This could be a longer one, but in addition to the normal Review/Preview/Prediction, it’s time to dig deep into the (potentially) real issues concerning this Green Bay Packers team. If you pay attention to local, or even national, media, it seems as if everyone is giving their 2 cents. Obviously no one is 100% sure, not even the actual people involved. However, let’s take a look at each potential issue…maybe it’ll spark an intelligent conversation?
General Manager –
Ted Thompson has been at the helm since January 2005. He’s brought a system and philosophy of building through the draft, to which yours truly thoroughly believes is the best program to build a team (in any professional sport). Obviously to be successful with that one must draft well – Thompson began with a BANG by hitting home runs on his first 2 selections (Aaron Rodgers (1st round, 24th pick) and Nick Collins (2nd round, 19th pick). Without going into much detail, had Collins stayed healthy could’ve been, at minimum, a Green Bay Packers HOFer. Moving ahead, he’s essentially drafted at about a 50% clip, which when acquiring draft picks as often as possible (through not resigning players and receiving compensatory picks in return) and trading back in previous drafts to hoard mid-late round picks, means you’ll turn over your roster every 4-6 years and if you’re hitting on those picks, your team should always be young and talented.
In the last two seasons (2015 and 2016), much has been made about WRs not getting open, or players just not being good enough to make plays. In the Divisional playoff game at Arizona, many thought the Packers would get boatraced (I certainly did), yet the defense somehow found a way to hold Arizona (the #1 offense in the NFL last year), at home, to 17 points with 2:34 left in the game while the offense had the ball. When looking at playoff matchups and how to win, 20 points certainly seems to be the key number. If you can hold your opponent to 20 or less you should win that particular game. However, the mis-execution (insert whatever word you’d like) of the offense led Arizona to a FG after going 4 and out to push the lead to 20-13 with 2 min left. We all remember the hail maryS (capital S is intentional because Rodgers to Janis, TWICE) and I’ll argue Janis made one of the best catches I’ve ever seen on the second hail mary – outjumping arguably the bester cornerback in football – so there was talent on the team to get the job done last year, or at least enough to compete with what many believed was the most complete team in the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals.
With this season being a really weird one so far, I don’t believe lack of talent as the major issue even with the injuries. If anything, this season should be used as a learning lesson for all the playing time the 1st and 2nd year players are getting (Ladarius Gunter, Kentrell Brice, Blake Martinez, Jake Ryan (until injury last Sunday), Kenny Clark, Kyler Fackrell, Trevor Davis, Geronimo Allison, etc.) which takes 2-3 years for them to really become legit starters in the NFL. It should make this team much stronger and better in the years to come, but let’s not worry about the future, this is about right now. The offensive line is arguably top 2 in the league, the WRs have been open on a more consistent basis since the Chicago game (Thu, Oct 20), however the biggest issue and most obvious has been since the injuries to Eddie Lacy and James Starks there has been no real answer for running back. Ty Montgomery has shown capabilities, but then again he’s learning on the fly and can’t be expected to produce on a consistent basis during this stretch – maybe next year he’s an awesome option. All in all, I don’t believe Ted Thompson is at a major fault (some sure) for this team’s failure in 2016…otherwise Las Vegas wouldn’t keep putting them as a top 5 contender to win the Super Bowl (unless Vegas knows people will continuously bet the Packers if put high odds??? That’s counter-intuitive, or is it??)
Head Coach –
Mike McCarthy has, publically, taken most of the heat and has for some time. It’s well-deserved as his offense was figured out week 7 last year at Denver and took an entire calendar year to make corrections in effectiveness. The last two weeks should be the real concern, with the team lacking energy throughout the entire game v Indianapolis and it almost seeming like no one cared playing the Titans. The coach is single-handedly responsible for getting his team in the right mindset to play and win – something this team hasn’t done since hosting the awful Chicago Bears on a Thursday night showdown in Lambeau. Is the message stale? It could be, however with the roster consistently turning over every 4-6 years (remember that?) the message shouldn’t get stale any more than changing head coaches every 5 years except to those players that have been here longer (i.e. Rodgers, Nelson, Lang, Matthews, Burnett, and Shields). McCarthy may be a bigger part of the issue, with his message potentially being old, his scheme being figured out, and his team not showing up to play and pound two inferior opponents (Ind/Ten). Aside from the 2010 postseason run (and yes, I know you can’t just take it out, but let’s) a Green Bay-led McCarthy team hasn’t won two games in the playoffs. Think about that…literally 1 and done every single season other than the Magic Carpet Ride as some local sports media like to label it. There’s an argument to be made that he’s put his team in position to win versus superior opponents (2014 Seattle and 2015 Arizona) yet if those teams were superior that then falls on Ted…
Aaron Rodgers, the third and final piece of this 3-headed monster that’s wreaking havoc inside 1265 Lombardi Ave. People keep pointing to the Denver game last year when the Packers (6-0) met the Broncos (6-0), and were held to 77 yards passing, as the turning point to Rodgers’ struggles. However, Pro Football Focus (number nerds) have pegged Rodgers for not having great games dating back to the Dallas playoff game How’s that not a Catch? – Dez Bryant since his last good performance. I’m no coach, however I’m even able to see that he’s consistently not stepping into throws, choosing not to throw to open receivers, acting as if nothing’s his fault, so on and so forth. There’s been much written recently about potential “rifts” between Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy…the most interesting, let’s say, was an article from Pro Football Talk’s, Mike Florio, stating his opinion (paraphrasing): By Rodgers claiming one could feel the lack of juice on the entire sideline (during the Colts game), that was a direct shot at Head Coach Mike McCarthy; a potential issue arises that if McCarthy is fired at season’s end the QB will have gotten his way and why would he listen to anyone knew??? It definitely begs the question Instead of firing the Head Coach, should the Packers fire the star player? Everyone says “you don’t fire the players you fire the coach.” Well in the NFL, can you name the Quarterbacks to have won a Super Bowl after being with a team for 10+ seasons? I have the answer…next week 🙂 I’ll also provide my answer to “Whom is most at fault for this mess?” as well.
Now, onto the rematch of the Wild Card round against the Washington Redskins. The Redskins post the 4th rated offense in the NFL which doesn’t bode well based on the fact the Packers’ defense has been torched by Tennessee (6th) and Indianapolis (13th) in the previous weeks. The Packers rating is a bit misleading as teams have put up points early in the game and just hold the ball to run the clock and play a zone defense while Green Bay possesses the ball to burn clock as well. Either way if you’re a fan of the Packers and still think they have a chance at winning a Super Bowl this season (I’ll remind you, based on what we’ve seen since the start of last year they don’t) this is as much of a must-win game as you can have without it actually being an elimination game. Washington’s defense is 21st in the league, so this could be a matchup for the Packers offense to get back on track and show something similar to their matchup in Atlanta. It’s also interesting that Ted went out and picked up another potential option at Running Back, Christine Michael. Yes I spelled his first name correctly…I believe it’s pronounced Kristen. He’s a phenomenal athlete as in the top performer in 5 categories at the NFL combine in 2013 amongst all running backs. The knock on him, and why he’s been cut 3-4 times is he’s not the smartest human – most notably he signaled a first down after hesitating and not getting it. Another instance was waving off Marshawn Lynch coming onto the field as if he’s saying “I got this!” If that type of behavior continues his time donning the green and gold will be short, just like Knile Davis.
Overall, the Packers have more talent than the Redskins but it’s obvious to many they have not been playing on the same page for quite some time. I’m at the point with my favorite team that until they show they can win a football game, it’d be irresponsible to pick them.
*Sadly the record is now 15-12 as I picked correctly against my beloved Packers. Almost time to begin rooting for losses so that major change occurs. ***