8

February

Cory’s Corner: Assistant coaches don’t excite me

Ron Zook was the head coach at Florida at Illinois. And is now the Packers assistant special teams coach. How did that happen?

Ron Zook was the head coach at Florida at Illinois. And is now the Packers assistant special teams coach. How did that happen?

It’s usually pretty hard to get excited about assistant coaches.

But now the Packers have the highest number of middle management in the NFC North.

And I’m still not excited.

Granted, Mike McCarthy knows that changes need to be made, but I don’t think having 21 assistants is going to be the difference. Does Ron Zook really get anyone excited? And what exactly does an assistant special teams coach do?

That’s quite a fall from grace for a two-time major college football head coach.

But new assistants are just window dressing. This team needs personnel. It needs players that don’t give a half-hearted effort like B.J. Raji and then turn down $8 million from the Packers.

It needs Tramon Williams to play like it’s 2010 and Derek Sherrod to start his first NFL game in his fourth season.

This team needs Clay Matthews to start 16 games for the first time in his career. It needs a tight end to fill Jermichael Finley’s shoes but do it without chirping.

I think we all saw how important a mean streak is. The Seahawks and 49ers approach the game like the movie, “Slapshot.” Both teams try to blow you up on every single play and it’s about time the Packers thought the same way.

Green Bay doesn’t have that on-field sergeant that will not only impose its will but make the opposition think twice about something just because of the physical ramifications.

By the end of the first quarter of Super Bowl XLVIII, the Broncos wide receivers knew they were beaten. They knew they weren’t going to outmuscle, out tough and outwork the best secondary in football.

I need to see more out of guys like Nick Perry and Andy Mulumba to get an accurate gauge. But adding a dynamic linebacker for the 3-4 defense wouldn’t be a bad thing.

This team needs more creativity from the offensive play calling. Just because it’s first down, it doesn’t automatically mean you have to run the football. This team needs more quarterback pressure out of the front seven to ease the burden on the secondary.

1

February

Cory’s Corner: Helping Rodgers should be Packers’ priority

Aaron Rodgers needs to be surrounded with weapons and protection.

Aaron Rodgers needs to be surrounded with weapons and protection.

Super Bowl XLVIII is a collision course of two different team-building philosophies.

In 2012, the Broncos paid 36-year-old Peyton Manning, the owner of four neck surgeries, a five-year $96 million contract to take them back to the promised land. Many saw it as a surprise because nobody knew how Manning would respond to contact and if his arm strength would return.

The Seahawks, on the other hand, decided to spread out most of its resources. Sidney Rice ($8.5M), Russell Okung ($7.06M) and Marshawn Lynch ($7M) are the three highest-paid players on the team. But that doesn’t mean Seattle doesn’t spend money. The Seahawks were the second-highest payroll in the NFL this year with over $103M in salaries.

But the difference is at the quarterback position. Russell Wilson is the 44th-highest paid player on the Seahawks, making just $526,217 this year. Obviously that number is going to skyrocket when he’s a free agent in 2016, but until then Seattle is going to ride the wave of an efficient and cheap quarterback while they fill holes on the rest of their team.

Which is exactly how the 49ers have approached their quarterback position. Colin Kaepernick is the 26th-highest paid player on the roster with a salary of $740,844. San Francisco will have some difficult choices to make when he’s a free agent in 2015.

But it speaks to an interesting philosophy. The quarterback is and always be the most important player on a football team. However, if a team can strike oil in the draft with a rookie that doesn’t make a flurry of mistakes while adjusting quickly to the faster NFL game, it definitely behooves them to go with the unproven rookie.

The 49ers and Seahawks have been playing with house money ever since Wilson and Kaepernick became household names.

The Broncos meanwhile are going all-in for a potential Super Bowl streak with Manning. But in order to do so, they have left gaping holes in the secondary and on the offensive line but Manning has been able to overcome those.

After showing Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews the money last April, the Packers have to decide where their priorities lie. Jordy Nelson becomes a free agent in 2015, which will limit money spent on expiring contracts this spring.

20

January

Ted Thompson Could Learn Some Things From John Elway

John Elway showed the Packers how it was done in Super Bowl XXXII. 16 years later, he might be showing them again.

Approximately 16 years ago, John Elway broke the hearts of the Green Bay Packers and their fans when his Denver Broncos upset them in a 31-24 victory in Super Bowl XXXII.

That loss has gone down as one of the bitterest defeats in the history of the Packers and the failure to win that game hastened the departure of head coach Mike Holmgren from Green Bay. Holmgren coached only one more season before leaving to become both the head coach and general manager of the Seattle Seahawks.

Elway meanwhile won his second straight ring the following year before retiring from pro football.  In 2011, not soon after the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, the Hall of Fame quarterback was hired by Denver to run their football operations.  It was a move that was criticized by many as Elway didn’t have much front office experience, aside from owning Colorado’s arena football team.

Much like in his playing days, Elway silenced his critics.  In his first year at the helm, he picked up the pieces from the disastrous tenure of Josh McDaniels as head coach and the Broncos won the AFC West title with Tim Tebow (TIM TEBOW!) at quarterback.  Denver even upset the then-defending AFC champion Steelers in the first round of the playoffs before falling to the Patriots.

Elway then of course signed Peyton Manning the following offseason and the rest is history.  With the Broncos on their way to Super Bowl XLVIII, many teams around the NFL will be looking at how Elway built his roster. Despite a recent run of success, the Green Bay Packers should be one of those teams.

While a full roster rebuild is not necessary in Green Bay, Packers general manager Ted Thompson would be wise to look at exactly how Elway has built the Broncos and how that could serve as a blueprint to get the Packers back in contention for a Super Bowl.

The common excuse for Elway’s detractors is “Oh, he has Peyton Manning.”  That’s true, but remember this team won the AFC West in 2011 with a quarterback whose throwing style resembles loose Jell-O. There is plenty of talent on the team even if you don’t count Manning.

28

August

2013 Green Bay Packers: Season Predictions

Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan will square off at Lambeau Field this season. But how many times?

Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan will square off at Lambeau Field this season. But how many times?

As training camp wraps up with the regular season just more than a week away, it’s time to put the 2013 Green Bay Packers under the microscope and make some predictions.

Last season, I picked the Packers to win the Super Bowl over the Baltimore Ravens. One team (Baltimore) made it there and won, the other team (Green Bay) did not. Oh, and so much for the Eagles-to-the-NFC-Championship pick. Yikes.

This season feels a little different.

For the past several offseasons, the Packers have been one of the most popular Super Bowl picks from the NFC. But despite an improved running game and a healthier defense, the Packers aren’t one of the more trendy picks to make it to Super Bowl XLVIII. The NFC West has a pair of Super Bowl-caliber teams in San Francisco and Seattle, and the Atlanta Falcons seem to be all-in on 2013 after signing Steven Jackson and bringing Tony Gonzalez back for one last season.

For the most part, the Packers are flying under the radar.

In the AFC, it’s the Denver Broncos and everyone else. I know, I know – Von Miller is suspended. If only John Elway and Broncos management had assembled a talented supporting cast around Peyton Manning. Oh wait, they did. Manning may not throw 49 touchdowns like he did in 2004, but I’ll go on record and say that he sets a new career high in passing yards this season at age 37.

Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker? Wow. If Manning and his trio of top targets stay healthy, this could be a Super season in Denver.

But let’s take a look at the 2013 Packers and see where I have their season ending. Do they miss the playoffs? Do they make it to the Super Bowl in New York? Read on.

49ers 27 vs. Packers 24

All offseason, the Packers have attempted to improve their overall team toughness after they were embarrassed by the 49ers in the trenches in January. While I think the Packers defense will contain Colin Kaepernick better than they did in the playoffs, the 49ers are the better team. It should be close, but I’ll take the 49ers.

Packers 31 vs. Redskins 27