I'd like to echo Andy's appreciation of Tom Silverstein's question and answer session with Packer GM Ted Thompson. Silverstein, taking over for Bob McGinn who has done most of the GM season ending Q&A's prior to this, does just a first rate job asking questions that fans want answered, and, more importantly, following up and not letting Thompson get away with vagueness and generalities.
There's a lot to chew on but for me, the most telling part of the back and forth comes when Thompson is mulling over possible reasons for the Packers losing so many close games.
It just comes down to executing at the right time, finishing. And sometimes finishing doesn't have anything to do with the fourth quarter, sometimes it means if you have a chance to go up by two scores at the end of the third quarter, you pretty much put the game out of reach rather than keep a team in the game and all of a sudden you lose it at the end.
Thompson reiterates this point later on:
Sometimes that has to do with the defense getting off the field one more time and if we do that the game is over and it's not even going to be close. Or it means scoring and making it a two-possession game at the end of the third quarter instead of letting it get into the fourth quarter still a tight game.
It's a very astute point that Thompson is making and one I think is getting lost a bit as the narrative of the 2008 season is being written, that of the inept defense (which, of course, is most certainly true) and a powerhouse offense (which isn't exactly the case).
One need look no further than the second Bears game or the Texan game or the Jacksonville game, etc. to see what Thompson is talking about. I mean, the Packers had a whopping 7 points going into the 4th quarter against the Texans. The TEXANS - a team that also fired their offensive coordinator. (In fact, the Saints, the Jaguars and the Texans ALL got rid of their defensive coordinators, and the Packers didn't exactly light-up any of them) Thompson sees that the offense is as responsible as the defense for the problems the team experienced in the second half of the season. The difference, to me at least, is that Thompson is sure McCarthy is a good coach who can correct things while being equally convinced that Sanders was not.
On a side note, I also wanted to point out something I read on National Football Post this morning. It was in Michael Lombardi's Diner News regarding NFL coaching searches and the following caught my eye:
Last year, poor Jim Fassell was all set to become the Redskins’ head coach, but the front office of the ‘Skins decided to test fan and media reaction before finalizing the deal. When the public sentiment was not favorable, the ‘Skins backed off and went in another direction. It appears the Jets are very concerned about what the media and fans are thinking. They want a friendly press conference and they do not want to have to sell their head coach to the media and fans.
I'm sorry, but that is beyond absurd and it's one of the reasons I like Thompson's approach for the most part. Sure, it can be maddening to listen to his evasive non-answers during press conferences, and yes, he can be deliberate to a fault (see: Frost, Derrick) but he stands behind his decisions whether popular or unpopular. He stands in front of that throng at Lambeau every year on draft day and listens to them boo him. He understands where the passion is coming from and doesn't ever talk down to fans, although most of the time they deserve to be talked down to.
Of course, it all comes down to winning, something Thompson's teams have not done enough of. 2009 will be an important year for Thompson and the Packers (though not the end-all-be-all that most are making it out to be) and I have faith that Thompson has the team on the right track to bring a championship back to Titletown.
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