumble was a game-changer. Newton wasn't the same after that hit. I think Watt will be remembered for bookending Ted Thompson's career as Packers general manager: Aaron Rodgers in the beginning and Watt at the end.
Shawn from Kissimmee, FL
Was the acquisition of Jimmy Graham a bust or does he just need more time with Rodgers? He doesn't seem to get separation, gets double-teamed, or timing is just off. Maybe they're using him wrong?
Expectations were too high. He was a disappointment in Seattle for the same reason. Also, the knee injury might have cost him a step. Looking at the way his cap hit is structured, his salary spikes in 2020. At that point, he'd be a cap savings cut, so I suspect the Packers will try to get at least one more year out of him. He got $11 million guaranteed at signing; it's hard to walk away from that kind of investment after just one year.
Gabor from Budapest, Hungary
Vic, what happened to the AFC South? At the beginning of the season, it looked intriguing, but right now its best team is only 16th on your power rankings.
Jacksonville and Tennessee have under-performed. Hey, the Jaguars were No. 1 in my all-important power rankings after Week 2. I'm not sold, yet, on the Texans, but I could get there in a couple of weeks if they keep winning. I'm keeping an eye on the Colts. I like what Frank Reich is doing with that team. Should they beat the Jaguars this Sunday, the Colts will be in the division title race.
Isaac from Nashville, TN
Vic, when I watch Brady, I'm always stunned by how he looks both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. I can't identify something special or unique about his game other than this nonchalant excellence that never seems to abandon him. But I'm not a professional, and it's likely I'm missing something more specific. In your estimation, what's his greatest strength? His brain, his arm, his pocket presence? Something else?
He makes it look easy, which is the trademark of a truly dominant player. It's that way because he can do it all, except run. Unitas couldn't run, either. Sinatra couldn't dance but nobody knew it because he didn't do it. Don't try what you can't do. Brady doesn't.
Benjamin from Jacksonville, FL
If you were wearing the GM hat in Jacksonville last offseason, what would you have done, if anything, to address the quarterback position?
I think my question would be: Did they do enough? Maybe going after Kirk Cousins would've been too bold a move -- or maybe not; they had the cap room to do it -- but I don't think they did enough to upgrade the position and protect themselves from a Bortles meltdown. Washington was aggressive in trading for Alex Smith. The Bucs didn't allow Ryan Fitzpatrick to reach free agency. The Broncos were aggressive in signing Case Keenum. The Packers traded for DeShone Kizer; the Seahawks for Brett Hundley. The Steelers traded up to draft Mason Rudolph. It's quarterback, you have to have one and no team can rest until it's addressed the position as fully as possible. The Jaguars' options weren't good, but I think they should've been more aggressive in trying to address the position.
Ian from Kirkwhelpington, England
Vic, after 35 years supporting from afar, I am en route to Lambeau for the Dolphins game and taking great hope from your power rankings comments in recent weeks the Dolphins aren't as good as their record. My question is about trick plays. The Packers have suffered in their last two games from a fake punt, a flea-flicker and a throw by a receiver. I can't remember the last time the Packers tried a trick play other than an end around. Is that overly cautious coaching and play-calling or is there another reason for it? I will raise a glass to you on Sunday. It's a shame not to have the chance to meet you.
I can see the headline now: McCarthy fired; not enough trick plays! When the wolves begin howling for trick plays, all hope is lost. As for the Dolphins, their triangle numbers are 28-21-26 and 26-28-22. In my quest to find something they do well, I discovered they are No. 3 in the league in returning punts and kicks. If John McKay was the coach of the Dolphins, he'd say we don't rush the passer, but we make up for it by not blocking the rush. The Dolphins are 5-4 and the Packers are 3-4-1, yet, the Packers are favored by 9.5 points, which proves Bill Parcells was wrong, you aren't what your record says you are. Enjoy the game. I hope the Packers run some trick plays.
Vincent from Seattle, WA
Vic, why is Gruden your hero?
They have to keep paying him.
Andrew from Madison, WI
I think Gute is cutting players in order to force the coaches to go with younger players with more potential upside. Am I crazy for thinking this?
During the season especially, GMs work with coaches in shaping rosters according to weekly game-plan and injury needs. Jermaine Whitehead is a come-on-back type of player; cut him and bring him back, cut him and bring him back. His release probably served two purposes: The Packers needed to tweak their roster due to injury at another position, and releasing him allowed McCarthy to send a message about self-control.
John from Marshfield, WI
Why doesn't Ted Thompson get the love? Granted, Ron Wolf saved the Packers. Wolf: 11 seasons, one Super Bowl win, Reggie White in free agency, trade for Brett Favre, 68 percent winning percentage. Thompson: 14 seasons, one Super Bowl win, Charles Woodson in free agency, drafted Aaron Rodgers, 65 percent winning percentage.
Wolf changed expectations. There was appreciation for what he did; contempt for what Thompson accomplished. That's what expectations can do. It also didn't help that Thompson wasn't as personable or as communicative as Wolf was. It helps calm the wolves if the GM or coach can endear himself to the fans. If I was an owner, I wouldn't hire a coach or GM who couldn't relate to the media and fans. Tony Dungy is the example. I think he genuinely enjoyed working with the media. As a result, the media valued him as a resource and treated him accordingly. His image with the fans benefited from that give and take, all of which made Dungy a likeable coach whose favorability helped quiet the wolves when times got tough. GMs and coaches don't do themselves any favors by estranging themselves from the media and fans. If I'm an owner, I'm not going to hire a GM or coach who lacks likeability. Wolf had that quality. He was beloved.
Dave from Franklin, WI
Love your work and thank you for continuing "Ask Vic." I keep hearing talk how McCarthy wasted Rodgers' talent by only winning one Super Bowl. So it makes me wonder, how did a Hall of Fame coach waste Marino's talent?
Don Shula failed to build a strong defense. Sound familiar? The Dolphins drafted poorly on that side of the ball. By the time free agency began, Marino was nearing the end of the line. He lost a season to an Achilles injury, he developed neck problems and Jimmy Johnson replaced Shula as coach.
Gary from Murietta, CA
Vic, following your columns for years has taught me to be a better fan and analyze what I see in the game. I could be bitter right now and say the heck with the Packers, but you have taught me to be better than that. I will not desert my team and I will continue to be hopeful as our new talent evolves. Thank you for your years of helping me understand what is really happening right now.
The choice is watch or don't watch. I like to watch.
Rudy from Milwaukee, WI
Have you ever discussed how often the play is changed at the line of scrimmage with the QB?
Back when coaches weren't completely paranoid and they believed it was their job to communicate with the media and fans to help promote pro football, Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw would playfully spar in their postgame press conferences about who was responsible for a play that was called. Bradshaw called his own plays, but on occasion Coach Noll would send in a particular play he wanted run. There was no hiding it back then because plays were sent in with messenger guards, not by helmet communicator. We'd see a guard run into the huddle and we'd know Coach Noll was sending in a play, and then we'd see or here Bradshaw changing the play at the line of scrimmage -- brown was the Steelers' hot color back then -- and we'd look down to the sideline and see Noll with his lips tightened down to a bloodless scratch. After the game, we'd ask Coach Noll, "Whose play was that?" "It was Terry's play," Coach Noll would say with a playful edge in his voice. So, the answer to your question is in the old days, yes, we discussed plays being changed at the line of scrimmage. These days? No chance! "That's proprietary information," a coach would say. Yeah, It's proprietary; only you and your opponents know it. I spent 45 years trying to accumulate information for my readers. I hate, and I mean truly hate, the unnecessary stealth in today's game. Vic to coaches: You're not hiding anything from your opponents. You're only denying fans information that might help them understand and appreciate the inner workings of the wonderful game of professional football.
James from United Kingdom
Vic, seems a silly question but do the Steelers now even want Bell to return? Would they not be worried about disrupting the team's harmony? Or do you just take good players when available?
I'd want him back, provided he's in any kind of shape to play. The creativity Bell's return might offer could put the Steelers over the top in December. I can envision Bell and Conner in a split-backs set, or one of them in the slot. You could do a lot by formation with those two guys. They're each accomplished pass-catchers who would be the equivalent of another tight end or wide receiver on the field. If Bell comes back, he'll be a motivated player because he won't be worth the money he wants in free agency if he lays down or plays poorly in December. We talked about this in this column before the season began.
Ben from Chicago, IL
Vic, I recently looked at the draft positions of players the Packers have moved on from, and I saw there were Pro-Bowl players other teams found later on in those drafts. Regarding the need for star players, are you referring to those typically drafted in the first 20 picks?
You can't possibly be referring to the 2015 draft, the one for which the Packers are being criticized, because it was a turd leaguewide. Try this: Go back to those drafts and calculate the hit-miss percentage on star players from the Packers' first pick on. Compare it to the hit-miss percentage from the Packers' first pick in reverse.
Ben from Hilo, HI
You mentioned how the Big 12 plays soft football (with the exception of TCU) and it's difficult for QBs from the conference to make the leap to the NFL. Is Mahomes' production the product of Reid's scheme, the result of star-position players or the real deal?
Patrick Mahomes is on the verge of becoming the best NFL/AFL quarterback to have come from the Big 8/Big 12 since John Hadl. Every 50-60 years, I guess it can happen.
Ryan from Bloomer, WI
I know, I know, players, not plays, but what is your opinion of the bubble screen play in the flat? I feel like the Packers run this ridiculous play more than any other team and, in my opinion, it is the biggest down waster they run.
It's a play run best when the ball is thrown to an elusive wide receiver, a big-play threat such as Antonio Brown or Tyreek Hill. The Packers don't have that kind of player, but the play is also run for another reason: It forces the cornerback on that side of the field to come up and support. He doesn't dare backpedal into soft coverage when the ball is snapped. The play to which you are referring helps set up the deep ball. I've said this over and over: Don't look at plays, look at scheme. Each play is a piece in the total scheme. The wasted run helps sell play action, the wasted deep throw helps create space underneath, etc. A good coach doesn't call plays, he calls a game plan.