Archive for the ‘Lambeau’ Category

The Brett Favre locker question

May 28, 2008

This morning on ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike, they discussed the issue of whether or not the Packers should keep Favre’s locker in the locker room (as it remains presently). Both were strongly opposed to this. Neither Mike nor Mike seemed to be too hung up on how it would make Rodgers/Brohm or any subsequent Packer QBs feel (which is one of the main arguments against the locker staying there that I’ve heard on other talk shows). Instead, they came at it more from the “it’s just time to move on” perspective. Both were fairly emphatic about this being the wrong move and alluded to the fact that the Dolphins have struggled big-time ever since Marino had his locker permanently encased in the Dolphin locker room. (Not sure that really can account for why the Dolphin’s have struggled, but anyway). They argued that the Packers are a very good team and not moving forward effectively after such a big change could hurt the chances of realizing the potential both Mike and Mike seem to think the team has.

It would be impossible for either of these guys to know exactly how much Favre means to the organization, the team, its fans. Neither played for or supported the Pack as fans and without doing that, there is really no way to understand the depth of gratitude and the pride in Packer nation. (Sorry, so many of the talk show/announcer guys who act like they understand this just don’t – in fact, this is a big part of what makes being a true Packer fan so special…it’s so unique and so powerful). So, it then may be difficult for non-Packer people to understand why the team might go to such lengths to make sure Favre has an extra special place in Packer history. There are plenty of statues, plaques, tributes, etc for other Packer legends within and around Lambeau and I would imagine that the organization wanted to keep Favre’s locker in part because they haven’t done that for any other player and it is a sure way to help set Favre apart from everyone – perhaps because many view him as the organization’s greatest.

But there is a difficult balance to work toward with a situation like this. The organization I’m sure wants present players to be fully aware that they are part of the greatest tradition in sports and Favre has exemplified that perhaps as much as any other Packer. At the same time, Favre just retired and with speculation still swirling around that he may not be totally done, having that locker there may be somewhat of a distraction for the team and for the players who are trying to move forward and grapple with LAF (Life After Favre). In other words, it’s all a bit too fresh. (I’ve heard a couple optimists, or perhaps more accurately a couple of people still in the denial stage of grief, suggest that the organization may believe there is still a decent chance Favre will return and until there is more solid confirmation he won’t, they will leave his locker there. I tend not to believe that).

One person whom I’m sure wants the locker out of there is TT (in fact, Brother Steve has at times put forward a solid argument contending that TT wanted Favre out of the locker room altogether). TT took pride in trying to treat Favre like everyone else (which is a viewpoint I still disagree with, he is not “everyone else”…period). I’m sure keeping this shrine there now that he and the team are trying to move forward is something that irks him.

As for me, this is a tough call. I can see both sides. I guess in the end, I tend to lean toward removing the locker and just making sure he is properly acknowledged in other areas of Lambeau (the Hall of Fame – perhaps even have a special Brett Favre room, with a new statue perhaps, a retired jersey, etc). The team does need to really look ahead now and essentially recreate its identity in the post-Favre era. While the media appears to want to pin the new identity on Rodgers, a defensive identity may emerge (like the Ravens of a few years ago) or a Mike McCarthy brilliant offensive strategy identity may take hold (like a Mike Martz Rams team) or even a special teams dominance identity may come about (like the Bears recent Super Bowl team). From a psychological standpoint, I think not having the locker in there may help a slight bit with the team creating this new identity and moving forward (at least for the next year or two – I’m not sure I’d be opposed to having his locker in there a few years down the road, but for now, it may just be too fresh).

Readers, what do you think?

Brett, You Got It Goin’ On

January 22, 2008

After reading the lunacy below from Mr. Packernet and some similar posts on the JS Online blog, I thought Brett Favre could use a little pick-me-up.  I’ve posted this once before but it really has more meaning after such a stinging defeat.

“I think sometimes you hear what you want to hear.”

Packer Fans, Unhinged

January 21, 2008

Check out this postgame rant from the guy who runs Packernet.com.

Brett, don’t go away mad, just go away. It is clear you can’t carry a team any longer, you are no Joe Montana, you are no John Elway, you are just a chucker who should have won more championships than you did. I’m done with the Packers and you should be too. Game over. Please do not respond to this entry. In fact, go away and leave me alone. No more to come…

Judging from his bizarre posts today, that was not intended to be as funny as it was. It was for people like this that I decided to make the basic points about Favre that I made here. I won’t waste your time by reprinting here all of his feculent nonsense, but check out these lines for some flavor. He seems to have calmed down a bit at first: “OK, maybe it wasn’t all Favre’s fault…” Wow, that’s a big concession. But then he’s back at it.

“The bottom line is the Packers have so many holes to fill on both sides of the ball that trading Favre and going with Aaron Rodgers just makes the most sense…Losing to Eli Manning at home is huge embarrassment. Right up there with the Michael Vick debacle.”

The Michael Vick debacle? Mmmmmm, right. On the one hand, a Hall of Fame Quarterback who has been the most consistent quarterback in the league for nearly two decades, loses in the NFC Championship game. On the other, a thug who kills dogs for fun. Same thing. No doubt.

The rant continued: “I also have to wonder about the timing of the contract extension for Mike McCarthy as well. Shouldn’t he have been worrying about the Giants last week and not a new contract.”

This is where it helps to know what you’re talking about before you write. McCarthy was worried about the Giants last week and not his contract. In fact, he was so consumed with game preparation and so unconcerned with his contract that after his agent hammered out the details with the Packers, McCarthy set the whole thing aside. Here was the lede in one national newspaper late last week: “Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy has agreed to a five-year deal worth $4 million per season, but said he will not sign the contract until after the season because it could be a distraction.” Ah, details. Why concern yourself with pesky things like facts when you can smack around the coach?

By Monday night, this guy had reached wit’s end…with people who would question his stark mad ravings.

“I’m sorry. The Packers are great. They have great depth and a great quarterback. The defense is fantastic. I think they could win the next ten Super Bowls. The coaching staff is great, the front office is great. I can’t see any flaws anywhere in the organization. I don’t know what I was thinking. From now on I will shed not one bad word about the greatest team in the league – the Green Bay Packers. Go Pack go! Have a great 2008 season.”

I have gone to Packernet.com for a couple years now because the site aggregates Packers-related news from many sites around the internet. It’s been quite an asset. But I regret that during all of that time I somehow missed the humorous content of his blog. Count me in as a new reader.

UPDATE: Don’t take my word for it on Brett Favre. Here is Greg Jennings on his brief conversation with Favre on retirement. Note especially the last two sentences:

“I said, ‘You going to give me one more year?’ He just giggled,” Jennings said. “I did the same thing last year and he said, ‘We’ll see,’ and he was back. Who knows? Hopefully he’s back but if not, we have to move on. But I’d like to see him back in that locker one more time. I think everybody around here is hoping he comes back. Obviously we accomplished what we accomplished because of him. His leadership is most valuable to this team.”

What happened yesterday to the Packers???

January 21, 2008

Let me start by saying I’m sad – just really sad that the Packers blew it. I really thought we were headed to the Super Bowl and I genuinely think the better team lost last night.

Due to wanting to be accountable, I need to just eat it for a season’s worth of ripping on Eli Manning. He made some very good throws yesterday and very effectively led his team to victory. He has played very solid (bordering on excellent) football in the last 4 games and is a major reason his team is going to the Super Bowl. And, while I refuse to retract my loser face comments (though the irony is not lost on me), I must admit, I don’t see him quite as the horrible, whiney, jerk he was when he came into the league. One thing he doesn’t do is talk trash to the other team or behave in a cocky way and while someone shouldn’t really be commended for that, in today’s sports world, I’ll go ahead and commend him for that. As for Eli’s counterpart last night, I’m sad for Favre because he didn’t play very well and threw a costly pick at the end – eerily similar to the Philly game a few years ago.

Now, why did we lose? As Steve already noted, the playcalling was odd. I don’t know why we stopped running Grant as he could have been a major force w/re to tiring out the defense and opening up the passing game. Our pass game was off all game and I hate to say it, but it may have been due to solid defensive scheming. I did like the attempted screens as a counter to the pass rush, but I didn’t like the horrendous execution of them. I thought McCarthy may try a trick play or two or something that could potentially have jump-started the offense. None of that – just stiff, uncharacteristicly poor playcalling.

I think a major factor was simply that McCarthy was outcoached. Coughlin and the Giants did a good job on offense and defense and mostly dominated the game. Over the last week or so, I do wonder if the enormity of this whole situation may have finally caught up with McCarthy. Last week, for the first time I know of, he finally admitted with 4 minutes left in the Seattle game and the snow falling, that he was a bit awed at how great it felt to the be the coach of such a good Packers team. While we all know he’s proud that he’s coach, he hadn’t been so effusive about it until this past week. Throw in discussion of a new $20 million contract and this would present a big step up for a no-name guy EVERYONE questioned upon his hire. It’s sort of like in golf, when you go out on the front nine and play really well only to crash on the final few holes of the back nine as you start to think about breaking your personal low round. Maybe all of the truly great accomplishments thus far, finally caught up with McCarthy and the Pack.

While I won’t dwell on the officiating because we had other chances to win, but I do think the second half officiating was terrible. In the game, I counted 8 MBCs (Major Blown Calls): 5 against the Packers and 3 against the Giants. I think their touchdown drive when they took the lead 13-10 was a gift because Harris was the one who was interfered with (not Burress) on the first 3rd down play and then Collins hit was just plain not late. That was a terrible call. However, one of the biggest crap calls in the game was Steve Smith’s “catch” toward the end of the game that got them a first down. He did not have control of the ball before he hit the ground and the replay to me was conclusive. I don’t think they even looked at that – they just reviewed for spot of the ball. The problem I have with these calls is that they affected the flow of the game and arguably the outcome. Again, there were some terrible calls against the Giants too. To me, that is inexcusable. Officiating in games like this needs to be highly competent so that the outcome can be pure – and I just don’t think the crew did a good job.

The only positive spin I can think of is this: the Packers played and coached a poor-mediocre game at best, and lost in overtime in crappy conditions. I’m comforted by the thought that had they played and coached even at a slightly above-average level, they would have won the game. But they didn’t and I have to hand it to the Giants.

One last thought: I’ll bet Giants fans at Lambeau were confused after the game when Packer fans respectfully congratulated them on their victory. They were likely anticipating the verbal assaults they may dish out to fans of the opposing team after a brutally depressing loss. While I hate losing more than anyone, at the very least, because we’re genuinely nice people, we lose with class.

Mike McCarthy: I Wasn’t Committed to the Run

January 21, 2008

Packer Coach Mike McCarthy actually uttered this sentence in his postgame press conference: “I was not really committed to the running game today.”

Without hearing it, I’m not sure whether it was more a statement of fact or a self-criticism. Or both. McCarthy was asked what the Giants did to stop Ryan Grant. His entire answer: “I thought they played good run defense. We didn’t do a very good job of knocking them off the ball and I was not really committed to the running game today.”

Clearly McCarthy abandoned the run early. When he returned to it a couple of times in the second half, Grant had two of his best runs of the day. It’s silly to suggest that those gains were the beginning of a pattern, but the failure to run the ball had two corollary effects, both of which cost the Packers the football game. First, as we noted yesterday, the Packer defense was on the field for twice as long as the Giants defense. Three passes and out will do that to you. Second, I think the Packers failure to run the ball — and run the ball well — contributed directly to Brett Favre forcing the ball to his receivers as the game wore on and, ultimately, to his overtime interception. If you’re Favre, you are watching your defense give up sustained drives to the Giants in the second half and you see that the flat screens for no gain (or 2 yards) are getting your offense nowhere. This is when Favre presses – when he is not seeing success from his teammates.

Mike McCarthy has been a much better coach than I expected he would be when he was hired. I think pretty much everyone could say the same thing. And over a long season, his playcalling has not only been good, it has been exceptional. (The Bears games, particularly the first one, stand out as obvious exceptions.) His players did not perform well last night, but the playcalling, as much as anything, put them in a position to lose. It’s a bad way to end a great season.

23-20. Season Over.

January 20, 2008

What to say? It’s tempting to talk about what a wonderful year the Packers had, how they achieved so much more than anyone expected, how they played their hearts out, etcetera.

There’s an entire off-season for that. So we’ll focus on this game.

The Packers got beat. It would have been extraordinary had they won despite the performance by the Giants. The Packers were outplayed and, much as I like Mike McCarthy, thoroughly outcoached. The Giants ended up with nearly at 2-to-1 time-of-posession advantage, 40 minutes to 22 and change. The Packer defense could barely stand up at the end of the game — a fact evidenced by the numerous missed tackles at the end of regulation, some of which (the ones on the Ahmed Bradshaw screen) contributed to the final outcome.

The playcalling down the stretch was simply awful. The coach who has said that the perfect game would be 50 rushes just refused to run the ball. It is certainly true that the Packers had limited success on the ground tonight. But Ryan Grant finally broke a couple of runs and then we stopped running altogether. Even if we had to settle for 2-yard gains, at the end of the game that would have been worth it. We just needed to keep our defense off the field.

I think we saw some old Brett Favre tonight, too. Not only on the interception that would determine the outcome of the game, but also on the throw to James Jones, when Favre threw into triple coverage in order to move the ball down the field. On the interceptions in overtime, Favre had Ryan Grant, his checkdown, wide open with nobody in front of him. This has been Favre’s best season, in my view, but he pressed tonight and it cost us.

Two closing ironies: The Packers, who not only found a running game during the second half of the season but found a dominant running game, failed to run the ball. And on September 15, I made a $25 future bet that the Packers would win the NFC Championship. I didn’t mention it because I didn’t want to jinx myself. Oh well.

We’ll have lots more in the coming days about the game, the playcalling, the future and the draft.  Stay tuned.

And one more irony: I will be in Arizona for four days to cover the Super Bowl. Nice.

UPDATE: Let me add that I think the Giants played very well, other than the two missed field goals. As poor as the Packer playcalling was, the Giants playcalling was excellent. Kevin Gilbride kept the Packer defense guessing all day and when the Packers failed to make adjustments to the Giants’ first-half gameplan, the Giants pressed on with great success. Congratulations to the Giants.

Who Is Ryan Grant?

January 19, 2008

That’s the name of an NFL Network special on the Packers’ running back.  It’s was good show (except for the stupid questions from the blonde woman who interviewed Grant’s family).  Kara Henderson (not the blonde) did an extended interview with Grant about last week’s game and asked him what seemed like a logical question.  When you scored the touchdown to tie the score at 14, did you feel a weight lifted off your shoulders?  Grant allowed that it was a bit of a relief, and then added:

“You don’t win 14-14.”

Later, Grant told a story about playing behind Favre and, as his QB checked to another play at the line of scrimmage, losing focus on the play and just thinking about playing behind a legend.

Sometimes I really take a step back and realize what I’m doing.  I’m playing with a guy who is, if not the best ever, one of the top two best ever quarterbacks in the history of the game.  Like sometimes, I almost want to just grab him. ”  With that, Grant reaches out and swipes at the air.  “Alright Brett, I just touched you,” he says, laughing.

One of the Best Sentences…Ever

January 19, 2008

This comes from an email from reader Ray Midge. This first sentence is a classic and the whole email is worth reading.

I’m a born and bred New Yorker (Yonkers) who has been a Packer fan beacuse of the guileless purchase of two random belt buckles about 30 years ago by my Irish immigrant mother who looked at nothing but the sale price. My brother is a Bengals fan. So as both a die-hard Packer fan and a New Yorker, all the charges against the NY media are accurate. That said, if it matters at all it is probably ultimately beneficial to the Pack. NY is buying the “hot team” bit without much regard for the mismatch of the actual players. When I have pointed out the likely impotency of the jints pass rush against the deep wr corps, extra protection and quick throws that the pack thrive on, I get mostly quizzical silence. The pack’s d-line is underappreciated by most, and completely unknown to the NY media. Corey Williams and Cullen Jenkins will be a revelation. They appreciate the sentimental value of the Favre angle, but seem completely oblivious to the fact that the best arm and guts the game as ever seen has also developed wisdom and patience. 37-17 GB. And I’ll save my Monday copy of the NYPost forever.

Why Nobody Hates the Packers

January 19, 2008

This article, from the Seattle Post Intelligencer, pretty much nails it. Thanks to Ace for sending it.

It’s easy to hate the New York Yankees if you’re a Boston Red Sox fan, and vice versa. The same goes for the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, Michigan and Ohio State and those originators of the shotgun formation, the Hatfields and McCoys.

But who hates the Green Bay Packers?

Steeped in tradition and often viewed through a prism of sepia-tone nostalgia, the Packers have succeeded against all odds in a tiny and remote market, in a 50-year-old (albeit renovated) stadium with aluminum bench seats, in an era of unfettered free agency and corporate greed.

OK, if you’re a Seahawks fan, you’re not feeling all warm and fuzzy about Brett Favre and Al Harris right about now. “We want the ball and we’re going to score!” might be old news, but the sting lingers.

Really, though, do you hate the Packers?

Not if you know anything about the history of the National Football League. Not if you’ve seen those grainy images of the 1967 “Ice Bowl” and Bart Starr’s fateful quarterback sneak on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. Not if you admire the principles on which Vince Lombardi built a dynasty.

Not if you pull for the underdog.

In Wisconsin, there is no other option. You are born into Packerdom here. Your great-grandfather cheered for Curly Lambeau and Don Hutson, your grandpa for Paul Hornung and Willie Wood, your dad for James Lofton and Lynn Dickey. Every kid on your block owns a No. 4 jersey.

What makes the Packers special? Start with the fact that there are 112,015 owners, the vast majority of whom hold one share of stock. Formed in the NFL’s primordial mist in 1919, the Packers became a non-profit entity four years later and remain the only publicly owned team among the major professional sports.

The most recent stock sale, in 1998, netted 106,000 new “owners” who paid $200 per share (and sent $24 million straight to the team’s bottom line) for certificates that are basically worthless. The stock never pays dividends or appreciates in value. But the emotional investment is priceless. When general manager Ted Thompson signs a free agent, the fans can thump their chests and say, “I helped bring that guy to Green Bay.” And it’s true.

Of course, Bob Harlan, who has run the Packers for 19 years, first as president and CEO and more recently as chairman of the board, has a stake in the team. He, too, owns exactly one share of stock…

Did we mention that Harlan answers his own telephone? There is no administrative assistant to run interference, no automated maze to negotiate. You’ve got a beef with the injured cornerback or the price of tickets, you go straight to the top dog.

The fact that the Packers can even exist in a city of 100,000 is a minor miracle, due in equal parts to fan loyalty throughout the state and revenue sharing in the NFL. Los Angeles can’t support a team but this little frozen outpost can? It’s one of the mysteries of the universe.

It helps that not much ever happens in Green Bay, other than what occurs at 1265 Lombardi Ave. Lambeau Field — notice, no naming rights — is the city’s corporate and social epicenter, its source of civic pride, its very heart and soul.

The nearest NCAA Division I football team is 2 1/2 hours away at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Milwaukee is 115 miles to the south, so the Packers are the only game in town.

Their reach extends north into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, south into Chicago Bears turf and west clear to the Dakotas (the team had a 40-year head start on the Minnesota Vikings). And that doesn’t count the fans who have relocated or the ones Harlan likens to the “Notre Dame subway alumni.”

“People call me and say, ‘I’m a lifelong Packers fan and someday I’d love to see Lambeau Field,’ ” Harlan said. “They’ve never even been here.”

On game days, the far-flung Cheeseheads converge on Green Bay and fill the Lambeau parking lot hours before kickoff. First-time visitors are blown away by the passion, creativity and dedication of the tailgaters. There’s nothing quite like the smell of 10,000 bratwursts sizzling on 1,000 grills and the sight of footballs spiraling through 10-degree air.

The Packers-Seahawks game will mark the 268th consecutive sellout at Lambeau, including playoffs. That’s every single game since 1960. The waiting list for season tickets is at 76,800. With an average of 70 fans per year giving up their seats, the guy at the end of the list will have to wait 1,000 years, give or take a few decades, for his name to come up.

Season-ticket holders live in all 50 states and several foreign countries, including Japan. Domo arrigato.

The obsession with the team is such that the 10 p.m. TV newscasts in Milwaukee and Green Bay are dominated by Packers developments. The long snapper has an ingrown toenail? That leads the sports report. The price of beer is going up at Lambeau? That’s the top story.

Brett Favre retires? We don’t even want to think about that one.

The Packers have won 12 championships, more than any other NFL franchise, and three Super Bowl titles. The team has sent 21 players to the Hall of Fame. Green Bay city streets are named after former players and coaches, including Mike Holmgren.

But it’s not about all that.

It’s about a unique relationship between a professional sports franchise and its fans.

It’s about people feeling they’re a part of something special, something unique, something good.

The Packers don’t need throwback jerseys to evoke their glorious past.

In all the ways that count, it’s still 1965 here. And always will be.

Weekly Spread Picks – Conference Championships

January 18, 2008

Packers vs Giants (-7.5) Packers 41 – Giants 10 (look below for an explanation).

Before the playoffs, I picked Wash to beat Seattle. But I noted the following in case Seattle ended up winning that game:
“*Note: If the NYG beat TB and SEA ends up playing GB, then the NYG will beat Dallas in Dallas and then come to GB for the conference championship, and lose by 30.”

Because accountability is more important at Packergeeks than being right, I will have to hold to this prediction, Packers by 30. Despite the potentially neutralizing cold conditions and other factors like the Giants actually being pretty good now, it still wouldn’t be right for me to now unpredict, as it were (interesting that you can’t “unpredict” something, but something can be unpredictable), a blowout. So, I have to come up with ways that this game could possibly be a blowout:
1) several Giants are frozen to the bench on the opening kickoff leading to an easy run-back for the Packers.
2) the incredible inconsistency the Giants exhibited throughout the season, even within games, catches up to them and they have an ironic meltdown in 0 degree weather;
4) Eli’s inner-wuss just can’t handle the pressure and the cold – his passes are way off target and cameras pick up tears frozen to a loser face;
5) Sterling Sharpe is added to the Packers roster shortly before gametime and nobody can tackle him because he’s super strong AND fat now;
6) after the first bad thing that happens to the Giants, Coughlin’s bewildered, almost-cross-eyed look goes fully cross-eyed leaving him unable to contribute as a coach;
7) an accidental illegal hands-to-the-face by Tauscher ends up pushing Strahan’s top front teeth together making him leave the game so he can pursue the ladies with his newfound, spaceless smile.
8) The Packers dominate on offense, defense and special teams. (Out of concern for my masculinity/credibility, I need to note that I did NOT put a smiley face here for #8 – the computer won’t let me change it. I initially entered a #8 and don’t know why there is a smiley face – if anyone knows how to correct this let me know asap. I decided to edit this entry and put in this disclaimer so that Packergeeks readers aren’t concerned about Packergeeks authors and their ability to love NFL football while simultaneously using smiley faces).

SD @ NE (-13.5). New England 31 – San Diego 24.
NE will win this game, but SD will put in a hard-fought effort. Lots of trash talking in this one. One sneaky player who could make a difference is Comrartie. He has game and could be a difference maker in pass coverage, intercepting the ball and/or kick returns. While I agree with Bedard at jsonline.com re the Giant’s dirty play, I think NE is the worst in the league at this. Vince Wilfork is the dirtiest player in the NFL (eye poke and JP Losman injury prime examples), with Junior Seau, Bruschi and Harrison also hitting questionably late and unnecessarily. Oh, and Belichick cheats. This is the kind of game that could devolve into fighting and some ugliness. I’d root for SD, but Rivers makes it hard with all the trash talking he does – and he’s not even that good. If Volek plays, I’ll root hard for SD.


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