Category Archives: Super Bowl

14

March

BJ Raji Signs 1-year, $4 million contract with Packers

B.J. Raji 2012

B.J. Raji

The Packers and Ted Thompson continue to resign their own guys (much to the dismay of Frank Schaub apparently), Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that defensive end/nose tackle BJ Raji has resigned with the team for a 1-year, $4 million contract; specifics of the deal have not been made public but this post will be updated to reflect incoming news.

 

Raji has largely been criticized for his lackluster play since teasing fans with his potential in early in his career and being dissatisfied playing in a 3-4 scheme where defensive linemen rarely get the accolades or attention of the 4-3 brethren.  The icing on the cake for fan scorn was walking away a multi-year deal that was supposed to pay him roughly $8 million yearly, naturally this is all just hearsay and the structure of the deal (i.e. the guaranteed portion) might have been poor but nevertheless, an abysmal season after betting on himself drew the ire of fans and media alike.

Free agency apparently was ice cold for Raji as no reports have surfaced of him visiting any other team and Raji has not been linked or to be of interest to any other team (there were some rumors linking Raji to Oakland and Kansas city, with obvious connections in the front offices).  Last reported news from Raji prior to his signing was that he was “mulling” over a 1-year contract offer from the Packers.  From the looks of things, Raji was forced to take a 1-year “prove it” contract with the Packers as no other suitors came calling.  Without knowing guaranteed money and incentive clauses attached to the deal, this looks like a pretty good signing for the Packers, who get an experienced defensive linemen who will be playing hard for his pay day (although why this didn’t help last season is a mystery) and when at his best can be a disruptive force in the middle.

The Packers have been reported to be looking at Raji only as a nose tackle (where he has had the most success), which likely means Ryan Pickett is now less likely to be resigned (although the Packers might still resign Pickett if the price is right), with Josh Boyd most likely as the backup nose tackle.

25

February

The Packers should choose a different flavor of tight end

At the moment there are 3 “flavors” of tight ends; everyone’s favorite at the moment is chocolate and that would be the “oversized wide receiver” tight ends like Jimmy Graham or Jordan Cameron, who are players who can take the top off of a defensive secondary while posing a size match up for cornerbacks and safeties while causing speed problems for linebackers.  These types of players are what the NFL craves right now and with the Seattle Seahawks winning the Super Bowl with bigger more physical corners, the most logical response would be for NFL offenses to counter with big and fast tight ends who can beat bigger corners at their own game.  Strawberry would be the “move” tight end, much like Aaron Hernandez or Jordan Reed, who while aren’t the biggest or fastest have the most utility of the group, being able to operate decently as a inline tight end, out in the slot or even as a fullback in some situations (the Packers in particular love this kind of tight end).  Finally, there is vanilla, the old and boring standby of inline or “complete” tight end such as Jason Witten or Todd Heap who were capable inline blockers but could also operate as a safety value for a quarterback in the short passing game.  Each flavor has its own advantages and disadvantages and that’s fluctuated over time as offenses and defenses have evolved in the NFL.

When looking at the Packers under the Mike McCarthy/Ted Thompson regime, the flavors that appeal most have definitely been chocolate (Jermichael Finley, Brandon Bostick) and strawberry (Tom Crabtree, Spencer Havner, Ryan Taylor, DJ Williams) with almost no emphasis being placed on blocking.  And it’s easy to see why, with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers at the helm, plays could be extended, wide receivers got the majority of the attention on offense and running backs, outside of a couple years of Ahman Green in his prime, took a back seat to the offensive passing game.  Add to that the aerial explosion that occurred starting around that time and it’s easy to see why the Packers, along with pretty much every other NFL team, starting looking at tight ends more as receivers than blockers.  However, we might just start to see Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson pick a different favorite flavor this coming draft.

9

January

Is the Packers’ Glass Half Empty Or Half Full?

Beer

Packers and Beer.

Players, coaches, the media and most often the fans like to say “every season that didn’t include a Super Bowl Victory is a failure”.  I get the sentiment, as long as your team wins the Super Bowl, everything is forgiven; it doesn’t matter how many mistakes were made or how many games were lost, as long as your team takes the Lombardi trophy at home, everything else is forgiven.  However, this is really a shortsighted assessment of any team’s season; would anyone argue that the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans had equally failed seasons because neither will win the Super Bowl this year?  Of course not, the Chiefs saw a massive rebound from the worse record in 2012 to one of the best and saw jumps in all analytics to boot.  On the other hand, the Texans were predicted by many pundits to be a Super Bowl contender but lost 15 games in a row and saw their head coach fired mid-season.  Furthermore, fans of the New England Patriots can realistically expect to be in contention for a Super Bowl every year for the foreseeable future, but the same cannot be said for the Oakland Raiders, who are still in the middle of a massive rebuilding process; getting into the playoffs but not the Super Bowl might be considered a failure for the Patriots, but just getting into the playoffs should be considered a successful season for the Raiders.

All that basically points back to the 2013 Packers; should we consider this season a success or a failure?  Or more realistically, do you see the Packers season as a glass half empty or a glass half full?

The Packers were an average team (8-7-1)

Glass half empty: The Packers took a major nose dive this season after posting a 11-5 season in 2012, 15-1 season in 2011 and winning the Super Bowl in 2010.  Especially in the middle of the season it looked like the team was lost and without a goal as they were man handled by the Eagles, Giants and most notably the Lions.  The defense again fell apart and the Packers were forced to learn how to run the ball behind Eddie Lacy, which didn’t happen overnight.  Hell, they couldn’t even truly beat the Minnesota Vikings who threw Christian Ponder back in a quarterback.  Finally, the Packers again proved that they are incapable of beating the 49ers with the 3rd consecutive loss.

20

December

Packers Periscope: Week 16 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Past: I’ve mentioned notable games of the past in this series (the Ice Bowl, Aaron Rodgers dismantling of the Falcons in the 2010 divisional game), but perhaps the most important game in the last decade for the Packers was their win in Super Bowl XLV in 2010 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Not only did it cement quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ position as one of the NFL’s elite players but it also justified Ted Thompson’s 6 year “draft and develop” philosophy which brought the Packers back from a salary cap nightmare.  Fans will remember Clay Matthew’s “It is time” moment of stripping the ball away from Rashard Mendenhall which preserved a Packers 4 point lead in the 4th quarter, but perhaps the biggest defensive play came from defensive tackle Howard Green, who knocked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s pass into the arms of safety Nick Collins, who returned the ball for a touchdown and at least historically sealed away the fate of the Steelers right then (no team has gotten a interception returned for a touchdown and lost the Super Bowl).

Moving back further, the Steelers and Packers last regular season game occurred in 2009 which quickly became a shootout; Rodgers threw for an impressive 383 yards but Roethlisberger proved even more dangerous, finishing the game with an astonishing 503 yards.  It also marked the rise of Jermichael Finley, who moved from a up and coming player to a serious receiving threat, which would continue until his injury in 2010.

The Present: The Steelers have been effectively eliminated from the playoffs; the Cincinnati Bengals have run away with the AFC North and are almost definitely going to win the division this year.  Baltimore trails behind Cincinnati, but also has a shot at a wild card berth.  Pittsburgh unfortunately only is predicted to get in as a wildcard team .8% of the time according to Football Outsiders, effectively making this game more of a statement game more than anything else.  Furthermore, the Steelers have always been a very deliberate and conservative organization and the coaching staff has not been rumored to be on the hot seat, this game probably does not have much meaning to the Steelers, aside for maybe extracting some revenge against the Packers for their Super Bowl loss.

24

September

Packers Need a Signature Win to Get Back Over the Mountain

The Packers beating the Jets was a signature win in 2010.

It seems like forever ago when everyone pegged the Packers as the NFL’s next dynasty.

It was only natural for people – including many in the Packers organization – to talk about a dynasty after winning Super Bowl XLV. A young team with a budding superstar at quarterback had just won it all with a ton of players on injured reserve. Talk of a dynasty was justified.

All that dynasty talk disappeared after the Packers went 15-1 in 2011, only to suffer an embarrassing loss to the Giants in their first playoff game.

Potential to production
Let’s rewind even further, back before the word dynasty was even in the vocabulary of Packers fans. In 2009, the Packers went on a nice run in the second half of the season to make the playoffs before losing a wild-card shootout with the Cardinals.

The 2010 season was supposed to be when the Packers took the next step. All that young talent was primed and ready to go from promising to great. Potential was to be replaced with production. Rebuilding with results. Playoff failure with playoff victory.

After six games, none of that happened. Midway through the 2010 season, Green Bay was 3-3, beat up, and spinning its wheels — stuck near the top of the mountain, unable to vault over it.

Then the Packers rattled off four straight wins, overcame a rough patch down the stretch, made the playoffs, and won the whole damn thing. The Packers not only made it over the mountain, they occupied the mountain, planted a green and gold flag on it, and claimed the mountain as their own.

They even chiseled the faces of Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy into the side of the mountain to create their own Packers Mt. Rushmore.

Falling off the mountain
Throughout the entire 2011 season, whenever another team tried to climb Packers Mountain, the Packers kicked them back down.

Then the Giants rolled into Lambeau Field for a divisional round playoff game, kicked the Packers off their own mountain, and sprayed graffiti all over the faces on Packers Mt. Rushmore.

Oh well. It was disappointing, but it happens. Mountains are high and often have difficult terrain. Every now and then, you’re going to slip and fall off.

5

September

Are the 49ers still Tougher than the Packers?

The 49ers still are tougher than the Packers…for now.

The San Francisco 49ers beat the hell out of the Green Bay Packers last season. Twice.

In week one, the 49ers ran for 186 yards and averaged almost six yards per carry. Alex Smith had only six incomplete passes and routinely hit wide open receivers hanging out in the middle of the field, unafraid of being laid out by Packers defenders.

In the divisional round of the playoffs, things got even uglier. Colin Kaepernick ran for 181 yards and threw for 263 more. When Kaepernick took off, he made Packers’ defenders look like lead-footed, lifeless zombies in a scene from The Walking Dead.

All of that damage was easy for even the average viewer to see while watching from his or her couch. If you broke down the film after the game and paid attention to what was happening in the trenches, things got even uglier for the Packers.

The 49ers offensive line operated like a machine — a modern, deadly, ruthless machine that was sent to Earth specifically to blow Packers defenders off the line of scrimmage, seal off the edges and create giant spaces for guys like Frank Gore and Kaepernick to gallop through.

When compared to the Packers offensive line, the 49ers wrecking crew was on a completely different level. The Packers allowed 20 quarterback hurries in the two games and never established the run. Green Bay’s front five always seemed to be flailing as yet another San Francisco defender broke through and set his sights on Aaron Rodgers.

The middle of the field — where both toughness and athleticism have a chance to shine — was also heavily tilted in the 49ers favor. Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis, the 49ers two middle linebackers, combined for 30 tackles, a key interception and a sack.

In the week 1 loss, Alex Smith consistently found open receivers in the middle of the field while Kapernick simply ran by, through and around whoever happened to be manning the middle for the Packers in the playoffs.

A.J. Hawk totaled 22 tackles, but were any of them impact plays?

The 49ers left little doubt last season that they were tougher than the Packers. With the two teams set to meet again this Sunday, have the tables turned at all?

20

May

Packers Jarrett Bush has Managed to Stick Around

Jarrett Bush

Packers CB Jarrett Bush has stuck with the team since 2006.

The pitchforks were out and the torches were lit after the 2009 season. Packers fans wanted cornerback Jarrett Bush off the team.

I admit that I was one of those Packers fans holding a torch high in one hand and a pitchfork in the other. I was sick of seeing Bush stumbling three yards behind a receiver after a double move left him in the dust and led to another touchdown against the Packers.

Ted Thompson has never paid much attention to the pitchfork- and torch-wielding sector of the Packers’ fanbase, and he held true to that philosophy with Bush. Now the undrafted free agent out of Utah St. and claimed by the Packers off waivers from Carolina is one of the longest-tenured Packers, a good special teams player and, dare I say it, somewhat beloved by fans.

I say “somewhat” because if Bush ever ends up playing significantly as a defensive back again, it will probably get ugly and fans will turn on him again. But as long as he remains the blue-collar, hard-working leader of the special teams unit, the love for Bush will only get stronger.

Admit it: When Bush picked off Ben Roethlisberger in the Super Bowl, you slapped yourself and wondered aloud if you just watched Jarrett Bush intercept a pass in the Super Bowl. For the Green Bay Packers. In January of 2011.

That play sticks in my mind to this day. Bush, a player who didn’t even get love from the fanbase of the team he played for, kept plugging away and made an impact when called upon to do so on the biggest stage.

If you were paying attention throughout the 2010 season, you would have noticed Bush making an impact on special teams. On Packers teams not known for their physicality and tackling, Bush goes as hard as anyone on special teams and is never afraid to stick his nose in the middle of the action and attempt to make a tackle.

Ever since Bush has been able to focus on special teams (albeit for one start in the 2012 season opener that didn’t go well), he’s found a place in Green Bay as a veteran and emotional leader.