The Lass Word: Packers Won't Tank

It's a culture thing.

The Green Bay Packers will enjoy a bye this weekend and it should give the front office and the coaching staff an opportunity to assess their priorities for the remaining four games of the season.  Sure, they are still mathematically alive for the playoffs, but they have to know the odds of everything falling into place for them to make the post season are longer than the odds of Joe Barry winning the lottery and deciding to retire.  

Which brings them to a basic philosophical question:  How important is it really to win any or all of these last games?  Is there a meaningful difference between finishing 5-12 or, say, 8-9?  Would it be more beneficial in the big picture to play all the young guys, in effect, tanking the rest of the schedule?  They would get the much needed game experience, and the team’s draft position would climb up the pecking order. 

By winning a few of these last contests, the Packers might surpass Detroit and improve their standing in the NFC North to second, instead of third.  Is that significant?  By league formula, it actually makes their 2023 schedule a bit harder, as they would play all the second place teams in the NFC next year, as opposed to the third place teams.  Of course, that’s theoretical, as nobody knows which teams will dramatically improve or decline next year.  This season is a perfect example.  Back in August, it appeared Green Bay had a fairly easy slate, facing the NFC East and the AFC East.  Few anticipated the competitive rise of teams such as the Eagles, Giants, Commanders, Dolphins and Jets.   

So considering all factors, doesn’t it make more sense to lose, or at least to place a lower priority on winning these last four games?  On Monday, General Manager Brian Gutekunst was asked exactly that.  “I think it’s a culture thing.  I think winning is a culture thing” he replied.  “This place has a long history.  Accomplishing being the winningest franchise of all time is kind of cool, and rightly so.  I think that’s what this place has always been about and, at least while I’m here, it’s always gonna be.” 

His answer got me thinking.  Up to that point I really had no interest in seeing the Packers win any of these remaining games.  A losing record is a losing record, I figured.  Let’s position ourselves as high up the draft ladder as possible.  Let’s totally focus on next year.  But players aren’t stupid.  They know when their team is throwing in the towel.  Why should they put their bodies on the line and go out and play with one hundred percent effort when their own management doesn’t care whether they win or lose?   

Once that kind of ambivalence begins to permeate the locker room, it can be hard to get rid of.  You can’t just flip the switch back on next fall.  You can’t signify to your players “Okay, now we’re going to start trying to win again.”  The most successful teams are the ones emotionally driven to win.  All the time.  Every game.  No matter the circumstances.  “Even if we are eliminated from the playoffs, which wouldn’t be ideal, we’re still going to go out to win the game” Gutekunst elaborated.  “I think that’s really important.  There’s a bunch of guys in that locker room that deserve that. “ 

Gutey did not flatly say that Jordan Love wouldn’t start, even if the Packers are eliminated from the playoffs.  But he did say “Whoever gives us the best chance to win needs to be out there.  That’s only fair to this locker room.  That’s the way I feel about it, and I think Matt (LaFleur) feels the same.”  He then seemed to hedge his bet a little bit when he added “We’ll make those decisions when we get there.” 

Even if Green Bay were to tank for a higher draft position, there is certainly no guarantee that a player drafted in the top ten will turn out more productive than one taken later.  

Really, when you think about it, with the exception of Love, there aren’t a lot of young prospects on the team that aren’t already playing.  Rookie Zach Tom has three starts on the O-line, and indications are he may get more, as LaFleur said this week that David Bakhtiari’s recovery from an appendectomy will take some time.  Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, when healthy, are going to be receivers one and two for this team.  Samori Toure is seeing his snaps increase.  Kingsley Enagbare has pretty much inherited the linebacker spot vacated by the loss of Rashan Gary.  Devonte Wyatt’s appearances on the field fluctuate from game to game, but he is starting to make a few plays.  The only high draft pick who has not contributed is third round O-lineman Sean Rhyan, who isn’t available while he serves a six game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy. 

I still believe the Packers will start Jordan Love in a game or two once the playoffs become an impossibility, especially since Aaron Rodgers has indicated he is open to it.  But, as a lifelong Packers fan, I respect the concept that this team stands for winning, competing for championships.  Tanking is out of the question.   

Oh, and then there just might be the possibility that playing Jordan Love actually does give them the better chance to win. 

-----------------------------------

Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

NFL Categories: 
4 points

Comments (43)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Lphill's picture

December 08, 2022 at 03:59 pm

You play to win regardless , I remember a few years ago a player on the Yankees for a short time was traded away and he said he was glad he was leaving the Yankees because all they want to do is win , what else is there?

7 points
7
0
PackyCheese500's picture

December 08, 2022 at 04:32 pm

I agree that players should always play to win. However, that doesn’t mean that the FO must always make win-now moves. Focusing on winning doesn’t always mean to focus on winning right now. Sometimes, management may make move that make us worse now, like trading away expensive and older players for draft capital, but that contribute toward winning in the future, when we would have a higher ceiling of wins. I believe that is what the Packers should do.

I do not believe in tanking. Playing backups/younger players over starter in order to try to lose and get higher draft capital should not be the culture in GB. However, playing backups/younger players over starters for the purpose of trying to develop those backups/younger players have (in the midst of a doomed season) and to see if those backups/younger players can become future contributors is a smart move, I believe. Backups or not, the Packers should always play to win.
Then, there’s also the matter of if the backups/younger players actually give you a better chance of winning.

Regardless, I would like to see, in the next few games, more of these players:
Jordan Love (QB)
Tyler Goodson (RB)
Patrick Taylor Jr (RB)
Samori Toure (WR)
Zach Tom (we will probably get that anyways)
Devonte Wyatt (DL)
TJ Slaton (DL)
Jack Heflin (DL)
Jonathan Ford (DL)
Chris Slayton (DL)
Micah Abernathy (S)

All of these players, I think, have the potential to become contributors in the next era of Packers football in some form or another.

4 points
7
3
croatpackfan's picture

December 09, 2022 at 06:07 am

I agree with you. It is never good to play to lose. First and foremost because, if you have plan to trade older expensive player, to get draft capital, you'll get more if any of player that will end on trade block comes from winning team.

Second, why everybody expects that playing young player will mean you are tanking. Young players are prone to mistakes, that is for sure, but they will show more energy and will to prove themselves, so at the end it may be winning formula. You'll be able to see which young player is not 100% comitted to play at highest level or who does not possess enough talent at the moment.

I doubt that this season will look worse if they decided after 3-6 record to play more young players than not. As many mention, Watson, Doubs, Toure, Walker, Wyatt, Slaton, Nixon, Ford, Abernathy, Deguara, Tom, Nijman, Taylor, Jordan Love and some others showed they can play in NFL and that they posses enough talent to be even the future Packers stars. Some of them will not succeed, but you can always remove them from the game and replace them with more experienced player(s) if you believe their play do not meet Packers standard.

Play young guys and play with them to win. Not to lose!

1 points
3
2
Coldworld's picture

December 09, 2022 at 09:50 am

When results don’t mean anything, the definition of what is a win changes somewhat. It becomes more about player progress and development for the next season. You don’t learn unless the team is trying to win. You just try with some different personnel from the ones who weren’t winning enough to make these games relevant. Often teams actually improve doing so.

3 points
3
0
WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

December 09, 2022 at 01:46 pm

I don't get that the results "don't mean anything." A win is a win is a win whether you make the playoffs, go deep in the playoffs and then lose, or go all the way. The better the team's record is, the more fun it is for the fans. I'd certainly rather watch GB play hard and win versus not caring whether they win or lose. They owe it to every fan that ever bought a hat or a jersey or a ticket to a game to play to win.

2 points
3
1
canadapacker's picture

December 08, 2022 at 04:37 pm

Not trying to play too many what if games - but if Dallas wins on Sunday - they have the tie breaker over us and they should win both their games Houston and the Jags - before we play on Monday night. If by a funny chance that the Giants beat Phillie on this Sunday , we are out and if Washington wins against the Giants the following Sunday night - we will be mathematically eliminated because not only do they have head to head they have those dumb ties - which will mean that they end up 8-8-1 which is percentage point higher and as far as the Packers are concerned it wont matter what Seattle does.

So I guess we will see if our brain trust will play AR for the full game, part game or start Love - if we are out. I just want to see Love start against Miami ( because it is in Miami - and against the Queens - because it is in Lambeau and I want them to punish them with our backup.

3 points
3
0
PackyCheese500's picture

December 08, 2022 at 04:40 pm

I want to see Love start against the Rams the most because it is a good opportunity for a young QB start against a bad team.

If Dallas wins one more game, they are automatically ahead of us. In addition to that, if the Giants and Commanders each win at least 2 of their remaining 5 games, then the Packers are out of the playoffs. One thing to know, though, is that the Commies’ bye is this week, and the Giants play the Commies in week 15, so it is impossible for that to happen over the next 2 weeks.

If the Seahawks either win any 3 of their last 5 games or if they win their week 14 game against the 49ers and their week 18 game against the Rams, then they will have the tiebreaker over the Packers.

Basically, the Packers won’t be eliminated from the playoffs until week 16 at earliest. This is assuming that they win the rest of their games, which is unlikely.

-1 points
3
4
Leatherhead's picture

December 08, 2022 at 05:33 pm

If we win our remaining games, wouldn't that make us 9-8, and isn't that better than 8-8-1?

The Wildcards, to me, look like Seattle and Dallas for sure. Our only hope would be that 9-8 is good enough for the last spot, and I don't think it will be.

4 points
5
1
PackyCheese500's picture

December 08, 2022 at 06:09 pm

ESPN gives the Packers a 4% chance of making the playoffs. Even if we do win out, which is very unlikely (with teams such as the Vikings, Lions, and Dolphins), we won't make the playoffs 9 times out of 10.

The Packers should not be making personnel decisions as if they are in the thick of the playoff hunt, like teams such as the Giants, Seahawks, and Commanders. Instead, while still playing to win every game, they should be looking more at the younger players/backups.

4 points
5
1
Leatherhead's picture

December 08, 2022 at 08:11 pm

"ESPN gives the Packers a 4% chance of making the playoffs"

I wish I could post the meme of Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber saying "So you're saying there's a chance?"

Follow that up with Jim Mora going "Playoffs? Playoffs?"

I just want to win. If we can finish strong and get a winning season at 9-8, and feel good about what we're bringing back next year, that'd be great. It would mean we held our homefield against the Rams, Lions, and Vikings and won a road game against a good team. I'd take that, at this point.

You know, on that 4% thing......it does happen.

2 points
3
1
jannes bjornson's picture

December 08, 2022 at 09:41 pm

You never know until the last snap of the season. Win out, see what happens. Some teams get hot, some fall apart during crunch time. Let Rodgers carry the Mo.

-4 points
0
4
T7Steve's picture

December 09, 2022 at 07:57 am

I can't even believe an actual Packer fan would consider NOT trying to beat the Vikings or Lions let alone anyone else. Evidently, they weren't born Packer fans. Were they rooting for the Bears and decided to switch?

I don't think playing the youngsters this year actually lessens their chances of winning. The guys playing now aren't taking them to the Superbowl anyway. What does that tell a player if they switch them into the lineup (if they didn't earn it) and think it doesn't matter?

5 points
5
0
Coldworld's picture

December 09, 2022 at 10:02 am

There is a very very infinitesimal chance IF we win out and a whole lot of results go our way, largely thanks to the wild card era.

Personally, I think we may actually be better with more snaps for more young players.

However, suppose we do sneak in, what are our chances if anything better than a worse draft pick? How rosy tinted are your glasses? If we were serious, Barry would be out, we’d be making changes in season for the chance to be better, knowing that that Is what it takes: the status quo having been proved inadequate. Instead we have chosen to just do more of the same.

This refusal to accept the exceptionally probable in the hole of the equally futile even if it succeeds is the type of thinking that got us in this mess in the first place. Sadly, therefore, it’s probably a good window into what Murphy and vision are thinking and will do.

1 points
2
1
canadapacker's picture

December 08, 2022 at 06:44 pm

Your right - it is . It would be 9-7-1 is better than 9-8 because of the ties

4 points
4
0
splitpea1's picture

December 08, 2022 at 04:53 pm

You psyched yourself out. Evaluating a first round draft pick who has barely played and giving other promising young players more snaps is not tanking--it's knowing what you have and what you need to address so you can plan ahead and continue the winning culture for future Packer teams.

I don't think there's any need to worry about "ambivalence", either. The players have no reason not to play as hard with a new quarterback; in fact, they may play harder if they perceive that there is less margin for error. Some of the younger ones may even prefer Love to their crusty old leader, who knows? And the older ones should be mature enough to know the organization needs to look out for its long-term interests.

Why are some fans/writers always worried about the locker room? Everything will be fine. And if not, it'll get fixed.

4 points
6
2
PackyCheese500's picture

December 08, 2022 at 06:15 pm

Totally agree with you. This is exactly what I have been saying all along.

3 points
5
2
Leatherhead's picture

December 08, 2022 at 05:29 pm

I'd like to see Jones have 1500 yards total offense this season, and I'd like to see Dillon get 1000 yards. I'd like to see Watson, Lazard, Doubs, Dillon, and Love on the field at the same time . I'd like to see us win our final 4 games and finish 9-8.

I remember in 2000, when Sherman was in his first year, and we were at 5-7, and people were asking if he'd be fired after one year, like Ray Rhodes was for 8-8. But the team rallied, we won our last 4 games and finished 9-7. The next two seasons were 12-4 seasons .

Regardless of all the other stuff that's happened, winning out would make for a more optimistic offseason, IMO. Seeing Love put points on the board would make for a better offseason. There's going to be plenty of changes before we're on the field again next September.

5 points
7
2
LeotisHarris's picture

December 08, 2022 at 05:56 pm

Yes to all of this, LH. There's a lot to be said for finishing strong, and it would be most encouraging to continue to see improvements offensively, and somehow defensively. On the D side, I'm not sure that's possible as a unit given the vapid husk of a DC at the helm, but improved tackling, guys flying to the ball, more intensity, individual effort that indicates they're opposed to the other team matriculating the ball down the field. Crazy talk, right? And, I'm not just talking about verbal swagger ala Jaire, but some old school hitting. Maybe that's magical thinking.

I also want to see Love start and manage an entire game, and the NFL franchise from Minnesota may not soil Lambeau again. I'd expect a sea of purple with many season ticket holders choosing to sell their tix, and it would be very satisfying to see them all leave sad. A convoy of sadness on HWY 29 would be a wonderful way to ring in 2023. So it is written, so it shall be done.

1 points
2
1
Leatherhead's picture

December 08, 2022 at 06:26 pm

Regardless of what kind of a husk we trot out as DC next season, he's going to be cooking with the same ingredients, for the most part. I'd see Amos as gone, but Savage, Alexander, Stokes, Douglas, Campbell, Gary, PSmith, Walker, Enagbare, Garvin, Barnes, Wyatt, Slaton and Clark will all be back. Add in Nixon and Ford and that's a pretty big chunk of the players we'll be suiting up for games.

Truly, Leotis, on the bell curve, this defense is just a little to the left of the median, on the fat part of the curve. The only team that has scored over 28 on us was the Eagles. It's not nearly as bad as people portray it as being, and it won't be hugely better...or worse....next year.

-3 points
1
4
canadapacker's picture

December 08, 2022 at 06:52 pm

Whose up and will they be back - not = Amos 36 mill Cobb 27 mill Lowry 20 Crosby 13 Mercedes 6

Have to resign Lazard Tonyon and Njiman and some of the other guys Nixon Ford Barnes
Leavitt Reed and Hollins ( late season pickup who have played well).

So there will be room for Loves' 5th year options - not including the expect cap rise

-2 points
0
2
jannes bjornson's picture

December 08, 2022 at 07:54 pm

Tonyan will be replaced by a higher pick @ the TE spot. Draft 2-3 of these guys. They sat on their hands last year while the TEs were plucked off the board.

0 points
2
2
PatrickGB's picture

December 09, 2022 at 12:39 pm

Leather, On a recent “Pack a day podcast” I listened to them positing trading away or not resigning some of those players you mentioned. That was scary!

0 points
0
0
jannes bjornson's picture

December 08, 2022 at 07:51 pm

I like the "vapid husk" analogy.

0 points
0
0
HarryHodag's picture

December 08, 2022 at 05:36 pm

Winners never think of losing. If you think that losing for some possible gain next year is preferable to beating your opponent, well, the Bears are always looking for fans.

Tanking is what Cleveland did in an effort to get Baker Mayfield. He's starting for the Rams now after being gladly shipped to Carolina who gladly cut him for his next gig in Los Angeles.

NFL media and many fans have become what I call "Kiperized", named after Mel Kiper who first hyped the idea that the NFL draft was the panacea for any NFL franchise, especially the ones who lose a lot. Well, most of the losers continue to lose even with the high draft picks. The washout rate from the draft is about 50 percent after three years. The draft is part of the solution but is far from a sure-fire yahoo victory.

Winners find a way to win. Losers find ways to lose.

I would recommend to all Packers fans if you haven't read it years ago to get David Maraniss' book on Vince Lombardi, "When Pride Still Mattered". The word 'tanking' would never again enter your mind.

7 points
8
1
PackyCheese500's picture

December 08, 2022 at 06:14 pm

I think that teams should always play to win, no matter who is playing. However, I don't think that personnel decisions should always be made in a win-now mindset, though. Sometimes it is best to asses what you have for the future in order to make important decisions now, or to have a better chance of winning in the future.

3 points
4
1
croatpackfan's picture

December 09, 2022 at 06:25 am

Winning all as one year fluke, based on trading draft picks to acquire established players from other teams produce SB win for Rams. But, look at the price they have paid. They are 1 cent away of SC hell and looks like they'll start years with irelevance in NFC West. Hey, they go for Baker Mayfield. They are that desperate.

To be able to sustain success you need combination of young players, even rookies and experienced guys. It is always better to have experienced guys who played for you than outlier who need to adapt himself to established scheme and other players to play on top level, what is not always possible.

Do not expect excellence from young players if you are afraid of playing them. Every game is so important experience that you can not compensate that with FA or through trade.

-2 points
0
2
Coldworld's picture

December 09, 2022 at 10:10 am

Win now is great if it’s founded on solid ground. Win now based on a deluded assessment of your own competitive strength is a precursor to a massacre. It all starts with a true understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. If the terrain is not right or your resources not in position, then winners wait or don’t get to learn from their mistakes.

2 points
2
0
LeotisHarris's picture

December 08, 2022 at 06:16 pm

The Browns are the Browns because they're the Browns. Mostly because they have an owner (unlike the unaccountable rudderless Green Bay Packers) who can hire and fire at will when things go south. So, do we consider battling to earn four winning seasons in the last 30 years tanking to draft Baker Mayfield? Probably not, but point taken, Harry. Play to win, always.

2 points
3
1
Leatherhead's picture

December 08, 2022 at 08:17 pm

This always comes to mind when people authoritatively state "Talent Wins".

If so, why do teams that consistently draft in the front of the round consistently suck? The Browns and Lions are Exhibit A. It's not talent, it's team work, and some organizations don't get that (like the Bears) and so they consistently make more decisions (like getting Jay Cutler) that end up being bad.

1 points
1
0
jannes bjornson's picture

December 08, 2022 at 09:27 pm

The Fans threatened Mike Brown to deliver and Spend Some Money. Stay out of the picture. Let the Pros do their job.
Burrows and Chase are phenomenal. A Super Bowl team. Next time win it.

2 points
2
0
jannes bjornson's picture

December 08, 2022 at 09:23 pm

A must read for Every Packer Fan.

0 points
0
0
PackyCheese500's picture

December 08, 2022 at 06:12 pm

Personally, I see the NFC playoff picture looking like this when all is said and done:
1. Eagles (14-3)
2. Vikings (13-4)
3. 49ers (11-6)
4. Buccaneers (9-8)
5. Cowboys (12-5)
6. Commanders (10-6-1)
7. Seahawks (10-7)

The Giants barely miss the playoffs at 9-7-1.

1 points
2
1
canadapacker's picture

December 08, 2022 at 07:48 pm

Seems logical - their big game is this weekend against the Commanders - because after that 2 against Phillie and one against the Vikes and a probable win against Indie. If they beat the Commanders they should be in with 9 wins. And dont be surprised if they beat the Vikes.

1 points
1
0
Since'61's picture

December 08, 2022 at 06:49 pm

I would never support tanking. Any player who doesn't play at 100% risks injury. The players know that. I have no problem playing younger players for evaluation purposes and to enable them to build up some live game experience. Nothing builds confidence like winning and winning helps young players build confidence. Confidence is a characteristic that will carry over from season to season. Therefore play to win and let the chips fall where they may.
Thanks, Since '61

4 points
4
0
canadapacker's picture

December 08, 2022 at 08:08 pm

Agree - but when GM's and coaches start to sit their top stars to avoid injury it is going to affect the betting lines. I wonder what the NFL is going to say about that? Especially when they dont know - I went to a preseason game 3 a few years back at Lambeau expecting to see the starters play the first half - only a few played and not the top dogs. Disappointing because I didnt know - would have still gone but. Now if one is betting on a team and their backup QB doesnt go out ?????

-2 points
1
3
Since'61's picture

December 08, 2022 at 08:23 pm

No problem. Don't gamble, that's what I do. Thanks, Since '61

4 points
4
0
canadapacker's picture

December 08, 2022 at 08:28 pm

Me neither - the only thing I used to have a was in a small pool - a simple winner or loser pool - no points or spreads - I won it the year that the Pack went 15-1 - #4's last year - The difference was that I always bet on the Pack - even if they said that it was a lousy bet .

1 points
2
1
jannes bjornson's picture

December 08, 2022 at 09:37 pm

The refs are definitely in their pockets. Hard to beat the game. Go for the over/under.

0 points
0
0
BirdDogUni's picture

December 08, 2022 at 09:53 pm

As long as Berry is the DC, we're tanking.

4 points
5
1
LambeauPlain's picture

December 09, 2022 at 06:51 am

That is a harsh truth. MLF as HC, like MM before him, really only concerns himself about the offense. Last year he stubbornly watched Drayton flounder and fail all during last season, eventually costing the Packers an early exit as the #1 seed.

This year he is content to watch Barry flounder and fail.

The similarities between MLF and the previous OC with a HC title, MM, are so eerily similar.

STs? MM mostly ignored them with failure hires Novak, Slowik, and Ron Zook. DC? Capers likely cost MM 2 or 3 more SB appearances with his exotic, constant subbing, easily diagnosed D's that most confused his own players as the HC mostly ignored defense.

I read new Badger OC hire, Longo (formerly UNC), has enjoyed great success by employing his talent to create his scheme, not force his rigid scheme onto the team.

Exactly the opposite of Barry's coaching...and Capers before him.

3 points
3
0
BirdDogUni's picture

December 09, 2022 at 08:20 am

Hear, hear...

0 points
0
0
fthisJack's picture

December 09, 2022 at 11:50 am

the "We'll play whoever gives us the best chance to win" is a load of crap. After Rodgers broke his thumb and he was throwing uncatchable passes all over the place, I think Love would have given them a better chance to win or at least show if he is really Rodgers successor. Instead they sent him out there at 50% and he sucked. The thing is they don't want to piss the prima donna off. I say piss him off and let him go somewhere else. Drafting high is important and I hope they are in the top 10. So play all the rookies and backups and they might find a couple diamonds in the rough aka Douglas, Nixon, Slayton, Jones, Toure. Give these guys some experience!

1 points
1
0
jlc1's picture

December 09, 2022 at 12:11 pm

In regards to starting Love I did not see any argument that the Pack is less likely to win with him. So if winning is the plan it is not a given, right now, that Rodgers is the clear better option.

1 points
1
0