When the Pack was at 4-4 earlier this year, we were quite critical of the coaching staff, GM, team as a whole. And, they deserved it. I don’t feel badly that we weren’t convinced this group should stick around. And at that time, based on their previous season records, I didn’t think talk of firing the whole lot of them was outrageous.
Now, I feel a bit differently. Mike McCarthy, Dom Capers and even Shawn Slocum deserve a lot of credit for turning this season around. Capers took an inconsistent defense that was clearly struggling to learn his system and brought about a profound change – a change that likely will leave the Pack the #1 overall defense in the NFL in several important categories. This is no small accomplishment. McCarthy continues to get his offense to score points. Now, I still am not always in line with his overall decision-making and specifically, his offensive playcalling (though today, it was good). But McCarthy manages to get the team to put points on the board. The stat I highlighted the other day (Pack first team in history to have consecutive years with a 4000 yd passer, two 1000 yd WRs and one 1200 yd RB) speaks to nice offensive balance. The truth was, however, that the offense became more balanced over the course of the second half of the season. Either way, it has balanced out some with Ryan Grant contributing more and more. One thing I find consistently intelligent on McCarthy’s part, is the apparent priority he puts on distributing passes to so many guys. Stop and think for a moment about the fact that McCarthy has drawn up plays for 3 FBs, 3 RBs, 3 TEs, and 5 WRs to catch passes – and every one of these guys have caught a few passes. For an opposing defense,this makes it extra tough to key on particular guys.
A few players improved significantly in the 2nd half of the season: Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley, the solidified O-Line, Nick Barnett, Clay Matthews, Johnny Jolly/Pickett/Raji/Jenkins, Hawk (yes, Hawk, he improved considerably in he 2nd half), Brad Jones, and Collins/Bigby.
Aaron Rodgers deserves a lot of credit for making this season a good one. That’s an understatement. Aaron Rodgers, from a statistical perspective, was arguably as good as any Green Bay QB…ever. He finished with these amazing stats: 11 wins, 30 TDs, 7 Ints, 4434 yards and a 103.2 QB rating. He also led the NFL (with Romo) in pass plays of 40+ yards and though I haven’t been able to confirm this, I believe he led all QBs in rushing. Phenomenal season. We should be excited about this guy and the future we have with him at the helm.
As incredible a season as Aaron Rodgers had, I’m not so sure he was even the Pack’s MVP. Charles Woodson was nothing short of spectactular this year. Aaron Rodgers put it well the other day saying he’s never seen anyone play better in person. Charles Woodson does more from the CB position than any cornerback in the NFL. Darelle Revis and Asomugha are ridiculously talented cover guys – no question. But they are simply not as well-rounded as Charles Woodson. Woodson can blanket cover the best WRs on other teams (or even TEs.) Woodson can stop even the best RBs in their tracks with sure, intelligent tackling. Woodson can break up passes and make great interceptions. Woodson can score TDs on 33% of the passes he picks off. Woodson can be a team leader. Woodson can also help Capers with the overall game plan. We are lucky to have him.
I think the additions of Mark Tauscher and Ahman Green were both very smart. These were two veterans who knew Packer culture and who added a welcome (and very much needed) veteran presence to the team. Tauscher helped to stabilize a questionable right side of the O-Line. And Green added a nice extra back to annoy opposing defenses. Just when they stop a few passes and are feeling good, and they’ve gobbled up Grant, they have to face this veteran who still loves running right over people – never letting his legs stop churning.
Ted Thompson had his best draft yet. He clearly saw something in Clay Matthews and he absolutely did the right thing by moving up in the draft to get him. Matthews has been as exciting a rookie as we’ve had in years. BJ Raji flashed some big-time talent and some simply shocking quickness for a man his size. TJ Lang appears to have a bright future, Quinn Johnson has obvious raw talent with the potential to be seriously good. Both Jarius Wynn and Brandon Underwood have contributed some and of course, Brad Jones has stepped up and been a big surprise – playing in my mind, better than Aaron Kampman had played at the same position. Ted has had his fair share of misses in other drafts and he still avoids free agency more than I think he should. But the fact is, he was able to pick up several guys who have been able to step right in and perform and he added a couple veterans in Green and Tauscher at key times this year.
Overall, I’m obviously pleased with 11-5 and a wild card game. Well done team.
Not sure I disagree with a single point you made…Every time I look a A-Rodg’s numbers I am simply amazed at how lucky we are to have this guy as a Packer.
As to his rushing stats he rushed for 316 yards and 5 TDs, coming in second of all QBs to David Garrard (who had 7 more rushing yards than Rodgers), although Garrard only had 3 TDs. Rodgers longest run was 35 yds and he had two of 20+ and averaged 5.4 a carry…not bad for a guy who was thought to not be all that athletic coming into the NFL.
Also purchased my tix this morning for Sunday’s game, can’t wait!
It’s amazing how winning changes one’s perspective. I was pretty much on top of the mountain calling for MM/TT’s heads at 4-4 and while I do feel a bit better I’m still not totally sold on this tandem.
They seem a little too much “it’s my way or the highway”. Leaving in the starters so long yesterday is a good example. MM defended this by saying I have the pulse of my football team. Maybe so, but had there been a few key injuries yesterday there would be a different tune being sung this morning.
Also, they’re “loyal to a fault” on “their” players. It’ll be interesting to see if Poppinga, Barbre & a few others are still with the team next year. Especially Poppinga.
TT DID have a good draft this year. I’d love to see him have another one this year so I could attribute that to shrewd talent assessment rather than just dumb luck. Still think he shold at least consider utilizing FA more than he does.
Funny, looking back on this post normally “my way or the highway” and “loyal to a fault” are considered excellent attributes for leaders. This is football however which is not known for “long term” planning. Pretty much about the here & now.
All this being said I’m anxious to see just how far we can make it in the playoffs. The team I would most fear after yesterday would be the Cowboys (yuck) but hopefully Andy was just toying with Wade yesterday and the Eagles have a little something left for Dallas next week (odd how three games from yesterday are being replayed next week).
My assessment is TT/MM get another year and can either start building a new dynasty in GB or end up getting bit by their own hard headedness. For now, I am slightly & very cautiously leaning toward the dynasty thing.
Of course, being a total outsider and merely a fan makes this post nothing more than an observation not supported by facts. Just wanted to make that little disclaimer. Happy New Year everyone.
Pretty much agree with everything you say Andy. The one area where I have a slightly diferent take is on the 2009 Draft. I have a strong suspicion that Capers had a lot to say about the Defensive selections. Lang has been good in limited roles. He has yet to prove himself over the long haul. The improvement on the Oline came only after Wells took over at center, Clifton stop worrying about his knees and Taucsher came back.
The one area TT needs to get better is Oline selections. Without Sherman’s old guys, GB would not have been as successful as they were. Sitton and Lang appear to have a future if they improve again next year. Colledge is Colledge and has been there 4 years. At best he’s below average at his position. The rest – not very good.
Good points, especially the last understated two points: 1) the additions of two quality consistent veteran playmakers and (2) the defensive rookies’ play. Big difference for winning games! I could not agree more about second half of season due to these two factors.
At 4-4 my assessment was- some good players, not a good team. I questioned the coaching and the front office.
At 11-5 I couldn’t be happier about where this team is and where they are headed. The O-Line is still very concerning in the short term, the Tackles aren’t getting any younger and Sitton seems to be the only young guy from the last few years who is a lock to be a productive starter for years to come. Lang has promise, but so did Colledge and Barbe at one point. This is without a doubt the biggest issue that needs to be addressed in the offseason- through FA or the draft.
Everywhere else I see a lot of talent and depth. I don’t expect this team to make the Super Bowl this year, I hope they win at least one game in the playoffs and build on the experience. I do expect them to compete for as long as Rodgers is healthy and to win one sometime in the next 5 years.
I’ve said it before, and it feels less and less like an overstatement with each game, but stylistically Rodgers most reminds me of Joe Montana. In this offense that is still the gold standard. Now, all of that coolness doesn’t matter unless he can do it in the biggest moments, but there is no reason to doubt that he will do it in big moments. We shall see . . .
I don’t know Ray, Montana never had cannon like Rodgers’. Montana was a great West Coast guy, but Rodgers allows the Pack in put in a lot more vertical stuff than I remember the 49ers every using. Paul Brown/Bill Walsh invented the West Coast Offense to compensate for a weak armed QB – Ken Anderson.
True, Rodgers has a better arm than Montana had. So has nearly every QB that has played in the NFL since Montana. It wasn’t his arm strength that made Joe Cool the best QB I have ever seen, it was his accuracy, his perfect poise and his understanding of how to run the West Coast offense- he always seemed to know exactly where the play was and exactly where to deliver the ball. One of the reasons I am so encouraged by Rodgers and why he reminds me of Montana is that he seems to share this understanding of the offense, he is getting better every single game at delivering the ball to the right guy in the best spot. And while I think Montana threw a better long ball than might be widely remembered (especially once he teamed with Rice), I think it is fair to say that even right now Rodgers throws one of the better long balls of any QB I have ever seen. As Rodgers gains more experience he can get even better, and maybe accomplish some of the the things that Joe Cool did in the playoffs and Super Bowl. I don’t see why not, with his talent, surrounding cast and demeanor, Rodgers has everything it takes to be successful in the most important circumstances, just like Joe Cool.
And while I’m making outrageously premature comparisons: Jennings= Rice, Driver=John Taylor, Grant=Roger Craig, Finley=Brent Jones, Jordy Nelson= Dwight Clark . . . mixing up all sorts of 49er timelines . . . really, we could do worse than to have a decade in the ’10s like San fran had in the ’80s.
11-5 and people still moan about not getting free agents.
Who cares how you get good players? As long as you get good players.
Yeah – sure wish TT would’a dropped 100 mil on Haynsworth. Totally worth it. What a stand-up, hard-working player. And Chris Canty would’a made a huge difference on this struggling defense. Igor Olshansky too. That’s why the Packer’s D sucks – because they don’t have an Igor.
cow – I actually think this year, TT finally tweaked his own philosophy and delved into free agency more than he has in the past: Duke Preston, Anthony Smith, Derrick Martin, Matt Giordano, Josh Bell, Mark Tauscher, Ahman Green – to name a few. And it’s paid off. Without signing Mark Tauscher, I don’t know if this team makes the playoffs. Martin and Bell have helped on special teams (Martin apparently a lot) and Ahman Green has been a helpful presence in the RB group. (And we don’t even know what Green/Tauscher have done for the locker room – I’m guessing quite a bit.) I just think for us to remain a consistent contender (which we haven’t really been under TT overall) it will be important that TT continues to be a bit more open to free agency like he has been this year, rather than being more closed to it like the previous 4 years.