Sluggish, stale and lacking an identity, the Green Bay Packers need a complete reboot.
Mike McCarthy has received criticism ever since the Packers’ NFC Championship debacle in Seattle two years ago, but I’ve always given him the benefit of the doubt. Many blamed his conservative play-calling for failing to reach the Super Bowl, but this freak collapse wasn’t on the coach.
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It was a gut-wrenching end to an otherwise excellent season, one that saw Aaron Rodgers claim his second league-MVP, but the opportunity to win another ring slipped between their fingers, and the Packers haven’t been the same since.
Despite making a 6-0 start to the 2015 season, the record masked over the evident cracks rising to the surface. Defenses were slowing down a once-dominant offense, and the Packers were less-than-convincing in victories over St. Louis and San Diego before their bye.
Since then, Green Bay has gone 9-12 in 21 games. Jordy Nelson‘s season-ending injury seemed the obvious reason, but this season has proved the root of the problem lies much deeper.
How could an offense led by Aaron Rodgers fall to pieces after an injury to just one receiver? Nelson was his favorite target, the one he trusted most, but his absence alone surely couldn’t derail all Super Bowl aspirations. There had to be a solution. McCarthy couldn’t find one.
A full offseason later offered a chance to prove 2015 was simply an anomaly, a blip in an era of dominant offense. Yet here we are, nine games in and the Packers are in free fall. The problems are every bit as worrisome as they were 12 months ago, just this time there is no 6-0 start to pad out the standings.
Whether McCarthy’s message has become stale, his schemes aren’t being executed or there is disharmony in the locker room, a reboot is in order. Unless you are inside the team meetings and able to experience the day-to-day operations, it’s impossible to pinpoint the exact root of the problem.
But what’s clear is that change is required. Aaron Rodgers needs fresh ideas, a new offensive mind to iron out his flaws and put together a creative new offense to maximize his ability.
More talent is needed on the field, also. Jordy Nelson isn’t getting any younger, and while Davante Adams has shown significant improvements, the Packers would benefit from another receiver joining the group. Add in a pass-catching tight end capable of stretching the seam and, dependant on Eddie Lacy‘s future, an upgrade at running back, and the offense can regain its status as one of the league’s elite.
The transformation in Atlanta can be drawn on as inspiration. The Falcons offense in 2015 was reminiscent to the Packers’ this year in many ways, but an offseason of work on this side of the ball is paying dividends. Matt Ryan was given more talent at wide receiver, tight end and to the offensive line, and Kyle Shanahan’s second year as offensive coordinator has added freshness to a once stagnant offense.
McCarthy will go down as one of the greatest coaches in franchise history. He brought home a championship and almost a decade of success to Green Bay. But to shake out of this malaise, the Packers need a complete reboot.
Ted Thompson as much to blame as McCarthy
While McCarthy is responsible for the team’s play on the field, he has often been shortchanged by his general manager. Ted Thompson always has two eyes on the future, often at the expense of the present.
When asked about the trade deadline, McCarthy’s light-hearted response came with a smile: “I thought it was next week,” he joked. “No?”
Of course the Packers weren’t proactive in the trade market, it’s not Thompson’s style. But why not? Injuries have wreaked havoc on this roster, and striking a deal could have made a difference.
This team isn’t rebuilding, it’s attempting to win a championship now.
With cornerback Sam Shields on injured reserve and Damarious Randall yet to return after groin surgery, the Packers secondary has been lit up consistently. The Cleveland Browns were reportedly shopping Pro Bowler Joe Haden. Think he could have made a difference to a secondary that just surrendered 284 yards and five touchdown passes to Tennessee?
What’s frustrating isn’t the fact Ted Thompson won’t strike a blockbuster deal ahead of the trade deadline, it’s that he’s not even willing to look.
The losing habit
Losing has become commonplace in Green Bay over the past year. Before 2015, an Aaron Rodgers-led Packers had only dropped three-straight once, and that was in 2008, his first year as a starter.
It’s now happened twice in as many years. This is easily the most alarming. In 2008, the Packers were an ascending team with a young star at quarterback. Last season, it was simply considered a blip in the radar as the offense adjusted without its star receiver.
Green Bay has lost more often than its won in the past year (winning just 43 percent of games since Week 8 of the 2015 season) and appears to be on a downward spiral.
Coach McCarthy needs an instant turnaround. Win out and the Packers will finish 11-5. Even at their 2014-best, that is a tall order. Winning four of their final seven could be considered an achievement, but that would put them at just 8-8 on the year.
After a year of mediocrity, the Packers are in need of a reboot.