2

April

What Do Packers Injuries and Winning Have In Common? Packing the Stats…

Packing the StatsA lot has been made about the Packers misfortune when it comes to injuries; injuries was the major hurdle that the Packers overcame to get to the playoffs and ultimately win the Super Bowl in 2010 and injuries again were the major obstacle in 2013 with Aaron Rodgers, Jermichael Finley, Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews and Bryan Bulaga all missing significant time due to their respective injuries.

I have always argued that the nature of injuries is in large part random; football is a vicious sport and there are so many different ways to get injured that are largely out of the control of the player, the coaching staff or the front office.  Not many would argue that the tackle that Nick Collins ended his career was unusual nor was the hit that Jermichael Finley took against Cleveland anything out of the norm.  Rodgers breaking his clavicle and Matthews breaking his thumb all occurred on mundane plays that both players have been involved in countless times before in their careers.

In 2013 alone, I would argue that the only two injuries likely could have been avoided were Brandon Merriweather spearing Eddie Lacy and maybe Randall Cobb breaking his leg against Baltimore (but in the defense of Matt Elam, going low is now encouraged to defenders with so many fines being levied to helmet to helmet contact).

Data 1

However, it’s pretty undeniable that the Packers as a franchise have either had consistent terrible luck or something else is at play.  The Packers have had one of the worst strings of injuries over the last 4 years and it’s 99.9% significant compared to the rest of the league.  Fingers have been pointed at pretty much every remote possibility; plenty have blamed Ted Thompson and the front office for drafting players who are injury prone (i.e. Justin Harrell), some have blamed the coaching staff for not teaching proper form while others have blamed the strength and conditioning coaches (there was some ridiculous rumor that floated around that the 49ers had a secret stretching routine that made them impervious to injuries; keep in mind free agency does happen and more importantly players stretch out on the field for everyone to see).

13

January

McCarthy Shouldn’t Ignore Stats

Mike McCarthy

McCarthy says some head-scratching things at times, like last week when he said “stats are for losers”.

This past week, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy gave his season-ending press conference.  I detailed some of his responses here.  One comment that he made still resonates with me.  When asked if he was going to look at the team’s injury situation and look into why so many Packers players were lost due to injury, part of McCarthy’s answer was that ”stats are for losers.”  Now, in fairness, that wasn’t the entire response.

McCarthy went on to add that when one looks too far into stats, it can build false confidences and negatives.  He said they need to look beyond just the numbers to really determine what is going on.

That’s great and all and I know he doesn’t particularly enjoy talking to the media and especially when answering questions about some of the negative things that are going on.  I get the whole “Pittsburgh macho” thing that he’s going for the “we have it under control and you don’t know what’s really going on here” mantra.  But perhaps McCarthy forgets that we all own televisions or are sitting in the stands?  The fact of the matter is that the numbers DO matter.

If you ask any good CEO to evaluate a company’s health and describe what is going on, they’ll likely use stats.  Numbers are important.  They don’t tell the entire story but they are one of the primary illustrators of what is happening.  Many times I’ll ask someone what happened in a game and they’ll say “the box score doesn’t tell the whole story”.  Sure, it doesn’t measure things like energy level, enthusiasm or my personal favorite: toughness.  But more often than not, something can be drawn from the numerical recap.

I’m talking about more than just the Packers injury situation, although that is certainly something that the Packers need to look into.  15 players ended up on season-ending injured reserve this season and they did use the IR-Designated for return option on receiver Randall Cobb.  I get that football is a physical sport and that not all injuries are preventable.  Still and far too often, the Packers are seeing their players drop in bunches.  Is it amplified by the lack of depth behind the key players getting hurt or are there simply too many of them?  As I have said before, I am not sure but if you ask any consultant for their opinion on the matter, the first thing they’re going to look is. . the stats.

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.

30

November

Cory’s Corner: Who’s to blame for Packers’ mess?

B.J. Raji has amassed only 13 total tackles and no sacks.

B.J. Raji has amassed only 13 total tackles and no sacks.

The main theme that trickled out of the Packers’ locker room on Thanksgiving was embarrassment.

The Packers didn’t just take a loss, they endured the worst loss in the Mike McCarthy era.

And with four games left, Green Bay must win out or stay home for the playoffs for the first time since the Packers missed the playoffs in 2008 with a miserable 6-10 record.

But how did they get here?

It’s too simple to say that the left collarbone of Aaron Rodgers is the genesis of all that ails the Packers. That isn’t responsible for the 95 defensive missed tackles or the 20 special teams missed tackles.

It also isn’t responsible for B.J. Raji looking like he is on cruise control when the Packers could use his girth and power to shut down the running game. Coincidentally, the Packers are 27th in the NFL by allowing 126 rushing yards a game.

It’s also not the collarbone’s fault that Marshall Newhouse and Co. have suddenly forgotten how to block. The Packers have allowed 32 sacks, which is surprising seeing as how successful Eddie Lacy has been behind a patchwork offensive line.

So where does the blame lie for a stunning 5-6-1 season that could easily end up in the history books as a dumpster fire?

First and foremost it has to lie with the coach. McCarthy has leaned on Rodgers so much that he may have taken him for granted. McCarthy never had to worry about trick or gadget plays because the impeccable precision and undeniable arm strength of Rodgers overcame a lot of the offense’s weaknesses. Let’s also not forget that McCarthy is a quarterback guru and it’s not exactly a feather in his cap to have four quarterbacks start for an NFL team that isn’t even finished with the season.

McCarthy obviously cannot do more than put players in position to succeed. But it’s the players’ job to take it from there. The biggest example of players not doing all they can is Raji. The 27-year-old defensive lineman becomes a free agent in March and has been offered a shocking $8 million a year offer by Green Bay — and what’s even more shocking is that Raji hasn’t accepted it yet. McCarthy can continue to put Raji in positions and places to make plays but if Rajij continues to take plays off and play soft, then the Packers should take that offer off the table immediately. Raji only has 13 total tackles and no sacks for a guy that plays a lot more than 30-year-old Johnny Jolly. Yet Jolly has 16 total tackles and one sack.

26

November

Packers News: Rodgers, Shields, Barclay, Jolly back at practice

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers practiced Nov. 26. / Photo by Wes Hodkiewicz via Twitter

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers practiced Nov. 26. / Photo by Wes Hodkiewicz via Twitter

For the first time since suffering a broken collarbone Nov. 4, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was on the field throwing Tuesday at practice.

Per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com via Twitter, Rodgers participated in all the individual drills open to the media before being “kicked out” for the team portion of practice. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy previously said Rodgers’ chances of playing Thursday against the Lions were “slim to none,” but it appears the quarterback has made some sort of progress in his rehab.

It’s worth noting that while Rodgers was able to throw the ball at practice, he was taking snaps from Garth Gerhart and not starter Evan Dietrich-Smith. But as Jason Wilde points out on Twitter, Rodgers and Dietrich-Smith have plenty of reps together.

Along with Rodgers’ return, cornerback Sam Shields, defensive end Johnny Jolly and right tackle Don Barclay were also both practicing. The Packers have struggled to compensate for each player being out the last two weeks.

Marshall Newhouse has been a train wreck filling in for Barclay at right tackle, while the once-deep secondary is now scrambling to fill holes, as they’re without Casey Hayward for the rest of the season and Shields has missed the past two games. The defensive line has been dominated without Jolly in the lineup.

One has to wonder whether Rodgers’ availability will be directly tied to Barclay. Allowing Rodgers to play three weeks after breaking his collarbone would be risky with Newhouse at right tackle against the Detroit Lions’ front four.

More information will follow when McCarthy talks to reporters after practice, as it’s still unclear whether or not Rodgers will be cleared for contact in time for Thursday’s game. However, Rodgers needed to practice today to have even the slightest of chances to play, and he did just that.

(UPDATE: McCarthy said he’s not expecting Rodgers to play this week. Asked if his chances were still “slim to none,” McCarthy said, “Closer to none.” McCarthy also said he expects Sam Shields and Johnny Jolly to play Thursday. The team is still preparing both Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien, although Flynn took the starter reps today.)

But hey, there’s finally some positive injury news on the Packers front. At least for today.

19

November

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Giants 27, Packers 13

Tramon Williams was making tackles near the line of scrimmage and intercepted a pass in the red zone. It was a big day for No. 38.

Tramon Williams was making tackles near the line of scrimmage and intercepted a pass in the red zone. It was a big day for No. 38.

For the first time in three weeks, the Green Bay Packers’ starting quarterback (Scott Tolzien) played beyond the game’s first series. So, there’s that.

In his first career start, Tolzien was able to move the Packers offense down the field on his way to three scoring drives. But much like Tolzien’s first outing with the team, his day was clouded with turnovers.

Although he completed 70 percent of his passes en route to a 339-yard day against a good Giants defense, Tolzien’s second interception to Jason Pierre-Paul clinched the game for New York, as JPP picked off the pass and raced into the end zone, extending what was a seven-point lead to 14.

And here we are. The Packers are 5-5 on the season and likely need to win five of their last six to make the playoffs.

With the Vikings next on the schedule, the Packers have a good chance at getting back over .500, despite being without Aaron Rodgers for at least another week. But then again, it’ll more than likely be another ugly slugfest in which the winner is decided by a late score.

The value of Rodgers is undeniable. Not only is he really, really good at throwing the football, eluding pressure and making pre-snap reads, but simply having No. 12 under center completely opens things up for the running game. It’s not exactly rocket science, I know. Eddie Lacy is a great back, but defenses are stacking the box in a way I–having grown up watching Rodgers and Brett Favre–have never seen.

On the sideline, Rodgers has to be looking at these defensive fronts, shaking his head and thinking “If only.” Favre is probably sitting on his recliner in his Wranglers and laughing.

Either way, the Tolzien-led Packers are the Tolzien-led Packers. The Rodgers-led Packers can beat any team in the league, in my opinion. But the Tolzien-led Packers cannot.

This week? I believe the Tolzien-led Packers can beat the Christian Ponder, Matt Cassell or Josh Freeman-led Vikings. But we will see.

Game Balls

Tramon Williams

17

November

Packers 13 vs. Giants 27: Game Day First Impressions Unfiltered

Game Notes: What sort of team will the Packers be under Scott Tolzein?  Fans got flashes of potential against the Eagles but also a lot of mental mistakes.  With a week to prepare as a starter, backup quarterbacks typically do about 9% better as the starter, will this be enough to overcome a lost Giants squad that’s finally righted the ship?

Inactives (via Packers.com):

Green Bay PackersGreen Bay Packers
12 QB Aaron Rodgers
13 WR Chris Harper
29 CB Casey Hayward
37 CB Sam Shields
53 LB Nick Perry
55 LB Andy Mulumba
67 T/G Don Barclay

16 QB Scott Tolzien will start for Rodgers; 31 CB Davon House will start for Shields; 96 LB Mike Neal will start for Perry; 74 T Marshall Newhouse will start for Barclay.

New York Giants
9 QB Ryan Nassib
23 CB Corey Webster
44 RB Peyton Hillis
59 LB Allen Bradford
61 C Dallas Reynolds
78 DT Markus Kuhn
81 TE Adrien Robinson

38 CB Trumaine McBride will start for Webster.

1st Quarter

  • Packers kick off, defense gets the first shot.
  • Packers defense looks pretty much the same, a couple good stops followed by a huge gain.
  • The Packers look lost or depressed, two 12-man on the field penalties basically shows they’re not into it right now.
  • Rueben Randle runs a nice mini pick route where the cornerback have to swap responsibilities and scores the touchdown.  You’d like to see tighter coverage by Micah Hyde but overall better offensive play and poor defensive play.
  • Good stop by MD Jennings leads to a 40 yard field goal for the Giants, I think this is the way that the Capers’ defense is supposed to work, give up some yards, but make the stop and force them to take 3 instead of 6.
  • Score: Giants 7, Packers 0

2nd Quarter

  • Out of nowhere, 70 yards of passing on two plays, 25 yards to Jordy Nelson aand 45 yards to James Jones; hopefully this opens up the box for Lacy and Starks.
  • I bet McCarthy is itching to give up on the run, but he knows he has to feed Lacy the ball.
  • Tramon Williams shows why he got that big contract in 2010, what an acrobatic interception.
  • Oh Marshall Newhouse, I thought you were supposed to be good against speed rushers…