John and I have been talking off the record about the Packers since, well, not that long actually. But we decided that our long amiable conversations via e-mail might be a worthwhile contribution–if not a welcomed change of pace–to the various sites and analysis around the blogosphere. The following is a week long e-mail chain about the Green Bay Packers week thirteen match-up against the Minnesota Vikings. Of course, we stray off topic from time to time. Enjoy.
Chang, Tuesday morning :
I know the sky is falling in Packerland, but you and I have talked about this team a lot. I feel like they are going to lose against physical teams much more often than they beat them. This team will always be around 10 wins, but I don’t see them having a lot of playoff success without turnovers and Rodgers playing lights out. I just don’t see it. Especially this year. They just don’t match up well against the playoff teams. The Packers best bet would be for the Cowboys, Eagles, Falcons and Rams to make the playoffs. Those are all talented teams, but they’re teams that would allow the Packers to set the tone. They wanna play fast, ya know. Or at least that’s what they’ve shown us so far. It’s like Tyson said (was it Tyson?) “Everyone has a plan ’til they get punched in the mouth”
Do you think losing to the Giants, and the upcoming stretch of division foes will toughen the Packers up? Or do you think they are what they are and the playoffs ride on the right arm of #12?
I think I know what you’re going to say.
John, Wednesday night:
I honestly don’t know what to expect from this team anymore beyond it will only go as far as Rodgers’ right arm will let it. They have no running game. Their offensive line is a mess. They have little to no production from their tight ends – none of them. The Packers defense is helter-skelter, sometimes looking great, other times anything but. And special teams….don’t get me started on special teams. Do I think they could make a deep run in the playoffs? Sure. Do I think they will? With the number of players out and Ted not doing much to help the situation? No, I do not. 2010 spoiled all of us. Being able to overcome so many injuries set a standard that needs to be met every season now. But most teams simply cannot overcome losing their starting right tackle, their starting outside line backer, starting safety, starting wide-receiver and not feel the pain. After the Giants game, I said everyone needed to calm down, that this team would be alright. And they will. 10-6, or maybe 11-5 seem very possible. Of course, I never said anything about the playoffs. No one else did either. Coincidence?
Chang, Thursday morning:
Playoffs!?! Playoffs? Can’t we beat Minnesota first? Oh, I guess I brought the playoffs up, didn’t I? I’ll humor you (me) a bit before we get to Sunday’s game. If the playoffs started today we’d have to play the Giants, then the Falcons then the winner of the Niners-Bears/Seahawks game. Assuming we can even get that far, who would you rather play? Gold help me, I think I’d rather play Chicago. They match-up well against us. Always play us tight, but at least they are a known entity. McCarthy won’t delude himself into some only-good-on-paper game plan if we play Chicago. He’ll reign himself in a bit. I wonder what the internal scouting report for our starting lineup looks like? Sometimes McCarthy calls plays seemingly without consideration of his personnel, and/or the defenders that line up opposite them. I’m sure that each play is fool proof in his mind, but the genius isn’t transferring onto the field. Not so far anyway. The Packers only have one impressive victory so far – Houston. Impressive in the regard that they seemed to execute the game plan from start to finish and both sides of the ball maximized their opportunities. I know it’s a foolish thing to say, considering that football is the ultimate team game, but a lot of the Packers victories seem to be achieved at the talent level. Kinda despite the game plan. Are they ill prepared? Can you imagine how dominate this team would be if they didn’t space out for quarters at a time?
I’ve worked the past four days, so I’m out of the loop a little bit. Is Wilson officially ruled out? And Matthews for one more week? We need those guys this week. We’re only going up against the best running back in the league. Injuries aside, I’m really looking forward to this game. I want to see how the Packers respond to their ass kicking, I want to see how effective Jennings can be in his limited snaps, I’m pumped they get to play the game at home–in the cold–and I’m glad they’re sitting in meetings preparing to beat a physical team. Emotionally, they should be high trying to make up for last week, but mechanically they’re going to have to be so disciplined trying to tackle AP & trying to keep Rodgers upright, it’ll be fun to see if they’re up for the challenge.
What kind of stuff would you like to see from them on offense to keep the chains moving, but also to keep Rodgers off his back? I’d like to see them get more creative calling plays out of the backfield. Cobb can take handoffs, catch swing passes, catch screens, run up in that void towards the opponent’s middle line backer… The Packers seem hesitant to throw that ball in the middle of coverage. Hesitant to throw it to Finley anyway, but maybe if they move Cobb all around the field from behind the line of scrimmage, that throw in the middle will open up a lot more to get Finley & Rodgers going. And draws! Rodgers is getting hit or hurried way too much. If they spread em out & only block five offensive linemen, why not switch it up and run a delayed handoff up the gut? Anything to make the defense hesitate a little bit and keep them from hitting Rodgers.
The Vikings might not look very fast this weekend while playing at Lambeau, but they’ll still be much stronger and more athletic than our OL. I’m worried about how McCarthy will call the game. He even admitted this week that he’s been off lately. Is coach out of touch? In a funk? I’m blaming the mustache.
John, Friday morning:
Ted Thompson really dropped the ball this season. After rebuilding the defense through the draft with players like Nick Perry (now on IR), Jerel Worthy, Mike Daniels, and especially Casey Hayward, it looks as if he ignored the roster once the training camp began. Case in point: running back. He entered training camp with James Starks as the top incumbent. But Starks completely crapped the bed at the start of the preseason, and that’s when Ted realized he needed to upgrade the position. And his solution was a retread free agent who went through an entire summer with no offers. Ted snatched him up, and Benson was seen as the savior at running back. And what happened? He suffered a lisfranc injury which keeps him out for extended time. But wait, the new IR designated to return option offered hope for Benson to return this season. So we wait, and wait, and wait, continuing to go with Starks and Alex Green at running back, holding out hope DJ World Peace would return with a vengence for the stretch run. Oops, that’s not happening. Now he’s officially out for the season. So Starks and Green are now the man (men) for the rest of the season.
This is just one instance of Ted sticking by his guns and not making any moves to help a position of need because it goes against his vision. He better hope neither Starks or Green get injured in these final 5 games. Don’t even get me started on the cluster eff the offensive line is.
Thank goodness Ted signed Johnny White to help us out at running back!
Chang, Saturday morning:
Ted signed Urkel at running back this week?
I never understood 1) why everyone was so into Cedric Benson in the first place or 2) Why everyone (including the coaches) is so down on James Starks. I guess Starks has been hurt, that might explain fan frustration. But what’s going on in the locker room that put Starks in the dog house? Was he exaggerating his injury? I have a hard time believing that. What could he possibly gain?
This team has been so unlucky this year. You know, I’m starting to think about how the 2012 season will be remembered historically. I guess it will depend on who wins the Super Bowl, but should it? Think of all the rule changes, how they affect defense and scoring numbers, and look the roster of potential playoff teams. Is this the swan song for physical 4-3 teams? You know my personal feelings and preference about a team’s defensive identity, but you also know that it differs significantly from Roger Goodell’s – evident by all of his rule changes. Why are these defensive minded teams succeeding while the NFL painstakingly attempts to change the culture of the league? Why is only one, the Falcons, offensive-minded NFL team dominating the regular season? I thought everything was supposed to open up, be fast and offense oriented. That’s what coach thought switching to the 3-4, that’s what Thompson thinks when he drafts players.
Is this an anomaly, or is it a wake up call to NFL front offices that the game isn’t going to change as much as everyone thinks?
This Poppovich thing has me thinking also. Packers fans (well, most fans) are so invested in their team’s success, and set the bar of success so, so high, that we forget the game is supposed to be entertaining. Only one team can win it all, right? But every year, every decision, every draft pick, we discuss how it will help the team win another Super Bowl. Nobody ever talks about how a player can just simply be fun to watch. Think of Redskins fans. There aren’t a lot of them that expect their team to win. Not now, not any time soon (even though they might win the NFC East), but they all looooove watching RGIII. They’re happy just watching his athleticism for three hours on Sunday. Contrast that with Favre during the 2000s. Nationally, everyone loved Favre. The media, the announcers, writers, everyone; they all talked about how it’s fun to watch him and he’s like a kid out there. But Packers fans were like STOP THROWING INTERCEPTIONS. I never enjoyed games unless the Packers won by a hundred points. We’ve had 20 years of hall of fame quarterback play, and never once have I thought, man it’s fun to watch Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers play on Sunday. Isn’t that strange? I’m sure you’re very similar. Is everyone like this? Are there people in the stands at Lambeau that went just to see Favre pull something out of his ass, and they didn’t care if he threw three interceptions trying to do it? And now, do people go to watch Rodgers pick defenses apart, and if he has an off day they just shrug their shoulders and act all we’ll get em next week?
It’s weird because the games are technically entertainment. But it’s not the same as sitting down to a movie, or renting a jet-ski for the day. Competition is a huge factor. And it’s professional entertainment. Professional’s work full-time to put a product on the field sixteen weeks a year. But success can’t only be measured in winning, can it? For fans, or even for the professionals that create the product? If winning is the only measure of success, then half the teams are failures every week. All but one of the teams are failures every February. But everyone continues to punch the clock, do work, go home, do their shows, and we act like winnings is the only thing that matters. That’s a huge gap in reality for the producer and the consumer. Why are so many people so emotionally invested in something that–by definition of winning–will fail you a thousand times more than it will succeed?
Are the Packers really not affected by my rally push-ups?
John, Saturday night:
I never counted on Benson to do anything this season. Anyone who trusted him to be the salvation at running back (see Ted Thompson) needs to reconsider that.
I have never believed much in Starks. Never. Not in 2010, and definitely not last year. I’ve said so on numerous times on Cheesehead Radio and stand by it. Hurt too often, can’t block for shit. But one game of 80 yards and he’s the second coming of Jim Taylor. I don’t get the fascination with him, at all. As for Alex Green, I’ll sum it up in two words: he sucks. He may not suck some day. But right now, he sucks.
Ted has a ton of work to do in the off-season. He desperately needs to shore up the offensive line (seems like this has been said a few times before under his tenure). That will be a fatal flaw if he does not. Want to pay the ultimate price and lose your franchise quarterback because of a lack of depth along the offensive line? Sure hope not. And I personally would like to see Ted pull the trigger and draft a RB before the 3rd round. Like maybe the 1st? I’m not a draftnik, and won’t pretend to be, and have no idea what the running back class looks like. But it sure would be nice if he could find a guy to hand the ball to 18-22 times a game and actually pick up yards. Unlike the current situation of 12 carries for Starks one week, then 0 the following, or vice-versa with Green.
Of course, McCarthy has said he is dedicated to the running game. Dedicated to the fucking shotgun draw he calls at least 5 times a game. That play drives me up a wall every time I see it.
I love the draws! Don’t even act like those play calls count towards the legitimacy of the draw. One of the reasons the Packers struggle running the ball is because they telegraph via fucking Western Union when they’re going to run the ball. Either running the ball with a bunch of extra blockers, or running the 3rd and 1 draw with Kuhn right into the back of our line. A telegraphed draw on 3rd and short to Kuhn is not equal to a draw on 1st or 2nd down with Starks or Green. The success of the draw depends on the defense playing the pass. McCarthy is just sabotaging the offense calling running plays this way.
It seemed like McCarthy wrote a good script for this game and lost his way after the first 15 plays…
Of course, Jordy went out, they have Jennings on a snap count, and they have a kicker that can barely make a thirty yard field goal (oh, he just missed another one). And uh, oh! How you liking Don Barclay so far? I guess they can’t play the same game plan in the second half that they drew up during the week. McCarthy is great at making adjustments (ha!) so the rest of this game should be a scream.
What do you think they’re gonna do in the second half, playing from behind with this offensive line? What should they do?
This is not a Super Bowl team. It’s a playoff team, maybe even a division champion. But far from a Super Bowl team. Our offensive line is a disgrace; our defense is schizophrenic; our kicker sucks; our offensive play calling is head scratching at times; our receivers can’t get any separation anymore; and every new week is a new injury to a key player, but that’s just my opinion. What do I know?
Too pissed to answer my half-time questions? THEY WON!
I can’t believe it. Are you still alive? Did you take your Crosby jersey out of the garbage? What a fun second half that was. Way to pull it out the ol’rear, eh? How many victories against a must win opponent is this for the Packers now. I know there are flaws, but the fact that they can beat the Saints when the Saints really needed a win, the Lions when they needed to keep pace and make up for an ugly win, and now the Vikings (same situation) really impresses me.
It’s week to week and the Packers found a way this week. I’m happy about it.They played a ground game AND didn’t sacrifice too many points in the effort. If they can win running the ball AND win with a pass-first game plan – watch out. We even saw a little bit of Cobb taking hand-offs and getting tosses out of the backfield. Just like I said! I’m a genius. Any word on Jordy yet? And we get Clay back next week? You have to be a little excited about this teams growth, no? Who in the NFL is overcoming this much adversity, plugging players in and inventing ways to win on the fly? Nobody.
That was a rough one to watch. Peterson going off for 210 yards was ugly. Crosby being Crosby for the first half was tough to watch. And Rodgers looking slightly less than Rodgers was tough to watch, too. But the dual headed running game was nice to see (even if I still like the idea of a clear cut #1). And the defense timely picking Ponder off twice helped a lot.
Watching Chicago shit the bed against the Seahawks was especially nice to see, as it moved the Packers into first place. James Jones is a pro bowler, even if he won’t get voted to go. And that makes me very happy. Randall Cobb is a pro bowler too – but not as a returner. What the hell was up with that -9 on the punt return? That just can’t happen. Barclay at right tackle? Sure why not? But we don’t have many options left, and that’s scary.
Winning Ugly is the motto for this year. And that’s ok. As long as they win.
8-4, first place.
Chang, right after:
Damn right. Go Pack!
Richard Chang and John Rehor write about the Green Bay Packers here–and other places–as well as participate in the internet famous #DCGB fantasy football league. Read more of their stuff under the Green Bay Packers, and #DCGB tabs at the top of the page. Follow them on twitter @richardmchang and @jrehor