Players from bottom of roster rise up
Some previously unheralded Packers shine, proving that every spot matters
Have a question for Ross Tucker? Connect with him here. He may answer your question in a mailbag column.
From the inbox
Q: What are your thoughts on Juan Castillo becoming defensive coordinator of the Eagles?
Larry from New York
A: Like a lot of people, I was very surprised when I first heard the news. I've never previously heard of moving an offensive line coach to the other side of the ball to become defensive coordinator. At a minimum, it opens head coach Andy Reid up to a tremendous amount of criticism if it doesn't work out. But does that really matter? Reid is going to start to feel the heat and be under heavy scrutiny if the defense doesn't get better, no matter who the defensive coordinator is.
There are some teams, such as the Patriots, that like to cross-train guys on both sides of the ball, so maybe that is what Reid is going for. I do like that they now have arguably the best offensive and defensive line coaches in the league in Howard Mudd and Jim Washburn. That should pay immediate dividends.
Q: As a Packer fan, of course I felt that Clay Matthews was deserving of the Defensive POY award. Don't get me wrong, Troy Polamalu is one heck of a player and seemingly a sure HOF player when his career ends, so take nothing away from what he has accomplished, he's well-deserving. My question is, coming from someone who's been inside the huddle, does NOT winning one of these awards motivate a player even more? Clay has seemingly always come from behind in his career, and I feel as though he did it again during Super Bowl XLV.
Kevin from Milwaukee
A: Well, I was never even in the stratosphere of any awards like that, Kevin, so I wouldn't personally know. I can tell you, however, I have had several teammates that took things like a Pro Bowl snub very personally and used it to motivate them all year long. Things like that can add just a little extra fuel to the fire, and I wouldn't doubt that Matthews wanted to prove in the Super Bowl that he was the best defensive player on the field. I know he teased one reporter in the locker room after the game for picking Julius Peppers over him for the award, so whether he downplays it or not, it is on his mind.
Q: Ross I'd love for you to comment on the Jay Cutler controversy. It seems that Cutler was removed from the game because with an injury (major or minor) he would have hurt the team had he played at less than 100%. Now we hear the sad news that Eagles kicker David Akers played after hearing that his daughter had cancer. Should Akers have been withdrawn by the Eagles management for the game because nobody could play at 100% after hearing that news?
David from Cape Town, South Africa
A: Pretty tough to compare those two, David. Let's start with Cutler. I still have several questions regarding his injury, and those questions mainly revolve around how it was treated after he came out of the game. It wasn't. I really don't understand that. If he had an injury that was bad enough that they said it would have made him questionable for the Super Bowl, why was he standing on it on the sidelines instead of getting off his feet and icing it? And why would he be walking the streets of Los Angeles just two days after the game instead of getting treatment for his Grade 2 MCL tear? Doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.
As for Akers, I think it would probably be on him to let the team know he didn't feel he could perform because of a personal issue. There are a lot of players out there who compete with heavy hearts if they feel they are up for it. Favre famously did that on a Monday night against the Raiders after his father passed away. That doesn't mean Akers should have, it just means that the player probably knows himself the best and knows whether or not he can handle it. To Akers' credit, he has never used it as an excuse for missing those kicks.
Q: I would like to hear your thoughts on an 18-game schedule in regards to this one thing that isn't being mentioned by ANYBODY. Rushing yards, passing yards, touchdowns, etc. In an 18-game season these records are going to be shattered. I just hate the thought of an above-average player finishing his career with identical statistics to that of Hall of Famers such as Ray Lewis and Dan Marino, etc.
Tim from Toronto
A: I understand where you are coming from, Tim, and I'm sure there are others who feel the same way, but I am not a big stat guy. Never have been. I think they are already skewed by weather, system, teammates, coaching philosophy, rules of the game, etc. Numbers can and often do lie, but the film never does. And keep in mind the season has already increased from 14 games to 16 once, so all of the records have a certain level of taint to them.
Ross Tucker, who played on the offensive line for five teams in his seven-year NFL career, writes regularly for ESPN.com.