6

April

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

Take a look at this NFL mock draft at Drafttek.com. There are three tight ends selected before a running back is chosen with the 50th overall pick.

Last year in the actual NFL draft there were two tight ends selected before the first running back was snatched off the board (Giovani Bernard at No. 37).

When I was growing up, running back was the glamour position. When we went out for recess to play football (this was back when you could still play tackle football at recess), everyone pretended to be Barry Sanders or Emmitt Smith, not some tight end. Most teams wouldn’t dream of taking a tight end over a promising running back in the draft.

Times have changed. Running back is a de-valued position in today’s NFL. That’s not breaking news. But has the de-valuing gone too far?

The top two teams in the NFC last season, Seattle and San Francisco, based their offense around bruising running games. The Packers turned to rookie Eddie Lacy to keep their heads above water after Aaron Rodgers broke his collar bone. Even with Tom Brady at quarterback, the Patriots pounded the ball on the ground early in the season, outrushing opponents in three of the first four games and starting 4-0.

Even on pass-happy Denver, with Peyton Manning at quarterback and a stable of exceptional receivers and tight ends, running back Knowshon Moreno finished with almost 1,600 total yards from scrimmage.

For a while, the NFL also appeared to be de-valuing the safety position, but that might be changing.

Only three safeties were picked in the first round from 2008-11. In the last two drafts, four safeties have gone in the first. In the opening days of NFL free agency, the top safeties on the board flew off the shelf for big money.

I think a lot of teams are emphasizing the safety position again because they see the importance of versatility in today’s game. Safeties are often best suited to handle multiple tasks: provide coverage over the top, match up against a tight end, play the slot, stop the run, drill whoever has the ball, occasionally blitz, etc. Take a look at the Seahawks and 49ers again — both were strong at safety.

4

April

Brett Favre’s Return To Packers: Are Fans Ready?

Brett Favre

This is how most Packers fans prefer to remember Brett Favre

It only took me 18 months before I broke down and wrote about Brett Favre.  I joined Jersey Al’s team in August of 2012 and until recently, it was pretty easy to avoid the topic altogether.

Over the past year, however, Favre’s name has been tied more closely with the Green Bay Packers and a return to Titletown is not far off for old #4.  During that span, our team has penned a few pieces about Favre, most recently of which was done by Kris Burke last year in June.

Favre retired after the 2010 season and three seasons removed from being the Packers starting quarterback.  For many fans, those three years seemed like a decade.  The year in New York with the Jets was kind of like being at a preseason game.  The game is going on and it looks like football, but who really cares?  The last two years of Favre’s career were a much different story.

For those with some time to spare, about an hour and twenty minutes, to be exact, here is a link to the film “Last Day at Lambeau“.  It chronicles the time between Favre’s first retirement from the NFL and the Packers to his last game at Lambeau Field as a member of the Minnesota Vikings in 2010.

I remember Favre’s signing with the Vikings in August of 2009.  Whether he orchestrated his departure from New York in order to land in Minnesota or if the stars just aligned that way, I hated the football Gods.  It wasn’t that I was worried about Favre beating up on the Packers, because I honestly didn’t think he could.  I just didn’t want to deal with all of the attention and build up.

2009 came and went and the Vikings got the best of the Packers in both games that season.  Favre and the gang were within his merely falling forward to give themselves a chance to go to a Super Bowl that year.  But in true Favre fashion and almost as if it were scripted, a vintage interception ended the Vikings’ run and 2010 would turn out to be a disaster (literally, as Mall of America Field was rendered inoperable by massive snow build up).

29

March

Cory’s Corner: Packers are undervaluing the center position

Frank Winters was Brett Favre's starting center for 10 seasons and the two shared an inseparable bond.

Frank Winters was Brett Favre’s starting center for 10 seasons and the two shared an inseparable bond.

Just how important is the quarterback-center battery in the NFL?

Apparently, it’s not that overly important to the Packers because Aaron Rodgers is about to embark on his fourth different starting center to begin the season.

Think about that for a second.

Rodgers is the best quarterback on the planet. Amazingly, he has been able to average 31 touchdowns a season with a 58-29 record in six seasons. And he’s done it despite playing with a revolving door at the leadership position of the offensive line.

In 16 years with the Packers, Brett Favre had five different centers start the majority of games. But that counts James Campen for one season in 1992 and the person nobody remembers — Grey Ruegamer in 2004.

Favre’s mainstay was Frank Winters. “Bag of Doughnuts” and Favre were teammates for 11 seasons and were able to grow up together and make each other better.

Rodgers hasn’t had that yet. Right when Rodgers and Scott Wells were beginning to form a cohesive bond, the Packers didn’t bring him back after four years of working as the quarterback-center battery and thus, the process started all over again.

The next person to come on down is JC Tretter. Last year’s fourth round draft pick hasn’t started a game in the NFL but the Packers are handing him a shot to ignite one of the most dynamic offenses in the league with each snap.

Centers aren’t exactly a glory position. No kid gazes into the mirror and dreams of one day making a perfect shotgun snap to his quarterback before quickly reasserting himself as a pass blocker. Heck, Tretter was a quarterback, running back and wideout in high school.

JC Tretter is looking to become the fourth starting center to begin the season for the Packers since 2008.

JC Tretter is looking to become the fourth starting center to begin the season for the Packers since 2008.

But that doesn’t mean the job of a center should be understated. While left tackles get the money for protecting the quarterback’s blind side, it’s the center that makes the coverage adjustments. A center is the quarterback of the offensive line.

So when Rodgers comes back to camp not knowing much about his next center, he needs to spend time getting to know how things will work. If you’re Rodgers, you don’t want to learn in Week 3 that your center has a problem with a quick snap count or a pronounced loud bark in order to draw a defense offsides.

27

March

Mike Holmgren vs. Mike McCarthy: By the Numbers

20140327-093503.jpg

Mike McCarthy no longer resides in Mike Holmgren’s shadow

In an earlier post, we took a look at the comparison between former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf and current general manager Ted Thompson. Since Thompson just concluded his ninth season with the team, it was interesting to see how the two men compared.

Now we look at Thompson’s head coach, Mike McCarthy and compare him with Wolf’s, Mike Holmgren. Holmgren coached the Packers for seven years while McCarthy is about to begin his ninth. To be fair, we will be looking at only McCarthy’s first seven seasons in Green Bay meaning 2013 will be excluded.

Regular season record:

Holmgren 75-37
McCarthy 74-38

It can’t get much closer than that. This might come as a surprise to some people since McCarthy went 8-8 in year one and had the 6-10 season in 2008 and Holmgren never was below .500, but “the numbers don’t lie.

Holmgren had a consistent defense in his time to go along with a proficient offense. McCarthy has had no such luck so far.

Postseason record:

Holmgren 9-5
McCarthy 6-4

Holmgren went 2-2 in 1993 and 1994 before going 7-2 from 1995-1997. That includes the two Super Bowl runs including the victory in Super Bowl XXXI and the loss in Super Bowl XXXII. Holmgren also was “one and done” in his final game as Packers coach in the last-minute and still-controversial loss to the 49ers in January 1999.

McCarthy went 1-1 in his first playoff appearance in 2007, advancing to the NFC championship game in January 2008. His record includes the 4-0 playoff run the Packers had to win Super Bowl XLV. He has been “one and done” three times in the playoffs including the 2009 game against the Cardinals and 2011 against the Giants (this past season is not included),

Division Titles

Holmgren 3
McCarthy 3 (earned his fourth in 2013)

Both coaches are dead even here and both even has one title earned in borderline “miraculous” fashion. Many remember Yancy Thigpen’s infamous drop to give Green Bay the 1995 title and this past season saw a n incredible deep throw from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb to give the Packers the 2013 crown.

Non-Winning Seasons

Holmgren 0
McCarthy 2

4

March

Ted Thompson Green Bay Packers 2013 Evaluation and Report Card

Packers GM Ted Thompson

Packers GM Ted Thompson

1) Introduction:  I think the biggest mistake that fans make when criticizing front office personnel like general managers is using the same rubric and time frame as they use for for players.  Take Ted Thompson for instance, whose first pick for the Packers was a quarterback deemed too short with a weak arm when the Packers already had the best quarterback in franchise history.  Naturally, we’re having arguments now on whether Aaron Rodgers is better than Brett Favre (personally, I still think its Starr, but Farve and Rodgers should be legitimately in the conversation).

Thompson was also roundly criticized for picking a cornerback to play safety from a college no one had ever heard of or drafting another wide receiver even when the Packers had fantastic depth but Nick Collins, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have all been fantastic players who have made Thompson look like a very smart man. Overall, Thompson should not be graded per game or even per season, but over a span of 5 years or more.

2) Profile:

Ted Thompson

  • Age: 61
  • Born: 1/17/1953 in Atlanta, Texas (There’s an Atlanta in Texas?)
  • Height: 6’1″ (man, he was a short linebacker)
  • Weight: 220
  • College: Southern Methodist
  • Rookie Year: 1975
  • NFL Experience: 10 years as a player, 22 years as a scout and front office executive

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  High.  In the last 5 years the Packers have won the Super Bowl, been in the playoffs every year and managed a 15-1 season.  Added to that the Packers have always had one of the youngest and deepest rosters in football and always have had a very healthy salary cap situation.  Thompson also has reportedly great rapport with head coach Mike McCarthy and his staff and Packer’s “system” of draft and develop has benefited all parties more often than not.  The Packers were expected to win the NFC North again and make it to the playoffs.

3

December

Aaron Rodgers at 30: Where He’s Been and Where He’s Going

Aaron Rodgers’ finest hour….for now.

I recently celebrated a milestone: I turned 30 in September. It was what I expected as I took stock of everything I had done in life up to that point.

Then an ever bigger surprise hit me: Aaron Rodgers is about to turn 30! (Rodgers and I are both proud members of the high school class of 2002)

It’s hard to believe Rodgers has now hit the big 3-0, a milestone in and of itself but perhaps it’s even more significant for an NFL quarterback.  Rodgers can no longer (and really hasn’t been for the past two years anyway) be considered one of the “young gun” quarterbacks in the league yet he also isn’t part of that “aging veteran” group either.

So where does that leave the Green Bay Packers quarterback? Well, that would mean he is in his prime.  Current injury aside, that should make any opposing defense shudder.

With his career arc perhaps at its peak, it’s time to take a look back at Rodgers’ career so far as well as what lies ahead for the 2011 NFL MVP.

This is Rodgers’ ninth year in the NFL but only his sixth season as the Packers’ starting quarterback. Given how much has occurred in his time in the league, it seems like Rodgers has been around forever yet hard to believe that he’s now in his thirties. It seems like it was just yesterday he took over for Brett Favre yet it’s like he’s always been around.

Such is the odyssey of Aaron Charles Rodgers.  It all starts with the 2005 draft.  Knowing what we know now, he had absolutely no business falling as far as he did in that draft.  Then again, if he hadn’t, would that chip on his shoulder that has propelled him to superstardom been as large had he ended up in San Francisco?  That’s a debate for another time.

Everyone knows what happened. Rodgers was expected by many to go with the first overall pick in the draft to the San Francisco 49ers where he would learn from an offensive coordinator named Mike McCarthy.  Instead, the 49ers drafted Alex Smith and Rodgers plummeted all the way to Green Bay at number 24.  Rodgers shook it off and Paul Tagliabue told him “good things come to those who wait.”

15

November

Packers Periscope: Week 11 vs. New York Giants

The Past: The two teams that always seem to cause the Packers trouble in the past couple years are the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants.  Packers fans obviously remember Brett Favre’s last pass as a Packer going to a Corey Webster in the NFC Championship game in 2008; Packers fans will also remember the Giants manhandling the Packers in the 2011 playoffs when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was surprising only average while the defense finally collapsed and lost the game for the team.

However the last meeting between these two teams was perhaps the most lopsided; the Giants won 38-10 in 2012 season again embarrassing the Packers.  Outside of one spectacular 61 yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson, Rodgers was largely ineffective, going 13 for 24 for 158 yards and an interception.  The running game didn’t do the offense many favors either, totaling 82 yards with a 3.7 ypc split between Alex Green, James Starks and John Kuhn.  The defense stuck to their “bend but don’t break” philosophy, but missing both Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews, allowed 3 Eli Manning touchdowns while the Giants running game ground the Packers down with 31 carries for 147 yards from Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown.

With the loss, the Packers fell to 2nd place in the NFC North while the Giants snapped a two game losing streak and got back into the NFC East playoff race.  However a loss to the resurgent Redskins (headed by rookie sensation Robert Griffin III) the next week followed by a loss against Baltimore in week 16 eliminated them the NFC East crown and a loss by the Lions to the Bears at the end of the regular season eliminated them from the playoffs all together.

During the offseason, multiple changes were made including the release of starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw and the notable drafting of right tackle Justin Pugh, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and quarterback Ryan Nassib.  Overall, the 2013 draft class has been disappointing of late, Pugh ranks 56th out of 76 eligible tackles, Hankins has played 74 snaps the entire season while Nassib still hasn’t supplanted Curtis Painter (yes, that Curtis Painter) as the backup quarterback.