A New Beginning, or The Beginning of the End?

by C.D. Angeli

Author’s Note: This article was actually written last March for the lead article of the 2016 CHTV Draft Guide. It was a particularly ominous article published at a time when offseason optimism is at its peak. However, the Packers’ struggles to start the season warrant a look back at the observations made months ago coming to fruition.


The Season of Discontent

120126rodgers-mcc600A 10-6 regular season record, a playoff win, and a close overtime loss in a divisional playoff game would be considered a positive season for the majority of NFL fans in the world today. But in Green Bay, just having a winning record is nothing less than a prerequisite for a franchise and fan base that has grown accustomed to doing nothing but winning over the last 24 years.

But perhaps more disconcerting to Packer fans isn’t just the final results in the ledger, but the behind-the-scenes friction that seemed to manifest itself more and more both on and off the field. This friction seemed to center around the central triumvirate of the Green Bay Packers: MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, head coach Mike McCarthy, and general manager Ted Thompson.

The eye of the hurricane might well be McCarthy, who found himself at times at odds with his quarterback for the first time since 2007; and also rumored to be frustrated with his boss, according to the Journal-Sentinel’s Bob McGinn. McCarthy has manned the sidelines for ten seasons as the Packers’ head coach–an exception to the average tenure of an NFL head coach, which is only 38 months.



Mike McCarthy is 6-1 in his last 7 games coming off of a bye week.  The only loss was a season ago.  That game came on the road, and the team that the Packers lost to won the Super Bowl.  McCarthy and his staff loves to prepare, and loves to game plan.  When they are given two weeks to do so, they become a very tough out.

The team coming in to play the Packers on Sunday night isn’t exactly on a roll, either.  They’ve lost two straight after starting the season out 2-0.  They were wildly unimpressive in a loss at Minnesota and are the only non-Browns win on Washington’s schedule.  Not only that, but their best player, Odell Beckham, Jr., seems to be having some sort of break down.

The Packers that people recognized returned two Sunday’s ago.  There was a time in which teams would come to Lambeau Field and Aaron Rodgers and the offense would put 4+ touchdowns on them in the first half.  That happened to the Lions on Sunday.  At one point in the first half it was 31-3.  Unfortunately, there was a time when the Packers would let some of those teams back in to the game.  That happened in the last game, too.  Detroit ended up bringing the game within one score.


Early Bird Breakdown Week 3 – Lions @ Packers

Early Bird Breakdown Week 3 – Lions @ Packers

Hello and welcome back to Early Bird Breakdown for week three of the regular season for the Packers.  This week is going to be a little different, as I am going to dive also into the Packers’ offensive woes. Before we dive into the matchups, let’s look at last week’s recap.

The Recap:

Last week Green Bay played in Minnesota and were shutdown offensively as the Vikings won 17-14. The Packers offense was held to under 300 total yards and looked miserable, though this has become something of a scary trend dating back to last season, which will be covered down below. Now, on to the breakdown.

The Breakdown:

Packers’ Offense vs Lions’ Defense:

Let’s first take a step back and realize Green Bay right now is an average offense at best. While this is something that at face value seems laughable, the numbers paint a very stark picture. Last season Green Bay was 23rd in yards per game & 15th in points per game. Now, most people dismissed last season as a fluke due to Nelson’s injury, but looking at this season through the small sample size of two games the Packers are 29th in yards and 18th in points. So what caused the regression from what was widely known as one of the league’s top offenses to this? Multiple things: the Packers’ offense was exposed on film last season versus Denver and the play calling has not adjusted, Aaron Rodgers has lost faith in his receivers and because of that is not throwing as precise, and the lack of a dynamic weapon on offense has caused defenses to cheat in on the Packers’ receiving corps.



Well.  Are you still freaking out?  It’d be ok if you were.  Green Bay played very badly on Sunday.  The highest rated quarterback in the history of football, and Green Bay’s annual best hope for a Super Bowl Championship, Aaron Rodgers, might have played the worst game of his professional career.  Beyond that, the Packers lost to the Vikings in Minnesota for the first time since 2012.

Beyond that, bad things are starting to become a trend.  Aaron Rodgers hasn’t really played all that well since the Packers entered the 2015 bye week 6-0.  Not only that, but Green Bay is 6-8 (including playoffs) since that time.  All the wrongs that were supposed to be righted by the return of Jordy Nelson have not been.  Neither Nelson or Randall Cobb appear to be the players that they were in 2014.

Speaking of trends that have been broken, the Detroit Lions at home have long been the team that the Packers right the ship against, especially in games played in Wisconsin.  Detroit won in Wisconsin for the first time in Theo Riddick’s lifetime last season and broke a “curse” that seemed to be unbreakable.

That’s not great news if you’re a Packer fan this weekend.  Green Bay is a team that desperately needs to get it right on one specific side of the ball.  Rodgers and the Packers offense need to come to the party, because the defense is clearly already here.



Years ago Vikings executive Lester Bagley envisioned the opening of this new US Bank Stadium.  He wanted everything to start off with an Adrian Peterson touchdown after breaking a Clay Matthews tackle.  The Vikings will get their chance, as underdogs, to open their new digs in just that manner.

Prior to the season, this game at Minnesota looked like the only contest in which the Packers would not be favored this season.  Green Bay (according to last season’s records) has a very favorable slate.  The preseason loss of Teddy Bridgewater may have changed all that.  The Vikings have since mortgaged their future for journeyman quarterback Sam Bradford, and there’s a question whether or not Bradford will be ready to go.

This is a big game for Green Bay as well.  The Packers could very well start their season 2-0.  On the road.  With the exception of last season, the Packers have made a habit of dominating at home and scraping by on the road.  If Green Bay can survive Jacksonville and Minnesota early, They just have Detroit and Chicago (considered pre-season to be the weakest two teams in the division) and Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia, and Tennessee on the road schedule.  Not a 2016 playoff team among them.

A 2-0 start would be an excellent beginning to this season, but maybe even beyond that having a “W” in the ledger in the Minneapolis half of the “border battle” would be a key step for the rest of the season.



As a displaced Packers fan, I have to say that I was very sad when I saw the schedule come out and this game was the opener.  I don’t fear the Florida heat.  The forecast is in the low 90s.  Green Bay practied plenty a day in training camp within a 5 or 6 degree threshold of that.

I was sad, because as some of you that follow me may know I have deep ties to North Dakota State University, and Jacksonville’s head coach Gus Bradley is an NDSU alum.  Also, it is very cold here in the winter.  A November or December getaway to sunny Florida would have been choice.

Alas, the game is on Sunday, and the Packers will open up the season against an up and coming Jaguars squad.  No winter vacation to be had.

I wrote last week about the excitement level of not just any new season, but this new season specifically.  I was excited because the Packers brought back all of the starters from the 2014 offense and featured a potentially improved version of the 2015 defense.

That’s no longer the case.  Green Bay released Josh Sitton in the final group of cut-downs and it is now apparent that Corey Linsley isn’t quite going to make it back in time for the start of the season, either.  Lane Taylor will start in Sitton’s spot and get at least a 6 week head start on solidifying himself as a starter on the offensive line.  If he’s capable of doing that he becomes a heckuva bargain.  Taylor comes with a cap hit of less than $3 million for each of the next two seasons.



Mike McCarthy is not a man to make excuses, but he is a man able to make a point.  McCarthy once pointed out that the Packers have really only had two healthy seasons since the Super Bowl victory, 2011 (15-1) and 2014 (12-4).  Outside of that, Green Bay has been forced to overcome major injuries on the fly, many of those suffered in preseason.

Jordy Nelson in 2015.  Bryan Bulaga, Jermichael Finley and Casey Hayward in 2013.  BJ Raji in 2012.  Nick Collins in 2011.

You guys understand the idea.  The Packers have repeatedly played left handed in the 2010s, and have made the playoffs every year.  More often than not, they’ve won the division.  Thompson and McCarthy have been dealt blow after blow and just keep on keepin’ on.  Winning in the NFL is hard with all your players.  Ask Jaguars fans.  Ask Lions fans.  Ask Jets fans.  It. Is. Hard.

Hey guys.  Knock on wood.  Throw salt over your shoulder.  Let the black cat cross the street in front of you and stay away from ladders.  The Packers should start the season with all 22 preferred starters.  These Packers are healthy, and healthy Packers teams under McCarthy win a lot.

Not only that, but the Packers are now favored to win every game they play in. Are they going to go 16-0? Almost certainly not, but you’d rather they be the favorite in every game than the underdog. That’s just how life works.