NFC North: Los Angeles Lakers
DANA POINT, Calif. -- In a fortuitous bit of corporate synergy, the NFL and ESPN Sports Poll collaborated on a study to determine the nation's most popular individual pro sports franchises.
Owners and team executives viewed the results of the poll this week during their opening gathering at the St. Regis Hotel. NFL teams captured six of the top 10 spots in the poll, including the Black and Blue's own Green Bay Packers at No. 2.
By one measure, the poll means that in 2008, the Packers had the second-highest percentage of supporters among all U.S. pro sports franchises.
"We're a very recognizable brand and I think we still have a national following," Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy said. Here's the full list for 2008:
I guess I should be careful what I wish -- or ask -- for. You deposited almost 200 questions in the mailbag following Thursday's request for new material. So we'll continue last week's format of posting Part I on Saturday. That would leave Part II for Sunday. I'll get to as many as I can. Now, on with it.
Jeff of Rochester, Minn., writes: Kevin, really enjoy the blog. I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable football fan in general and Packers fan in particular and I am really struggling to buy into Ted Thompson's plan here. My question to you is, as the Packers stand now, and even if they have a super draft, have they done enough to improve enough to compete for a Super Bowl given the improvements other teams have made? After all, isn't the super bowl the goal?
Kevin Seifert: Thanks Jeff. I hate to say this, but a lot of your answer is in Dom Capers' hands. He's in charge of the most significant change the Packers made -- moving to a 3-4 defense -- in the wake of last season's problems. Capers is going to have to navigate a bit of a minefield. For the most part, he has to design his scheme around a group of 4-3 players. The draft could help, but how much immediate assistance can you expect from any rookie class? (Last year, for example, the Packers got almost none.) If Capers can improve the defense under those circumstances, the Packers have a chance to win the division. The Super Bowl? I don't think they're there yet.
Steve of Riverside writes: Why doesn't Minnesota open up with a 3-way battle between Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels, and John David Booty? Does Booty really need another year to "learn" the system? Look how well Cassel did in NE, and he wasn't even a starter. Booty proved he could play at SC so why not give him a chance? Is Childress that attached to TJack that he won't let Booty even sniff the field?
Kevin Seifert: I get a lot of questions about J.D. Booty, and I'll keep answering the same way: Nothing that I saw of Booty last summer suggested he would be ready to compete for a job in 2009. Remember, Cassel sat on the bench for three seasons before he got into the lineup last year.
Patrick of Rochester writes: Are the Lions waiting until after the draft to add another veteran QB? Considering the fact that they already have a veteran QB in Daunte Culpepper, would adding J.P. Losman, Kyle Boller or another young "veteran" be the best way to go?
Kevin Seifert: I think it's very possible that's why they're waiting. If they draft a quarterback in the first round, it's likely he would serve as the No. 2 behind Culpepper entering training camp. But if they don't have a young stud at quarterback this year, the Lions probably are going to want more depth. I'm sure they don't see Drew Henson as a viable backup and it seems like they're on the fence -- at best -- about Drew Stanton.
Mark from Rochester writes: Hey Kevin, what's your take on Michael Vick wearing purple and gold. Think about having Vick, A.P., and Chester Taylor in the Vikings backfield. They could have 3000+ rushing yards per year. I wouldn't mind having him in Minnesota.
Kevin Seifert: I don't think there is any chance of Vick signing with the Vikings as long as the Wilfs are their primary owners. And that's pretty much what Rick Spielman said when he was asked about it a few weeks ago.
Bobby of Chicago writes: If the Bears take Darrius Heywood-Bey with their first pick as predicted, what will they do to address their O-line and secondary? They can't fill every hole through the draft.
Kevin Seifert: This is supposed to be a deep draft for tackles, and they should be able to find value in the second or even third round. Unless Michael Oher slips, there might not be a tackle available at No. 18 overall that's worthy of being selected at that spot. As for the secondary, well, as you said, you can't address every need. I think that's why the Bears really had their eggs in the John St. Clair basket.
AJ of Marathon, New York, writes: Hey Kevin love the blog. What is the possibility of Chester Taylor being moved draft day or before the draft? Maybe a possibility of moving up by using him as trade bait?
Kevin Seifert: That's another question I get a lot, especially now that Taylor is entering the final year of his contract. Unless the Vikings get a running back early in the draft, I just don't see it happening. Even with Adrian Peterson on the roster, it's really become mandatory in the NFL to have two starting-caliber running backs. It's one of the best parts of the Vikings' roster and not a strength they're likely to dilute.
Baltimore writes: If the Vikings considered an aging Brett Favre why wouldn't they consider Jeff Garcia who knows the West Coast offense and is starter quality available for backup price. He has produced well his last three years working in a system that is run first and has a strong defense. He is a perfect fit and nobody is talking about it anywhere! To me it's a no-brainer.
Kevin Seifert: I, too, wonder if Garcia wouldn't be a decent short-term fix for the Vikings. But they weren't interested in him two years ago when he became a free agent, and they've shown him no interest now. Although I will say the thought process between adding Brett Favre and Jeff Garcia isn't totally the same.
Matt of Chicago writes: Now that Chicago has lost their starting LT St. Clair to free agency, what are they going to do to fill that void? They really don't have anybody on their roster right now to fill that spot. Will they spend their 1st round pick on a RT now instead of a WR?
Kevin Seifert: I doubt it. For now, they're going to use Frank Omiyale -- whom they signed as a free agent -- at right tackle. I would imagine they'll draft a tackle at some point, but it's unlikely to be in the first round. At least as of now.
Chris of Boulder writes: Who do you think is taking the best approach this offseason in the North? We have a variety of approaches and obviously different teams need different approaches, whether that is dismantling and retooling, signing big name free agents, trades, drafting, or Lovie Smith's simple 'toolbo
x' approach. In other words who has their mind right, who doesn't, and who do you think is currently on pace to put themselves in the best place to win the division?
Kevin Seifert: Interesting question. The way I see it, the only team that isn't sitting on the status quo -- at least from a personnel standpoint -- is Detroit. And the Lions were 0-16 last season. We'll start with them. I wouldn't always advocate their approach, which has generally been to sign aging veterans who figure as short-term starters at best. But their roster was so depleted that they couldn't afford to take long-term approaches at every position. So in short I think they've done what they needed to do. I'm a little surprised Green Bay hasn't been more active given their defensive scheme change, but that's the way Ted Thompson operates. Chicago played with fire and lost in the John St. Clair sweepstakes, so they're a little behind the ball at this point. The Vikings took another measured stab at trying to improve their quarterback position, but I still think they owe it to themselves to pursue Jay Cutler.
Max from Phoenix writes: Kevin, Enjoy your writing. I was wondering if you think there is any kind of possibility of the Lions making a deal with the first overall pick. I realize the money is astronomical, but do you think one team out there might fall in love with Matt Stafford?
Kevin Seifert: Thanks, Max. It's a bit early to get a sense if anyone really loves Stafford to the point where they would trade up. I think the Lions would definitely consider the trade option if it arises, especially if they can still pick in the top 5 or so. But to this point there aren't any obvious takers.
Steve of Chicago writes: Hey Kevin. I'm personally getting tired of all the mock drafts and projections already. I know, there's not much else going on right now, but I see 5 or more "updated" mocks every week just on the major sports sites. Historically, looking only ESPN mock drafts for NFC North teams, how accurate have mocks been anyway? If they're as inaccurate as I suspect, maybe people can join me in ignoring all mock drafts and they'll just go away. Or is that too much to hope for?
Kevin Seifert: I've always thought mock drafts should include a tagline that explains they're for entertainment purposes only. That would help everyone's blood pressure, I think.
Renzo of Dinkytown writes: How would you rate the Vikings drafting in the Childress/Spielman era? I was looking at the draft history and it seems like the past few years have produced some pretty solid picks, including the always amazing AP. Do you expect them to find similar playmakers this year?
Kevin Seifert: If I counted right, the Vikings still have 10 of the 13 players they've drafted under Spielman. That's a pretty good percentage. I would think they'll find at least one playmaker this year, especially if they take a receiver with the No. 22 overall pick.
Brent of Chicago writes: Just read your post regarding how Culpepper has come back this year looking much more like his former self. What are the odds that the Lions suddenly get high on Culpepper before the draft and start to think that they can get at least 2 more productive years out of him? If that's the case, they could obviously take a more developmental prospect with 33rd pick or even wait to the third round. Any chance this scenario plays out, or am I just crazy?
Kevin Seifert: I could see it playing out under a different initiating event. I don't think they'll make a draft decision based on how long they think Culpepper can play. But if they decide not to take a quarterback high in the draft, it's possible they could turn to Culpepper for the next few years. In the end, it's the same scenario. Just a different motivation.
Miksouza of Maui writes: If the Vikings do move somewhere else someday, would they lose the name and colors (e.g. Titans/Oilers or Ravens/original Browns)?
Kevin Seifert: That's been the trend lately. But don't forget the reason why the NBA has the Los Angeles Lakers. They were originally the Minneapolis Lakers, in the state of 10,000 lakes. Just saying.
Aaron of St. Louis writes: Did Detroit burn every bridge with Shaun Rogers? That interception he ran back for a touchdown two seasons ago was so fun to watch.
Kevin Seifert: It sure was. I don't think the Lions' previous regime would want him back. But I wonder if Jim Schwartz could use him in the Albert Haynesworth role of his defense.