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Ask Vic

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You think you can coach? Forget about it

Posted Oct 18, 2012

Kevin from Littleton, CO

The Packers defense was highly energized against the Texans. Why wait until the season is nearly in the balance before sending the message of urgency? Why has Dom Capers not demanded this tempo in the first five games or most of last season?

Do you honestly believe Coach Capers failed to deliver a message of urgency for the games previous to this past Sunday’s? Do you honestly believe playing well is determined solely by a team’s desire to play well? Do you understand that the guys in the other locker room are getting a pep talk, too?

Alex from Centreville, VA

I was reading your post and you were talking about how the coordinator in Pittsburgh was showing the cover two concept on a projector. Was that a private team meeting?

Back in the day, Alex, coaches spent most of their day in darkened offices. It had to be dark so they could see the image from the projector being shined onto their office wall. I can still envision myself walking down the hallway past darkened offices and seeing the light from the projector cutting through cigarette smoke and hearing the clicking of the projector. When you went to a coach’s office or dorm room to interview him – yes, it was a much more relaxed media environment back then – a lot of times the coach would keep the projector running as you interviewed him. Watching film back then was a laborious and time-consuming process that often involved film breaking and having to splice it together. While interviewing a coach, he would often point to the image on the wall to explain what he was describing. It was a different time. Coaches didn’t fear the media as they do today, and the media valued the information the coach was providing, so they seldom burned that source.

Brad from Crofton, MD

Why is the NFL obsessed with playing in London? When will it stop?

I don’t think it’ll stop as long as Roger Goodell is NFL commissioner. He believes very strongly that there’s an international market for the NFL, and he is clearly moving the league forward in the quest to market the game internationally. He was up front about that when he spoke at Lambeau Field during last year’s “Kickoff” breakfast.

Corey from Richland, WA

Sounds like Aaron got the chip back on his shoulder. I know they are human like the rest of us, but sometimes you had mentioned NFL players are professional and don't need extra motivation. What gives?

Everybody needs motivation. You misunderstood me. What I might’ve been saying is that true professional football players get their motivation from within. They’re self-starters. Aaron Rodgers is a self-starter. That’s what he’s telling you when he talks about the infamous “chip on his shoulder.” It’s another way of describing the edge he needs to have to play well. What have I been saying? Football is an edge sport. You don’t want guys walking around with smiles on their faces. Smiles are OK in the offseason, but not now. Football matters to Rodgers. He wants to win. He wants to be a star player, and that’s plain to see in the edge he carries for the game.

Kurt from Minneapolis, MN

It looked like on Hayward's tip interception that he thought by sliding down on the turf he was automatically down. He slid, no one touched him, and he started trotting to the sideline. The refs eventually blew the whistle but was he truly down or could someone have stripped the ball from him prior to the whistle? Did he mix up the college vs. pro rules?

The key word is “eventually.” Eventually, a runner will be judged to have surrendered and the nearby official will blow the play dead, but until that whistle blows, the play is alive. Years ago I covered a game in which Plaxico Burress, a rookie then, made a diving catch of a pass over the middle. He was so delighted by his achievement that be bounced up off the ground, without having been touched, and spiked the ball, which the other team then recovered. It was a fumble.

Larry from Ladoga, WI

Vic, did you like Howard Cosell? Why or why not?

I liked him because he was entertaining. He created something every network and every broadcaster has unsuccessfully attempted to achieve. Nobody has been able to equal the fame and infamy of Cosell. He invented the halftime highlights. He warned us of the jockocracy. His genius was exceeded only by his ego, and I’m not sure which was more entertaining because it was with genius that he was able to sell his ego. The best example of the level of fame he reached is the embarrassing network production, “Battle of the Network Stars.” It might be the worst thing TV has ever produced. The whole intent was to give us TV celebrities in an athletic competition, so we’d have something to watch in the winter instead of the NBA. They brought in big names. I think Farah Fawcett was on the show when she was at her zenith. Cosell doubled as play-by-play man and interviewer. The truth of the matter is he was the star of the show. He was bigger than the stars he was interviewing. In the world of sports journalism, they don’t come any bigger than Cosell.

Jim from Prairie du Chein, WI

In regards to your response about ex-player analysts, I personally think Cris Collinsworth is one of the best. Early in the game Sunday, he mentioned one of the big reasons the Packers weren't having more success was the receivers weren't winning their one-on-one match-ups. I immediately thought of your comments about confrontations.

Collinsworth is one of my favorites. I can watch a game he’s doing because he only speaks the mumbo jumbo if it is absolutely necessary in explaining a key strategy element of the game, and when he does it, he usually does so in fan language. I also like his perspective of the game. He sees the game within the game. He’s respectful, but he’ll also take a shot when a shot is deserved. He was fun to interview when he was a player. He had a regular-guy quality to him and I think it comes through in his broadcast work.

Aaron from Washington, DC

I finally get it, Vic. A couple of weeks ago, I read an article about Terry Bradshaw and his thoughts on Brees breaking Unitas' record, and I can tell you, he was less than impressed. Bradshaw essentially said if you're not winning, what's the point of stats? I completely agree.

That’s a great line. If you’re not winning, what’s the point of stats? Ol’ Brad’s another guy who has the common touch.

Erik from Moline, IL

Vic, in your office, do you have a big map of the world on your wall so every time you get a question from somewhere in a different state or country you can put a pin in it just to see the vastness of the Packers fan base?

I don’t have a map, but I often Google hometowns to see where they are. I love geography and I love to study maps. One of the things I’ve always loved about sports is that it taught me where places are, and one of the things I like most about this column is seeing the names of all of the different hometowns and then finding them on a map. “Ask Vic” is a travelogue.

George from Millersville, PA

Recently, Skip Bayless claimed he could be a head coach of an NFL team, because he has watched so much film over the years. I think that’s crazy. Do you think you could be an assistant of some type with all of your knowledge, or is it indeed crazy?

Anybody who thinks they can walk off the street and coach a pro football team is living in fantasy land. I’ve been hanging around coaches and football offices for 41 years and if I walked into Mike McCarthy’s coaches meeting room and looked at all of the words on the wall, I might as well be looking at hieroglyphics. Coaches at this level are the world’s foremost authorities in their disciplines. They talk a language we don’t even understand. They have a grasp of techniques we don’t even know exist. They can take one look at a player and know what he can’t do, before we even know what he can do. Coaches are horribly maligned and unappreciated, but they accept that as part of the business and seldom do you see them not take the high road when they’ve been dismissed. I think Skip Bayless was just trying to make a point that he’s watched a lot of film, tape, video, whatever.

Corey from Richland, WA

How do defensive linemen and linebackers defeat the cut block?

With their eyes and hands. First, you have to see it, then you have to be able to get your hands on it quickly enough to push the block down and your body away from it. Defenders have to keep their head on a swivel when playing against cut-blocking teams, and that’s the distraction cut-blocking teams seek to create.

Devin from Plymouth, PA

In your “Ask Vic” column yesterday, you referred to the NFL as the Roman Empire. Does this mean you’re anticipating the fall of the NFL?

It wasn’t the NFL to which I was referring. It was us. It was our culture. The NFL isn’t making us treat others with disrespect and, in extreme cases, with violence. Universities are esteemed institutions of higher learning, yet, there have been incidents of terrible violence in recent years at college football games. A poor guy made the mistake of catching a foul ball in Chicago, and he darn near had to go into the witness protection program. Lambeau Field is a breath of fresh air. You can go to a game here and not fear that you’ll be targeted because of what you’re wearing or the team you’re supporting. I think fan behavior has been a growing concern for the past several years and it’s the fall of something much bigger than a sports league that concerns me.

Stephanie from Dallas, TX

Blame it on my youth, but I think crowd noise, especially during those third-and-short situations, really heightens a football game and its experience in the stands. Maybe it's because I come from Texas A&M and Kyle Field, aka the Original 12th Man, but how can you not get some satisfaction when you are yelling so loud that it forces a QB to call a timeout?

That’s the contemporary fan attitude and I accept it as part of the game. It’s just another thing the visiting team must overcome, and they will because they must. Here’s the flip side, Stephanie: Nothing feels better than going to, say, Kyle Field, aka the Original 12th Man, and shoving that noise back down their throats.

Mike from Rochester, NY

Vic, you recently took the position of having a workhorse for a running back, vs. running back by committee. I agree with you. What were the reasons Packers management passed on Marshawn Lynch last year?

This is a team that adheres to a philosophy of draft and develop, not trade and acquire.

Tom from Pleasant Hill, CA

Vic, with the Packers Sunday and other teams seeming to go more no-huddle to maintain favorable matchups, do you see the day when this becomes the norm and we see starters play more and defensive coordinators’ flexibility limited?

I think we’re going to see the no-huddle used more and more because it allows offense to dictate to defense, and also because the ability to adjust pass routes and change route trees on the fly is becoming more important than the playbook. It wouldn’t surprise me if the play-clock time is reduced in the future, to put more plays into the game and keep teams from standing around at the line of scrimmage. That standing around stuff is a real turn off. It seems that everything about the NFL is getting faster.

Ben from Madison, WI

Vic, we're six weeks into the season and we're already seeing some coaching changes around the league after public hair-pulling and gnashing of teeth. Given the state of your inbox, I wonder if fans are too quick to despair and forget that it's a long season. What's going on these days? Are coaches and fans forgetting it's a marathon, not a sprint?

Ben, I had e-mails in my inbox in the preseason demanding that this coach and that coach be fired. Does that answer your question?

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