2

August

Pigskin Paul’s Power Rankings: Packers are only #…

NFL Power Rankings

NFL Power Rankings: Packers at #4

PACKERS RANK:  #4         So here’s the skinny… I still am not sure how the PACKERS went 15-1 last year. No matter how great we all think AARON RODGERS is, it is almost incomprehensible that a team whose Defense allowed an NFL record 299.8 ypg in passing lost only one game? How does a team that averages 97.4 ypg rushing at a clip of 3.9 ypc win 15 games? How do you stop NFL passing attacks when your D can muster only 29 Sacks for the League’s 32nd ranking in Sack Pct?

There are a litany of improbabilities for rationalizing the PACKERS 2011 successes, but conversely they did a lot right. They scored the most points in the League with 560, while ranking a respectable 19th in points allowed. They managed a total of 38 defensive turnovers, tied for first in the League, while only turning it over themselves 14 times. Their +24 Turnover Differential was second only to the 49‘ers. They also had one of the best teaching Coaching Staffs in football, which allowed them to once again find success with one of the youngest rosters in the League.

But enough of last year and second guessing what happened. The real question right now is how will they fare in 2012. My PACKERS readers will probably crucify me for only ranking them 4th overall, but until I see some of the promised defensive improvement I have to be somewhat skeptical. And their lack of a real running game clearly showed up in their Play-Off loss to the GIANTS, resulting in that very disappointing one and done post season.

I am also a bit concerned about the affects of the biggest coaching staff  and front office turnover since WHITEY and COACH MAC started their collaboration in Green Bay. But most of that change is in the Front Office not within the actual coaching staff. The Coaching Staff merely went through some internal shuffling and promotions. I am sure MIKE McCARTHY will have his coaching troops organized and in sync with his wishes this year, as usual.

18

January

McCarthy Makes it Obvious that Packers Want TE Jermichael Finley Back in 2012

If you trust what you were hearing from Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy during his final press conference of the 2011-12 season Wednesday, then you also should have no worries about where tight end Jermichael Finley will playing next season.

He’s not going anywhere.

McCarthy praised Finley on several different occasions, calling him a “talented young man” who has a “great work ethic” and wants to be “a great player.” McCarthy also said that the Packers “need him out there” and that Finley has a lot of room for improvement.

If the Packers head coach had even entertained the thought of letting a 25-year-old tight end walk in free agency, this amount of praise would seem unlikely. McCarthy obviously wants and plans on Finley being a part of the Packers’ roster next season, and I’d say there is a very small chance of the opposite becoming reality.

Finley, who is scheduled to become a free agent this offseason, caught 55 passes for 767 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011. Most had expectations that far exceeded that output this season, but drops and inconsistency plagued him at times. In the Packers’ 37-20 loss to the Giants in the NFC Divisional Round, for example, Finley dropped two passes and had what some have called a miscommunication with quarterback Aaron Rodgers on an important third down play in the second half.  But nonetheless, fans throughout the 2011 season have been hard on the enigmatic tight end.

Packers GM Ted Thompson now has three options with Finley: They can either re-sign him to a multi-year deal, franchise tag him at the tight end position or let him walk in free agency. After three seasons, each option has its pros and cons. But it’s obvious that the risks of letting such an untapped talent like Finley walk at his age far outweigh the cons of both re-signing him long term and the one-year franchise tag at rough $5 to 6 million.

And if you believe what you heard from McCarthy Wednesday, bank on Finley being back on the Packers roster regardless to start next season.

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

3

January

Big Changes Coming in 2012 for Packers’ Rivals to the South

Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz resigned on Tuesday.

There may not be drastic personnel changes for the Chicago Bears in 2012, but two of the more recognizable faces in the team’s organization won’t be around next season.

On Tuesday, the Bears announced that both general manager Jerry Angelo and offensive coordinator Mike Martz will not be back with the team in 2012. Shane Day is also out as the team’s quarterbacks coach.

Head coach Lovie Smith will be retained for next season, however.

Angelo had just finished his 11th season as Bears’ GM, one that saw Chicago start 7-3 but nosedive to an 8-8 finish after both quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte were lost to season-ending injuries. Angelo did little to remedy the Bears’ situation at quarterback after Cutler went down, instead trusting in Caleb Hanie to get the Bears back into the playoffs for the second-straight year.

Hanie lost all four games he started and was later replaced by Josh McCown, who hadn’t started an NFL game since 2007. The Bears scored 21 or fewer points in each of their final six games of 2011.

Angelo’s failure to lock up Forte over the long term may have also factored into his firing. Forte, a free agent this summer, was unable to come to terms with Angelo over a new contract. The dispute turned public after Forte declined an offer during the 2011 preseason in the range of $13-14 million guaranteed and the entire matter was a lasting issue into the regular season.

News trickled out later that Martz, the Bears offensive coordinator over the last two seasons, had resigned from his position because of philosophical differences with the organization. Day, the Bears quarterback coach who was hired the same day as Martz, is also walking away.

Previously the mastermind behind the Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis, Martz often took criticism in Chicago for his handling of Cutler and the offense. Under Martz, the Bears offense never ranked higher than 17th in points scored or 22nd in total yards during the two years.

The Bears will begin the hunt to find replacements for each, but former Colts GM Bill Polian has been rumored for Angelo’s position and offensive line coach Mike Tice could be promoted to coordinator.