Nick from Oswego, NY
Is it worth trying to get Mack for a year as rental before letting him walk in free agency and getting a good comp pick?
In my opinion, it would be more trouble than it's worth. The Packers have yet to sign Aaron Rodgers to a new contract. What message would it send should the team spend big on Khalil Mack but drag its feet on a new deal for Rodgers? I think it would be an unsettling message that could become a distraction. The Packers aren't one player away. I think it would be in their best interest to remain committed to their current roster and whatever strategy they have for developing it.
Jerry from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
Does the fact players today consider themselves to be their own brand make them more sensitive to reporters comments or observations?
The best way for a player to build his brand is by using a willing media to do it. The media loved Joe Greene. What do you think that did for his brand and the Coke commercial that became one of the great creations in advertising history?
Mikey from Tallahassee, FL
Who's the greatest preseason player you've covered that couldn't translate the same success to the regular season?
A running back named Jack Deloplaine.
Kevin from New Orleans, LA
Vic, would you be opposed to or in favor of the playoffs changing to an eight-team format with no first-round bye? If it were that way last year, the Patriots would have hosted the red-hot Chargers in the wild card round. That's a game I would have liked to see.
I'm strongly in favor of an eight-team, no-byes playoff format. Be that as it may, the Chargers were on a three-game winning streak last season when they played at New England and lost, 21-13.
Richard from St. Augustine, FL
Do you miss having the immediate access to players and coaches? Do you miss the camaraderie of the NFL and your fellow sports writers?
Yeah, I miss it, especially on game day. I miss the press box. I miss seeing people I've known for a long time but would only see once or twice a year. I miss the postgame interviews. I always felt that was when telling the truth couldn't be avoided. I miss Mike McCarthy's and Aaron Rodgers' postgame interviews. They were good copy. At Jack Lambert's Hall of Fame induction ceremony, he said if he could do it all over again, he'd be a professional football player, and you damn well better believe he'd be a Pittsburgh Steeler. Well, if I could do it all over again, I'd be a sports writer, and you damn well better believe I'd cover the Steelers, the Jaguars and the Packers.
Dave from Seattle, WA
“Defense was also a problem during the Favre era." Uhhh, no, Vic, it wasn’t! At least not at the beginning. From 1995-1999, the Packers had a top five defense each year. Reggie White and company supplied Favre with a defense to win at least two Super Bowls, yet, Favre only made it one Super Bowl. The way the Packers won the Super Bowl was with the defense and Desmond Howards’ returns. I need to remind you, Favre is easily the leading interception leader in NFL history.
The Packers defense was horrible in Super Bowl XXXII. The only thing it did right was intentionally allow the Broncos to score, or did they?
Justin from Richmond, VA
As I become older, I find myself becoming far less passionate about sports. Why is that?
You're overexposed to sports. You've seen too many games to get excited about the current one. After a while, the seasons begin to run together. We begin to draw comparisons of one season to a previous season. It's as though we're reliving history. Frankly, I like it.
Mike from Fort Wayne, IN
Vic, I've been reading some history on Jim Thorpe. Do you have any thoughts or stories to share about him? Do you think he would be the type of player that would be able to play in today's game, considering how great an athlete he was?
LOL, no player from the past could possibly be as good as today's players. Don't you know? Today's players are bigger, stronger, faster, better. Can't you tell by what great blockers and tacklers they are? I mean, what would Jim Thorpe have been without those sticky gloves he wore? And that story about him running down and catching his own punt is just an urban legend, even though it was reported by credible newspapers. And what about that story about Thorpe getting tackled hard on a play and then going back to the huddle and asking the same play be called again so he could punish the guy who tackled him? He probably dropped his head and hit him, and that's a violation of the current player safety movement. Hmmm, it makes me wonder what Thorpe would've been like with a facemask on those ear muffs they called a helmet.
Cindy from Los Angeles, CA
Vic, one of the articles about the new AAF contained a quote from a coach saying essentially they have plenty of skill players but, like the NFL, are having trouble finding big men. Do you think the relative lack of elite, 300-pound athletes contributes to football's evolution toward basketball on grass? Players have gotten bigger and stronger over the years; perhaps we've reached a tipping point?
You gotta get the big guys early. They'll find them, or they'll manufacture them.
Anthony from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, why change preseason? Speaking specifically as a Packers fan, it's a chance for fans to go to a game and celebrate with one another. Maybe that's where football gets it wrong. Every game has to mean something. Not every game is important in baseball. Football, everything is important.
Here's the difference: In baseball, you hit a ball. In football, you hit each other.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
Given the solid play of Hundley and Kizer, and without being able to stash them on the practice squad, should the Packers consider keeping three QBs on the roster?
I think they should. The position is so valuable I wouldn't cut one of them and give him away for free. Hold onto both of them. I guarantee, some team will get injured at the position and be willing to trade for one of the two guys.
Alice from Philadelphia, PA
Vic, if players, not plays is true, why did the Saints struggle so much in 2012 when Sean Payton was suspended, but returned to 2011 form in 2013 when Payton came back?
The plays didn't change; the coaching staff remained largely the same. What changed was the Saints lost their leader. Payton's replacement was a lame duck, and that almost never works.
Todd from Brookfield, WI
You indicated we are strong at QB this year, but how can we trust what we've seen in preseason after what happened with Hundley last year? Do you think the backup really will be better prepared?
Never trust the preseason. It is proof of nothing. Trust what you saw last season. Hundley had his moments of promise. So did Kizer. Yes, I think the Packers will be better prepared this year to deal with an injury to Rodgers.
Max from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, what storylines intrigue you going into the 2018 season? I'd be curious to see what you'll be following beyond the Steelers, Jaguars and Packers.
What does Tom Brady have left in the tank? Can Andrew Luck make a comeback? Is Jon Gruden as good a coach as he is a TV analyst? What rookie quarterback will become a star? What losing team will make the step up to playoff team?
Travis from Sobieski, WI
Saw Vito Stellino tweet “Steelers had zero playoff wins from 1933 until the Immaculate Reception in 1972.” Now they lead the NFL in total playoff wins. That’s pretty remarkable. Nowadays, the Steelers are a team revered in football lore, but what was their reputation before the Immaculate Reception?
Their reputation was for being a physically punishing team that usually won the battle but lost the war. They always seemed to have bad luck. Art Rooney found the coach, Jock Sutherland, who would reverse the team's fortunes, but then Sutherland died. Buddy Parker once said the Steelers would one day find good luck and it would last 10 years. That's almost exactly what happened when Chuck Noll became the team's coach. The league's most dysfunctional franchise became the league's most stable franchise.
Mike from Las Vegas, NV
So the one player away mentality is dangerous. I guess I get that, but what one player past or present would give the Packers the best chance at getting to the Super Bowl this year?
The Packers need a dominant force on defense. They need an Aaron Donald. Khalil Mack isn't Aaron Donald.
Tom from Bismarck, ND
Vic, you certainly know Tom Coughlin better than probably any reporter in the field. Exactly how long will he put up with what seems to be an over-abundance of immature lip flapping. They have a real nice defense, a good coach and a decent offense, but they seem to be falling into the trap so many young teams on the rise often do. They seem caught up in a hype their own players and fan base have created. In simple terms, they haven't really done anything, yet. They're drawing a big target on their backs with all the premature and immature talk.
I don't want Coughlin to gag his players. If Jalen Ramsey wants to shoot off his mouth, let him do it. It makes for good theater.
Dustin from Ashwaubenon, WI
What did your eyes tell you after the first round of preseason games?
My eyes told me every team is trying to do the same thing: Get through the preseason with a minimum of effort and risk. I don't think the games are any more important in talent evaluation than practices are. There's no reason to play more than two preseason games, other than for the lost revenue and because the players won't agree to 18 regular-season games.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
When would you trade a draft pick for a proven veteran?
If the veteran addresses immediate need, his price doesn't significantly weaken the team's draft position and the player's contract is favorable to the team's cap and the potential for re-signing him, I say go for it. Those trades are available from time to time. Mark Brunell (though unproven) was a great get for the Jaguars and Jerome Bettis (proven) was the same for the Steelers but, by and large, I think the majority of trades favor the team that got the pick.
Bertha from Canton, OH
You saw both QBs for the Packers. What did you like?
They both moved the ball. They both have the distinct appearance of a quality backup quarterback. In my opinion, the Packers are strong at quarterback.
Kier from Gagetown, NB
Vic, I liked Pettine's first game. Young guys trying to win their one-on-ones. Nothing fancy, just go beat your guy.
It's no different than any other preseason. Frankly, I didn't see much that jumped out at me. I'll be looking for stronger individual performance on defense in the next preseason game.
Matt from Winfield (wherever that is)
Vic, is it safe to be excited about Reggie Gilbert and Montravius Adams?
If it makes you feel good, go ahead, but what's the gain in it? Make them prove it to you. Put the burden on the defense to perform. Tony Pauline loved Adams at the Senior Bowl. OK, show me what you got. That's the tack I'm taking this season in regards to the defense. No more blaming its failures on the coordinator. It's time for the players to be accountable for the performance of the defense.
Karl from Albuquerque, NM
Vic, I was fortunate to watch Urlacher his whole college career. During it and in the times as a pro I watched him and in his highlight reels it seems he tackled with the shoulder, not the head. Do you suppose he was just taught differently in his early years?
That's not it. All players are taught proper technique, and "hit what you see but see what you hit" is a philosophy that goes back to my high school days. It's been my experience that bigger, stronger players tend to tackle with their head up, whereas smaller, less powerful players tend to duck their head so they can get more force and protection into their strike. Brian Urlacher is a big man and he played that way.
Scott from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, I was hoping to see three columns from you this week. Are you still planning to expand your offerings to us readers?
I plan to begin publishing three columns a week (M-W-F) during the first week of the regular season. The news coming out of training camps is pretty dry.
Terry from Jasper, IN
With Bulaga and Bakhtiari out, Murphy and Bell are the starting offensive tackles. It seems Jason Spriggs is about as low as you can go on the depth chart. Vic, can you comment on his play and what is holding him back?
Based on what I saw last season, Spriggs needs to get stronger at the point of attack. Apparently, improvement in that regard hasn't been dramatic enough, yet, in this camp.
Richard from Clearwater, MN
You have mentioned Marcus Mariota favorably in a few answers in recent articles. His stats aren't bad but not eye-popping, either. What is it about Mariota and his game that intrigues you?
No. 1, he moves with grace and ease; he's an impressive physical specimen. Additionally, I think he's an accurate passer, he moves the pocket and forces defenses to respect his running ability, and I love the grit he showed in the Kansas City playoff game. I think he needs to get stronger in the pocket, make decisions more quickly and throw with more decisiveness from the pocket, and I think all of that will come with experience. I'm inclined to forgive his unimpressive stats from last season and blame them on a nagging, season-long injury. This could be a defining year for Mariota.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, do you think Green Bay has failed to surround Aaron Rodgers with the high-caliber players needed to win a Super Bowl? If so, did they have a similar issue when Favre was QB?
Let's not forget, the Packers have won a Super Bowl with Rodgers as their quarterback. I believe they also surrounded him with the players needed to win a Super Bowl in 2014. Defensively, they've struggled with personnel, but I think we need to remember they were drafting from the bottom of the order during their Rodgers-era playoff run. Defense was also a problem during the Brett Favre years. It's almost as though it's in the Packers' DNA to play great offense but soft defense. I only know of one way to change that: Draft better players. Maybe that's starting to happen. We'll see.
Beau from Lancaster, PA
Vic, did you enjoy the final round of the PGA?
Tiger's birdie on 18 to not win the tournament was thrilling. It's the highlight of the majors season.
Bob from Beaver Dam, WI
What does Tiger mean to golf's popularity?
The 2018 PGA won't be remembered for Brooks Koepka's second majors win of the year. It won't be remembered for Koepka becoming possibly the best player on the planet. The tournament will be remembered for being another leg in Tiger Woods' comeback. I'll remember it for the throngs of fans that cheered his every swing. It made me wonder what it is about the nefarious that excites and attracts the human spirit. Whatever it is, he's back. He played a lot of good golf this year. He'll go into the 2019 season as a majors favorite. His pursuit of Jack Nicklaus will be the No. 1 story of the '19 season. In terms of attracting fans and the lens of the TV camera, he's still the game's most dominant figure.
David from Madison, WI
Would you tell us something interesting about Neil Graff?
I covered one game in which he was the quarterback of record. It was the week after Terry Bradshaw broke his wrist in a game and the Steelers found themselves having to finish that game with Tony Dungy, a safety, playing quarterback. Graff was an emergency signing. I remember him handing the ball off to Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier in a play-not-to-lose offensive scheme that relied on the Steelers defense to beat the Bengals, which the Steelers did. I remember Graff throwing a handful of passes for a meaningless few yards in a really boring game to watch. I wish I could see it again. It was a beautiful game because I was young and just beginning a career that would be full of thrills and memories. What do I remember about Neil Graff? I remember I'll never forget him.
Nick from Seattle, WA
Vic, you mentioned the expansion draft in 2002. How did the expansion teams get their players? Does the process leave them at a disadvantage or an advantage?
It's a simple system: The other teams in the league are required to leave a designated number of players on their roster unprotected, from which the expansion team or teams may select. In 1995, the Jaguars picked first and the Panthers picked second. In the '02 expansion draft, the Texans bailed the Jaguars out of a salary cap mess by assuming the remaining amortization of the Jaguars players they selected, the star of which was Tony Boselli and his huge cap proration. The Jaguars' cap situation was such they couldn't have gotten under the cap without the Texans' help. Boselli didn't recover from his shoulder surgery and never played a down for the Texans.
Mikey from Tallahassee, FL
As preseason officially gets underway, are you watching any particular stories among the three teams you've covered?
The big story with the Packers is the development of a new defensive system and personnel. We begin to get a look at the early results tonight. The Steelers have two big issues: running back and defense. All eyes with be on James Conner at running back, where Le'Veon Bell's absence has become a troubling distraction. Defensively, the Steelers were soft most of last season and then embarrassingly ineffective late in the year following Ryan Shazier's season-ending injury. The Steelers drafted for defense. Will those picks give the Steelers what they need? The Jaguars only have one big issue, quarterback, and we're not likely to get the information we need on Blake Bortles until the regular season begins.
Grant from Wauwautosa, WI
Vic, what would Jermichael Finley have meant to the 2014 Packers?
Maybe he would've caught that third-down pass in Seattle in the 2014 NFC title game. Game over! I think Finley was the perfect big receiver in the middle of the field Mike McCarthy covets, and then he went over the middle against the Browns and his career was over. It was a big loss for the Packers.
Nick from Oswego, NY
Are the Browns finally ready to start winning some games?
Yes, they're ready to begin winning some games, but that's not the issue confronting them. When do they pull the plug on Tyrod Taylor and plug in Baker Mayfield? That's the real story in Cleveland and there's no avoiding it.
Carl from Blue Mounds, WI
Vic, you always say players, not plays. I believe this to be true but wonder what makes great players? Pure athletic talent? Intelligence to process a NFL playbook? Unrelenting work ethic? Luck to stay healthy? If you had to rank what makes an NFL player great, how would you rank those attributes?
Ability is No. 1. Toughness is No. 2. Then you can stir in all of those other ingredients, in any order you'd like.
Steve from Minocqua, WI
Vic, it’s been 10 years since the Packers traded Brett Favre. As a reporter looking at the drama from the outside back then, what were your thoughts and opinions about the matter?
It was a soap opera and an embarrassing distraction. The Packers did the right thing, they just did it the wrong way. They vacillated. They allowed Favre and the media to make the franchise look as though it was groveling. It was time to move on. They had their man and it was time to step into his future. I admire them for that awareness, and I remember writing as much in an in-game blog during a preseason game in 2007. Yeah, I was a year too soon with that remark, or was I?
Kris from Stockbridge, WI
Was Jim Caldwell fired too soon?
I believe he was. I think he had the Lions on the rise.
Rodney from Zillah, WA
Vic, If you were the Packers GM, would you trade their first-round pick next year for Khalil Mack? They would still have the Saints' first pick.
I don't subscribe to the one player away philosophy. I think it's a dangerous flirt with fate. First-round picks are gold, and two of them in one draft give a team maneuverability that can change the future. Picks, not players.
Ted from Bronkers, MS
Eric Weddle said run-pass options are a fad. He ended with this statement: "Teams that run the ball and take shots are usually the hard teams to beat." I liked the sound of that, Vic. How about you?
Pound and bomb is the best. It's the style of offense defenses fear the most because you have to bring a safety down to stop the pound, and when you do that you get the bomb.
Vincent from Seattle, WA
Vic, with Jerry Kramer finally in the Hall of Fame, do you have any Steelers from the past you feel should be selected?
I think Donnie Shell had a Hall of Fame career.
David from Madison, WI
What are your thoughts on executives getting enshrined?
The Hall of Fame is a marketing tool. That's why it was created and that's why I say the men who are selected to it need to be famous. Great players and coaches become household names. Front office executives? Not so much. There aren't many front office types whose selection to the Hall of Fame is going to excite fans or promote the game. I think the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducts too many members in its annual classes. When the average fan asks "who's that?" you've got a problem.
Adam from Chicago, IL
Which AFC South quarterback will have the best year in 2018?
Steve from Montclair, NJ
What would happen if football revenue decreased and, therefore, the salary cap decreased? If the contracted players' salaries exceed the new salary cap, what would the teams need to do?
Even if the cap decreased, I doubt it would decrease so dramatically teams couldn't achieve compliance without a few cuts or re-structures. I think you're curious as to how the league would handle a situation in which a team couldn't achieve cap compliance, which would've been the Jaguars' situation had it not been for the Texans expansion draft in 2002, and the Redskins were saved from that same circumstance by a new CBA. So, what happens when a team can't get under the cap? The league would void contracts in chronologically reverse order until the team is under the cap, and then it would likely forgive the dead money acceleration by slapping the team with a harsh fine and penalty in the form of lost draft picks.
Beth from Edisto Island, SC
Sponge or dish cloth?
Dish cloth, because the sponge is loaded with bacteria.
Rocco from Green Bay, WI
What are your favorite current rivalries?
Packers-Vikings and Steelers-Bengals. I like angry football.
Sean-Luc from Oceanside, CA
What did you make of the comments Rodgers made regarding the rookie WRs? Poor leadership skills or a clever form of motivation?
Aaron Rodgers has reached a level of esteem that allows him to make that kind of remark, but it's still dangerous to call out teammates. It can cause enmity. I don't think teams need to hug, but they must not bite.
Isaac from Nashville, TN
Vic, I watched the Hall of Fame game and, after those two helmet calls, I found myself wondering if it's now actually impossible to play defense. I know it's unlikely the NFL would give an advantage to defensive players, but could you imagine a rule change that might even the field at least a little bit?
The last thing the game needs is another rule. Too many rules and interpretations have been added to the rulebook and, maybe even more devastatingly, to the lexicon of explanation. I've made pro football the focus of my entire adult life and the game has become somewhat unfamiliar to me. What I know to be true is the best thing about football has become the worst thing about football. What made football popular is now threatening to destroy it. The game was not built on safe. I'm going to avoid passing judgment on this issue until after the preseason has passed and the NFL will have used these games to drive home a message, but I won't hesitate to express my opinion once the regular season begins. My fear is the competition committee, encouraged by the commissioner and the owners that support him, has gone too far. There's a line in the player safety sand. Has the league crossed it? We'll see.
Eric from Colorado Springs, CO
What do you think about tying player contract increases to the increase in the salary cap. "We make money, you make money."It's a very successful corporate strategy. Is something like that even allowed?
It's what the cap does. The more football revenue increases, the more the cap and salaries increase. The amount of that increase (or decrease, should that ever occur) is adjusted annually.
Pat from Seneca, SC
What, if anything, do you prefer about college football in comparison to the NFL?
I've always enjoyed college football's regionality. I think it's always been the charm of its game, the pride that goes with each region's quality of play and the clash of that pride in intersectional battles. The problem is college football has lost a large measure of that regionality. Penn State plays in the Midwest. Texas A&M plays in the Southeast. Schools are playing where they don't live, and I think we're going to see more and more of that as conferences are expanded. It's not about region anymore, it's about money.
Aaron from White Hall, AR
Vic, I respect and value your opinion and I was wondering what your thoughts are on the Urban Meyer situation? To me, if he is guilty of knowing the details and doing nothing about it, we will have found out if Ohio State is about winning or integrity.
I think I can end the suspense: It's about winning.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, when Terry Bradshaw told you "his arm was dead and he couldn't throw," what struggle did you have between reporting a major scoop and being loyal to the team?
I didn't struggle with a decision. I went to practice, Bradshaw didn't raise his arm above his shoulder to throw a football, as he predicted, and I reported what I saw.
Karl from Albuquerque, NM
Vic, when I was in junior high I struggled with reading and writing. In essence, I was illiterate. My parents' concern actually led them to actually have me professionally tested to see what was wrong. It turns out nothing was wrong, I just wasn't interested in reading or writing, until ninth grade and Jerry Kramer's book, "Instant Replay." I just needed something I was interested in reading. As such, "Instant Replay" taught me to read. I'm now an attorney who has argued in front of and drafted briefs for the New Mexico Supreme Court, with no small thanks to Jerry Kramer's book.
I sincerely hope Kramer will somehow find this column. I have no doubt he'd love reading your tribute to him.
Derek from Las Vegas, NV
"Are you a football man or are you a soccer man? You can't be both." Vic, my Madden 19 and FIFA 19 pre-orders say otherwise!
Video games define the man? That's funny.
Jack from Chicago, IL
Vic, the Hall of Fame game made me really sad. I am not sure I can continue watching what the NFL is becoming. I am hoping the calls in the preseason are a little more extreme than what will be called during the regular season to emphasize the point. Maybe I am just being hopeful, as I cling to my fond memories of football. I planned on raising my family around the Packers, just like I was brought up. Thursday night broke my heart.
The NFL's marketing research says you'll continue to raise your family around the Packers as you accumulate new memories. I'm not so sure. A long time ago, a wise man who covered the game when pro football was struggling to find a foothold, gestured through the press box glass at the packed stadium and said to me, "It doesn't have to be like this." I can't help but think the NFL has become smug, and that includes the players. If the product gets soft, will the fans go away? I think that's the question that interests me most about today's game.
Dan from Waupun, WI
We sure hear a lot about Aaron Rodgers' contract. Did they talk a lot about contracts in the '70s?
Yeah, but there was no salary cap so contracts weren't the issue they are today. The Packers have to be careful to avoid Rodgers' pursuit of a new contract from becoming a distraction. If they're not going to get it done before the season begins, I think they need to suspend negotiations until after the season is over.
Nathan from San Diego, CA
What has covering football taught you about life?
In some ways, it's taught me everything. It taught me how to be accountable for my words. I think that's No. 1.
Nick from Seattle, WA
Vic, sounds like you would get along with Pettine. "Mindset over scheme, that it doesn't really matter what we're playing, it's more how we play it."
That's players, not plays, and I've never known a coach who believed otherwise. The fans are counting on Mike Pettine's plays. Pettine is counting on his players. In my opinion, it's the Packers' new players on defense that give them hope for improvement. If they lined up this year with the same defensive personnel they used last season, the results would be the same.
Patrick from Ashland, WI
Help me with my obviously poor offensive line observation skills. The Packers certainly have had some troubles on short to go. Maybe all teams have. Do you think zone blocking isn't effective on short? If it isn't, can an offensive line just switch to drive blocking all of a sudden?
Zone blocking is about moving laterally. In my opinion, zone blocking lines play too high to be effective drive blockers. They don't know how to drop their pads, sink their hips and drive. Height is an aid to the walling up technique in the zone-blocking scheme, but height is the enemy of low pad level. I find it interesting that as offensive lines have gotten taller, defensive lines have gotten shorter. Aaron Donald is a shade over six foot and he's the best defensive lineman in the game. Mike Daniels is six foot and he's the Packers' best defensive lineman. Zone blocking is an effective scheme for finding a way to run the ball and still concentrate on pass blocking, but it is not an effective means for moving the line of scrimmage and converting third and one. If I was the coach of a zone blocking team, I'd be looking for a Sam Cunningham back to go up over the top on third and one.
Min Shik from Seoul, South Korea
Does 4-3, 3-4 distinction even matter much anymore?
It matters as each pertains to the style of defense it plays, gap control or two gap. It's not about formation, it's about function. If you're going to commit to a 3-4 defense and a two-gap system, you need to find guys who can play the Okie end. Datone Jones couldn't do it; neither could Jerrell Worthy. They were miscast. You can draw up all the plays you want, but you have to find guys who can execute them.
Braden from Milwaukee, WI
Thursday night, Packers vs. Titans. With a new defensive coordinator, can I take anything out of the defensive formations I see? Or is it vanilla and not showing the competition anything.
Watch the one-on-ones. Keep a one-on-one scoreboard. The team that wins the one-on-one scoreboard wins the game. Nothing else matters.
Joe from Rhinelander, WI
Vic, in the old days of two-a-day practices, what were the pros and cons of being a beat reporter for the morning newspaper versus the beat reporter for the afternoon paper?
The morning guy almost always got the scoop, which forced the afternoon guy to do a better job of framing his stories and finding fresh story angles and information. I viewed the difference as morning guys being reporters and afternoon guys being writers.
Adam from Chicago, IL
What do the Wisconsin Badgers have to do to take that next step this year?
I think all Wisconsin fans know the answer to that question: The Badgers need to win the Big 10 title. Weak schedules demand big wins when the opportunities present themselves.
Chris from Cazenovia, WI
Vic, what makes an excellent boiled peanut experience?
It begins with a clean peel. A good football season ends with one.
Aric from Oshkosh, WI
Vic, I love hearing your stories about the grit and character of the players you've met during your career. Without asking for a name, is there a moment you can point to where a player said something that made you realize they did not have that quality and would have to find their calling outside of football?
There have been times I've interviewed players who've given me the feeling they were above being grateful for the opportunity to play professional football. Some guys never leave college. They come into pro football with a cavalier attitude. When I size up a young player, I want to know if he can be a pro. Does he want to measure himself against the best? Before a player's body can make the jump from college football to the NFL, his heart and mind has to make that leap. He must want to be a professional football player.
Steve from Omaha, NE
Vic, Mike Spofford mentioned half-line drills have not been a part of training camp thus far. He mentioned full-line drills are being used and speculated it was due to running backs cutting back rather than hitting the hole. You called it, one step closer to a kinder, gentler league.
The Packers are a zone-blocking front and its signature run is the "stretch play," which demands the back cut back behind his blockers as they move laterally. Half-line drills aren't a "stretch play" kind of drill. Half-line drills are a telephone booth-sized exercise about winning the point of attack. I think half-lines are more about defense than they are about offense. What's wrong with that? I like the thump. Thumps are good.
Eddie from Glasgow, Scotland
Vic, do you think the Jags are on the brink of a Super Bowl?
I think you could make a point for the Jaguars being an on the brink kind of team. If they had a Marcus Mariota or a Deshaun Watson at quarterback, I'd definitely put the Jaguars in the on the brink category. I need to see the Jaguars stop playing around Blake Bortles, as they did in the overtime against the Jets and in the fourth quarter of the AFC title game. Championship teams have to be able to put the game in their quarterback's hands at crunch time. The Titans did that with Mariota in the playoff win over the Chiefs.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, which of your franchise quarterbacks was the most fun to cover and interview?
It was Terry Bradshaw, by far. He was an entertainer and the media was a willing audience. I'll always be indebted to him for being an enthusiastic and cooperative interview. He gave me a lot of good stories, the best of which was the day before his final game. He told me his arm was dead and he couldn't throw, and he wasn't lying. Where is a reporter going to get that kind of honesty today?
Stephen from Jacksonville, FL
Of the Steelers, Jaguars and Packers, how would you rank those teams entering the 2018 season from most to least likely to win their respective conference championship? What is the greatest obstacle each individual team will have to overcome to give themselves the best chance to play in Super Bowl LIII?
The Jaguars are No. 1. They earned that distinction by beating the Steelers twice last year. The Jaguars' No. 1 challenge, in my opinion, is being able to match up at the quarterback position, which could become especially true within their own division. The Steelers have stars on offense, but their defense was horribly soft last season. They'll have to prove to me they've improved on defense before I consider them to be an AFC title game contender. The Packers are re-tooling on defense. If they hit a home run with the two top-pick cornerbacks, the Packers can be contenders. The Packers' greatest obstacle is the Vikings. There would appear to be a significant talent gap between the two teams. Aaron Rodgers will be expected to close the gap.
Kaleb from Corvallis, OR
So, if you had to list training camp teams that are on the verge, in their prime, and holding on, who would they be?
I think the Vikings are on the verge, the Falcons are in their prime and the Patriots are hanging on. Those are what I consider to be the best examples.
Matt from San Diego, CA
If a young Vic had the opportunity to ask Bobby Layne one question, what do you think it would have been?
I would've asked him why he didn't wear a facemask.
Dustin from Orlando, FL
I saw a video clip of the Jaguars camp featuring defensive linemen vs. offensive linemen in one-on-one drills. It looked an awful lot like an Oklahoma drill without the running back and cones. Maybe there is hope.
It's an Oklahoma without the ball. It works for me, but I prefer the drama that accompanies the Oklahoma. Let's get the whole team involved in the drill. I like the hooting and hollering. The Oklahoma drill is a tone setter. It sets the edge.
David from Madison, WI
A writer referred to "underneath speed." What was he referring to?
He was probably referring to a defensive back or linebacker who didn't have the speed to cover in the open or deep third of the field.
Matthew from Oshkosh, WI
Vic, it's looking like the Packers and Rodgers won't get a deal done this year and I keep reading reports Aaron has thrown seven interceptions already in practice. Maybe the front office knows something us fans haven't realized. Rodgers' arm might not be the same after that injury.
Why the rush to judgment? Let's just wait. Frankly, I think it's best for both parties to take their time on a new deal. Getting it right is more important than getting it done.
Omar from Morelia, Mexico
Vic, here is a quote from Jerry Kramer's “Instant Replay” that may help Packers fans understand it’s all about the money: “Vince talked today about the third straight championship, talked about how no team has ever won three NFL playoffs in a row, and he said that if we could do it we’d earn lasting recognition through the years." Nitschke called out, “Let’s get the money. Let’s get my car paid for.”
Motivation comes in many forms. One of my favorite pep talk stories goes back to the Lou Saban days in Buffalo. In the locker room at halftime of an AFL title game against the Chargers, Saban was about to speak to his team when he was pushed aside by bruising running back Cookie Gilchrist. Gilchrist looked his teammates in the eye and said: "If we lose this game, I'm gonna kick the (expletive) out of every (expletive) in this room." The Bills won the game. Whatever it takes.
Pat from Seneca, SC
Did you know about the tuck rule prior to the Patriots-Raiders playoff game? What was your reaction when it was called?
I knew about the rule. It was one of those rules in the rulebook that didn't get called, as was the "around the world" rule. The surprise was the tuck rule was being enforced.
Adam from Wausau, WI
What are five talents you have accumulated over your professional career that made you successful.
How about two? I wrote quickly and I cared about the game and the players and the coaches on whom I was reporting.
Ryan from Bloomer, WI
Vic, one can't help but notice how much more often you reference Coach Noll quotes compared to other coaches you covered (McCarthy, Coughlin, Cowher). I love the perspective and the truth I get from these; it helps me to understand him and that era of football much better. But it leaves me wanting to hear more from the modern-era coaches you covered. Other than the difference in era and accessibility from Noll to the modern-era coaches, is there any reason Coach Noll is so much more in your column?
Ryan, Coach Noll is a modern-era coach. So is Coach Lombardi. The modern era of professional football is considered to have begun with the 1958 NFL title game. I reference Coach Noll because I respect him as a coach and as a man of vision, intelligence and poise more than any person I have ever known. His was a voice of truth, and his words live within my football soul. Questions about play-calling? "What you're really asking is why didn't we win?" he would say. That's the kind of big-picture clarity that caused me to love my time covering Coach Noll.
Brian from Pleasant Prairie, WI
You've expressed in the past your appreciation for the coaches you've covered and their leadership abilities. Your comment regarding the half-line drills made me wonder what one thing would you say each of the coaches you've covered were most innovative at or dedicated to?
One thing? Coach Noll was dedicated to running the traps, but when they changed the rules in 1978, he turned to the passing game. I'll remember Coach Noll for being dedicated to a quiet kind of genius. I'll remember Bill Cowher for his dedication to goal line drills in training camp. He loved to end practice with a killer goal line drill. That's how he created the mind set he wanted. Look at his record when he began the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead. His teams knew how to hold firm and finish. Tom Coughlin was all about precision offense. His practices were a down-and-out drill. Jack Del Rio said, "We will the stop the run," and his teams did. Mike McCarthy is about up-tempo offense. His practices are about volume of plays. That's how I'll remember the coaches I covered. I'll also remember they won eight Super Bowls.
Anthony from Milwaukee, WI
The problem with the zone-blocking scheme comes on third-and-one. Better off just passing. Ask Aaron Rodgers.
Teams that have to pass on third-and-one are will of the wisp. They're soft and cheesy. That's my opinion.
Rocco from Green Bay, WI
Vic, I'm torn about this upcoming season. I'm fed up with all the boneheaded malarkey in regards to the sport and politics and no longer wish to support the NFL. However, I grew up very close to Lambeau Field, and grilling out and watching the game has become a family tradition. I'm not going to say who I'm for or against on the issue, because my question is likely relevant to people on both sides of the aisle. How can a person reconcile taking a stand in the only way they're able, by not being a consumer of the product while still following the team that's so near and dear to their heart? Is such a thing even possible?
I don't fault you for the way you feel. The NFL should've stayed out of this fight. Let the POTUS fight with the players. Allowing itself to be drawn into this drama has worsened the situation. If I'm a fan, I want to know where the players stand or kneel. I want to know how and to whom I should cast my support. Freedom is always a better way.
Jesse from Akaska, SD
The NFL needs more characters like Boss Hog. Maybe Aaron Rodgers will ride in like John Wayne, if and when he signs? John Travolta with paint cans? We need more meaningless funny.
Marty from Grafton, WI
Vic, this is not directed at any one coach or coordinator, but do you think one's message or message delivery can get stale? And if so, do you think a new coach is needed?
You don't win with messages, you win with talent. The Packers added a lot of talent on defense this year. Clearly, they believed they lacked talent on that side of the ball.
Kevin from Silverdale, WA
Vic, I know you feel teams fire coaches too fast (and) it doesn't give them time to acquire and install the proper players for their style, but how do you justify retaining a coach who is 1-31 in his first two years?
If you believe in him, you stick with him. Are we above belief?
Eric from Wausau, WI
Vic, if you were to list the three most impressive rookies you've covered in your three-plus decades as a journalist, who stands out to you, and what qualities (other than being professionals) did they share?
Actually, it's five decades. The three rookies are Franco Harris, Tony Boselli and Fred Taylor. They're all good guys.
Colin from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, digging the new porch picture. I was reading Rob Demovsky's analysis on Brian Gutekunst's press conference and he said, "You can't leave here and not have a banner hung because that's what this place expects." It really rung with me because he said "that's what this place expects." Now, I know winning isn't everything, but man this really struck a chord with me. What are your thoughts on this quote? And do you think championship football resonates within the halls of Lambeau?
Actually, I find those words kind of smug and I've tired of that kind of rhetoric. I think the Packers need to stop playing the it-means-more-to-us card and start playing some defense. Coach Noll said "losing has nothing to do with geography." In my opinion, winning has nothing to do with geography, either. You win with talent and toughness, not with tradition.
Brad from Basalt, CO
Vic, several owners now own pro soccer teams and I see the new owner of the Panthers is looking to create a team, as well. While I can see how this helps the already wealthy owners make more money, doesn’t this seem bad for the NFL in the long run?
I don't like it. I think it's disloyal. Are you a football man or are you a soccer man? You can't be both.
Jared from Rigby, ID
What do Super Bowl teams look like in training camp?
They come in three varieties: 1) on the verge, 2) in their prime, 3) hanging on. If you have a choice, pick on the verge. It's a beautiful thing to watch.
Kevin from New Orleans, LA
Vic, given your history with the Jaguars and their fabled cap disaster, what are your thoughts on their current cap situation? To me it looks as though they may be sitting in the toughest situation in the league.
The Jaguars were unfairly and nearsightedly awarded an advantage the other teams don't possess. The Jaguars are playing with a bigger cap than the other teams, as a result of the uncapped year. Hey, the other teams stupidly allowed it. I'm glad the Jaguars are making them pay the price.
Matt from West Allis, WI
Vic, I read Mike Pettine gave a great speech at the start of training camp. Who are some of the greatest speakers you have heard and what kind of impact does that have on a team?
Great speeches last until the first time you get knocked on your butt. Coach Noll didn't believe in pep talks, and his team seldom got knocked on its butt. Bill Cowher was big on pep talks, and when his team got knocked on its butt, he would give it another pep talk. Coach Cowher was also blessed with a lot of really good players. Check out this All-Cowher defensive team: NT, Joel Steed and Casey Hampton; DE, Aaron Smith and Kimo von Oelhoffen; LB, Levon Kirkland, Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, James Farrior, James Harrison (I'll stop there); CB, Rod Woodson and Ike Taylor; S, Troy Polamalu and Carnell Lake. It's been my experience teams with great talent either don't need pep talks, or respond well to them.
John from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, years ago, I watched an NFL Films segment about the occupations of football players during the offseason. I'm not sure of the date the film was produced, but the mid to late '60s seems accurate. They mentioned there were a multitude of master's degree holders and a few PhDs. When did playing professional football become a viable means to earn a living?
Coach Noll didn't like the word retirement. Instead, he would refer to a player leaving football as "moving on to his life's work." The advent of free agency made football a player's life's work.
Patrick from Ashland, WI
It's sad I have never heard of those three nose tackles, with as much football as I have watched. When I watch a game, what specifics should I look for in a nose tackle?
He must hold the point of attack. In other words, he must refuse to be moved. He doesn't have to defeat the block, just resist it, and that often means resisting the combined force of two men. Nose tackle is a grunt position. Its demands define how a real man plays the game.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
Is there any drill in training camp that is an indicator of live-game success?
Half-line drills are as good as it gets. I applaud Coach McCarthy for being committed to them. A strong running game begins in training camp in half-line drills.
Dave from Chippewa Falls, WI
Does the NFL Network have any redeeming qualities? I consider it to be a huge opportunity wasted. What do you think?
I think it does a fantastic job with the Indianapolis scouting combine, and I love NFL Network's game coverage during the season. "A Football Life" is NFL Network's best artistic work, and occasionally I'll stop and watch some old videos. At all other times, the programming is meaningless. The ex-playerspeak is laughable. It's welfare for the washed up.
Abhi from Rockville, MD
Vic, what is the story behind orange juice and your formal attire?
It's mimosa. It was Easter Sunday.
I'm sorry I deleted the name from I don't know, either
Vic, what is your favorite sports-related gift you have ever received? Do you still have it?
During the last game ever played at Three Rivers Stadium, on Dec. 16, 2000, my reporter friends walked down to my old press box seat and peeled the seat number off the position at which I sat for a long time and sent it to me. I had it framed within a picture from that game. It's sitting on the wall in front of me as I answer your question, as if I was looking out the press box window.
Samuel from Jacksonville, FL
Is David Garrard better than Blake Bortles?
If Bortles had Garrard's arm, you wouldn't be asking me this question.
David from Ashwaubenon, WI
But, Vic, the asterisk!
It was wonderful. The whole thing was beautiful. It's an example of how much fun sports can be if we don't take ourselves too seriously. I am so proud to have been a sports writer.
Kabir from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
Should Le'Veon Bell send a present to Todd Gurley? The Rams extending Gurley's contract resets running back compensation. Is this a fleeting moment, or the new reality?
The Rams are full of themselves and behaving recklessly. Running back will remain a largely undervalued position because its supply is plentiful.
Patrick from Ashland (wherever that is)
My dad was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan from way up here because he wanted them to beat the Yankees in the '40s and '50s. He loved the Packers before I was born. Care to share any dad stories?
My father took me to the first pro sports game I ever attended, a Phillies-Pirates game. As we walked into Forbes Field, I noticed the game had already begun. Moments after sitting down, Ted Kluszewski hit a home run for the Pirates, the game was over and the teams left the field. I was immediately upset at my father for arriving so late to the game. "The game is over, dad," I said. He then explained what I had just seen was the continuation of a suspended game, and the full game would begin shortly. I felt wonderful.
Scott from Mt. Lebanon, PA
Did you have a ritual for the first day of camp with each of the teams you covered?
No, but Chuck Noll had a first-day ritual that became a routine I eagerly anticipated every year. Chuck began each training camp with a spirited Oklahoma drill he used as a tone-setter for camp. He would create matchups that got everyone's blood pumping, including the fans'. It was great writing because the drill almost always included a fight. The fans knew where the drill would be conducted because they would see the blocking bags strategically placed on the ground, and the fans would gather around that area well in advance of the start of practice. It was the No. 1 event of training camp every year and it included such headline events as Mike Webster vs. Jack Lambert and Joe Greene vs. Steve Courson. One of the most memorable was Ray Mansfield vs. an undrafted linebacker named Jim Rosecrans. Rosecrans initiated a two-bout fight with the always willing Mansfield. It was a beauty and so were the interviews with each player following practice. Rosecrans was an unknown rookie trying to make the team; Mansfield was an aging veteran trying to hang on. It was the kind of classic confrontation Coach Noll was adept at creating. It was proof Coach Noll had a reporter's feel for good storylines. In Jacksonville, I waxed nostalgic with Jack Del Rio about the Oklahoma drill, for which Jack had a similar fondness. We made a deal: He'd do it and I'd promote it. I hyped it for weeks in advance of training camp. Jack allowed me to pick a couple of the matchups, and I'd survey "Ask Vic" readers as to what matchups, within reason, they'd like to see. It became the No. 1 event of Jaguars training camp. Crowds were huge. One year, a fire truck pulled up outside the fence and raised its ladder so the firemen could sit on it and watch the action. Nobody does the Oklahoma anymore. We're above such mundane pursuits as blocking and tackling. We need to practice our plays.
Matt from Madison, WI
Do you think Casey Hampton or Haloti Ngata make the Hall of Fame? Is the lack of nose tackles in the HOF because they don't produce numbers? Whose the best nose tackle you ever saw?
Nose tackles don't sack the quarterback. That's why there's a prejudice against them. They are largely viewed as chopping blocks or obstacles. Their skill at defeating blocks is unappreciated. Curley Culp, Elvin Bethea and Joel Steed are the best nose tackles I've seen.
Mike from Missoula, MT
Vic, are you aware of any sports writers who transitioned into the operations side of a team?
Ernie Accorsi immediately comes to mind. Ernie has a degree in journalism and worked for three major newspapers before beginning his career in sports. My favorite sports-writer-turned-football-executive story belongs to legendary scout Bill Nunn. Bill had been the sports editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, the country's first African-American newspaper. One of his duties as sports editor was to pick an All-HBCU football team every year, which made Bill a man of great influence in black college football. When Bill went to Grambling, for example, Eddie Robinson rolled out the red carpet. The Steelers made Nunn a part-time scout in 1967, and then Coach Noll wisely made Nunn full time two years later, when Noll became coach. With his vast knowledge of HBCU football, Nunn opened the door for the Steelers to draft Mel Blount, Frank Lewis, Ron Shanklin, Glen Edwards, Ernie Holmes, L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White, Joe Gilliam and John Stallworth, to name a few. Former NFL GM Dick Haley told me he thought sports writers with a feel for football talent made good scouts because of their ability to write reports that accurately expressed their opinions.
Adam from Stevens Point, WI
Vic, in your opinion, how difficult is it to transition to a zone blocking scheme, and how well have teams done in the past afterwards?
Zone blocking is an effective scheme that requires little in the way of talent to execute. Any big body can do it. Just wall up and move laterally. You don't even have to push anybody because the defensive linemen will move with you. The onus is on the back for identifying when and where to cut behind the wall and run to daylight. Teams with cutback runners do well with that scheme, and cutback runners are a dime a dozen. The charm of the zone blocking scheme is it allows teams to focus solely on a lineman's ability to pass block. Find five left tackles and teach one of them to snap a football. That's how you draft linemen for a zone blocking scheme.
Dave from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, I grew up a Miami Dolphins fan. I’ve always been bothered that (Jake Scott) is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He played in three consecutive Super Bowls, contributing to winning two of them while being named MVP in one of them. He had 49 interceptions during his nine-year NFL career from the safety position. He was a very good punt returner and special teams player. Why isn’t he in the HOF?
For the same reason Donnie Shell isn't in the Hall of Fame: He was a safety. It wasn't the premier position back then that it' s becoming in today's game. Safeties were last-line-of-defense players. They were centerfielders who provided support to the real stars of pass coverage, the bump-and-run cornerbacks.
Daniel from Altoona, WI
Vic, I was watching some old footage of college games. I noticed how close to the line of scrimmage the running backs were. What was the advantage/disadvantage of this? What is the advantage/disadvantage in today's game?
In the old days, so to speak, offensive lines were taught and schemed to come off the ball low, hard and in unison. They were fashioned for their ability to drive, trap and pull. Everything up front back then was about speed and quickness. In that sense, the game was much faster than it is today. A back's job was to hit the hole quickly, with speed, lean and fury. Everything happened in a flash, as the hole would open and close in the bat of an eye. I covered a Pitt-Penn State game in 1976 that turned on a halftime adjustment by Johnny Majors, who moved Tony Dorsett closer to the line of scrimmage, to take advantage of holes that were opening quickly. That kind of tactic wouldn't work today because today's lines don't drive block. Heck, they can't even move the pile to gain a yard on third and one. Today's schemes favor pick-and-poke runners. They hide behind linemen that stand up at the snap of the ball and dance around as though they're Lipizzan Stallions. The day of the drive blocker is gone forever. The rules won't allow it.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
Perhaps premature to ask, but what Week 1 matchup are you most looking forward to watching?
Falcons-Eagles, 49ers-Vikings, Steelers-Browns and Texans-Patriots all interest me, as do several other games, but I don't think you have to look any farther than Bears-Packers. It's oozing intrigue. Is Aaron Rodgers back? Is Mitch Trubisky ready? Are the Bears for real? No opener is a must-win game, but try to convince yourself of that fact if you're a Packers fan.
Isaac from Abiquiu, NM
Vic, what, if any, storylines are you looking at during training camp season?
Have the Packers satisfied their need at cornerback? Can James Conner and rookie running back Jaylen Samuels replace Le'Veon Bell? Can Blake Bortles take his game to a higher level? Those are some of the storylines confronting the Packers, Steelers and Jaguars but, frankly, I don't think today's training camp regimens are intense enough to provide answers to any substantive questions.
Dylan from Morgantown, WV
What's your favorite non-football book?
The Moon Is Down, by John Steinbeck.
Bill from Jenkinsville, ID
Where do you think the next Packers Hall of Fame quarterback is: 1) a gleam in his daddy's eye; 2) elementary school; 3) high school; 4) college.
Pat from Seneca, SC
What uniform numbers do you associate with a single player?
Johnny Unitas -- 19, Jim Brown -- 32.
Patrick from New Smyrna Beach, FL
Looking back to the 2000-2010 seasons, I'm amazed at the depth of elite running backs. In that decade, 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns often didn't get you to All-Pro or even to the Pro Bowl. Was there a rule change that helped accomplish that or was there just a perfect storm of generational talent at the position that was able to rack up stats the likes of which hadn't been common before or since? Is that era the golden age of the feature back?
Offense in general exploded in that decade. The major point of emphasis on the chuck rule caused it and the emphasis defenses had to assign to pass coverage and rushing the passer helped open the running lanes. The '60s and '70s are the decades that represent the golden age of the feature back: Jim Brown, Jim Taylor, O.J. Simpson, Franco Harris, Larry Csonka, Tony Dorsett, Walter Payton, Earl Campbell, and on and on. Every team had one because they had to have one. Teams were defined by their running back, and running backs were often the first overall pick of the draft.
Rick from El Cerrito, CA
What did you think of the British Open?
My No. 1 thought is it was a delight to watch NBC's coverage of the event. It was vastly superior to FOX's coverage of the U.S. Open. I hope the money was worth the switch because, otherwise, the USGA made a big mistake in dumping NBC for FOX.
Randy from Aurora, CA
Vic, in all your years of reporting, what was it you enjoyed most about training camp?
I enjoyed covering the plight of the desperate dreamer. It was his chance to reach out and grab his dream. I saw Donnie Shell do it. I saw Frank Pollard do it. I saw Montell Owens do it. I don't think today's desperate dreamers have the same opportunity to realize their dream. How can you out-hit the competition if you're not allowed to hit?
Brian from Pleasant Prairie, WI
I agree on your Mt. Rushmore of QBs. I also think Brady deserves the spot over Manning. My question is what would Aaron Rodgers need to accomplish to supplant Brady on your mountain?
This is a question that needs to go away. It can't happen. Brady is the best from this era. He's got the rings and the Super Bowl MVPs to go with them. Brady defines the era in which he's played.
Jon from Wright City, MO
Vic, I have embraced your “players, not plays” philosophy and I find a lot of fans in all the major sports do not tend to have that same philosophy. My question is what do I look for in coaches to know if they are a good coach or a bad coach? How can I tell if the talent is poor or the coach is not tapping into all that talent? When should a coach be fired?
Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh and Jimmy Johnson were a combined 4-42 in their rookie seasons as head coach. Combined, those three coaches would go on to win nine Super Bowls so, clearly, their teams lacked talent when they inherited them. Fans need to control their expectations and show some patience. Noll was 5-9 in his second season and 6-8 in year three. By today's impatient standards, Noll would've been fired after year three. Instead, the Steelers' patient ownership saw the improvement and felt the greatness that lie ahead, and remained committed to a man who would win four Super Bowls in six years. The answer to your question, Jon, is you'll know a good coach when you see one. His qualities are undeniable. His team improves in all ways. The longer he coaches it, the more dramatically its arrow points upward. His players respect him and it shows in their effort. They win with consistent execution, not with will-of-the-wisp schemes that excite one week and disappoint the next. Good coaches have an identity and it becomes their team's identity. Their teams impose their will. They make big plays at big times in the game. They are resolute. One more thing: Good coaches have good ownerships. Without a committed owner, a good coach may lack the time and support required to win.
L.J. from Chicago, IL
In your response to the naming of a London team, you stated they’ll carry the relocated team’s name with them. Not always. It’s still not the Tennessee Oilers now, is it? And it sure as heck wasn’t the Baltimore Browns.
The Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee to Atlanta and they're still the Braves. The Giants and Dodgers moved from New York to California and they're still the Giants and Dodgers. The Athletics were originally in Philadelphia and spent time in Kansas City before moving to Oakland, and they're still the Athletics. The Colts are still the Colts, the Cardinals are still the Cardinals, and the Rams moved from Cleveland to Los Angeles to St. Louis and back to Los Angeles and they're still the Rams but, you're right, a few fleeing franchises have elected to rebrand themselves. The Chiefs, for example, were originally the Dallas Texans. The Brewers were the Pilots when they played in Seattle. As for the Oilers, they remained the Oilers when they began their move from Houston to Tennessee. They were the Oilers when they played in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis in 1997, and they were still the Oilers when they played at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville in 1998. They didn't become the Titans until their third season in Tennessee. The Browns? Art Modell left the name behind as a peace offering.
Fred from Jacksonville, FL
Tony Brackens on your All-Vic Steelers, Jags, Packers team as defensive end. Did I read that right? With all those defensive linemen on the Steel Curtain? Can you tell us about Tony Brackens and what made you choose him?
Brackens might be the best natural pass rusher I ever covered. He was a playmaker. He could and did take over games. He turned in a Joe Greene-like performance in Baltimore one year; his play dominated and decided the game. He wasn't great against the run, but I've never covered a defensive lineman who was better in space than Brackens was. I largely felt he was under-used. It wasn't until Dom Capers came along that Brackens' talents were fully utilized. A knee injury compromised and cut short what could've become a Hall-of-Fame career.
Pete from Minneapolis, MN
Vic, what’s a run game coordinator?
He specializes in coordinating the strategy and execution involved in the running game. He would report, for example, what he observed on tape of the opponent's run defense. He might detect a particular flaw the run game might attack. It could be something that might've escaped a broader look at the opponent. A run game coordinator provides greater attention to detail to a phase of the game that isn't getting the attention it once did. The days of endless nine-on-seven drills in practice are over because padded practices and contact drills have been greatly reduced. I like the idea of a run game coordinator. If I was a head coach, I'd at least assign to one of my offensive assistants the task of finding a way to convert third-and-one downs. Converting third and one has become so difficult and critical to the outcome of games I might even name a third-and-one coordinator. The ball shouldn't have to be thrown to gain a yard.
Kelly from Koloa, HI
Vic, as a reporter, what makes a good question?
I think a good question allows the interviewee to talk on the subject beyond yes and no. A good question doesn't accurse, it explores. A good question invites thought and commentary. For example, "What did you think you could do offensively?" is a good question. It's broad enough to allow commentary without causing the interviewee to become defensive or beg off the question because it might reveal specific strategy. It's a fair question and it's deserving of a respectful response. "Should you have run more screen passes?" is not a good question. Why? Because you're not going to get a good answer. It goes to strategy and talent evaluation. It's very unlikely a coach or quarterback is going to say, "Yeah, we should've run more screen passes because their linebackers stink." A good interviewer asks questions that can be answered. The tough questions, or at least the ones fans think are tough, are really just show-off ambush questions. It doesn't require much interviewing skill to get a coach, for example, on camera and ask him point blank, "Who's to blame for this defeat?" That's not a question, that's a statement. The interviewer has already formed his opinion and he wants the coach to help write the story.
Jim from Maple Grove, MN
Vic, of course it's about the money. When we're talking about NFL star level money, how much of it is about paying the bills, and how much of it is about keeping score?
First, you take care of business, and then you play the game. Yes, it's a game of the heart, but only after it's a game of the wallet. I feel sorry for fans who won't accept that fact. They're doomed to wallow in delusion and sentiment.
Jimmy from Vero Beach, FL
Years ago, I read "The League: The Rise and Decline of the NFL," by David Harris, based on your recommendation. It's one of my favorite books I've ever read. Are there any other books that give an insider's view of the league? I'd love it if you'd ever post an extensive list of your favorite books. Thanks for increasing my joy.
"The Making of the Super Bowl," by Don Weiss, is a must read for any fan who wants to know how pro football became America's sports obsession. Weiss gives the best account of the roots of the modern game I have ever read.
David from Madison, WI
Would you share any tales of the old Houston air attack?
The "Red Gun" offense moved the ball up and down the field as though it was playing against air. Ernest Givens and Haywood Jeffires were a great pass-receiving combination, and Warren Moon was perfectly suited for the four-wide attack. It was near the goal line where the problems surfaced. The Oilers' run and shoot offense didn't have a tight end on the roster and it wasn't very good at pounding the ball. It liked open spaces and, as the field tightened, the Oilers tended to stall.
Jonathan from St. Joseph, MO
Even though I prefer an Eddie Lacy style running back, isn't a Le'Veon Bell style more sustainable?
I think Bell is the prototype for the future, which is to say a big back who runs with finesse. Saquon Barkley strikes me as the same type of back. He's a big back with light feet and a stop-and-start style. He likes to hurdle. I like guys who drop their pads and punish, but those days are fading away.
Christopher from Hagerstown, MD
Vic, I'm thinking about getting a kayak to do a little lazy water fishing. Do you recommend a sit-in or sit-on type?
For lazy water, you want a sit-in kayak. They cut the water and move more quickly, gracefully. For rough water or for riding the waves in the ocean surf, you want a sit-on kayak.
Dan from St. Michael, MN
My wife met Phil Villapiano recently and brought me home an autographed football. I wasn't familiar with him and I'd love to hear anything about him you could share with me.
He was a darn good linebacker for the '70s Raiders. My special memory is from a moment late in a 1977 game between the Steelers and Raiders, a game the Raiders won. I was down on the field, standing with a couple of other reporters, as Villapiano walked by. He was headed to the locker room with a knee injury. Villapiano looked at us and said, "The Steelers are history!" I smiled. That was the last game he played that season, and the Steelers would win two more Super Bowls.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
If you could pick a coach from the pre-1978 era to coach in today’s game, who would you pick?
Your question was answered a long time ago. It's Bill Walsh. The 49ers saw in Walsh what Paul Brown missed. Walsh's ways as de facto offensive coordinator of the Bengals would become the future of the game. In my mind, Walsh is the mastermind of post-1978 offense. He taught everyone how to use the passing game as an extension of the running game. Walsh is the father of dink-and-dunk offense.
T.J. from Tampa, FL
Vic, what’s your latest quarterbacks Mt. Rushmore look like?
Unitas, Brady and Graham are set. It's the fourth guy I debate. I could go with Peyton Manning, but he's from the same era as Brady. I could go with Dan Marino, but he never won a championship. I'll go with Joe Montana. Those four quarterbacks offer a solid representation of success since the passing game became prominent.
Eric from Lansing, MI
Vic, I have learned from you not to set my sights on the Super Bowl as the goal of the season. Instead, there are many other basic dramas to watch. If you break the season into four-game segments, what is the drama at each stage, from your perspective?
The first four games of the season let you know what you have in the tank. The next four let you know if you need a tune up. The third four-game stretch lets you know if the heater is working. The final four games tell you what you have under the hood.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, what signs of decline did you see in Tom Brady's game last season?
He began to sack himself. Surrender is the beginning of the end.
T.J. from Tampa, FL
In your eyes, what’s Darrelle Revis’s legacy?
For a short time, he was the best cornerback in the game. That makes him an unforgettable player, but I don't think he's a Hall of Famer because his time was too short.
Pete from Chapel Hill, NC
Vic, what would you name the team in London?
A team in London will have relocated from another city, which means it'll carry its name with it. My hope is that name won't be Jaguars.
Anthony from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, would contract negotiations be easier if the NFL forced all contracts to be guaranteed? Is that something you would like to see?
It would be a game killer. Incentive would be extinguished. Anybody who thinks these guys don't play for the money is either naive or chooses to delude themselves. The number of games lost to injury would explode. Effort would suffer. The old college try would be replaced by the guaranteed money flop. The only way to cope with the problems associated with guaranteed money would be to shorten contracts. One-year contracts would become the norm, which means the players would be free after every season. Roster turnover would be huge and the subsequent loss of identity would erode a team's fan base. I don't think it would be good for the game.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, what is the hardest thing for an aging, accomplished athlete to relinquish? Is it the money, the attention, the accolades?
It's the money. It's always the money. If you think it's anything but the money, then ask yourself this question: How many of these guys would play for free?
Samuel from Jacksonville, FL
I've only lived through three presidents in my lifetime. Have you ever seen a president backtrack like what Trump did after the Putin meeting? Is there precedent for that?
It's sheer genius. Speak and write in action-word phrases and you can always say you made a mistake. Did Kennedy get the not in the wrong place? Did he mean to say ask what your country can do for you, not what you can do for your country?
Bret from Mililani, HI
Do you think someone will pay Le'Veon Bell close to what he is asking for, or will he make less than what the Steelers have offered him? What do you think of the whole situation?
I think he's going to find out he's a running back.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
If the Titans are the surprise team in the positive, what team do you expect to not live up to projections?
I have a feeling the clock might've struck midnight in New England.
Ryan from Bloomer, WI
Vic, you have spent the majority of your career with good, stable franchises accustomed to lots of success. What are some signs or attributes somebody can look for in a team as an indicator of how well run an organization is? Could you share an (example) of some red flags you have seen in your career?
There are a lot of indicators. Good franchises have strong leadership at the top, instead of a lot of high-paid executives in a multi-layered structure that becomes Machiavellian. Good franchises also have a long-term strategy. They live in the present, but it's according to their plans for the future. In other words, the cap is their master. I don't like what I'm seeing in the Rams. They're all in for now and I think they should be preparing for their future, when they move into that new stadium and become confronted with its huge debt service. I'm not sure the fan base in Los Angeles is strong enough right now for the Rams to establish anything lasting. I kind of saw that in Jacksonville. There was a mania in the beginning to be real good real fast, which the Jaguars were, and I think it hurt the Jaguars' future. I think it spoiled the fans. The steel was never hardened by the fires of losing. Expectations were high right from the beginning and it caused the Jaguars to treat the salary cap and their future with disdain. By year six, the franchise was capped out and headed for a long run of darkness. That was bad management, in my opinion. Good franchises are disciplined. They do things fans don't like but the fans know have to be done. Good franchises don't hear the howl of the wolves.
Braden from Milwaukee, WI
Aaron Rodgers is trying to break the mold on contracts. Could the Packers offer Rodgers a contract that pays him $20 million a year -- this number hits the salary cap -- but then make him a partner in the organization as long as he plays for the team, and pay him .06 percent of the net revenue each year? In this scenario, it would be an extra $13.5 million. Is that legal in NFL contracts?
You pay it, you cap it. The commissioner would flag any attempt to circumvent the cap.
Dan from Saint Peters, MO
For as fortunate as the Packers were to have Rodgers fall to them in the 2005 draft, were they nearly as unfortunate to have Le'Veon Bell go just before them in 2013?
That's the charm of the draft. You rely on mistakes being committed by the teams above you in the order. Sometimes the competition makes a mistake and you get lucky, and sometimes you make a mistake and the competition gets lucky. Teams in desperate need of a quarterback passed on Aaron Rodgers, and the Packers benefitted. In 2013, the Packers passed on Bell and drafted Datone Jones, and the Steelers benefitted. Looking back on those two situations begs the question: What were they thinking? It happens.
Brian from Kingston, NY
What is the most beautiful throw you've ever seen?
It's Terry Bradshaw's game-clinching touchdown pass to Lynn Swann in Super Bowl X, and Bradshaw never saw it. He was knocked unconscious by a blow to the head from Larry Cole after releasing the ball.
Ben from Indianapolis, IN
I'd like to hear a Gabe Rivera story, if you have one.
First of all, he was going to be a great player. He was going to be a dominant defensive lineman, the next Joe Greene. When I saw Rivera had died, I recalled the sad days following his car accident. I remember the flight back from Seattle. It was the game immediately following Rivera's accident. Coach Noll updated the players on Rivera's condition and then said, "Drive safely on your way home." Then I remember the players leaving the airport parking lot as though they were competing in a demolition derby. I think it taught me something about men who play football. I also remember the two-beer ritual ending shortly after Rivera's accident. Back then, each player was handed a plastic bag with two beers in it as the players boarded the plane for its return flight. It was that way all over the league. I think Rivera helped end that insanity. It's one of the ways I'll remember him.
Phil from Marietta, GA
Before the rule changes that liberalized blocking, how in the world did linemen keep the defense off the QB long enough for him to complete the seven and nine-step drops that were the norm at that time?
By chop-blocking and leg-whipping and collapse-blocking and any other means they could use to get the job done. A high-low combination block was common back then; all of the feared pass rushers faced it.
Bill from Phillips, WI
Do you think it possible for the NFL to establish a percentage of the cap a team can be allowed to pay a quarterback? This would help manage what other players can get.
The players wouldn't agree to it. A cap within a cap would limit free agency.
Jason from Morrisville, NY
Vic, in regards to the Bell contract situation with the Steelers, do you expect the Steelers to run him until the wheels fall off this season?
I'd do just the opposite. I'd prepare to pound with James Conner. It wouldn't bother me should Bell decide to sit out the early part of the season. He'd be fresh for a late-season run, which would help the Steelers shift gears and take their game to a higher level when it matters most, and Bell would be motivated to kick it into high gear for a run to free agency. I think the Steelers need to play their cards right with Bell, and then bid him farewell and hope he gets a big deal in free agency that'll bring the Steelers a nice compensatory pick.
Jim from Central New York
Love your description of a football pro. What is your description of a reporter pro?
He's committed to his craft, but he does it without creating enmity among his subjects. The best reporters I've known have been faithful to their readers and respected by the owners, coaches and players on whom they report. It's a difficult blend of truth and personality, but it can be done and, in my opinion, it defines a reporter.
Barry from Hayward, WI
Vic, could you rank the divisions by strength for this upcoming season?
1) NFC South, 2) NFC West, 3) AFC South, 4) NFC North 5) AFC East, 6) AFC North, 7) NFC East, 8) AFC West.
Tim from Peshtigo, WI
With Rodgers still having two years on his current deal, wouldn't it be a little wise to make sure this collarbone doesn't become a Tony Romo situation before guaranteeing a ton of cap space to him? I do believe he is the best in the game and worth it when healthy, but how bad would it be for the franchise if this collarbone became an annual problem and they paid Rodgers $120 million in guaranteed money?
It would cause the franchise to go dark for a long time.
Nathan from New York, NY
Vic, who is the team to beat in the NFC North?
It's Minnesota. The Vikings are the division's defending champion and I think they upgraded themselves in the offseason. I'll also be interested to see what a healthy Dalvin Cook will do for their offense.
T.J. from Tampa Bay, FL
What were your thoughts on Warren Sapp’s legal hit on Chad Clifton in 2002?
It was cheap and unnecessary. It was unprofessional.
Brett from Ohio
You say the kickoff is unimportant but I think Brett Favre might disagree with you. Do you remember watching MVP Desmond Howard in Super Bowl XXXI? It might not have ended the same way without Howard's explosive return. The Pats had all the momentum until that play. Put the ball on the 20 and it would have been anyone's game. Also on a fun note, imagine if the Pats had won? What would we say about Favre if he didn't win a Super Bowl? I think kickoffs are pretty important.
Your argument isn't convincing. It's one of the few memorable plays in a sea of ceremonial touchbacks and unexciting 20-yard returns. Frankly, I'd rather the ball have been put on the 20 for Favre to be the star of the game, instead of someone who became the weakest MVP winner in Super Bowl history. As for onside kicks, I've never liked them. I consider them to be a cheap trick to undo what nearly three hours of football had proven.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, what are your memories of the Playoff Bowl game for third place that took place in the '60s? Should that game be reinstated in lieu of the Pro Bowl game?
It was weak but the NFL was underexposed in the early '60s and for a few years there was room for an extra postseason game, even if it was meaningless. Pro football needed the exposure and the players needed the money. That's not true today. The NFL might have to pay the players more money to agree to play in that kind of game today than they pay the players in the Super Bowl. The risk of injury is too great for the players to agree to play that kind of game.
Zach from Virginia Beach, VA
Vic, what are your thoughts on Marcus Mariota? He was able to lead the Titans to the playoffs and a win over the Chiefs. Do you think he can improve his game to take them higher, or is he topped out right now?
He played through a debilitating injury that dogged him all of last season, and I believe it was the reason for his decline in performance. In the playoff win over the Chiefs, however, he was sensational. He threw and ran with equal aplomb. He was the star of the game and with that performance Mariota gives the Titans reason to believe they have a quarterback who can lead them to a championship. I think the Titans could be a surprise team this year. The Jaguars are the new power in the AFC South, but the Titans and Texans have exciting young quarterbacks. I think Mariota could make the Titans the team to beat in the AFC South.
Joe from Bloomington, IN
I just watched the Ryan Shazier injury. He lowered his head and drove it into the oncoming torso to make the tackle. How stupid is that?
It's not as stupid as your question is insensitive.
Anthony from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, 2007 had to be one of the most fun seasons in Packers history. From it being completely unexpected to just completely fun to see Brett Favre have success again, it was almost everything a football fan could ask for. Acknowledging this was before your time with the Packers, do you have any outsider insight on that season?
The playoff loss at home to the Giants was a stunner. I kept waiting for Favre to get hot, but he just kept looking colder. In retrospect, I think the Packers ran into a team of destiny.
Matt from San Diego, CA
Do the Packers have any difference-makers on the defensive side of the ball?
If Kevin King, Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson don't make a difference, the Packers won't improve on defense. The Packers have invested a lot of high picks on cornerbacks. They desperately need a return on their investment.
Dan from Jacksonville, FL
Rank your top three Steelers receivers of all time.
1) Antonio Brown, 2) Lynn Swann, 3) John Stallworth. Hines Ward is my favorite Steelers receiver because he turned the hunter into the hunted.
Dan from Nitro, WV
What city should be next to get an NFL franchise?
I think it's time to give London a try. In my opinion, the NFL needs to grow its product globally or it's going to feel more and more pressure from soccer. The world is getting smaller. I think hockey and basketball, for example, are benefitting from being international. The NFL has stopped growing. It needs new territory. I think a team in London should be the next step.
Steven from Montclair, NJ
We often hear stories about players saving their paychecks for retirement and living off endorsement money. Do you have any good stories from your career about how a player managed his money?
Lynn Swann arrived at his rookie training camp driving a Plymouth Scamp. Two years later, after winning the MVP Award in Super Bowl X, Swann drove into training camp in that same Plymouth Scamp. That's how a savvy young player manages success.
Jerry from Savannah, GA
Vic, what does it mean for a player to be a pro? What exactly does that look like?
It means being consistent and dependable. A pro is a player teammates can rely on being physically, emotionally and mentally prepared to play at his highest level. He treats his profession as a craft and he draws his esteem from the quality of his performance. Most of all, a pro's motivation comes from within. He's a self-starter. He doesn't need pep talks. He knows what to do and how to do it, and his effort is always focused. He leads by example.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
Who had the best motor of any player you covered?
It's a running back named Frank Pollard. He was the consummate pro.
Braden from Milwaukee, WI
The Browns have been the laughing stock of the NFL because of a 38-122 record over the last 10 seasons. As you've said, winning cures all, but do you think a re-branding will be necessary? The orange helmet, the brown uniform and the dog pound just seem blah and a losing tradition doesn't help bring in a new wave of fans.
I think the Browns should return to the uniform design of the Jim Brown era. That's the franchise's identity. The current uniforms are Joe's Bar-like.