Packers and the Perils of Complacency

So I am going to put this caveat out there. I only saw the last quarter of the game last Sunday. Trust me, it was enough. But I did follow the live Tweeting as I sat somewhere between the mainland and Guam. And when the Packers, who seemed to be finding a rhythm with Eddie Lacy hurdling over players and Aaron Rodgers not totally stinking up the joint, the team found them selves in that oh-so-familiar Third and Short situation, I leaned over to my husband, showed him my phone and whispered, “Watch McCarthy kill this entire drive. Five bucks says he’ll put Ripkowski in and shovel the ball to him from about seven yards deep, and the Pack will be punting next.”

Man, I should buy lottery tickets or something.

Wait, no I shouldn’t be lottery tickets. It was as safe as a bet as guessing the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning. Here’s the deal, if me, sitting somewhere in the middle of the Pacific ocean, gazillions of miles from Lambeau Field (Yes, I sold my tickets to a Packer fan. Don’t blame me for the wave of white and blue in the stands) can successfully predict the play without even watching the actual game, Mike McCarthy’s offensive scheme has become so scripted and predictable that you, me and every team they play on the 2016 schedule has it memorized.

The play book may consist of several Gigabytes on an Apple iPad, but the playbook can be distilled down to the following painful predictable sequence.

First Down: Hand the ball to Lacy

Second Down: Hand the ball to Lacy

Third Down (if short): Hand the ball to someone less capable to Lacy.

Third Down (If long): Hope Aaron Rodgers is having a good day and throw the ball to Jordy.

Sure, there are permutations of this order of plays. But it distills down to this. It doesn’t matter if it is third and short, and Lacy has some powerful momentum going, the offensive live (which is one of the true bright spots in this season thus far) is really getting a run block groove going, and all it would take to keep the drive alive would be to feed the ball to Lacy once more (or so short that all Rodgers has to do is lean forward to move the sticks.)

Nope, Mc Carthy has to be a slave to the script. So let’s try something everyone knows is coming and let’s lose six yards!

Last year, we thought that all would be restored with the universe and handing playcalling back to McCarthy would suddenly cure all that ails the Packers offense after the failed Tom Clements experiment. Only it didn’t. And that wasn’t the problem at all anyhow.

It doesn’t matter if it is Vince Lombardi calling the plays if there are no surprises in the offensive plan. It doesn’t matter one bit who is wearing the headset and holding the clipboard if it is the same, tired script that cannot be altered.

And now that there are literally no running backs (Yes, I was able to catch the news the Packers traded a late-rounder for a running back), Montgomery and Cobb are trying to be reasonable facsimiles of RBs, Jared Cook is still out (but out of the boot, so at least that looks promising), and Aaron Rodgers still can neither hang on to the ball nor hit the broad side of a barn (He’s not the focus of this article. Expect one on Saturday), that script gets all the more narrow.

Yes, expect Rodgers to try the long bomb if he gets fortunate enough to draw the Bears offsides this week. But with the combinations of injuries, expect McCarthy to stick to Lacy, Lacy, Stupid run play/Incomplete pass and punt for all four quarters.

I used to joke about the pitchforks and torches when it came to a bad game. Fire everyone. Fire their mom’s too. But maybe it’s time to take a look at the strong possibility that it isn’t Aaron Rodgers’ failed headgame with himself that is the biggest problem in Green Bay.

It’s Mike McCarthy. And here’s the deal, playoff berths breed complacency. Get to the playoffs and somehow you get a pass. At least that’s the case in Green Bay. Apparently it’s just enough of a success to warrant a stay of execution after the final loss of the season. After all, it was a pretty good year any time the Packers limp into the playoffs. And they made it to overtime against Arizona last year. That was a pretty decent run, only to crumple as soon as the clock reset for overtime.

And for the most part, McCarthy stuck to his script last year of predictable playcalling, letting off the gas and coasting during the third quarter, the hoping the defense can hold on and maintain the win until the final second elapses.

Sure, that is a passive way to end up with more wins than loses in the regular season. But that is a plan to fall backwards into the playoffs. It sure as heck isn’t a strategy to win it all

Playing to win and playing not to lose are two entirely different entities.

Unfortunately, it appears that Mike McCarthy has descended into the Playing Not Lose stage of his career. It’s to passive. It’s hoping the other team screws up more than yours, and, quite frankly, it’s not a formula to win another Super Bowl Ring.

Last year, I used to joke that the Wisconsin Badgers played just good enough that they were stuck with their happily mediocre quarterback Joel Stave until he either graduated or was hit by a bus. No I didn’t want him hit by a bus, I was just illustrating the fact that they weren’t going to get rid of him because he was okay enough.

We have that same situation in Green Bay with McCarthy. He isn’t putrid, but he wins enough games (the Packers are okay right now at 3-2) to get that complacent pass. But since McCarthy can’t graduate like Stave did, and getting hit by a bus would not be nice, are we all stuck with him for eternity?

I guess that is a decision Ted Thompson will need to make at the end of the season. If they fall backwards into the playoffs, expect him to remain. But then Thompson would be conceding to complacency and the final chapter of his own storied carrier would have the asterisk that would say “just okay” at the bottom of the page.

Yes, we got spoiled with twenty years of excellent quarterbacks. We got spoiled in Super Bowl XLV with another Lombardi Trophy. But do we need to continue to settle with Just Okay because it’s the same coach.

I guess it comes down to the following:

Are the Packers in it to win it? Or are they content playing merely not to lose?

Because there is a huge difference.

 

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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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One thought on “Packers and the Perils of Complacency

  1. Back in the glory days Bart Starr called most of the offensive plays in the huddle. Wish MM would allow AR to call his own plays for a few series… see what happens.

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