Keith from Springfield, MO
After all of the years you have had to watch the NFL, what has been the biggest on-field change to the game rules did not intend to implement?
It was moving the hash marks toward the middle of the field in 1972. The intent was to stimulate the passing game. The result was an explosion of thousand-yard rushers and a continued decline in the passing game.
Mike from Chicago, IL
Vic, do you think the NFL would ever consider an inter-conference playoff system? If so, how could teams be seeded? It just seems to me there are many years either of the conference championship games are the true Super Bowl.
In the '70s, the AFC title game was often the true Super Bowl. The Raiders' Super Bowl title ring from the 1976 season, for example, includes the score of their AFC title game win over the Steelers, in celebration of what Al Davis considered to be his team's true championship win. In the '80s, the NFC title game was often the true Super Bowl. Those days of conference dominance have ended. Parity has been achieved. Free agency has helped create that parity, but I think it's mostly the result of an homogenization of draft opinion. The grading of draft prospects seems to have been narrowed. It's almost as though there's a uni-board. In that kind of system, the inverse draft order has a true leveling effect. In terms of creating competition, the management of the game has never been better. I don't see a need to change anything about the game's structure.
Derrick from Rockaway, NJ
It appears there are a number of refs leaving the NFL. Is the NFL devaluing refs and these men see that? While it's most likely a combination of a few things, what do you believe is the biggest factor?
It might be the result of disillusionment. Why did Dean Blandino leave? That one stunned me. He had climbed the mountain of his profession. Have we made the game too difficult to officiate? Has the eye in the sky become overwhelming? Are expectations and criticism too much to endure? The money TV has to offer is a huge factor, of course, but I can't imagine Jim Tunney or Tommy Bell taking off the stripes to go to TV, and I believe men such as Blandino and Gene Steratore possess the same love and dedication for their profession Tunney and Bell did. The use of video replay to officiate football could become the worst decision in the history of the game. It has depersonalized a sport built on human confrontation. Here's one more thought: The NFL created personalities with all of the explanation rhetoric, and now TV is stealing those personalities.
Dave from Chippewa Falls, WI
Do you have any good Jim Kelly stories to share?
He's one of four Hall of Fame quarterbacks -- Johnny Unitas, Terry Bradshaw and Dan Marino are the other three -- whose final game I covered. I'm proud of that distinction. Kelly is as tough as any quarterback in the history of the game. I'm proud of his Western Pa. roots: Kelly, Marino, Montana, Unitas, Namath, Blanda and more. He resurrected the football program at the University of Miami. I don't think that's acknowledged often enough. My favorite Kelly story is from a scene from a spring press conference with Terry Bradshaw. The Steelers PR man brought Kelly into the room to introduce him to Bradshaw. The PR man introduced Kelly as a local kid on his way to Miami. Bradshaw did his best Bradshaw imitation, fawning over Kelly and pretending to know of him. When the moment had passed, Bradshaw turned to me and said, "Who is that guy?" I explained and Bradshaw said, "Big kid." Memories make us rich.
Brian from Tiffany, WI
I recall semi-pro teams existing in the '60s and '70s. Can you envision semi-pro ball coming back, playing real football to fill that niche?
Men risking injury for nothing more than love of the game and a burning desire to block and tackle? I don't envision that kind of football returning.
Jeff from Yorktown, VA
When will you start the additional weekly "Ask Vic" posts?
I'm thinking the preseason might be a good time to start.
Mike from Somerset, WI
Vic, what in today's era of football do you see as special/ unique on the field that did not exist in previous eras?
The management of the game on the field has never been better. Quarterbacks are coaches and coaches are strategical geniuses. I'm in awe of the ability to implement strategy as the play clock ticks toward zero and 70,000 fans howl.
Tom from Brookfield, WI
In true Vic fashion, no special teams on the dream team. If you had to add a kicker, punter, returner and gunner, whom would they be?
Kicker -- Gary Anderson. Punter -- Bryan Barker. Punt returner -- Louis Lipps, Randall Cobb (tie). Kick returner -- Maurice Jones-Drew. Gunner -- Montell Owens.
Adam from Wausau, WI
How would you have persuaded Kordell Stewart?
Kal from Redondo Beach, CA
You don't feel like football is already the sport of gambling? Ninety-five billion dollars a year is the number I hear.
Symbolically speaking, if the day ever comes the NFL is able to put a little box on top of our TVs for us to place a wager as the kicker is about to begin his run up to the ball, pro football will become the most lucrative business in all the world. Nothing would be real and our culture would collapse into moral decay. That's the power football gambling possesses.
Nick from Fairfax, VA
I’m having a rough day. Could you tell me a true football story?
Johnnie Dirden is my all-time favorite football story. He sat in a darkened room and looked through a slightly opened door to see who was knocking on it. "They can't cut you if they can't find you," he told me. That's my kind of football.
Jim from Rockford, IL
Surprised to see T.J. Lang as one of your picks for guard. Lang over Sitton? In your opinion, what makes Lang the better guard?
He would've been the better tackle.
Jimmy from Vero Beach, FL
Can you give us the behind-the-scene scoop on what happened in 2003 with Phil Savage and the Jaguars non-hiring? Would Phil have passed on Terrell Suggs for Leftwich? Reggie Williams over Roethlisberger? The Jags could have avoided the dark years.
Savage was standing off to the side. It was a foregone conclusion he was going to be introduced as the Jaguars' new personnel boss, at the press conference that announced Jack Del Rio as the team's new coach. Apparently, Savage and the Jaguars couldn't get together on money, and the Ravens sweetened Savage's role in Baltimore, and the Savage/Jaguars deal shockingly fell apart. What if Savage had taken the Jaguars job? I tend to believe he would've drafted Suggs, which might've left him to draft Roethlisberger the following year. Wow! Think about how that might've changed pro football history. I have, often. It might've changed my life dramatically.
Sean-Luc from Oceanside, CA
In 2000, the Packers had 51 scheduled practices for training camp. This year there are 15. Have the CBA practice rules weakened football as a product? Which teams benefit from this change?
When I began covering the NFL, training camp was nine weeks long. It began shortly after the Fourth of July. There were two-a-days every day, and they were always full pads and full contact. Nine-on-seven drills were a staple and the Oklahoma drill was a tone-setter. Roster sizes were unlimited, the preseason was six games long and the starters played more as the preseason droned on. Relative to that regimen, training camps don't exist any more. They're glorified OTAs. Yet, today's fans are steadfast in their belief today's players are better than those of the bygone era, which means either the NFL doesn't need training camp, or the league has done a sensational job at deceiving the fans.
Mike from North Hudson, WI
Vic, it came as a surprise to me the new Packers GM doesn't have the authority to hire and fire the head coach. What are your thoughts on this?
I think a head coach needs to be all things to the franchise he's going to lead, which means he needs to satisfy more than one segment of the franchise's criteria. A head coach needs to be a good fit in all ways and for everyone, not just not for one man's needs.