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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Year End Review

by PackerNation
for PackerChatters


• What Happened?
• Where Do We Go From Here?

A Painful Lesson: Birds Come Home To Roost!! Throughout the entire season, the Packers have been plagued by two separate yet related problems, both of which were on full display in the playoff loss to the Vikings: The offense, though high-powered, is error-prone, and the defense gives up entirely too many big plays while making far too few.

It is difficult to argue that the Packer offense is not prolific. It set franchise records this year for first downs and passing yards. It ranked near the top in total yards and scoring. The fullback, halfback, and two linemen went to the Pro Bowl. And of course, you had Brett Favre having yet another 30 touchdown, 4000 yard season. So clearly, the offense can move the ball and score with the best of them.

Yet in this game, they scored 17 points, on their home field, against one of the weakest defenses in the league and they turned the ball over 4 times in the process. Add in a missed field goal and a three and out or two and you have an offense that STOPPED THEMSELVES on the majority of their possessions.

Defensively, we saw what we’d seen all year long: Long touchdowns enabled by poorly chosen coverage schemes and punctuated by poor tackling. The defensive line couldn’t get consistent pressure on the QB and when they did, they couldn’t keep him from hurting us with big scrambles or throws on the run. The secondary seemed confused as to their assignments, and they weren’t alone. The clinching TD toss to Moss-----the one which led to him wiping his ass on our goal post---was at least partly the result of Hannibal Navies not taking part in the all-out blitz which had been called. Culpepper then had just enough time to let Moss run a double move route against an isolated Al Harris.

After this clinching touchdown, and Moss’s disgusting display (I can’t believe that not one single Packer player had enough hair on his nuts to jump on that asshole and pummel him into the Tundra), there was a heated exchange on the sideline involving the defensive backs and Hannibal Navies. Spectators at the game said they almost got into a scrap. Although we may never learn the exact nature of the conversation, I’d almost be willing to bet it went something like this……..

“…….goddamit, we’re busting our ass and you can’t even do your goddam assignment. You end up leaving us to get beat out there and then everybody thinks it’s our fault and that we suck. We’re tired of this shit….pull your goddam head out of your ass….you’re hurting the team…”

At least they showed some fire, and demanded some accountability which is more than I can say for some others. Contrast the arguing—pushing—shoving which followed that play with what transpired after this one:

Packers down 24-10 with less than a minute remaining. Ball is on the 8 yard line, 3rd and 6. Two timeouts left. Favre drops back, rolls right, and takes off for the end zone. Tacklers converge….it’s gonna be close….no…wait a minute, Favre just threw a pass when he was about 5 yards past the line of scrimmage.!!!

What a colossal bonehead maneuver!! Had he lowered his head and gone for it he might have made the first down. He certainly would have left us at least with a 4th and short and A CHANCE to score a TD which would have given us momentum, trimmed the deficit to 24-17, and put us back in the game.

But…..he Favred us, just he’s like’s Favred us before. Ok, fine…..but does he have to laugh on his way off the field? Was Roman laughing after Moss wiped his ass on our goalpost? Was Longwell laughing after he missed the field goal? Were Henderson or Barnett or Harris laughing at our fuckups? I don’t think so.

An unlike Navies, nobody gets in Brett’s face about this...it just continues to happen over and over and over. Look at Favre’s performance in the playoff losses the last four seasons: A QB passer rating of about 60.0 and 13 interceptions. How do you win like that? I mean, I understand that the defense needs to be better, but how good of a defense do you need to overcome stuff like that?

What’s Next?
There is a timetable that will dictate the future course of the Green Bay Packers.
• Harlan will meet with Sherman and resolve the GM issue. I think it is unlikely that Sherman will be relieved of his Head Coaching duties, but I think it is in the realm of possibility, though unlikely, that he’ll be stripped of his GM position and then resign. The most likely scenario is that Sherman and Harlan will “agree” to bring in somebody to replace Mark Hatley and help with personnel issues. What title this guy will have is anybody’s guess---director of player personnel, assistant GM……--who knows. But I believe that Sherman will firmly retain the reins of power for at least one more season. I would expect this decision to be reached well before the NFC championship game.
• Once this issue is resolved, the next point of emphasis will be on the assistant coaches. It is my opinion that we need a clean sweep on the defensive side of the ball, but I think that the most likely scenario will be that Schottenheimer will be fired and everybody else will be back. I don’t think that this is going to be a formula for an improved defense next year.
• Then we’ll get to the players. Free agency starts the day after the Super Bowl and Favre will have made his decision (I am SOOOOO tired of this franchise being held hostage to “whatever’s good for Brett Favre”). The Packers then will have to decide which of their free agents to retain, which they’ll cut before March 1, which they’ll cut before June 1, and who they’ll release after.
Speculating on who we’ll keep, who we’ll go after, and what we’ll do in the draft is kind of pointless until the other issues are resolved, so I’ll save that for later. But for now, I’ll just say this:

1. Football games are won in the trenches. The Packers first priority should be to improve our ability to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
2. We need to decide what kind of a defense we’re going to be. For my part, I’m a fan of a team that plays basic defense, stops the run, plays a lot of bend-but-don’t -break Cover 2, blitzes rarely, keeps the QB in the pocket so he doesn’t hurt us with scrambles, and makes enough plays on third down to get off the field. Everything else is gravy.
3. Offensively, we are just far to0 error prone to get to the Super Bowl. I’ve said that for quite a while now and I haven’t seen anything that would make me change my mind. The two guys who handle the ball the most, Favre and Green, are among the worst in the league at their position when it comes to protecting the ball. If we’d had a back who fumbled twice instead of seven times, and a QB who’d thrown 12 picks instead of 17, we’d have had 19 turnovers this year and been among the best teams in the league in that regard. We may have scored fewer points (although every turnover robs you of a chance to score) but we would have almost certainly given up fewer points if we’d had fewer turnovers.
4. Defensively, this unit gave up entirely too many big plays. The vast majority of points scored against the defense involved a drive which contained at least one big play. It is my opinion that we got poor play from our safeties this year and that upgrading our safety situation is a huge need on defense.
5. There is a prominent school of thought out there that the Packers are on the downhill slide and without Favre they will certainly plummet to a sub .500 team that misses the playoffs. I utterly reject this. I think there is a very good core of young players on this team and some obvious areas of strength. If Favre retires, and if we make some other roster moves, we could have a vast pool of free agent money as well as our draft picks and could fill a number of holes quickly. IF this team is not competitive next year it will be because our coaching staff has let us down……much the way they’ve let us down the past two seasons.

I am by nature an optimist, but running a football team is not an exact science and the NFL is a pretty competitive league. There’s not much of a margin between being 10-6 and 6-10 and although we found ourselves on the right side of things this time there are no guarantees. But I think that by concentrating efforts on the lines and the defense and special teams, rather than on the QB position, it improves the likelihood that we’ll be able to field a solid team every week. And really, that’s all we have a right to hope for.

This is PackerNation, and I’m out of here. See you in a week or two!!

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