"Ask Vic" will publish on Mondays and Thursdays through the offseason.
James from the UK
Vic, that was the most disappointing divisional weekend I can remember. Where was the drama?
This hasn't been a great season for me. The games have been over-officiated, all three of my former teams failed to make the playoffs, and the playoff games to date have been a disappointment. Has the NFL tinkered with the game too much? I've considered the possibility. Anyhow, we've reached the final four. They're the four best teams in the league and they offer an interesting clash of two great quarterbacks at the ends of their careers vs. two upstarts. It's the best of the old vs. the best of the new. Maybe what's left of this season will save it.
Vincent from Seattle, WA
Vic, who are your picks for getting to the Super Bowl?
In the AFC, I'll accept no excuse from the Chiefs. They have it all. They are significantly more talented than the Patriots and the game will be played on their turf. Bill Belichick out-coached Andy Reid in Super Bowl XXXIX. I don't see that happening this time. In the NFC, I think the Rams are the better team but I think the environment tilts the field too much for the Rams to overcome it. I see a Chiefs vs. Saints Super Bowl.
Terry from Alpine, CA
Vic, love your work. Mentioned earlier in the year to not drink the Charger Kool-Aid. Bad defensive game plan; slow or not able to adjust. Cheap ownership could have kept the team in the East. Brady had to laugh, up 21-7.
Rivers and the Chargers defense were equally bad. The outcome was decided before halftime. The Chargers began helping Patriots players up off the ground and exchanging smiles. They looked like a team that wanted a burger and an aisle seat.
Tom from Pine River, WI
I expect the guy in the broadcast booth to provide informative insight during a game, but fumbling around trying to finish an obvious point while the next play is developing becomes tiresome. The Patriots/Chargers game became tiresome.
I muted the TV. Chatty feels too great a need to explain everything. The explanation for the Patriots' easy win didn't require chalk talk. The Chargers weren't ready to play. They looked cold. Derwin James whiffed on an easy sideline tackle because he was afraid to hit the ground. Just say what you see.
Tom from Bismarck, ND
Vic, the Chargers, with a better record than the Ravens and the Patriots, having to make two 6,000-mile round trips on consecutive weekends seems pretty unfair. I realize these things can even out over time, however, the Patriots consistently having first-round byes is truly absurd. I quite honestly love the way they play the game, with a great QB and a great coach leading a no-nonsense group of players, many of whom other teams might think of as afterthoughts, but the 20-year level of poor to mediocre teams in the AFC East is unbelievable. No, they wouldn't be getting these playoff breaks if they played in the AFC North or the NFC East. The Patriots' lack of competition, within a division, is not likely to come this way again. They certainly know how to reap the benefits and, to that end, congratulations.
I acknowledge the validity of your point. It's become the go-to explanation for why the Patriots have been so much more successful than the Packers, and I think it has merit. Be that as it may, there are those who would say the Packers of the '60s benefitted similarly from a watered down NFL.
Ryan from Hayward, WI
What are your thoughts on the loud music playing between every snap when the Cowboys were on offense? I personally felt it was over the top. Seems like they’re just trying to be more like the NBA. Is this just LA culture? Or is it the future?
It's been happening in New Orleans for a long time and, even though the NFL has strict rules governing when music and other such artificial noise must be turned off, I still believe the home team is being allowed to shape the stadium environment unfairly to its benefit. I think the NFL should be more aggressive in controlling artificial stadium noise. In my opinion, homefield advantage has become too great, and artificial noise and message boards that prompt fans are the reasons for it, especially in domes. The competitive balance is being lost and the NFL needs to address the issue.
Derrick from Rockaway, NJ
While the Rams offense is considered new and innovative, a lot of their plays remind me of what you would see in the old Wing T formations, 3-4 variations of a single play with multiple fake hand-offs in the backfield for misdirection. Also, everything is predicated on the run. Is this a fair comparison?
The Rams use finesse movements to disguise what they really want to do: run the ball with power. They have a road-grading offensive line that knocks opponents off the ball and creates wide running lanes. Power is the real genius of the Rams offense. When you can run the ball with power, you can do anything you want.
Samuel from Jacksonville, FL
The Colts did a disservice to Andrew Luck, making him throw so much this season. His arm looked shot against the Chiefs. I wonder what the long-term ramifications will be.
It looked like he was throwing bricks. He had a great comeback season, but his arm isn't what it was a few years ago. His skills might be eroding.
Chad from Kansas City, MO
Well, Vic, the Packers are going to be new one way or another. I don't have any expectations for this coming year, but I am excited to watch. Football is good.
When a team hires a new coach, it places a blank canvas in front of him. What picture will Matt LaFleur paint for us? Will it include a lot of bold brush strokes that speak of quick, decisive action, or will his brush paint subtle and measured changes to the canvas, the result of a patient and disciplined attention to detail? Will the image emerge quickly, or will we have to wait a couple of years before we can appreciate LaFleur's creation? Will we love it, or will it disappoint us? Creating a football team is very much an art form.
Richard from Koblenz, Germany
Vic, you said stats are for people who haven't had a chance to visually analyze a team. What do your eyes tell us about LaFleur’s statistically bad Titans offense?
They tell us the same thing they told us when Mike Mularkey was the head coach: the Titans have a struggling quarterback. There's no play-caller I respect more than Mularkey. He's balanced and creative. If he couldn't do it, it couldn't be done. Frankly, LaFleur stepped into a bad job. It says a lot about him that he used it to become a head coach.
Steve from Lake Stevens, WA
When the head coach is the play-caller, what are the responsibilities of the offensive coordinator in a game?
He's responsible for coordinating the offense. I don't understand why fans struggle so much with the distinction between play-calling and coordinating an offense or defense. They are distinctly different tasks. As coordinator, the coach is responsible for having the personnel in his substitution packages at the ready. He's responsible for identifying and communicating scheme and personnel changes by the opponent, and assisting the play-caller in scheming to counter those changes. He's responsible for practice regimens, breaking down film, detecting trends and flaws. He evaluates personnel and how it might be utilized to create matchup advantages. Play-calling is play-calling; that's all. The play-caller has to be left alone to order his thoughts. Andy Reid looks like a mad scientist. Matt Nagy covers his face with his play-call sheet as though he's hiding acne. Doug Pederson appears to be in a trance. When the offensive coordinator isn't the play-caller, he does the grunt work. When the offensive coordinator is the play-caller, another assistant coach (usually the quarterbacks coach) does the grunt work.
Geoff from Denver, CO
Was it really possible to get a look into LaFleur’s “football soul” so quickly? The whole thing seems rushed to me.
We won't know what LaFleur's true colors are until his team is on a losing streak and he has to hold it together. That's when true coaching ability, especially the ability to be a leader of men, surfaces. Chuck Noll was 1-13. Bill Walsh was 2-14. Jimmy Johnson was 1-15. That's when their football souls were revealed.
Brian from Yakima, WA
Vic, are you surprised McCarthy wasn’t more sought after, considering his resume and eight head jobs were open? It seems like NFL decision-makers like the young guys.
I don't think he was ready to take on a new job. I think he needs a year to rest and regenerate, and maybe that was apparent to teams that considered hiring him. Mike McCarthy needs a year to miss the game and, maybe more importantly, he needs to let the game miss him. Why do I have this feeling he's going to be the next coach of the Minnesota Vikings?
Jeff from Ogden, UT
Complacency? That's not what I saw. This was a roster with little talent. Why is it the click bait continues to focus on Coach McCarthy and not the real problem? This roster is a disaster. Upgrades are needed at eight spots for this team to reach the playoffs.
Complacency is a way of saying there was a lack of desperation, and that's usually the result of a lack of competition. McCarthy got stale? Maybe the roster got stale.
Jim from Anthem, AZ
Vic, how important is it LaFleur retained Pettine?
Continuity is good. Defense isn't LaFleur's specialty and I'm not sure he knows the assistant coaches on that side of the ball well enough to reshape the Packers' defensive staff. Retaining Mike Pettine is a logical decision. Not retaining Joe Whitt, in my opinion, is a mistake.
Pat from Collierville, TN
Vic, after watching the playoff games this weekend and seeing these young QBs, do you think the Packers overpaid Rodgers? It sure seems these young QBs are playing at a higher level than Rodgers, or is it the systems they are playing within?
A year ago, I wrote about the challenge the NFL was facing in having to replace a generation of great quarterbacks: Brady, Brees, Roethlisberger, Rivers, Rodgers, etc. I think the league sensed that challenge before I did, because the position has never been easier to play.
Hill from Denver, CO
What did your eyes tell you about the Colts this past weekend? It looks like knocking the Titans and Texans out of contention on the road in back-to-back weeks had them rinsed.
The bye week beat the Colts. The Chiefs were rested and ready. Their quick start was too much for the Colts to overcome. Andy Reid had his team ready to play.
Robert from The Netherlands
The four winning teams this weekend outrushed their opponents by an average of 135 yards and when the Saints needed a first down to seal the win, they ran it up the middle for 12 yards on third-and-10. Seems like no matter how much they change the rules to favor the passing game, having a strong running game is still required to have success in the playoffs.
When you can run as well as pass, you don't have to take what the defense gives you, you can take what you want.
"Ask Vic" will publish on Mondays and Thursdays through the offseason.
Erney from Hoover, AL
Well, Vic, it looks like the wolves got their wish with the hiring of offensive wunderkind Matt LaFleur to be head coach. What can we expect to see, besides better plays, of course, when the Packers break the huddle next season? Love the new site.
Expect to see a lot of formations, motion, shifting, misdirection, audibling. Sound familiar? In a lot of ways, LaFleur is a young Mike McCarthy, who came to the Packers as an offensive wunderkind. Chuck Noll was 37 when he became a head coach; he was off the Brown/Gillman/Shula tree. Noll was a wunderkind. All young head coach hires begin as wunderkinds. Plays will define LaFleur, for the good or the bad, but players and how he manages them will decide his future.
Bob from Australia
Well, Vic, I guess the most pressing question going forward is what do you think of the way Matt LaFleur combs his hair?
He has very good hair.
Mark from Madison, WI
LaFleur has a professional resume. Maybe it’s the optimism, but his background is well-rounded. His accomplishments don’t seem to be tethered to one player, team or style.
He moved quickly up the ladder. Along the way, he obviously learned how to interview because he hit a home run with Mark Murphy in leap-frogging some very strong and more-experienced candidates. LaFleur is polished.
Dave from Naples, FL
What does the hire say? It tells me they don’t want a recycled NFL head coach, they want an innovator and new blood. It also tells me he will keep Pettine.
The hire tells me the Packers believe LaFleur fits the team's image and vision, and is the right man to work with Aaron Rodgers. I get the sense those were the important factors in this coach search.
Mike from Evansville, IN
Well, Vic, you were correct, the Packers were looking for the next Sean McVay, so they hired one of his proteges. I know this will make a lot of Packers fans who love play calls happy, but I'm not sure I like the pick. I suppose we won't know for about 2-3 years, but putting on your prognosticator hat, what are your thoughts?
I advocated hiring a veteran coach and focusing on now. The Packers took the long view and hired a young coach with whom the team can grow and mature, and I respect and admire that kind of big-picture approach. Frankly, it's almost always the right thing to do. I predict success but I acknowledge the possibility of failure. I'm not dodging your question, I'm answering it truthfully. LaFleur is a projection; so was McVay. We can't know how a young coach will perform as a head coach until he walks in the head man's shoes. It all changes for LaFleur now.
Dan from Madison, WI
Let's be new. What is a realistic goal for LaFleur in year one?
Ask me that question after we see what the Packers do in free agency.
Barry from Hayward, WI
Vic, so begins the Matt LaFleur era in Green Bay, or is it more likely to be the first stop on the revolving door of head coaches?
You've asked the definitive question. This is an exciting but anxious moment in Packers history. I think you know the answer to your question can only come with time.
Charlie from Nashville, TN
It appears your crystal ball was accurate and the Packers have conjured a play-calling wizard from the play-calling tree. Will the wolves howl about the offensive numbers his team produced this past year? Or will they be pleased with the dedication to new-age play-calling? A few observations from a fan's perspective in Nashville. There were some serious growing pains, but the offense was hampered by injuries and some bad offensive line play. He strung together some creative game plans in the middle of the year and finally figured out how to use his running backs later on. Fans were less pleased by handing off to the blocking tight end on a crucial fourth-and-one, or going empty backfield on a two-point try from the one to try to beat the Chargers. In sum, the team's offense was headed in the right direction and definitely more creative than in years past, but LaFleur was still a bit of a question mark heading into the offseason. He seemed likeable enough, but we know little about his leadership qualities. Hope it works out for Green Bay.
Thanks for the scouting report, but I'm not nearly as interested in his play-calling history as I am in how he'll approach his relationship with Rodgers. Is he going to do the buddy-buddy thing, or keep a professional distance that allows him to be more demanding and analytical?
Isaac from Nashville, TN
Vic, if you asked a defensive coordinator how to beat Aaron Rodgers and he answered honestly, what do you think he'd say?
Pass rush caused problems this past season. I'm hoping LaFleur will emphasize having a strong running game because that's the best way to protect a great quarterback.
Sam from Fort Wayne, IN
Vic, Rod Woodson has always been a favorite player of mine, but I've never heard many behind-the-scenes stories about him. Any good stories you can share from your experience covering him?
He was a joy to cover. He always cooperated and I can remember one defining example of that. It was following a playoff loss to the Bills in 1992. Rod had sustained a blow to the head in the game and it left him with a postgame headache that caused Rod to squint as he soldiered through questions from the media at his locker. During the interview session, a radio guy holding a sizable recording device accidentally struck Rod in the head with the recorder. It hurt just seeing it happen and momentarily staggered Rod, but he smiled, shook it off and kept on answering questions. He was a great interview and he might be the best athlete I ever covered.
Blake from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, Tony Boselli is a Hall of Fame finalist again. What are your thoughts on his candidacy and should he ultimately be inducted into the HOF?
The Hall of Fame committee member representing the place where the player played usually makes a presentation to the committee promoting the candidate's election to the Hall of Fame. If I was making such a presentation, I would say Boselli was the best tackle in the game for four years, and I'd tell of how he dominated the great Bruce Smith in the 1996 playoff game. I would say there are examples of other players in the Hall of Fame who had short runs of greatness (Sayers, Swann), and I would highlight the fact Boselli was the Jaguars' first draft pick and would become the franchise's first Hall of Fame inductee, and I would finish my presentation by saying, "What do you want to do, elect another wide receiver?" I think it might work, but then I would be confronted with an even bigger problem: How am I going to get Fred Taylor into the Hall of Fame? It's one or the other, Blake. I don't think the committee will elect both. Which one do you want? It's not as simple as you might think.
Patrick from Indianapolis, IN
Vic, you indicated recently you felt the Packers would be best served by hiring a veteran/experienced head coach. Just how big a risk do you think the Packers are taking with LaFleur?
It's risk/reward. The veteran guy might be less risky, but his age makes it likely you'll have to replace him sooner. The young guy offers no track record as a head coach and is considered more of a risk, but his youth suggests a longer run of stability in your franchise should he succeed. Which do you prefer? Maybe the Packers think they're getting both. Only time will tell.
Tim from Pensacola, FL
Vic, please tell me it’s not becoming a young man’s game for coaches, too? I think there’s still something to be said for experience and loyalty in this league.
The Packers and Cardinals went young; the Bucs and Broncos hired veteran coaches. Those four teams could make for an interesting youth vs. experience comparison down the road.
Juan from Barcelona, Spain
Vic, what are your thoughts about Coach LaFleur? I'm excited but don't expect immediate results.
Look at it this way: The Packers job was the premier position available among all of the NFL postseason openings. The new Packers coach would become the face of an iconic franchise and he would inherit a generational quarterback who appears to have plenty of gas left in his tank. The new coach would also inherit a roster that made strides upward this past season, with the promise of more high picks on the way, which includes two first-round picks this year. Hey, what's not to like? This is a dream job for any coach, especially for a young man who grew up within the NFC North footprint. Mark Murphy knew what he had to offer. He didn't have to walk on his knees during his head coach search. It would seem LaFleur blew Murphy away in the interview, and the combination of LaFleur's youth and talent left no doubt in Murphy's mind LaFleur is the right guy for the job. That works for me.
Fabrizio from Fossano, Italy
Do you think the Steelers are going to trade Antonio Brown?
This situation is different from what it was with Mike Merriweather and Le'Veon Bell. This isn't about a contract dispute. If Brown shows restraint and doesn't make a media fuss about wanting to be traded, I think the Steelers will trade him. I think they desperately want to get back to their run-the-ball, tough-defense identity. I think Mike Tomlin is tired of having to jump through hoops to manage Brown. I think the Steelers want to be new and trading Brown would be a big first step in that direction. I have to believe Brown's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is coaching his client to be calm and let the process play out.
"Ask Vic" will publish on Mondays and Thursdays through the offseason.
Eric from Hudson, WI
The sky is very bright in Green Bay. Minnesota overpaid a marginal QB. Trubisky, on a rookie contract, is the fourth-best QB in the division. Soon enough, Rodgers will own the North once again.
Or the Bears will use yesterday's bitter disappointment as a launch pad to a long run at the top of the division. The Bears have a powerful roster, and the "fourth-best" quarterback in the division made plays at crunch time. The Bears will begin next season with a strong sense of who they are and what they can do. They weren't going to win in Los Angeles or New Orleans. Yesterday, in my opinion, was going to be the end of the line one way or another. What the harshness of yesterday's defeat may accomplish is to fire the steel for next season.
Gidgit from Swasoulian, AZ
Where were Nagy's gadget plays?
He used one on the two-point try. It failed.
Jason from Thiensville, WI
I’ve heard it said good musicians know when to play and great ones know when not to play. Could you let Chatty know?
He said a bad word yesterday.
Mike from Des Moines, IA
The Chargers used seven defensive backs on 58 of 59 defensive snaps and were effective in stopping the Ravens downfield. Is this a sign of what's to come? Are the rules favoring the quarterback and the passing game making it so defense will prioritize speed over size?
The safeties playing linebacker were about adding more chase speed and mobility to defend Lamar Jackson's scrambling ability. The Chargers were able to make the strategy work by being able to stop the Ravens' power running game with a light-in-the-pants front.
Oscar from Santa Ana, CA
Should the Jaguars acquire Joe Flacco to be their starting quarterback, or even to be a veteran presence if they decide to draft one?
I don't like the mojo in a Jaguars trade for Flacco. They traded with Baltimore in 2008 to move up and draft Derrick Harvey; the Ravens then used the pick to move into position to draft Flacco. Trading a pick to Baltimore for Flacco 11 years later has a double whammy feel to it. I'd rather see the Jaguars use their high pick to draft their future quarterback.
Jim from New Berlin, WI
I read today the Packers' next head coach should run a modern offense. What does this mean?
I'm not sure what it means. Should the Colts run a modern defense, instead of that age-old "Tampa Two" (cover two) scheme they use? The Texans run a modern offense. How'd that work for them against the Colts?
Eddie from Midland, MI
Vic, do you think Ozzie Newsome was out in front of the NFL with drafting Lamar Jackson and creating an offense that fits the talents of the college game? The going rate for even average passing quarterbacks leaves little to surround him with decent players.
Where the Ravens selected Jackson, I thought he was an easy pick that didn't require much vision, just a sense of value.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
If you were the GM of a QB-needy team, would you sign Foles?
No, because the cost would be too great and he's only been successful in Philadelphia. If Foles goes on a long playoff run again, I'd ask the Eagles if they'd be willing to trade Wentz. I'd give them a one for him; maybe even a two, too.
Dan from Toledo, OH
As much as I rooted against the Bears yesterday, I can’t help but feel for Parkey. The only thing that makes missing that kick worse is being booed by your own fans as you jog off the field.
How about Ravens fans booing Jackson? He put that team on his back and carried it to the playoffs -- a 6-1 run -- and they booed him. Fans are great.
Leo from Dallas, TX
Any memories of Terry Bradshaw singing?
I remember sitting in Bradshaw's training camp dorm room, interviewing him for a story about his edgy relationship with his coach, Chuck Noll, whose dorm room was directly across the hall from Bradshaw's. With his door open, Bradshaw said, "He's in there taking a nap right now," and then he laughed, picked up his guitar and began playing and singing a deep-throated country song. It was classic Bradshaw.
Jay from Minneapolis, MN
Green Bay signing Bell or Brown would seem like a mistake to me, but what about Clowney? Is that even realistic, cap-wise?
I'd have to swallow real hard to sign Jadeveon Clowney after the way he played on Saturday. He ran around blocks, did nothing of much consequence, and was even pancaked on a play by the Colts' rookie guard. It would bother me greatly that on the biggest stage of his professional career, Clowney turned in an embarrassingly soft performance.
Tom from Vista, CA
Tony Canadeo and Ray Scott were a great broadcast team. Did you ever bump into them?
No, but I grew up listening to Scott, who was the radio voice of Pitt football before he joined the Packers. I can still hear Scott calling Mike Ditka's name.
Dave from Savage, MN
What would you focus on in interviewing Josh McDaniel? In my mind, he has a lot to overcome in building trust and putting a staff together.
There are questions you can ask a coach candidate that'll provide answers you need to more direct questions. For example, by asking a head coach candidate how he feels about sponsors riding on the team plane, you can get a feel for his willingness to work with others. As I've written, it's not all about the play he'd call on third-and-eight, it's mostly about the impact the coach is going to have on the personality and function of the overall franchise. The head coach is going to be the face of it, the heart and soul of it, and it's most important he represents the spirit and vision that's desired. I would not want a coach who wants to separate the team from the rest of the franchise. That kind of walling up breeds contempt and elitism. Figuratively speaking, I'd want everyone walking through the same door every morning. When that feeling is achieved, you truly will have everyone pulling in the same direction.
Mike from Whitefish, MT
I share your distrust of classical stats, although I did find it interesting that although the Steelers defense ended up ranked sixth in yards allowed, they were tied for 16th in points allowed. On the surface, it looks like a break but don't bend defense, but I'm guessing their 28th-ranked turnover differential of -11 probably explains most of the above. I've started following Football Outsiders' DVOA stats, where Pittsburgh is ranked 17th in pass defense and eighth in rushing defense. What are your thoughts on DVOA?
Stats are for people who haven't had a chance to visually analyze a team. I trust my eyes, and my eyes told me the Steelers defense nearly always collapsed at crunch time. It seldom got it done. It didn't create turnovers and it didn't protect leads. It was a yardage paper tiger. Eighth in DVOA rushing defense? Does that include the 51-yard run that defense allowed as it attempted to protect a three-point lead vs. the Bengals in Week 17? The Steelers had allowed only 71 yards rushing up to that point in the game but, with the game on the line, the Steelers' rush defense collapsed and allowed the Bengals to tie the game. I don't need stats to tell me what I saw, and I saw it nearly all season long: The Steelers defense was soft and cheesy, especially at crunch time.
Eric from West Salem, WI
I think it's funny eight coaches have been fired but only one GM, and that GM was forced to trade away two of his best draft picks. Apparently, all those crappy teams have good players but they are under-coached. Is this proof for the age-old debate of plays vs. players?
Coaches are being used as scapegoats. It's a fire-one-to-excuse-all strategy to quiet fans, ease the effects of losing and create hope for the future. Maybe it's a good business strategy, but I don't think it is. I think there's a strength acquired in showing commitment and resolve that makes winning feel even better and promotes loyalty within the franchise and the fan base. Firing is finger pointing, and finger pointing breeds more finger pointing. So when is it the right time to fire the coach? You'll know it when you see it.
Wallace from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, what is your opinion about Shad Khan's decision to stand pat with the front office and head coaching positions for the Jaguars? Seems after six seasons as GM, Dave Caldwell's resume isn't exactly impressive. The team has won less than 40 percent of its games over the past six seasons and has gone from far under the cap to having to make some hard decisions this offseason because of the salary cap.
Khan has given control of his team to Tom Coughlin. I think it's a sound decision. Coughlin will do right things. Jaguars fans must understand Coughlin inherited a team that doesn't have a quarterback. Punishing Caldwell for that fact won't fix the problem. Coughlin is calling the shots. I think Jaguars fans should find comfort in that.
Marty from Grafton, WI
Vic, which type of coach would you prefer to be running your team, the bring-all-the-players type or bring-only-those-that-can-help-the-team type?
Each way can be successful, as long as it's consistent with the head coach's personality. You can't give pep talks and then leave members of your team at home; the words begin to ring hollow. Chuck Noll was off the Paul Brown tree and Brown once said, "I'll tell you when you do it wrong because I pay you to do it right." Coach Noll's way promoted toughness and contribution. He motivated players by challenging their need to belong. He played to the desire in each of them to be professionals. Being left behind caused a lot of injuries to heal more quickly than expected. I think I like that way better than the "Love Boat" method.
Bob from Caserma Del Din, Vicenza Italy
Can you please remind me why the Packers chose not to re-sign Casey Hayward a few years ago?
He had a hamstring that broke like a guitar string. The Chargers got lucky.
Joe from Bloomington, IN
How crucial is the pick play in modern offenses? Is McCarthy's reluctance to use it part of his downfall?
Reluctance to use it? The Packers' bunch set in which Randall Cobb cut underneath and behind a pick was a goal line staple in Mike McCarthy's offense. I remember him throwing a fit because it was penalized. You need to stop reading whatever site fed you that garbage.
Zak from Madison, WI
How do you describe your football soul, Vic?
I have a deep love and reverence for a game I believe requires noble effort. I cringe with every cheap and tawdry player celebration.
Brian from Baltimore, MD
Eagles (4-4), Ravens (4-4), Bears (4-3), Packers (3-3-1), Cowboys (3-4), Colts (3-5) at Week 8. One of your mantras is it's how teams finish. In your view, what propelled these mediocre teams to finish in the playoffs that may have misfired in Green Bay?
There's no common reason, other than something clicked, which is a way of saying they found their identity and began playing to it. The Packers' identity had always been for Aaron Rodgers playing well enough to mask the team's deficiencies. In 2018, that didn't happen.
"Ask Vic" will publish on Mondays and Thursdays through the offseason.
Tim from Foley, AL
First Bell, now Brown. What’s going on in Pittsburgh?
It's time for the Steelers to be new. It happens to all franchises. The Steelers will be judged on how quickly they can reconstitute themselves. The same is true of the Packers. I think it's the true mark of a franchise's strength.
Jesus from El Paso, TX
What can an organization learn by interviewing a head coach that it can't learn any other way? How grueling is the vetting process?
You ask him about everything. You ask him how he feels about including injured players and practice squad players on road trips. His answer will tell you how he perceives team building and demands accountability. When I covered the Packers, they took everybody on the road. Chuck Noll only included players who would be active for the game. He didn't even take Terry Bradshaw on the road when Bradshaw was injured. "If Terry can't play for us, Terry can't help us," Chuck said. There was a message in that. Is that the message you want your coach to send? Don't just ask him what play he'd call on third-and-eight. Ask him the fine-detail questions that'll give you a look into his football soul. If you hire him, his football soul will become your football team's soul.
Kevin from Greenacres, WA
Mike Mayock as the Raiders GM? All the TV personalities feel it's a play to sell PSL's in Las Vegas, rather than field a winning team.
Mike Mayock would sell tickets? I doubt it. I could feel this coming years ago when Mayock became the star of NFL Network's combine coverage. It always felt as though Mayock was trying out for a GM job. In his defense, he's an astute evaluator of talent and tireless worker at scouting draft prospects. If that's his sole duty, I see no reason he shouldn't be successful.
Monty from Seattle, WA
The most accomplished coach on the market ranks in the career top 30 in wins and winning percentage, has a playoff record over .500 and a Super Bowl championship. He's also the guy the team just canned. If you're not satisfied with that level of performance, you're probably incapable of forming reasonable expectations.
I remember a real estate agent telling me, "Your house is a great house. If we weren't selling it, we'd be buying it." It gave me pause.
Roger from Wyoming
Do you think Zimmer could be looking for a new job? Another choking Vikings season, in my opinion.
The Vikings need to show patience, but I can't help but wonder how tempted they are by Mike McCarthy's availability.
Jon from Air Force, USA
My brother and I have been reading "Ask Vic" for years and your writing has helped us achieve great perspective and given us wonderful memories. Thank you for your work. I am a public affairs officer in the Air Force. Some of our duties include speaking with the media and answering questions in a press conference setting. What advice could you share with me and what did you most admire about the great ones who stood on the other side of the podium?
I admire people who answer questions truthfully, respectfully. I always treated them with an extra measure of understanding and kindness, in appreciation of their honesty and willingness to share it with me. Coach Noll was such a man. He would not have handled the Antonio Brown mess as Mike Tomlin did. He would've made Brown own it.
Leif from Frederic, WI
The Steelers failed to make the playoffs with a Hall of Fame QB and WR, a top-four offense and a much-improved top-six defense. Where does the blame lie?
First of all, forget about that top-six defense. If ever stats told a lie, that's an example of it. In playing the blame game, you begin with pointing the finger at a defense that routinely failed to protect late-game leads. That was true even on the final day of the season. Roethlisberger repeatedly bailed out the defense by rallying to win a game the defense nearly lost by failing to protect a lead. Defense was the problem in 2017 and it continued to be the problem in '18, and that points the finger directly at the decision to franchise Le'Veon Bell instead of spending his cap money on upgrades on defense. Beyond that, Chris Boswell missed kicks that cost the Steelers at least three wins, and the decision to cut Landry Jones and go with two young quarterbacks who had no game experience might've cost the Steelers a loss in Oakland. Their season was also cursed by a malfunctioning x-ray machine and officiating gaffes that made it appear as though 2018 just wasn't meant to be the Steelers' year. I think Mike Tomlin also deserves blame for allowing Antonio Brown to become an even bigger distraction than Bell.
Dave from Chicago, IL
Vic, the cap still rules. Antonio Brown wants out of Pittsburgh and Brian Gutekunst could offer a first and another mid-round pick. Not bad for either team except there is a reported $21 million in dead money for the Steelers. Should the league get creative like the NBA in contract structuring so there is more opportunities to make a deal?
The dead money doesn't take into account the cap hit the Steelers would save by trading Brown. The difference would be $6 million and the Steelers could swallow that very easily. No, I don't think the NFL needs to get creative with contract structuring. As for Brown's trade value, the Steelers would be lucky to get a three for him. Why do fans want to give away the farm, so to speak, for big-name players whose best years might be behind them? Dez Bryant? If Brown truly wants to be traded, the worst thing he could do is publicize that fact. The Steelers have been vigilant in not allowing their players to dictate personnel policy. They stubbornly reaffirmed that fact this season in the Bell matter.
Elten from Pleasant Lake, IN
A Denver sports writer said, "During his tenure as head coach, McDaniels alienated every player in the locker room and most of his coaching staff." He embarrassed the Colts. He is being interviewed on Friday for the job of head coach of the Packers. Why?
His reputation is for being a play-calling genius, and I suspect he would be the top choice of Packers fans if surveyed. If Josh McDaniels is hired to be the Packers' head coach, the explosion of excitement and expectation will be like nothing the franchise has ever known for hiring a coach.
Nik from Apple Valley, MN
Do you have any thoughts on Mike Munchak as a potential head coach? He seems like a guy who would command the respect of the roster and I thought he did a decent job with the Titans, considering the quarterbacks he inherited.
I think he's an outstanding coach, but he would be an unpopular choice among Packers fans, and I think the pushback would make it difficult for him to succeed. The emergence of McDaniels' name as a candidate for the Packers' head coaching job has poisoned the water for nearly every other candidate.
Joe from Bloomington, IN
Did the Packers make a mistake letting John Dorsey go?
How could they have kept him? It's a game of replacement, at all positions and on all levels. I'll use the Packers, Steelers and Jaguars as examples. In the last year, the Packers will have replaced their GM and head coach. How long before they have to replace the quarterback? The Steelers lost their star running back, their star receiver wants to be traded and their quarterback is in the final stages of his career. Their run appears to be over and it's time to be new. A year ago, the Jaguars were a team on the rise with a young cast of star players. Now, it's a five-win team entering a blow-it-up offseason.
Nathan from New York, NY
Vic, what are your picks for the wild card games?
I'm going with the Texans and Chargers in the AFC and with the Cowboys and Bears in the NFC.
Zak from Muskego, WI
If extensive media reports are to believed, Mike Tomlin and Doug Marrone have lost their locker rooms, and Aaron Rodgers got Mike McCarthy fired. Given your incredibly unique perspective on these three franchises, I'm extremely interested to read your perspective on the validity of and similarities in all three narratives.
Three players will decide the tone of the Steelers, Jaguars and Packers heading into training camp next summer. Tomlin needs to reel in Antonio Brown or cast him away; Marrone needs to do the same with Jalen Ramsey. The relationship between Rodgers and the new coach in Green Bay will be closely watched by players and media through the spring. Will Rodgers and the new coach be buddy-buddy, or will the new coach keep his distance and effect a more businesslike relationship with Rodgers? How the new coach treats Rodgers will be how every player on the team will expect to be treated.
Stephen from California
When it comes to players, we want well-known, experienced veterans in free agency to fix the team, as opposed to relying on young talent in the draft. But when it comes to finding a head coach, it seems we want the young coordinator or college coach who's never been there before. This seems a little backwards to me. Can you explain this paradigm?
I think fans want a coach who fits their ideal of what the team needs. Packers fans want a play-caller. It's one of the most plays-obsessed fan bases in the league. During the season, most of the questions I receive are about plays that were called and plays that should've been called. In a perfect world, the new coach will call screen passes and throw the ball to the tight end. Packers fans have great sensitivity for those types of plays. I was surprised by the play-call fascination. I didn't expect it when I took the job with packers.com. In the first preseason I covered, I was amazed to find the media covering the Packers even assigned a play-count to the players; I had never seen that anywhere else. Every fan base has a personality that's unique to it. Steelers fans want a strong running game and defense. That's Steelers football and they haven't been playing it the past two seasons. Jaguars fans love a scrambling quarterback, which might be the result of the fan base's love of college football. Packers fans want to out-think the opposition. They love the unexpected.
"Ask Vic" will publish on Mondays and Thursdays through the offseason.
Gary from Belle Mead, NJ
Anything meaningful to conclude from Lions-Packers?
Nothing. Analysis of the game should be avoided, which is what I said prior to the Jets game. These were meaningless games. Meaning will begin again when the new head coach is selected. It's time to be patient.
Steve from Lake Stevens, WA
Any word on where the upcoming draft is deepest? Also, would you draft a player who skipped his team's bowl game? I don't like players who think of reasons not to play.
The draft is said to be deep in pass rushers. As for players sitting out meaningless bowl games, I have no problem with it.
Augustin from Monterrey, Mexico
Do you believe there’s a realistic chance Tom Coughlin becomes the new coach in Green Bay?
No, but after Coughlin's postgame tirade aimed at Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon, I can't help but think he should be the Jaguars' coach. The Jaguars' lack of discipline this season was disgraceful and every bit as responsible for their poor record as their deficiencies at the quarterback position. I kept waiting for Doug Marrone to call somebody out, but it didn't happen. Yesterday, Coughlin did it. It's about time.
Erik from Woodbridge, VA
I get what happened to the Packers. But please explain to me how that Vikings team misses the playoffs?
They missed the playoffs because their kicker missed in Green Bay. That's how narrow the margin can be. The Steelers had kicker problems, too. Be that as it may, I don't think either one of those teams has what it takes to win in the postseason. It just wasn't their year. Something was missing and now Mike Zimmer and Mike Tomlin will spend the next month in deep reflection, figuring out what went wrong.
Pete from Antigua, WI
My mom knows and cares zero about football but she was aghast this weekend over the horrible quality of college football. We were stuck on a layover in Miami and there were Alabama and Oklahoma fans everywhere. Alabama fans seemed to be the kind of clueless people who tip poorly at TGI Friday’s.
Alabama fans bring to a bowl game a 20-dollar bill and a pair of underwear and don't change either.
Dan from Sebastopol, CA
What surprised you the most about the 2018 season for Green Bay, Pittsburgh and Jacksonville?
Mike McCarthy being fired, Le'Veon Bell walking away from $14.5 million, and the Jaguars thinking they could win with Blake Bortles at quarterback.
Bob from Kennesaw, GA
Wolves chased out McCarthy? I'd believe that to be true for a bunch of other franchises, but I have difficulty believing it to be the case in Green Bay. Our season ticket waiting list stretches generations. We're probably not in danger of having empty seats in the near future. We have good football people running the team. I can't see public sentiment being a factor here. It must have been something else (in my opinion). Was it the wolves, or possibly internal factors?
Yeah, it was probably something else.
Justin from Janesville, WI
Do you think an eight-team playoffs would save college football?
It would provide one more week of meaningful games, and it would almost certainly kill a lot of bad bowl games that need to go, but it wouldn't singlehandedly save college football. As I've written, improving the quality of college football begins with addressing scholarship limits and the process of recruiting.
Justin from Portland, OR
“Who will be the Packers' next coach? I can't overstate how important this decision is.” Or “players, not plays." Which one is it?
You're not getting it. Coaches aren't just about calling plays. A head coach is so much more than plays. He's the personality of your franchise. He decides everything. Will the conditioning program focus on strengthening the core or on building mass? Tom Coughlin loved free weights and squats; Jack Del Rio's program used beach balls. The head coach is about motivating his players, and how the head coach does that sets a tone and creates a personality in the locker room. Chuck Noll believed motivation had to come from within and pep talks were only effective until the first time you got knocked on your butt. He motivated his players by demanding they be professionals. Bill Cowher could fire up his team with the mere set of his jaw. He once stared down his team at halftime and then said, "Go kick their (butt)," and they did. In terms of scheme, most good coaches are astute evaluators of talent who use that skill to create favorable matchups. So, when you hire a head coach, you're also hiring a scout. All you're seeing is the play he calls that wins or loses the game. By then, the issue had already been decided. It's everything that leads up to the big play that decides whether the play succeeds or fails, and good coaches are about identifying, developing and preparing players.
Joe from Bloomington, IN
How good is Pete Carroll?
I think his miss in New England launched him to a higher level of coaching. The years he spent at USC popularized his brand and made him a more demanding coach. Carroll gets the most out of his players. That's his strength. He demands they win the physical battles, and they usually do.
Ron from Boise, ID
Vic, I'm in Green Bay and looking at Lambeau Field as I write this. Took a tour yesterday and we were in the press box and I asked our guide if he knew who you were and he replied, of course. Then he showed me where you sat during games. What do you miss most about those days?
I miss being there. It was a weekly event that defined my life. I miss the out-of-town people I would see; it's unlikely I'll ever see them again. For 45 years, I was permitted to sit and watch football games, and then write about what I saw according to my interests and sensitivities. It's a great freedom for which I will always be appreciative. I miss acting out that privilege.
Greg from Danbury, CT
If McCarthy's choice boils down to the Jets or Cardinals, it seems the team with a quarterback of the future is his best bet. Darnold?
I think the Jets are poised to become the dominant team in the AFC East.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, what are your top three memories from the 2018 NFL season?
It hasn't been a great season, but memories aren't limited to ones that feel good. Mike McCarthy's dismissal as Packers coach is my No. 1 memory of the 2018 season. The Steelers-Jaguars game is probably No. 2. It was an example of what was wrong with each team this season. The No. 3 memory has yet to happen, I hope.
Dan from Toledo, OH
Four weeks of hype, eight hours of garbage, and the inevitable Clemson-Alabama title match. Why even have the playoffs? Give me the NFL playoffs any day.
Here are the scores from Saturday's college football bowl games: 28-0, 41-15, 30-3 and 45-34 (it wasn't that close). I'm receiving a lot of questions from readers who want to know what my new year's resolution is. I've come to a decision: My new year's resolution is to watch less college football in 2019. I'm wasting entire days of my life watching that crap.
Mike from Somerset, WI
Vic, what are the issues you believe the NFL will address in the offseason?
I think a large segment of the league's ownership has grown disenchanted with the obsession for calling penalties and the degree to which the game has been softened. I think a lot of those owners are wondering why good people such as Dean Blandino and Gene Steratore -- he's even better in his new role -- have left the league for TV. I think we're going to see changes made in the league's football operations department.
Eric from Lansing, MI
Do you think the 2014 Packers team was stronger than the Super Bowl team of 2010?
Yes, and I also think the '14 team was better than the '11 team.
Tim from Madison, WI
If Kyler Murray enters the NFL draft and is available when the Packers pick in the first round, should they take him?
No. Every resource must be committed to surrounding Aaron Rodgers with the talent he needs to win one more title before his career ends. His contract demands it! I'm a big believer in drafting the best available player, but that changed at the quarterback position for the Packers the moment Rodgers signed his new contract. As far as I'm concerned, quarterback is off the board for the Packers.
Today's "Ask Vic" marks the conclusion of the column's three-posts-a-week, regular-season regimen. As of Monday, "Ask Vic" will be published twice a week (Monday and Thursday) through the offseason.
Ethan from Ontario, Canada
News just broke about the Packers interviewing Chuck Pagano and Jim Caldwell. You have spoken highly of them in the past, so what are your thoughts about either of them getting the job?
Pagano is defense and Caldwell is offense. They're both competent and qualified head coach candidates. Here's the problem: I don't think either man would satisfy the wolves that howled Mike McCarthy out of his job. The wolves want the next Sean McVay. The wolves want a play-caller. They want a guy who only calls good plays. They want a wunderkind. As names surface, the wolves might begin regretting their howl.
Sean from Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Is there anyone you would like to see tapped as head coach?
How about Tom Coughlin? He coached in Green Bay. He worships at the altar of Lombardi. Coughlin and Rodgers would be an interesting partnership, don't you think?
Dustin from Seymour, WI
What is your opinion on Joe Philbin as a leader of men?
Joe is a calm, intelligent and measured man who knows how to coach and lead. Again, I ask, would he satisfy the wolves, or would he be viewed as an extension of the man the wolves howled to be fired? The expectations for a new coach might be unrealistic. The wunderkind Packers fans are envisioning might not exist. Maybe that's just what the Packers fan base needs. A dose of reality would go a long way in helping the Packers through their transition period.
Brett from Marietta, GA
A while ago you shared a valuable tip from your days in print I've incorporated into my writing: Don't use the superfluous that. In the same vein, in Wednesday's column I noticed you used the qualifier "I think" several times in various answers. Given this is an opinion column and your opinion as well as the readers' are the result of what one thinks, is using "I think" superfluous as well or is it acceptable writing style?
I'm not writing a legal document or a hard news story. This is an opinion column that needs to convey tone of voice to be effective. Column writing is granted literary license. "I think" is a means for reminding the reader I'm expressing opinion, not fact. It's a way of talking to the reader.
Dave from Madison, WI
What are some out-of-the-box rules changes you’d like the NFL to consider?
I'd like the league to ditch the coach's challenge. It's a ridiculous system that relies on TV to provide replay in a timely fashion, which it doesn't on a consistent basis. Why should the coach and television be responsible for officiating the game? It's also a system that can be defeated by snapping the ball quickly or slowly for the next play, which means offense is in control of the process and defense is a victim of it. And if a coach is out of challenges, a bad call can't be fixed. Hey, if we're going to do this, let's do it right. The replay official needs to have his role expanded. Fix everything or fix nothing.
Nelson from Brazil
Vic, you see something in the Seahawks that most analysts don't, because you keep ranking them in high spots. What do you like about them?
They run the ball. They play football the tough way, and that breeds grit that makes a team tough to beat in the postseason.
Derek from Eau Claire, WI
Give it to me straight. How much influence does the head coach have on a team’s record?
The head coach is the personality of the team he coaches. If he isn't, he should be fired because that would mean he's not an effective leader. When you hire a head coach, the No. 1 question that needs to be answered is: Do I want my team to have this man's personality? How much influence does the head coach have on a team's record? The team becomes him. If he's not a winner, how can the team be expected to win?
Dave from Chippewa Falls, WI
How did you vote, the birth of the franchise or the "Ice Bowl?"
The "Ice Bowl" is the birth of the franchise.
Stern from Cedar Rapids, IA
Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't Vince Lombardi say something about winning being a culture? Shouldn't Green Bay focus on being winners?
I remember being a kid and watching a four-win Steelers team beat the Packers at Lambeau Field in the final regular-season game of the 1967 season. Bart Starr was the starting quarterback but was replaced early in the game by Don Horn. I don't think Lombardi was completely focused on winning that day.
Andy from Munich, Germany
Vic, Adams is chasing records. Is this basically a good sign, because not everything/everyone seems to be bad in Green Bay, or is this a bad sign because it indicates lack of balance. Thank you for all your great insights!
It's fine, but it's meaningless. True meaning will begin when the Packers hire a new coach. It's all about that decision. Who will be the Packers' next coach? I can't overstate how important this decision is.
Lee from Marshfield, WI
Regarding the next Packers head coach, isn't the real question how is this next coach going to develop Rodgers' replacement?
This hire is about right now. It's about finding a way to get one more title out of Aaron Rodgers' career before it ends. That's why I favor a veteran coach. I'm not looking for a young coach who'll grow with the team, I'm looking for a guy who knows the tricks of the trade and how to fit players into specific roles so the Packers might close the talent gap that exists between them and teams such as the Vikings, Bears and Rams.
Matt from Georgetown, TX
Vic, I watched the whole Pinstripe Bowl because I'm a Wisconsin fan, but I have to wonder how these things stay in business. Is it possible for them to actually make any money?
Nick Saban said if the playoffs are expanded to eight teams the bowl games will go away. Is that a promise, coach? Hey, the bowls need to go away. The "First Responder Bowl" got it right. The kids don't want to play in them, the fans don't want to go to them, and the schools are losing money participating in them. The only people benefitting from them are the game's directors, who are paid a salary for negotiating a deal with TV and a title sponsor and assembling a staff of volunteer workers. The games are terrible. In this year's "Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl," Army scored a 70-14 win over Houston despite completing only four passes. How do you score 70 points and complete only four passes? Houston, you have a problem. College football is at a low point. I'm stunned at how bad the product has become.
Dustin from North Port, FL
Who is your NFL MVP?
I'm going with Aaron Donald, not only because I believe he's the best player in the game, but because I believe the quarterback position has been made so easy to play it's time to take the award from the position's possession.
Steve from New Britain, CT
What are your thoughts about Jake "The Snake" Kumerow's talent level? Did you see the move he made to get open in the end zone against the Jets? He seems to not only have good chemistry with Aaron Rodgers but many Packers fans like him a lot because of his ties to Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Dime a dozen.
Tristan from Lake Lure, NC
Vic, as of this writing, the betting lines on the college playoff games are 12.5 and 14. Can anything be done to create some semblance of parity in college football?
Yeah, but the power five conferences won't do it. It begins with recruiting. Drop the scholarship limit so there are enough premium players to go around, instead of a few schools hoarding them all. Also, the NCAA needs to achieve a stronger presence in assuring college football programs comply with the rules. Each program needs a "policeman" appointed by the NCAA to find violations, as opposed to allowing schools to blow the whistle on themselves.
"Ask Vic" will publish on Friday and then begin its Monday, Thursday offseason publishing schedule next week.
Here's the "Ask Vic" Week 17 power rankings:
1. Saints -- Got away with one.
2. Rams -- Are they playoff ready?
3. Ravens -- Nobody is playing better.
4. Seahawks -- They have a championship look.
5. Chargers -- Spotlight on Rivers.
6. Chiefs -- Fading.
7. Texans -- Costly loss in Philadelphia.
8. Titans -- Mariota might not be "The Man."
9. Bears -- Trubisky just OK.
10. Colts -- It's all about Luck.
11. Cowboys -- Could be peaking.
12. Eagles -- They might make it.
13. Patriots -- Not that good, but could win it all.
14. Vikings -- Finally, playing to their identity.
15. Browns -- Can make a statement in Baltimore.
16. Steelers -- A good team wasted.
17. Washington -- The little lights aren't twinkling.
18. Packers -- Happily moving down the draft order.
19. Broncos -- Change is in the air, again.
20. Panthers -- Newton's arm is the issue.
21. Giants -- Just draft, baby.
22. Dolphins -- Not what their record says they are.
23. Lions -- They got a lip fungus they ain't identified yet.
24. Bucs -- Sadly respectable.
25. Falcons -- Can't run, can't stop the run.
26. Bengals -- Not a good quality item.
27. 49ers -- It's best just to let them finish.
28. Bills -- Frozen from the waist down.
29. Jaguars -- Fell down a well, eyes went crossed.
30. Jets -- Members of the jelly of the month club.
31. Raiders -- Need a crunch enhancer.
32. Cardinals -- Get the hammer, Russ.
Ryan from Greenville, SC
Who are or were your favorite athletes to watch? Mine are Michael Jordan, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, in that order.
Johnny Unitas, Willie Mays, Bobby Layne and Roberto Clemente immediately come to mind.
Eric from Keene, NH
Mike McCarthy to the desert? I could root for the Cardinals, especially if they went back to the 1960s uniforms.
I would advise Coach McCarthy to wait for another job. I don't think the Cardinals have the quarterback to compete in the tough NFC West before the next coach's seat gets hot.
Steve from Minocqua, WI
Vic, why does the NFL make certain rules a point of emphasis for the officiating crews? Such a point of emphasis is the reason the Vikings got the chance to tie the Packers long ago, and ultimately created the difference in the current playoff standings. This past week, the rule du juor was pass interference. Wouldn’t consistent officiating simply be better?
At least we had an offseason to digest the new emphasis on roughing the passer. None of us liked it but we knew it was coming. The Week 16 witch hunt on pass interference had huge impact on the playoffs and homefield advantage races. The PI calls on Joe Haden were insane. The first one was on a fourth-down desperation heave that put the ball at the 1-yard line. There was no contact I could see and the ball sailed far over the receiver's head. I'm not blaming the officials, I'm blaming the people in the league office who are directing the officials. What's the problem? There aren't enough points being scored? The NFL is the best in pro sports at marketing and presentation, but they're doing a poor job of managing their game. It's become soft and cheesy.
Marty from Grafton, WI
Vic, in "Insider Inbox," their take is the Packers are better off winning the rest of the season to bring momentum into next season. Do you feel there is any validity to that?
Before next season begins, the Packers will have a new coach, a new philosophy, new schemes, new ways, a greatly changed roster, new challenges and an all-new feeling. When training camp begins next summer, no one will be thinking about how the 2018 season ended. All of the thoughts will be forward.
Anthony from Milwaukee, WI
I sense you have angst the Packers will be picking from the middle of the pack in the draft. What’s your take that the Packers will also have almost $40 million in cap to spend, but will also have to decide what to do with Matthews and Cobb.
The Packers have the cap space to make a big splash in free agency. Should they? Let's think on that question over the next couple of months. As far as Matthews and Cobb, I think it's time to move on.
Leo from Dallas, TX
Besides the Patriots game, the Steelers seemed to lose or tie every other close game this season. If they miss the playoffs, do you think Le'eVon Bell might have lifted them over in one of those games? Or do you think this year was for the defense to regroup and next year the extra cap space will put them in the AFC top two?
Bell's absence wasn't the problem, but the $14.5 million they had to commit to him on their cap was a big problem. The Steelers made a bad decision in franchising Bell, and it cost them on defense. They could've spent the Bell money on the defensive side of the ball and I think it almost surely would've made a difference. The tie and four of their losses are the result of the defense not being able to protect a lead late in the game. Defense was the problem when last season ended and it still is the problem. AFC top two next season? I don't see that happening. I think drafting at the bottom of the order has caught up to the Steelers and they've got some repair work to do. I see them taking a step back for a year or two. In their defense, I think they're accumulating young talent for the future. Watt, Smith-Schuster, Hargrave, Conner, Samuels, Okorafor and several other young players have a good look to them. Ultimately, it might be Mason Rudolph, the rookie quarterback for whom the Steelers traded up to draft, who'll decide when the Steelers re-emerge. Roethlisberger has enjoyed one of his best seasons but, at 36, he's nearing the end of a great career.
Bill from Sheboygan, WI
Vic, where do you stand on playing to win meaningless games that would drop the Packers in the draft order?
Play reserves and play to win. That's my position.
Gladdys from Rolling Meadows, IL
Vic, did you get a chainsaw for Christmas?
No, I got a fashionable coat and scarf. "Now you can wear something that doesn't have a logo on it," I was told.
Jim from Stevens Point, WI
How does the number of penalties and yardage compare with past years?
The yardage is consistent with recent years; this isn't something new. So, I went back a decade, to the 2008 season, to see how then compares to now. The increase is dramatic; it's about 7,000 yards, a 25 percent increase. It's the player safety movement that's caused the penalty explosion, and I think reasonable fans agree the game needs to become safer to play. Be that as it may, it's not the total number of penalties that's troubling me as much as it is the number of game-changing, pass-interference penalties. A 50-yard penalty on an overthrown pass? If the league is going to rule so sensitively against pass interference, I think the league should adopt the 15-yard rule for pass interference violations. The Saints did nothing on that play to deserve having the ball placed on the 1-yard line. They were handed a touchdown on a play in which their quarterback was chased out of the pocket and was, in effect, trying to throw the ball away.
"Ask Vic" will publish on Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the football season.
Sean-Luc from Oceanside, CA
Aaron Rodgers finally building a rapport with his wide receivers or finally got what he wanted? Outside of the Bears game, he looks like a different QB since McCarthy was fired.
This is exactly what I meant when I wrote of wanting to avoid "Rodgers analysis angst." It's over the top. It was a meaningless game, except for how it will impact the draft order. The Packers rallied from a 15-point deficit to beat a 4-11 team. It's a feel-good win in a feel-bad season. Attaching greater meaning to it is an exercise in futility.
Dan from Toledo, OH
Rodgers throwing for over 400 yards and a couple of scores, the Packers putting up 40-plus points and not having to spend an entire offseason listening to the 0-8 on the road chatter: These are a few of the reasons that win was worth the loss of a few draft slots.
A few? The wins over the Falcons and Jets have dropped the Packers nearly 10 spots in the draft order.
Rick from Pine Mountain, GA
Is Ron Zook a good special teams coach? As bad as the offense and defense have been this year, the special teams have been worse.
Zook is one of the game's most respected special teams coaches. His wedge-busting strategy in the '90s caused the league to change the rules. In my opinion, kick-coverage failures often say something about a team's roster depth.
Paul from Hartland, WI
You said you liked the Ravens' pick of Lamar Jackson in the draft and they're winning with him. Is this the start of the transition away from the pocket passer toward the dime-a-dozen running QBs being churned out from college?
Yes, I believe the game is shifting toward running quarterbacks. Why shouldn't it? They can run and slide and you can't touch them. Jackson is the latest version of the new age quarterback. I thought he was a great pick for the Ravens and if I was a GM I'd be looking for a new age guy, and I don't think you have to spend a first-round pick on one. Their ranks are plentiful and they don't require as much grooming as a pocket passer. Drop back and run is a good play.
John from Jacksonville Beach, FL
What are your thoughts on Marvin Harrison and his overall career. He was elected to the Hall of Fame, but I always remember he underwhelmed in the postseason. Playing with Manning in all of those regular season games helped his stats, I’m just not sure they tell the whole story. Boy, those Colts teams were a different team when the playoffs rolled around.
I'm a big believer in Hall of Fame players having a defining postseason moment. I think it completes their resume. Harrison's body of work is apparently too great to ignore. So, what do we do with all of the wide receivers who have the body of work and a defining postseason moment, such as Hines Ward and Larry Fitzgerald? Maybe we should have a separate Hall of Fame of Wide Receivers.
Nick from Annapolis, MD
Regardless of whether or not the Jaguars' 2017 campaign was a fluke, they were very close to making the Super Bowl, and probably would have had a legitimate shot at holding the Eagles to under 17 points and winning that game. Given that this was a real possibility last season, where does this season's Jaguars rank on the all-time list of disappointing teams?
They're not on that list because, given their situation at quarterback, I don't think anyone was shocked by the Jaguars' fall this season. The style of today's game doesn't suit teams with underperforming quarterbacks. It can happen that a team can get so hot on defense it can overcome an underperforming quarterback, but it's nearly impossible to sustain that formula for winning.
Holger from Guayaquil, Ecuador
Regarding your comment about Big Ben's performance against the Patriots in the last four minutes of the game, back in the Packers-Seahawks NFC title game, Aaron Rodgers had the same opportunity and he didn't do it. What does that say of him?
Roethlisberger converted a third down at the start of that drive. Rodgers had a third-down pass dropped by Andrew Quarless. Had Quarless caught the pass, the Packers would've gained a first down that probably would've sealed the victory. Rodgers can't do it all; he needs help. I think that's what we learned this season.
Bill from Sheboygan, WI
Name one thing you don't like about the way football is being played today.
I'm exasperated by the league's emphasis on calling penalties, and yesterday was the worst example of it this season. There was an obvious and ridiculous emphasis on calling pass interference. I watched several games and they all had examples of head-scratching pass interference penalties, and they were game-changing. The Packers-Jets game was a flag fest. John Parry's crew turned in an embarrassing performance in the Texans-Eagles game. The Saints were handed a victory by two absurd PI calls against Joe Haden. So far this season, 3,244 penalties for 27,719 yards have been assessed, and that doesn't include another 600 penalties that have been declined or were offsetting. This is good for the game?
Joe from Bloomington, IN
The Colts drafted well without focusing too much on the premier positions. What do you make of that?
The Colts' resurgence is mostly about Andrew Luck. The Colts played hard last season, but they didn't have Luck. Chuck Pagano was fired for no good reason, other than somebody has to take the fall for losing.
Barry from Hayward, WI
Vic, I really enjoy a good running game and defenses that generate lots of turnovers. Of the teams still in contention, which would you suggest I watch next Sunday?
The Ravens are your kind of team. They're playing old-school football and I think it's fun to watch.
Joe from Germanton, IN
I’ve heard McCarthy is stepping out of coaching for a little while. If he decides to coach again, what kind of team is he looking for?
One with a horn?
Doug from St. Louis, MO
Vic, I still don't know what to make of the Packers' WR group. I know what Davante Adams is, but I'm not sold on any of of the other guys. From what you've watched this year, how would you move forward if you were the GM? Draft another wide receiver or try to find a good fit in free agency?
I think you got it right: Adams is the star and everybody else is replaceable. I like signing wide receivers in cheap free agency. Dime a dozen. Find the guys who know how to play and use them to address specific roles on your team. In addition, always draft a wide receiver. That's where you get young speed.
Marty from Grafton, WI
What did you mean by your comment "once upon a time, there was an extreme prejudice against power runners that didn't play behind their pads."
"Play behind their pads" is scoutspeak for dropping the shoulder pads and initiating contact. In the head-banger era, power backs were battering rams. Pads-down runners were the rule; upright runners were the exception. Franco Harris, for example, was a high-cut, cutback runner, which was rare for a guy 6-2, 230 (I had seen him listed as high as 241). Franco ran behind his hips, not his shoulder pads, and that caused a divergence of opinion of Harris as a power back. Chuck Noll even favored drafting Robert Newhouse instead of Franco. Newhouse was a short, squat, pads-down runner. Franco was ahead of his time. He was perfectly suited for today's game, which fits the high-cut runners in a game that demands its players keep their heads up.
Mike from Fort Wayne, IN
Vic, what do you want for Christmas?
I have repeatedly asked for a chainsaw, as mine broke this past fall, and I have repeatedly been told I will not get a chainsaw as a Christmas gift.
Mark from Bettendorf, IA
Vic, I see a lot of comments about players who "can't stay healthy." Do talent evaluators really take this into account? I can see being worried about a lingering injury, but a guy like Aaron Jones may never get injured again.
I think everything needs to be taken into account when grading a draft prospect. Why draft a guy higher than necessary? Curtis Martin is the perfect example. He couldn't stay healthy in college, and it caused him to fall to the third round. As a pro, he became one of the most durable backs in NFL history. The draft is a crap shoot; you need to get lucky. If a GM needs to get one thing right, it's where players fit in the order. Drafting players that get hurt and underperform can be forgiven, but overdrafting them is unforgivable.
Nick from Owego, NY
Can you tell me a good Christmas football story?
It's from Christmas Eve, 1994. I was covering the Steelers, who had just lost in San Diego, 37-34, to finish the regular season. The game was meaningless, as the Steelers had already clinched homefield advantage. Bill Cowher flooded the field with reserves in the second half and got into an up-tempo passing contest that exploded yardage totals. I was writing my story on the bus outside Jack Murphy Stadium when Dom Capers asked to see my stats pack. Capers was the Steelers' defensive coordinator and he wanted to finish the season as the league's No. 1 defense. "You're not gonna like it," I said as I handed him the stats pack. He studied it briefly, then handed it back to me. "Merry Christmas to me," he said, sarcastically. The Steelers finished No. 2 in total defense.
David from Madison, WI
Is there a career you’ve once romanticized about and also felt you could have developed the skills and attributes necessary for success?
No, I pretty much knew it was this or the sintering plant.
R.J. from Plymouth, WI
With the offseason talk heating up, what is your take on Le'Veon Bell to the Packers? I feel like that would be a risky investment after the Jimmy Graham experiment.
Risky? Let me put it this way: The best thing that happened to the Steelers this season is Bell not signing the contract he was offered. They got lucky. They almost screwed that up, too.
Derek from Eau Claire, WI
What is your recap of 2018 and your wish for 2019?
The 2018 season is about what I expected for the Packers. There was work that needed to be done and I think a large measure of that work has been accomplished. My hope is the team will hire a sensible head coach and the team will pursue a reasonable course of continued repair. Merry Christmas to everybody.
"Ask Vic" will publish on Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the football season.
Matt from Georgetown, TX
Vic, I saw an article detailing how Rodgers' passer rating when throwing to Adams, Cobb and Allison is 115. When throwing to Graham, St. Brown and Valdez-Scantling, it is 83. Assuming that's accurate, what does it tell you about the offseason and next year?
I'm not surprised Aaron Rodgers has been more successful throwing to veteran receivers with whom he has a rapport, than he is throwing to raw, low-round draft picks. His lack of success with Jimmy Graham is the surprise. Graham is a high-dollar free agent. He was supposed to be a game-changer. The rookies are learning their craft; Graham is supposed to be a skilled craftsman. What does Graham's lackluster season tell me? It tells me the Packers have a big decision to make on whether or not to pay Graham a big roster bonus in March.
Adam from Wausau, WI
What skill do you wish you would have spent more time mastering throughout your life?
I'm OK with being a sportswriter. I think I got the most out of my limited intelligence.
Mike from Berlin, WI
Does GM Vic try to sign Bashaud Breeland to a new contract?
Yeah, as long as he can be signed at a No. 2 corner pay grade. Alexander is a No. 1 and he's going to cost a lot of money to re-sign in a few years. The problem with signing No. 2 corners opposite stars such as Alexander is the No. 2 guy tends to get a lot of interceptions and passes-defensed because teams avoid the star corner, and the stats inflate the No. 2 corner's value. This might be a good time to lock up Breeland.
Cliff from Washington, DC
I'm tired of this either/or crap about the Packers' next head coach. Will they pick an offensive mind? Will they pick a defensive mind? I say bologna. I refuse to think great coaches privilege one over the other.
This bologna stuff needs to end. It's not bologna, it's baloney. Look it up, if you don't believe me. You wouldn't say someone is full of meat, you'd say they were full of something else, right?
Kevin from Greenacres, WA
I'm of the opinion if your franchise QB is healthy, he plays. Can you imagine the offseason baloney if Rodgers did sit and the Packers won their last two games?
Isaac from Nashville, TN
Vic, is Derrick Henry as good as he's looked the last few weeks, and can you still build an offense around an outstanding power back?
Henry is an upright power runner. So was Eric Dickerson. Once upon a time, there was an extreme prejudice against power runners that didn't play behind their pads. Today's game fits them, because of head-injury awareness and the emphasis on not lowering the helmet. I see more of them coming into the league every year. James Conner is an upright power runner. Can you still build an offense around a power runner? The Titans are No. 5 in rushing but No. 27 in total offense. I guess the answer is no.
Blake from Normal, IL
Vic, what will it take for you to believe in the Bears? Week after week, the offense improves and the defense continues to do its thing. Do you need a Super Bowl to finally believe?
I need to know they can put the game in Trubisky's hands at crunch time and feel confident he'll deliver. For example, the Steelers had the ball deep in their territory midway through the fourth quarter with a four-point lead over the Patriots. The Steelers needed to kill time and score points to win; everyone knew it and the pressure was on Roethlisberger to get it done. He did. I don't get the sense the Bears can do that with Trubisky. I still think they try to play around him, protect him from those situations. Elite teams don't do that.
Margo from Chicago, IL
And why do we have a losing record, Vic?
I don't know, Margo. Actually, that's not true. I do know, Margo. The Packers have a losing record because they don't have enough good players and Aaron Rodgers didn't play well enough this season to overcome the Packers' deficiencies.
Tim from Lancaster, PA
Did the Rams and Chiefs peak too soon?
I don't know the answer to that question. What I can tell you is some coaches put a priority on developing plays, and some make it a priority to develop players. The ones who develop players are usually the ones whose team plays its best football late in the season.
Jerry from Savannah, GA
Vic, who you got Sunday night? Chiefs or Seahawks?
Seahawks. Pete Carroll develops players.
Jillaine from Star Valley Ranch, WY
What is your opinion? Should Aaron Rodgers sit out the last games to insure he does not get hurt again before the next season, thereby protecting the expensive contract? Or should he play, since the young team members need all the practice with the real QB to help them improve, especially since he just got an expensive contract that should keep him here for the foreseeable future?
A few weeks ago, I was against the idea, but since then the remaining games have become meaningless to the Packers and to their opponents, so I've changed my mind: Shut him down. A big part of my reason for not wanting him to play is we need a break from the Rodgers analysis angst. I think we need to let this season go gentle into that good night.
Roger from Auburn, CA
Aaron Jones has shown flashes but I don't think he can stay healthy. If you were the Packers' GM, would you use one of those top 50 picks on a stud running back?
If one is at the top of their board, pick him.
Aaron from Wausau, WI
You talk about not cutting a player who has a large cap hit or a lot of dead money. I'd say it's better to err on the side of releasing players whose performance doesn't match their price. Are you falling to the sunk cost fallacy?
If a team is convinced a player lacks useful talent, then cut him. If they think he has useful talent but it's not the equal of his contract, then try to re-do his contract. Maybe the Packers should try to do that with Jimmy Graham, but I doubt he would agree to a lesser deal. He'd probably welcome another tour of free agency and a chance to sting another team. Are you willing to let that happen? Are we sure Graham can't play to the equal of his contract? That's a big question to answer. It's what the Packers have to decide.
Neil from Cheddar, UK
How do you feel about the fact NFL.com had to close their comments section but yours is getting bigger and with sensible conversations in it. Makes you think there is still some humanity out on the worldwide web and it likes to read Vic!
I'm intensely proud of the "Ask Vic" comments section, and I hope it is, too.
Steven from Jacksonville, FL
After following football for so many years, do you ever get tired or bored of it? What keeps your interest after all of these years?
It's the confrontation. That's why I like football. I think football features confrontation more than any other sport I've known. Everything is a competition, from the scouting combine to the Super Bowl.
"Ask Vic" will publish on Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the football season.
Here's the "Ask Vic" Week 16 power rankings:
1. Saints -- Hanging on.
2. Chargers -- Might have to settle for wild card.
3. Rams -- Slumping.
4. Chiefs -- Can they hold on?
5. Texans -- They run the ball and stop the run.
6. Titans -- Muscle team.
7. Ravens -- No. 1 defense.
8. Bears -- 3-2-10 on defense.
9. Colts -- Peaking!
10. Cowboys -- Inconsistent.
11. Eagles -- Here they come.
12. Seahawks -- Rally halted by 49ers.
13. Patriots -- Brady beginning to look mortal.
14. Vikings -- Sack mania.
15. Browns -- Defense on the rise, too.
16. Steelers -- Chargers may hold their fate.
17. Dolphins -- No. 29 on offense, No. 30 on defense. Yuk!
18. Broncos -- Keenum is just a guy.
19. Panthers -- Complete collapse.
20. Washington -- Injury ruined their season.
21. Packers -- It's all about the next coach.
22. Giants -- Manning is the problem.
23. Lions -- Stafford not getting it done.
24. Bucs -- No. 1 passing attack.
25. Falcons -- Major decisions lurking.
26. Bengals -- They should be better than this.
27. 49ers -- Still playing hard.
28. Bills -- Holding their head high.
29. Jets -- Darnold is for real.
30. Jaguars -- Coughlin time?
31. Raiders -- No words.
32. Cardinals -- Rosen isn't the answer.
Matthew from Oshkosh, WI
Vic, Green Bay has two first-round picks in the upcoming draft. Would GM Vic take a QB in the first round?
That decision was made the day the Packers signed Aaron Rodgers to a new contract.
T.J. from Tampa, FL
The offensive fumble into the end zone has got to be about the dumbest rule in the book, no?
I don't like it, either, but if it's changed to give the ball back to the offense, I don't think the offense should be allowed to take possession at the one-yard line. I think giving the ball to the offense at the one-yard line would result in guys "throwing" the ball at the pylon. I favor penalizing the offense for fumbling the ball through the end zone; assess a 10-yard penalty from the original line of scrimmage.
Matt from New York, NY
The scheme-crazy folks aren't looking so hot right now, huh? Teams catch up throughout the year. Players, not plays.
Schemes win early, players win late.
Joshua from Mankato, MN
Live with hope, not expectancy,
And allow perspective to set you free,
For expectation, evil sister of hope,
Morphs man into lycanthrope,
While hope keeps us going,
When all is lost.
I’m Joshua from Mankato,
Did you expect Robert Frost?
When the season is done,
We'll know who's No. 1,
And offseason predictions,
will become contradictions.
Malcolm from Ossian, IA
If the Jaguars can get a first and second for Ramsey, what do you think the Packers can get for Rodgers, if they want to trade him?
They might get two ones. Remember, Rodgers' bonus amortization would stay with the Packers, which would make him very attractive in a trade. A team trading for Rodgers could even restructure his contract, push money out and make room on their cap to use in free agency. The Packers have too much invested in Rodgers, in cap room and in real money, to bail on his contract after just one season. The bonus money acceleration on the Packers' cap would be devastating.
Curt from York, PA
Vic, here’s another Bill Fralic story. Penn Hills High School just played in the 5A state title game on Dec. 7 in Hershey, a long drive from Pittsburgh. It was reported Fralic had the team travel on 12/6, then he paid for all the hotel rooms for the team that night so they would be fresh for the game on 12/7. A class act to the end! By the way, Penn Hills won.
That's a wonderful story about a great player and the game we love. It's a game of the heart.
Randy from Medicine Hat, AB
If there was such a thing as a time machine that transported today's starting quarterbacks to a season in, say, the sixties, which ones would excel in that era? Could any of the sixties' quarterbacks thrive in today's game?
All of the sixties top quarterbacks would excel in today's game, but not all of today's top quarterbacks would excel in the sixties.
Jonathan from St. Joseph, MO
As of now, who is your league MVP? I feel Brees' struggles on the road hurt his chances.
Brees and Mahomes are the easy picks. I'd like to see Aaron Donald get it because I'm tired of the MVP award going to quarterbacks.
Mike from Rochester, MN
If you could build a team around one QB/coach combination (past or present), who would you choose? Can't say Belichick/Brady or Noll/Bradshaw.
Shawn from Kissimmee, FL
Do you think Jimmy Graham will be on the Packers' roster next fall?
His dead money isn't the issue because his cap hit spikes next year and he'd become a cap savings cut (don't pay roster bonus). There are two main issues: 1) Do you walk away from the $11 million signing bonus paid to him after just one season? 2) Or do you pay him the $5.3 million roster bonus he's due on 3/15/19 and risk wasting more money on a bad signing? I think I'd go one more season with him. His cap structure makes 2020 his out year.
Zahir from London, UK
Perhaps I misunderstood but I thought you always said teams that didn't abuse the cap by going all in on free agency did not have periods when they went dark? That was supposed to be the upside to Ted's philosophy of draft and develop. But if consistently drafting at the bottom catches up with you, why wouldn't you take a few shots in free agency/trades?
First of all, there's a big difference between "all in" and a "few shots." I'm all for a few shots in free agency and/or trading. I've been a strong advocate of patching. What I don't like is expensive free agency, and too much of it will absolutely turn you dark. You think this is dark? Zahir, this isn't dark. Going dark is defined as a long non-playoffs run and period of hopelessness. Going dark is what the Broncos are doing. They went all in on free agency, got a title and killed their cap. Now, in their desperation to avoid going dark, they're trying to catch lightning in a bottle. They signed Case Keenum, whose salary spikes to $18 million next season and will likely force the Broncos to find another answer at quarterback. The Broncos are in the kill-the-cap death spiral, which is defined by pie-in-the-sky change: coaches, quarterbacks, philosophy, etc. The Packers have a healthy cap and I expect them to clear more room in the offseason. They have young talent on the rise and I have no reason to believe they're going dark. Take care of your cap and your cap will take care of you. You'll never be without hope.