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If We Only Had A Brain

If We Only Had A Brain




The Packers have a lot of talent, but they need to wise up in a hurry if they want to go anywhere this season.






Coming into the Lions game, I was ready to be Mr. Positive. I was pretty sure the Packers would win, and I was also pretty sure that afterwards many fans would nitpick the game and dwell on the negatives—blown assignments, penalties, whatever. Unfortunately, Mr. Positive only lasted two plays. The first play was a Jordy Nelson kickoff return for a would-be TD, called back because of a holding penalty. The next play—the Packers’ first from scrimmage—was called back because of another penalty. Just like that, I had already become jaded, and I was never able to settle in and fully enjoy the annual ritual of watching the Lions get their butts whipped at Lambeau Field.


The Packers did win the game easily, but if there is such a thing as a disappointing 26-0 win, this was it. In spite of their 3-2 record, the Packers have not had a really satisfying win since week one, when they beat the Bears in a slugfest with a dramatic TD in the final two minutes. If they keep playing the way they’ve played up till now, the Packers will finish around .500, maybe slightly above, and if they somehow sneak into the playoffs they will be one-and-done. The good news is that they don’t have to keep playing this way. Things change over the course of a season. It is quite possible that they could get better. Of course, they could also get worse, but we don’t want to think about that.


The two things that really stand out about this Packer team thus far are 1.) how talented they are and 2.) how stupid they are. The difference in talent between the two teams at Lambeau Field on Sunday was remarkable for an NFL game. This was especially evident among the QB’s and receivers, although admittedly the gulf would not have been quite so wide if Lions’ stud WR Calvin Johnson had suited up. But if you took a look at the Packers’ offensive line vs. the Lions’ defensive line, things were much more even.


Chad Clifton, our most experienced offensive lineman, committed four penalties. How does that even happen? Some would say that the blame for such nonsense ultimately rests with the coach, and they have a point, but at the same time, why is Chad Clifton, a professional football player who presumably knows how to play the game, committing all of those penalties? Is he really that dumb? Well, I’m all about judging people by their actions. You are who you pretend to be. So for now, my answer is yes. Chad Clifton really is that dumb.


And he’s not the only one. The entire offensive line blows assignments on a regular basis. The 25 sacks that they have allowed in five games have mostly been the result of blown assignments or poor technique. They are not getting overpowered very often. Frequently, opposing pass rushers are simply unblocked, or the offensive lineman takes a bad angle or falls for a juke and immediately loses his balance and gets tossed aside. These guys are brutal to watch. I wish I could name even one lineman who was blameless, but I can’t.


History will show that dumb people don’t often get smarter, so here’s what I’m pinning my hopes on for now. It’s a statistical principle called “regression to the mean.” It means that when something is either far above or far below average, chances are good that as time goes on, it will moderate. After four games, the Packers were on pace to give up an NFL record 80 sacks during the course of the season. A home game against one of the worst teams in the league seemed tailor-made for a move back toward the statistical mean, especially considering that the Lions were so injury-depleted that they had to play an offensive lineman on defense for at least one play. But it was not to be. The Packers gave up five more sacks, staying exactly on pace to allow 80.


I will not be so easily dissuaded, however. I am sticking to my guns. This madness—or should I say dumbness—cannot continue. Sooner or later, these guys have to get their act together and begin playing like professionals. If that ever does happen, look out. Aaron Rodgers is one of  the best QB’s in the league, and the receiving corps is well above average. One cannot say the same for the running backs, but as Meat Loaf sang, two out of three ain’t bad.


On the defensive side, most of the dumbness so far has come from the backup safeties, so we need Nick Collins and Atari Bigby to stay healthy. The top four defensive linemen are all talented, the linebackers are good, and the corners are among the best in the business. The talent is pretty good all across the board with this team. With a little more brain power (okay, a lot more), the 2009 Packers could truly be dangerous. 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (22) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Asshalo's picture

You're theory was proven in 2007 with the NY giants. Although they didn't hit their stride until late into the season.

Nagler made the analogy early on predicting early struggles on defense. Our d has shown flashes of brilliance and is likely to improve with each week. It's just the offense can't give up +4 sacks every game and expect to win on a consistent basis. He need an offensive lineman (or a steven jackson as alex said) to relieve the preasure on Rodgers.

PackersRS's picture

He did predict struggles, but for some of the wrong reasons. I believe he thought we would struggle much more on the run stopping than in the pass defense. And the real reason we struggled is Atary Bigby and Nick Barnett IMO. Once both of them are settled and playing well, this D is a great one.'s picture

Great comments from both of you ! Bravo !

jrarick's picture

Well, there is dumbness and there is lack of practice/experience as well. I play music a lot (have a music degree). There is a lot to be said for having experience and cohesion in a group. The O-Line needs to have cohesion with themselves and Rodgers, as well as experience in facing all kinds of situations. As they get this, they can most definitely get better.

Also, the safeties don't have experience either, which you need, in this defense. I think we will steady improvement until about week 12, when the experience factor will be complete for a year. Then they will be what they are. So, I think let's see how it plays out.

As you said, if they play to their talent, they are SCARY good.

Alex Tallitsch's picture

I like that music analogy.

GPN's picture

My concern about the penalties on Clifton are that they have less to do with his intelligence and more to do with his body. Lining up too far back and timing the snap count rather than waiting for it. These sound like penalties caused by a lineman who knows he can't handle the job without an edge.

Greg C.'s picture

Good point. The fact that he allowed a sack, and a pretty easy one for his opponent, went a long way toward explaining why he had all those penalties. He did not have his A game, and he knew it. Let's hope he gets it back before the end of the season.

Stan's picture

Lang would have been the sensible choice against the depleted Lions. We still seem to be holding onto to Clifton as if he's some magical cure (the same is happening for Tauscher). The fact is they're two very beat up tackles that should have had replacements setup for a while now.

I understand what your saying Greg. This is still a relatively young team and the mental mistakes are taking there toll. It's not just guys like Barbre, Wells and Clifton failing to make proper reads it's also our young QB failing to make the correct adjustments as well. It just looks to me as if this team needs another season to get up to full speed (or perhaps this is it and the team isn't getting the right coaching).

PackersRS's picture

Great post Grec C. Pretty much agree with all your points. But here comes the intriguing part: smartness is a football trait, as much as talent and athleticism. Do our players have it, and it's a coaching problem, or they just don't (except for Woodson, Jenkins and some others) and we need more estabilished veterans on key positions?

Greg C.'s picture

This is the big question. I don't see it in terms of veterans vs. young guys, though. It seems like our experienced players are making just as many dumb mistakes as the younger guys. I've heard that Packer players have lower Wonderlic scores, on average, than players on most other teams. Maybe this is significant, if it's true. And you've got to wonder about the coaching as well--especially the offensive line coach.

I keep thinking that things are going to start clicking with this team, and it keeps not happening. The good news is that they're 3-2, having lost only one more game than most of us would've expected at this point, so at least they have not dug themselves into a big hole--yet.

Hofschneider's picture

What was the main concern coming into the 09 season? - the defense. And now I'm reading they are "scary good" and "above average". Wow. That's a really, really good sign, isn't it?! We are one average to good OL away from being a (the) contender. This sentence has a big up - and a big downside. Tauscher won't help, I guess. Barbe is a prototyp of an NFL-backup. And I hope, Clifton stays off the field, seriously. Because, it would the only situation Lang would play. (bye the way, this draft-pick Meredith starts for the Bills, doesn't he?! mh...) I don't know, if he is the future. But we need to know, at the end of the season. If I were TT, I wouldn't resign Clifton. (Sorry, bro) The one-million-dollar-question is: do we need a backup for Lang and a replacement for Barbe or a replacement for both of them in the Off-season. And this brings me to the upside: this team doesn't need starters anywhere else. Summery: QB - Top5, WRs - Top5, RB - average, DL - good (with Kampmanns hands in the groud even better), LB - good, CB - top 5, FS / SS - good. Even the punter is doing ok. Halleluja!
The rest is backups. A lot of NFL-calibler-backups. So, if you need backups to be good, you are on track.

Optimistic greetings from Germany.

Asshalo's picture

Oh yes they do. Safety, RB, ILB

PackersRS's picture

Starters at Safety and ILB? I disagree... Improvement, yes, but not starters. Barnett, Hawk (with Chillar and Bishop), Collins and Bigby, if healthy and playing like they know how to, are all starting material in the NFL.

Dr. Nicht's picture

Regression to the mean would mean a drift to the bottom, not the middle. What you see in pro sports is the right hand extreme of the curve, not the whole thing. If you have average ability, you're not playing pro sports!

Greg C.'s picture

I totally disagree with your interpretation of "regression to the mean." As a statistical principle, it just means that things tend to average out. And in the case of professional athletes, the "average" is way above what it is for most people. My point is that these guys are playing at a much lower level than expected, based on their talents and previous performances, so there is reason to hope that they will improve.

The whole article is a bit tongue-in-cheek, though. It's not like I'm pinning all of my hopes on this.

Hofschneider's picture

PackersRS is right.
@Asshalo: are you talking about starters or Probowlers?! I think you don't need Probowlers at all positions. You need average, but consistent starters and a few probowlers. Which we have in Rodgers, Jennings, Driver, Jenkins, Woodson, (mabye) Collins and a rising OLB in CM3.

As I said; the rest is backups. Backups, who come in, as a safety and not every pass thrown in their direction is a touchdown. Or as a LT - and not every simple Cinncinati-DL-move results in another sack. And no, I don't want to imagine what happens, if Rodgers goes down. My mood is too good, right now.

PackersRS's picture

Thank you, you kind German sir! If there is such thing as a kind German. Lol. (I have German blood, "Heck" the last name, but perhaps the joke is too offensive. My bad ;) apologizing in advance, LOL.)

Stan's picture

The Green man cometh... he and Grant could form a nice little tandem.... wonder if Green is healthy enough to be productive?

Hofschneider's picture

Ok, Heck! :) 1. there is no joke, that is too offensive. In fact, it's not funny, if it isn't offensive. 2. In Germany everybody loves eachother. Germany is the most beautiful and most peaceful country in the world. A country, where milk and honey circulate, where birds sing all the time and everybody is kind. Very, very kind. Our only weekness is our lack of self-mockery. :) 3. Yes, we have a well working democracy. 4. No, our highways aren't half as exciting as you may think - but our beers are! (and our women!) 5. Rammstein sucks! Totally!

Stan's picture

I'm going to Berlin in a couple of weeks... I fucking love Germany!!!

haben Sie einen Esel für Verkauf?

PackersRS's picture

Ohh, your beers are awesome! Went to berlin a couple years ago! And it's amazing! Down here (Brazil :o), we absolutely can't drink beer if it's not very cold. And you just serve them on ambient temperature, and it's delicious!
And I know it's just an export beer, but Erdinger is awesome. It's what I drink. That and Johnnie...

FITZCORE1252's picture



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