Rich from Grand Rapids, MI
Pettine coached under Rex Ryan, whose dad (Buddy) created the "46 Defense" because, in his words, his team was not good enough to get pressure with a three or four-man rush and "if we have to send eight, we'll send eight, but we're not going to let you sit back there and pick us apart." I'm not suggesting the "46" is in the Pack's future, but it sure is easier to send more than four (or even five) if you have the cover guys behind it. If you can't rush, then cover. I am hopeful for a sea-change in the Pack's pass defense fortunes.
Back in the Buddy Ryan days, the league still permitted defensive backs to cover, so you could hold your coverage long enough to sell out to the blitz and not get burned. I don't know if it's possible to cover receivers that way in today's game. Look at the Jaguars. They had the top cover corners in the playoffs and they got clobbered by Roethlisberger and Brady. The "46" the Bears played was the equivalent of "Cover Zero," and you can't play that in today's don't-touch-the-receiver game. In my mind, disguising coverages and blitzes is the key to pass defense in today's game. Show blitz and drop, show coverage and blitz. The quarterback must be confused, and the quarterback must be confused badly.
Tom Elk Port, IA
Vic, perhaps you’ve answered this question before, but when and why did the draft get whittled down to seven rounds. Is seven the right number?
The seven-round draft is a product of the salary cap era. It's the number of rounds to which the players and owners agreed. Yeah, I think it's the right number. Undrafted free agents are the equivalent of extra rounds of the draft.
Ben from El Paso, TX
Who was the most memorable rookie you covered or interviewed?
Tony Boselli was a rookie who played and talked as though he was a five-year veteran. In his first-ever game, he stoned Sean Jones. Boselli was immediately one of the best pass-blockers in the league. In the locker room, he was a sensational interview. He loved to talk about football and his grasp of the game was the equal of his talent for playing it. He immediately became a go-to player for me. Tom Coughlin nailed it with his selection of Boselli as the second pick of the 1995 draft.
Paul from Cumming, GA
I'm surprised by Big Ben's indignance at the Steelers' decision to draft a quarterback. Does Ben need a spelling lesson from Hollywood Henderson?
Roethlisberger is showing his insecurity. It's what drives him and I don't think the Steelers are surprised or upset one bit their quarterback has acquired an edge about the selection of Mason Rudolph. Why do fans think it's the team's duty to pacify the quarterback? A chip on the shoulder has always served Aaron Rodgers well. It's an edge game. Every player needs one.
Tom Bismarck, ND
A positive spin on our backup QB situation has come from Cleveland's head coach. This year's No. 1 draft pick, Baker Mayfield, will not be starting for the Browns. Instead, Hue Jackson will be going with Tyrod Taylor, presumably because Mayfield isn't quite ready for the NFL. That would lead most to believe he thought Kizer was ready coming out of college. Any true Packers fan should then recognize the Cleveland QB guru thinks our backup QB was more NFL ready than this year's top draft choice. Neat. Please explain why I'm wrong?
Your logic is a little twisted. Would Kizer have started over Taylor? The real error in your theory is you're buying into Jackson's baloney. If Mayfield isn't the Browns' starting quarterback by midseason (I think it'll be earlier), the Browns will have made a terrible mistake.
Jerry from Savannah, GA
Vic, who’s a past or present QB who equals Big Ben’s drama level?
That's easy: Terry Bradshaw. Brad rose from the dead better than any quarterback I've ever covered or seen play. He left a playoff game against the Colts in the first half with an injury everyone thought was game-ending. When the two teams came back out onto the field for the second half, no Brad. A few minutes later, he came sprinting out of the tunnel and didn't miss a down the rest of that game or in the postseason until Larry Cole knocked him unconscious on a long, game-clinching touchdown pass to Lynn Swann in Super Bowl X. With Brad, everything was dramatic, including his final game in 1983. The day before the game, on the way to practice, he told me he couldn't throw at all. He said he wouldn't raise his arm above his shoulder at practice, and he didn't. The next day, in the final NFL game ever played at Shea Stadium, he drove the Steelers 80 yards and threw a touchdown pass, and then drove them 79 yards and threw a weak and wobbly touchdown pass, and as he left the field he said to Chuck Noll, "I'm done, Chuck." He never played again. The thing about Brad is he was so tough you never knew where reality began and ended. His flare for the dramatic was exceeded only by his toughness. One week after breaking his left wrist, he was under center wearing a cast. I remember him rising from the dead in St. Louis in 1979, much as he did against the Colts in the '75 playoffs. Roethlisberger has that same flare for the dramatic, but his toughness is without question so we never know where the real Roethlisberger begins and ends. I'll never forget Cincinnati fans showering him with debris as he was carted off the field (I think he was being carted) in that infamous playoff game a few years ago, following a pile-driving tackle by Vontaze Burfict. Everyone figured Roethlisberger was done, but he rose from the dead and led the Steelers on that wacky game-winning field goal drive. He's every bit as quirky as Bradshaw and I love it. The game needs flavorful characters.
Rey from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, do you miss asking questions to the players? Did you have a signature question and, if you did, who answered it best?
I don't miss interviewing today's players; they've been gagged by their teams and don't have much to say. "I just want to contribute" doesn't work for me. My signature question was: "What are your thoughts on (today's game or whatever the subject is)?" If a player wouldn't or couldn't answer that question, then I moved on to another player. Why waste time interviewing a player who has no thoughts? Lots of guys were good at answering the question. Joe Greene was probably the best. Joe always had thoughts and they were always quote worthy.
Brad from Basalt, CO
Vic, in an era when average time from snap to release is in the 2.3-second range and looking to get quicker, can an edge rusher even get to the quarterback in time? Is pressure up the middle becoming more important?
Pass rushers get their sacks on the few times the ball doesn't come out quickly. Pressure up the middle has always been important because you don't want the quarterback stepping up in the pocket, you want him stepping out of the pocket.
Alden from Jacksonville, FL
You always mention, "Get 'em good or get 'em gone." You should check out an article called "Age Played A Bigger Role In The NFL Draft. It’s About Time." It's about how draft prospects are getting younger due to the rookie wage scale instituted by the NFL. What do you think about this?
The article suggests younger is better, though in a somewhat twisted way. What I would say is teams are relying more on the draft than ever before because it's the most effective means for keeping your roster young and your salary cap manageable. Since the 2011 CBA, it's not only a young man's game, it's an affordably priced young man's game.
Dan from Waupun, WI
Will the Jacksonville tax payers have to pay more tax to help Khan buy a new stadium? Will American tax payer money be used? We see it with companies like McDonalds. Sports is cashing in on more free (tax) money. I hope Trump closes the hole.
Kal from Redondo Beach, CA
I've read more than once that CB Josh Jackson is primarily a zone coverage guy. He squats. What are your thoughts on that assertion, and what type of coverage does Coach Pettine favor?
Most good defenses have a shutdown corner and a squat corner. The shutdown guy is in man coverage -- Revis Island is a good way of saying it -- and the zone corner squats or stops at 10 yards and gets help over the top from the safety. Having used three high picks on corners in the last two years, I have to believe the Packers will find a shutdown type among the three, which will allow them to squat on the other side. The irony of that system is the squat guy is usually the one that makes most of the interceptions and touchdown returns because he's in position to jump routes.
Curt from Grants Pass, OR
I'm a little surprised at the Saints' first-round maneuvering. Did they stumble on a player whose value was much more than 14th, or is this the sound of the train warming up to leave the station?
When a team trades away a first-round pick in the next year's draft to move up in this year's draft, it's for one reason: They believe the player they've targeted is a difference-maker. Clearly, the Saints are in love with Marcus Davenport. Hey, the Saints drafted pretty well in 2017. Maybe they know what they're doing.
Alex from Arvada, CO
Your expectation of this upcoming season being restorative was quite shocking. The way I see it, the defense is much stronger (on paper) with a new, young and proven coach, better front line, better corners and two new pass rushers (Biegel and Gilbert). On offense, they get Aaron back (who was 4-1 before the injury) with his two new running back weapons, and swap an old and slow wide receiver with a still fast and athletic nightmare to cover tight end. And you can't underestimate getting Philbin back; you know how well that offense played when he was coaching. What am I missing here?
James from Fleming Island, FL
I had the opportunity to watch a replay of the Jaguars/Steelers divisional playoff game again. It's strange Big Ben didn't received much attention for the great game he played.
He might be the most underrated quarterback in NFL history.
Steve from North Hudson, WI
Which of your three teams had the best overall draft?
I think Tony Pauline would say the Packers had the best draft, and I would agree due to the first-round pick the Packers acquired in the trade with the Saints. Be that as it may, the Steelers picked a quarterback, Mason Rudolph, and because of the importance of that position, the Steelers' draft has strong upside potential. I applaud the Steelers' decision to begin preparing for life after Roethlisberger. It may require several picks before they find their next quarterback, but you're not going to find him without trying.