The Badgers football team is the talk of the state. Ever since hiring Luke Fickell late last year, the team has blown away all offseason expectations. Utilizing the transfer protocol like never before, possibly bringing in the 3 best QBs the team has had since Russel Wilson and hiring coaches on the forefront of modern strategy on both offense and defense. Here’s what the Packers can learn from the Badgers.
Get Creative on Offense
We need to couch this section by saying this version of the Badgers’ offense has literally done nothing while the Packers have had a top 10 offense for the majority of the past four years, but times change. As the Packers move on from the QB they’ve had as starter for the past 14 seasons, the Badgers will move on from the offense they’ve majored in for more than the last 30 years.
New Badgers OC Phil Longo is a member of the Air Raid tree. A strategy known for passing 50 or even 60 times a game while forsaking the run. Longo isn’t quite that extreme – just two years ago he had two-thousand-yard rushers in one season – but he will certainly be more pass and spread heavy than anyone who has ever coached in Madison.
The Packers offense should go in this direction (more creative not necessarily more spread) naturally next season. Aaron Rodgers had been a starter for more than a decade when he started working with Matt LaFleur, obviously he had go-to plays and things that he didn’t like. Look for more motion, more true RPOs, more back to the defense play action, and more creativity in general as LaFleur is able to open his playbook completely for the first time.
Flexibility on Defense
The Badgers will reportedly merge the Jim Leonhard style 3-4 simulated pressure heavy scheme with the dollar package that Fickell’s Cincinnati teams preferred. It makes a lot of sense in the Big 10, where you can go from seeing two tight ends and the I formation 40 times in one game to shotgun 4 wide receivers in the next.
The Packers could use some more flexibility on defense. The light box approach is nice on paper and should limit big plays, but it, and basically every team running a version of it, can’t stop the run. In a division with two run first teams and Kirk Cousins, it’s more important than ever for the Packers to be able to stop the run.
2-High shells and running a ton of Cover-6 and Cover-4 is great against pass heavy teams and in likely pass situations, but the team needs to adjust when the situation calls for it. Get a safety in the box against run heavy teams. Matchup Jaire Alexander in man coverage against top wide receivers. Blitz when the 4-man rush isn’t cutting it. Just don’t be so predictable that even Jared Goff can move the ball down the field at will.
Be more open with fans
This one isn’t really an on-field thing, but it’s something we need. The Packers have been a secretive, close to the vest organization for 30 years, and it’s gotten them two total super bowls with hall of fame quarterbacks. Littering press conferences with non-answers and not allowing the social media team to do anything creative just alienates fans, it doesn’t give the team any material advantage.
Every team knows exactly what the Packers are doing by week 4. Most teams know before the season starts. You can find playbooks from almost every coach with a simple Google search. The 49ers have been more successful with worse quarterbacks the past five years and their coach is one of the most open in the league.
It’s time to ditch the old-fashioned J. Edgar Hoover approach. Especially when the team is owned by the fans.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.