And we're off and running on the first day of the Green Bay Packers offseason. Not surprised to see questions about the defense this afternoon, obviously. That was one putrid showing from start to finish. No news today on Dom Capers. To address the elephant in the room, I'd still expect him to be the defensive coordinator next season. I don't think he'll be fired. But I keep thinking about what Mike McCarthy said after an admirable defensive showing in last season's playoff loss at Arizona: This defense, he said, needed to be a championship-caliber defense. Flash forward to yesterday, and that defense gave up 44 points in the first 48 minutes, six touchdowns on the first 8 possessions (with a field goal thrown in there), and allowed the Falcons to convert 10 of their first 12 third downs. That's incredible. Can't win a championship playing that way. So you would think Mike McCarthy needs to think long and hard this offseason about the future of this defense.
As for Clay Matthews, he was clearly overpaid this season for his production. A large part of that was injuries, but Matthews was far from an elite edge rusher in 2016. With that said, he's by far the most talented edge defender they have. He was active yesterday, if far from dominant. The Packers only hit Matt Ryan six times, and Matthews had a team-high three of those. The Packers simply aren't cutting Clay Matthews. Won't happen. And he's under no obligation to take a pay cut. But they need him to play much, much better in 2017.
I don't see a lot of talent on this defense. I see an aging pass rush that was ineffective. I see wide-open receivers on the perimeter every week. I see a defense with major holes at the two most important positions: edge rusher and cornerback. Shadow Julio Jones with LaDarius Gunter? Seriously? That's never going to work on a big stage like the NFC championship game, but Dom Capers didn't have a choice. Damarious Randall, the first-round draft pick last season, wasn't a real option for the job. So I'd argue a lack of talent is the biggest problem for this defense, not scheme. Where are the difference makers? The game changers? Ultimately, that falls on Ted Thompson.
There are real problems on that defense, but I don't think anyone is getting fired. Certainly not Ted Thompson. I certainly understand the frustration on a day like this, but you don't make firings after eight straight playoff trips and two conference championship game appearances in three years. That's not to excuse what happened yesterday. This defense needs to be rebuilt during the offseason, and I don't think the NFL draft is enough to do it. But don't expect firings.
The Packers are going to have to decide that this season. It'll be a very interesting evaluation of him. To me, Damarious Randall could be the Davante Adams of 2016. Everyone counted out Adams last season. I mean, it was hard not to. But he more than recovered this year, showing he can be a good receiver in this league. Adams' two problems last year were injuries and pressure early in his career after Jordy Nelson went down. This year, Randall's two problems were injuries and pressure early in his career after Sam Shields went down. Randall is clearly talented, but he week by week he looked largely noncompetitive after returning from groin injury. Was that because of his health? Was it lack of confidence? The Packers need to figure it out, because they can't have a first-round corner playing like that.
Mike McCarthy fired two assistants (Sam Gash and Jerry Fontenot) last year. There could be staff changes this offseason, sure. But you can't just keep firing assistants and expect a noncompetitive defense to magically turned into a championship-caliber defense.
Haven't heard much on some guys. I expect Jared Cook to be back for multiple years. I think they need to bring back Micah Hyde; he does too many things for this defense. Hyde is especially important if they want to play Morgan Burnett more at linebacker in their subpackages. It's just a guess, but I would be surprised to see James Starks back, despite another year remaining on his roster. I think Nick Perry is back. Don't know about Datone Jones, but it would have to be for the right price. As for T.J. Lang, that may be the toughest decision. I think the wise move is to bring him back, even if that risks keeping Jason Spriggs as a backup. You can replace a guard, but Lang is important to the fabric of that locker room. With that said, you can replace a guard. So Lang's return would probably have to be at the right price.
Start with the first round of the NFL draft. The two biggest draft needs are outside linebacker and cornerback. You can arrange them however you like; both need to be addressed this offseason.
Good thing is from the media, you get a perspective with context. You don't have to be a Ted Thompson apologist to say NFL GMs who make eight straight playoff appearances and two conference title games in three years get fired. Don't believe me? Go out and find another example of that happening in the league. You can't. Ted Thompson doesn't need to be fired, but he needs to be flexible. He needs to be more open to free agency. I think just about everyone sees that. We'll see this offseason if he does.
This team fell behind 10-0 before they could blink. They should've scored points on both of their first drives if not for a missed field goal and red-zone fumble. They trailed 24-0 at halftime. And they had a red-hot Aaron Rodgers. The Packers did not lose because they didn't run more. That had zero factor.
Well, Julius Peppers becomes a free agent this spring because his initial three-year contract with the Packers expires. So it wouldn't be a salary dump from the Packers' end. Ultimately, my guess is that Julius Peppers calls it a career. While it ended up working, Peppers was clearly frustrated this year with learning how to contribute in a limited role. He's already a likely Hall of Famer. I don't think he wants to hang on just to get a ring if it means playing a quarter of the snaps. Just my guess.
I'll be honest, before yesterday, I never once thought the Packers should even entertain the idea of firing Dom Capers. Even now, it's not something they have to do. Sorry to the #fireDomCapers crowd, but it's unjust to put all of this on him. With that said, it's clear what happened yesterday simply can not happen. There's no excuse for it. Around the league, it's the type of showing that could cost a job. Will it in Green Bay? The Packers are known for their patience, so I wouldn't expect it. But, again, Mike McCarthy has to think about the future direction of his defense this offseason.
That's a great question, Derek. I don't know the answer, unfortunately. But you gave me a good story idea. As for picking the wrong players or bad development from coaches, it's hard to say. Could be both.
Might be the No. 1 question of the offseason. Packers better figure it out.
If they can retain Eddie Lacy for the right price, I think he's back as the starter. Maybe a one-year deal. If not, it becomes the top draft priority on offense. Even if Lacy is back, the Packers probably should use a mid-round pick on a secondary tailback. As for Ty Montgomery, we'll find out when Mike McCarthy gives his end-of-the-season address what his future holds, but the Packers don't need another receiver -- especially with Geronimo Allison's emergence. I think Ty Montgomery gives them more value as a running back, and he proved to be a good one as well. He needs to improve in pass pro, but his natural ability to catch out of the backfield presents matchup problems.
That's certainly a fair point, George. Picking at the end of the first round every year doesn't help. Which is why the occasional free agent is probably a good idea.
John Dorsey is contractually obligated to the chiefs through the end of the 2018 season.
No, it wasn't. Turnovers, a missed kick, a failed blitz pickup. These were the holes. The Packers rushed 17 times for 87 yards in Dallas and won. They rushed 17 times for 99 yards yesterday and lost. You don't run more when you're trailing multiple touchdowns on the road against a team your defense can not stop.
In a word, versatility. If the Packers don't re-sign him, he'll get a job elsewhere because of his ability to play multiple positions and contribute on special teams as a returner. He's a good player, too. Not a Pro Bowler. But you need a Micah Hyde on your team. He is not the problem for this Packers defense.
The Patriots are led by the most brilliant personnel evaluator the game has ever seen. Not everyone is Bill Belichick. Actually, nobody is.
No. Ted Thompson still gets final call. It's his ship to steer.