Archive for January, 2008
The calls for Brett Favre’s retirement continue, coming mainly from people he’s given 17 years of enjoyment. Lots of these comments are emotional, coming as they do immediately after his interception helped bring an early end to the NFC Championship overtime. Let’s take a more sober-minded look.
Brett Favre was 4th in the NFL in overall passing yards. He was 4th in completion percentage. He was 4th in yards/game. He was tied for 6th in the NFL in touchdowns. He was tied for 6th in the NFL in passer rating. He was 6th in the NFL for pass completions over 20 yards. He was 1st in the NFL for pass completions over 40 yards.
Only one player who ranked in front of Favre in any of those categories played this weekend, Tom Brady. For all of the love Eli Manning is getting today – and he certainly played well last night – he was the 25th rated passer in the NFL this year, some 22 points behind Favre.
Favre led the Packers to a 13-3 record this year. And yes, he led the team — the youngest team in the NFL — to that record. That ties a franchise best.
Given his consistency, I would argue that Brett Favre was the second-best quarterback in the NFL this year. Others can dispute that. A good case could be made for Peyton Manning or Tony Romo behind Tom Brady. Either way, the numbers suggest he was no worse than the sixth best quarterback in the NFL.
And people really want him to retire?
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.
I’ve noticed there are several individuals at the JS Online blog calling for Brett Favre to retire because, in their view, “he lost the game” for the Packers. Favre did not play well tonight, but come on. You’ve got to be an incredible loser to post something like that.
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.
Three passes? That is just awful. The defense needs a freakin’ break! It’s been a full season of reasonably good playcalling by Mike McCarthy, but that is just inexcusable.
2:48 left and we’re throwing from our own end? Run the ball!
One reason to run the ball is to give the defense a break. They’ve been on the field all day and keep missing tackles. (As they did on the Bradshaw screen pass and the Brandon Jacobs run on 2nd down). We’ve missed way too many tackles in the second half — have to get the defense off the field.
Hard to second-guess Mike McCarthy, but throwing the ball three times with 6:53 left? I’m sorry, that just doesn’t make sense. We need to try to sustain a drive.