Game Thoughts Packers/Cardinals

  • There is something seriously wrong with this Packers team. Their 10-5 record is incredibly deceptive. I went back just now and looked at the teams the Packers have played this year. They beat Seattle and the Chiefs yes, but that was when both teams were playing positively awful – getting crushed by weak teams. And their other wins came against very bad teams (Rams, Chargers, Rams, Bears, Lions, etc). But the most telling thing when looking back at the teams they’ve played is the complete and total no-shows the Packers have pulled against good teams: Denver, Carolina, and Arizona. This Packers team didn’t deserve to be on the field with any of the 3 of these teams – which of course doesn’t bode well for the playoffs at all.
  • There is something seriously wrong with Aaron Rodgers. He has been really bad. Yes, the o-line is bad and McCarthy’s playcalling is horrible (as I noted it would be after his first game back – which was against a horrendous Dallas team). But the drop off in Rodgers play is stunning. He’s missing passes he never misses, his instincts seem off  and more concerning, it looks like his attitude is getting bad (likely creating some type of fracture within the team). I don’t blame him for being frustrated as he has to be so ticked off when horrible plays are called etc. But his seems to be whining more than in the past.
  • The offensive line is awful. Yes, a lot of this is set up for failure by having Rodgers drop deep, WRs running horrible routes and the offense being incredibly predictable. But the line isn’t doing its job.
  • I absolutely don’t understand the use of Eddie Lacy. He had a few nice runs today but he can never get anything going because he’s used in such an on/off fashion. It’s almost like he’s on a carry count (like baseball pitchers being on a pitch count). In fact, that’s exactly what McCarthy did to a fault going the other way (giving him carries when he should have been passing) in last year’s Seattle game. I know there are those that will say “but Andy it’s so hard to call the plays and know who to feature when throughout a game”. My point is simply that McCarthy gets this wrong too much. And I think this team, when we do win, wins despite McCarthy, not because of him.
  • I worry that what we’re seeing now is that the Packers simply aren’t very good when Aaron Rodgers doesn’t play at a ridiculous level. For a few years there, he was playing better QB than anyone…ever. He really was. But now that he’s become an average game manager, it has exposed just how (below?) average the Packers are as a team.
  • I can’t watch another game where McCarthy repeatedly drops Rodgers deep in the pocket. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like deep drops if we’re going to try to throw deep. But he drops Rodgers deep nearly every time he passes which makes it super easy to defend. We need quick slants. Even the short passes we do throw take super long to develop – instead of short, quick-hitting slants or outs that good teams run.
  • There is something going on behind the scenes for the Packers. I suspect a major rift between McCarthy and Rodgers. We’ve talked about this on and off throughout the season and I don’t have any solid evidence backing this up. But we all see the body language and we all know that Rodgers was ticked that Clements lost the playcalling duties. I just think there is something going on that may be too difficult to get past right now and that is a good part of the reason we are struggling so much. If Mike McCarthy is the offensive genius some claim he is, and Rodgers is one of the best QBs in the history of the game as some claim, then why does our offense continue to be so incredibly bad and, far more concerning, why have we made no changes or adjustments to at least make it competent? I am truly no football expert and I am under no illusion here, but I am positive I could come up with a number of other plays to at least try! The plays we’re throwing out there look so similar week to week – and so similarly ineffective. It is shocking really.
  • While I do believe that more creativity and imagination in the offense could at least get us out of the offensive rut we’ve been in really all season, I do think another smaller piece of all of this is personnel. Watch our WRs, TEs and RBs – they haven’t been getting open all season. Yes, there have been a few games when things have rolled a bit – but that happened against crappy teams. Against competent teams, our guys rarely get open. So the first thing to do is examine the strengths of each guy and figure out more creative ways to get these guys open: from new/different plays, to thinking better about mismatches, to changing the entire tempo to a fast, quick-hitting offense that we’re probably better suited to anyway. (What is with this slow playcalling and Rodgers constantly burning timeouts because he takes the clock to zero?) The bottom line is this – if McCarthy is not finding good ways to use the personnel we have, then TT and staff need to bring in different personnel (or we need to find a different coach that is better at squeezing the talent out of the group he has). The Patriots do this every single year –  constantly bringing guys in, a good number of whom actually contribute.
  • I feel like this year more than any other demonstrates that the “stay the course” mentality that MM and TT have is not the best operating philosophy to have. There is a rigidity about the way we operate that isn’t good – for the same reason it isn’t good for a company to be inflexible and rigid. Being nimble makes all the difference. But Andy, MM has gotten to the playoffs X number of times and we won a Super Bowl etc etc. We had a great year during the Super Bowl year and McCarthy deserves tons of credit for that year for sure. In fact, what was interesting that year is that the team had a huge number of injuries that we overcame by being nimble, making adjustments and coaching the replacement players up. But the sense that we’re a nimble franchise capable of making needed adjustments throughout games and throughout the season started and stopped really in 2010. Since 2010 we have been merely an above average team that fails to show up in the playoffs. All while having the best QB in the NFL.
  • As much as it pains me to say it, even with Jordy back, I can’t imagine we’ll climb too much higher on the offensive proficiency list – we’re something like 24th or 25th now. There is something seriously wrong with this team and this offense and the only way we’ll do damage in the playoffs is if some major changes are made starting next week.

7 Responses to “Game Thoughts Packers/Cardinals”

  1. Dave K Says:

    It’s 3rd and goal late in the 3rd quarter. Rodgers throws high through Adams hand in the end zone. The entire line is run blocking. The play call was clearly a run and if you go back and look Lacy has a lane into the end zone. After the play, you see Lang yelling at Rodgers. Reading Lang’s lips he clearly yells “Why did you throw it?” He was pissed and he clearly wanted Rodgers to know it. Rodgers has a lot of the run/pass options and he made wrong choice on that one.

    Something is going very wrong in that locker room. My gut tells me Rodgers has lost faith in the coaching staff and has become a problem within the organization and in the locker room. He may feel like he is tired of covering the warts of a sub-par coach and feels his window is being wasted by the organization. I hope it’s not that. I hope it’s just a super-competitive QB not handling mediocrity very well and the relationship can get mended once the offense starts producing again. But, I think signs are there that the QB1 is sort of a diva and the relationship with the organization is strained.

    Winning cures all this. So….how does this offense get back on track? It isn’t going to happen this year. The talent isn’t there. The o-line is a hospital ward. The WR’s lack talent right now. Our TE’s are awful. The running backs and run blocking cannot consistently carry the load. And, you have a QB missing throws he NEVER missed before. This issue will need be fixed in the offseason.

    • awhayes Says:

      Dave – very interesting. I wondered what Lang said as I was taken aback by the fact that it looked like he was just pissed at Rodgers – something we never see. I worry too that there is a deeper rift here. There are times I just get the sense that Rodgers is so tired of dealing with what he thinks are iffy playcalls and a comparatively poorer overall understanding of the game (with McCarthy).

  2. Matt in Colorado Says:

    As Andy said, the rigid philosophy of the team is finally taking its toll. An almost exclusive draft and develop system is not responsive quickly enough to the inevitable gaps in personnel that a sport like football creates. Also, draft picks often do not pan out. The Packers have to draft somebody and either throw them in as a rookie or wait for the proverbial second-year jump™. I am so sick of hearing that line.

    How long have they not addressed ILB, and they convert Matthews to cover for it. They were too busy plugging their loss of corner backs to actually upgrade positions like ILB or tight end. Exclusive draft and develop eventually starts to fall behind because you don’t know what you have “developed” until 2-3 years have passed!

    They have had a lot of misfires with high draft picks, and catastrophic losses like Nick Collins and Finley left voids in positions for years. Draft and develop cannot overcome those problems in an effective way. In the meantime Rodgers’ best years are slipping by.

    I have to say that the personnel decisions guarantee at best a good team with maybe some consistency, but it doesn’t produce elite teams that leave a mark on the league. Perhaps the organization thinks that the most profitable product is this arrangement where fans get 80% of what they want year in year out and the money never has to be risked for key acquisitions. That may be the decision they have made for this entertainment product, but I am no longer entertained.

    • awhayes Says:

      well said Matt. I do think that personnel is a piece of all of this. And you’re right – I think maybe TT’s formula is decent for consistency but not good for getting us to the elite level – where the Patriots always are.

      • Matt in Colorado Says:

        Thanks, Andy. I do really enjoy your commentary even though it may not be as fun to write as it used to be! Have a Happy New Year!

      • footballrulz Says:

        Injuries, ridgidity and lack of adjustments. Pretty much sums if up

  3. Dave In Tucson Says:

    I guess the biggest problem I have with your analysis is that you seemed to be surprised by the outcome of this game. I figured it was at least a 50-50 shot of a blow out loss.

    Bottom line on this season: it would be a massive mistake (IMO) to fire McCarthy. Few teams have had the kind of success he’s had over his tenure:

    * 8 of 10 winning seasons
    * 8 playoff appearances
    * 1 Super Bowl victory
    * Two other NFC CG appearances (I know, I know)

    Sure, there are some problems that need to be addressed, and probably some assistant coaches (wide receivers and o-line, perhaps) that could stand to be replaced. But based on results, McCarthy has been one of the best coaches this franchise has ever had (I’d put him behind Lambeau and Lombardi, and ahead of Holmgren). To talk about firing him is preposterously shortsighted.

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