Offseason, things to think about…

Looking back at my NFL season predictions I correctly predicted 5 of the 12 playoff teams.  I missed both 1 seeds (Denver and Carolina) and obviously missed the Super Bowl, by miles.  Cam Newton has shocked many and deserves the MVP, but he’s still not a good quarterback (in my opinion).  He misses too many easy throws, by NFL standards, and relies on his athletic ability coupled with his strength and size to move the ball.  It works for now until those skills diminish and he’s forced to make good, precise throws to guys that aren’t running wide open.  He sure is fun to watch!

Moving on to the Packers’ offseason.  There are tough decisions to be made.  Whether to resign Casey Hayward (CB #29)?  Not cut Julius Peppers?  Keep Mike Neal AND Nick Perry (OLBs/DEs)?  Which one? Neither?  Extend David Bakhtiari (LT) before his price rises?  Let’s break it down, shall we?

Hayward had an up and down year, mostly due to Capers misusing him and putting him in a position to fail.  If the rookies Randall and Rollins continue to grow they could be cornerstone cornerback (??? Should I trademark that???), allowing the Packers to be in a position NOT to resign him.  I’m torn so either decision I’ll be fine with, just don’t overpay him ($7M/yr. or more).

Peppers too had an up and down year.  Sure he finished the campaign with 10.5 sacks, but did little outside of those plays.  Yes some were game-changing but I believe Green Bay can get more consistent production from Jayrone Elliott and/or a rookie (oohhhh the draft…), or a combo of both.

Neal/Perry are considered essentially one starting player when combined due to their inconsistent play.  Perry actually contributed in clutch situations with a solid pass rush and v. the run.  It took 4 years to learn the OLB position in a 3-4 defense considering he’s a perfect run-stuffing DE in a 4-3 scheme (I’m happy to explain this in further detail if you’d like, just ask!).  I’d consider bringing Perry back as the Packers will need depth at OLB (or LB in general) even if Matthews moves back to full-time b/c Peppers should be gone, but won’t.

Bakhtiari…ahh yes.  We all found out how bad he really is this year…or good?  Thanks Barclay for regressing so bad that you made Bakhtiari look GOOD!!!!  It’s safe to say Barclay is gone (I initially liked him but he regressed a ton since 2012).  I’d let Bakhtiari’s rookie contract play out before extending him.  He may garner $7-8M/yr. and I believe a solution for LT could be found in the draft, and by solution I mean an upgrade!

So let’s recap – 50/50 on resigning Hayward, I’m good either way (remember just don’t overpay).  Cut Peppers, an improvement can be made through the draft, plus it opens a spot for a kid to develop.  Neal/Perry: Neal didn’t give much this year so HE GONE! and Perry I’d bring back because he showed 1. Availability and 2. Production at key times.  Lastly, Bakhtiari…the Packers are in a position to afford to let his contract play out.  If he performs to a top 10 LT then good news you have a top 10 LT…bad news!  You have to PAY A TOP 10 LT!!!

Next week I’ll dive into the NFL draft and who (whom? I should know this as my parents were English teachers and I’m a grammar Nazi) to keep an eye on.  I’ll also recap a little Bucks and preview the Brewers in coming weeks J  Thanks for hanging in there!

This is the definition of Insanity.

Another season, another failure.  Many of you may call me spoiled.  Packer fans shouldn’t have to apologize for having a Super Bowl or Bust mentality, ‘nor should they since 1995 (realistic chance of winning a World Championship).  Any excuse is irrelevant and embarrassing.  It’s not OK that this team fell, yet again, short of attaining a more than reasonable goal.  I can spend plenty of more time on this topic, but let’s move on for now.

Recapping the Divisional Round game at Arizona – the Packers seemed like the better prepared team, a team that’s used to playing in the playoffs.  Per usual the game came down to a few plays, most notably the ones at the end that brought us all up to our feet then crushed us to our a…seats.

With that, let’s take a look at placing blame because well, that’s what fans do!  A few of you know I’ve liked McCarthy since day 1 for many reasons.  Mostly for his quarterback development, gameplan/prep, etc.  He doesn’t deserve blame, hardly any (in my opinion) for this game but deserves quite a bit for the entire season.  Giving power to the players is one of, if not the, worst decisions a Head Coach can do.  Then stripping the play-calling duties from Clements wasn’t ideal because it furthered an apparent rift between the quarterback and head coach.  This type of issue can percolate throughout the entire team.  I believe this all plays into where I’m going with this – I believe it was Bill Walsh who said (and I’m paraphrasing) A head coach has a shelf-life of about 10 years in the NFL.  Whether it be the game passing him by or his message falling on deaf ears, it seems to be that way.

If memory serves me right, there’s only 1 Head Coach (and 1 QB too) who has won a Super Bowl prior to his 10-year mark and won another after while being with the same team.  That Head Coach is Bill Belicheck, the new standard of Head Coaching in NFL history.  I place an equal amount of blame on the General Manager, Head Coach, and Hall of Fame QB for not hoisting the Lombardi trophy this year.  Based on relationships and how things are set up it would seem that either the Head Coach must go or the QB.  Being realistic, Aaron Rodgers is unlikely to be traded regardless of changes that come down, however his attitude, production (or lack thereof), and consistent playoff failure need to be recognized by fans v. getting a pass because he’s Aaron Rodgers.  There was an article written not too long ago stating how McCarthy needs to go and it would benefit both him and the Packers (message topic, see above).  I don’t think Ted Thompson will part ways with Mac, ‘nor do I think he will with #12, just trying to give a different perspective than having blind fandom.

So if the General Manager is the same and keeps his same process stays, the Head Coach stays, and the QB stays (aka nothing changes) why would we fans expect any different outcome?  I believe the championship team of 2010 was truly that, a championship team.  Had Rodgers not been concussed the 2nd time they likely go 11-5 and possibly 12-4 (either way earning the 2 seed v the 6), which many consider Got Hot at the Right Time.  Now it seems that this team is put together to continuously go 11-5, win a division title, and lose in the divisional round.  Many fans are OK with that because “as long as we get in the playoffs, we have a shot.”  I couldn’t disagree more.  Thompson’s philosophy I think is brilliant.  You can build a sustained winner while never being in cap trouble (salary cap allows only to pay a certain amount  of money each season to keep things fair across the league, if you want a further explanation Google it or I can explain later), however when you’re at the point where the Packers are you must find a way to capitalize on it – whether that’s bringing in free agents (I’ve never been a fan of bringing in big money ones, still not a fan of the Peppers contact hint: he wasn’t worth it) drafting better, developing better, whatever it is it needs to happen.  Changing Head Coaches may be the easiest change to make…yes it’s not guaranteed to win a super bowl, Hell it’s not guaranteed to keep us as a winner.  What it is guaranteed to do is take away the opportunity for many fans (I’ll be at the front of the line) to scream This is Insane!!!  (Going by the definition of Insanity being doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results).

Don’t Get Too Excited…yet.

It was quite refreshing to see 1st downs, let alone points scored!  That was the most fun watching a Packers game in quite some time…oh, wait – it was the Redskins.  Yes many picked Washington to win (yes, as did I) but this was far from a quality opponent.  Their record was 9-7 but the best team they beat was .500 and the combined record of opponents they beat was 58-86.  Let’s focus on the positives shall we?  The defense made key plays at key times, held an opponent under 20 points, and Davante Adams caught a pass…with his hands, it was incredible.

Aaron Rodgers still had an average game, for most quarterbacks, and a bad game for his standards.  He missed too many throws early on which the Packers can’t afford if they want to beat Arizona Saturday night.  Eddie Lacy is still out of shape and it’s killing this team because the best running back option is a decent backup (James Starks).  This will definitely need to be addressed in the offseason, adding a new running back.

Let’s take a look at the Arizona Cardinals.  It’s only been since December 27th since we last saw them and the final score resembled October 31st (working on my Dad jokes).  But all kidding aside, Green Bay will look a bit different.  First off they have confidence, legit confidence as heading into their first meeting the media was “too negative,” and that may have led to a bad mindset.  Second, BJ Raji will be in the starting lineup and that’s a huge key in stopping the Cardinals’ running game beginning with David Johnson.  David Bakhtiari and Sam Shields have a shot to return and that would completely give Arizona a larger challenge than the previous matchup.

Let’s take a look where Green Bay has the advantage – experience winning in the postseason.  There’s something to be said for that, regardless of how bad the Packers are or how good Arizona is.  Going by stats the Packers technically have a better pass rush than Arizona which is comforting in the sense that Arizona was 2nd in the NFL in point differential (+176) meaning their opponents were behind and needing to pass often.  The fact the Packers possess (at least as good) a pass rush like Arizona is huge.  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnndddddd the advantages stop there.

The Cardinals’ wide receiver corps is great with veteran Larry Fitzgerald leading the way with a great compliment on the outside with Michael Floyd, a big strong receiver from Notre Dame, and a perfect slot receiver (what Randall Cobb really is) with devastating speed and route running skills.  Their head coach, Bruce Arians, may be the best coach in the NFL not named Bill Belicheck.  With all of this I see the game being much closer than the 30-point blowout from 3+ weeks ago but the same result.

Packers 20
Cardinals 34

*If Green Bay does pull this out, there’s no reason not to believe (double negative?) this team shouldn’t win the Super Bowl, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.*

Something to Watch for Tonight

Reason to watch tonight – there’s a lot of speed on the field tonight in the NCAA Football National Championship between The Alabama Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers.  Speed is what the Green Bay Packers are lacking, keeping them from being a top team in the NFL.  He may not be available when the Packers draft in the 1st round, likely somewhere in the late 20’s, but keep an eye on Reggie Ragland (#19 on Alabama and ILB).  There’s speed all over the field tonight, plenty of talent, especially on Alabama’s defensive front 7.  Any/all would be an upgrade at most of the position for Green Bay.

This Team Made the Playoffs???

Can’t say that I’m surprised.  Minnesota isn’t that good of a team, didn’t play well, and still came into Lambeau and won…that should tell everyone how bad this Packers team is.  It’s not being negative if it’s true, is it?  The offense still is inept, the in-fighting is growing by the day, and the respect seems to have been lost for the head coach.  Its apparent McCarthy has lost the team and he must go, regardless of the outcome of this season – barring a miracle Super Bowl victory.  Yes I’m advocating firing Mike McCarthy even if the Packers somehow reach the Super Bowl but lose, winning championships are all that matter.

Aaron Rodgers isn’t innocent in this hot mess either.  His lack of respect and indirect calling out of his head coach are the acts of a spoiled child not getting his way.  Is he wrong?  Probably not.  Is there a better way to handle it?  Of course.  For someone that claims to hold himself to a high-standard, and a person who is intelligent in many areas, he’s failed in almost all of them this year – on and off the field.  Maybe this is a larger issue for a different day, likely the offseason when nothing else is going on.  Plus I’m sure this is a touchy subject, holding the star QB accountable for anything.

Review – as stated above the Vikings didn’t play a great game, hell credit the Packers’ defense for giving Bridgewater and their offense fits all game.  However, the Packers’ offense continues to lose games for this team which is tough to comprehend for most.  The first 8 possessions of this game resembled last week’s pathetic output, mustering 3 points and leaving no time to mount a comeback versus a beatable team in a divisional championship game, AT HOME!  There’s no time to breakdown specific players but maybe next year if it calls for it.

Preview – Washington is the surprise team of the NFL, for those not counting how awful this Packers team is when most thought they’d be Super Bowl champions (like yours truly).  The Redskins finished the season ranked 17th in total offense and 28th in total defense – compare that to Green Bay’s (23rd and 15th, respectively) and it’d appear this to be a great matchup.  Kirk Cousins (Was QB) was the most accurate passer in the NFL, a spot mostly reserved for Aaron Rodgers, and there are matchup nightmares spread across Washington’s offense couple that with the possibility of Green Bay going to battle without their top 2 cornerbacks (Sam Shields and Damarious Randall) and this could be a huge issue.  Players to watch for when Washington has the ball, the battering ram combo of Matt Jones and Alfred Morris out of the backfield, Desean Jackson (a speedy WR), and Jordan Reed (possibly the 2nd most dynamic TE in the NFL – behind Gronk of course).   All present problems to Green Bay, but very plausible to think they can be slowed, if not stopped.  The Packers’ Defense has shown up in the second half of the season and is improving week by week, outside of the Arizona game.  The Packers have shown a propensity to be an elite defense if facing an average to below-average QB.  People in Washington are waiting for the “Bad Cousins” to show as he’s overdue.  Let’s hope he does.  The Redskins’ defense is opportunistic but can be had…however no one should have confidence in the Packers offense at this point.

This could be another game like last week where it’s two “playoff-caliber” teams that just aren’t all that good…either team could win.  After seeing the consistency of the Packers not being able to get first downs, let alone score, I fear more of the same.

Packers 13
Redskins 24