During the current 0-3-1 stretch the Packers are mired in, everyone is looking for a reason to help explain what has happened to the team that had Super Bowl aspirations heading into the season.
The struggle to remain positive has become a common theme among the coaches, players, and fans as the Packers’ playoff hopes are on life support right now. Although they control their own destiny (win out and win the division) there are plenty of reasons to think that this will be a difficult to near impossible task to accomplish over the next five weeks.
No Aaron Rodgers on the field makes the most common sense as to why this might not happen. After all, since his departure due to injury, the Packers have zero-count ’em, zero-wins, with little hope of this changing anytime soon. His mere presence on the field offers the Packers the chance to win every game. Without him, their odds diminish considerably.
Others have fallen victim to the injury bug as well. Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Bryan Bulaga, James Jones and Casey Hayward just to name a few. Key players who were expected to lead the charge to a return trip to the Super Bowl have all missed time, helping add to the Packers woes.
In all, 11 of the top 20 Packers as ranked by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have missed significant playing time (one game or more) since the start of the season. That is a recipe for disaster.
While Mike McCarthy and his staff continue to try and piece together a roster that has the potential to compete for a playoff spot, it is difficult to do so when one looks at some of the pieces they have to work with.
While many (including myself) have been quick to jump on Dom Capers for his questionable handling of the defense, the many issues he faces are not entirely his fault.
Look at the Safeties on the roster. At this point, none of them have showed an ability to perform at a high NFL level. Morgan Burnett has not taken the step up he was expected to in his fourth season. Neither MD Jennings nor Jerron McMillian have proven capable to play at the NFL level. And Chris Banjo, while a nice story making the team as an undrafted free agent, was after all, an undrafted free agent.Capers is doing the best he can with what he has been given at a position which was weak when the season started, and has not gotten any better.
The Packers thought that they had finally solved the revolving door of players at outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews when they drafted Nick Perry. After having his rookie campaign cut short due to injury, Perry was also expected to make the “Year Two” jump and have a large impact on the defense. Yet for a second year in a row, his season was cut short due to injury. Couple this with Clay Matthews’ thumb injury earlier this season, and the Packers were starting Mike Neal-a converted defensive end playing his first year as an OLB-and Nate Palmer-a rookie-at OLB for a span of time. Did Capers expect to be dealing with this when the season started? Highly doubtful.
On the offensive side of the ball, perhaps the biggest issue has been the right tackle position.
The plan was perfect. Move Bryan Bulaga to left tackle, and have Josh Sitton play next to him, thereby pairing the Packers two best linemen on the same side of the ball. Don Barclay and Marshall Newhouse would be left to battle it out for the right tackle spot, and everything would be hunky dory.
Even when Bulaga was lost for the season due to injury, things seemed to be ok when David Bakhtiari took over the left tackle spot and has performed like he will not give it up anytime soon. That is, until Don Barclay was injured.
It was at this point that the plan turned to crap.
One may ask why does Mike McCarthy continue to put Marshall Newhouse out on the field? He has regressed to the point where his value is limited, and that is being kind. He is slow, looks like he cannot shuffle his feet at all, and has difficulty with any type of block he is asked to do. It is painful to watch him play week after week.
Then one has to remember: Newhouse was deemed roster worthy by the man in charge of the team. And when pickings are slim, McCarthy is making do with what he has been given, much the same as Capers has been on defense.
The issues at Safety, Outside Linebacker, and Right Tackle have all been impacted by injury at some point this season. Yet they have also not been resolved for one reason: because Ted Thompson did not properly stock the roster with adequate talent.
Perhaps Thompson has received too much credit for his draft and develop strategy which worked well for him in Seattle as well as in Green Bay. Perhaps by not being faced with more adversity on the roster, he has been reluctant to deviate from this plan.
Perhaps winning the Super Bowl in 2010 following “his plan” caused him to think that his way is the only way, when in reality, it is not the end all be all of team management.
MD Jennings and Jaron McMillian are backups at best at this point in their careers.
Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba are not the same player that Clay Matthews is.
Marshall Newhouse has proven repeatedly that he should not be starting in the NFL.
Yet these are the players who have been entrusted to keep the ship sailing toward another Lombardi Trophy.
McCarthy can only do so much with the players he has been given. At some point, the talent level has to be seen for what it is, and that falls on Ted Thompson.
You want to blame someone for what is wrong with the Packers right now? Blame Ted Thompson. After all, this is his team. He is the one that put it together. McCarthy and company are scrambling trying to put the puzzle pieces together before the clock runs out on the 2013 season.