All seemed quiet here at Cheesehead TV today, what with a congratulatory post residing atop the blog for the balance of the morning and early afternoon, an idle passerby must have thought "Aaron is no doubt taking a break from the weary work of bringing his unique brand of Packers analysis to Packer fans everywhere and taking some well earned time to pursue other endeavors, perhaps getting some work done at his day job, or even spending time with his family."
How wrong that passerby would be.
I have, in fact, spent most of my afternoon locked in mortal combat via Twitter with one Gregory Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The cause for our contentious exchange? This post from Scouts Inc. member Matt Williamson over at ESPN's NFC North blog. It's one part in a series of posts where members of Scouts Inc. look at what they perceive to be the greatest weakness of each team in the North as it stands now heading into the 2009 season.
My main point of contention with Williamson's analysis (a point, I might add, that Bedard seemed to completely discount in the battle that was to follow) is that it exists entirely in the vacuum of the 2009 offseason. Again and again Williamson gives us examples of how this and that is terrible for the Packers' defense...right now. Now, I understand the idea is to win now. It's well documented that I think this is exactly what the Packers will be doing this season. But more than that, the Packers are heading down a road on defense, a journey that began in earnest with the drafting of Raji and Matthews, which even Williamson concedes will greatly help the transition. Williamson also gives two throwaway lines to the most important aspect of the entire change - Dom Capers. If there's a defensive mind with the authority and the experience to take a 4-3 team and successfully mold them into the 3-4, it's Capers. His work both in Jacksonville and Miami with Nick Saban should dispel any doubts on that. It's also interesting to see Williamson call the switch of Aaron Kampman from end to linebacker 'criminal'. Funny, I remember lots of people, both in and out of football, saying the exact same thing about Miami moving Jason Taylor to linebacker before he went on to become the Defensive Player of the Year. Now, am I predicting the same trajectory for Kampman? Hardly. I'm just saying lets let the guy take a snap or two in the new scheme before anointing the switch a crime.
One final point on Williamson before I get to Bedard (don't worry Greg, I haven't forgotten you...) Scouts Inc. tells us that it:
...breaks down film of every NFL game, numerous college games and individual footage of college prospects, and our experts attend NFL training camps and both NFL and college games in person.
What it doesn't tell us is that one of it's 'experts' happens to have been a member of one of the worst scouting departments in NFL history. Who's that you ask? That's right ladies and gentlemen - before coming to work for Scouts Inc., Matt Williamson worked as a scout for the Cleveland Bowns under Butch Davis. If you're not familiar with the ineptitude that represents, go back and look at the draft classes during Davis' tenure in Cleveland, headlined by first round disappointments such as Gerard Warren and William Green, but more than that, simply one of the worst collection of professional football players ever assembled outside of Detroit under Matt Millen. (Other than Kellen Winslow of course, who the Brown's gave up a second round pick to the Lions in order to move up ONE SPOT to select.) This is a man I WANT not liking the defensive switch the Packers are making...
As for Mr. Bedard.
Greg took my pointing out the above and twisted it into a referendum on McCarthy's decision making, in effect lambasting McCarthy's decision to stick with Jim Bates' scheme when he was hired rather than moving to the 3-4 immediately after coming on board. Hidden (or not so hidden) in Bedard's critique of McCarthy's decision making is the implication that McCarthy was lying when he said, in essence, that he's wanted to run a 3-4 all along. Bedard points to McCarthy offering the job to both Gregg Williams and Jim Haslett, both of whom run a 4-3, before settling on Capers. He conveniently leaves out McCarthy's dalliance with Mike Nolan, who is currently installing the 3-4 in Denver, and who was McCarthy's first choice for the job.
I believe McCarthy when he says he wanted the 3-4 from the get-go. He walked into a situation where the coach before him had switched defensive coordinators three times in four years, changing schemes twice. According to Bedard, McCarthy should have completely discounted that when hiring his defensive coordinator. I think that's completely unrealistic. Yes, you have a clean slate when you're first hired, but you also have to face those players everyday. I'm sure not ripping up the defensive playbook yet again earned him some goodwill in the locker room. Sure, he may have pulled the rug out from some guys (Kampman, Jenkins) with the switch to the 3-4 now, but the previous scheme was not working, even when the team went 13-3. (A funny side note to this is that one of the biggest critics of the Bates/Sanders scheme has always been one Greg A. Bedard)
Speaking of the previous scheme, both Bedard and Williamson suffer from a bit of revisionist history when it comes to how the 4-3 scheme the Packers ran actually fared over the course of McCarthy's tenure.
Two years ago, the Packers had an upper-tier defense while running the 4-3. The strength of that team was a very deep, talented and versatile defensive line. The Packers rotated big men in, stayed fresh up front and put an awful lot of pressure on opposing offenses for four quarters.
Keeps scheme when hired, goes 13-3 and all is great, one bad season and he junks it.
One bad season? What about 2006 and 2008? Needless to say, they were not exactly putting an 'awful lot of pressure on opposing offenses for four quarters'. Quite the opposite in fact. And even in 2007, people tend to forget how much the defense, especially the defensive line, was worn down by the end of the year. Sacks that had been plentiful early in the campaign started coming with less and less frequency until the NFC Championship game where the only sacks the Packers registered were a coverage sack on a delayed blitz by A.J. Hawk at the end of the first half and a sack by KGB where the defensive end was most certainly offsides. A fearsome onslaught of pass rushing prowess it was not.
In the end, this comes down to McCarthy making the right decision for the Packers. I think he did, regardless of how he arrived there. The frustrating part is having to wait to see how it all plays out...
- Like Like
- 1 points