Let’s take a quick break from making ball jokes at the NFL’s expense and wallowing in our misery over the Green Bay Packers collapse from eight days ago to gaze into the future.
Specifically, let’s gaze into the Packers’ future, all the way to May (or April, or June, or Christmas…whenever the hell the NFL draft is this year) and the rookie draft. Then let’s pretend that mysteriously, every prospect across the board in this year’s draft is equally talented.
There’s no debating about drafting talent over need because all players are equally talented. If you need a pass-rushing defensive end, you can take that pass-rushing defensive end without fear of regretting not taking the more talented cornerback only because you already have plenty of cornerbacks.
So, with all talent being equal, what position should the Packers address in the first round? Here are three obvious options and one darkhorse option:
If the Packers can nab a middle linebacker in the first round that could match the output of Desmond Bishop in late 2010 and throughout 2011, this defense should take another step forward. The A.J. Hawk era in Green Bay appears to be coming to an end. The Clay Matthews experiment was a success, but a short-term fix. Brad Jones…oh Brad Jones…I don’t even know what to say. I’m thinking most Packers fans have middle linebacker at the top of their draft boards, as they should.
With Tramon Williams on the wrong side of 30 and a free agent, and with the talented but oft-injured Davon House also hitting free agency, the Packers will likely need some help on the outside of the secondary. An argument could be made that several top teams, the Packers included, have had success finding cornerbacks late in the draft, through undrafted free agency, or off other team’s practice squads. But cornerback is such an important position in today’s pass-happy game. I say it belongs near the top of the priority list.
Imagine what this offense would look like if Richard Rodgers develops into an above average tight end and a has a rookie tight end to help him out on routes down the seam?
Here’s the darkhorse candidate. The 2014 Packers offensive line was the best of the Aaron Rodgers/Mike McCarthy era. You might be thinking, “Just re-sign Bryan Bulaga and plug this same group in again next season.” If only it were that easy. Even if the Packers re-sign Bulaga, he’s an injury-prone player. He missed half of 2012, all of 2013 and left two games early in 2014, only to see his replacement give up huge sacks late in the game.
Plus it’s probably a longshot to expect David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Cory Linsley and T.J. Lang to play every snap again in 2015.
Drafting another quality offensive linemen gives the Packers the depth they need up front in case of emergency, and a long-term option for 2016 and beyond.
After the Green Bay Packers lost to the 49ers in last year’s wild-card round, I was very critical of Aaron Rodgers and his playoff performances since winning Super Bowl XLV.
After the Packers meltdown in Sunday’s NFC title game, it’s time to be critical of another prominent figure in the Packers organization for his shortcomings post-Super Bowl: head coach Mike McCarthy.
I don’t need to re-hash every area where McCarthy erred on Sunday. By now, the decision not to go four it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard-line, twice, has been beaten to death. We’ve also lamented McCarthy’s conservative playcalling in the second half repeatedly.
All of that and more is laid out in this scathing piece from Ty Dunne at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
If we want to pile on even further, we can fault McCarthy for not getting in Dom Capers’ ear during a critical series in the second half where the Packers defense went into a soft zone instead of continuing to dial up pressure when Seattle picked up a first down after being faced with second and 31. Or we can blame McCarthy for keeping Shawn Slocum around despite repeated special teams failures.
Fact is, with the exception of the second half against Dallas a couple weeks ago, McCarthy (like his quarterback) hasn’t brought it in the playoffs since winning Super Bowl XLV. That doesn’t mean McCarthy should be fired. It doesn’t mean he’s a bad coach. It just incredibly frustrating.
Think back to last season’s playoff defeat against San Francisco. On the first Packers series, McCarthy calls three straight runs, the last of which ended up with John Kuhn coming up a yard short of a first down and the Packers punting.
Next series: run up the gut for a yard, Rodgers is sacked, incomplete pass that would’ve been well short of a first down anyway, punt.
On the next series, Rodgers took a sack, missed on a short pass, and McCarthy surrendered on third and 15 by calling a draw play. Punt.
Just like they did against Seattle on Sunday, the Packers had a real shot at taking control of that San Francisco game early, but McCarthy’s buttoned-up approach was a contributing factor in preventing that from happening.
Go back to all the Packers’ playoff defeats since winning the Super Bowl. You can even re-visit the wild-card round win over the Fighting Joe Webbs. Has McCarthy done anything that made you think, “Man, coach Mac really outsmarted the other team today.” Or, “I’m really glad McCarthy did what he did in that situation. Really helped the Packers win this game.”
I’m hoping this critique of postseason McCarthy doesn’t take a mind-numbing turn in the comments section like my Rodgers critique did following last year’s 49ers’ loss. I didn’t write this to post to serve as a referendum on whether McCarthy should be fired. He shouldn’t be. He’s an excellent coach and I can’t think of another active coach I’d rather have coaching the Packers.
But the postseason shortcomings are starting to add up, and there seems to be a pattern that entails overly conservative playcalling combined with complete meltdowns on either defense, special teams or both.
While I won’t even give people who clamor for McCarthy to be fired the time of day, I will listen to those who think it might be time to turn over playcalling duties to a true offensive coordinator. Valid critiques of McCarthy’s playcalling are starting to pile up, and they’re coming from more than the usual crowd who complains about everything.
I don’t see McCarthy ever giving up playcalling duties (I wouldn’t in his situation, either), but it’s intriguing to think about what might happen if McCarthy is freed up to give more attention to defense and special teams late in big games. Would it help prevent the collapses of recent years?
And would an offensive coordinator who calls the plays, using guidance and direction provided by McCarthy during the week, help the Packers end this run of postseason games where their offense gets stagnant and predictable, especially when the opportunity is there to deliver a crushing blow to the other team?
Who knows? Either way, it stinks we’re talking about this instead of how to beat the Patriots in two weeks.
The worst part about the Green Bay Packers choking away the NFC Championship game in Seattle is the fact that it’s going to be a full year before the Packers have a shot at redemption.
At this point, the regular season is basically a formality for the Packers. They’ll win between 10 and 13 games next season, contend for the division title, and be in the mix for a top-seed in the playoffs. Just like they are every season.
Next season, like just about every season during the Favre/Rodgers era, will be full of memorable moments, big wins, and bigger performances from the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson and Clay Matthews.
But through it all, what happened on Sunday will linger in the back of my mind and the minds of all Packers fans. We’ll love what happens on the march toward another NFC North title, but we’ll constantly be looking ahead to the postseason, and wondering if it’s all going to be washed away by yet another playoff meltdown.
Not only have the Packers been one of the most successful and exciting teams in football during the Favre/Rodgers era, they also lead the league in gut-wrenching postseason defeats. Vikings fans will claim to be the leader in the gut-wrenching defeat category, but that’s yet another area where they can’t match the Packers.
Super Bowl 32, The Terrell Owens catch, the Michael Vick game, 4th and 26, the 2007 NFC championship, the strip-sack fumble OT loss in Arizona, losing in the divisional round after a 15-1 regular season, and whatever the hell you want to call Sunday’s meltdown — all of those add up to a level of postseason failures that would make the Atlanta Braves blush.
Thankfully, none of that overshadows the two Super Bowls the Packers have won amidst all those tear-your-heart-out losses. And, with all due respect to Josh Sitton, I’d much rather root for a team that has a legit shot to win it all every season and collapses 80 percent of the time instead of a team that is lucky to reach the postseason twice per decade.
But what happened on Sunday hurts, and it’s going to hurt for a long time. Redemption will only come if the Packers make their way back to the NFC title game a year from now and win the damn thing.
That might be harsh and unfair, but another division title and playoff disappointment won’t heal the hole blasted in my Packers psyche on Sunday. Doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy whatever thrilling ride the Packers take me on next season and appreciate everything they will probably accomplish. It just means true redemption is at least a year way, and that’s a long time to wait.
On to the final Packers Stock Report of this season:
Crosby trotted onto the field far too often for my liking, but man, what a kick to send the game into overtime.
Of all the Packers players I feel for today, I might feel the most for Peppers. He deserved a shot at the Super Bowl.
I know I’ll get flack for this one, but I don’t care. Rodgers wasn’t anything special on Sunday, but he did a damn fine job going up against the league’s best defense on one leg. Most healthy quarterbacks would not have been able to do what Rodgers did Sunday against that defense on the road.
Another great effort in pass blocking from the offensive line. I say re-sign Bryan Bulaga and keep this group together for next season.
I’m looking forward to Rodgers taking the next step in 2015.
Be nice to Bostick, Packers fans. He’s far from the only reason Green Bay pissed that game away.
Sometimes I wonder if the Packers success running the ball early in games hurts them later in games. Does it give McCarthy reason to think he’s coaching the 1993 Dallas Cowboys instead of the high-flying Packers led by Aaron Rodgers? Going conservative and pointlessly running up the middle over and over again in the fourth quarter was hard to watch. So was settling for field goals twice on Seattle’s 1-yard line. Mike should’ve tried to punch it in at least once.
The Green Bay Packers really needed that win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. If the Packers would have lost, I had some evil, nasty thoughts running through my head.
Thoughts like, “If the Packers have another one-and-done in the playoffs, they’ve essentially been a more exciting version of the Cincinnati Bengals since winning the Super Bowl in 2010.”
Whew. That’s a bad one. Not entirely inaccurate, but still bad. Nobody who loves the Packers as much as I do should ever put the Packers in the same sentence as the Bengals, even if it’s just in your own head and the Packers are trailing by eight in the second half of a divisional playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Another thought I had: “Fire everyone.”
That makes me no different than the (dozens? hundreds? thousands? tens of thousands?) crazies on Twitter who call for Dom Capers’ head after every first down allowed by the Packers, or demand the public flogging of Ted Thompson for every big-name free agent not signed by Green Bay.
The last, and most insane thought I had: “Put in Matt Flynn!”
Seriously, my mind was so weak when the Packers were trailing that I actually allowed this thought to creep into my head. If I would have tweeted this insane thought or allowed it to escape my mind in the form of words through my mouth, a team of medical professionals would have pulled up to my house and confined me to a straight jacket before hauling me off to a faraway facility for further evaluation.
Thankfully, the Packers won. Now, only the Seattle Seachickens stand in the way of the Packers reaching the Super Bowl.
My mind is right again. As Mike McCarthy would say, my mindset is no longer polluted. But sometimes my mindset gets polluted when the Packers are losing an important playoff game. I can’t help it.
Thankfully, the following players stepped up and knocked all those crazy thoughts out of my head. The Packers Stock Report normally contains a rising, steady and falling section. But when the Packers win a playoff game, I get so happy and amped up that I eliminate the steady and falling categories.
(Brad Jones, you’re off the hook this week.)
A Packers postseason win means everybody is rising, but here are a handful of players who stood out a little more than others:
24 for 35 for 316 yards, 3 TDs, zero interceptions and a 125.4 QB rating. On one leg. Damn.
Football is a funny game. Two-thirds of the way through the season, we were wondering if Davante Adams was a bust. Now he’s helping the Packers win playoff games. Adams reminds me more and more of a young James Jones. Frustrating at times, but talented enough to be an impact player.
Even if Peppers didn’t do a single thing in the regular season, his strip of DeMarco Murray in the third quarter was worth every penny the Packers are paying him this season. Remember the playoffs of yesteryear when the Packers lined up guys like Erik Walden and Andy Mulumba at outside linebacker? Yikes.
The price tag for re-signing Cobb goes up after every game and he deserves every penny. What a big time player.
Daniels might not make the flash plays like Peppers or teammate Clay Matthews, but he’s a constant force inside. On Sunday, he even fought through a blatant hold to sack Tony Romo.
Speaking of quietly making an impact, Quarless has turned into a nice second option for Rodgers if Cobb is covered when the play breaks down. Tough, reliable and consistent. That’s what Quarless was on Sunday and what he’s been most of this season.
The Rodgers-to-Rodgers connection to take the lead on Sunday was one of the most memorable plays of the season. Once a game for the last several weeks, Richard Rodgers has come up with a big play.
When the early success of the running game didn’t carry beyond the opening drive, McCarthy found his team stuck in the mud. So what did he do? He ditched the buttoned-up game plan, spread the Cowboys out, and tested the limits of what his one-legged quarterback was able to do. The adjustment and strategy shift paid off. Now the Packers got a shot to play in Arizona.
What’s been the common theme whenever Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers’ offense struggles?
Sometimes pass protection breaks down. Sometimes Rodgers holds the ball too long. Sometimes Mike McCarthy gets pass-happy. Sometimes the Packers lose the turnover battle.
All of those things happen…sometimes. But the one thing that always seems to happen when the Packers’ offense stumbles is the inability of the wide receivers to overcome a physical secondary. And by “physical,” I mean a secondary that tugs, grabs, chucks, holds, and pushes receivers before, during and after routes — straddling the always-blurry line that separates illegal contact, defensive holding and pass interference from plain old good defense.
That line often seems to shift in a direction that favors the clutchers and the grabbers in the postseason. Once January arrives, the general sentiment is usually “let ’em play.” Nobody wants to see “officials decide the game,” even if that means the officials alter what they call in the postseason compared to the regular season.
When the officials allow defenders a little extra leeway, it often throws off the Packers receivers. They’re used to running free and catching perfectly placed passes from Rodgers, then scampering forward for additional yards. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams are a talented group, but physicality isn’t necessarily their strongest suit. You can rattle them by pushing them around and getting away with it.
If any Cowboys fans are reading this, I’m not making pre-excuses and blaming the refs if the Packers lose on Sunday. There’s a reason illegal contact, defensive holding and pass interference are judgment calls. Sometimes the refs judge not to call them, and the players impacted by that judgment need to adjust.
The Packers often don’t adjust when the other team gets physical with its receivers. Instead of calling more short passes, screens, or turning to the running game, McCarthy keeps chucking it and Rodgers continues looking downfield. Instead of making tight throws that might force an official to call pass interference, Rodgers holds onto the ball and becomes hesitant.
I don’t believe there’s a blueprint for how to slow down the Packers offense, but if there was, getting physical with the wide receivers would be on the first page. If I’m Cowboys’ defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli on Sunday, I’m telling my defensive backs to bully Nelson/Cobb/Adams as much possible. The refs won’t throw a flag every play, and Dallas will probably get the benefit of the doubt more often than not since it’s a divisional playoff game.
After all, what’s the alternative? Play in fear of a flag and let the Packers’ receivers run around untouched? Marinelli knows he doesn’t have the players to make that strategy work. Getting mean is the only way to go.
On paper, the Cowboys’ defense shouldn’t be much of a match for the Packers’ offense. But Dallas can make it more of a battle by pushing the boundaries of what is or is not a penalty in pass coverage.
If the officials “let ’em play,” it’ll be up to the Packers’ receivers and their entire offense to adjust and overcome.
The Dallas Cowboys beat the Detroit Lions in the wild card round of the NFL playoffs on Sunday. Next up for the Cowboys: a trip to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round.
Here’s an early outlook on the Packers vs. Cowboys playoff matchup. Look for much more coverage throughout the week here at ALLGBP.com.
The Cowboys have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. But the Lions got to Tony Romo early with blitzes from all different directions. If I’m Dom Capers, I bring the pressure early and often. Not only will blitzing help chip away at a great offensive line, it’ll baffle Romo. Unlike Rodgers, Romo doesn’t do much of anything to adjust his protection pre-snap, which leads to unblocked rushers and mismatches.
I don’t think the Dallas defense stands much of a chance against the Packers’ offense unless the Dallas D forces turnovers like it did in the regular season. The Cowboys were second in the NFL with 31 takeaways in the regular season. The Packers only turned the ball over 13 times. As they say, something’s got to give. I’m confident Rodgers won’t throw any straight-up interceptions, but the Cowboys got their hands up and tipped some passes against the Lions on Sunday, resulting in one interception. They’ll try and do the same against Green Bay, hoping to get their fingers on a pass and catch it before it hits the ground.
Stars vs. Stars
Which teams stars will outperform the other team’s stars? If the Cowboys get big games from Romo, Demarco Murray and Dez Bryant, they’re as tough to beat as any team in the league. If Rodgers, Eddie Lacy and Jordy Nelson/Randall Cobb are rolling for Green Bay, the Packers might break the scoreboard. Rodgers hasn’t had a dominant postseason game since Super Bowl XLV. Let’s see if he cranks it up on Sunday and shines brighter than the other stars on the field.
The Cowboys’ victory on Sunday came with an *asterisk because the officials inexplicably picked up a pass-interference flag on Dallas during a key third-down play late in the game. Who knows if we’ll see something that egregious this Sunday, but how the game is called will be a factor. The way to slow down Rodgers and his receivers is to grab them, hold them, chuck them and pester them — straddling the line just enough to hope the refs won’t throw a flag, especially in a playoff game where the general sentiment is to just “let them play.”
The health of Rodgers’ calf is, obviously, the key to the game. Matthew Stafford had success running against the Cowboys on Sunday. A healthy Rodgers should too, but not if he’s limited to just standing in the pocket with a bum calf.
There’s been plenty of football played over the last four days. Unfortunately, none of it was played by the Green Bay Packers.
To help fill that void, here’s a playoff edition of Surviving Sunday. I’ll cover as many Packers topics as I can, and, as always, mix in a few non-Packers thoughts and opinions that will make you laugh, cry, hurl, or all three.
Packers news, notes and links
- Don’t get me wrong, it’s not good that Aaron Rodgers is battling an injured calf. However, it’s been interesting watching him operate out of the pocket using quick passes that incorporate the running backs and tight ends these last two weeks. Haven’t we been wanting the Packers’ offense to incorporate more timing routes and check-downs ever since Rodgers took over? Again, I’m not saying the calf injury is a good thing, but maybe it’ll force Mike McCarthy and Rodgers to add yet another wrinkle to an already dangerous offense.
- The general sentiment out there among Packers fans is that they’d rather avoid playing Dallas next weekend, if possible. I get that sentiment, but that mindset also ticks me off. I hate the Cowboys. They ruined my teenage years by always beating the Packers in the playoffs. Jerry Jones is a terrible person. Their new stadium is an atrocity. It’d be a whole lot of fun to beat the Cowboys in the playoffs and send them spiraling back to mediocrity. Besides, should we really be that afraid of Tony Romo in January, on the road?
- New Year’s Eve brought news that the Packers have started talking to Letroy Guion about a contract extension. I’ve got no problem with bringing Guion back — I like his athleticism and the job he’s done filling in for B.J. Raji this season. But hopefully the Packers don’t go too overboard on the deal. Guion isn’t an all-pro and I don’t think it’s a given that he can repeat what he’s done most of this season. I’m sure Ted Thompson has a number in mind, and hopefully that number means the Packers could have both Raji and Guion back in 2015 at decent prices.
- Obviously, Ndomukong Suh is a piece of trash and his stepping on Rodgers’ leg was intentional. But I don’t have a problem with his suspension being reduced to a fine only. Call me insensitive, but I didn’t think Suh’s offense warranted a playoff suspension.
- J.J. Watt is a helluva football player, but Rodgers should be this season’s MVP. If you’re starting an NFL franchise and your goal is to win right away, you take Rodgers over Watt every time. Plus 10 of Watt’s 20.5 sacks came against the hapless Titans and Jaguars.
- If you could only bring back one player next season, would you bring back Tramon Williams or Davon House? Williams is the crafty veteran who’s still good. House is the younger player with potential who can’t seem to stay healthy long enough to put it all together. Gun to my head, I’d bring back Tramon. I know that goes against the Packers keep-it-young philosophy, but man, Tramon hasn’t slowed down much and he’s playing with more passion and aggression than he ever has before. I just don’t trust House to stay healthy.
- Go Pack Go!
Non-Packers news, notes and links
- Here’s legendary WWF announcer Jim Ross calling the Oregon Ducks blowout victory over Florida State in the Rose Bowl. “GOOD GOD, HE’S BROKEN IN HALF!!!!”
- This might open up a can of worms, but it’s been bugging me. A police officer shoots an unarmed man in Ferguson and a grand jury doesn’t indict the officer. A police officer chokes out and kills an unarmed man in New York, no indictment. A state trooper is heading to the scene of a motorcycle accident with his siren blaring and lights flashing in Minnesota. A car pulls out in front of him, the trooper hits it, and the two occupants of the vehicle die. The trooper is indicted on manslaughter charges. WTF? To my amateur legal mind, it seems that of the three, the trooper was the least deserving of an indictment. By far.
- I just finished reading The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks. Highly recommended.
- I was sick a couple of weeks ago and did nothing but watch true crime documentaries. The best one was Murder on a Sunday Morning. The defense attorney is a total badass.
- Good to see the best football video game on the market getting some well-deserved publicity.
- Slate put together a tremendous compilation of everything we were outraged about in 2014. I wonder what the Packers version of this would look like for 2014?
- Finally, do any of our wonderful readers play board games? The wife and I are always looking for new ways to entertain ourselves now that our lives revolve around our 1 year old instead of which new bar or restaurant to try. I’ve heard good things about Pandemic and Ticket to Ride. Thoughts? Any other board game suggestions? Let me know in the comments.