"Ask Vic" will publish on M-W-F through the football season.
Fabio from London, UK
Total inability to adjust in the second half, a couple of foolish calls in the fourth quarter, a dubious play call for the OT fumble. A simple bad day at the office for LaFleur, worsened by the mistakes from Linsley, Shepherd and Valdes-Scantling, or is it a worrying sign?
My thoughts go to one play: fourth and one. You have to throw the ball 15 yards sideways? You can't run one yard forward? Really? I respect these coaches immensely, but they've lost me on this short-yardage inability. These are huge plays. They decide the outcomes of games. Be creative. Do something to get that missing yard, which has become the distance between victory and defeat. Here's an idea: Teach A.J. Dillon or someone of like power to take a snap from center and push forward. Look at what Jacoby Brissett did. The secret to converting these short-yardage plays is getting to the defense before it gets to you. Kordell Stewart was a specialist at it. Sam Cunningham went over the top. Whatever it takes. The guy who said this is where these coaches earn their paycheck is right. Now do something!
Chase from Las Vegas, NV
What did your eyes tell you about the Packers this week? They looked really strong in the first half, but completely out of sorts in the second half.
The Colts had a touchdown nullified, the Packers had seven points handed to them at the end of the first half and they have arguably the best quarterback in the game but they didn't win. Those are the facts of the matter. They lost a game because of a fumble? No. That's narrow thinking. They lost because they allowed 420 yards, they were outrushed 140-66, they were outscored 20-3 in the second half and they had the ball seven minutes fewer than the Colts. The hard count and the tight-end-delay-bootleg play are really chafing me.
Peter from Chicago, IL
Loss was tough enough without having to see Valdez-Scantling get on social media to address death threats after the game. The young man was trying to make a play to help the Packers win.
Our culture is shameful.
Paul from Cambridge, MA
The Colts can't stop holding, but they are still demolishing the Packers defense. Make it make sense.
It was nauseating for me to watch Coach Reich stare at his play-call sheet as his offense went backwards on five consecutive holding calls. The play isn't the problem, coach; your players are the problem. Coach them! The Packers were slanting their defensive linemen. Do you remember, we talked about this being a tactic the Packers could use to help stop the run? It required a simple technique adjustment by the Colts. No. 64 needed help. Coach him!
Mitch from Georgetown, KY
What can the Packers do to motivate these players on defense?
Motivation isn't the problem. The problem is the Packers defense is a grab bag of assorted parts. It's a collection of misfit toys. The pieces just aren't fitting.
Randy from Klamath Falls, OR
For over a decade I've known not to depend on the defense to win a game; maybe keep the Packers in the game, but not dominate and win. The offense is something else. I expect it to get the job done most of the time.
That's an accurate description of the unfair expectation the Packers offense, which is to say Aaron Rodgers, faces. The Packers stop the run with their offense by getting a lead that forces the opponent to abandon the run and pass. It nearly worked against the Colts, but Coach Reich didn't allow it to happen. At halftime, he re-committed to the run and it changed the game. Joe Buck said something along the lines of a lot of runs but only three points. Again, it's the narrow view. The Colts had been lured into a passing competition. Reich snapped them out of it. I give him credit for that act of bold coaching. I think Aaron Jones is a heckuva back. If I was his coach, I'd burn his wheels off.
Alberto from Spain
Vic, your explanation about how the run fixes it all is the best summary I’ve read on football tactics. Do you think it can be done if you have a super star pocket QB?
That's when the run is most valuable. It fixes the pass protection because it makes pass-rushers play the run.
Ben from Chicago, IL
If next year is a reset year for the cap, is it in the owners’ interest not to disclose that for now while player contracts are being negotiated?
This will all come to a head as the league heads into a new league year and the start of free agency. What won't teams be able to do if they don't have cap room to do it? Sign free agents. Who won't get the money? The free agents. That's when both sides will be motivated to fix the problem. It's professional football; it's about the money. Please, be patient.
Aiden from Jacksonville, FL
You’ve had a lot of blog posts about running backs and power runners. Can you tell us about Barry Sanders? I'm too young to have seen him play and highlights never truly depict a player accurately.
His elusiveness was amazing. The reason I don't mention him often in this column is he wasn't my kind of back and I don't want to be disrespectful. He was a naturally undisciplined runner. He gave ground and lost yards too often trying to hit a home run. I dislike LeVeon Bell's style for the same reason. I am in awe of what Sanders accomplished and I truly love his temperament for the game. I could say I would've loved to have seen him complemented by a pounder, as Warrick Dunn was by Mike Alstott, but that would've meant taking carries away from Sanders and nobody in their right mind would give the ball to a back averaging 3.1 yards per carry when Sanders was averaging 5.0. Sanders' 6.1 in 1997, for a back who had 335 carries, is nearly beyond belief.
Stephen from Chicago, IL
Where do you rate the importance of center vs., say, running back? Given finding quality big men is critical to begin with, is center a position that can be more or less easily filled by college guards and centers? Specifically for the Packers and Linsley’s upcoming free agency, do the Packers have to think longer about letting Corey go, because he may be the best center in football right now, even if that means they can’t afford Aaron Jones.
Yes, center is a position that can be filled by guards. Dermontti Dawson played center and guard at Kentucky. So, you'd allow Dawson to leave in free agency because the supply of centers is plentiful? The answer to that question would depend on what degree you value the center position. The Steelers have valued that position more than they have left tackle. Ray Mansfield, Mike Webster, Dawson, Jeff Hartings and Maurkice Pouncey represent 50 years of Steelers history, and it's nearly consecutive. How much was Jim Ringo worth to Taylor and Hornung? Jim Langer to Larry Csonka? Mark Stepnoski to Emmitt Smith? If you want to run the ball, it begins at center. Linsley the best center in football? If the Packers think he's that good, and if they truly want to run the ball, they need to sign him. Otherwise, let him go, replacements are plentiful.
Chris from Lexington, KY
Your comment about Noll vs. Lombardi got me thinking about coaching styles over time. Clearly today's coaches have to be more accommodating of the players' needs. Are there coaches you think could be successful in any era?
Lombardi would've adjusted. Noll did. He won two Super Bowls running the ball and then won two Super Bowls throwing the ball when the rules were changed to favor the passing game in 1978. Walsh was a top offensive coordinator in the pre-'78 era, and then he gave us the explosive West Coast offense in the post-'78 era. Belichick is a pre-salary cap product who defines the salary cap era. Lombardi's and Noll's personalities were perfect fits for when they coached, but good coaches will win in any era, as long as they have good players.
Max from Toledo, OH
Do you need to be a slick talker to be a good college coach? How else do you get good players?
Pay them money, give them cars, course credits without attending class, a chaperone service, etc.
Richard from Madison, CT
"You almost need two locker rooms and two coaches." Wasn't that the 1985 Bears?
Yes, it was, but there was nothing soft about the Bears' offense. The offense and defense were cut of the same cloth.
Jeff from Louisville, KY
What do you think would happen in today's NFL if an owner refused to accept the losses for his team, repeatedly accused officials of rigging the games without proof, and then refused to allow his team to play until the losses were overturned?
We'd enjoy the entertainment value of the insanity until the owner went completely nuts and threatened to blow something up.
Nate from Plymouth, MN
You have said many times you love big running backs, and have opined "you're not really running the ball unless you're running with power." Does "Big Boy Football" absolutely require a big back? Have you ever seen a smaller RB who runs with the same power, authority and intimidation factor?
Maurice Jones-Drew ran with power and won a league rushing title, and he played at 5-7, 210. Emmitt Smith is the all-time leading rusher and a true pounder who is one of the most durable players in NFL history, and Smith played at 5-9, 221.
John from Brandon, SD
I loved your comments about establishing the running game and wholeheartedly agree. In this day and age, can an elite quarterback (like Rodgers) and the running game you described co-exist?
It did in 2013 and '14. The Packers offense was never better than when Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy were in the backfield together. Defenses were putting eight in the box and playing single-high safety to stop Lacy, and Rodgers benefitted. He was sacked 51 times in 2012, but only 28 times in '14. His passer rating, 112.2, is the second-best of his career, and there's an evenness to all of his stats that is clearly the result of balance between run and pass. You can see a similar evenness in his stats this year, which I believe is also the result of balance.