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Greg Bedard: The Cheesehead TV Interview

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Greg Bedard: The Cheesehead TV Interview

Greg Bedard, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Packer beat writer, recently sat down in with me in cyberspace to answer some questions from Cheesehead TV. We'd like to thank him for taking the time and for even associating himself with the Packer Blogosphere. ;)


CHTV: What made you want to become a writer (not just covering sports)? Favorite authors?

Well, I guess the first thing I would say is I don't consider myself a sports writer. I think of myself as a sports reporter. Always have. I love reporting -- digging for stories, culling sources, getting players to give you good quotes, being a grinder. I have never aspired to being a writer although I strive every day to be a better one.

I have always felt -- and in this challenging age for newspapers even more so -- that I will be read if I get things (news, quotes, stories, insider analysis, etc.) that readers can't get anywhere else. There will always be better writers than me. I'll freely admit that. But readers, I think, want information more than anything. It's nice if you can turn a phrase, and I think I do on occasion -- when you're actually given time on this crazy beat to do that. But I think it's much more important today to unearth news. If you have information, readers will come.

I have always wanted to be a sports writer, at least since I started contemplating my future in college. The first thing I did after quitting baseball at Rutgers after my last frustrating injury was to walk into the sports section at The Daily Targum, the independent student daily newspaper, and sign up. I was immediately hooked and wanted to be immersed in it at all times (which really helped my lagging studies). I would even skip classes to cover women's softball games -- my first beat -- and I thought it was the greatest thing ever. I covered them like the Boston Red Sox. Even made one of the players cry because I second-guessed the coach for not pinch-hitting for her and her .220 average late in the game. Did I feel bad? Sure. But I told it like it was, and I've never stopped.

My big influences have been most of the Boston Globe guys -- Bob Ryan, Dan Shaughnessy (when he was good), Peter Gammons, Will McDonough, etc. Peter King has been somewhat of a mentor to me -- I consulted him before taking the job up here. Love anything Gary Smith writes. John Feinstein blew me away with "A Season on the Brink" when I was in middle school. Tony Kornheiser was phenomenal before the rise of TV/radio and the web. David Halberstam was one of the best, and I got to talk to him several times, including once a few weeks before his death. Mitch Albom is also a great read.

CHTV:What did your wife say when she found out you would be moving from Miami to Milwaukee?

She was on board, if not a little leery, from the get-go. We moved down to Florida after college mostly because she wanted to continue her career as a pro golfer. But it was helpful that I spent half my childhood in Palm Beach County and had family in the area. We knew the next move would be because of my job.

To be honest, we had grown tired of South Florida. It's not the same place where I grew up. Plus the cost of living had spiraled out of control. And I wasn't happy at my former employer. Add in the twins we had in '07, the move to a better place to raise a family that had a much lower cost of living was a no-brainer. It has also been helpful that her sister is in Chicago.

With me being from Boston and her from New Jersey, we figured we could handle the winters up here. Of course, we've had two of the worst on record since we've been here, so that has been a tough adjustment. But we love the area (minus the weather) and the people. I love the paper and people I work with. And we're able to hold our head above water in this economy as we still own our house in Florida.

But my wife is the MVP of this operation, no doubt. She takes great care of our children and that allows me to focus on my job.

CHTV: Have you ever gotten into an altercation (verbal or otherwise) with an employee of the Dolphins or Packers?

Not here with the Packers. Do I have disagreements with some of the staff, players and coaches from time to time? Yes, but nothing that has resulted in shouting or anything like that.

In Miami there were a few blowups, which linger to this day. It's funny that people think I love Jason Taylor because I've written the Packers should get him a few times. The truth is, Jason and I departed on not very good terms. It's a very long story that doesn't really need to be told. Obviously I don't think I was wrong and I don't have an image I need protected like some people. It ended with him looking for me after a game. I knew he wanted to confront me but I couldn't wait any longer -- I was on deadline after a 4 p.m. game -- so I had gone up into the press box by the time he emerged. A few writers said it was probably good that I wasn't there.

There's also a certain person in that organization who still bad-mouths me to this day, or so I heard at the Senior Bowl. Of course, my paychecks aren't signed by the Miami Dolphins.

Oh, and I was on the receiving end more than a few times of some classic Nick Saban blowups in his office. Those were always fun. He never got it. He thought I was supposed to be helping them. Uh, that's not my job. He's better off at the college level. I could go on all day about Saban.

CHTV: Which stadium has the nicest press box? The worst?

You know, Lambeau is really nice. Really good sight-lines. I don't like any of the open-air press boxes because I prefer not to work with a headache, so that eliminates Minnesota (great vantage point, though) and Detroit.

Also, most of the new stadiums have moved the press boxes either really high or into the corners to accommodate more luxury seats. Chicago is in a corner.

My least favorite was Texas Stadium (what a dump) and Giants Stadium (absurdly high).

Seattle I really liked. Dolphins Stadium is good if you're in the football press box (just for local beat writers). I think I like Lambeau the best.

CHTV: Do all the writers on the JS Packers beat read Cheesehead TV?

Ha. I'm sorry to say, Aaron, but no. Let's just say that some reporters are pretty used to doing things a certain way. The internet, and all it has to offer, is still foreign to some. And that's OK. Everybody has their own way of doing their job. I might be the only one that reads you and others. I actually try to take a look at all of the better blogs once a day and a few of the message boards. I'm not afraid to say it helps me with story ideas and some of you guys are all over the web, so you might find some nuggets that I have yet to stumble across. I like to get a pulse for what the fans are thinking and interested in. I do realize that the cyberview of the Packers might be a little eschewed -- and I take that into account -- but there's some decent stuff out there. I try to use every tool available to me to be a better reporter. I'm not ashamed to say that. Some reporters would never admit as much.

CHTV: Who is the most underrated player on the Packers' roster?

Hmmmm. I would have to say Cullen Jenkins. His injury really, really hurt the Packers this season. It had finally started to click for him. It will be interesting to see him transition to an end in the 3-4. What a thankless job.

And I think Brandon Chillar is a real good football player. He is inconsistent at times but I think he's just getting into his prime. I'll be very interested to see how they use him in the 3-4. If they use him right, I think he could take off. But he had gotten pretty skinny last year.

CHTV: As readers of this blog well know, you steal my ideas all the time. Care to come clean on how you came up with the idea to link to the coaches page on for one of your blog posts?

LOL, how did I know this was going to come up? OK, here's the truth, I swear. During the entire coaching thing, I checked that page a few times a day hoping the Packers would screw something up and post an addition or subtraction before it was actually announced. One guy listed under defensive coaches was pretty funny so I posted something about it.

Only later did I see your post. I usually check the blogs at the end of the day because I have surmised that most of you guys have jobs, families, mothers wanting you to clean out the basement, etc., so you really don't get around to posting until the end of the day. When I saw your post, I thought, "Here we go."

We're really just two brilliant minds that think alike.

CHTV: Ted Thompson signed Aaron Rodgers to a huge contract extension after 7 games. Rodgers' play began to falter shortly thereafter. Two questions: Did Thompson jump the gun? and Is Rodgers as good as he can get (which is pretty good) or will he continue to grow and become a very good to great quarterback?

A little bit. I mean, why not wait until a little longer to see what you've got? The truth is the market was already set and unless Rodgers tanked and/or got hurt, the numbers weren't really going to change. I found the Ryan Grant contract much more shocking.

Rodgers can get a lot better -- any player, especially a QB, is going to improve the more they play and see. Remember, Rodgers only started two years at D-1 school and his first year he wasn't a full-time starter (he got yanked during the upset of USC). So we're talking about a guy that has not played a lot of football. He really benefited from sitting his first three years. He needed to be re-taught because Jeff Tedford QBs do not have a very good track record in the pros.

But the thing with Rodgers is, and I pointed this out at about midseason, is he won't be a complete quarterback until he puts the team on his back for a game, and wins one at the end. He actually should have had two of those last-minute wins against Minnesota and Chicago, but the Packers missed field goals. His "late-game failures" -- he was let down more by Crosby and the defense more than his own failings -- will continue to hover over his head until he does it. He has to get it done before he can take the next step.

CHTV: Were you surprised McCarthy cleaned house as much as he did on the defensive coaching staff?

The only one I would have kept was Lionel Washington, so not really. Not to say those other guys aren't good coaches -- I think very highly of Big Daddy and Robert Nunn -- but a new energy was needed across the board. I thought this should have been done after the 2007 season. I think it's fair to say my thoughts on the Bates/Sanders scheme are well-documented from the time I got here in '07. The late-season failings of that scheme in '07 should have served notice to McCarthy of what was to come. If you're McCarthy, you have to hope the change hasn't come too late.

CHTV: True or False: The Packers will have a Top 10 defense in 2009.

It's close, but I'm going to say false. I like Dom Capers and the staff they have put together -- getting Mike Trgovac and Darren Perry were huge moves. I think they'll be a little better than middle of the road. I think they're going to struggle early because you have to play fast in this league. The only way you do that is if you know, almost by instinct, what you're going to do on certain plays and offensive looks. Nick Collins was the best example of that this past year, when he finally had that defense down. All these guys are going to be thinking their way through games and that's no way to play in this league. Why do you think it takes so long for young players in Pittsburgh to play in that defense?

The secondary is a big concern in my eyes, especially the safeties. They, or at least the guy making the calls, are the quarterbacks in this scheme. They have to know it frontwards and backwards or else the entire defense will be out of sync. I just don't see how Collins and Atari Bigby are going to get that stuff down in one offseason. Some of the biggest failings on defense came last year (and the years before) on communication problems. I think the Packers would be well served to bring in a couple of veterans that have played in this scheme -- specifically one at safety -- to help the transition along.

But the change needed to be made. I'm so glad I'll never again have to hear, "We do what we do." Drove me nuts. Yeah, well, opponents will no longer have the luxury of knowing ahead of time exactly what the Packers will do. They might be a 4-3 team one week, and a 3-4 the next. Teams will finally have to spend time accounting for all the different things the Packers could do on defense, instead of just devising ways to beat their same old scheme. For that, Packers fans should be grateful.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (11) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

IronMan's picture

Well done Aaron. Good questions!

IPBprez's picture

Good Interview, Aaron. Really, very good!
I like how Greg didn't balk at some of the questions posed. Not the usual variety. Do you believe him about "ideas" question? I'd give it to him as the same situation has occurred to me.
I agree on the Rodgers contract comment, as well. And, I AM a hardcore supporter of Bootlegger - have been since May 2008. He handled the offseason nonsense with total class and had already earned the respect of the O-Line by playing with a broken foot against the Pats in '06 - again something that only Donovan McNabb gets great press about - very uneven coverage over the same injury. Tauscher is who outed Rodgers' nickname as: Bootlegger (and why). I disagree on his reasoning as to why Rodgers doesn't deserve more credit for his '08 performance - he did come in sixth in the League overall, and fifth in the TD/INT ratio. I highly doubt other first year starters would have handled it so well, behind a less than stellar O-Line. Only two other Rookies had anything to crow about in '08 - Flacco & Ryan. Flacco had more to worry about / Ryan had a top-drawer Running Back.
I'd like to hear him backup his comment on Bigby's "ability to grasp" - is this considered a Wonderlic issue? I felt Bigby's play was quite good in '07, even if he did over-pursue a few times, and '08 probably could have been better, but (again) injuries were there, much like Barnett. Nick Collins is the one who came on good in '08 - caught just about everyone by surprise - the Club were all jaw-dropped about it. We're just used to Woodson puttin' on the shows.
AS FAR AS the Pack having a Top Ten Defense (?) - JMHO, but it could go either way -
1) We could be middle of the road, as it's still considered a transition
2) We could SHOCK THE LEAGUE and end up in the Top Seven - it's why they play the game.

Ron La Canne's picture

I find his comments on Rodgers interesting. Especially, the comeback wins issue. He mentioned two wins Rodgers should have been credited with, Minn. and Chi. Related to that the Packers announced today that they are bringing in competition for Crosby. I suspect MM didn't like losing two games he played to insure points for the win and ended up losing both. The difference 6-10 or 8-8.

Alex Tallitsch's picture

You guys suck. Nice work.

Andrew in Atlanta's picture

So when I was calling you "secret agent man" because you were alluding to a media contact you had - I guess we know who that is now. Very nice Aaron

Ron La Canne's picture


Forgot my P.S. in the comment above. You've given the Blog a whole new dimension. Great Stuff - Now, of course, we will expect more.

manolito's picture

PAD LEVEL!!!! Kevin Greene's still got it at 46, do you?

joshywoshybigfatposhy's picture

i'm a bit late here, but did anyone else notice the jsonline blog getting much better late this season? i think bedard has settled in nicely, and i like his attitude. he knows what he's good at and seems to stick to it. i also like that he didn't get along with saban - i suppose that means he's human, which is nice.

Franklin Hillside's picture

Considering that Crosby missed two game winning field goals, and Frost lost us two games (in a total of only 7 or 8 played) due to terrible field position, it is not out of the realm of possibility to say we could/should have been 10-6.

That shows how important special teams' play is.

IPBprez's picture

That's the shame of it, Frank... QB's do usually get toooo much of the blame most of the time when a Team loses. Although, his predecessor did seem to get a lot of protection against sole blame, many times, even when it was an INT that did it. But, let's move on.
I think MOST of packerfandom has taken it with a grain o' salt that DEFFENSE and SPECIAL TEAMS are what cost us the Playoffs last season.
I would also add that a 'prevent' mentality coming from the Play Calls after the Dallas game. And, it didn't change much throughout the season, at least UNTIL Game #16, against Detroit. Even Aaron Rodgers admitted as much with his gratitude to MAC over that long bomb to Donald Driver.
Question: How many other Teams, last season, lost games as closely as the Packers did?
[The difference between 6-10 or 10-6]

DaveK's picture

Great interview and answers! Loved every word of it!

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