Throughout the season, such topics as ‘losing has been helpful for the franchise’ and ‘look ahead to 2019 and forget about 2018’ have been running rampant throughout Cheesehead nation, fueled by how disappointing this season has ended up being. While some of my recent articles have also contained such non-positive elements, never have I wanted the team to tank or lose to better their draft prospects.
Now that the Packers have officially been eliminated from making the playoffs and have secured their second consecutive losing season, the first back-to-back sub .500 seasons since 1990-1991, it is officially time to look forward to 2019.
From player development to coaching personnel in-game interviews, these final two games will be integral in how and when Brian Gutekunst and his staff begins the offseason.
Here are some specific ways the team can begin to plan for 2019 before the season ends.
Play the rookies / expand the depth chart
Veteran players, such as Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb should begin to receive less playing time these final weeks.
In Sunday’s contest in Chicago, Matthews had some important plays, including forcing a fumble by Mitchell Trubisky (that was recovered by CHI) and recording the team’s lone sack. Cobb, who was forced to leave the game in the fourth quarter after dealing with concussion-like symptoms, had seven targets, resulting in only three catches for 30 yards.
By giving more offensive playing time to the likes of EQ, MVS, Jake Kumerow, J’Mon Moore and even Robert Tonyan, it will help determine who should come back and in what capacity next season. Defensively, Tyler Lancaster, Josh Jackson, Tony Brown, Kyler Fackrell, Kendall Donnerson and Natrell Jamerson should all be active on game day and given active roles in the game plan.
Stop the discussion about Rodgers’ health – until the offseason
Time and time again, the conversation has centered around AR’s health and bad performance this season, aspects that even he has admitted to being constantly on his mind.
His lack of touch and precise game management was highlighted in yesterday’s game, when he overshot a number of receivers, including overshooting both Cobb and MVS once that were likely to go for touchdowns.
After the game, he was asked about wanting to continue to play these final two games even after being knocked out of playoff contention. In a nutshell, he said he expects to start and play the final two games, and that he would be upset if DeShone Kizer ended up getting playing time, unless an injury occurred.
While those comments may come off as ignorant and a bit outlandish, Rodgers has clearly earned the right to say when he should play in situations like this. While this topic is important, due to his financial hit on the team for many years to come may put the team in a bind, it will be important to focus on the on-field performance for the remainder of the year.
Extensively evaluate areas of need
Last offseason, the position groupings of tight end, backup quarterback and pass rush were addressed, and all were thought to have been crossed off the list of needs coming into the year.
Flash forward to 14 games into the season, and all those groups, as well as receiver, offensive line and safety can also be added to the offseason needs that the team needs to address.
At the current mark, Green Bay holds three selections in the first 50 picks in the 2019 draft, numbers 11, 32 (from NO) and 43. They have the potential to rise to as high as third overall if everything falls into place with other lottery teams.
Pass rush should be at the top of the list, plain and simple. Regardless of if it is addressed through free agency (Clowney, etc.) or the draft (Polite, Sweat, etc.), it must be address period.
After that, tight end (Noah Fant), receiver (Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown, N’Keal Harry, D.K. Metcalf), offensive line (Dalton Risner, Greg Little), safety (Deionte Thompson, Taylor Rapp), rushers (Jachai Polite, Josh Allen, Montez Sweat) and others (LB Devin White, DT Dexter Lawrence, ILB Chase Winovich) all would be good selections and great possibilities for Green Bay inside the top 50.
Regardless of how the season ends, it can be considered a disappointment. While it may have spurned a few changes that some thought have been a long time coming, you never wish someone to be fired.
As Packer fans, we have been absolutely spoiled with the extended success that this franchise has had. Not having experienced two consecutive losing seasons in almost 30 years is quite remarkable, something we as fans forget about too often.
Being a cheesehead has a lot of pride attached to it, but apparently can, at times, include a fan base that occasionally forgets how truly blessed we are. All Packer fans need to remember is the storied history of this team, how important they have been for the development of the NFL and how all teams need to go through retooling periods.
As always, leave any thoughts, comments and questions you may have below!
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