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Friday, October 08, 2004
Ramblings from the Outfield
We sit at 1-3 and the dark clouds over head are worrisome. Folks face reality...not every season will the sun shine brightly down on the Packers. A couple of seasons back the sun was shining very brightly and we were at the top of the NFL and no one could touch us. Then suddenly those injuries mounted and suddenly we were reeling. Mike Sherman with his ability to motivate kept this team going to the end. Unfortunately our season was finished by game 15 of the season but we did not realize it. But the New York Jets knew it and exposed our smoke and mirrors attempt to camouflage. Truly our Super Bowl team was finished prematurely (not due to poor coaching but simply put INJURIES WIPED THIS TEAM OUT!
Then last year we saw a crack in the mantle of Mike Sherman as he began to press with allegiance to some players that are questionable in attitude and execution. But we saw a team who at the end of the season was playing well and had taken on the atmosphere or swagger of winners. But then came a defining moment, the play that is still talked about by the players and coaches, that 4th down and 26. Blame had to be satisfied and Ed Donnatel was the sacrifice extended. Mike Sherman wrestled with this decision and was not prone to firing a solid defensive mind like Donnatel. But something had to be done. Mike Sherman was boxed in.
What is so interesting is that the same group who hollered and demanded that Donnatel be fired are the same group who now points out that Donnetel's defense is working in Atlanta and that this is proof that Mike Sherman should be fired. To all of you I say get completely behind us hypocrites.
So we started a new season with a new defensive leader and problems with attitude. I saw it and pointed it out but I did not force the thought. I failed or maybe I wanted to keep quiet in hopes that it would dissipate. I saw this attitude starting to overtake some of the players and I began to shiver I began to see some of the same attitude that was there the last year of Mike Holmgren which grew to massive proportions under Ray Rhodes.
If you recall I posted an article about reasons why this defense could undo the Packers this season. Also posted one title why this defense could be good as well. I attempted to point out that there would be growing pains with the new scheme of defense and Bob SLowik must not panic and give up on his designs. Yes alter some as we see what works and what does not work but do not give up. Aggressive football is the best defense in my thinking and I will accept some big plays because of over aggressiveness. Aggressive play takes care of slacker mentality. The calls for SLowik to be fired is just absolutely stupid as far as I am concerned. SLowik has completely changed the thinking of the defense and is just 4 games into a complete makeover. SO far in 4 games we have had 3 games where the opponent has scored only 14 points against his defense. Sure we have seen more than I would like of big plays against the defense and a lot of total yards, but the object of this game is not allowing your opponent to score.
Now to the problem of attitude. Most of this problem lies in the area of believing you are there and not working to stay there. This OL is good but it has to work hard to stay good. And therein lies the problem. Some of the play from this OL has been stellar this season. But it comes only on a spurt here and there. Lapses of alertness and dedication to integrity of each play has been prevalent this season. But it has not just been the OL where the problem is peeking through. The receivers are not being as crisp as they should. At times there seems to be a looping of routes instead of sharp breaks. This attitude will extend itself to the receiver and you will see drops and you will see strange body positioning and difficult catches.
With all the problems many are of the belief that it is doom and gloom. The season is a lost cause and Mike Sherman is at fault and some have even suggested that Mike Sherman be fired. May I ask why? Just what do we have in Mike Sherman? A head coach can do only so much and then the eye of the needle is on the players executing. But it is easier to blame the head coach and say he is not preparing them or scaring them like a Bill Parcells.
Currently we sit at 1-3 with the thinking that Monday night we go 1-4. So what if we do. Say we lose Monday night to Tennessee. Does this mean the season is lost? Most probably it does suggest a very hard time in digging out of the hole. But it does not mean the end. I have seen teams struggle with a poor record to open a season only to right itself and come blaring back
Why can I be so positive? Easy. We have Brett Favre as our QB and we have AHman Green as our RB and we have Javon Walker and Robert Ferguson as our receivers. We have a good OL despite the loss of Mike Flanagan at center. We are going to get Grady Jackson back and our young corners are getting more acclimated to our defense. The play of the LBs are good and will get better with better DL play. I believe Bob SLowik is getting problems worked out and the players are getting more comfortable with different packages than they have played under Donnatel.
From 1-3 or even forbid 1-4 we can still have a 11 win season. This team is talented enough to win in bunches. Surprising how that swagger can return and the players play above themselves. Every once in a while you get a collection of players who taste the thrill of victory and they just keep hold of that taste. The New England Patriots come to mind. They have achieved that next level. The Green Bay Packers were close to that level 3 times but something happened and they fell off. One year it was severe injuries that brought their season crashing down. Another time it was sloppy play from its leader who had a very poor game and it cost the Green Bay Packers dearly. Anyone think the Patriots win in the playoffs if Tom Brady would have had a poor game? I do not.
Then last year this team struggled early but came together and was playing very good football. Then came the Eagle game and mistakes were made from every avenue. The coaches made a few mistakes the players made some mistakes and then the team completely made a huge blunder all at the same time and we experienced failure. As bad as the 4th and 26 was it was not the nail in the coffin. The team had stopped the Eagles in OT and it was our chance to move down field. Something that we had done but had kicked ourselves in the behind all day. Then Brett Favre went back to throw and even though no one admits it we had a screw up between QB and WR and the pass was intercepted and the swagger was lost. To be honest you cannot lay the blame on that errant throw. Just as you cannot lay the blame on the 4th and 26 either. What about the OL not blocking completely and Ahman Green being stopped on 4th and 1 earlier in the game. There were all kinds of little things that collectively ended the season for this team in that game. Let downs by the OL cost the team 10 points in my thinking in the first half. Those same little things are haunting this team this year as well especially in the losses to the Bears and the Giants.
This year we have not developed that chemistry yet. We have not accomplished the state or plane of level of play that good teams like the Patriots have right now. It may never come this season. It may just allude us all year. Sure this will be on the shoulders and back of Mike Sherman but every season the sun does no shine on you.
But please do not start with this assertion that Mike Sherman has not brought in a fresh flow of talented players because he has. Do not start with this stuff that Mike Sherman is not a good coach because he is. His record suggests that he is a good coach. Sometimes factors add up to hinder everything you attempt. Sure I can criticize Sherman for his poor DL and the appearance that he has not done much to upgrade. Sure I can gripe that Sherman plays favorites with a few players but when you look at those players you see enormous talent and see what a waste they are displaying. The hope of every coach is that he can get that talent out of any player. But I also see attempts to upgrade as I see Grady Jackson and I saw Joe Johnson added I see the addition of Kampmann and the addition of two rookies this season. It is not like Sherman is sitting on his hands.
It just might be the fate of Mike Sherman that teams he coaches just never turn the final corner. For different reasons he might never get into the big game. Be it injuries or be it sloppy play of his Star QB Favre or be it poor execution of his OL. It just might be that Mike Sherman may never be able to keep this team in the right state of mind. Maybe he is too nice? Maybe he is so concerned with the discipline of each play that he takes away from the emotion of each play.
Maybe some of you are correct in that he has had 3 chances and the 3rd time to fail is enough for you. So this off course season when nothing seems to work is the opening needed to fire him and try again with new faces. I just do not believe in that kind of thinking. I am a stodgy person when it comes to running off a winner
Miie Sherman has a job before him. And it is in the trenches. He has a good OL but an OL that takes downs off and goes through the motions giving about 70% effort at times. With the DL he has serious questions about talent and a serious problem with a very talented but lazy person in Hunt.
Attitude and execution!!