From Chasing History to Chasing Their Tails

Just six weeks ago, there was talk of chasing history. Of attempting to win back-to-back titles. Of staking an early claim to “team of the decade.” Of going for perfection.

We look back now and face reality. The defending champs, who went 15-1, were one and done in the playoffs. The Packers played the part of last year’s Falcons, unable to find the offensive rhythm they had all year and unable to mask their defensive shortcomings, when the Giants weren’t generous enough to turn the ball over.

Looking back at Sunday’s performance, the four turnovers remain the most difficult to swallow. Yes, there were a lot of drops–that was an issue all season. Was Rodgers as sharp as he’d been all season? No, but his performance was strong enough to bring home a victory. Just as the Saints found out the day before, putting the ball on the ground can energize your opponent, while at the same time demoralizing the offense, causing all the skill guys to think a little too much about ball protection and sapping their confidence.

Ultimately though, the failure of the defense to pick up the offense is what set this team apart from last year’s. In his end-of-season press conference, Mike McCarthy talked about a team-wide tackling issue. That this unit struggled to handle the most basic fundamental element of defensive play is beyond troubling.

The inability to rush the passer hampered the defense all season and you can bet Ted Thompson will upgrade the D-line and right outside linebacker position. No longer can he rely on late draft picks and street free agents to handle things. With apologies to guys like Jarius Wynn, CJ Wilson, Erik Walden and Frank Zombo, Thompson needs to find highly talented guys on the first two days of the draft to assume those spots.

The lack of pass rush forced the corners to play more zone and it didn’t suit their talents. Both Tramon Williams and Sam Shields took big steps backward, and Charles Woodson’s coverage ability has slipped. They need to play physical bump coverage at the line–Williams and Shields have the speed to keep up with any receiver. As for Woodson, a move to safety is a possibility for a guy who will turn 36 early next season. The prognosis on Nick Collins will go a long way in determining whether Woodson makes the move. ¬†At any rate, the Pack could use another corner and safety in the mix next season.

So, the players cleaned out their lockers this week and the coaches prepared for a week in Hawaii to coach the Pro Bowl–with extra time to think about what happened, why it happened and what needs to happen for this team to compete for their fifth Lombardi trophy next season. This is a young team, and for the most part it will return intact. The Pack are the early favorites in Las Vegas to win the Super Bowl next season–but it will take a renewed focus on the fundamentals by all 53 players and coaches to get there. And maybe a few less commercials.

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24 Responses to From Chasing History to Chasing Their Tails

  1. Bill, the voice of reason says:

    Fumbles, picks, drops, and missed tackles were the receipe for disaster – BTW, all things that were correctable as late as halftime, but it didn’t happen. So now we move on to addressing needs, and thankfully we know what they are. Sure some of the guys Dave mentioned here didn’t rise to the occasion, but at least they got some major on-the-job training. Let’s not give up on these guys quite yet…that’s what training camp is for. We may still have a gem or two amongst them. For them, it’s a matter of wait and see. The front end of the draft will need to focus on defense, and with drafting at 28 should yield some excellent defensive talent. As you may have figured out by now, I’m over it – 2011 is a distant memory (and for the most part, a good one). Heck, I was over it as soon as the Giants scored after Grant’s fumble. There’s no sense in getting worked up about Sunday’s debacle any more…let’s move on, and be glad the problems can be taken care of with one productive offseason.

  2. Keek says:

    The Packers have signed QB Nick Hill, an Arena League star who threw 97 TD passes in 16 games last season. Rather interesting news out of Green Bay today…

  3. Al says:

    Dave, you hit the nail on the head with your point that the difference between last year and this year is that, last year, the Pack could count on their defense to bail them out. Rodgers isn’t immune to having an off day. He had an off day in the NFC Championship game, against the Bears. But the defense came up big and saved the day. There’s going to be a lot of change, this offseason. I’m hoping the Pack don’t get picked clean by coaching and front office defections to other teams. I’m really looking forward to the draft and hopefully, Thompson will address the obvious defensive needs at right defensive end and right outside linebacker. We’ll have to see if players like Newhouse, So’oto etc. can make a jump this offseason, to become better players. Grant and Driver may not be back either, which might infuriate the fanbase but guys like Cobb and Gurley probably need to be developed and get more snaps.

  4. ken says:

    You correctly point out that the Packer’s defense contributed nothing all year but yet ignore the fact that TT did nothing to replace the defensive lineman you lost to the Eagles (you’re correct, I’m not a packer’s “fan”) which I believe was the #1 reason the defense suffered. Raji took a major step backwards in his growth. Woodson was elite a few years ago but he has become another Darren Sharper, a liability on defense when he can’t free-lance and gamble. I also think you missed the boat when you failed to address the need for a consistent-if not good-running game. Arena-style football is good but I don’t think that without a running game or a defense that it can win championships whether you have Rodgers or Brees.

  5. Lee says:

    “He had an off day in the NFC Championship game, against the Bears.” You don’t see a pattern there? Bottom line – the poor passing, the fumbles and the dropped passes were due to the COLD. This team is not a cold weather team. Like Favre in 2007, Rodgers looked cold and old…seems only Driver stepped up. Oh and to the pundits who keep saying the Giants defense rattled them – No, the Packers should have been up at least 24-3 by half. The Giant ‘rush’ did not really have any effect in the 1st half.

  6. Paul from Eau Claire says:

    You must have missed the dropped passes over the last few games by many of the receivers (especially Finley), not bad throws. AR had two bad passes that shouldn’t have been caught. Turnovers happened and hurt us but our D had no rush and gave Eli all the time he needed. No excuses, these are reasons they won. TT put faith in Neal being an adequate for Jenkins which never happened, and there is no replacement for Collins who would have not let a hail mary be caught.

  7. Al says:

    Lee, interesting point about the cold. I’m sure the team would prefer to play in better temps but short of putting a dome on Lambeau, I don’t see a great solution anytime soon. I think as much as the cold weather may have affected the team, I think the excellent pass defense, the Bears and the Giants played in both of those games, affected the Pack more. There were maybe two or three throws Rodgers should have made in the Giants loss but outside of those, the Giants were able to drop seven defenders into coverage, and covered the receivers much better than they did, in the game at the Meadowlands. Putting one of their better corners on Jordy Nelson, while still doubling Jennings and (at times) Finley, was also a smart move on their part. I give the Giants credit for executing better than the Pack did that day. They got healthier, learned from their mistakes in the first game and came up with a defensive gameplan that worked. Our defense was predictably terrible and couldn’t help stop the bleeding. An improved pass rush, and better pass defense will help keep the team in these types of slugfests next year. Last offseason, McCarthy and Thompson emphasized improving the offense and the special teams. They gambled that the defense would maintain it’s high level of play. Obviously, the offense and special teams were vastly improved but the defense took a huge step backwards. This next draft will most likely be defense heavy and hopefully next year the team will have balance again.

  8. SchenySchen says:

    So, now that Philbin is headed off to Miami, lets start the speculation that Miami could be a team that would be intersted in a sign and trade for Flynn. They need a QB badly and Philbin has been in a position to fully evaluate Flynn’s capabilities. He will have a QB that would already know his system and one that he would know can execute it. Philbin obviously has the confidence of the owner at this point and could convince them that Flynn will be the man. The Dolphins have an early 1st round pick that would be awfully enticing for the Packers. I would even make that deal for the Dolphins 2nd round pick seeing as how we will only get a compensatory 3rd round pick for Flynn in 2013 if he leaves via free-agency.— Another intersting note regarding the Eagles considering cutting Jenkins. Would TT consider signing Jenks this time for 4M/year to a 2-3 year contract? If he did, he would give the D-line an immediate upgrade, give Neal time to develop and make his first round pick avaialable for an OLB to pair with CMIII. — I look forward to the draft speculation from many of you as we move into offseason mode. — I for one would love to find a way to get Courtney Upshaw. GoPack!

  9. ken says:

    Lambeau and cold weather are no longer a home field advantage, the Packers have become a “dome” team. As for Finley, I don’t think he will be on the team next year. He has not lived up to his hype and certainly isn’t worth elite TE money and for sure not WR money. TT isn’t going to use the franchise tag on an above average TE…he’ll let him walk unless he wants to sign for much less money than he thinks he’s worth.

  10. larry says:

    I just have to say this, I have been hearing this from the media and all my packer friends. all i hear is the defense lost it. the score was 20 -13 with 12.40 to go in the 4th qtr. we all know what we had in the d. it wasn’t going to change. if u would have told me that the giants would have 20 points with 12.00 min. to go. I would love our chances with our offense. take away that stupid hail mary, and the d only had given up 13 points with all those t.o’s, not bad. it was on our receivers for not getting open and drops . no excuses, that is it. everytime 12 went back he had to hold the ball, no one was open. then when they were they dropped 8 of them. i want the d to get better. but they did not lose that game. case closed. now let’s hope for a d- lineman, olb and the corner from Georgia, i can’t remember his name but i will . love him for 2nd round. seen him play 4 times, great ball skills and returns kicks also, if cobb gets hurt. have great draft tt.

  11. Triple G says:

    You know Larry, you are right…turnovers were pretty much nil this season and then the fumbles, drops and interceptions reared their ugly head.

  12. Al says:

    Larry, that’s kind of the point: If the team had a better D, the offense wouldn’t be forced to be play close to perfect in every game. We all knew, once the offense started turning the ball over, that those were going to turn into easy touchdowns. With a better D making a stand or two, they could have maybe forced field goals. Yeah, there’s plenty of blame to go around on both sides of the ball. The main point is: relying on just one side of the ball to always be flawless is a recipe for a shocking upset. For those of us that harped on the D all year, we knew that, a bad day for the offense, could eventually happen and if that happened, there was no backup plan. Our fears were realized.

  13. capablecarl says:

    Good thing MM focused on missed tackles. Guys that try to hip check a guy to the ground from now on can go try to make it in the NHL instead because they have no business being on a football field. A return to the the days of fundamental football is all this team needs to hold the Lombardi Trophy again.

  14. Bill, the voice of reason says:

    You guys all make valid points, but the one that bugs me is that the defense gave them a golden opportunity to get back into it in the 3rd quarter with their two 3-and-outs. All they Pack got from that effort was one field goal. Ken’s point about being a “dome” team has some merit; maybe not 100% but quite a bit nonetheless. They have no problem playing on any outdoor surface, but can’t seem to handle the cold for whatever reason. Larry’s point about the turnovers speaks volumes – complacency? Overconfidence? I sure hope not. But as far as the coaching staff goes, other teams will be pulling from the Packer staff, and Coach Philbin is just the first of probably a handful, which I’m OK with. After all, these guys deserve to pursue opportunities like this when they present themselves, and the Dolphins are my new favorite AFC team as a result – I wish him all the best in his new situation, and that he and his family can recover from their family tragedy. But as far as the remaining staff, I would be very upset if any of them get fired because of Sunday’s game. It’s still a very good staff, and stability in the coaching staff cannot be overestimated.

  15. Triple G says:

    Yeah, sorry to hear of the passing of Jim Irwin…growing up in northern Minnesota him and Max were the only connection we had to Packer games.

  16. TheHeadCheese says:

    Very sorry to hear of the passing of Jim Irwin, one of the reasons I got into radio. Listening to him and Max, along with Bob Uecker and Merle Harmon with the Brewers inspired me to give broadcasting a try. I got to know Jim when I was a kid: he lived in the house my mom grew up in. He encouraged me to follow the journalism path and to prepare for a lot of rejection letters, but to not give up.

    His voice WAS Packer football for a generation, dealing with year after year of mediocre football at best, until Wolf, Holmgren and Favre ushered in a new era. Listen back to some of the highlights of the ’96 season–and hear the joy in his and Max McGee’s voices. I’m so glad they got to be behind the mic when the Packers brought the Lombardi trophy home after a 30 year exodus.

    Rest in peace, Jim. A true Packer Hall of Famer.

  17. Bill, the voice of reason says:

    Jim Irwin was a class act, and that seems like an insufficient way to describe him. He and Max were the perfect pair for calling Packer games. WTMJ was so fortunate to have them, and like you mentioned Dave, his happiness of calling the ’96 championship and subsequent Super Bowl was the highlight of both men’s broadcast careers. He and his family are in all our thoughts. It’s been a tough few weeks for the Packer family.

  18. Bill, the voice of reason says:

    I can share a recent memory of Jim Irwin. Earlier this season, I made a trip to Milwaukee during the bye week, and was scheduled to return to the Twin Cities that Sunday. Not being in the mood for listening to CD’s and with no Packer game to listen to, I put the radio on, and much to my suprise, WTMJ was running a replay of the “Halloween Massacre” game when the Packers played the Bears at Soldier field on a Monday night in a monsoon. I remembered watching that game on TV, so it was a real treat to listen to Jim and Max calling that game, and hearing the manes of the Packer roster at that time (1994? Don’t recall exactly). I was bummed out that I started losing the signal as I approached Wisconsin Dells about 5 minutes into the 3rd quarter, and the Packer radio network wasn’t carrying the rebroadcast. And IIRC, that was about the point in the game where the Packers started to get cranked up. Oh well…at least I got to enjoy once again Jim Irwin’s classy style of relaying the excitement of the game without the screaming you hear by a lot of PxP guys these days. And it was complimented by Max’s folksy color commentary – what a combo those guys were! Sadly, they’re both gone now, but what a great memory that was. And a special thanks to the production staff at WTMJ radio for that special memory.

  19. OLD SOUTH SIDE GUY says:

    Thank You’s to Davy and Bill, the voice of reason for some of your memories of Jim Irwin….a true class act versus some of today’s carnival barkers. I remember Jim and Max on WTMJ and I even go back to the days as a kid growing up in Milwaukee listening to Earl Gillispie and Blaine Walsh doing games on WTMJ….but I think they mainly did Milwaukee Brave games then. Jim…may you rest in peace with your great memories !! GO PACK GO !!

  20. SchenySchen says:

    Head Cheese, this has been a long sabatical…. I know the playoff loss was painful but I know you’ll make it. If you don’t post something soon, I am going to have to call this TheHeadSchen and move on to my draft knowledge ad-nauseum… no one wants that, trust me. GoPack!

  21. Paul from Eau Claire says:

    How about doing a speculation article on where GB/TT is headed this spring with the players on the roster? Like why Donald Driver should be let go or traded? Or why Neal will be the best outside linebacker even over Matthews? Fireworks is what we need, and can you take off some of the advertising and some of the nonsense posts?
    Always listening/reading you,

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