The grading scale for players is as follows: A=Pro Bowl caliber, B=Solid NFL starter, C=Average NFL player, D=Below average player, F=Fringe NFL player.
I don’t have a corresponding scale for coaches, so please grant me the liberty that the grading curve is relative to other coaches in the NFL. I’ll also be sticking to the head coach and coordinators rather than trying to get into position coaches.
Without further ado…
Mike McCarthy (B-): Bottom line, Mike McCarthy coached his team to a division championship and a playoff berth for the fifth consecutive season, tied for the longest current streak in the NFL. And McCarthy did it all in spite of yet another injury-ravaged season in which the Packers had the fifth-most starts lost to injury in the NFL, according to Rick Gosselin's annual analysis in the Dallas Morning News. As McCarthy himself pointed out in his season-ending press conference, it's an extremely rare occurrence when a team is able to win its division when playing four quarterbacks. The Packers took a four-win step backwards in 2013 as compared to 2012, finishing with an 8-8-1 record (including playoffs), down from 12-6 the season prior. For as much criticism as McCarthy gets for his play-calling, much of it comes in hindsight. He deserves credit for helping to revive the run game in Green Bay, setting the Packers offense up for success in the future behind the one-two punch of Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy.
Dom Capers (D): Capers' unit didn't escape the injury bug either, but it still underachieved any way you slice it. Perhaps most disappointing was the slide the team took in run defense, ranking as high as third in NFL heading into their Week 8 game against Minnesota on Oct. 27 allowing an average of 79.0 yards per game before finishing the year 25th in the league, allowing 125.0 yards per game. Another disappointing development was the Packers' 22 takeaways that ranked tied for 21st in the NFL, especially after his units did so well in creating turnovers in previous seasons (fourth in the NFL since Capers was hired in 2009). The Green Bay defense also ranked 24th in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 247.3 yards per game and 25th in opponent passer rating (95.9). Sack production remained mostly static, ranking 8th in the NFL with 44 sacks. Losing linebacker Clay Matthews for five full games and parts of three others was a detriment.
Tom Clements (B): The Packers ranked sixth in the NFL in passing offense (266.8 ypg), seventh in rushing offense (133.5ypg), combining to rank third in total offense (400.3 ypg). The biggest shortcoming was the team's red-zone offense, which scored touchdowns on just 50.8 percent of all drives reaching inside the opponents' 20-yard line, ranking 26th in the NFL. Like McCarthy, Clements deserves credit for not only reviving the Packers run game, but really changing the way it operates. For the first time in McCarthy's tenure, the team just didn't pay lip-service to getting away from the zone-blocking scheme, pulling and trapping more than ever before. Having Lacy helped, but Clements helped put him in a position to succeed. Obviously missing Rodgers for seven games late in the season would have been a blow to any offensive coordinator.
Shawn Slocum (D): While buoyed by good individual performances by kicker Mason Crosby and punter Tim Masthay, Slocum's units took a nose-dive compared the previous few seasons. The built-in excuse is that after suffering so many injuries, the special teams was comprised of practice-squad and street free agent types in the latter half of the year, but even early in the season, the Packers special teams weren't performing well. The bright spot was the punt return unit, sparked by Micah Hyde, ranking seventh in the NFL with an average return of 11.3 yards. The rest of the Packers special teams units ranked 30th in kickoff returns (20.3 ypr), 29th in opponent kickoff returns (26.0 ypr) and 29th in opponent punt returns (13.1).
Mason Crosby (B+): The rebound performance of Mason Crosby ranks right behind Johnny Jolly's comeback in terms of the team's feel-good stories in 2013. After ranking dead last in the NFL with a 63.6 field-goal percentage last season, Crosby turned in a career-high 89.2 percent in 2013, plus two more cold-weather, postseason field goals and 100 percent on all extra-point attempts. Whereas Crosby was just 2-9 on field goals of 50-plus yards in 2012, he made 5-7 in 2013, including a long of 57 yards, the longest outdoor field goal in team history. In the offseason, Crosby agreed to a restructured, incentive-laden contract, bringing down his guaranteed money from $2.6 million to just $800,000 and ended up earning back every penny of his original contract in bonuses. The downside is that Crosby's 89.2 field-goal percentage ranked just 13th in the NFL as so many other kickers enjoyed unprecedented success. His kickoff average of 61.8 ranked 22nd in the NFL, although he was frequently asked for directional kickoffs and did better in that regard than Tim Masthay. Crosby's one onside kick attempt was recovered.
Tim Masthay (B-): Masthay continued to be a solid, consistent force at punter in 2013 and the argument could be made that he's the best punter in Packers history. He has the highest gross and net punting average in franchise history, highlighted by a career-high 39.0 net punting average in 2013. Masthay's net average ranked just 21st in the NFL, but when taking into account the environment he played in, his standing looks a whole lot better. If there's one area he could use improvement, Masthay had a career-low 22 punts downed inside the 20 in 2013. In almost half the amount of kickoffs as Mason Crosby (21 vs. 41), Masthay had more touchbacks (17 vs. 13). The issue with Masthay on kickoffs was that he was more prone to mis-hitting them and wasn't able to kick directionally with quite the same precision as Crosby.
Brett Goode (C+): If grading long snappers on a pass/fail basis, Goode gets a "pass." For the sixth consecutive season, he still hasn't had a single snap that's resulted in a turnover, although Goode seemed to have several off-target snaps that made it difficult for Masthay either as a punter or a holder. In today's new-age NFL in which long snappers are rarely asked to block due to NFL rules not allowing rushers to line up over center, athletic long snappers who can cover downfield are becoming more valuable. Goode is among the slower long snappers in the league, making just one tackle in 2013. But as long as he doesn't turn the ball over, Goode is worth his weight in gold.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
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