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Why Campen Should Stay

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Why Campen Should Stay

I understand Packer fans calling for James Campen's head every year. They see lots of sacks and a mediocre running game and they want someone to blame. It was even rumored that he was on thin ice last offseason, though there was never anything close to official word on that.

When one looks at the struggles Campen's position group went through, it's understandable that fans want to see a change made - but unlike with Shawn Slocum, where his deficiencies are a bit more readily apparent, it's hard to quantify just what it is that Campen has 'done' to make fans so angry. Sure, the offense gave up an alarming number of sacks in the first half of the year. And yes, a lot of that is on the line. But some of that is on Aaron Rodgers and his propensity to hold the ball too long.

It gets even more interesting when you watch individual players on the line for whole games, rather than just looking at the sacks and saying "Oh the line sucks - fire the coach!" Well, actually, on a lot of those plays there were four guys playing really well and one guy getting beat. And that's not just reserved for Alan Barbre, horrible though he was. Daryn Colledge had a miserable season in pass protection as well. Jason Spitz, when he was in there, was less than inspiring as the starting center.

But looking at guys like Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang, you see guys with not just talent but two guys who have really good fundamentals. Sitton in particular has really flourished under Campen's tutelage. And Lang's ability to step in at seemingly any position at a moments notice is a tribute to Campen's ability to have his young charge ready to go.

That's good coaching.

Plus, there's the little matter of the offense setting ridiculous offensive records. Did you realize this Packers team scored more points than any other Packers team in history? More than the 1996 Super Bowl team. That doesn't just happen. The offensive line had a part in that. It also had a part in Rodgers being the first quarterback ever to throw for 4,000 or more yards in his first two years as a starter and it had a part in Jennings and Driver having over 1,000 yards receiving again. Yes, the running game has long been a source of fans' teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling under McCarthy, but Campen's line has paved the way for a 1,200 yard rusher the last two years in Ryan Grant. While not dominate, it is better than average and more than serviceable for the offense McCarthy runs.

No, what Campen needs are better players. He can't stop Daryn Colledge from having his once-a-game meltdowns at the worst possible times and nothing short of a minor-miracle would have made Alan Barbre even a below-average right tackle, let alone an NFL-caliber player, which 2009 proved he simply is not.

The onus is on Thompson to provide McCarthy and Campen with better players.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (37) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

justaguy's picture

Campen showed no ability to evaluate his talent. In training camp they made Barbre a starter and didn't give Lang a shot. When it became obvious to all that Barbre would have problems, they had him compete with Giacomini, again Lang didn't get a look. Barbre beating Giacomini wasn't a surprise but the team still didn't address the weakness at the position that they knew they had. And when Clifton went down, whoever decided that shuffling the line was a good idea should be fired. Hint: It was probably Campen's idea.

packeraaron's picture

justaguy - That's just it: You and I don't know that. How do we know Campen wasn't lobbying for Lang to have a shot at the RT spot in camp only to be shot down by McCrathy or Philbin? We don't. Also, on the line-shuffling. McCarthy made it pretty clear that it was his idea - and yes, I agree, it was horrible.

IronMan's picture

Its really amazing how Tauscher pretty much single handedly fixed the offensive line.
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That, and the Spitz injury was a blessing in disguise, as Wells did a much better job with the line calls. Aaron also needs to continue to get better at getting rid of the ball.
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A big part of that is recognizing what the defense is going to do pre snap, allowing himself to react accordingly.

PACKERS.'s picture

Mr. Nagler: If that is the case, then McCarthy needs to learn the reason that you hire assistants in the NFL.

The offensive line made vast improvements through the entire year. We barely had any sacks at the end of the year. I say Campen gets one more shot next year, and another chance to keep the improvements going. We wouldn't want to disrupt the momentum by firing him.

Go Pack Go!

Ruppert's picture

Good points. I agree that it's all about talent.
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All I know is that I want to slap whomever is responsible for Breno Giacomini still receiving paychecks from The Green Bay Packers Professional Football Club.

hollycrat's picture

I can get behind your argument, Aaron, but I do agree with part of justaguy's rebuttal. While it's clear that the line improved during the season, I have questions about how talent was evaluated before the regular season. If Campen was hammering the message about ID'ing defenses and it didn't really get through to Wells&Co. until the Dallas game, that would be one thing. In that case, the problem really would be with the players.
However, given the stark deficiencies of certain starters from the beginning of the season, I can't help but wonder what kind of grading scale the coaches were using before the season started. It certainly doesn't seem to have been an accurate judge of game skills.

nerdmann's picture

EVERY YEAR of MM's tenure, the offensive line has struggled for the first 8-10 games, then started to show up and play decently down the stretch.
Is this because MM was requesting "smaller, quicker, more athletic" linemen? Dunno, but they're going back to "bigger, stronger" now, and it's working out, as we see with Sitton and Lang.
Is it because they can't practice zone blocking, because it's too dangerous to do against their own team mates? Maybe.
Dunno if it's Campen, though. He's only been coach for what, 2 years now? This was going on before that. Wasn't Philbin the oline coach?
And by the way, this was happening even before AR12 was our QB.

PACKERS.'s picture

Mr. Nagler: Don't go anywhere near Fox Sports. Whitlock's writing about Favre again! Something about how we're all obligated to cheer for him... I don't know, I didn't read the whole thing.

greenbaypackerbob's picture

Agree AR held ball too long in early season but Campen took to much of the season getting the OL settled as evidenced periodically by a sluggish run game, hurry up QB rush, handling the blitz and a lot of AR sacks that were due to OL.
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Lang's, Sitton success? ... could also be due more to their talent than good coaching... hard to tell.
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I am very encouraged by the offensive scoring stats but it may be more due to strength of schedule (since it could not produce a division or playoff win- unlike 96 season)... e.g. 8 to 9 games were against some of the worst teams in NFL - (Detroit, Bears, Rams, Bucs, Browns, Seahawks and Cards apparent 'give me' game). And yet OL problems were evident against these teams.
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HW, I do agree that Campen only had to work with what was handed down to him and the onus of this still remains with TT. But I'm afraid the finger is going to point to Campen if the ax comes out (much like it did with defensive staff last year).
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Jim in DC's picture

How about OL penalties and plays that didn't result in a sack, but were nonetheless, busted plays? I also agree with justaguy's assessment about how badly the talent was evaluated. Finally, do we really know whether or not Campen actually did anything to improve Sitton's and Lang's fundamentals?
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I'm still a hater. Sorry.
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Go Pack!

Bearmeat's picture

Oh, so instead of a O line coaching problem, now we are reminded once again of Teddy's misses on talent.... well that's great. Thanks Aaron, this has made me feel MUCH better!

packeraaron's picture

Bearmeat - yes, Thompson has missed. But it should make you feel better knowing that his LATEST draftees, Sitton and Lang, seem the best of the bunch. Perhaps there's been a shift in o-line evaluation? That might be a stretch, but he hit on those two. He needs two more.

Dilligaff's picture

As impressive as A-rod was in his second year, his glaring weakness is his pocket presence. I watched on T.V. the first games of the Packers season and by luck and a good brother-in-law got tickets to the Monday Night game against the vikings. It was clear when you were able to watch the whole field, not limited to T.V. cameras, that A-rod would hold onto the ball too long passing up open guys in the short passing game looking for that big time play, something you could not see watching it on T.V. Then inturn I watched what a solid veteran in BF was doing, he new you hit the first open guy, get the ball out of his hands as fast as possible. I firmly believe we did not have a good line to start the season, but A-rod made it far worse than it should have been. I bet in that "jesus" meeting Tauscher made it clear that the O-line had to do a better job, but that A-rod would have to get off his pretty boy ass and get ride of the football in timely fashion. So Campen did not have the best players to start the year, remember Clifton was hurt more than playing early and Tauscher did not arrive till mid season. So Campen was coaching an o-line without their starting left and right tackles meanwhile he was dealing with a QB that demanded 5 seconds in the pocket each and every play. As good as A-rod is and can be, he still is going through a learning phase. I would give Campen another shot. If I were Campen and TT does what he did last offseason to address the O-line, I would be avidly looking for another coaching job before going through another season like the last. O-line is clearly TT's fault.

PackersThad's picture

Aaron, you silver tongued man...I was more than happy to throw Campen under the bus, and then you write this rational post...

But even though I understand your points, how do you explain the slowly developed screen game, ALL of the O-line penalties, and those sacks where a man would come free screaming for Rodgers head. Honestly, I don't know how Rodgers made it through the season un-injured...

Ultimately, what I am saying is that if Campen gets the hook, I won't be shocked or shedding any tears.

nerdmann's picture

Yes, there has been a change in evaluation. Before the '08 season, MM changed his mind and started requesting bigger stronger linemen.
You can say TT "missed" on some of those earlier guys, but he was just giving MM what he wanted.

Ruppert's picture

Tangent alert: Ever notice that Rodgers ends up "holding onto the ball too long" in the games where his pass protection just plain stinks? Or maybe this phenomenon happens to all QBs who are forced to run for their lives, right Tony Romo? Tangent over (that WAS an acutal tangent, though).
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Great point about the penalties. Whose fault is that? Coaching or players? Tough call.
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What kills me about the Packers is that all their major weaknesses are chronic: Special teams returns, coverage, PUNTING, penalties, O line...Whether it's coaching or player development, I don't really care, but we're going on several years in many of these instances, so just GET IT FIXED!!!

PACKERS.'s picture

I agree with Diligaff. I guess that at least one-third of the sacks this year were Rodgers's fault, if not more. Every quarterback has his flaws, and this is something Rodgers will just have to work on in the offseason. Hopefully the quarterback coach in McCarthy will get things done.

Go Pack Go!

Jim in DC's picture

Chronic problems ---> McCarthy's problem

PackRat's picture

5 sacks in the postseason. Do you think as the competition heated up that we wouldn't have folded the offensive line like a cheap pup tent?

Our OL don't trail plays, block downfield, pull through the hole--name a time you saw our OL flying out on the screen. Our lineman get in the way of DL, they do not "exert their will" on them. Watch the Jets this weekend for a lesson in OL coaching/drafting. Not one of our OL plays anywhere near a "pro bowl" level-- because of coaching. Guys in the system for two-three years should be ready to go. In ours they are ready to be cut.

If I have to hear about "Pad level" and "we have to fix the penalties" a thousand more times next year I may voluntarily donate my cochlea and retina prematurily.

I love the fact that Tauscher throws his meatball body all and Wells takes his short arms and gimpy knees and finds a way--but these guys should be backups.

The OL needs a budding superstar coach to help with the talent evaluation and then optimize it--not to mention energize the line week in and out.

The evidence is damning: Look at his Wilki biography "natural teacher, Campen has worked hands-on in the development of three linemen now entering their fourth seasons - Daryn Colledge, Jason Spitz and Tony Moll (NEED I SAY MORE...okay I will continue the quote)...."Their younger proteges continue to move through the pipeline as well, as third-year pro Allen Barbre and second-year men Josh Sitton and Breno Giacomini all have made significant strides under Campen since arriving as second-day draft choices the last two years."

All except Sitton gave/give us grey hair.

If you don't think Campy needs to go, then tell me how many NFL teams would take this recent offensive quality assistant, fire their OL coach and put him in chage of their OL?

retiredgrampa's picture

We, as fans, can never know exactly where the fault lies but I keep recalling the Geocomini/Barbre fiasco with Lang being ignored, primarily because the coaches didn't expect or ask much of a rookie. To me, that's a serious fault of coaching. Of course, if TT had picked nothing but all-pros at OL coaching wouldn't be so important. But in the real world, even the best need good coaching...we need it more than that. IMO, we're not getting it.

Bearmeat's picture

Aaron, just to be clear. I am a fan of TT in general. (he's good at what he does for the most part)
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However, at this point a couple of years ago weren't we saying "Colledge is the best of the bunch" and "he's going to be a staple of our next 10 years on O line"...
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O line worries me. Most teams go out and get a veteran or two through F.A. to augment and fill out their draftees, and we all know teddy's not going to do that.
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That makes it imperative that his success rate is 75% rather than 40-50%, like most GM's.

aussiepacker's picture

I just thought tha the problem was the coach for the most part, But you made me look at it in a different way. It is hard to not aggree with you. Damn how did you get so smart?

ZeroTolerance's picture

Aaron - hear hear! Right on. As usual - un-baised analysis.

Cuphound's picture

It's an interesting argument, Aaron. You do make me wonder if the selection criteria have changed. For 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, the average Packers lineman weighed 310 lbs, 309 lbs, 309 lbs and 313 lbs respectively. They got heavier last year. The lightest lineman of the bunch, Tony Moll (285 lbs) was booted last year. For what it's worth, our new starters, Sitton and Lang, weigh 322 lbs and 316 lbs, respectively. Alan Barbre is no longer starting and he comes in at 303 lbs. Aaron has been consistently underwhelmed by Darryn Colledge, who now weighs 308, but if the NFL's data is correct, weighed 300 for the three prior years. Of course, Colledge was a fairly high round draft pick. He'd probably get more chances.
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If Thompson's criteria for selecting linemen is changing, I would assume it is because the offensive coaching team have determined that the zone-blocking, "light but smart" approach is no longer working. Given that this system is unique to the coaching of Alex Gibbs and that no one has replicated it, I think abandoning it would be prudent. The decision to pursue this strategy is a <I>coaching</I> decision. Thompson seems to have provided the personnel to meet the old scheme. I'm not convinced that he is at fault.
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I have a good deal of sympathy for PackRat's position. The O-Line is better, but still unimpressive. Moreover, I don't like Campen's resume. Like Nerdmann, I am also unimpressed with the McCarthy O-Line's "cold start" every season.
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I doubt Campen gets fired. But if we cold start again with the new additions, I think it's fair to assume that the line coach is at fault and that the head coach can't pick his offensive subordinates very well.

PACKERS.'s picture

The problem is in the nature of the position. Lineman come and go so often that it's almost required to get free agents. Thompson needs to understand that.

Rob's picture

I'll hold my hands up from the outset and admit that I'm a total NFL novice, having only started watching the sport (and following the Packers) this year.

But just to play Devil's Advocate slightly (and I know Aaron's not really a fan of stats!), what do you make of the numbers at ProFootballFocus: http://tinyurl.com/y9qftkq

They seem to think that, in terms of pass blocking alone, Clifton had a pretty solid year (offset by poor run blocking) while Lang for instance doesn't come out of it well.

Interestingly, Colledge comes out of it okay when he played at G, but was hammered for the 3 games he played at T.

Mike from G-Town's picture

I agree that Campen should keep his job. TT needs to get a quality O-Line. There is no way Aaron Rodgers will be able to withstand the beating he took year in and year out.

Here is how I would change the line:

Put Lang at one Tackle position, get a free agent for the other Tackle spot. Keep Tauscher and put him in Colledge's Guard spot since we can clearly see he lost his quickness as a Tackle. The Packers would have to keep Scott Wells (for now) and say good bye to Barbre and Clifton. I guess we would have to keep Colledge and use him as a substitute.

Any comments?

One question: What's the deal with Giacomini?

packeraaron's picture

Mike - the 'deal' with Giacomini is that he sucks. You know if you read this blog with any regularity that I don't throw that word around lightly. They are basically hoping against hope that the 'light comes on'. I'm not holding my breath.

Dilligaff's picture

Really, what talent has Campen developed? He has done nothing to help 2nd round pick Colledge, if anything has gotten worse. Sitton/Lang/Spitz are only his only bright spots, but how much of that is related to Campen?

packeraaron's picture

Dilligaff - you list ONE guy who hasn't gotten better then name THREE "bright spots"?

PACKERS.'s picture

It seems that the coaches keep holding out for players like Giacomini or Bush. These guys will just never get better. It's time to cut or trade like any other team would do. We could get some quality talent then.

Rob: It's always great to have new fans. Welcome to the Packersphere.

FITZCORE1252's picture

**** ALLOW ME TO CLARIFY MY POSITION ****

Bob,

I don’t hate you.

All I know about you is what I ascertain from your posts. Using that information there’s only one conclusion… you are a WHINY DEUCHE-BAG(doesn't mean I hate you), hope that clarifies things!

You are the prototype Favre apologist/TT hater, your opinion means squat to me.

It’s really a case of “mind over matter”, I don’t mind, and you don’t matter!

Ted will be here for years to come… Brent won’t, the sooner you come to terms with that, the sooner you might be taken seriously.

GBP 4 LIFE

greenbaypackerbob's picture

Fitz
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I rest my case - you only prove what I stated in my last post about your useless attempt to sound important by constantly referring to your fetish with deuche bags (how characteristic of yourself it turns out).
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And weren't you the one just blogging everyone asking "what exactly is the -Packers Director of Football Operations-?" in relation to Schneider's job ... yeah, you appear to be a real deposit of football knowledge.
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And forget the fact that many are still questioning if TT can get the OL or secondary staffed properly and are hoping AR doesn't get killed again next year. But for those of us who may share those concerns you have no answer... not surprisingly the only way you know how to protect your Teddy is with childish name calling ... while at the same you claim "you could care less about what I think" you feel compelled to sound off... you apparently like talking out of both sides of your mouth.
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The fact TT/MM has let Minn beat us 2 years running in the Division while Favre plays in another NFC championship must be eating away at you... but hey, that's not my fault. And according to you it shouldn't matter anyway because you and Teddy have your eye on the future. Well, two years post our last NFC championship game (and 13-3 season) we are all sitting at home watching Favre play in another NFC championship (win or lose). Those are the facts. You seemed to be just fine with that... I'm not.
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FITZCORE1252's picture

C’mon Bobby,

“And weren’t you the one just blogging everyone asking “what exactly is the -Packers Director of Football Operations-?”

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Yes, yes I was!

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If anyone spends more time scouring various tools to seek infinite Packer knowledge than I, I hope you don’t have a family, if you do I feel for them!

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So Bob,

You knew the “EXACT” functions of the “Packers Director of Football Operations”, huh (really bobby, be honest with yourself)??? KUDOS! I did not.

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But, being the diligent GBP fan I am (not diligent Brent fan.. eh’hem), I sought out clarification to that specific job title, which I received in a matter of minutes (thank you Jason Wilde). I don’t claim to know everything abut the GBP Bobby, but what I don’t know, I have no problem asking about, for clarification. I guess that’s where we differ.

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You would rather sound like a broken record (TT this, if Brent was here that)rather than ask for input… I relish other “TRUE” Packer fans’ input, as it will only diversify my knowledge.

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Good night Bobby, and God Bless (I hope your boyfriend Brent pulls a F-ing Theisman tomorrow, OOOH… S-N-A-P).

—————-

GBP 4 LIFE

FITZCORE1252's picture

Bobbingham Lincoln said...

"A point of irony – whether Favre had stayed with the Jets or gone to the Vikes, either way, he ends up in another NFC championship game! Who’d a thunk it."

I'm sure the BLATENT error in bobby's statement sticks out like a sore thumb to "REAL" Football fans everywhere(anyone that makes an egregious error like that must be an EXTREME novice).That statement shows you are bringing a butter knife to a gun fight... SON.

Good luck in the future Bobby, your daddy Hank and his buddies are kinda funny!

GBP 4 LIFE

greenbaypackerbob's picture

Fitz - please continue, you just keep proving that my previous two posts about your comments are indeed accurate. You just can't help your foolishness. To be honest, I really can't find a reason to continue to converse with you since your comments are, well, just lame... and a poor attempt to get folks to notice you...
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My suggestion.... find a nice warm comfortable couch to snuggle up with your favorite pic of Teddy and watch Favre play in yet another Conference Championship game... and just keep saying to yourself.. "I'm a winner too, I'm a winner too.." The pain will subside in time. (lol)
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FITZCORE1252's picture

Chalk another one up for the good guys!

GBP 4 LIFE

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