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Saturday, May 22, 2010
NFC North weekend mailbag

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

I've got a couple of housekeeping items before we delve into the weekend mailbag.

First, hopefully most of you have already re-set bookmarks that expired this week. An old re-direct was retired and will no longer take you from the original URL of this blog to the current one. Here's what you should now be using: http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcnorth.

That change apparently caused another problem. If you're like me and use RSS feeds, you know they stopped working this week. All you have to do is re-subscribe and you should be good to go. Let me know if you're not -- either through the mailbag, Facebook or Twitter. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Onward ...

Steve of Centreville, Va., writes: Outside of not having the luxury boxes and big ticket seating, what exactly is wrong with the Metrodome as far as the fan experience? The Vikings have trouble selling out the seats anyway, so a bigger stadium doesn't seem necessary. I do realize it's considered substandard for players.

Kevin Seifert: That's a question many interested parties are asking, and it's one of several reasons there hasn't been much progress in the 10-plus years the Vikings have been seeking a new stadium. (It wasn't much of a question for the Minnesota Twins, of course. No one considered the Metrodome a good place to see a baseball game. Except ombrophobes.)

Although I've heard plenty of complaints about the narrow concourses and long rows of seats, the primary impetus for building a new stadium would be for team economics -- not fan experience. As a place to watch a football game, the Metrodome isn't yet obsolete. Perhaps that's why cross-sections of Minnesotans remain staunchly opposed to using public money for this project.

Just last week, Minnesota Public Radio and the Humphrey Institute conducted a poll of 701 Minnesota residents. Nearly two-thirds opposed public funding. About 30 percent supported it.

Significant opposition is nothing new in stadium debates around the country. But this helps explain why no leading politicians have been willing to step in front of the issue. There's absolutely no mandate from their constituents to do it.

I'm sure many people would choose a newer stadium over an older one. But do they feel strongly enough to dedicate their tax money to that ideal? At this point, the answer is no.


On the Gale Sayers-Brian Urlacher feud, Patrick of Indianapolis writes: I think you're missing the point here. It's not about Gale not being allowed to express his opinions or question the direction of his former club. He's just doing it six months too late.

Last season was a train-wreck. Cutler needs to play better. We shouldn't have mortgaged the team with the draft pick trades. Gaines Adams' death marked another fruitless trade. Urlacher's getting older. These are all things that are relevant issues that the Bears face, but are also ones for which blame was placed a half-year ago. There's nothing you can do about any of them in May besides work hard in the offseason and prepare for the next season. The issue isn't Gale Sayers running his mouth. ... The problem is that he's doing it months too late and the comments bring no sort of benefit or insight to anyone.

Kevin Seifert: You're right in a sense, Patrick. For the most part, Sayers stated the obvious. But I disagree on the timing issue.

First, I wouldn't assume that Sayers targeted the month of May to spark a public feud. He was asked a question after a public appearance and answered it honestly. His opinion clearly hadn't changed after the Bears' free-agent bonanza and he let it be known.

Second, I think Sayers added to this conversation because of the inherent credibility of his words. Say what you want about his injury-shortened career. Sayers is in the Hall of Fame, which means he is one of the best players in the history of the game.

It's one thing for a group of fans or some two-bit blogger to analyze the team. But when someone with Sayers' credentials does so, it carries more weight. To me, hearing Gale Sayers point out the Bears' flaws crystallized their legitimacy. Facts are facts: The Bears are a team with some obstacles left to be hurdled before they can contend for the NFC North title.


Nathan of Kaiserslautern writes: THANK YOU for the Hall of Justice flashback!!

Kevin Seifert: The most powerful forces of good ever assembled!


Richard of New Orleans writes: This is a pet peeve of mine -- the claim that lists Aaron Rodgers as a top-3 QB. I've seen Ben Roethlisberger listed as a top-5 QB. Whenever I see a claim of this sort, I always would like to ask them to list the Top X QB's. Rodgers, right now, is not a better QB than Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, or Brett Favre. The claim of Rodgers being top-3 is absurd. ... I don't think this claim is defensible.

Kevin Seifert: "Absurd" might be a bit strong, but I wouldn't put Rodgers ahead of Brees, Manning, Brady or Favre based on last season, either. But at this time next year, we could easily be singing a different tune.

In reality, however, these distinctions are arbitrary. Frankly, it makes more sense to gather all of the game's best quarterbacks into one "elite" category than come up with a random number that requires artificial inclusion or exclusion. If we wanted to come up with an "elite" grouping of quarterbacks, I would include these names:
  1. Drew Brees
  2. Peyton Manning
  3. Brett Favre
  4. Tom Brady
  5. Aaron Rodgers
  6. Philip Rivers
  7. Ben Roethlisberger

Call it a top-7.


Brandon of Detroit, Mich. writes: I really am pulling for the Lions to do well. Why does it seem every year we replace our secondary and the same bad results happen to them year after year? It befuddles me.

Kevin Seifert: It's just a consequence of years of bad drafting. Rarely can a team make simultaneous upgrades at multiple spots within a position group. There are no shortcuts, for the most part. You have to build depth over time.

The Lions have started over so often at cornerback and safety because they failed so frequently to identify and develop long-term starters. With history as our guide, I think we can say the Lions' secondary is going to be limited this season at well.

The one bright spot: they have planted a foundation with safety Louis Delmas, who is on my list as a possible 2010 NFC North breakout player. That leaves three positions left to fill -- a tough task, but still better than the usual four the Lions are dealing with. Perhaps third-round cornerback Amari Spievey can be another building block.