Friday, November 29, 2013

Lions 40, Packers 10: What Happened and Where Do We Go From Here?

By: Matt Bove

The beat down that took place at Ford Field yesterday is only supposed to take place on Fridays at high school fields and Saturdays at college stadiums. The talent is so close in the NFL that it is very rare to see an ass whooping like that take place on a Sunday, or a Thursday in this case.

How many times can you say that a score of 40-10 does not do justice for how awful the performance really was? This would be one of those times because the Packers are lucky the score wasn't 57-0.

The Packers scored because of a strip sack by Nick Perry and an out of bounds kickoff by Lions punter Sam Martin. The Lions missed opportunities to score because of a Reggie Bush fumble near the end zone, an interception by Sam Shields in the end zone and a missed 30-yard field goal by David Akers.

The Lions had a grand total of 561 yards of offense and 40:26 time of possession to only 102 yards and 19:34 for the Packers. The Lions had seven sacks, as the Packers could not block the Lions front four, especially after Evan Dietrich-Smith went out. The Lions gashed the Packers up front for 241 yards, and it was embarrassing.  BJ Raji and Ryan Pickett were killed by double teams and never got any penetration, while Brad Jones and AJ Hawk could not get off blocks or make tackles when they actually had a chance to.

The Packers averaged a grand total of 1.6 yards per rush. They had only seven first down to the Lions 30. I can go on all day about this game, but really everybody knows and saw what happened. I am more interested in how we got here and how we move forward. The Packers' entire organization got utterly embarrassed in front of a national television audience on Thanksgiving. Maybe this will finally wake them up that there needs to be changes.

First off all let me say this, if Aaron Rodgers was healthy this team would probably be 9-3. No, it is not an excuse, it is reality. The Packers were 5-2 and rolling with Rodgers going into the Monday Night game against Chicago. Their opening series vs. Chicago was an absolute clinic and you cannot convince me that they were not going to drop 40 points on that pitiful defense.

They then moved the ball evenly with Philadelphia and lost because of turnovers from Scott Tolzien. Then in New York the defense actually put together a decent performance and allowed only 20 points themselves, and the Giants flat out are a terrible team. Obviously, a home game against the Vikings is an obvious win with Rodgers when they tied without him. There are your nine wins.

That is not to say that there aren't major problems with the team or that they were going to win the Super Bowl with Rodgers. They just would be 9-3 and cruising to a division title in a horrible division like they do every year with Rodgers. That is a testament to Rodgers and not anybody else.

The big question is why has this team gone from a rock solid playoff team with Rodgers to the Jacksonville Jaguars without him? There has been lots of blame going around, but lets focus on the three men that have taken the brunt of it.

Ted Thompson:

Thompson remains one of the best and most successful general managers in the NFL. However, that does not mean he is flawless, and I'm sure he will tell you that he needs to do a better job. He said in an interview with the Green Bay Press Gazette to blame him if the backup quarterback situation failed. Well it has failed, so here ya go Ted.

Thompson's first mistake was putting his trust into Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman. I never saw anything in Harrell's Green Bay tenure that suggested he was an NFL quarterback, yet the Packers stuck with him for two years and another training camp. Harrell has no future in this league, as he is currently not on a team. Ditto for Coleman, although he does have an NFL arm unlike Harrell, but he was just much too erratic.

Thompson had a failed experiment with Vince Young before bringing in Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien after training camp. That did not give them a sufficient enough time to learn the system, and it showed when they had to play. What a mess.

Thompson left this team barren of talent and depth in a few key areas this season, and it has hurt the team. The obvious one is safety, as Morgan Burnett has been a huge disappointment after signing a $24 million extension, and MD Jennings and Jerron McMillian do not belong on an NFL team. Inside linebacker is another. I do not think the Packers can ever have an elite defense with A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones starting. Yes, the defensive line is not keeping offensive linemen off of them, but that does not excuse them from not getting off blocks, missing tons of tackles, never making an impact play and not being able to cover anybody. I said they needed to be replaced last offseason, and here were are again with the same problem.

The depth at outside linebacker and along the offensive line was not good enough coming out of camp, and that has proved to be true this season. Sure, losing Clay Matthews and Nick Perry is very tough to overcome, but Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba have shown next to nothing. Obviously, having Marshall Newhouse as your first offensive lineman off the bench has been an abomination. Also, if you're going to insert Newhouse at right guard when he has no experience there, then why on earth is Lane Taylor even on the roster?

Those are positions where Thompson has missed drastically. A veteran offensive lineman needed to be signed this offseason for depth, and how on earth Thompson ignored safety in a rich safety draft class is beyond me. Also, Thompson has not had drafted a real key contributor other than Micah Hyde (jury still out though) in the 5th round or later since Brad Jones in 2009. That is completely unacceptable for a guy who relies solely on the draft to build the team. If he is not going to get contributors late in the draft then he needs to sign some free agents.

Mike McCarthy:

Like Thompson, McCarthy is one of the most successful coaches in the NFL and one of the best in the business. Please spare me he is only successful because of just Rodgers. Rodgers was far from a finished product coming out of Cal and McCarthy developed him greatly. Also, look at what McCarthy did in New Orleans with Aaron Brooks of all people.

However, like Thompson, McCarthy has also lost his way a little way a little bit. He kept Dom Capers a year too long, just like he did with Bob Sanders, and it has cost the defense again this year. The attitude of the team reflects the coach, and the fact that it looks like this team has flat out quit a couple of times now reflects poorly of him. Instead of fighting and stepping up their games without Rodgers they just folded the tent in. Inexcusable.

A few of McCarthy's comments have also been weird. The fact that he praised the team for the way they battled in a loss to the Giants was baffling. Also, the big one was when he talked about the "reoccurring issue" after the Philadelphia game, and then insulted everybody's intelligence by saying that he never said it.

McCarthy's offensive scheme has also gone a little stale. Opposing players on defense have been commenting on how they know what is coming from the Packers offense. Not good. McCarthy's style of staying patient has been good in the past, but now is working against him.

Dom Capers: 

How anybody still defends this man is beyond me. The talent isn't the greatest, but he is working with six first round picks in the front seven and solid cornerbacks. Sure, the safeties suck, but not every position on a team can be great. I think a coordinator with fresh schemes and and a new attitude can make it work with this defense.

I don't want to here squat from the players defending Dom either. Of course they are going to back him up when he never holds any of them accountable. It is like a country club playing for him and that is a huge part of what needs to change other than the scheme. How is Chris Banjo not playing instead of Jennings or Jamari Latimore not playing for Jones? No accountability.

After allowing 45 points in the playoff loss to Arizona, having one of the worst defenses in NFL history in 2011, allowing 579 yards against San Francisco in the 2012 playoffs and this years epic collapse it is clear that Capers needs to go and be replaced with another 3-4 coordinator. I would not go with a 4-3 guy because Clay Matthews is a 3-4 player, and that is who you build around. Of course this was also clear last year, so who knows what will happen.

Talk of firing McCarthy or Thompson is very far fetched. If either were fired they would be out of a job for like 10 minutes before being hired elsewhere. McCarthy and Thompson have bought themselves time to fix this mess because of their track records, but it is clear that status quo will no longer be good enough.

This may actually be a good thing in the end. In the NFL it is very hard to stay at the top for long unless you are the Patriots, and even they have not won a Super Bowl since 2006.

With a laundry list of free agents and a potential high draft pick the Packers will have a chance to reload this offseason. The only player on that list who they must bring back is Sam Shields. Everybody else is replaceable. This type of stretch of bad play may be what the organization needed to recognize the problems instead of having the quarterback cover them up. Lets hope so.


1 comment: