Green Bay Packers and the Echo Chamber

Packers' Head Coach Mike McCarthy

It’s never a good thing when someone declares how awesome they are right after having their butt handed to them on a platter. With Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, the same can be said.

Let’s face it, the team ain’t what we thought it would be this year. In fact, this makes the Year of the Broken Clavicle look pretty darn uplifting. But I suppose we have be come accustomed to cliche bingo and platitudes of nonsense that seem to spew from McCarthy’s mouth after each loss. Pad Level, B6, Fundamentals, O3, Play Our Game, I17, Back To Basics, G4. We all have that bingo card. He says stuff like this with such regularity, it wouldn’t take long for any one win a round.

And then he outdid himself this week:

Let’s state the facts: I’m a highly successful football coach.

Yup you heard him. He’s captain of this elevator, and we’re stopping at every floor. Seriously, who says stuff like this. Is he trying to buy his own brand of BS? Is he hoping we will? Does winning one Super Bowl given him a life-time tenure that excuses him from mediocrity? Has he been reveling in his own stink long enough that Mike McCarthy has become noseblind to his own stench? Because I want to know.

Typically when someone spews this nonsense, they are anything but superlative. Because let’s face it, the Green Bay Packers are anything but a highly successful football team at the present moment. Google was once a highly lucrative stock to purchase, but it would be foolhardy to invest your life savings in it right now.

So if McCarthy isn’t going to acknowledge what’s wrong. Let me point out what isn’t making the Green Bay Packers a Highly Successful Team (TM) at the moment.

The team is uncoached and feral.

Feral is an apt description. Picture that wild house cat that keeps lurking outside your door. From the distance it is cute and looks friendly. But take a step closer and you realize it is mangy with patches of fur missing. It hisses and snarls at you. It will hurt you if you get close. And maybe it has rabies to boot.

No the Packers, don’t have rabies. But they seem to be playing rudderless without discipline nor a sense of purpose at the present time. If McCarthy wants to go on and on about fundamentals, let’s talk about tackling. It’s not happening. I stopped counting all of the missed tackling that occurred last week. You can’t stop a player if you can’t wrap your arms around them and drag them to the ground. How many yards (or touchdowns for that matter) were just given away last week because someone thought a side hug was enough to stop any yards after the received pass? And it wasn’t just one so-new-he-squeaks secondary that was repeatedly forgetting how to tackle. It was everyone. Where is the accountability and coaching on the fly?

Have the coaches given up on the players, or have the players given up on the coaches.

Limited playbook.

With absolutely no running game, the Packers aren’t even pretending to have a running game. At least with a semi-healthy Lacy and Starks in the lineup, you had to make defenders commit to stopping the run. But Starks was barely a presence last week, and the Packers are still pretending that the likes of Cobb and Montgomery are enough of a fake running game that it will fool defenders.

Repeat after me: when you don’t field actual running backs, you aren’t really committing to any reasonable facsimile or a running game. It means you are tossing at least 1/3 of the playbook out the window. Even when a WR is lined up as a RB, you really aren’t running a true zebra offense even if the formation says you are. Let’s not fool ourselves, neither Cobb nor Montgomery has a mastery of the swathes of pages that make up the running schemes in the playbook. They have a few limited plays they can run.

And if we don’t know there is a running game, chances are the other team has figured it out and are going to play to defend the pass. After all, Aaron Rodgers may be having a bad season, but I’d still pick him over a Jay Cutler or Brock Osweiller any day of the week. And defenders are going see it that way as well. You may be setting up a run, but the defense all knows it’s going in the air 9 times out of 10.

Those targets get all the more narrow once the defense realize there are only two, maybe three real targets out there: Adams, Jordy and maybe Cobb. Everything else is an option 4, 5, or 6 in progressions. Montgomery is not much more than a ghost that barely gets snaps, and is rarely if ever targeted. Jeff Janis may be in the formation, but chances are he’s three or four yards of the mark on a good day. The screen pass is rarely–if every utilized. Which means Rodgers is going to throw an 8-15 yard pass that may or may not be on target to one of three targets. Why bother putting coverage on decoys if you know they are just decoys? Once defenders decode that, it doesn’t even pay to cover a receiver even if he is wide open in the endzone because the ball will never head his way anyway.

With a limited playbook, the Packers have become even more predictable compared to the usual easily predicted, vanilla McCarthy offense.

Hit or Miss QB.

Last week wasn’t Rodgers’ fault. No, he wasn’t perfect. But compared to the week before, he was head and shoulders above that performance. But that’s the rub. Some weeks he offers flashes of the MVP from years before. Other times he looks lost in his own offense. His mechanics are off, and he seems to lose a grasp of basic physics. The pass would be sharper and more accurate if he stepped into it and stopped trying to throw off the back foot.

Sure, there are whispers of “Is he turning into the uncoachable Favre”? And that is a very valid concern. Really successful QBs do tend to buy their own BS at some point in their career. Some weeks I think this has happened to him. But other times I have to ask myself: is it all coaches, or is it just McCarthy? There is a lot of talk for years that there is friction between the two. Who knows, maybe this is an issue. But if McCarthy has lost the entire locker room, chances are it started at QB1’s locker.

Is the status quo enough?

This is the deal with a successful team with a highly successful coach. Where is that line between accepting the status quo and basking in the glory days of the 2010 season and no longer accepting just that and expecting more. Each time a team slides into the playoffs, more often than not it gives the coaching personnel a stay of execution. After all, how can you can a head coach that was successful enough to earn a playoff berth?

I suspect McCarthy has been doing just that after the one and out loss in 2012 to the Giants. Oh there’s always next year. Getting all the way to the NFC Championship 2 years ago gave everyone a taste of almost the Super Bowl there was no way he was going to be shown the door. Same with last year. The team lasted all the way until the end of the game in Arizona and forced overtime.

But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. The Packers are now mired in complacency where mediocrity and promises to play harder, be better and oh hey, we have a Highly Successful Coach so he must be given another chance.

Except we don’t have to accept that any more. The team has had a playoff run every year since XLV, but has missed the mark each  time. And this year, they may not make the playoffs at all.

So we have to ask ourselves, is having a Highly Successful Coach enough at this point when looking through the retrospectiscope?

Or is it time to expect more and look beyond the untouchable tenure that 2010 allowed?

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Kelly Hodgson is a writer for PackersTalk.com and you can listen to her as a Co-Host of Out of the Pocket. You can also follow Kelly on Twitter at @ceallaigh_k

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  • James C. Drumheller III

    Anyone who thinks we should trade Aaron Rodgers is out of their mind!!!! The problem has been the inability to keep people healthy at key positions on both sides of the football.Maybe we need an offensive coordinator so McCarthy can just coach the team. A new head coach would more then likely do that anyway. How many blue chip players do you think there are picking 27th and 59th and so on every year.TT in my opinion does an excellent job especially in the later rounds. Do we need a fresh start? Maybe so. It just so happens the first thing you need is a franchise QB. We have the best already!!!! Defense gets you there. Rodgers makes the Packers a playoff team every year; but without the defense to back it up we can’t go all the way.

  • Bob Wysocki

    THE REASON SO MANY UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS AND LATE ROUND DRAFT PICKS MAKE TEAM IS THAT TT REACHES TO MUCH IN EARLY ROUNDS WITH HIS SELECTIONS