Did the Packers make a mistake by cutting Desmond Bishop?
Posted June 18th, 2013 @ 07:06pm
I could never run a football team. I know, you're stunned by this admission. But I couldn't do what Ted Thompson does. If I found myself with three highly paid inside linebackers, I'd find my way to keep a guy like Desmond Bishop. That's not how TT rolls.
Granted, he has some built-in advantages. For example, he talks regularly with the team's doctors, trainers and position coaches. I don't know how serious Bishop's hamstring injury is and what they odds of recurrence are. That may have factored into Thompson's decision to part ways with the hard-hitting inside linebacker.
When the team restuructured AJ Hawk's deal and then signed Brad Jones to a big contract, the writing was on the wall. Armed with a handful of young backups, Thompson decided to part ways with Bishop now and remove his hefty cap number.
As a Packer fan, it stings. We think of Bishop as the guy who bided his time behind Nick Barnett, waiting for an opportunity. When it came, he made Barnett expendable. Brad Jones played the part of Bishop this time around. At 100%, Bishop is a better player than both Hawk and Jones. The problem is, he's not 100%. Maybe he will be come August, maybe he won't be. Thompson figures that between Francois, Lattimore and Manning one guy will emerge as a capable backup--at a fraction of Bishop's pricetag.
Does it suck for Bishop? Of course, but that's the way in today's NFL. We fans can only thank Bishop for his years of service and hope he is able to get back to his old self, as long as it's not in a Purple uniform. Naturally, the Vikings were the first team to bring him in for a look. Paying Packer castoffs has become a rite of spring (and summer). His agent, Blake Baratz, is a Twin Cities guy who is not on the Packers' Christmas card list. You can bet he'd love to show the Pack the error of their ways within the division.
But as I write this, reports have surfaced that the Chiefs and Jaguars will bring him in as well. Maybe the Vikes will go the Childress route and handcuff him to the radiator in his hotel room and not let him escape till he signs.
That worked out well the last time.
Posted May 28th, 2013 @ 03:05pm
When I read that a popular football website was filling the NFL offseason abyss by electing fictional Mount Rushmores for the 32 NFL teams, I had to laugh. I mean, a Packers Mount Rushmore? How could you choose the most deserving four?
A Dynamic Dozen would be more apt. So I decided to whip up my Packers Mount Rushmores, split in three eras: the early years, the sensational 60s, and everything after.
Curly Lambeau gets the first spot and should have an automatic place on any Packer Mount Rushmore. He started the team. A Green Bay kid who played under Knute Rockne at Notre Dame. The rest is history: he coached the team to six league titles and coached seven Hall of Famers.
You could make a case that Don Hutson is the greatest all-time Packer. As the league's first superstar wide receiver, he set records that lasted decades. When he retired, he held 18 NFL records. In a nutshell, he was Jerry Rice before Jerry Rice. Now, he played in an era where many of the corners he faced also owned corner bars--not the most inclusive era in our history. But his talent was inarguable. His Packer record as all time leading scorer lasted almost 60 years (Ryan Longwell passed him in '03). Consider this: he retired in 1945 and still holds these NFL records: NFL reception leader eight times, NFL receiving yards leader seven times, and NFL touchdown leader nine times.
Tony Canadeo and Johnny "Blood" McNally get the final two spots on the mountain. Like their fellow Rushmore mates, none of us ever saw them play and rely on grainy highlights and colorful stories about the early years to frame our opinions. Canadeo missed a couple of seasons in his prime to serve in WWII. A ninth round draft pick who became a versatile all around offensive weapon, Canadeo is one of only four Packers with their number retired. McNally was a New Richmond kid whose speed set him apart--leading the league in scoring in '31. He's known more now for his nickname, but like Canadeo is an NFL Hall of Famer for what he did on the field, not the colorful things he did off of it.
Three of these were absolute locks. The fourth one is where the opinions can fly. We begin with Vince Lombardi, the architect of the birth of Titletown. After taking over the worst team int he league, he brought five NFL titles back to Green Bay over his ten year tenure and went 9-1 in his career in the playoffs.
Bart Starr was a 17th round draft pick with an ordinary arm and mediocre stats before Lombardi came around. The offensive genius that Lombardi was transformed the team and Starr became an all-timer. A league MVP and unquestioned leader of the five time champs. If Starr was the face of the offense, there's no question that Ray Nitschke was the identity of the defense. He stepped up in the biggest games, earning MVP of the '62 title game, after a key pick had wrapped up the title in the previous year's championship game. Nitschke oozed toughness and was known as one of the game's hardest hitters. A five time all pro and member of the NFL all 50 year team. Plus my #66 is my go-to game day jersey of choice.
The fourth spot on the 1960s-Rushmore was almost impossible for me to decide on. I welcome your arguments for your favorite. For me, it came down to three guys: Jim Taylor, Herb Adderley and Forrest Gregg. Yes, I know, you could make a case for Willie Davis (5-time All Pro), Jerry Kramer (5-time All Pro), Paul Hornung (4-time All Pro) and Henry Jordan (6-time All Pro) too. All but Kramer are Hall of Famers (and Kramer, obviously should be in as well).
I decided to go with Adderley. We're splitting hairs here. Maybe it's that goosebump inducing moment I witnessed when he returned to Lambeau recently and came out of the tunnel in his wheelchair and got up to salute the crowd. You really understand how these guys sacrifice their bodies and/or minds to play this game. Gregg's current struggles with Parkinson's also hit us hard. Adderley's greatness is unquestioned. Seven times al all pro, 39 picks and seven returned for touchdowns--still a Packer record. Plus he's the #3 kickoff returner in team history to this day. He was a shutdown corner and a champion: winning four rings with the Pack and two more with the Cowboys, before retiring. He's often said he never looks at his Cowboys Super Bowl rings. That he considers himself a Packer. He makes my Rushmore.
Ron Wolf doesn't earn a spot on my mountain because he wasn't a player or coach. But I'm naming the last Rushmore after him because he built the team that made the Packers relevant after a quarter century of mostly futility. Three of the faces on the post-Lombardi era have Wolf's fingerprints all over them.
The one that doesn't is James Lofton. He played in seven Pro Bowls in his nine years in Green Bay and was one of the lone bright spots in a long winning abyss. He was the first wide receiver to reach 14,000 yards and was a consistent big play threat for Packer QBs John Hadl and Lynn Dickey. 2003 Hall of Famer.
Mike Holmgren gets a spot on the mountain for corralling an undisciplined young QB that the Packers traded a draft pick for and turning him into one of the greatest gunslingers of all time. Holmgren's offensive genius turned the Packers into annual contenders. Then he picked up his phone one day and called up free agent Reggie White, the first mega-free agent. He said, 'Reggie, this is God. I want you to play in Green Bay.'
When Reggie White chose small town Green Bay over Philly and all of the other suitors who were drooling over him, he did more than shock the world. He set the Packers on course to win their first Super Bowl in 30 years. He led the league's best defense that year and changed everything in the locker room, as well as how Green Bay was perceived nationally. Reggie's one of the few guys who would make two teams' Rushmores (you can bet the Eagles have him here too). White was merely the most fearsome pass rusher of his time. His three sacks of Drew Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI were the difference, though Desmond Howard earned the MVP for his kickoff return that stopped the Pats' momentum in its tracks.
The final face belongs to Brett Favre. For many of us of a certain age, watching the Packers over the years meant year after year of mediocre quarterback play. When Holmgren arrived he was getting some decent play from Don Majkowski, but when he got hurt and Favre took over, well, he took over forever. Week after week, year after year we had Favre. He never missed a start and was never boring. Sometimes maddening, but usually heroic, Favre became the face of the Pack and the NFL. We didn't like how things ended, but there is no debating the career of one of the NFL's top ten all time QBs.
What? I have to pick only four? Those are the rules? Gun to my head, I'd go with Hutson, Lombardi, Nitschke and Favre.
Posted May 3rd, 2013 @ 03:05pm
Consider the Marshall Newhouse experiment over. The Packers are completing an offensive line makeover and it's likely that Newhouse will be on the outside looking in. That's a good thing. The promise he showed in '11 disappeared in '12, and the team is moving on.
The Packers believe that Bryan Bulaga will be able to move seamlessly to left tackle, despite not having the prototypical left tackle body (short arms). The good news is they must believe he has fully healed from the hip injury and is ready to step right in and protect their most valuable asset. Bringing Josh Sitton over to assist on the left side will certainly help.
When Ted Thompson drafted Derek Sherrod a couple of years ago, he hoped he'd step right in to replace a soon to be retired Chad Clifton. But injuries have kept him stuck in neutral and the team decided it can't wait for him any longer. If and when he's able to walk without a limp and try to play football, he'll compete for the right tackle job which right now is an open competition between him, Newhouse, Don Barclay and rookie David Bakhtiari. My guess is Barclay wins the job.
TJ Lang will slide from the left to the right side, which shouldn't be a major transition for a guy who played almost a quarter of the season at right tackle when Bulaga first went down, while dealing with his own elbow and arm injuries. As a beefier guard than Sitton, he'll be more concerned with run blocking on that side, while letting the nimbler Sitton deal with the stunts and blitzes that will come from elite pass rushers on his new side.
I like the move. The Packers are moving their two best linemen to the left side to give Aaron Rodgers more protection on his blind side. As mobile as Rodgers is, he doesn't necessarily need Joe Thomas over there. But a chance to remain in the pocket a bit more often and a few extra fractions of a second could be all he needs to take the passing game to another level.