Paul Imig’s Jan. 22 Packers mailbag
Well, the Packers offseason is upon us. And with that comes the last official Mailbag of the 2014 season. With the incredible number of questions that came in, I tried to address each major topic that was asked about.
Without further ado, here we go . . .
Q: Did Mike McCarthy blow it by being too conservative in this game? — Pat, River Falls
Q: Out coached again! Why does McCarthy always coach to not lose instead of coaching to win? — Mark, Hudson
Q: Did both McCarthy and Capers get way too conservative at the end of the game and cost GB the win with poor play calling? — DJ, Eau Claire
Q: In the 4th quarter there was aseries that the packers went 3 and done and lost yardage on to 2 running plays by eddie lacy I thought we should have been more aggressive and playing to win instead of playing not to lose? — Greg, Corbin KY
Q: will this be enough to start the conversation of a new head coach in green bay — mike, hudson wi
Q: Is it just me or does coach McCarthy play calling sucks? We needed 1 first down to get to the super bowl. Three straight predictable runs later and we punt. What about a pass play on 3rd to secure the game? I haven’t even mentioned the terrible play calling earlier in the game. He has to make better calls for his very talented team. He lost the game for the Pack. Damn shame! — Marlon, Milwaukee
Q: Is the coaching staff to blame for the conservative play in the last 5 minutes of the game on both sides of the ball? Do the Packers need to make some changes to the assistant coaches? I think the offense as high powered as it is has struggled at times and become predictable and conservative ever since Joe Philbin left. Did the coaches really put the players in the best position to win at the end of the game by becoming conservative? — Davis, Elk Lake
A: This was one of the hottest topics that came in the Mailbag this week. Aaron Rodgers initially touched on it in his postgame press conference, saying, "We had some chances early, had some chances late to do some things and didn’t do it. When you go back and think about it, at times we weren’t playing as aggressive as we usually are."
For those who’ve read the coverage on FOX Sports Wisconsin since the end of the game, you’ll know that the Packers had a 99 percent probability to win the game after Morgan Burnett’s interception. Everything had to go wrong for the Packers and everything had to go right for the Seahawks in order for the outcome to be what it is.
The play-calling on offense is just one part of it. The three runs to Eddie Lacy after the Burnett interception did accomplish something. It took a little more than one minute off the clock and it burned two of Seattle’s timeouts. However, that drive could have been enough to seal the victory for Green Bay. Perhaps without Aaron Rodgers’ calf injury there would’ve been a more aggressive approach.
There is obviously a higher level of risk involved had Rodgers thrown on one or more of those downs rather than handing the ball off to Lacy. What if Rodgers had thrown a pick-six? The questions then would’ve been along the lines of, ‘Why didn’t McCarthy just run it? The Packers could have iced the game by giving the ball to Lacy.’ The benefit of hindsight makes it a much easier decision to have put the ball in Rodgers’ hand. But, having noted all of that, injury or not, Rodgers is almost certain to become a two-time NFL Most Valuable Player, and you probably want to give him at least one shot at completing a 10-to-15-yard pass and sending Green Bay to the Super Bowl.
Q: Do you think McCarthy’s two goal line decisions to kick instead of run were too conservative? or were they the right call to take the 3 points against this defense? — Paul, Menomonie
Q: the coach from start of game played like they were afraid afraid like 2 4 &1 KICK FIELD GOALS AND POOR CALLS ALL SECOND HALF — David, Fremont, WI
Q: Why is everyone upset at McCarthy for not going for a TD’s at the goal line twice and taking field goals. They haven’t been good at getting in at the goal line the past few games, so why not take the 3 points? If they go for it and get stopped, then what? McCarthy can’t win on this one.
The red zone offense hasn’t been great this season, why? — Louie, Eleva
Q: Any didn’t coach at least try to go for it on 4th and a foot twice…it’s called weak and against a defense like the Seahawks you don’t get opportunities like they had TWICE WEAK WEAK WEAK AND SCARED…he should take most the credit for loss. When a team collapses like the packers did its on the coach for blowing two chances that would off put the game away — Erin, MD
A: These were of course the early-game situations that Rodgers referenced in his post-game comments.
Had it happened just once, I think most people would have understood McCarthy’s decision to kick the field goal. But because it happened twice in such a short amount of time, it sticks out more.
Playing the Seahawks can be a battle of field position. Because their offense doesn’t light up scoreboards and their defense is so strong, a lot of times it can be a matter of getting closer and closer to the end zone. From that perspective, the worst thing that can happen for the Packers by going for it on fourth-and-1 is getting stuffed. Then Seattle takes it over around the 1-yard line, creating an opportunity for a safety or a three-and-out series that would then get Green Bay the ball back around midfield.
I’m much quicker to defend the three consecutive running plays late in the game (because of the value of running the clock by keeping it on the ground, plus the added value of Seattle using precious timeouts) than the back-to-back decisions to kick field goals when at the 1-yard line.
The biggest problem for the Packers in settling for both of those field goals is that it sent positive vibes to the Seahawks defense. Those players left the field in those moments feeling like they’d won the battle. Again, neither of those fourth-and-1 decisions would have been a big deal had a series of improbable events not occurred at the end of the game to lead Seattle to victory. But, while getting early points on the road in that game was good for Green Bay, it probably sent the message to both sides that the Packers weren’t confident enough that they could get one yard when they really needed it.
Q: How does Slocum keep his job? Special teams have been hurting the team all year and today was no different. — Chad, Auburndale
Q: After this epic collapse I would like to think that Slocum and his season long terrible special teams can join Bostick on the unemployment line. What a joke for special teams AGAIN this season. When is McCarthy going to wake up and hold people accountable???? — Steve, Sun Prairie
Q: Will the special teams play on the fake field goal cost Shawn Slocum his job? — Duke, Elk Mound
Q: Is it time for Slocum to go ? — Mike, New Jersey
Q: Maybe now we will quit hearing about all of Bostic’s potential. Wish he would have been inactive again like most of the season. How come the Packers special teams coach still has a job? — Dale, Eau Claire
Q: Well the special teams let them down again, only this time it was for the super bowl! Why does the special teams coach still have a job?– Zack, Pepin, WI
A: We’ll have to wait and see what McCarthy decides this offseason with Shawn Slocum. If there was ever justification from a head coach who obviously prefers not to let his own guys go, the Packers’ special teams provided that justification this season to make a coordinator switch. The question is how much of the struggles McCarthy pins on Slocum.
There were the seven kicks blocked (three field goals, two extra points, two punts), which is a franchise record. But just when those issues got solved, two other problems showed up at the absolute worst times.
Green Bay’s special teams seemed completely unprepared for the possibility of the fake field goal that Seattle executed. Brad Jones did what he always did and committed himself fully to trying to block the kick, which the Seahawks recognized in their scouting work. That gave Jon Ryan the opportunity to roll left, at which point A.J. Hawk made the choice to stop Ryan from running it, opening the door for the touchdown pass to Garry Gilliam. Clearly the Packers didn’t handle it well at all.
Then there was the onside kick. This was the case of a player (Brandon Bostick) going against the coaching and training he’d received. Instead of blocking like he was told to do, thus allowing Jordy Nelson to go for the ball, Bostick tried to make a play. Everyone could see how frustrated Slocum was with Bostick after the play. But the failure on that play ultimately falls back on the coach, and that’s Slocum.
Q: Why did Morgan Burnett slide after his interception? It seemed like he had open field in front of him and had more yards to be gained. They could of at least gotten into field goal range. — Rylee, Cottage Grove
Q: I would like too know why Burnett #42 after he intercepted a pass with 5 min.left in the game,just laid down and not try to gain 15 or 20 yards with plenty of room to the right, maybe could have gotten in fieldgo range.The three extra points may have won it in regulation time. — Garry, FL
A: I explained this in my story earlier in the week, so I’d encourage those interested to go read that for all the details. In short, Burnett’s reason for sliding was because Julius Peppers gave him the ‘No mas’ signal, meaning ‘go down.’ Burnett listened to Peppers and went down.
Q: Why, with Sherman obviously suffering from an injured arm/hand and in a lot of pain with limited arm mobility, did McCarthy not test him in the 4th quarter. Timidity is "never" the hallmark of real champions and McCarthy and Capers both were timid, timid, timid in this heart breaking loss. — Scott, Florida
Q: Why didn’t they attack Sherman when he was clearly hurting? Surely someone in the Packers booth must have noticed this. — Jake, Ellsworth
A: Rodgers knew Sherman was hurting. But as Rodgers said after the game, "I think we could’ve (gone after Sherman), but we just didn’t execute very well." Like many things in the second half of the game, it’s something the Packers would’ve liked to have done differently by testing Sherman’s injury.
Q: Where do the Packers go from here? How do they recover from something like this? Another squandered opportunity, they were in control of this game and gave it all away at the end. — Rae, Hudson
Q: How does a team recover from such a devastating collapse like this? What is McCarthy’s next move to restore the teams confidence? — Brody, Eau Claire
Q: here any way to put this game into perspective? or is it a major failure by the Packers when the game was on the line? Can this team overcome something like this? or will this haunt them and become their destiny? Will this go down as the worst lose in Packers history? How about NFL history? — Joan, Stillwater
Q: How do the players regain their confidence after a devastating loss like this? How do they regain trust in their coaches after something this? — Marty, Ohio
A: It won’t be easy for many of the players to recover from it. Rodgers said after the game "that we’ll probably think about it for the rest of my career." Josh Sitton’s comments during locker-room cleanout (which will be addressed further in a question below) show the state of a team that’s had at least some players really shaken. Getting to the conference championship game and losing is one thing. Being four minutes away from the Super Bowl with a 12-point lead is a significantly tougher situation to get over.
The 2015 season will be a critical one for McCarthy. It’s not that holdover players from 2014 will come to work every day thinking about last year and dwelling on the missed opportunity, but it’s not a memory that will just disappear either. The coaching challenge for McCarthy will be finding a way to use the team’s heartbreak as fuel to the fire. It’s not an easy sell, that’s for sure, because talking to many of the players Monday morning it seemed like all of them had started to picture what it’d be like playing in Super Bowl 49. So stay tuned for the actual answer to this, but it could take the entirety of the 2015 season to find out.
Q: how can you say you "gave it away", when the seahawks kicked ass and took it from you???? — Merrilee, CA Seahawks fan
Q: Do you find it odd that packer players are saying, "the better team didn’t win" how do they figure that? If they were the better team, they would have been able to keep it together for another 4:00 min, correct? — William, Spokane WA
A: When a team loses a game in which it had a 99 percent probability of winning, there’s always going to be a lot of "giving it away" going on. Of course the Seahawks played flawlessly near the end of the game. Seattle "took" every inch that Green Bay "gave." But there were far too many late-game scenarios that the Packers failed on, when even executing one of them would have likely changed the outcome. I think Seahawks fans should recognize that it’s far from inaccurate to say Green Bay "gave it away," even though Seattle did plenty at that point of the game to capitalize on it.
Whether "the better team won" or not is a different story. The Packers were by far the better team for 56 minutes. The Seahawks were by far the better team for seven minutes. It’s just that those final seven minutes weighed heavier into the outcome than the first 56 minutes.
Q: Why is Sitton talking gloom and doom for next year? — Bernie, Grafton
Q: I think sitton sounded like a true loser talking the way he did saying it was better off to not make it to the play0ffs at all instead of losing that game to seattle. is that the kind of attitude from players the packers want for the 2015 season ? what happens if the bears and lions do better next year ?
do we quit the NFL ??? get over yourself. grow up. you’re not the only player that’s hurting. — Heather, California
A: I don’t think the reality of the Packers future is as grim as the picture Sitton painted of it.
Here’s the key piece of what Sitton said: "There’s going to be a lot of people who aren’t going to be on the team — a lot of people we can’t pay. This team, I don’t think we can be this good for a while. It’s going to be tough, anyway."
With around $30 million available to spend this offseason, the Packers should be able to afford to keep the free agents they want to hold on to. Randall Cobb might command $10 million per season, Bryan Bulaga might be worth somewhere in the $5 million-$8 million per-year range, and then it comes down to likely having to choose between either Tramon Williams or Davon House, Letroy Guion or B.J. Raji, and Matt Flynn or Scott Tolzien. Let’s just hypothetically pick Williams, Guion and Flynn, which the combined per-year cost of the three of them might be about $8 million. Green Bay could add more cap room if it cuts players under contract for 2015, or renegotiates their deals. Julius Peppers accounting for $9 million will be an interesting call for Ted Thompson. Saving around $6 million by parting ways with Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk would help the financial bottom line, as well.
The Packers had terrific team chemistry this season, but that could be true again next season, too. But in terms of the talent on the roster, there shouldn’t be a big step back at all if players like Cobb and Bulaga agree to terms on staying in Green Bay.
Q: Why don’t the Packers get rid of McCarthy to free up money to keep Cobb and Bulaga? Coach is way too conservative. — Michael, Roscoe IL
A: A coach’s salary doesn’t count against the salary cap. Whatever McCarthy makes, it wouldn’t have any bearing on the team being able to re-sign Cobb and Bulaga.
Q: Do you think this was probably Rodgers last chance to go to the Super Bowl? He’s getting older and is getting more injuries and probably wont have Cobb next year. Its very hard to get that close and not finish the deal. The plays called in the second half were way to conservative and the coaching staff cost them the game! — Gary, Stillwater, MN
Q: If I was Rodgers I would ask to be traded to get away from the conservative coaching. Do you think he is disappointed in the ultra-conservative play calling the last 9 minutes of the game? All they needed was a first down or two and the game was over.- – Jimmy, Superior
A: I don’t think either of these situations is accurate. It wasn’t Rodgers last chance to go to the Super Bowl, and he’s not going to ask to be traded.
Getting to the Super Bowl isn’t easy, as the Packers have found out the past four years despite having very good teams, especially in 2011 and 2014. But Rodgers still has a few years left in his prime, and players like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have showed recently that getting to the Super Bowl in a quarterback’s late-30s is very doable.
To Jimmy’s second point, it did seem that Rodgers was disappointed with the conservative coaching. But there’s frustration and then there’s "I want out" frustration. Rodgers isn’t going anywhere, even if he does forever wonder what would’ve happened had Green Bay been more aggressive.
Q: Will this epic loss be a bigger mark against McCarthy or Rodgers’ legacy? or Both? — Steve, Duluth
A: Both. Thanks for letting me off the hook with that option. OK, fine, I’ll pick one. I think long-term it will be Rodgers who will be remembered more for it, because for better or worse (mostly worse), quarterbacks are judged in the history books by their number of Super Bowl appearances and rings. Ten years into his career (seven as a starter), Rodgers is still sitting with one ring without a successful follow-up to it.
Q: What changes will the Packers need to make in the off season to get better? What draft needs, Inside LB, TE what else? — Eddie, Chippewa Falls
A: Obviously the Packers were a very good team, it was just a team that made one too many critical mistakes at the wrong time. Without any changes, it’s fair to assume they’d be right back to being in a similar position in 2015 to what they were this season.
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t holes to fill. Inside linebacker is an obvious one. Clay Matthews will likely move back to his outside linebacker position on a more full-time basis. It benefits Green Bay’s defense knowing that Matthews has that versatility, but being a hybrid inside/outside linebacker the rest of his career seems unlikely. Given that, it’s possible that Sam Barrington is the only remaining inside linebacker next season from the 2014 roster. Hawk, Jones and Jamari Lattimore could all be gone. It’s probably time for the Packers to start over at that position anyway. If all things were equal in terms of talent and position on Thompson’s big board, inside linebacker seems like the obvious choice for the first-round draft pick.
I also agree with Eddie about tight end. Richard Rodgers should be a positive contributor to the offense for many years, but he’s not the receiving threat that opposing defenses have to game plan for. Finding "the new Jermichael Finley" should be a top priority.
Offensive tackle only becomes a need if Bulaga doesn’t re-sign, while wide receiver clearly becomes a need if Cobb doesn’t re-sign. But even under the assumption Cobb returns, drafting a wide receiver in the early-to-middle rounds seems like the right move unless the team is supremely confident in Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis. Still, even if one of those two becomes a good No. 4 receiver, the Packers don’t have the depth to be able to withstand a long-term injury to either Nelson or Cobb. Rodgers could use more weapons to throw to.
** And that will do it, folks. Thanks for the questions all season and for reading the answers every week. Our coverage will continue all offseason and we’ll make sure to do a Mailbag leading up to the draft. I would say "enjoy the Super Bowl," but I’m wondering for how many of you that will be possible under the circumstances. **
Follow Paul Imig on Twitter