In a game that featured no playoff implications, D-list television commentators (except for Pat McAfee) and giving up 30+ points to the Detroit Lions for the fourth consecutive time, the Green Bay Packers showed absolutely no life in their ninth loss of the season.
The only positive about the loss is that the team can only pick as low as 12th in the 2019 draft, but can rise up to as high as 10th after later game results. If Denver and Cincinnati both lose, Green Bay moved up to 10th, but if only one loses then they will finish at 11th.
Losing in December is not a normalcy in Titletown, but to do it at home against a lowly Lions team that, even with the victory still managed to finish behind the Packers in the standings, is nothing short of an abomination. Nitpicking at how the team was not at full strength does not even scratch the surface of what were the fundamental issues Sunday.
Previously, I stated that having Aaron Rodgers play in this meaningless contest was a way to show how important being a leader is on this team to him, so he should be able to go out there, even if just for a quarter of action. This take was made before knowing the health of the offensive line, which was not close to full health before the game. With that knowledge, upper management should have pulled the plug on Rodgers’ snap count, not even letting him warm up.
Both Joe Philbin and Brian Gutekunst had a golden opportunity to step in and put an end to any thoughts AR may have had about playing, instead allowing him to go out and play and earn a concussion. This injury, while serious enough and avoidable, could have been much worse, it goes to show the type of control management has on the current team, who they default to for decision making (AR) and how much turnover needs to occur to right this ship for 2019.
DeShone Kizer, J’Mon Moore, Jake Kumerow, Allen Lazard, Robert Tonyan, Josh Jackson, Tony Brown and others should have all been asked to contribute more in the game plan today to assess what their 2019 roles should look like. Of this group, Jackson and Brown were the two that stood out the most, as the offensive side of the ball could never establish a good-enough rhythm while attempting to move down the field.
As an undrafted free agent, Brown had a very solid year, setting himself up to potentially become the team’s CB 4 or 5 in 2019, a huge step for the rookie out of Alabama. Brown, who should be known more as the best Alabama defensive back we had on this team this season, managed to understand Mike Pettine’s schemes fairly well and overcame some youthful issues in the beginning of the season to make a name for himself.
Jackson has struggled throughout 2018, failing to get enough consistent traction for Pettine to earn the big snaps to showcase his talent. Sunday he was essentially the team’s number one corner with Jaire Alexander and Kevin King both out, and Jackson had a solid pass breakup and consistent coverage (although he did allow a touchdown) to showcase why the team drafted him in the second round this year.
Offensively, there were no standouts, as the entire unit was stagnant against a decently-porous Lions defense that is led by Pro Bowler Darius Slay.
In relief of Rodgers after his concussion, Kizer came in and had an unimpressive, game-manager performance of 16/35 for 132 yards and a foolish interception while he was getting sacked. Kizer’s development has not reached the levels he was thought to have been able to reach coming out of Notre Dame, and how the backup quarterback spot for Green Bay yet again becomes a topic of discussion in the offseason.
Giving up on Damarious Randall, who is thriving in Cleveland after he actually was moved to the position in which he should have played the whole time in safety, for Kizer has definitely not worked out for us yet, and seems likely to go down as a poorly-made trade. While an early selection should not necessarily be used on a gunslinger (unless a Rodgers draft scenario occurs), the draft should be considered yet again for upgrading the QB depth.
With all of the positive takeaways from the most recent offseason, most ‘upgrades’ ending up not even coming close to panning out. Jimmy Graham, Mercedes Lewis, Muhammad Wilkerson, Kizer and other smaller depth pieces all did not match up to their monetary values, especially Graham.
Sunday was likely the final game in Green and Gold for both Randall Cobb and Clay Matthews, who both had illustrious careers for the Packers. Both have their contracts up after this season, and it is hard to see either returning to Green Bay, unless they take massive pay cuts from what they earned this season.
Matthews has a great chance to eventually be inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, and Cobb will always be remembered for hauling in the pass from Rodgers at Soldier Field to give Green Bay the NFC North title in 2014. While they both received less fan support towards the ends of their respective Packer careers, they will always be remembered for what made them be adored by all cheeseheads alike.
This upcoming offseason will be such an important one, one that will make verberations through the franchise ten years from now. The front office needs to understand its outstanding priorities that need to be addressed through both the draft and free agency, which we have enough funds to spend to make decent improvements to the squad (see pass rush, interior offensive linemen, defensive backfield and offensive weapons).
Covering Green Bay this season has been an absolute blast, but the offseason will become much more important with the impending coaching search and roster changes forthcoming.
Even with the season complete, please stay tuned for ongoing Packers news throughout the offseason, the draft and personnel changes, and as always, please leave any comments, thoughts or concerns below.
Have a blessed New Year!
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