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Christl Still Has His Fastball

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Christl Still Has His Fastball

Great stuff from Cliff Christl over at the Green Bay Press Gazette.

As always, I don't agree with everything Cliff has to say, but I completely agree with the thrust of the column - that the only season-ending injury that makes any difference when it comes to the Packers chances of winning a title in 2010  is the loss of Jermichael Finley.

Money quote:

That’s why they should roll into the playoffs, whether they get healthier or not. Other than Finley, they’re not missing anybody they need.

The Packers have replaced one pedestrian running back with another; a solid inside linebacker with one who has improved enough in a month’s time to be almost as good; some big slugs upfront defensively with some different big slugs now that they’ve added Howard Green. And at right tackle and strong safety, the Packers have found more physical and probably better players.

One quick footnote: Losing rookie defensive tackle Mike Neal was a blow. Typically, ascending young players are the toughest to replace.

I agree with every word there. And the Neal point is a salient one which not many folks in the national media would acknowledge or even be knowledgeable about.

The one quibble I have is with Christl saying the following:

That’s why Finley’s injury alone could derail the Packers’ Super Bowl hopes. His absence could spell the difference in a tight playoff game.

I see what he's saying - imagine the game against the Cardinals without Finley. The guy basically took over the game and his presence opened up everything else. But its worth remembering that the Packers defense was basically non-existent in that game as well and a far cry from what they are currently putting on the field.

I'm on record from before the season saying that the Packers will make the NFC Championship game but are ultimatley still a year away. I've seen very little to dissuade me from that opinion. And just imagine this team getting guys like Finley and Neal back, plus another year of experience for guys like Shields and Bulaga. 2011 shapes up to be the true Year of the Takeover, if you ask me.

The thing that 2010 has going for it, however, is a complete lack of elite teams, especially in the NFC. Every week you think you finally have a handle on who the top two or three teams are - they get beat, ushering in two or three new teams as this weeks "NFC's Best". More than any other year I can remember, this season is the ultimate "Just get into the playoffs - and then anything can happen."

A lot to chew on here. As usual, Christl delivers the goods.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (25) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

BrianD's picture

His article makes you think, was putting Finley on IR really the right move if he would have the possibility of returning in time for the playoffs? I was for the move, and it took place before his second surgery, but it's worth discussing.

packeraaron's picture

It was about Finley's long-term health. It was the right move.

Ryeguy812's picture

Finley had another surgery because of infection that would have set him back even further as well. Not sure the timetable, but if he was already looking at a mid-december return from the first surgery, the second one would have to have pushed his return back well into January

nerdmann's picture

If you get antibiotic resistant MRSA, come see me.
Losing Finley hurt, but I like our guys at TE. We got four of them who can play. Quarless could get to that elite level with experience.
Jackson and Bishop are better imo than the guys they've replaced. Peprah and Bulaga too, arguably.

CSS's picture

Great post. I read the Christl article and was impressed with how his commentary about everybody but Finley doesn't get swept up in typical fan hyperbole. He is spot on.

Side note: Finley's future contract could be a mess next year. Look at the lucrative contracts Vernon Davis and Antonio Gates signed at the TE position. Gates has the career production, Davis has 1-year pro-bowl production.

Finley's up-side (ceiling) is higher than both. Next year is a contract year for Finley. He will want to get paid on his apptitude and potential without the overall body of work to justify what he's likely to ask for. I'm sure you have future thoughts on this once the season concludes, but it could be insane.

hyperRevue's picture

You're saying 2011 is the last year of his contract, right?

CSS's picture

2011 is a contract year, final year of his contract I believe.

I don't envy TT on this one. Pay a guy the premier contract he's likely seeking within his position (hell, I would push for among WR's contracts if I were his agent)where there is no overall body of work to really justify it.

Zub-a-Dub's picture

If the Pack does well without Finley and Quarless shows similiar ability late in the season, it will give the Pack some breathing room.

It will make for an interesting offseason.

My only concern with Finely is his ability to stay healthy.

Zub-a-Dub's picture

This year in the NFL its not so much about the players, which team has the better rosters, as they all seem to be fairly equal, especially with the top 8 teams in both the AFC and NFC.

Unlike other years, its all about the coaches and their game plans.

Is MM and Capers better than the other coaches in the NFC to make it to the big dance?

The success this year will fall on the coaches and their game plans as these rosters seem to be fairly equal in talent.

Ankit's picture

I don't think "pedestrian" is the best word to describe Grant. Back-to-back 1,200 yard seasons cannot be overlooked.

I understand the point of this argument and completely agree with the premise that we can win without #25 (and we have).

The way I see it, the impact of Grant's injury is the way we have used our running game. In the past two years, Grant was productive enough to open up the play action game for Rodgers. Going down the stretch this year, however, I simply cannot see teams showing Jackson and Kuhn the same amount of respect. Let's be real, the toss plays to Kuhn aren't fooling anyone.

That, and Grant can do this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1rztYysyDI

Brett Cristino's picture

I agree with mostly all points here. I brought up the same point about Finley to Jason Wilde on Twitter a week or 2 ago. I feel Finley brings the same dimension on Offense that Clay does on Defense. Now that's not to say losing Finley is equal to losing Clay but what I'm saying is Finley brings a skill set that irreplaceable, team's have to game plan for Finley. There are other ways this Offense can make up for a loss of Finley, but what he brings to our Offense is irreplaceable.

As for the other injured guys, it kills me that Neal/Burnett aren't getting these valuable reps right now. The experience that guys like CJ Wilson, Charlie Peprah, Sam Shields, Bryan Bulaga, Brandon Jackson, Andrew Quarless, and Desmond Bishop are getting right now is priceless. These guys are getting better every week and it is going to improve our chances ten-fold next season. We thought the cuts were hard this offseason, imagine next season. Add the 10 guys on IR, Johnny Jolly, our current 53-man roster, and the guys on our PS and you already have 80+ guys with experience, and that doesn't even factor our 2011 Draft Picks into the equation.

Before the season I predicted us to lose to the Ravens in the Super Bowl, and I'll stick with that. 2011 indeed, looks like the YOTTO.

PackersRule's picture

I think the Packers can make the Super Bowl if they get home field. The team that gets the home field is going to have a huge advantage.

bomdad's picture

Wilde's podcast of his MLFS appearance addressed the Finley contract situation. They have to pay him this offseason or NOW, and with him sitting at home they might get a better deal or avoid some cap impact with the new CBA.

WoodyG's picture

Can't argue with Cliff Christl's analysis at this juncture but his logic probably would have more teeth if he had waited a few more games ..... Playing on the road in 4 out the next five could prove his analysis to be premature ...... At Minn., Atlanta, NE & even Detroit will truly verify if GB's injuries are a moot point .....

CEA's picture

Ankit is the only one to acknowledge Ryan Grant's injury and his 2 plus years of 1200+ yards is a blow that should not be dismissed. I always here the importance of having a running game late in the season, so you can grind out those yards in bad weather games, or to run out the clock in closer games. Along with not being one dimensional. There is not a rb on the roster that has proven to be a suitable replacement for Ryan Grant. Love him or not he has proven to be more than average and until this year pretty durable as well.
Personally I think that is a great blow than Mike Neal. Not to say he doesn't have upside, but again, he has some serious injury issues in college and now his first year as a pro. Two games, three tackles, no assists and one sack. I think that is replaceable for now. Yet everyone makes it out like he was the second coming of Reggie White. Little too early for that. Again, he might be something great if he can stay healthy, but for the sake of this article. Ryan Grant should be on that list along with Finley. The presence of a solid running threat opens up opportunities for the TE as well. The fact that the Packers do not have that could be a major factor in how far they get the rest of the season and playoffs.

packeraaron's picture

I'll just say this - I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the running game in the second half of the year.

WoodyG's picture

You're right ...... Starks to the rescue ......

nerdmann's picture

Gonna find out why TT didn't pull the trigger on that deal for Marshawn. Secret weapon, baby!

JD's picture

I think Jackson is going to be even better and if they give Starks some carries he can contribute as well.

andrew's picture

burnett getting hurt isnt a good thing long term you need him to stay healthy so he can be our guy for a long time.. and whether he is worse or better is up to a coaches preference.. burnett is a ball hawk where our other safeties are hitters.
ryan grant is hardly a averge runningback.. or "pedestrian" he has a 1000 yards every season despite being part of a passing offense...
the only one i agree about is barnett.. he is a solid player that has lost a step.. or two. and bishop has finally shown some spark but who knows if it is gonna stay that way. at least we know barnett to be consistent...

nerdmann's picture

Consistently out for the season, maybe.

Cletus's picture

I don't disagree that one can go up and down the starting 22 from scrimmage and make an argument that the losses aren't all that crippling. But if one is looking to February, as Cliff is, you have to consider at least two things that he ignores. First, the special teams may suffer. That has yet to be seen, but that is really where the Packers are slotting in guys off the street. Bishop for one will be missed. Second, the fact is that we are only halfway through the season. Injuries generally begin taking their toll in the second half. The Packers obviously started the season with great depth up and down the roster - something very few if any of us realized. That depth is largely gone now, so we've got to keep our fingers crossed every week from here on out.

Tarynfor 12's picture

The better your TE is the more likely you will need to play without him a couple(crossed fingers) of games each year.Being a target for hits and over all amount of play time figures this to be true.

Since Finley's' contract is due next year as stated,the Packers need to get him signed and show the confidence they have in him and not begin to make him feel expendable.

bill from jersey`'s picture

only finley huh...1500 yards from scrimmage for grant and finleys loss is bigger ...not,not,not

InFact's picture

Cliff's point contains SOME validity, but needs qualification:

Green Bay's current weak points (e.g., running back and defensive backfield) won't appear as festering sores until the playoffs.

That's when teams tee off on Rodgers who won't have as much time as needs to pass......and when three and four receiver sets (ala Arizona's approach in last year's playoffs) cause havoc for Shields and Underwood/Lee.

Ultimately: Cutting Harris will be shown to be a poor move when the playoffs arrive.

TT not trading for a better running back will also become an obvious mistake.

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