After watching the Packers lose 4 of their last 5 games due primarily to an inability to win games in the 4th quarter (aside from the New Orleans game), I’ve realized a few things about the team that have really been tough.
1. The Packers are a very average team without Favre.Â Forget the schedule, forget it being Rodgers’ first year, forget the injuries.Â The Packers did not have a better defense last year and their run game wasn’t great either.Â But whatever magic they had going with Favre gave them leads and let the aggressive corners stop teams.Â They didn’t have to worry about stopping the run as much, and the passing game set up big runs as secondaries were playing deep.Â The Packers haven’t been able to establish that passing game this year… they’ve become predictable and they don’t have enough talent and good coaching to overcome that.Â Some teams are predictable but can still force their will (to borrow an overused expression), but not everyone can.Â Last year the Packers were able to ride the Favre magic carpet ride.Â This year, the Jets are (see their record last year and their inevitible horrible record when he retires).
2. The team is soft.Â The top 5 rushing offenses in the NFL are (in order): New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens, Tennesee Titans.Â The top 5 rushing defenses in the NFL are: Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears.Â What do these teams have in common?Â They are all potential playoff teams.Â It’s said every year, especially when it gets cold… but the running game is a crucial focus in the NFL.Â You need to be able to run and stop the run.Â If you can’t, you better be able to put up so many points that teams have to pass on you.
The Packers are 20th in rushing.Â They are 26th in stopping the run.Â They are 15th in total offense.Â They are not moving the ball enough and not getting stops.Â They are scoring, but teams don’t have to change their game plan and can keep running all day if they want.
3. The Packers pass too much.Â This ties in with #2, but I thought I’d give it more focus.Â Here are the top 10 teams from last year, in terms of most pass attempts:
1. New Orleans Saints – 652
2. Arizona Cardinals – 590
3. Seattle Seahawks – 590
4. Detroit Lions – 587
5. New England – 586
6. Green Bay – 578
7. Philadelphia Eagles – 577
8. Cincinnati Bengals – 575
9. St. Louis Rams – 574
10. Chicago Bears – 569
See a trend here?Â Of the list, 3 playoff teams.Â In fact, to find the next most pass-happy playoff team from 2007, you’d have to go to #15, Indianapolis (551).Â The list looks to shape out in a similar fashion this year, with bad teams with bad defenses attempting a lot of passes.Â The Packers have a good shot at being on that top 10 list.Â The big difference is we might see more playoff teams out of the top 10 due to some worse than expected division races (*cough* west coast teams *cough*).
4. Someone in the Tompson/McCarthy staff might very well be gone.Â Anything short of a playoff appearance will be a total failure in the eyes of a LOT of people.Â I think that group might include team president Mark Murphy.Â The Packers will be down by 2 games in the division race after tonight.Â They have no hope of a wild card at this point (they are currently 6th in the Wild Card race and will essentially need a division win to make the playoffs).Â Chances are getting slimmer by the day.Â So if the season doesn’t end well, who gets the blame?Â Do you start at the top with Thompson for his handling of the Favre scenario and not getting the right players?Â Do you blame McCarthy for having a sloppy team (ie – one of the most penalized teams in the league two years running) and not giving the team a solid identity?Â Or do you go for a smaller sacrifice like defensive coordinator Bob Sanders for not putting together a stout defensive scheme?
If it were me, I’d start with McCarthy.Â The team is inconsistant in both their play and style of play.Â Like I said, they seem to have no identity.Â They aren’t really a running team, a defensive team or a top offense.Â They are just average all around.Â Plus, he seems to be doing something wrong with his training/conditioning program.Â Including injured reserve, the Packers had 24 players on the injury report this week.Â Especially being a young team, they need to find ways to keep guys healthy.
Say you get rid of McCarthy, what next?Â I think the only options are one of the hot coordinators out there.Â Seems Steve Spagnuolo of the Giants or Josh McDaniels of the Patriots.Â Either guy could be considered an upgrade given the success they’ve had with their respective teams.
However, I don’t think it will play out that way.Â McCarthy will keep his job because of his contract and the Packers will need to find ways to improve next year.Â They’ll have a lot of money to play with, but will need serious help on the offensive and defensive lines.Â They’ll need to address the age at cornerback as well.Â Those are all generally areas that cannot be quickly handled via the draft, which is the Packers’ style.Â With the number of talented players on the roster, nobody can afford to let players develop to fill gaps at this point.Â That means we’ll either need to see a lot of improvement from the existing roster in the offeseason or there will have to be patchwork fixes along the way.