Hello, Packers fans. Just got back from Charlotte this morning after watching the Packers' playoff hopes effectively end with their loss to the Carolina Panthers. Ready for your questions.
It certainly would have helped for Aaron Rodgers to get a tune-up game against the Browns before facing a top-five defense on the road, but I think it's a lot to assume Rodgers had any chance of returning before he did. Even returning after eight weeks surprised medical experts I spoke with. Maybe he gets back sooner, but it's really hard for me to see that being a realistic option.
Fans don't want to hear this, but the season really ended Week 6 when Rodgers broke his collarbone. It would've been damn near a miracle for the Packers to make the playoffs this season. I'm actually surprised they get as close as they did. Now, that doesn't mean everybody is off the hook. There were mistakes made, and the Packers did give themselves an opportunity, one that they didn't cash in. But anyone who still held out high hopes after Minnesota was lying to themselves.
I put it on Ted Thompson, not Dom Capers. This defense doesn't have the impact players you find in Minnesota, or Seattle, or even a place like Denver. The defensive line is quite good, and I think the inside linebacker group is much improved over the past couple years. Players like Kenny Clark and Blake Martinez have helped, but they play in the middle of the field. In today's league, defensive difference makers play on the perimeter, at corner and edge rush. The Packers corner group is chalked full of developmental prospects instead of proven players. The edge rush was even a bigger issue, old and thin on depth. You need four good outside linebackers in Dom Capers' system; the Packers had two, and those two have extensive injury histories. The perimeter of the Packers defense was ill equipped to compete this season, and it would've cost them eventually. That's not to say Dom Capers is perfect, but to me it doesn't much matter who's calling the plays when there's this little talent and depth on the perimeter.
You hit on another big problem with Ted Thompson. There's zero public accountability. Too many times Mike McCarthy is left to answer for personnel decisions he didn't make, because Thompson has ultimate autonomy on the roster. Thompson does only the bare minimum required by the NFL. Plenty of GMs are more visible to the public. It's been a problem for a long time, and at this point is sure doesn't seem like it's ever going to change.
Haven't thought about individual grades yet, but it isn't ideal to be paying Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb each $10 million annually. The production doesn't match up. Not sure what will happen, but something needs to be done there this offseason.
I'm not sure it says much about them as legitimate contenders we didn't already know. They are on the short list because of their quarterback. Aaron Rodgers gives this team a chance to win every game, and a realistic shot at the Super Bowl every season. The organization has not seized that window because of shortcomings elsewhere on the roster. This season, the Packers lack of a consistent pass rush was bound to catch up to them, even if Rodgers stayed healthy.
Ideally, I think you'd have more experienced players filling key roles in Capers' defense, but that isn't the real issue when it comes down to the bottom line. The bottom line? This defense didn't have the edge rush depth and talent to win a Super Bowl.
The good news for the Packers is if they restock their edge rush through the draft, they don't need to make those decisions in a year. They can afford to continue paying Clay Matthews and Nick Perry what they do, by adding younger, less expensive talent. Matthews and Perry are good players. The Packers need more good players at that position, not fewer. Ultimately, the future of that position will hinge on whether the Packers nail their picks this spring. They can't afford to wait until the fourth round again to address the edge rush.
You raise a really interesting point, and I'm not sure what will happen. Mike McCarthy is set to enter 2018 as a lame duck, and that's never ideal. Of course, it also isn't an ideal time to give him an extension, after failing to miss the playoffs for the first time in almost a decade. The Packers probably extend McCarthy, because they want him to continue being their coach, and that's a good call. Still, an interesting predicament.
They missed the playoffs. I don't shape my analysis based on what might happen. I react to what in fact does happen.
It comes down to drafting impact players at impact positions on that side of the ball, something the Packers have done too infrequently to be an above-average defense, much less an elite one.
Easy. He hasn't had good enough players.
Sure they do; it's one of the top scouting departments in the league. If they want to keep a football person in charge, Eliot Wolf still has to be considered the favorite as Thompson's successor. If they want to do something unconventional, maybe you'll see someone like Russ Ball. Schneider isn't happening.
Until they do, it doesn't much matter who calls the plays.
You forgot the part about having a franchise QB, but yes.
Micah Hyde was a good player here, too. It's why the Bills paid him $30 million over five years.
You have to consistently hit it big in the draft.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was a second-team all-pro last year. Kenny Clark and Blake Martinez have been awfully good this season. Mike Daniels is a very good player. The problem is what all four of them have in common: they play in the middle of the field. The perimeter, the corner and edge rush positions, are the premier spots on the defense. Where the outstanding players play is almost as important as getting outstanding players.
That's a really good question; what WILL happen? And I'm not sure. Don't get me wrong, I don't think it's absolutely necessary for someone to get fired in order for the Packers to win a Super Bowl. They have the pieces here. But this feels like an ideal offseason to make a change at GM, if they so desire. If this were the end for Dom Capers, it wouldn't surprise me. I'd guess nobody loses their job, because this is an organization that values continuity in key roles. And I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. Continuity wins in the NFL. But the roster build has to be better.
Given the money, I don't think Jahri Evans instead T.J. Lang was a bad decision. And, at the time, nobody was criticizing Ted Thompson for signing Martellus Bennett instead of Jared Cook, though that decision proved disastrous. There are more troubling decisions to point out with Thompson, namely not seriously addressing the edge rush this offseason. Signing Nick Perry was a start. Adding Ahmad Brooks was a good decision. In between, they needed to target the edge rush much higher in the draft than the fourth round, not to mention drafting a player with an extensive injury history that derailed his rookie season. As for Damarious Randall, everything I've read (and written) has centered on Damarious Randall being the only reliable corner they have right now.
I don't think it has any impact on the Packers at all. Remember, it was a pretty big week up here in Green Bay, what with Aaron Rodgers returning.
I'm not sure what they'll do. Haven't seen the Packers finish out an irrelevant portion of their season in my time on the beat. Probably a fine balance between developing younger players and giving deserving veterans respect.