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What We've Learned

What We've Learned





Some lessons from the 2009 season.






It’s been an eventful season, to say the least, but now that the Packers have earned a wild card berth and are destined for either an 11-5 or a 10-6 record, we can safely draw some conclusions:


1. Maybe the preseason means something after all.


When the Packers fell to 4-4, a lot of people, myself included, were feeling like chumps for having been excited about the team’s dominant performance in the preseason. But it is now apparent that the raw talent that was on display in the preseason was no mirage. Aaron Rodgers and Charles Woodson have been every bit as impressive as they looked in the preseason, and although it took the rest of the team awhile to get going, during the past seven games they have looked very much like the team that played so well in August. It was mostly a matter of the offensive line getting back in synch after a rough start and the defensive players improving their ability to run Dom Capers’ schemes.


2. Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy are not idiots.


There is still plenty of room for various opinions on the abilities of our GM and coach, but the contention that they are a couple of bumbling fools, which never made much sense to begin with, has now been put to rest. They are at least competent, and considering that they are still relatively new to their jobs, they might still prove to be excellent. Thompson has stocked the roster with playmakers in nearly every position group, and McCarthy is one of the more creative offensive coaches in the league. When the team struggled, a few players made bitter comments to the press, but the situation never got out of hand. Just as the team held together during last year’s 6-10 debacle, it held together through tough times again this year. That’s a sign that the players believe in their coach.


3. Penalties are overrated.


It seems as if the first thing that football announcers learn in broadcasting school is that one should never miss an opportunity to treat your viewers to a lengthy lecture about the devastating effect of penalties. We heard more than our share of these lectures this season, as the Packers have led the league in penalties most of the way. And what do they have to show for it? A 10-5 record, that’s what. It’s almost like your parents lectured you on the evils of going out drinking, but you went out drinking anyway and had yourself a fine time and were none the worse for wear afterwards. Here is what penalties are: They are mistakes. Just like missed blocks, missed tackles, poor throws, poor routes, poor coverage, you name it. A penalty is a bad play. But as annoying as they are, penalties do not have a magical quality that makes them any worse than other kinds of mistakes. Our team is proof of that.


4. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.


Several teams that looked great out of the gates this season fell on hard times right around the same time the Packers were beginning to gel. The Broncos, Giants, and Jets were the best examples, while teams like the Steelers and Texans also went downhill. The 49ers’ strong start was already a distant memory by the time they showed up at Lambeau Field for their week 11 thrashing. Even the Saints and Vikings, although still among the best teams in the league, have lost their sparkle. We are lucky that our team is on the right side of this equation.


5. It’s all about counterpunching.


A lot of fans expect nothing less than total domination from their team. But that’s not the way the NFL works. Chances are good that your team is going to look stupid and incompetent on many occasions during the season. Goodness knows, our team sure has. There is a constant ebb and flow in the NFL, not only from week to week, but even within the same game. When a team embarrasses its opponent in some way, it better be careful, or it will be embarrassed right back. Brett Favre was an exception. He embarrassed us twice. But the book has not necessarily closed on that one just yet. Let the playoffs begin!


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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (9) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Asshalo's picture

I've always thought thompson was good not great, it's just this past draft has really put him over the edge. It will be interesting to see how he handles the abundance of free agents this year though.

"Just as the team held together during last year’s 6-10 debacle" Last year was a complete decent, hence the blowing up of the defense. The players definitely believe in McCarthy, I just don't have faith in his game-time decision making.

Erik's picture

I have always had a good amount of support for the work Ted Thompson has done. He's been very good about making some good personal moves for the most part. Sure he "missed" some big name signings and like every GM, has a fair share of draft mis-steps. But look at Rodgers, Woodson, CM3 and more for examples of gutsy moves that paid off.

I am still not a fan of McCarthy or his style of coaching. He is a good offensive mind, but his ability to get his type fired up and ready to play and focus is severly lacking. No where was that more clear than the second half of this season. While a lot of haters will point to the 4-4 stretch as proof that McCarthy is awful, you don't need such easy pot shots to show that McCarthy is lacking.

It's how the Packers almost lost games against San Francisco, Baltimore and did lose to the Steelers. It was because of a lack of focus and execution. When the team needs it, McCarthy doesn't seem to be able to get it out of them. Flat third quarters gave more than a fair share of us high blood pressure on Sundays.

If he can fix that I'll be on the McCarthy bandwagon, until then I'll just jog behind it.

Greg C.'s picture

I think the Packers have looked well-coached during the second half of the season. Unless you are playing a crap team like the Seahawks, it is difficult to dominate an NFL game for four quarters. The opposing team is usually going to make a run at you. That's what I was getting at when I wrote about counterpunching. The Packers did not "almost lose" to the 49ers and Ravens. They let those teams back into it (losing Kampman and Harris was a big factor in the San Francisco game), but they slammed the door when they needed to.

We finally have a team that can shut the door on opponents in the fourth quarter, and now fans are complaining because they don't do well enough in the third quarter. I think you are setting a standard that is way too high. If my standards were that high, I would not even enjoy watching the games, but to each his own, I guess.

Erik's picture

Perhaps I am being too hard on them, especially with the Steelers and Ravens. But I'm not convinced that barely beating the 49ers is enough for the Packers to play more than one extra game at the end of the year. I want to see more than a handful of signs against teams like the Lions and Seahawks that this team can seriously make a run in the playoffs deep. I don't think that's too much to ask at all; to see them play lights out against a playoff caliber team.

And despite your, for whatever, assuming I dislike watching games, you are, of course, dead wrong. I look forward to Sunday every week to cheer on the team. But being hopeful and being realistic are not opposed forces.

Greg C.'s picture

I was not assuming that you don't enjoy watching the games. I just said that if my standards were that high, I would not enjoy watching them. That's just me.

Why would you expect the Packers to play lights out against a playoff caliber team? That doesn't happen very often in the NFL. Playoff caliber teams are the ones that are hard to beat in the first place. I think the win against Dallas was their most impressive win. The defense played lights-out in that game, although the offense was a little sluggish. The win against Baltimore was also impressive.

Erik's picture

I don't think it is too much to ask when teams like the Vikings, Colts, Saints, Chargers, Steelers and others have all played lights out against play-off teams this year. It's happened multiple times this year, so I don't know what your definition of "very often" is, but I am willing to agree it doesn't happen a lot, but it does happen.

And for the Packers it's only happened once: against Dallas.

In order for them to get to the Super Bowl it needs to happen three more times this season alone. That's why I'd like a little more reassurance they can do it.

Mr. Bacon's picture

Actually Greg, the only penaltys that really do matter are Off. Holding in your own endzone, and Def. Pass Interference in your endzone. Thoose ones are killer, everything else can be conqured by Rodger's passing attack.

Jersey Al's picture

Penalties do matter, just like any bad mistake, when they come at inopportune times. TD pass gets called back for holding, etc. Penalties keep games closer than they should be and give the other team opportunities to beat you. But it is true that talented teams can overcome penalties. I guess that means the Packers are talented. Surprise!

ACDC84's picture

As the head coach MM is officially in charge of the entire team, but from a practical standpoint, the defense is 100% in the hands of Capers, as it should be. MM's offense put up 36 points (and should have made an easy FG) against a good defense. I have my issues with the play-calling, but MM did NOT lose the PIT game.

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