Comparing the Packers Defense to the Juggernauts in Seattle and San Francisco

Seahaws CB Richard Sherman gave a postgame interview after his team won the NFC Championship game that would’ve fit well into one of the Godfather movies.

An email exchange among Jersey Al and the crew during the NFC championship game between the Seahawks and 49ers got me thinking about the Packers defense compared to the two defensive units we saw on the field in Seattle on Sunday.

The Seahawks defense is like The Godfather: Tough, gritty, innovative, in-your-face, shocking at times and wildly entertaining.

The 49ers defense is like the The Godfather Part II: Unique, equally as tough, maybe a little sleeker, and just as shocking.

The Packers defense is like The Godfather Part III: A few decent moments, but mostly hated by fans of the Godfather franchise, boring, dated, slow and frustrating.

If there are any mafia Dons among the millions of Packers fans throughout the world, perhaps one of them could make the 49ers or Seahawks an “offer they couldn’t refuse” to swap defenses with the Green and Gold.

When you were watching the Seahawks and 49ers defenses on Sunday, what came to mind when you compared them to the Packers D?



EXCLUSIVE: A Season Wrap-up News Conference from Packers GM Ted Thompson

Packers GM Ted Thompson.

Since Packers general manager Ted Thompson didn’t do a season-ending news conference to answer (or not really answer) the many questions fans had about roster decisions, we’ll do it for him and just make everything up.

The murmer from the assembled media quiets as Thompson enters the room and steps up to the podium. The Silver Fox appears to be as excited as he always is about speaking with the local press, which means he’s not excited whatsoever.

Tom Silverstein (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel): Ted, why didn’t you draft a safety or sign one in free agency? You had to know you were thin at the position, right?

Ted Thompson: I won a Super Bowl with Charlie Freaking Peprah playing safety. Shorthanded is a term used in hockey when a team is trying to kill a power play. It’s not a term used around here.

Jason Wilde (ESPN Milwaukee): Because of all the injuries your team suffers each season and many of the defensive draft picks not working out, yet, as you probably hoped they would, is it time for you to start using veteran free agency to fill holes on the roster?

TT: I don’t know, Jason. Ask my quarterback on that little radio show that you two do every week.

Rob Demovsky (ESPN): Are you comfortable going into next season with Dom Capers as defensive coordinator?

TT: For the most part. I’ve had my PR staff pushing out the “Dom’s defense is too complicated for young players to understand” narrative — kind of like Metallica’s “LuLu” album with Lou Reed went over everyone’s head. That seems to be taking a little bit of heat off of him.

Jersey Al Bracco ( What areas do Morgan Burnett and Brad Jones needs to improve on in order to live up to the contracts you gave them last offseason?

TT: If you can think of an area, they need to improve on it. Hey! You’re a blogger, aren’t you? Who let a f—ing blogger in here?! Get him out!

Mason Crosby enters the room, hits Jersey Al over the head with a steel chair, and drags him out of the room. “My mother warned me about this guy,” Crosby says before exiting with a knocked out Jersey Al draped over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. 

Wes Hodkiewicz (Green Bay Press Gazette): What happened to B.J. Raji’s play this season? Were you surprised that he didn’t accept your contract extension offer for $8 million per year?

TT: Raji was on the team this season? Coulda fooled me. I never noticed him. And what contract extension are you talking about? No way I offered Raji $8 million per year. Uh-uh. No way. Not me. Must’ve been someone else you’re thinking of.

Thompson begins whistling and looking up sheepishly at the ceiling.

Bob McGinn (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel): I was talking to scouts the other day about how soft the Packers are and they all talked about how the Packers are soft, the defense is soft, the offense is soft, the special teams are soft, you’re soft, the fans are soft, everything is soft, soft, soft. Do you think the Packers need to be less soft and how do you plan to fix the Packers softness this offseason?

TT: The Packers are not soft, they are smooth. Big difference.

Tom Oates (Wisconsin State Journal): Do you plan to sign Jarius Byrd to shore up the safety position?

TT: There is a better chance of me joining Twitter and live-Tweeting my draft board than there is of me signing Jarius Byrd.

Brian Carriveau (CheesheadTV): Why won’t your PR staff credential Cheesehead TV to cover games at Lambeau?

TT: Because the only blog I read is

A Packers PR staffer looks annoyed and says the next question will be the last question.

Ed Werder (ESPN): Will the Packers retire Brett Favre’s number in 2014?

TT: We were going to retire it this year, but the way things went at QB, I was thiiiiiis close to calling the ‘ol Gunslinger and asking him if he wanted to suit back up one last time. And if you believe that, then you’ll actually believe that one day I will give a news conference where I actually tell you something.

The Packers are still among the NFL’s Elite (if they can stop being so fragile)

It’s tough to be an elite team when the franchise quarterback breaks his collar bone.

I’ve heard all about how the Packers aren’t on the same level as the Seahawks or 49ers.

I’ve read the pleas for Ted Thompson to start signing veteran free agents to plug roster holes.

I’ve seen the calls for Dom Capers to be fired.

I’ve noted the cries for more playmakers on both sides of the ball.

I’ve gotten frustrated at the Packers poor special teams play.

I’ve been exasperated by the play of Morgan Burnett and Brad Jones after they signed contract extensions.

I’ve been just as frustrated (warning: NSFW. And it’s not me in the video. I swear.) as all of you have been after another early playoff exit.

I agree that the Packers haven’t been as good as San Francisco or Seattle over the last two seasons.

I agree that Ted Thompson should not completely ignore veteran free agency when building his roster.

I wouldn’t mind seeing Capers gone.

I’d like more playmakers on the field, just like every other team’s fanbase would.

I hate getting irrationally angry after the Packers allow a long kickoff return.

I wish Burnett and Jones (and Raji, as long as we’re at it) would quit stealing money from the Packers.

These are legit problems that the Packers faced this season and should address in the future. But isn’t the Packers main problem injuries?

If the Packers don’t play significant parts of the season without Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Casey Hayward, Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley and Bryan Bulaga, wouldn’t a lot of these other issues be covered up?

If Eddie Lacy, Sam Shields, James Jones, Nick Perry, Evan Dietrich-Smith and Robert Francois don’t miss all or parts of multiple games, would the Packers be on the same level as San Francisco and Seattle?

I think they would be. And that’s not making excuses or being blind to the fact that a few things around 1265 Lombardi Ave. could be done differently. It’s hard to be elite when you play without your best offensive player, best defensive player, your starting left tackle, your top tight end, one of your best wide receivers and a really good special teams player for most of the season.

If the Packers choose to only fix one problem area on this team during the offseason, it needs to be their constant injury issues. That’s the issue that’s really keeping the Packers from being great.

How do you remedy the injury pandemic? I don’t know. Say a few extra prayers. Cross your fingers. Wear different color socks. Tackle more in practice. Make players eat rocks to increase toughness. Who knows?

But if the Packers stay healthy — hell, even if they cut the number of injuries in half — they will be elite once again.

I Don’t Want to Hear About Dom Capers’ Defense being too Complicated

Dom Capers coached the defense that finished ranked 25th in total defense.

Dom Capers

The debate about whether Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers should be fired has been swirling for over two seasons and won’t go away until Capers himself goes away or the Packers defense improves.

Now, another narrative has emerged to push back against those who want Capers canned: Dom’s defense is just too complicated for young players to understand.

Capers’ defense might very well be complicated — maybe even too complicated for young players to fully grasp. If that is, indeed, the case, then it’s yet another reason why Capers should be fired, not an excuse to keep him around and forgive the Packers defensive shortcomings.

If Capers’ defense is too complicated, then he needs to make the appropriate adjustments and simplify things as necessary to help his young, injury-ravaged defense. We’ve seen the same mistakes occur over and over again in the Packers secondary under Capers watch: big passing plays downfield as two Packers defensive backs point at each other and argue about who was supposed to be where.

I understand that you can’t just overhaul and make drastic changes to a defense on the fly, but the same breakdowns have been happening for a long time now. There has been plenty of time to make adjustments to try and cover some of the Packers inexperience. Instead, it seems like Capers tried to fit the square peg of his young players into the round of hole of his complicated scheme.

The issue of Capers’ defense being too complicated for young players also raises questions about his fit for the Packers. If Capers’ defense requires veterans to grasp and execute it, then why is he the defensive coordinator on a team that doesn’t sign veteran free agents and relies heavily on rookies every season, some of which aren’t even drafted?

I’m non entirely on the fire Capers bandwagon. I agree that the Packers problems on defense go beyond the coordinator. But the new talking point about the Packers defense being too young to understand Capers’ scheme is maddening.

If Capers’ players on defense just aren’t getting the scheme, he needs to make adjustments. Youth is not a valid excuse for the underperformance of Capers’ defense the last three seasons.

Packers Free Agent Overview: Offense

Will Packers running back James Starks return and once again team up with Eddie Lacy?

With 17 free agents and just under $10 million in salary cap space carrying over into 2014, changes are coming to the Green Bay Packers roster.

We’ve already taken a look at upcoming Packers free agents on defense. Now let’s examine the decisions Packers general manager Ted Thompson has to make about free agents on offense.

WR James Jones
When Jones hit the open market in 2011, there were few buyers and he ended up back in Green Bay. After three good seasons, will Jones find more suitors this time around? He’s been a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver his whole career, but Jones has had stretches where he kinda sorta looks like a No. 1. At 29 years old, though, I doubt anyone will pay Jones as a No. 1 receiver and it could lead to him once again landing back in Green Bay at another Packers-friendly contract. With the emergence of Jarrett Boykin down the stretch, Thompson has plenty of leverage when negotiating with Jones and might even feel comfortable enough to move on entirely from the man who wears a sleeveless turtleneck. It’ll be interesting to see if Aaron Rodgers lobbies for Jones to be re-signed like he did back in 2011.

TE Jermichael Finley
This one will be up to the doctors. If Finley is cleared to play football again, how big of a contract is a team willing to give him? Does Finley sign a cheaper one-year deal and try to prove himself all over again to land a fat deal in 2015? Even if he is cleared to play, are the Packers interested in re-signing him?

TE Andrew Quarless
Quarless didn’t come close to filling the playmaking void left by Finley, but he did have a few moments. Quarless’s future will be determined by what happens with Finley and whether the Packers address the tight end position in the draft.

C Evan Dietrich-Smith
The Packers put the lowest restricted free-agent tender on Dietrich-Smith last offseason and were able to retain him. When Dietrich-Smith hits the market this offseason, he should have more interest. The Packers were effective on the ground in 2013 and Dietrich-Smith’s physical play was a contributing factor. But with J.C. Tretter waiting in the wings and capable centers available in the mid-rounds of the draft, Thompson could choose to save some money for other areas of the team and let Dietrch-Smith find work elsewhere.

QB Matt Flynn
I doubt another team is going to throw a big contract at Flynn like the Seahawks did after the 2010 season, so look for Flynn to be back as the backup quarterback. It’ll be nice to go through a preseason without gnashing our teeth about the inexperience and incompetence at the backup quarterback position. Flynn did exactly what a backup quarterback is supposed to do: Make a few plays here and there and keep the team above water until the starter returns.

RB James Starks
I wonder if someone will throw a fat contract at Starks. Yes, the injury questions will always loom over him, but he looked faster than he ever has this season. At times Starks appeared to be controlled by 15-year-old kid holding down the turbo button while playing Madden Football on the PS4. I’d love to have Starks back as a speedy, yet powerful, complement to Eddie Lacy, but don’t be surprised if the Packers can’t match offers from other teams and Jonathan Franklin and DuJuan Harris have to step up as backups.

FB John Kuhn
Kuhn’s block on Julius Peppers in the season finale might have been worth $10 million by itself. Is anyone else going to throw a decent contract at pass-blocking fullback who occasionally crashes forward for 1 yard or catches a dump-off pass? I don’t think so. Look for Kuhn to return at a team-friendly price.

RB Kahlil Bell

T Marshall Newhouse
Bryan Bulaga and Derek Sherrod should be back next season, meaning Newhouse’s days in Green Bay are probably over.

QB Seneca Wallace
Wallace couldn’t beat the Bears and exited after one series against Philadelphia. His day with the Packers are over.

Packers Free Agent Overview: Defense

CB Sam Shields headlines the list of Packers free agents on defense.

With 17 free agents and just under $10 million in salary cap space carrying over into 2014, changes are coming to the Green Bay Packers roster.

Debate about whether it’s time for Packers general manager Ted Thompson to finally dip into free agency will heat up as the offseason rolls along. Just as important for Thompson is deciding which of his own free agents to retain and which to let walk.

Everyone asks if the Packers should resign (insert name of pending free agent). The answer to that question is almost always, “Sure, if the price is right.” Unfortunately for the Packers, the price isn’t always right and not everybody can be retained.

Let’s take a look at pending free agents on offense and dig into a few reasons why they might stay or go. We’ll examine free agents on offense later today.

CB Sam Shields
Getting Shields signed to a long-term deal should be the Packers top offseason priority, but it might not be possible. Shields will likely command around $9 million per season and a shade under $20 million guaranteed. That’s a lot of dough to squeeze under the salary cap and remain flexible enough to address other areas of the team. With Casey Hayward coming back, I wouldn’t be surprised if Shields walks. And if the Packers want to slap the franchise tag on Shields, it will likely cost around $11 million, so that probably won’t happen.

DL B.J. Raji
Raji became the first player to depart his team via free agency smack dab in the middle of the season. Wait, what? You say Raji didn’t leave the Packers in the middle of the season? He was on the active roster the whole time and even on the field while real live games were going on? Hold on a minute, what? Repeat that again, please? You say that not only was Raji still on the team after week seven, but he turned down an $8 million per season contract extension? LMFAO. Quit kidding around. This is a serious football site with serious football analysis. Nobody in their right mind would offer Raji $8 million per season ever again would they? Right?

DL Ryan Pickett
The Packers need more athletic defensive linemen, which leads me to think Pickett is as good as gone. His age doesn’t help, either. That said, it’s going to be tough to see him go. I’ve been expecting a serious decline from Big Grease for the past couple of seasons, but it hasn’t came. He’s still effective in his role tough as hell.

DL Johnny Jolly
Could Jolly replace Pickett as the old-man space eater on the defensive line? The neck injury worries me, but it could actually work in the Packers favor if it heals. Jolly’s age (30), combined with his past arrests and current health status could scare off other teams and keep his price low enough for the Packers to retain.

C.J. Wilson
I doubt any other team will be inclined to offer Wilson a significant contract so he could wind up back in Green Bay as a backup run stuffer. I always thought Wilson showed flashes of athleticism, but he hasn’t been able to put it together and become a difference-maker.

OLB Mike Neal
I laughed hysterically when the Packers announced that Neal was going to convert to an outside linebacker. Turns out, he wasn’t half bad. I wonder if Neal is the type of player that could command a decent chunk of change from a team desperate at outside linebacker and willing to take a gamble on a young and still developing project. Hey, the Packers fit that criteria. Brad Jones and the Packers were in a similar situation at inside linebacker last offseason and Thompson gave him a $20 million deal.

LB Robert Francois
A torn ACL leaves Francois’ status up in the air. The Packers could always use solid special teams players, so maybe he comes back at the minimum.

*LB Jamari Lattimore
Lattimore became the defensive version of a backup quarterback late in the season: A fan favorite mainly because the starter in front of him was struggling. Lattimore showed promise in early game action with Jones sidelined, but he looked slow and lost when he got another chance against Pittsburgh. The Packers could slap the lowest tender on him because of play on special teams and chance for further development.

*S M.D. Jennings
I don’t see any reason to keep Jennings around.

*restricted free agent

Another ho-hum Playoff Performance from Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

Once again, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers could not lead the Packers to a playoff win.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers signed a $110 million contract extension before the 2012 season. In Sunday’s wild-card round playoff loss to the 49ers, Rodgers made a couple of $110 million plays, but didn’t have a $110 million game.

The performance was a microcosm of Rodgers’ postseason play since winning Super Bowl XLV.

Now before you get all bent out of shape, I’m not blaming Rodgers for the loss or demanding that the Packers try and find a new quarterback. Rodgers is the best quarterback in the league and he gives the Packers a legit shot at the Super Bowl every season.

And I do feel guilty for writing a post that is critical of Rodgers when there are all kinds of other reasons why the Packers season has ended early three years in a row.

But ever since going on a tear and winning the Super Bowl in 2010, Rodgers hasn’t had another standout postseason performance — the kind of game that cements legacies and delivers memorable playoff wins that are talked about for the next 30 years.

Rodgers’ quarterback rating on Sunday was 97.8. That’s very good. However, he only threw for 177 yards and when the Packers had a chance to take control of the game early, Rodgers and the offense went three-and-out on its first three possessions. Then when the Packers had a chance to take a lead late, Rodgers and offense sputtered in the red zone and only managed a game-tying field goal.

Rodgers hasn’t thrown for more than 300 yards in the postseason since Super Bowl XLV and has only six touchdowns in four games.

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has 1,025 passing yards and two fourth-quarter rallies in four playoff games (and 362 rushing yards). Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has 731 passing yards one fourth-quarter comeback win in only two playoff games. Rodgers has 972 passing yards and zero fourth-quarter comebacks in his last four postseason games.

Since hoisting the Lombardi Trophy three seasons ago, the Packers are 17-for-49 (35 percent) on third-down conversions in the postseason. During the Super Bowl run, Rodgers helped the Packers convert 24 of 49 (49 percent) third downs.

A $110 million quarterback needs to make plays on third down and deliver touchdowns when in the red zone late in close games. Since the Super Bowl win, Rodgers hasn’t been getting it done.

Individual stats don’t tell the whole story, either. Rodgers frequently talks about winning games in the first or second quarter and eliminating the need for a fourth-quarter comeback. He’s 100 percent correct in his assessment, but when Rodgers and the offense have had opportunities to take control of playoff games early, they fail to do so.

With the score tied at 10 in the second quarter of the 2011 playoff loss to the Giants, the Packers blocked a field and got an interception on consecutive Giants drives. Rodgers and the offense failed to score on each of the ensuing possessions, punting on the first and losing a John Kuhn fumble on the second.

We’ve already covered the Packers inability to move the ball, let alone score, early on Sunday when the defense was hanging tough.

This post isn’t my attempt to be Skip Bayless and troll Packers fans into a mind-numbing shouting match about Rodgers being “clutch” or better than (insert whatever elite quarterback Bayless uses when he spouts off on this topic).

Rodgers is probably the only quarterback in the league capable of making those crazy escape-the-rush-and-find-Randall Cobb passes on Sunday, and the game-winning throw last week against the Bears. Those are $110 million plays and don’t happen if Rodgers isn’t on the team.

I also don’t hold Rodgers responsible for postseason defensive meltdowns, drops and fumbles by teammates or all the injuries that strike the Packers every single season.

But the Packers are built around Rodgers, and fair or not, it’s on him to come up with big games — not just a few big plays — in January. Recently, he hasn’t been getting it done.

Until Rodgers plays a $110 million game in the postseason instead of just making a few $110 million plays, the Packers will likely keep coming up short when it matters most.

Will Packers Defensive Coordinator be up for the Task against 49ers?

Time for Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers to step up on Sunday.

The fate of Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers likely will not be decided by what happens on Sunday against the 49ers, nor should it be. Decisions on whether to hire or fire a coach should not be made based on a single game.

But if Capers gets outclassed by Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers yet again, Packers general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy would at least have to swallow hard before deciding to stick with Capers for the 2014 season.

Under Capers, the Packers defense has been completely run over by the 49ers. In their last three meetings. San Francisco has:

  • Averaged 483 total yards
  • 200 rushing yards
  • 5.5 yards per rush
  • 284 passing yards
  • Completed 67 percent of its passes
  • Averaged 35 points.

And all of those abysmal performances came with Clay Matthews healthy and playing.

This entire Packers season has been about hanging in there, catching a break here and there among all the injuries and chaos, and eventually persevering. That’s exactly what the Packers need from Capers and his defense on Sunday.

We’re not asking for a shutout or a repeat of the 1994 wild-card game where the Packers held Barry Sanders to -1 rushing yards. A handful of three-and-outs mixed in with a couple of turnovers will be perfectly acceptable. Oh, and consistently getting off the field on third down would be nice.

It’s nice having Aaron Rodgers back and all, but let’s not make him feel like he has to score every single time he has the ball.

In their last three playoff losses, the Packers have allowed 45, 37 and 51 points. It’s time for Capers and his defense to step up in a big spot and come through. Yes, I realize the defense is filled with young and inexperienced players — I don’t envy any defensive coordinator who has to rely on Andy Mulumba and M.D. Jennings as much as Capers does — but Packers fans stopped caring about excuses a long time ago.

Very few Packers fans think Capers is up for the task. Very few Packers fans also thought Green Bay would make the postseason. When the Packers are down and out, they usually end up rising and proving a lot of people wrong.

Can Capers do the same? We’ll find out Sunday.