The downfalls of the Packers offense were on display once again two nights ago. Yes, there were questionable calls from the refs, but there is no sense dwelling on it because the refs didn’t lose the game. The offense did and continues to look like a shell of its former self. Ever since the bye, it has not been the same. And truth be told, it was starting to falter around the San Diego game.
Sure the team is 7-4. Not a bad place to be. But the offense couldn’t get the job done and and Aaron Rodgers looked like the lesser quarterback in a match-up against Jay Cutler.
So how do they right the ship? If it was one easy fix, it would’ve already been solved and the team would be steamrolling like it did early in the season. Unfortunately it appears to be a multifactorial issue, and unless everything is addressed, the Packers’ offense will be as vulnerable as its proverbial weakest link.
Aaron Rodgers continues to drown on the field. It’s an apt analogy, if you ask me. You don’t realize you’re drowning until it’s too late. It’s a silent death, and you slip below the surface often before anyone can notice and help. There are rarely screams for help, and you descend into the depths.
That’s where he is right now, his arm barely above the water’s edge. We can see it, but no one seems to have one of those life saver rings that could drag him to shore.
He continues to play scared. The offense will get within an easy throw of a touchdown and he starts seeing ghosts, much like he admitted a few games earlier. He quickly dumped off the ball out of bounds in the far corner of the end zone without noticing an open receiver in the other corner. He seemed to be running for his life, yet not willing to take the ball through the open alley into the end zone himself.
I don’t know what it will take to fix that other than a couple more victories. He’s playing tentatively, and that it isn’t like Aaron Rodgers. The injured elbow isn’t going to help things. Hopefully he’s telling the truth, and it’s not big deal. But a numb left hand isn’t going to help anyone.
Injuries, a lack of confidence, personal issues, lack of communication with the receivers, it really doesn’t matter if it is one or all of the above. Rodgers either needs to find it in himself to reach for that lifeline or someone needs to dive in after him and pull him kicking and scratching to the surface. Pretending there isn’t a problem isn’t going to make it go away. If there is such a thing as a quarterback whisperer, the Packers need to find it fast.
That said, is the offensive message being lost in the multitude of coaches in charge of that side of the ball? Is the scheme getting diluted in the process and what is being enforced during the week is lost in translation between Alex Van Pelt as QB coach, Edgar Bennett as offensive coordinator, Tom Clements as game day play caller and then Mike McCarthy at head coach?
Quite frankly if I had to answer to four bosses, I’d get a little confused as well. Remember that game of Telephone we all played as kids where one kid whispers something to the kid next to him and she whispers what she thought she heard to the next kid and he passes that message down the line? Remember how messed up that message got by the time the last kid had to say it out loud? I get this sense that when you have that many coaches in charge of the offensive play for the week, it turns into a muddled game of telephone.
And the play calling, Rodgers’ struggles notwithstanding, seems to lack a killer instinct. It has become stale and oddly predictable. Is Clements allergic to the screen or slant passes? Why does he give up on the run so quickly. And why on God’s green earth does he think running seven yards back from the pistol is a great idea on fourth and a handful? We get it, the Packers don’t have a deep, reliable threat without Jordy Nelson, but why are entire chapters of the offensive playbook being cleaved out and burned?
And then there’s the drop and sloppy route problem. Rewatch Rodgers’ interception from Thursday night. That wasn’t entirely on Rodgers trying to force a bad pass. Adams gave up on his route before he even reached the ball.
We used to joke that Finley had a drop problem, but if you scrutinize Adams’ statistics, he really does have a problem. He’s only caught the half of the time he has been targeted. Sure, some of the balls lobbed his way are uncatchable, but a lot of time he’s either out of place, not looking for the pass and oblivious or he’s dropping it. He has a one in two record of not getting the job done.
Trust has been a mantra that Rodgers has reiterated numerous times. Right now Adams is lucky to have Rodgers’ trust to keep trying and keep trying, but when will the other shoe drop and Rodgers gives up targeting him? And while Rodgers doesn’t seem to trust Janis for similar reasons, isn’t it time to see if he can do better than a 50% chance of getting the job done.
At the beginning of the season the team announced that it would combine QBs and WRs in the same meeting room to boost efficiency and communication. When things were going well, it sure seemed like a good idea But is it still working? Is there accountability in a room that big, or is it just a mutual adoration society where there is no actual work getting down? In larger meetings, as we all know, the nitty gritty of actual work gets done, and the FYIs become a larger part of the gathering and conversation is cast aside in the name of efficiency of agenda.
I’m not advocating some insane team building activity between Rodgers and his wide receivers. There’s no need to dump them off in the middle of the UP with nothing more than a few matches, an egg and a pocket knife and tell them to MacGyver their way home to learn about working together as a team. But they need to figure what the communication breakdown is, and at this point, I’m willing for them to get creative in that department.
The passing game collapse is not a unilateral problem. It is not just Rodgers’ tentative play nor is it just a case of receivers dropping the ball. They are not on the same page right now, and they need to move beyond the cliche bingo that McCarthy spews after each loss about fundamentals, ball drills and whatnot. They need iron out the issues and move forward. It calls for honesty and problem-solving. Pretending there isn’t a problem and perpetuating mistakes isn’t a solution. It’s apathy.
At the end of the day, Aaron Rodgers as well as Davante Adams, James Jones, Jeff Janis, Randall Cobb and the tight ends are all professionals as well as adult learners. They have the skills to sort this out. They need to trust each other.
But until that happens, they are floating out in the ocean flailing for that life raft. Instead of dragging each other under the surface, they need to start swimming in the same direction.--------------