Commonly, teams bounce back the week after firing their head coach, due to a newfound sense of urgency, willingness to what to improve and other extenuating reasons. But normally a team does not come out and play as well as Green Bay did after firing their head coach of 13 seasons.
But here we are, talking about the fifth victory of the season, a 34-20 win at home against the equally-hapless Atlanta Falcons. This loss by Atlanta pushes them even farther up in the draft order, falling to 4-9 on the season and 1-5 on the road. Green Bay moved to 5-7-1 and 5-1-1 at home.
With the victory, the Joe Philbin-led Packers now have a six percent chance to make the playoffs, a subtle increase for a team that, to help with its refresh (not rebuild) needs to miss the playoffs.
While a storied franchise never wants to miss the playoffs after being so used to making it year after year, there comes a time where having a bad season is helpful. It provides a golden opportunity to retool, and especially for this franchise that has the integral pieces in the right places, a chance to work on its most glaring weaknesses.
The game began at a decent pace, with both teams scoring on their opening possessions. Touchdown catches by Julio Jones and Davante Adams paced the first quarter, but that was all that was heard from the Atlanta offense until the second half.
For Joe Philbin, even though he has been an offensive coordinator and head coach for many years in this league, today marked his first career game calling plays, something very hard to believe.
Philbin’s game plan was decently consistent, but it was quite evident where his play choice inspiration came from. He was able to incorporate a few more wrinkles into the plan, including motion and formation differences, but the schematic elements remained mostly consistent to Mike McCarthy calls. A big-time positive from the calls was that he made sure Aaron Rodgers was either in the shotgun or involved in quick, two-step drops, limiting the damage of the Falcons’ rush that was taking advantage of three linemen (Byron Bell, Bryan Bulaga and Lane Taylor) all being out.
Less possession play calls were made, meaning that such plays as receiver screens were utilized less than normal, helping create a better offensive flow. Philbin also used Jamaal Williams more than Aaron Jones unfortunately, but thankfully that trend only existed in the first half. Jones made the most of his touches, scoring on a 29-yard run just under the six-minute mark in the third quarter.
Defensively, game balls go to Jaire Alexander, Bashaud Breeland and Tony Brown.
Alexander was tasked with following Julio Jones all across the field, and while Jones finished with eight catches for 106 yards and two scores, most of that yardage and one of the scores was tallied on the opening drive. Jones was blanketed for most of the game by number 23, and the Louisville rookie has more than earned the designation of number one corner on the team.
Breeland recorded the team’s first defensive touchdown of the season and his second in his career, house-calling a pass from Matt Ryan deep in Atlanta territory. This was Ryan’s 16th career pick-six, a big-time asterisk on an otherwise solid quarterback.
Brown is the more surprising pick here, especially when considering his stat line of only five tackles. However, Brown has done some considerable growing up this season, being thrown into the fire with injuries striking the secondary unit. Brown loves to lay down the law too, as he forced a non-called fumble of Mohamed Sanu after Sanu turned up field, right into Brown’s helmet.
Overall, Philbin’s first game as Green Bay’s head coach was not by any means career defining, but it was a solid performance that was not surprising to see. Philbin is one of the elder coaching staff members on this team, with both head-coaching and prior GB coordinator experience adding up to someone who was great to help right the ship after a tumultuous week.
For his future, while he has been a solid voice for Green Bay, and his pedigree is well respected, he should not by any means be considered for the full-time promotion.
He has the respect of the players and fellow coaching members, which is fine and dandy, but he lacks the creative juices and willingness to adapt to current succeeding offensive measures to take full advantage of what is left of AR’s career. Philbin is a solid offensive coordinator option, but not one that I fully believe could lead this team back to what we all know and have been forced to reminisce about lately.
Speaking about if this win was a good thing, there are a few reasons to be skeptical, most notably the draft status and the status of Philbin.
Relating to the draft, a selection in the top 10 is what is going to most benefit this team going forward. While I would not be disappointed with a top-15 pick, being able to be in the top 10 provides so many more options, one of which includes packaging that pick and other assets to move up and severely improve any aspect of the team.
Relating to Philbin, yesterday’s performance cannot become one that sticks in Mark Murphy’s and Brian Gutekunst’s heads when it comes time to conduct interviews. Especially if the team wins out, way too much stock will be put into what kind of coach Philbin is, severely stunting the coaching search that needs to occur.
Again, nothing against Philbin, but he just is not the correct fit for this team at this time. They require a leader who is going to renovate this offensive game plan to the point where we can be inserted into the grouping of offenses redefining the league. Sorry chief, Philbin ain’t it.
As always, leave your thoughts, concerns and questions in the comments below! Also want to give a big shoutout to everyone who read my article last week about why Green Bay needed to lose. I felt that was one of my favorite ones to write so far, and with how the season has gone, it was cool to see the amount of interest fans had after McCarthy was let go.
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23