2020 resembles make-or-break year for Mike Pettine

After the absolute disaster that the Green Bay Packers endured at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game to end their 2019 season, rumors began to circulate of Mike Pettine being left in California as the former defensive coordinator. While that never ended up coming true, to the point where head coach Matt LaFleur spoke about how he believed in Pettine and wanted him to remain on the staff for 2020, the amount of leniency that Pettine now has is very little.

The rushing attack of the 49ers absolutely decimated the GB defense which should not have come as a surprise based on the fact that that is how they were so successful throughout the entire year. With Pettine unable to gameplan to shutdown the element of the game everyone knew they would be utilizing, the writing seemed to be on the fall that his future in green and gold was not for much longer.

The week before, against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Divisional Round, Pettine’s defense let Seattle back into the game with 20 second-half points against the 3 they put up in the first half. While GB ultimately won 28-23, the fact that the game was as close as it was late spoke to how the wheels were apparently already starting to come off for the defense.

For Pettine, his honeymoon period has run out ever since he came to GB under the Mike McCarthy regime, and even with all of the defensive additions made through free agency and the draft, he has been toeing a very fine line in crunchtime situations.

In 2020, free agency saw linebacker Christian Kirksey become the lone big-time defensive addition for this team, meaning that Pettine will need to roll with the big-money additions from last offseason (Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Adrian Amos) and utilize them in different ways to be able to continue to optimize their production.

Through the ‘20 draft, the defense was not addressed until round five, bringing in Minnesota linebacker Kamal Martin to help shore up one of the weakest areas of their defensive front seven. Outside of Martin, TCU safety Vernon Scott and Florida defensive end Jonathan Garvin were the only other defensive selections that this team made, putting the onus on Pettine to maximize his current resources.

Rushing defense is going to be the aspect that makes – or breaks – this team in ‘20, and in turn holds the future of Pettine and GB in its hands as well. 

Looking at rushing yardage solely, GB faces seven of the top-15 teams in total rushing yards from 2019, including the second (49ers), third (Tennessee Titans), and sixth (Minnesota Vikings x2). These opponents will all be big-time tests for Pettine and his rushing D, and this upcoming season (whenever it ends up happening) will be a key look into how highly LaFleur and GM Brian Gutekunst feel about Pettine’s abilities moving forward.

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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

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