Beginning next week, "Ask Vic" will publish on Monday and Thursday through the offseason.
Scott from Chapel Hill, NC
Seeing that game, it makes me reflect on what an equalizer the draft really is. The 49ers had five very down years and picked high for each of those. The Packers, with Rodgers, continue to be good (he tips the field) but not great. They, in turn, get low draft picks. What’s the answer? Free agency? Don’t look for a star QB, just one that can manage the game and not sink the cap? Something else?
Acceptance and patience are the answers. Ride the wave as long as you can, then accept the inevitable effects of the inverse order draft system and be patient through the down years and the rebuilding process. The Packers are in the process of riding the wave.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, should Green Bay fans be embarrassed by what happened in the NFC championship game?
No, I think Packers fans have distinguished themselves with their graceful acceptance of this loss. They astutely saw this coming, weren't fooled into eating the 13-3 pizza, and I sense no embarrassing howl for a loss that couldn't be avoided and for which the blame falls on no one. Is that what you mean?
Bob from Australia
Vic, according to nfl.com's Michael Silver, San Francisco's brain trust decided to tear up the playbook from the previous 17 games and attack the Packers' edge rushers. I must admit, I hadn't previously seen such a scheme where the tight ends, even those regarded as star receivers, were used exclusively as blocking personnel. In view of your statement the 49ers played a type of football where everyone knows what they're going to do but are unable to stop it, is there something you'd like to add in relation to that?
I would add this: The Packers have a problem. They have two star pass-rushers who either won't or can't play the run. They are, in effect, pass-rush specialists, not every-down players. You can scheme to cover up one of those guys, but not both. I am greatly impressed by 49ers Coach Kyle Shanahan. He schemed personnel, not schemes, and that's players, not plays. Good for him!
Mitch from Bettendorf, IA
Vic, you said "every team should aspire to play football the way the 49ers play football." I saw a lot of scheme, motion, misdirection with three guys running around the backfield a lot of the time. A no-name guy was running all over. It looked to me like it was more plays, not players.
Well, you're wrong. That was all window dressing. When a team throws just eight passes but scores 37 points, you were out-played. I made a comment in Friday's column that '70's football doesn't win in today's game. I was wrong! Bob Griese was six of seven for 73 yards and no touchdowns in a 24-7 win in Super Bowl VIII. Garoppolo was six of eight for 77 yards and no touchdowns. I didn't think I would ever see anything like that again in a postseason game. Mitch, you gotta put down your video game and smell the football. You're missing the real game.
Tom from Bismarck, ND
I think most of us are keenly aware of your admiration of coaches McCarthy and Capers, likewise, your disdain for anyone who would criticize them. If the fans became frustrated with the wasting of the prime years of an all-world talent at QB, so be it. Do you have an honest to goodness insight into what really was happening the previous 10 years? Is it too sensitive to talk about? This isn't the first Packers team to be run off the field by a far more athletic team.
You apparently weren't "hearing" me. I wrote it over and over. Drafting at the bottom took its toll on this team. Bert Bell beat them. The problem wasn't coaching. The problem was the inevitability of the inverse order draft. Looking back on my years covering the Packers, I think the Packers could've done more to try to trade up and get that game-changing player on defense (as they did when they moved up for Clay Matthews), make the shrewd kind of trade the Steelers did for Minkah Fitzpatrick, or patch in affordable free agency as the Patriots have done. Yeah, I think the Packers should've been a little more aggressive in personnel instead of sitting in their designated draft spot and accepting their punishment for winning. I've gone back and looked at drafts to see who was available after they picked and my research was underwhelming. Clearly, if you want better players, you need to trade up, not back. So, if you're looking for criticism of the previous regime, that's the best I can offer.
John from Sioux Falls, SD
Vic, the howl will be to address WR and TE to get Rodgers better weapons, but to me it seems they need help most at DT and ILB. It feels like they'd have to draft an impact DL, but is ILB a position where an affordable Belichick free-agent patch could be applied?
There is no howl. The wolves have been silenced. They get it now; the 49ers silenced them. Brian Gutekunst will be able to work his magic without interference. He needs better players but he's back in the draft order, again, and it's going to take magic to either find those players where he's positioned, or move to where they are. He can't do it all in free agency. He needs to hit home runs in the draft, at any positions.
Jeff from Ogden, UT
Coach Vic, what are your first three picks for the Packers in the draft? Defensive line, wide receiver, inside linebacker?
Tough guy, tough guy, tough guy; I don't care where they play.
Pat from Collierville, TN
Vic, it seemed the 49ers had a more aggressive attitude and played to that style against the Packers. How do the Packers change their attitude?
Attitude? Coach Noll's first team was 1-13. Late in that season, some of the older veterans sensed the inevitable and began lobbying to extend their careers. A newspaper story quoted them as saying attitude was the problem; they needed to get rid of their loser's attitude. Coach Noll quickly put an end to that baloney. "There's nothing wrong with your attitude," he told them, and then he proceeded to say the problem was a lack of talent and during the offseason the team would find players with the talent to "run these defenses." The Packers need to do the same thing.
Andrew from Vancouver, BC
Every time we play the 49ers, the announcers play up the commentary about Rodgers' chip on his shoulder for being passed over in the draft. I always thought it was silly filler material, but he does seem to have bad games against them more often than not. Do you think Rodgers has a mental hangup with the 49ers?
I think that chip is getting heavy.
Joe from Bloomington, IN
I don’t see this happening but what could the Packers get in a trade for Rodgers? Care to ponder how that might help the Packers?
They could get a one and a two for him, at the least. He would be super attractive in a trade, not only because he's Aaron Rodgers but also because all of his proration would stay in Green Bay. The recent restructuring would, in effect, have the Packers paying Rodgers' "salary" to play for another team. Do you really want to do that? It’s crazy to even consider it. The Rodgers train is on the tracks and rolling. It can't be stopped. The decision the Packers are facing is to what extent they want to expose the team's train. Do they restructure Za'Darius Smith by converting his $9.5 million roster bonus to signing bonus, for example, and make room for a free-agent acquisition? Between now and March, we'll have our answer. Now, we wait.
Colin from Lansdale, PA
Are things about to get ugly in Green Bay? What's next? What's our window of opportunity?
Rodgers will define the Packers' window of opportunity. He's lost some mobility, but he's still a top quarterback. How long can he stay at that level?
Jerry from Savannah, GA
Vic, do you believe Aaron Rodgers when he says the Packers’ window will be open for a long time?
Two more years would be good.
Jeff from Dorr, MI
Now that the season is over, do you have an opinion on Rashan Gary?
Opinions of him begin being formed next season. At this point, my thought on him is where does he play? Could he move inside?
Steve from Lake Stevens, WA
The Packers were manhandled, punched in the mouth. Is this one of those games you've referenced that can have a lasting effect?
It can have a lasting positive effect because it can be sobering and help guide the team in its efforts to fix what's broken.
David from Lafayette, NY
I'm thinking stopping the run will be the No. 1 upgrade priority for the 2020 season. Does stopping the run fall more on our defensive linemen or inside linbackers, or is it an everyone-fly-to-the-ball mentality?
In a traditional base 3-4 defense, and the 49ers forced the Packers to play a lot of base, the down linemen are two-gappers. Their role is to eat blocks and keep the big-body blockers off the linebackers. In that system, the linebackers have to be the stars of the show. They have to run to the ball and make the stop, not struggle to get off the blocks of tight ends, running backs and wide receivers.
Curt from Portland, OR
Vic, what would your approach be if you were in Brian Gutekunst's and Mark Murphy's shoes today?
I'd love to say "All in! Burn the boats!" but that would be a lie. It's just not in my natural personality to wreck my team's future. My nature is to preserve and protect. My approach in this offseason would be to draft as wisely and with as much impact as possible, and to patch in affordable free agency. Any other approach would be a betrayal of my beliefs. I don't think that'll be the Packers' approach, but it would be mine.
Matt from Hazelhurst, WI
When will toughness be part of Green Bay's DNA again?
I think you've asked the definitive question. It's the question Coach LaFleur has to address.
Joe from Bloomington, IN
If the Packers hadn't played Rodgers on a bum leg, Nick Bosa would be a Packer.
It's an amazing dynamic. The system rewards losing, but the human spirit demands victory.