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.
- Like Like
- 0 points