Saturday, January 29, 2011
NFC North weekend mailbag
By Kevin Seifert
While we have a moment during the quiet weekend before the storm of Super Bowl XLV, let's hit a number of odds and ends that have built up in the mailbag and elsewhere.
Andy of Chicago writes: Why did the Green Bay Packers have their celebration and trophy presentation in their locker room? Half the fun of winning the NFC Championship on the road is getting to party on their turf. Was this done out of respect for the rivalry or was it just a personal choice the Packers made?
Kevin Seifert: I poked around a bit after the game on this topic, recognizing as Andy did, the sensitive nature of the Packers celebrating a trip to the Super Bowl at Soldier Field. My understanding is that the decision was made at the league level for mostly atmospheric reasons.
The best-case scenario, of course, is having a trophy ceremony in front of your home fans. But doing so in an empty stadium, or in front of hostile fans, isn't a great recipe for a celebration. As you recall, the New York Giants moved into the Lambeau Field visitor's locker room for the NFC trophy presentation in 2007.
Long-time NFC North fans might recall members of the Atlanta Falcons dancing the "Dirty Bird" on the Metrodome field in 1998. As funny as that might have been, it probably wasn't the most respectful message of sportsmanship.
Debate the merits of those reasons if you will, but that's my understanding of why the Packers' ceremony was moved indoors.
Kate of San Diego writes: Why are the Packers the home team in the Super Bowl?
Kevin Seifert: The designation rotates each year between the AFC and NFC. This year, it's the NFC champion's turn. I wish the answer were more interesting than that. Sorry.
Bigwalt2990 of Toledo, Ohio, writes: Is there any coloration between Jim Schwartz leaving Tennessee and Tennessee trending downward?
Kevin Seifert: I don't know every detail of the Titans' crash, which concluded Thursday evening with the surprise departure of coach Jeff Fisher. But I think you can make an anecdotal argument that, at the very least, we have learned who the brains of the Titans defense was during a good part of the last decade.
There was never much debate about Schwartz's effectiveness as the Titans' defensive coordinator, but the dropoff on that side of the ball has been obvious since his departure. The Titans had the NFL's No. 7 defense in 2008, Schwartz's final season in Tennessee. Accelerated by some poor personnel decisions, they dropped to No. 28 in 2009 and were No. 26 in last season.
Schwartz's defense in Detroit made incremental strides in 2010, most notably finishing with the sixth-most sacks in the NFL (44).
Via Facebook, Dan asks: Is there any chance the Minnesota Vikings could just ask the state not to fix the Metrodome, and then play all season at TCF Bank Stadium? My thought is if they did this, the state could use the insurance money that I would assume is in place to pay for a new roof on the dome and have it redirected and used to put a big chunk of change into the stadium fund, saving both the Vikings and the state money.
Kevin Seifert: I have not heard that idea floated, Dan. But I do think it's clear the Vikings want the Metrodome razed, not repaired. Privately, they see the roof collapse as an opportunity to accelerate approval of a new stadium. Their ideal scenario is to play the next two years in TCF Bank Stadium and then move into a new facility on the Metrodome site for the 2013 season.
Team officials have also met with developers who are selling suburban sites, most recently in Arden Hills. But to circle back to your question, I think the Vikings will oppose any efforts to repair the Metrodome. I'm not sure they would be motivated by the insurance money so much as they would be to avoid a return to the old building. Moving back into the Metrodome without an agreement to replace it would be an undeniable setback.
Gern of Edina, Minn., brings us this Packers-related financial tip: The price of a 40 lb. block of cheddar cheese on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange has increased 37 cents per pound during the Packers' historic run through the playoffs. Cheddar blocks are currently trading at $1.735/lb. (as of market close 1/28/11), which is well above historical averages for this time of year. I actually trade dairy commodities and admit there are other factors at play when evaluating this rise in the price of cheese. Regardless, I found the coincidence a bit humorous.
Kevin Seifert: Gern also provided a link to this Cheesereporter price chart. It's true. Cheese blocks were being traded for $1.37 less than three weeks ago. And you thought the only reason to come to this blog was for the humor and football insight!
Julian of Fontana, Calif., writes: Is anyone going to address how poorly Aaron Rodgers played against the Bears? I mean 'really' address it? The Rodgers bandwagon was running like a bullet train throughout the playoffs, then, 'BAM!' -- it gets blindsided by a bunch of Bears. But guess what? Nobody noticed. In the midst of the Jay Cutler talk and all the talk about defenses and BJ Raji, everyone has forgotten that Aaron Rogers could have lost that game to a 3rd string QB.
Kevin Seifert: I would make a couple of points in response. First, there is no doubt Rodgers had a really rough second half of the NFC Championship Game. He completed seven of 15 passes for 88 yards and an interception. Most important, the Packers' offense didn't score.
But Rodgers had a lot to do with the Packers taking a 14-0 lead in the first place. On their two scoring drives, Rodgers completed all six of his passes and accounted for 107 of the Packers' 128 yards. He also scored one of their two offensive touchdowns, a 1-yard run off a play fake in the first quarter.
Rodgers himself said: "I can play a lot better than I did last Sunday, that's for sure. You've got to give credit to Chicago's defense. They had a good plan for us, but I didn't throw the ball as well as I wanted to."
With all that said, it's only natural for the second half to fade from consciousness given the bigger picture. Had Bears backup Caleb Hanie thrown a touchdown instead of an interception on the final possession, maybe we would have had a much different outcome. In fact, we might have spent the week talking about Hanie's comeback -- and not the interception he threw to Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji. That's just how it works.