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I Don\'t See It

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I Don\'t See It

Everywhere you turn in the Packer Blogosphere and even in the accredited media you find pieces about the Packers playoff chances, complete with examinations of the Packers schedule and how it compares with the Vikings and Bears, who they all play when, what might happen to the Williams brothers, etc, etc.

Sorry, but I just don't see it.

I understand newspapers have a vested interest in keeping hope alive, but my fellow bloggers really need to take off the Green and Gold glasses. This team is not going to the playoffs, and if, by some miracle, it happened to find it's way in, it would be embarrassed on a national stage once again. They have simply run out of competent players on the defensive line to mask Bob Sanders gross incompetence. It's that simple, really. Last year, the defensive line was stacked with quality players and hid the fact that Sanders had zero imagination or ability to adjust his scheme, at least not until the end of the season when injuries had taken their toll and you saw the cracks start to show.

People talk about how trading Favre and going with Rodgers will define Ted Thompson's legacy with the Packers. And on a storyline level, that's probably true. But Thompson's legacy will really be defined this offseason as he tries to fix what he broke this past year. Outside of the Favre trade and possibly the signing of Brandon Chillar, there's not a whole lot that went right for Thompson in 2008. From trading Corey Williams to cutting Jon Ryan, from drafting Brian Brohm to resigning Ryan Grant to a big deal, almost every move seems suspect at best. Hindsight, of course, makes it easy to see the missteps, and I was on board with almost all of the aforementioned decisions, save for the signing of Grant. But the thing I got right and Thompson was seemingly blind to was what I wrote back in January:

The only way this team wins a championship with Sanders as its defensive coordinator is if the defensive line goes 8 quality guys deep for the whole season. No injuries period. Because otherwise, you’ll always get what we got this year - a great pass rush from the front four the first half of the season that fades away in December and January due to worn down personnel.

Now, obviously, Thompson can't control injuries. He can't control Harrell showing up out of shape or Cullen Jenkins tearing his pectoral muscle. But he can control depth, and his refusal to pay Williams a market deal, knowing that Sanders and his scheme were staying put, was a big error. I understand not wanting to break the bank for him, but if you're not paying defensive linemen, who are you paying? We've seen how horrible this defense is without a line. It's not pretty, especially when you have a coordinator who can't draw up pressure. And that's the problem, and has been since Jim Bates left.

It's baffling that McCarthy and Thompson could spend the entire offseason reviewing tape of last season and not see the fact that they would need a deep defensive line rotation no matter what happened elsewhere on the team. It's equally perplexing that they would need 13 weeks to see what the rest of the world could see in 6 - that Derrick Frost was terrible and that he was hurting the team. It's a real red flag that perhaps Thompson's confidence-bordering-on-arrogance regarding his ability to evaluate players caused him to refuse to believe he had made such a monumental error. (And what is it about the punting position that vexes GMs so much, causing them to always seek greener pastures to the detriment of their team? Ron Wolf maintains to this day his biggest regret in personnel was not resigning Hentrich)

No, in the end, this team simply doesn't have a coordinator who can adjust or even call a game (did you realize that on 20 dropbacks by Delhomme on Sunday, Sanders blitzed one time? And it worked! God forbid - don't do it again Bob!)  It does have some quality personnel on the defensive side of the ball, that in more capable hands would be more than able to shut down opposing teams. But when you are giving up 51 and 35 points a game, you don't deserve to go the playoffs. You deserve to get a new defensive coordinator.

All in all, it's been an incredibly disappointing year. Yes, the Packers are still in it, and I will of course watch every Packer game with great interest. But I'm anxious to get the offseason started so that we can begin to see if Thompson steps up and corrects his mistakes. As I said back in Jaunary:

What did the Giants do to improve after they were bounced from the playoffs in ‘06? ...the biggest change Tom Coughlin made was firing his defensive coordinator. And Mike McCarthy should follow suit.Now, I don’t write those words lightly. Unlike many fans, and even some media members, I understand there are many lives that are thrown into chaos when coaches are fired. Families are uprooted. But it’s part of the gig when taking a job as a coach, especially in the National Football League where the only thing that matters are results. And the results Bob Sanders produced with the talent he had on hand this season do not merit his return. His stubborn refusal, or inability, to diversify his approach to the scheme or the talent on hand is his biggest deficiency. His entire philosophy of getting pressure with his front four and playing hard man coverage is a dream if the defense has superior talent across the board.

...if the Packers plan to contend for championships, as McCarthy has maintained is his only goal, he needs to find a creative, hungry, young defensive mind, preferably one that has been exposed to a great defensive mind like Bill Belichick or Jim Johnson and that is not afraid to use a hybrid scheme, or indeed, an entirely new scheme all together. Because the scheme that Sanders is running has been figured out by the better offensive minds in the NFL. Sanders learned it from Bates, who learned it from Wannstedt, who learned it from Johnson while they were winning Super Bowls in Dallas. That was a loooooooooong time ago. (Perusing the list of Super Bowl winners, you have to go back to the Cowboys victory over the Steelers in 1996 to see the last time this defensive scheme won a championship.)

Mike McCarthy is the head coach of a Packers team that could be a contender for many years to come, but to make the final push he needs a coordinator that is able to scheme as creatively on the defensive side of the ball as McCarthy does on the offensive side.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (16) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

packerwatch's picture

we're not a very good team. we're a mediocre team. but we play 3 genuinely bad teams and the also mediocre chicago bears to close out the season. our chances aren't great. but the season isn't over yet (remember, in 2006 the packers almost made the playoffs with an 8-8 record--could easily happen again.) i don't really care if we get blown out in the first game of the playoffs. it's still better than missing the playoffs.

packeraaron's picture

We have the same record as the Houston Texans.

Let that wash over you.

Holly's picture

As much as I'd love to play point-counterpoint with you, the team hasn't given me much in the way of "see, I told you!" lately. We have a lot of ground to make up, obviously in terms of player health, but most critically in the part of the game devoted to schemes and playcalling. I love our shutdown corners as much as any other Packer fan, but you have to have a better plan for the other 9 guys on the field than we've had in the last two years.

Andrew in Atlanta's picture

I'm already thinking about the offseason myself, but the remaining games will be a lot more fun to watch if they (potentially) mean something. I think that is what most fans hope for and we play in a crappy enough division against a 1st place team with a history of meltdowns. The reason why I don't think it will happen tho is the Queens last game against the Giants is meaningless to the Giants.

Only the most deluded are thinking about a deep playoff run or even a win in the playoffs. Let's just hope, even mathematically, that the Bears game means something. It just more fun that way. We'll be all over the moves TT makes in the spring. Until then let's hope to make it interesting

Alex Tallitsch's picture

Way to throw in the towel.

packeraaron's picture

Ahhh yes - Exercises In Irony, With Your Host - PackOne.

;)

packergeek - awh's picture

Aaron - good post, though I don't think this year is over yet. Anything is possible with a Childress/Frerotte-led Vikes team and the very inconsistent Bears.
I do like your comments re Bob Sanders mostly. I held out on Sanders but now I'm coming around to your viewpoint. He cannot seem to make adjustments during the game. One small defense of Sanders' poor performance this year is that the individual performances of our defensive players has been poor (Woodson, Tramon, Harris, Collins excepted). LB play has been very bad, and the D-Line has underperformed all year long. Kampman, Pickett, Cole, Jolly, Montgomery - all these guys were expected to play better than they're playing (and don't be duped by Kampman's sack #s, he hasn't played that great this year). Still, Bob Sanders may be on the way out.

Ron La Canne's picture

The great thing about being a Packer fan is, we are in the company of the most optimistic group of pro sports fans in the world. Until a stake is pounded through their hearts, they will cling to life. Any perverse theory presented immediately becomes the new beacon of light to be followed until it invariably dies. This is great and makes the GB Packers unique in all of sports.

Me, I tend to be a hardline realist. My hopes died at NO. That was a must win game and not only did they lose, they were destroyed. A playoff team doesn't collapse at this time of the year. That was the final indicator to me that this team was not very good. It was this game that took any control of the playoffs out of the Packers hands and left them to rely on others for any chance of success they have.

Can anyone point to a four game winning streak this year? How well have they done at home? How good have they been on the road? In order for the playoffs to happen - GB = 4-0, Bears = 3-1, and Vikes = 2-2.

Right now, I'll spend more time hoping that TT will do something to improve the lines for next year.

Interesting sidebar, since Tracy White was cut the ST KO coverage performance has dropped to last in the NFL. And for whom? Lansahna? Hasn't been activated yet (Unless I missed him sitting on the bench). Great job, TT. As it turns out, Favre may have been the best decision TT made this year. Everything else, not too good.

packeraaron's picture

Ron - Lansanah has been activated and on teams, but has not played from scrimmage. I posted this after the game:

Speaking of special teams - Thompson REALLY screwed up when he cut both Jon Ryan and then later Tracy White. You would think the fact that they cut White to keep Lansanah would mean that Lansanah could get on the goaline defense team ahead of Desmond Bishop - who was terrible again today. The fact that he can’t just makes me think Thompson really, really fucked up.

dustybricks6's picture

What I will take from the 08 season (barring a miracle run to the super bowl*), are the four games we lost by four points or less. Come on. We've played good enough to win games, but we can't finish games. Period. We can't finish. Crosby can't kick the winner, Rodgers can't run a 2min drill and Sanders...you know. For god's sake. If games were only played in the 3rd quarter, we would be one of the best teams in the nfl. Sadly, that's not the case.

Ron La Canne's picture

TT f'ed up? You could say that is an understatement.

bucky's picture

Over? Nothing is over until <i>we</i> decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

Maybe I'm the optimist, but I think this team is a good deal more talented than it has played. Certainly there's a good deal of talent on offense in the so-called "skill" positions. Yes, I even like Grant. And I don't think that the talent is too bad on the line, although both Tauscher and Clifton are showing their age. I think some of the younger guys on the line have some potential, though they're still too inconsistent.

More disappointing is the defense. The line is a real cypher; guys who played pretty well last year (Cole, Jolly) have done nothing this year. Kampman isn't what he was either. I don't know if it's a lack of talent, or simply a lack of depth. And I'm beginning to agree with those who have been calling Harrell a bust; by this time, he ought to be producing something, yet I can't remember ever hearing his name during a broadcast. The line has been ok against the run about 75% of the time (of course, the remaining 25% seem to be 30+ yard dashes), but hasn't put any pressure on the QB all season.

I think equally disappointing have been the LBs. Poppinga has always been useless; he's a practice stud, a high energy guy who looks great when he knows the plays being run, but he makes the wrong read more than 90% of the time when he's playing against a different offense. Barnett was ok, though not as good as last year. Most disappointing is Hawk, who started to look like the real deal last season; now he's just a guy.

The secondary is still solid, though neither Al Harris nor Charles Woodson is getting any younger. They'd look a lot better if opposing QBs wouldn't have time to cook Thanksgiving dinner back there.

I don't know how much is the coaching, although that's got to have something to do with it. The team still gets a lot of penalties, and guys still are missing assignments way too often (don't even get me started on special teams). That suggests some coaching issues.

I think McCarthy is going to have some tough decisions to make the next few weeks, and then going into next season.

Andrew in Atlanta's picture

Germans?
Forget it, he's rolling

PRC's picture

Aaron...or anyone else for that matter...

Who would you like to see at DC? I think we can all say a change could be a good thing but I am curious who you would like to see?

One name that intrigues me but I have no idea if we could actually get is Marty Schottenhiemer. MM can coach offense and Schottenhiemer's teams always played good D. I wouldn't mind seeing him coaching our D, I really think he could change the attitude and the guy has a TON of experience that could really help this coaching staff IMO.

packeraaron's picture

PRC - I would be shocked if Schott came back as a coordinator, but stranger things have happened. He'd get to work with his brother and he has a very good relationship with McCarthy. That said, I seriously doubt it.

As for who I'd like to see - I think DDD made a good point in his forum post - there will likely be a number of quality defensive minds available this offseason after coaches are fired. My dream scenario would be Reid getting let go from Philly and Jim Johnson coming on board with the Pack. But that's not going to happen...

L.A.'s picture

I think what we have here is a failure to see the forest for the trees. Or better yet, I think MM and TT believed their own hype this offseason.

It was a huge move to say this team was ready to move on without Favre, and coming off a 13-3 season has a way of doing that for you. Winning a bunch of awards tends to convince you that you are doing so well that you can dispose of a guy like Favre and continue to do well.

I think what you see is a team that doesn't have any glue holding it together. A lot of great individual performances (Rodgers, Woodson, etc.) that aren't adding up to wins. Is MM the same coach he was last year? Is the talent around Rodgers what it should be for a QB of his style and abilities? Did Favre's intangibles mean more to this team than what was thought?

No matter what it is, I don't know if we want to fall into a Sherman-esque one-and-done in the playoffs. Good teams find a way to beat the Packers this year, and that's all we'd see in the playoffs.

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