"Ask Vic" will publish on Monday and Thursday through the offseason.
Morgan from Little Chute, WI
If you aren't going to participate in all of the combine drills why go?
The most important function of the combine is to perform medical exams on the players. That's why the combine was created.
Dan from Milwaukee, WI
Do you think the depth of the receiver class will lead to most teams waiting to address it?
It makes sense when you consider the premium placed on big guys. I get the sense what you're really asking is: Could the premium on big guys cause a receiver rated higher than the 30th pick of the draft to fall to the Packers? Yes. As I've written, the bottom of the first round is not too high to draft a receiver. I think the Packers have greater need for a big guy, but if the value is in a receiver, pick him. I'll also tell you it has come to my attention the top 10 wide receiver receptions leaders in 2019 ran an average of 4.55 in the 40. What's that tell you about wide receivers? It tells me you don't have to reach for them.
Isaac from Nashville, TN
Vic, how is a single-gapping defense supposed to play the run?
It's called a gap-control defense and in it every player in the defensive front is assigned a gap responsibility, which is known as a run fit. Gap-control is a sound defensive scheme that promotes tackles for a loss, and in gap-control everybody is a pass-rusher, but if one guy fails to man his gap, it can result in a big run. The "Steel Curtain" is the best two-gapping defense I ever covered, and the Marcus Stroud/John Henderson Jaguars defense is the best gap-control defense I ever covered.
Nate from Plymouth, MN
Recently, Pro Football Focus published a list of the best Super Bowl quarterback performances PFF has ever graded. Aaron Rodgers' outing against the Steelers after the 2010 season came in at No. 1, and it wasn't particularly close. What were your thoughts on Rodgers' performance in that game, and what's the greatest Super Bowl you've ever seen from a QB?
Is that the same Pro Football Focus that said the Packers defense was much better than its yardage rankings? Rodgers played a great game. The best I've seen? I don't feel a need to rank my memories. If I did, what Brady did against the Falcons would immediately come to mind, and Roethlisberger's game-winning drive against the Cardinals still amazes me, especially the consecutive passes to Santonio Holmes, the one in the back-left corner of the end zone Holmes dropped and then the mirror-image one in the back-right corner of the end zone Holmes caught to win the game. I'm big on crunch time, and Rodgers made a game-winning crunch time throw against the Steelers that defines his performance in that game.
Michael from Sanford, FL
Where does Mike Hollis rank on the list of kickers you covered, and are you knocking him down a peg because his short kickoffs necessitated the Jaguars use two game-day roster spots on kickers?
This is why I don't like rankings. When you honor one player or one memory, you detract from another. Mike Hollis and Josh Scobee rank right behind Gary Anderson and Mason Crosby, but that's not how I'll remember Mike. Mike is tied for No. 1 on my favorite-kicker-story list. It goes back to the Jaguars' first-ever training camp, in Stevens Point, Wisc. Scott Sisson was the favorite to win the job. Mike was kind of an afterthought in the competition, but right away I could tell he was better than Sisson. Mike got the ball up faster and his kicks had a much more consistent rotation to them. His kicks simply made a better thump sound than Sisson's. I introduced myself to Mike, became friendly with him and my reporter's instinct told me he was going to make a good story. Nevertheless, Sisson continued to get the reps, right down to the final preseason game, when Sisson missed a PAT kick. Maybe that was the final straw. Mike won the job and he was, in fact, a great story, especially in the Jaguars' '96 run to the AFC title game.
Benjamin from Vestal, NY
Who’s the most eloquent player you have covered?
Joe Greene. "I have a very cavalier attitude toward Cleveland," he said. It's one of my favorites. Not once did Joe play the "I just want to contribute" card. He always had something thoughtful and meaningful to offer to a worthy question.
Steve from Phoenix, AZ
I got an unpleasant chill when reading your tongue-in-cheek response about McCarthy's accent becoming easier to understand under different circumstances. It felt prescient.
It wasn't tongue in cheek.
Brian from Iron Mountain, MI
Did you cover Dan Marino’s last game?
Yes, and I also covered the final game in the careers of Johnny Unitas, Terry Bradshaw and Jim Kelly. The combined deficit Marino and Unitas faced in those games -- Unitas was benched at halftime -- was 97-7.
Jason from Austin, TX
Vic, if the "Steel Curtain" is considered the most dominant defensive line in NFL history, is there an equivalent offensive line/running game in NFL history you think could run effectively against them?
Hogs vs. Steel Curtain would be a great confrontation.
Jack from Chicago, IL
Do you have any examples of under-and-up throwers who got into turnover trouble?
Byron Leftwich had an under-and-up throwing motion and I think it cost him a great career. Byron had great instincts for the position. He was a natural-born leader and winner. He was big, tough, courageous and intelligent. He wasn't mobile but he knew where his receivers were and how to dump it down to avoid the rush. Everything about Byron was an up arrow except for that horrible under-and-up throwing motion. He got the ball knocked out of his hand too often and his long throwing motion was an invitation for pass-rushers. Byron was Dan Marino with the worst throwing motion I have ever seen. Also, Byron held the ball as I had never seen another quarterback hold it. He ran his fingers down the laces, more than across the laces. I figured it was a backyard creation from his childhood, but one day I happened to notice Chad Pennington held the ball the same way Byron did. I assumed it was something they had been taught at Marshall.
Cassidy from Carlsbad, CA
What was the rationale for the 1978 rules change that allowed the offensive linemen to use their hands to block?
Defense was dominating. There wasn't enough scoring. The losing team in Super Bowls VI-IX didn't score more than seven points. The rules changes of 1978 were intended to promote the passing game, which is exactly what they did. In that season's Super Bowl, the Steelers beat the Cowboys in a 35-31 thriller. The game was changed forever.
Alex from Orlando, FL
Vic, has Paul Azinger been a good replacement for Johnny Miller?
Miller is still the best -- I watched a TPC replay the other night just to listen to Miller -- but Azinger has really grown into the role. In the beginning, I thought he was too much of a player apologist, but with time he has become a more balanced analyst. I love his succinct technical evaluations. In the Honda, he quickly explained why Gary Woodland had chunked a chip. "Hands ahead cause the leading edge to dig," Azinger said. I knew exactly what he meant; it was Milleresque analysis. On the flip side, Paul grossly misspoke during the second round of the Honda. The coverage provided a visual of a brown pelican standing majestically near a green. David Feherty said he heard brown pelicans go blind from diving head first into the surf and then starve to death because they can't find food. "That's absolutely true," Azinger. It's absolutely not true. They do not go blind from diving head first into the surf and then die of starvation because they can't find food. I can't imagine how that morose story of kamikaze pelicans came to become beach lore, but it has been debunked. Brown pelicans live to be 15-25 years old, which is a long life for a bird. Human behavior is the greatest threat to the brown pelican.
Dave from Savage, MN
I have a book to read about Joe Namath and his time with Bear Bryant at Alabama. Do you have any stories from Namath's time in high school or after?
He played for Beaver Falls. A stupid rule required a team to be undefeated and untied to play for the Western Pa. title. Beaver Falls was the only undefeated and untied team in Namath's senior season, therefore, they won the title without having to play a title game. It angered me. Hey, step out of the Beaver Valley and play somebody, OK?
Bryan from Spartanburg, SC
Vic, you mentioning Rocky Bleier in your column made me think of an article I read a couple of months ago. Bleier was talking about an issue he had when he was playing and the writer asked him if he had talked with Coach Noll about it and Bleier responded he had never had a personal conversation with Chuck Noll. I found that surprising. Was that Noll's personality or just how coaches handled players back then?
Paul Brown said "I'll tell you when you do it wrong; I pay you to do it right." Coach Noll played for Brown. It was the way coaches were back then. Getting close to your players might've been perceived as a weakness. It made cutting a guy difficult and might've clouded a coach's decision making. I can only remember one such example of weakness in Chuck's career. He cut Dwaine Board to avoid cutting Dwight White, who had come out of a hospital bed to play in Super Bowl IX. Keeping White and cutting Board was a mistake and I'm sure Chuck knew it. Lombardi used a good cop, bad cop personality to keep his distance. Still, in the end he quit instead of having to cut the guys who won for him. Fans want love, but football is not a loving game. Chuck expressed his love for his players in unique ways. He told them football was something they would do for a short time before they got on with their life's work, and he applauded them when they moved on. He never capitalized on his success by taking endorsement money. He believed endorsement money should be left for the players, who had short careers and needed to profit as much as possible in the time they had in the limelight.
David from Calistoga, CA
I recently read a fringe presidential candidate suggest the invention of a transhumanist Olympics, a second division of athletics, where medical science and radical technology are encouraged and celebrated through new sport. I’m intrigued; what are your thoughts on the concept?
Fringe presidential candidate? Is he running on the Nutso Party ticket? Maybe he's the guy who started that story about brown pelicans. Are we talking about using athletes as lab rats to create a quarterback with a third eye to watch the pass rush? A wide receiver with an extra finger on each hand? A Packers defender who could stop the run?
Saikat from Niskayuna, NY
Which books have you been reading recently?
I'm re-reading Michener's "Kent State," as this is the 50th anniversary year of that event in my life. I've had to put the book down several times because the details upset me.
William from Savannah, GA
Vic, did you watch the 1980 Olympic hockey game between the U.S. and Russia? That game, 9/11, the Cuban missile crisis and the Kennedy assassination were about the only four events in my lifetime that really united this country, in my opinion. From your perspective, did I miss any?
I'll add the moon landing and Kate Smith singing "God Bless America" before the 1976 Flyers/Red Army hockey game. Everyone in the Spectrum was singing, and then the Flyers bounced the Soviets off every board on the ice. "They're going home!"