Friday, September 27, 2013

On Aaron Rodgers and 4th Quarter Comebacks

After a 34-30 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Aaron Rodgers has come under huge criticism again for failing to lead the Packers to a game winning touchdown drive with the game on the line.

Football Outsiders' Scott Kacsmar wrote a ridiculous piece on why Rodgers cannot be considered a top quarterback because of his failures in close games. It is embarrassing that a Football Outsiders writer would cling to a narrative like that, since that website is supposed to go beyond those cliche narratives.

"Clutch" is probably the most overused narrative in all of sports. A football game is 60 minutes long and plays in the first quarter can have just as big an impact as plays on the final drive. It is just lazy analysis to look at a final drive and say that is why a team won or lost.

The Packers' loss to Cincinnati on Sunday is a perfect example. The Packers did not lose that game on the final drive. The game was lost in the first half due to not taking advantage of turnovers and by Rodgers' two killer interceptions before the final drive.

The Packers' starting field position on their first six drives of the game was the 50 yard line and they got a grand total of nine points out of that. Combine that with Jeremy Ross' fumbled kickoff and that is essentially where the game was lost.

However, the Packers still managed to take a 30-14 lead in spite of all of that, but Rodgers' interceptions let them back in the game. The first was James Jones' fault, as he did not work through the defender on a slant pattern leading to an easy pick. The second one occurred with the Packers driving up 30-21 and looking to put the game away. Rodgers threw one of the worst passes I've ever seen him throw to Randall Cobb with Leon Hall draped all over him on a wheel route.

With the loss, Rodgers fell to 5-24 when trailing in the fourth quarter with a chance to take the lead. In games decided by four points or fewer, Mike McCarthy has a 9-20 record over the course of his Green Bay head coaching tenure, and Rodgers is 5-16 in those games as the starting quarterback. Of course that is an arbitrary number, as McCarthy's record is 27-27 in games decided by seven points or fewer, and Rodgers' is 18-21.

Rodgers played one of the worst games I have ever seen him play against Cincy and deserves criticism for that. However, win-loss record is a team statistic and not a quarterback statistic. Why doesn't Kacsmar write an article about Josh Sitton's record in comeback situations?

It is ridiculous to just blame the quarterback when not watching the film and the other circumstances of the whole game. So, since David Bahktiari did not execute his cut block against Michael Johnson, Rodgers is not clutch? How absurd is that?

Jason Lisk of The Big Lead, did some great research on Rodgers record in comeback situations. It is much less biased and tells the story how it should be told. Rodgers and the Packers have only won nine of the 16 games (56%) when Rodgers has led them to a go-ahead score in the fourth quarter. In comparison, Matt Ryan (88%), Tom Brady (93%), Eli Manning (80%), Jay Cutler (90%), Drew Brees (80%), Peyton Manning (96%), Tony Romo (83%), Joe Flacco (75%), Ben Roethlisberger (77%) and Phillip Rivers (85%) all have at least an 75 percent winning percentage in that situation.

If the Packers had maintained Rodgers' leads at a normal rate he would be right up there with all of those quarterbacks. A combination of defense, coaching and Rodgers not doing enough to maintain those leads have all been factors in this. It's not just Rodgers. Mason Crosby has missed four game winning kicks that would have been a comeback win for Rodgers and the defense has let up 20 game-winning drives since 2008, which is the third most in the NFL.

According to Lisk, Rodgers' numbers since 2008 when trailing by eight points or less in the final five minutes of the game are 63-104, 60% completion percentage, 868 yards, 8.3 YPA, 7 TD's to 5 INT's and an 89.7 passer rating. Of the quarterbacks I previously mentioned, Rodgers is third in completion percentage, third in TD to INT ratio and second in passer rating. His stats stack up very well with the other top quarterbacks in the NFL when trying to make a comeback in the final five minutes. His subsequent poor record in these situations is stunning when comparing his stats with the other quarterbacks.

What does this mean? Rodgers has been incredibly unlucky in those spots. The Packers' recent failures in close games has a lot more to do than Rodgers. If his leads were held at the same rate as all the other quarterbacks he would not have an "unclutch" reputation.

Anybody remember when the Packers were up 28-25 in Super Bowl XLV  and facing a 3rd-and-11 on their own 25 with under six minutes to play? The Steelers had all the momentum, and without Charles Woodson and Sam Shields they were likely to win the game if the Packers didn't convert.

Rodgers proceeded to throw an absolute dart just over Ike Taylor's fingers to Greg Jennings for the conversion. That was one of the greatest throws I have ever seen with the Super Bowl on the line. He isn't "clutch" or something though. Also, never mind the fact that he played an amazing game on that stage and was the clear Super Bowl XLV MVP. Who cares though.

All I know is that Rodgers can be the quarterback of my team in any situation and I would feel comfortable. Yes, that includes on any game winning drive.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Packers @ Bengals Preview

By: Matt Bove

The Packers and Bengals are two extremely talented teams and this is a fantastic matchup. If you take away the quarterback position the Bengals might be the most talented team in the NFL.

Andy Dalton is the clear weak link for Cincinnati. He has A.J. Green, who might be the best wide receiver in the NFL( yes including Calvin Johnson). He has two athletic tight ends in Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham and two solid offensive tackles protecting him in Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith. Now, Dalton even has a talented running back in Giovanni Bernard, who was the first running back taken in this year's NFL Draft.

Yet, Dalton could not blow out the Steelers, who were begging to be run out of the building with their egregious offense. He was missing easy throws, and he does not have the arm strength to be able to afford to be inaccurate. The Bengals should be 2-0, as they absolutely blew their Week 1 game at Chicago in which that they had a 21-10 lead in.

Here are 3 key things to watch for in Sunday's game:

1. How will the Packers cover the middle of the field? 
 This is always a question with the Packers but even more so this week due to Eifert, Gresham and Bernard. Eifert was clearly the best tight end in this year's NFL Draft and he is a nightmare matchup. Eifert is huge at 6 feet 6 inches, ran a 4.67 at the NFL Combine and has outstanding hands. Eifert will not only be lined up at tight end, but is also very effective on the outside with his size. With Morgan Burnett on the sidelines again M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian will have their hands full.

Bernard is another issue with his incredible quickness catching balls out of the backfield. Bernard caught a 27 yard touchdown after the Bengals ran four verticals with their receivers and ran Bernard out of the backfield. Brad Jones will most be in charge of keeping him in check most of the time.

2. Packers offensive line vs. Bengals defensive line

The Bengals have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL and it is a really bad matchup for Green Bay's offensive line. Carlos Dunlap (6-6, 280) and Michael Johnson ( 6-7, 270) are two very long and tall players for the undersized Don Barclay (6-4, 305) and David Bakhtiari (6-4, 300) to handle. Geno Atkins is the bets defensive tackle in the NFL and will be a load to handle inside and should require a good amount of double teaming. With Eddie Lacy and John Kuhn most likely out it will hurt the pass protection. Lacy and Kuhn are much better pass protectors than James Starks and Johnathan Franklin. Running the ball will also be much tougher in this game than it was against Washington.

3. Will Aaron Rodgers stay hot? 

Aaron Rodgers ( 813 yards, 8 touchdowns, 1 interception, 127.2 passer rating) has had a fantastic start to the 2013 season. Rodgers has been throwing more shorter passes this season and letting his fantastic wide receivers and tight end do a lot of the work for him. The Packers lead in the NFL in YAC with 423 and they have not had a single dropped pass in the first two games. Outside of Leon Hall, the weakness of the Bengals defense is in the secondary and they do not have the athletes to contain all of the Packers' weapons. It does not help them that they're banged up with Brandon Ghee out, Dre' Kirkpatrick doubtful and Adam Jones questionable.

I have been going back and forth about this game in my mind a million times. I really worry about how the Packers will protect Rodgers, run the ball and cover all of Cincinnati's weapons. However, Rodgers vs. Dalton is a huge mismatch and Cincinnati is banged up in the secondary. Also, the Bengals are coming off an emotional Monday Night Football win against arch rival Pittsburgh. For the gamblers out there, Cincinnati is 3-11 vs. the spread in their last 14 games following a Pittsburgh game. They have lost against the spread by an average of over a touchdown.

Prediction: Packers 28, Bengals 24

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Contract Year Players Performing Well

By: Matt Bove

The Green Bay Packers have a ton of important players that are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents next offseason.

Among those players are B.J. Raji, Sam Shields, Jermichael Finley, James Jones, Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly and Evan Dietrich-Smith. All of those players have performed very well over the first two games of the season and it will be tough to keep all of them.

Raji, Pickett and Jolly for the defensive line for the base defense that has been very physical and stout against the run. Alfred Morris did gain 108 yards on Sunday, but most of that was in the second half with the game out of reach. The Packers held Frank Gore to 44 yards on 21 carries against a very physical offensive line.

Raji will command by far the most money out of the three and is said to be seeking a deal worth around $9 million or $10 million. It has been rumored that Raji is Ted Thompson's first priority and that there have been negotiations taken place.

With everything being equal Raji is the best player out of the remaining free agents, but at that high price I would be a little weary. That high of contract is for the likes of guys like Geno Atkins and Haloti Ngata and Raji just has not performed at their level consistently. Also, his work ethic has been rumored to be sketchy, and that could rear its ugly head with a big money deal. Thompson loves big body athletes and the nose tackle is a critical position in the 3-4 defense, so he might feel differently.

Pickett and Jolly are likely to welcome the opportunity to come back for little money. At age 34, Pickett is about winning and his big family, so I doubt that he would want to go anywhere else. Even at his advanced age he is still fantastic against the run taking up double teams. Considering the faith that the Packers have shown in Jolly you would figure he would reciprocate that in his contract if the Packers want to re-sign him.

Shields is pretty much essential to re-sign in my eyes. Cornerbacks are so valuable and especially corners that can cover in man because they are becoming a rare bread nowadays. Shields still gets a little lackadaisical in zone, but his man coverage has been excellent and his tackling and physicality is much improved. He may be the Packers' best corner right now.

Finely and Jones had both performed well through two games. Even though Jones was shutout against San Francisco his stats against Washington would be considered good for two games. Jones had 11 catches for 178 yards. He has developed into a very reliable receiver who may not be very fast, but he still breaks a ton of tackles after the catch and now has very good hands.

Finley seems like he has turned a corner, as he has 11 catches for 121 yards and two touchdown in the first two games. He has been a monster to try to bring down after the catch, as Aaron Rodgers has found him open in the flats and has let him run over people. 59 of Finley's 65 yards came after the catch vs. Washington.

Finley is still huge for drawing coverage and now seems to be finding the athleticism that it looked like he lost after knee surgery. Losing him in free agency would be a much bigger loss than people realize. Right now there is no proven tight end on the roster that can step up and do the things that Finley does.

The NFL's $123 million salary cap is not expected to go up much in the near future, which hurts the Packers. They will also have Rodgers and Clay Matthews taking up a combined $29 million of the cap next year.

Obviously, all of these decisions are for this offseason, but the Packers are likely to give somebody an in season extension since they are $10.89 million below the salary cap. It is also significant that all of these players are playing well this year and it should help that team this year that so many important players are playing for contracts. I am sure we will be revisiting this subject in the near future.

Monday, September 9, 2013

49ers 34, Packers 28: Random Thoughts and Musings

By: Matt Bove

It was another tough loss to the 49ers for the Packers yesterday in Candlestick Park. This was the best that the Packers have played San Francisco over the last two years, but it was still not enough. Here are my thoughts on the game:

- There were a lot of good things you can take from this game. The sky is certainly not falling and this effort would have been good enough to beat the vast majority of NFL teams. However, it is certainly a frustrating game that was winnable and makes next week a much bigger game.

- Mike McCarthy called a great game on offense. He protected Bakhtiari and Barclay very wll with his play calling that featured a lot of roll outs and quick passes for Rodgers. The plays for Finley in the flats were there all day and they took advantage. There were a lot less of the deep vertical routes yesterday that gets Rodgers sacked. Also, there were very little formations, if any, with four wide receivers on the field.

- The offensive pass blocking did not kill the offense, but was helped out by McCarthy. There were not a lot of sacks, but Rodgers did a lot of great things with pressure in his face. It does not get much easier next week with Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan coming to town.

- Speaking of Rodgers, how great is he? He sliced and diced the best defense in the NFL with no running game and a lot of pressure in his face. He made it look really easy too. Just imagine what he could do with some great protection. Hopefully we are not wasting his best years with these horrid defensive performances, but more on that later.

- Despite the slow start, which wasn't his fault, I was impressed with Eddie Lacy. When defenders weren't in his grill when he got the ball, he did a good of finding seams and is a load once he gets going. He is a perfect one cut runner for this system. McCarthy should try to get him the ball more in space more in the passing game as well because he is excellent out there.

- It was an outstanding game for the skill position players, outside of the invisible James Jones. Greg Jennings will certainly not be missed if everybody stays healthy. Jordy Nelson was outstanding and showed that his knee is 100%. Some of the catches that he made were just amazing. Randall Cobb also showed that he was 100% and showed how tough he is by standing in there against some big shots from the 49ers over the middle. Jermichael Finley also played a great game after dropping a ball that led to an interception. Finley did not pout and Rodgers showed confidence in him by going back to him. It was great to see.

- 28 points against the best defense is really a good day for the offense. The fumble by Lacy was what really killed them, but you have to give the defense credit on the strip. Lacy was not holding the ball loosely and Justin Smith did a great job of holding Lacy up while the ball got stripped.

Now onto what everybody is talking about........ the defense.

- A couple of issues that I complained about in the offseason came to fruition yesterday.

- I was one of many who advocated firing Dom Capers after last season after another complete and utter defensive embarrassment in the postseason. He did nothing to change my mind yesterday.

- I actually think Capers' initial game plan was sound. They completely stifled the read option, their whole running game and kept Kaepernick in the pocket. Great. However, by paying so much attention to Kaepernick- and by playing so much zone- the middle of the defense was open all day long. This became evident early and often but no adjustments were made. None. This has been a weakness forever with Capers and it happened again.

- Anquan Boldin is a tough and very good receiver, but there is no way he should dominate a defense like that. Boldin has very little speed and even last year in the playoffs most of his catches came with a defender near him. Yesterday, that was not the case, as he was running wide open a lot of times. As a savvy and smart veteran, Boldin found holes in Capers' zones all day long. Boldin is not a threat to run by you deep, so they should have played man more and even put some bracket coverage on him, even if it meant less eyes on the quarterback. Kaepernick seemed gun shy to taking big hits all day, so he might have been less inclined to run once he got in a passing rhythm. This is a simple adjustment that was never made. There were issues with the players in the middle of the defense(more on that next), but Capers does not get the benefit of the doubt anymore.

- However, this was not all on Capers, as the personnel at inside linebacker and safety just was not good enough this game. Morgan Burnett was a devastating loss and he could have had a huge impact on this game. Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings were flat out dreadful. McMillian missed key tackles, was out of position several times and was trailing in coverage a bunch. Jennings was in position to make some plays a few times, but was late reacting. Any time Jennings was matched up with Vernon Davis it was a huge mismatch, as he just does not have near the athleticism it takes to cover him.

- A huge part of the difference between the Packers and 49ers is the huge talent disparity at ILB. I said last offseason that an upgrade needed to be made at the position and instead the same two starters returned. The middle of the field has been wide open for years against the Packers and nothing changed yesterday. Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk just are not huge impact players.

- The Packers' last two first round picks Nick Perry and Datone Jones were largely invisible. Now, I understand that the job of the defense was not to full out rush Kaepernick, so I will give them a pass this game for not getting a great pass rush. Perry did do a very good job in containment on his side of the field. However, the bottom line is that with the Packers draft and develop system they cannot miss on these guys and they need to make a big impact. Obviously, it is only one game and I still believe that they will be good players, but they have to show it.

- However, I did see quite a few good signs on defense. I thought Tramon Williams and Sam Shields played very well on the outside at corner. The Packers do really need Casey Heyward back in the slot though.

- The defensive line was excellent against the physical San Francisco offensive line. Johnny Jolly and Ryan Pickett were huge against the run. With those two and B.J. Raji, it will be very hard to run on the Packers all season.
- Clay Matthews is an absolute animal, but you already knew that. He is a coaches dream with his talent combined with his energy and effort (the dumb penalty aside).

- The defense did not play soft. They brought it and were very physical.

- I still think this has the makings of what could be a very good defense with Hayward and Burnett back in the mix. They should be great against the run, have strong corners, an elite pass rusher, and some good supplementary pass rushers. However, I still have concerns about the coaching, which is so huge in the NFL.

There were some good things that you can take away from this game. The Packers played toe to toe with perhaps the best team in the NFL on the road. They took many punches and refused to quit, but there are no moral victories. Now, it's time to forget about it and move onto Washington. There is still a lot of hope for the rest of the season with this team.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

2013 Packers Season Preview

It's one day until the NFL seasons starts for real.  There is so much that will happen, and I am excited to see what the Packers will bring to the table each and every week.  They did finally get their 53 man roster set, and here's to hoping that the Packers go 19-0 with and get our 5th Super Bowl title, and 14th NFL Championship. 

Week 1-at San Francisco

This is the game that I have been waiting for all offseason.  I think our defense is a lot better, but obviously we have lost some talent on offense, and our offensive line is rough.  If I have to pick based off the information that we have seen already this year, then I think that Rodgers will get sacked about 4-5 times.  Kaepernick and Gore will both have a rushing touchdown against us.  My final score prediction is 49ers 34, Packers 20. 

Week 2--Washington

This is another game that will challenge us, but I think that the Redskins benefitted last year from having the worst record in the NFC East in 2011, and now they have to play each of the division winners from last year.  They are coming to Green Bay, and I don't think that we will lose back to back home openers, plus the Redskins defense is not up to par with their offense.  Lacy runs for 2 touchdowns, Finley catches another 2 touchdowns.  Final score: Packers 41, Redskins 17.

Week 3-at Cincinnati

Again I see another opportunity for a rough outing against our 3rd playoff team from last year in a row to start the season.  The Bengals haven't done much against the top teams though, and I don't expect that to change this early in the season.  The Packers are going to steal this one on the road.  Cobb is going to have a great game with 10 catches for 120 yards, 1 TD, while James Jones snags another 2 TD in the red zone.  Jonathan Franklin takes a screen pass in for a touchdown also.  Final score: Packers 37, Bengals 24.

Week 5-Detroit

I've already written about how the Packers always beat the Lions in Wisconsin, plus this is after our super early week 4 bye.  This game will probably be closer than I would like.  But the Lions are still hurting in the secondary and at the linebackers positions.  Lacy goes for over 100 yards, so we finally have a 100 yard rusher for the first time in a long time.  Finley gets hot and has over 100 yards with a touchdown also.  Final Score: Packers 34, Lions 27.

Week 6-at Baltimore

The Ravens and Packers finally meet up and it's one of the best matchups of the season.  Flacco throws a pick six to Casey Hayward, but the Ravens defense has come together well enough to get the win against us.  Flacco hits Smith on a long ball to beat us in the final minute.  Final Score: Ravens 34, Packers 31.

Week 7-Cleveland

The Browns come to visit Lambeau Field.  This is one game that I just have a hard time putting it particularly close, because I just think that as many problems as the Packers have, the Browns just have so many more.  I think that Nick Perry will record at least 2 sacks this game.  Our backups play most of the 4th quarter, because I think it will be a lot like our game against the Titans last year.  Final Score: Packers 52, Browns 13.

Week 8-at Minnesota

I think that we avenge our week 17 loss to them last year, Ponder is going to be struggling at the midpoint of the season.  Greg Jennings get 0 receptions.  Peterson gets 100 yards, but so does Lacy again as he has a touchdown run of over 50 yards.  It is close though.  Final Score: Packers 28, Vikings 17. 

Week 9-Chicago

It is difficult to know exactly what the Chicago Bears are bringing to the table this year.  They are a team that has switched quite a bit losing their captain of the defense in Brian Urlacher, which is interesting to hear about their dive technique, and Lovie Smith is no longer the head coach.  Trestman could either be great, or I think it's going to be a bust.  Similar to what I think of Chip Kelly.  But since this is a home game, and I think the Packers are a better team, then I will put us winning by the final score: Packers 27, Bears 10. 

Week 10-Philadelphia

So, speaking of Chip Kelly.  This game is either going to go really well for us, or I think it could go rather poorly, just because of how the team is doing at the mid point of the season, they could be doing great or if they are suffering, then they will likely fall apart.  The Packers have home field advantage for this game also, so we will take home this game also.  But I do think that it will be a high scoring game.  Packers 55, Eagles 31. 

Week 11-at New York

Another game in the regular season at the Meadowlands.  I swear that we play there every year.  The teams in the NFC are so close together, that it is just tough to pick someone to come clean through most of the season.  So this is a spot where I would be predicting a loss for us unfortunately.  Final Score: Giants 31, Packers 20. 

Week 12-Minnesota

Round 2 of our matchup with the Vikings.  I think the Vikings had a great year from Adrian Peterson that is not repeatable, and so I have us sweeping them in the season series this year.  Final Score: Packers 38, Vikings 17.

Week 13-at Detroit

Hopefully the Packers and Lions Thanksgiving game is entertaining for us Packers fans.  It is a game where Sitton and Lang have to step it up a notch to stop Suh and Fairley.  I just am hoping that Suh doesn't do something stupid in this game, and that's probably because I'm a Nebraska fan for college football.  Anyway, back to the Packers, we will continue to beat the Lions because that's just something that we do.  Final Score: Packers 38, Lions 20.

Week 14-Atlanta

This could be a very incredible week for the Packers.  This is the top team that I have us beating during the season.  I am thinking that this will be a shootout though, and I hope that the Packers would be able to get another pick 6 on Matt Ryan, just because that would bring back some great memories.  Final Score: Packers 44, Falcons 38.

Week 15-At Dallas

So Dallas, the place where it seems like we went without a win for so very long.  But since this game is in December, I'm assuming that Tony Romo will find a way to choke the game away.  Right now the Packers are trying to stay in the running for home field advantage with the Falcons, 49ers, and Seahawks all in the running for it.  Final Score is Packers 34, Cowboys 31. 

Week 16-Pittsburgh

Again, another tough time to beat another difficult team out of the AFC North.  Pittsburgh never gives you an easy win, as they are a tough, physical team.  But I also just want to be clear that Pittsburgh, because of the money they spent during the unlimited cap season, has limited themselves in the past few seasons because of the harder cap that we have had since the lockout, just not able to keep the talent they had the past few years.  Final Score: Packers 41, Steelers 23.

Week 17-At Chicago

I see another 6-0 finish in the NFC North for the Packers, because Rodgers is still the class of the division, and our defense looks ready to take it up a notch.  Cutler is going to get picked off a few times, just a nice finish to the season.  Final Score: Packers 31, Bears 17.

Here is how I see the final regular season standings going. 

NFC North
Green Bay Packers 13-3
Chicago Bears 8-8
Detroit Lions 8-8
Minnesota Vikings 7-9

NFC East
New York Giants 12-4
Washington Redskins 10-6
Dallas Cowboys 8-8
Philadelphia Eagles 4-12

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons 11-5
New Orleans Saints 10-6
Tampa Bay Bucs 7-9
Carolina Panthers 4-12

NFC West
San Francisco 49ers 12-4
Seattle Seahawks 11-5
St Louis Rams 10-6
Arizona Cardinals 7-9

AFC East
New England Patriots 10-6
Miami Dolphins 10-6
Buffalo Bills 4-12
New York Jets 2-14

AFC North
Cincinnati Bengals 11-5
Baltimore Ravens 10-6
Pittsburgh Steelers 8-8
Cleveland Browns 6-10

AFC South
Houston Texans 12-4
Indianapolis Colts 9-7
Tennessee Titans 3-13
Jacksonville Jaguars 2-14

AFC West
Denver Broncos 12-4
Kansas City Chiefs 10-6
San Diego Chargers 4-10
Oakland Raiders 2-14

That leaves us with these playoff matchups

Wild Card Round
Dolphins over Bengals
Patriots over Ravens
Falcons over Rams
Seahawks over Giants

Divisional Round
Packers over Seahawks
49ers over Falcons
Patriots over Broncos
Texans over Dolphins

Championship Round
49ers over Packers
Texans over Patriots

Super Bowl
49ers over Texans

Obviously, this isn't how I hope that the season will turn out.  But if the Packers found a way to get to the NFC championship, then I will be pretty happy about that.  I just want to go ahead and get another ring this year.  Hope all you Packer Addicts enjoy.  Go Pack Go!!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Bigger Issues Than Backup Quarterback

By: Matt Bove

B.J. Coleman lasted a little more than 24 hours as the backup quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.

The Green Bay Press Gazette's Wes Hodkiewicz first tweeted out this morning that the Packers had released Coleman. Shortly afterwards, ESPN's Ed Werder reported that the Packers had signed Seneca Wallace to replace Coleman.

Wallace, 33, was cut by the San Francisco 49ers after Colt McCoy beat him out for their backup quarterback job. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh claimed that Wallace told him that he was retiring, although Werder reported that Wallace denied that claim.

Wallace has a 6-15 career record as a starting quarterback over his seven year career. He has 31 career touchdown passes, 18 interceptions, a 59.2% completion percentage and a 81.3 passer rating.

Obviously, Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy have handled the backup quarterback situation poorly going back to last season. Graham Harrell should have been cut at the end of last training camp when it was perfectly evident that he was not an NFL caliber quarterback.

However, McCarthy and Thompson banked on Harrell developing and improving. That was a huge miscalculation on their part, as Harrell just never had the arm strength and athleticism that it takes to be an NFL quarterback. Those skills cannot be taught. It is mind boggling that such smart football people in McCarthy and Thompson wasted all the time that they did on the noodled arm Harrell.

McCarthy and Thompson both missed on Coleman as well. It was clear from the start of training camp that they wanted Coleman to be the backup quarterback over Harrell. The Packers immediately signed Vince Young when Coleman threw two brutal interceptions during the Family Night Scrimmage  Harrell was actually 9-12 for 88 yards and a touchdown that night, but it was clear that his performance meant little to the Packers.

Coleman has the arm talent to succeed in the NFL, but his decision making and accuracy have not improved since he has been in Green Bay. His misses always seem to be high, which is just a recipe for disaster.

Young showed flashes but was not very consistent, and he seemed to have issues picking up the offense. Thompson admitted that he made a mistake bringing in Young so late and that it was not fair to him. So, he cut Young and brought in Wallace even later into the season, which doesn't make a ton of sense.

Wallace is a veteran so maybe he picks up the offense faster than most. However, it still won't be easy for him and at least Young has been here for a few weeks. Thompson's moves seem desperate now and it all stems from the mistake that he made last year in not cutting Harrell.

However, despite how awfully the backup quarterback position has been handled, the panic that I have seen from some fans on Twitter has been a little bit over the top. The chances are (knock on wood) that Rodgers will play every game, as he has only missed one start in his career.

The Packers are no worse at the backup quarterback spot today with Wallace than they were yesterday with Coleman or last year with Harrell because if any of those three had to play for extended time for the Packers they would be dead. In fact, if most NFL teams have to play their backup quarterback for an extended period of time they would most likely be dead as well.

There are much greater issues with the team that fans should be worried about like the offensive line and the defensive coordinator. David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay have looked good in the preseason, but how will they hold up with Justin Smith, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks coming at them? Evan Dietrich-Smith played like the career backup that he has been during the preseason and T.J. Lang did not look very good either.

Those are just the issues with the starting group. The depth at offensive line is even scarier than the depth at quarterback because the Packers are more likely to need the offensive line depth because they are more likely to get hurt than a quarterback.

Marshall Newhouse is fine for a swing tackle, but the depth at guard is scary bad. Greg Van Roten does not belong on an NFL roster let alone being the top backup at guard and center. Lane Taylor is probably better to be developed on the practice squad. Now that backup quarterback is settled Thompson must go out and find a suitable backup at guard. The Bryan Bulaga injury alone shouldn't kill their Super Bowl chances, but now they really cannot afford another offensive line injury and that is scary.

On defense, I like the personnel as much as I have in recent years. The defensive line is as deep as it has ever been, Nick Perry should be able to compliment Clay Matthews and the the cornerback group is very solid. However, Dom Capers is still at the helm, and his scheme has not held up against the NFL's top offenses in recent years. It is hard to have a ton of confidence in him until it does.

Yes, the backup quarterback situation is bad now and was handled horribly. All you can do is hope that it never matters and the Packers draft a quarterback to develop in the 2014 NFL Draft. Just be happy that we have perhaps the best quarterback in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers. There are much greater issues that you should be concerning yourself with heading into Sunday's opener in San Francisco.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ravings of A Forty Something Cheesehead

By 68md

Here we are with another roster and a new season in front of us. Today however I am compelled to talk about a few issues that are running about Packer nation.

Let's start with the remarkable story of Johnny Jolly. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe he could over come all the obstacles that he has. Kudos must go out to Jayme Joers Snowden of CHTV for her unwavering loyalty and proving many of us wrong about Jolly.

The next issue is going into 2013 with an OL line that is a couple injuries away from disaster. I know MM and his staff feel they have a core group but the stats say different.

Aaron Rodgers can not be subjected to another season of pounding and not addressing this falls firmly on the staff and front office. Watch this situation closely my friends.

I will address the BJ Coleman situation, it seems that we all forgot the TT/MM recipe of draft and develop. What we saw this week is no different then what the staff did with Graham Harrell a couple years ago.

Will it work out ? Time will tell but TT/MM are right more then wrong so after learning the hard way I am inclined to trust them.

In closing I want to address my little twitter spat with Mike Neal today.  First let me say I am a Green Bay Packer supporter, the team and organization.  I will and have and will continue to call things black and white. No favorites

Yes Mike Neal I would have cut you and used your spot for a OL, for reasons stated above and the fact that we let a couple other players go whom I considered having a better upside.

No Mr. Neal I don't regret saying it. I admire Mike Neals passion and wish him all the best but really maybe you should be in the film room studying the Niners tendencies... hmm.

I stand by my 11-5 prediction from last week. I do expect this team to struggle at times because all young teams do. But in the end we have to much talent and fine coaching which will help overcome adversity.

Until week 2.... GO PACK GO !