*Anyone out there care to suggest now that I’m crazy for saying that the Packers would be lucky to be .500? I didn’t think so.
*It’s clear Mike Stock should be fired. He probably should have been fired long before this, just on performance. But his interview with Bob McGinn should have sealed the deal, as it were. Stock made clear that it’s all about him — “do you want to see my bio?” — and that performance was secondary. That’s been clear on the field all year, with Derrick Frost’s persistent mediocrity and poor special teams coverage. But it was especially on display against Carolina. Our kickoff coverage team has been awful all year long. It cost us the game on Sunday.
*For those of you who don’t like second-guessing of the playcalling — waaaah. Take your whining somewhere else. We’ll praise good playcalling when we see it — and have done so — and we’ll criticize it when we have to. If you don’t like that, too freakin’ bad.
*There was no question in my mind that the Packers should have gone for the touchdown on their final drive into Panthers’ territory rather than settle for a field goal. Even if we’d failed to convert, the Panthers would have had to drive some 60 yards in order to set themselves up for a game-winning kick. The Packers had done very little on defense, although they’d been better in the second half than the first. But of particular concern was our utter inability — again, in yet another game — to stop the opponents’ kickoff return team. (This is why I was yelling at the television — in a public bar no less — and with Andy on the phone, urging that Mike McCarthy go for the touchdown on fourth down.)
*The playcalling was terrible — running pipsqueak Brandon Jackson twice near the goal-line. The handoff to Kuhn wasn’t a bad call — but not on third and one. Should have been the call on first and goal from the seven. No pass plays? I wanted to run the clock down, too, so as to avoid giving the Panthers the ball back with much time on the clock. But the priority should have been to score a touchdown. Just weak, weak playcalling there.
*Brandon Jackson played well, though it’s unfortunate that McCarthy decided to run him twice in the red zone in the final three minutes. Terrible decisionmaking. He’s a good change-of-pace back, but he’s not the guy you want to hang your offense on as the game is winding to a close.
*The big picture is not pretty. We’ll have more on this later this week, of course. But a couple of quick thoughts. The offensive line is bad. It just isn’t good enough to open holes for runners and to protect the quarterback. On an offense with obvious strengths in the position players — Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Ryan Grant — the line is a major liability. It should be a priority for the Packers in the offseason.
The defensive line is just as bad. Aaron Kampman is a beast, but he is virtually alone on the defensive line. Ryan Pickett does a good job filling holes, just by being a fat-ass. Johnny Jolly is decent, not great. Colin Cole sucks, no matter how much the defensive coaches and some drunk fans want to make him a hero. He’s just not very good. Jeremy Thompson has some real promise, in my view. We’ll see how good he is. Justin Harrell is getting very close to the point where we can call him an absolute bust. If he doesn’t do anything next year he will be Ted Thompson’s worst pick — in both Seattle and Green Bay. And if he still sucks, let’s hope that the packers don’t continue to invest time and money in him. Cut him loose.
Our linebackers are average, at best. AJ Hawk is just a guy. He fills a hole, but is not nearly what he should be as the #5 overall pick. Brandon Chillar is exactly what he was when he got here — a backup LB with decent coverage skills. He’s nothing more. Brady Poppinga is a joke. He’s an overly-enthusiastic special teams player who has won a starting job because the Packers have no one else ot put in there. Nick Barnett was solid, but he sucked for the first half of this year — after getting his big contract. The linebackers are a major liability.
Our defensive backfield is the best in the NFL. With Charles Woodson, Al Harris, Nick Collins, and Tramon Williams — we have four of the best players in pass coverage in the league. Atari Bigby is hot and cold. Aaron Rouse is a good hitter who is somehwat weak in coverage. But as a unit, this is as good as it gets.
Bottom line: The Packers should be better than 5-7. They are not for primarily two reasons: special teams and their inability to stop the run. Even though the Packers struggled to run the ball the first half of the season, they are not hopeless on that front. They suck on special teams coverage and their run-stopping ability is awful. The playcalling has been bad. McCarthy is fond of saying that he almost always chooses the more aggressive option when he has the chance, but that’s not been evident this year. He’s been too conservative and largely ineffective.
Next year should be better than this one. The Packers have the talent to be better than a .500 team, though they won’t be this year.
UPDATE: Ryan Grant did not return to the game because he had a sprained thumb. I’m sorry, sprained thumb? Couldn’t they wrap that up? Grant just got a huge contract — and one that i think he deserved. For half a million dollars a game couldn’t Grant tough it out and get back in the game?
*Yes, there are injuries on the defensive line and our LB corps is mediocre. But should Bob Sanders be the GB defensive coordinator next year? Absolutely not.
UPDATE II: This is a smart counter-argument to my case for going for it on 4th and 1. Wamzlee writes:
In all honesty, I would have gone for the sure-fire field goal. It put us in the lead with under two-minutes remaining and one time-out left on their side. Also, our defense had been forcing three and outs all second half except for one drive. They were well rested and should have made the stop. If our specials teams would have came through and Delhomme’s luck pass would have been deflected like it should have, we would have won the game on a kneel down by Aaron Rodgers.
In any given sunday glory, our “superb” secondary choked for a second time in a week and our special teams was as horrible as ever. I agree that Mike Stock should be fired. However, I disagree on going for it 4th and 1 with the game on the line. If anything, blame the calls on 2nd and 3rd. Running to the outside worked for us all day, it was foolish to run up the middle twice in a row. Our goal was simple, score points and then rely on our defense to do the rest. If we failed on 4th and 1 like we did on 2nd and 3rd, we would have had to rely on the defense and then worry about overtime…and I don’t like our overtime chances.
I still think we should have gone for it. Here is the other argument. I say win the game when you have the chance. I don’t agree with anyone who thinks we have to put scare quotes around our “superb” secondary. Our secondary is superb. And if we have even a mediocre defense they would be thought of as one of the best ever.