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Not So Fast

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Not So Fast

I've seen a lot of this sort of thing (Thompson's Plan May Be Suspect) in the last couple of weeks (Blame Game Begins). I'm sorry, but I'm not buying it.

I know the gut reaction at the end of what can only be described as a dismal season is to question everything, but for the record, I still think Thompson is building the team the right way, and calls from fans and the media for a drastic altering of his Modus Operandi are not only premature, they are rather naive.

Is he to blame for 2008? Largely, yes he is. He knew Sanders was going to be his defensive coordinator, he knew the scheme that was going to be run and yet he did precious little to ensure the defensive line, the reason for the teams defensive success last season, was once again stocked with talent. Again, I don't mind the trade of Corey Williams, but then you simply HAVE to get someone early on in the draft. (As someone in the comments pointed out earlier this week - it's hard to watch Quentin Groves, who Jacksonville took with the 52nd pick last April, playing quite well on the Jaguar defensive line last Sunday when you realize that Thompson picked a player at his teams deepest position instead of Groves with the 36th pick)

Now, should Thompson start throwing money around the opening week of free agency like a drunken sailor? Absolutely not. I don't think he would ever start down that path, no matter how bad his team was. I do think he should bring in a few more mid-level veterans this offseason - guys that have played in the NFL and know what being a professional is all about. I do not think he should sign Albert Haynesworth, though I understand the temptation. I also understand that Haynesworth wasn't playing at near this level his first two years in the league. He actually looked a lot like - Justin Harrell. That's right, few people care to remember, but Haynesworth was considered a colossal bust for almost his first four years in the league. Then, in 2007, he earned his first Pro Bowl birth and was named a First Team All-Pro. What happened? Two things - he matured from a young, 21 year old hot-head punk into a 26 year old who was becoming a man and knew he had a chance to make a mountain of money if he could just concentrate not only his play but himself, both on and off the field. He has been successful and is now poised to strike it incredibly rich in the free agent market. It just shouldn't be with the Packers.

Now, I am not, repeat, NOT saying that Harrell will become Haynesworth. Far from it. But I am saying that Harrell is young, VERY young and still has a lot to learn. Thompson did not draft him for 2007 or 2008. He drafted him for 2010. And that's what people don't understand about Thompson's plan. He doesn't need wild forays into free agency to fix things. His players will grow along with their coach and young quarterback, much like the Eagles did with Andy Reid and Donavan McNabb. But his team does need a better defensive coordinator.

It's easy for writers to say that Bob Sanders should be fired or that the players Thompson has brought in are not up to a certain standard after the terrible collapse that the 2008 Packers will be remembered for. It's quite another to call for drastic measures after a 13-3 season that ended an overtime away from a Super Bowl. But that is exactly what this blog advocated last January when we called for the firing of Bob Sanders. I said then that this team would never win a championship with Sanders as defensive coordinator and I think this season has more than proven my point. Sanders' inability to adjust to not only his personnel but what opposing teams were giving him helped prove that he is not cut out for the job, not at this level. Making things even worse is that, ever since the New Orleans game, every team has run basically the same play, almost always with success, whenever presented with a second or third and long. The go-to third down play when playing the Packers has been to run as many verticals as you can with a back or tight end running underneath in the cleared-out area. Sanders has simply been unable to stop it. That's a months worth of football games where the opposing offense has run basically the same play every time it needed a first down, and yet Sanders' defense has been powerless to stop it. That's not the players. That's coaching, or lack-there-of. (I mean, when the Jacksonville Jaguars, THE JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS, are eschewing the run for almost three quarters and going almost exclusively to a spread offense and you can't stop it, you don't belong in the NFL)

The bottom-line however is this: Thompson's team is still built for a long run of success. He has a good coach, a good young quarterback and a plethora of young emerging talent at a number of positions. What he needs to do is attend to his lines, both offensive and defensive. Some of this can be done internally (I think Sitton cracks the lineup next year), some of it has to be done in free agency (a certain defensive end from Carolina perhaps? Nahhhh...) and some of it can be done through the draft. But make no mistake - the lines were the personnel that failed this team this year and it is Thompson's job to improve them. He just doesn't need to veer wildy off course as some are suggesting.

UPDATE: Seems that Donald's Designated Driver beat me here by at least a few days. Great minds, and all that. It's a great post and a more considered take than my ramblings above. Highly recommended.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (10) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Aaron Rogders's picture

On the D-Line side of things, Kampman and Jenkins are good at the ends if they can stay healthy for 2009. Although some talented depth would be nice unlike this year when we had none.. The middle of the line is what's horrible. And when other teams do run to the outside, its the horrible play of the linebackers. Barnett at least had the speed to get to the RB, he just could never tackle.

L.A.'s picture

There's no doubt that change is in order for 2009.

But that leaves a big, big window for what that "change" has to look like. And, of course, everyone and their second cousin is going to have a theory as what change is the best course of action.

The hardest thing is to stop looking at symptoms and get to the heart of what the real problem is. Fixing symptoms is like plugging your fingers in a leaky dam.

That opens up the next question: what really is the problem? We have to know what that really is before we keep offering solutions.

It's like prescribing medications without giving the patient an actual checkup or diagnosis.

Discuss. :-)

nc packer backer's picture

NFL stands for " Not For Long ". TT has not used the tools that he has/had (#4). Its bullshit to be under the cap as much as the Packers are and have a losing record. The life span of a player is to short to think about developing long term talent. This isn't the 90's, spend the money and get some proven FA's.
It's awful that this team was one game away from the SB and now has a losing record.
When are you going to discuss the negative impact trading Farve has had on this season???
Rodgers has not shown himself to be a winner in the 4th quarter, or any quarter.
The Packers are on a slippery slope, TT and MM have not shown anything since Farve was traded.
Examine the #4 trade and see where the Pack stands now.

packeraaron's picture

nc - "get some proven FA’s." - well that's the problem right there. Just because someone is "proven" on another team doesn't mean they'll do squat on a new team and in a new system. What TT needs to do is target guys like Chillar - guys who fit the Packers' system. He just needs to add more than usual.

As for Rodgers - name me the 1st year starter with no running game that HAS looked brilliant in the 4th quarter (or any quarter, which, I'm sorry - that's absurd) because I must have missed it. What don't you Favre fans get? Favre will only get worse. Rodgers will ONLY GET BETTER. And so will the team. How you fail to realize that is beyond me.

astyak's picture

I can buy most of your post. One thing that still bothers me is that this is a finesse team. We need someone to help these young players develop that killer instinct. While a little long in the tooth Ray Lewis would be an interesting fire plug in the middle. There is a guy with a motor that can mentor some young ones in the smash mouth tradition.

I want to see some blood and guts football. They don't call this the the black and blue division for no reason.

Alex Tallitsch's picture

Nice post. You had me at Peppers.

packerwatch's picture

nc- "Rodgers has not shown himself to be a winner in the 4th quarter, or any quarter."

the play of rodgers has been one of the few bright spots on this year's packers squad. rodgers is in the top 10 in every major passing category in the league.

also, rodgers has led 4 go-ahead scoring drives with less than 6 minutes in the 4th quarter (minnesota, tennessee, carolina, jacksonville) that the defense proceeded to blow.

it's hard to lead a 4th quarter comeback TWICE in one game. i'm sure brett favre would agree.

dustybricks6's picture

Agree with the post, in regards to building for the future. But coming off a season that ended one play away from the super bowl... why didn't we have a Win-Now mentality for 2008?

packeraaron's picture

dusty - had Favre come back, I have no doubt Thompson would have. Once Favre retired, Thompson started setting the table for the future - then, of course, Favre tried to blow all that up when he unretired and I am more than a little certain that the Pack will look much sharper at the beginning of next season without the Favre distraction throughout camp.

PackerBelle's picture

"rodgers has led 4 go-ahead scoring drives with less than 6 minutes in the 4th quarter (minnesota, tennessee, carolina, jacksonville) that the defense proceeded to blow."

Very good point.

Rodgers has areas he needs to improve on. We've all seen that. But he has time to do that. Favre doesn't. It is hard to find a good QB (just ask the other teams in our division) and we seem to have one. If he's in the top 10 his first year starting, what is he going to do when we get him a O-line that protects him and a run game that takes some pressure off him? Not to mention a defense that can make crucial 4Q stops.

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