5

April

Cory’s Corner: Solidify backup QB job and sign Matt Flynn

Last year proved just how important a backup quarterback is not for just the Packers but for any football team.

Having a bona fide star quarterback is an advantage that coach Mike McCarthy may have gotten a little too comfortable with. He got used to the 50-yard rollout passes on a dime and being able to whistle a fastball into tight windows.

Matt Flynn finished with a 2-2 starting record for the Packers last year. He is an unrestricted free agent after earning a prorated veteran minimum $715,000 by the Packers.

Matt Flynn finished with a 2-2 starting record for the Packers last year. He is an unrestricted free agent after earning a prorated veteran minimum of $715,000 by the Packers.

They say you never really know what you have until it’s gone. Well, that couldn’t have been truer for the Packers last year. With Aaron Rodgers shelved for seven games, the Packers nomadically spun their wheels until Matt Flynn was able to play good enough to fix the leaks and right the ship.

Now I realize Flynn doesn’t exactly strike anything resembling fear into opposing defenses. But he is a six-year NFL veteran and more importantly, he’s a 4½-year vet of the Packers.

Which is exactly why I am surprised that the Packers haven’t signed the unrestricted free agent yet. His 3-4 career starting record may not be anything to brag about but his ability to win over a huddle and lead a team — especially when your No. 1 option goes down — are things you want in a substitute.

Flynn turns 29 this summer and even he must realize that his days of being a starting quarterback are over. After having dreams of leading the Seattle Seahawks, he was upstaged by Russell Wilson. To make matters worse, he was upstaged by Terrelle Pryor in Oakland and the Bills barely kicked the tires before sending him on his way after just 21 days.

The opportunity to become a starting quarterback in the NFL is ever-shrinking, especially with all the dynamic college quarterbacks that are now bursting on to the scene.

The only sticky point could be money. Flynn was paid a pro-rated veteran minimum salary of $715,000 last year for Green Bay. With that money, he salvaged a 16-point deficit against Minnesota, which ended in a tie. And he orchestrated comeback wins vs. Atlanta and the thriller at Dallas.

3

April

Character Still Matters for the Green Bay Packers

NFL, Green Bay Packers, Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers, Packer People, Packers players, Johnny Jolly, Packers character, Packers off the field

Johnny Jolly is proof that Green Bay is a very special place to play.

Another week, another story about an NFL player (allegedly) engaging in shady off-field activities.

This time it’s former Philadelphia Eagles and now-current Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson and his supposed affiliation with a gang. Jackson denies such activity, but the fact the accusation has even been made stains his reputation.

This is just the most recent in a string of stories over the past several seasons involving NFL players and criminal activities. Aaron Hernandez, currently awaiting trial on miser charges, is probably the most severe but there have been so many other instances this entire article would just be a list if all were to be mentioned.

Drunk driving, drugs, domestic violence, assault and the aforementioned murder are just some of the charges levied against NFL players the past several seasons. The league has an image problem and commissioner Roger Goodell has his hands full trying to fix it.

This is why NFL fans, regardless of what team colors they wear on Sundays, should be thankful for a team like the Green Bay Packers.

Since general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy arrived in 2005 and 2006, respectively, the Packers have been able to avoid the off field issues so many other teams have had to deal with over and over again.

The one potential exception to this for the Packers, the past drug arrests of defensive lineman Johnny Jolly, was turned into a positive this past year when Jolly was reinstated by the NFL and was named the team’s Ed Block Courage Award recipient for how he has turned his life around and became a locker room leader (per Aaron Rodgers himself) in the process.

How has Green Bay been fortunate to avoid the distractions a good chunk of the rest of the league often encounters?

Well, for one, character sometimes has to trump talent in the eyes of Thompson and McCarthy and it should. This is why the Packers have passed on players such as Randy Moss and Terrell Owens in the past, despite lobbying by fans and a certain former MVP quarterback.

They might be uber-talented on the football field, but if they cause distractions off the field or disharmony in the locker room, what’s the point? McCarthy and Thompson value a united locker room above all else and they won’t introduce any element that risks upsetting this.

30

March

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

At this point in the NFL offseason, what would you say is your biggest concern about the 2014 Packers?

For me, it’s the safety position. When Morgan Burnett is the best safety on the roster, there are issues. Yes, the draft is right around the corner, but you never know if a) the Packers will be in a position to draft a safety who can start right away or b) if whatever safety they draft will be any good.

But forget about your biggest concern for the time being. What do you see as potential concerns that few people are talking about?

Because those are probably the concerns that will come to fruition in 2014. With all the roster turnover and other unknowns from year-to-year in today’s NFL, it’s impossible to predict in March what an NFL team might be scrambling to try and fix in November.

At this time last year, we were all worried about the Packers not being big enough to stand toe-to-toe with physical teams like the 49ers or Seahawks. Then halfway through the season, we were worried about the Packers being too big to compete with teams like the 49ers and Seahawks.

I remember back before the 2010 season being worried about an undrafted rookie named Sam Shields serving as the Packers nickel cornerback. An undrafted rookie playing a key role on a team with Super Bowl aspirations. That’s insane!

Then Shields goes out and has a good season and picks off two passes in the NFC Championship to send the Packers to the Super Bowl.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Burnett is playing well once November comes around, a young safety is holding his own next to Burnett, and the Packers problems at safety are problems no more.

Teams can make grand plans to plug holes in March, and fans can do the same on blogs and social media, but once the season starts, all bets are off. A few key injuries or important players underperforming ruins the most thought-out plans.

My under-the-radar concern for the Packers is offensive tackle.

David Bakhtiari had a good rookie season, but what if he doesn’t take a step forward in 2014? Or what if the injury bug strikes him down in his second year like it did to Casey Hayward in his second season?

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

27

March

Mike McCarthy Speaks at Owner’s Meetings

Mike McCarthy

McCarthy spoke about the current state of the Packers at this week’s Owner’s Meetings

As I have been doing for the past few press conferences by Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, I am sharing highlights of his comments along with some of my own thoughts.  As always, enjoy the read and feel free to agree, disagree, cheer or jeer.

Credit for this recap goes to the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Mike Vandermause for his great coverage of McCarthy’s comments today via Twitter.

On the offensive line situation heading into 2014: Bryan Bulaga moving back to right tackle. MM likes Bakhtiari at LT. Derek Sherrod will be swing tackle, start out on left side

The return of Bryan Bulaga from his ACL injury last year means more shuffling on the outside.  I have always thought putting Bulaga back at right tackle made the most sense, after watching David Bakhtiari hold his own at left tackle during his rookie season.  Bakh has plenty of room to improve and certainly needs to as he matures, but I have no qualms about his being the starting left tackle heading into this season.

As far as the departure of Evan Dietrich-Smith, the Packers will enter their fourth consecutive season with a new center.  The popular theories on who the current front runners have been second-year man J.C. Tretter and current guard T.J. Lang.  Lang stepped in at center last season in emergency relief and quickly made a case for himself to remain at guard.  Lang wasn’t horrible, but he’s been effective at guard and the Packers don’t need to tinker with a good thing there.

Simpy handing the keys to Tretter is risky for a guy who hasn’t played a single down yet.  McCarthy will need to closely evaluate what he has in Tretter throughout the offseason program.  Pre season game action will tell the biggest tale, as that is obviously the closest look to an actual game that they will have to go on.  Still, Green Bay would be wise to exhaust all remaining avenues to add some talent to the competition at center.  They have the draft in early May, undrafted free agency, and the current free agency period at their disposal.  There will also be roster cuts this summer and we never know who might be on the move.

5

March

Mike McCarthy Green Bay Packers 2013 Evaluation and Report Card

Mike McCarthy

Mike McCarthy

1) Introduction:  Mike McCarthy entered his eighth season as Packers head coach in 2013, having led the team to the postseason in five of his previous seven years.  McCarthy returned most the same coaching staff that he had in 2012 and following the Packers brutal exit from the playoffs at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers.

2) Profile:

Michael John McCarthy

  • Age: 50
  • Born: 11/10/1963, in Pittsburgh, PA
  • Rookie Year: 2006
  • NFL Head Coaching Experience: 8 years

Biography and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  After the 2012 season ended with a thud and resounding loss, the Packers looked to be more competitive with the top teams in the NFC.  The 49ers had become their arch enemy and an obstacle that the Packers would need to defeat in order to return to the upper echelon of the conference.  McCarthy was quoted numerous times throughout the offseason and preseason as saying that he wanted his team to be tougher and more physical.  Those changes would need to start with McCarthy and the team’s overall culture.

With McCarthy continuing to call the team’s offensive plays, there were many eyes on him as the Packers acquired running back Eddie Lacy early in the 2013 draft.  There was a lot of curiosity on how McCarthy would integrate Lacy into an offense that already featured All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his aerial assault.

4) Season Highlights/Lowlights:  While the Packers season ended well, there were some down points.  There was yet another loss to the San Francisco 49ers on opening day and while a loss can’t be placed on the head coach alone, they are ultimately responsible for preparing their team each week.  A melee broke out when Packers linebacker Clay Matthews hit 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick out of bounds.  The play showcased that the Packers weren’t totally in control of their emotions in a game where they needed to be.

There was also the sideline tiff between McCarthy and Rodgers that was shown on the television feed in week three against the Cincinnati Bengals.  While I don’t blame McCarthy completely for it, it was not his best moment on TV.

3

March

The Green Bay Packers Are At A Fork In The Road

NFL, Green Bay Packers, Ted Thompson

What Ted Thompson is currently looking at–metaphorically speaking.

Imagine this scenario: you’re traveling with your family on a vacation.  You mapped out the route you would take and foresaw smooth travels ahead.  What actually happens, however, is road filled with bumps and potholes and you suffer some damage and keep getting detoured from your ultimate destination.

For Ted Thompson, with perhaps his legacy as general manager for the Green Bay Packers in the balance, such a moment is at hand.

Ever since the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, Thompson’s ultimate destination has been a return trip to the title game.  Many, including Thompson himself, thought the Packers were in prime position for multiple Super Bowl runs and some even uttered the word “dynasty” when looking at Green Bay’s long term prognosis.

Instead, Thompson’s team has suffered through multiple injury plagued seasons while the defense continues to suffer blowout after blowout like a cheaply made tire on an RV.  The offense is the engine that keeps the vehicle moving at a decent speed but what good does that do with consistently flat tires on defense?

Heading into the 2014 offseason, Thompson has to put solid rubber underneath the Packer vehicle in order to take some pressure off the offense and keep that engine from overheating. The defense must get better (and fast) if the Packers want any chance of returning to the Super Bowl.

Aaron Rodgers was dead on when he said one window has closed for the Packers and another has opened.  The franchise quarterback is 30 and will turn 31 late in the upcoming season. The clock is ticking.

Thompson has relied heavily on drafting talent and developing it along to replace aging stars.  This method has worked well in spots, the wide receiver position is a case in point.

It has been an utter disaster on defense. The Packers have yet to find a suitable replacement for Nick Collins and also haven’t fully replaced Cullen Jenkins either. After both these players left the team via injury and free agency, the performance of the Green Bay defense has gone into a tailspin.

That is why this off season is crucial for the Packers. The Packers managed to stay afloat without Rodgers for half of 2013 but they’d have been in even better shape had the defense even resembled competence. Thompson has not been the best in terms of drafting defensive talent and that was on display for all to see in 2013.