I’ll be honest, I didn’t see this coming. The green and gold glasses I viewed the NFL through were clouded. Despite the four-game losing streak heading into the contest with the Detroit Lions. I thought the Packers were about to get back on track. The 15-9 loss to Detroit lifted the haze and I can see clearly now that the Green Bay Packer’s era of expected success is over.
The path to the playoffs for this season has dissipated. In front of the Packers are three games against Dallas, Tennessee, and Philadelphia. As much as I’d like to hope they could pull out victories in these games. In reality, the Packers struggled to score one touchdown against a Detroit Lions team with arguably the worst defense in the league. By the end of November, the Packers will likely be 3-9. Let that sink in.
Packers Lose Many Players in Loss to Detroit
Not only did the Packers lose against the Lions, but they also lost a number of players to injuries. The list is long and filled with starters and key contributors. Eric Stokes suffered a knee and ankle injury. Romeo Doubs is said to have a high ankle sprain. Christian Watson was removed from the game as a concussion precaution and Krys Barnes sustained a concussion. Especially concerning is the ACL knee injury to Rashan Gary. Unlike many of the others, the ankle injury that took Aaron Jones out of the game is not thought to be serious.
While the loss of production from these critical contributors is concerning. Above all the stranglehold Aaron Rodgers has on the team is crippling. As much as Rodgers can bring to this team he takes that much away. He’s not the player he once was. Markedly, he’s not the player he was just last year. Yet, the power he has over the coach, the organization, and the psyche of the team finds the Packers caught between a rock and a hard place.
Green Bay Gambles that Rodgers is Still Elite
The Packers made a $150 million wager that Rodgers was still elite. Not only did Rodgers continue to possess the skill that made him a four-time MVP, but his greatness would also make the players around him better. Now at 3-6, it is looking like Brian Gutekunst and the Packers brass overplayed their hand. Rodgers has been far from elite and has not made those around him better. If anything, he likely intimidates rather than inspires the younger receivers.
Particularly troubling is the influence Rodgers has on Head Coach Matt LaFleur. Aaron Rodgers is not running Matt LaFleurs’ offense. Rodgers is running his own offense. A collection of plays Rodgers feels comfortable with that keeps the ball in his hands. The cuffed skinny jean-wearing coach does not have the intestinal fortitude or the power to make Rodgers run his system.
What is transpiring in Green Bay is not different from what happens daily in organizations across the country. Once an employee is granted too much power, the organization can no longer manage them. They manage the organization. The Packers are now financially strapped with the quarterback’s contract. Furthermore, if they bench Rodgers, they fear he’ll demand a trade next year. Hence, they risk moving on from Rodgers and he has success elsewhere and they are even worse in the eyes of the fan base.
Could the Packers Have Avoided this Regression?
Could the Packers have done something differently to not find themselves in this situation? Quite possibly. After being forced to trade Davante Adams, they could have found a more suitable replacement than Sammy Watkins.
Instead, they bet that Allan Lazard could grow into a wide receiver one. Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb would provide depth and the rookies would make up the difference. However, the truth is that Lazard is a good two, or a great three. Watkins and Cobb can’t stay healthy. And Watkins probably isn’t long for the NFL. The rookies – Doubs, Watson, and even Samori Toure – have bright futures. But at present, the Packers are lacking talent at the wide receiver position. Rodgers has no safety net.
It’s hard to say exactly how this remainder of the season will unfold. As a result of the past five weeks, it is safe to assume that the Packers’ season will end in the last game of the regular season. No playoff runs. No post-season fun. A run of success that started way back in 1992 will very likely conclude. Packer fans over the age of 45 will cross their fingers and hope that the void is not filled by what transpired in Titletown in the 1970s and 80s.