14

June

Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy: The NFL’s Most Dynamic Duo?

The partnership of Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy has reaped Super benefits for the Green Bay Packers and their fans.

Former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Holmgren once said he told a young and out of control Brett Favre the following to help buck up his raw but up-and-coming quarterback: “You and I are joined at the hip.”

It was that joining of the hip that led the Holmgren-Favre partnership to the top of the NFL in 1996.  Unfortunately, two years after winning Super Bowl XXXI, that partnership came to a close as Holmgren left for the Seattle Seahawks.

Luckily for Packers fans, the same can’t be said of the current quarterback/head coach tandem in Green Bay–that of head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.   Like Holmgren/Favre, they’ve won one title and are in position to win more.  McCarthy and Rodgers also plan to stick together for a much longer time than Favre and Holmgren did when the coach left for more roster control in Seattle. Rodgers just signed a contract extension and it’s clear McCarthy has no interest in becoming a general manager.

With their partnership being so secure as well as fruitful, the question beckons: Is the McCarthy/Rodgers duo the best head coach and quarterback combination in the NFL today?

Adam Schein of NFL.com thinks so.  He wrote that he thought the two were the most prolific because they’re “…attached at the hip. McCarthy calls the plays, but the coach shares a brain with his quarterback.”

It’s absolutely true and that’s what it takes for a head coach/quarterback combination to work.  To prove that point, one only has to look at perhaps the most successful pairing of head coach and quarterback in the 21st century: Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, respectively, of the New England Patriots.  They won three Super Bowls in four years in the early part of the 2000s and have been back to the big game twice since then. 

5

June

Fun With Round Numbers: Can Packers WR Randall Cobb Catch 100 Passes?

Can Packers WR Randall Cobb catch 100 passes in 2013?

Can Packers WR Randall Cobb catch 100 passes in 2013?

For a franchise that has had an all-pro caliber quarterback for the last 20 years, the list of Packers wide receivers with 100 catches in a season is short.

Very short.

No Packers receiver has caught 100 passes in a season since Robert Brooks in 1995. Sterling Sharpe is the only other Packers receiver to catch at least 100 passes, doing it in 1992 and ’93.

Compare that with Peyton Manning, who connected with Marvin Harrison (4), Reggie Wayne (4) and Dallas Clark (1) on at least 100 passes nine times. Or Tom Brady, who has helped Wes Welker go over 100 catches five times and Troy Brown once. Or Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens, who have five 100-catch seasons under Joe Montana and Steve Young.

The Packers have shown that you can still win Super Bowls and enjoy sustained success without a 100-catch receiver. Nonetheless, Aaron Rodgers has said that he thinks Randall Cobb is capable of catching 100 passes, if he stays healthy.

When the topic was brought up on Monday’s Green and Gold Today, co-host Bill Johnson said Rodgers’ comments were “troubling” and worried about Rodgers changing his spread-the-ball around approach and forcing the ball to Cobb.

I don’t think Cobb catching 100 passes would be “troubling,” but the Packers’ offense seems to function just fine with several receivers getting opportunities to make plays. But if Cobb happens to enter triple figures, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the other receivers have underperformed or Rodgers is locked in on Cobb and only Cobb.

Rodgers is adamant that he throws to whomever is open. If Cobb is open 140 times, and Rodgers throws to him successfully at least 100 times, so be it. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s locking on Cobb to the detriment of other receivers who are open somewhere else.

We like having nice round numbers like “100″ to lock in on and establish some sort of benchmark. But those round numbers don’t always tell the whole story.

Sure, Cobb is capable of catching 100 passes. He’s a great receiver with a knack for adjusting his routes and finding open space after Rodgers scrambles. He also might get some more opportunities after the departure of Greg Jennings

5

September

Greg Jennings And His Contract: The Sky is Not Falling

Greg Jennings

Could Greg Jennings be putting a different team on his back in 2013? Not likely.

The 2012 NFL season literally just got underway and already some Green Bay Packer fans are thinking about the 2013 offseason.

Thanks to some recent comments by free agent-to-be Greg Jennings and his MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers,  it’s becoming clear that Jennings could be playing the 2013 season in a uniform other than the Green and Gold.

First, here is what Jennings had to say on the matter on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the morning:

“I definitely want to be here, but understanding the nature of the business, you never know. There is really nothing else I can really say or do. The ball is not in my court at all. I have to play the cards that I’m dealt. Right now it’s football. That’s my focus.”

This really isn’t a cause for panic nor is it really any different than what he has said in the past.  Jennings has maintained all along he wants to remain a Green Bay Packer.  This mindset is the best for the Packers if this indeed truly Jennings’ mindset right now.

What Rodgers had to say, however, probably raised more than a few eyebrows.  Here’s what he told ESPN Milwaukee’s Jason Wilde on his weekly radio show on ESPN 540:

“I think you have to be realistic about it and think that it might be. I have loved my time with Greg. Greg and I are going to be buddies whether he’s here or not.”

The fact that Rodgers used “loved” vs. “love” is likely what has caught everyone’s attention.  Knowing that the Packers will very soon be faced with resigning Jennings, Rodgers, Clay Matthews and BJ Raji, as well as a possible pay raise for Jordy Nelson there seems to be a thought that thanks to these recent remarks there’s a good chance #85 will be elsewhere next year.

Folks, relax. While I am not inside the heads of Ted Thompson and Russ Ball, I would be willing to bet that Jennings isn’t going anywhere outside the state of Wisconsin.

Jennings’ recent comments are part of the all too familiar part of contract negotiations called “posturing.” Jennings (or more accurately, his agent) is publicly conveying the message that while he wants to remain in Green Bay, he is prepared to move on.  This is designed to force the team to sweeten its deal under the threat of one of its star players moving on.

6

July

The Year After: Aaron Rodgers and How Other NFL QBs Have Fared After Winning the MVP

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers was the 2011 NFL MVP

Aaron Rodgers was the 2011 NFL MVP after leading the Packers to a 15-1 record and throwing for 45 touchdowns and only six interceptions.

At 28 years old, Rodgers has already established himself as the best player in the NFL. Now his challenge will be to hold onto that title, and bring more Super Bowls back to to Titletown.

Recent history shows that it’s no sure thing for a QB to hold the title of best in the world the year after winning an MVP. Factors like age and injury have caught up with some recent MVP QBs and their post-MVP career have been less than spectacular.

Let’s take a look at how MVP-winning QBs since 2000 have performed in the season following their MVP win. I’ll have a few thoughts on how all of this relates to Rodgers and the Packers at the end.

Kurt Warner (2002)
After throwing for nearly 5,000 yards and 36 TDs in his 2001 MVP season, Warner dropped off. Big time.

Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS QBrec Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Lng Y/A AY/A Y/C Y/G Rate Sk Yds NY/A ANY/A Sk% 4QC GWD AV
2002 31 STL qb 13 7 6 0-6-0 144 220 65.5 1431 3 1.4 11 5.0 43 6.5 4.5 9.9 204.4 67.4 21 130 5.4 3.6 8.7 2
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/3/2012.

Post-MVP Warner didn’t win another game until 2004 and went 13-29 from 2002-07. He threw 27 TDs and 31 interceptions from 2002-06 and only started 31 games.

Warner stayed healthy and became a dangerous QB again the final two years of his carerr, but the years immediately following his 2001 MVP run were frightening.

Rich Gannon (2002)
After playing out of his mind and winning the MVP in 2002, it didn’t take long for Gannon to resume playing like, well, Rich Gannon.

Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS QBrec Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Lng Y/A AY/A Y/C Y/G Rate Sk Yds NY/A ANY/A Sk% 4QC GWD AV
2003 38 OAK qb 12 7 7 2-5-0 125 225 55.6 1274 6 2.7 4 1.8 46 5.7 5.4 10.2 182.0 73.5 17 90 4.9 4.6 7.0 1 2 3
3

November

Packers Film Study: How Green Bay’s Offense Can Attack the San Diego Chargers

In anticipation of the Packers’ Week 9 matchup with the San Diego Chargers, I sat down with some tape of the Chargers in 2011 to decide how the Packers might go about attacking their defense. This is what I found:


Manipulating the safety in the red zone

Here we see Tom Brady and the Patriots offense in a 1st-and-10 look from the Chargers 14-yard-line. It’s a two-tight end, one-back set, with Rob Gronkowski to the top of screen and Wes Welker in the slot to the left of the formation. Aaron Hernandez lines up in the right slot with Deion Branch out wide. The Chargers combat this look with three down lineman, four linebackers and four defensive backs—their standard 3-4 personnel. They show man coverage and keep Eric Weddle as the single safety high. Bob Sanders, the other safety, lines up in the face of Hernandez. Brady motions Gronkowski back into the line to help in protection, but the motion also confirms to Brady the man coverage look as Donald Butler follows. At this point, Brady knows exactly where he wants to go with the football in his pre-snap read.

In the coaches tape, you can clearly see the man coverage. Brady initially locks on to the left to Welker, who is running an 8-yard square out. That forces Weddle to take two or three steps to his right to honor that look, which keeps him in no-mans-land for all three receivers. At this point, it’s up to Brady which receiver scores the touchdown. Welker has his man beat to the left, but Hernandez has a clear size mismatch on safety Bob Sanders. With Sanders’ back turned to the throw and no help in the area, Brady gives Hernandez a chance to make a play on the ball in the air. The Patriots tight end makes a rather routine catch in the end zone for a touchdown. If the Chargers give Aaron Rodgers and the Packers this look in the red zone, it’s going to be similarly easy score. The way Rodgers uses his eyes to manipulate safeties, like Brady does here, makes this play grand larceny.


Use of playaction

Let’s go back to the coaches tape for a 1st-and-1o play from the Patriots own 18-yard-line. New England again lines up in a two-tight end, one-back set with Welker out wide to the right of the formation and Chad Ochocinco to the left. The Chargers counter with their base 3-4 look. The offensive set and down suggests a run.

28

October

Comparing Aaron Rodgers in 2011 to Other Great QB Seasons in History

Every positive hyperbole you could possibly think of has been used on Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and his performance level through seven games in 2011. While there is no doubt that he’s playing at a level above any quarterback in the NFL this season, where does Rodgers’ 2011 season rank historically?

We’ll start by showing you Rodgers’ current and projected 16-game stats, followed by breakdowns of other historically great quarterbacking seasons. You can make the call from there.

One last thing: You’ll notice that no season from earlier than 1994 is included. If we go back too far, say to Otto Graham or Sid Luckman, we lose the ability to compare and contrast stats on a worthwhile basis. So while there are other great seasons by quarterbacks not mentioned here, I picked the ones that can statistically stack up with this era of passing football.

AARON RODGERS 2011

Week Opponent Result Cmp Att Cmp% Yrd Avg TD INT Rating
1 Saints W 42-34 27 35 77.1 312 8.91 3 0 132.1
2 Panthers W 30-23 19 30 63.3 308 10.27 2 0 119.9
3 Bears W 27-17 28 38 73.7 297 7.82 3 1 111.4
4 Broncos W 49-23 29 38 76.3 408 10.74 4 1 134.5
5 Falcons W 25-14 26 39 66.7 396 10.15 2 0 117.0
6 Rams W 24-3 18 29 62.1 316 10.90 3 1 119.3
7 Vikings W 33-27 24 30 80.0 335 11.17 3 0 146.5
7-GM TOTALS 7-0 171 239 71.5 2372 9.92 20 3 125.7
END PROJECTIONS 16-0 390 546 71.5 5421 9.92 45 6 125.7

Quick notes: If Rodgers stays on his current pace, he would set new NFL records in yards (5,421), completion percentage (71.5) and passer rating (125.7). Rodgers would rank fourth in TDs (45), fifth in average yards per attempt (9.92).

The rest of the schedule is something to look at, too. The remaining teams and their pass defense on the Packers schedule: Chargers (3rd), Vikings (29th), Buccaneers (26th), Lions (9th), Giants (18th), Raiders (25th), Chiefs (17th), Bears (27th) and Lions (9th).

TOM BRADY 2007

Wk Opponent Result Cmp Att Cmp% Yrd Avg TD INT Rating
1 Jets W 38-14 22 28 78.6 297 10.61 3 0 146.6
26

October

Undefeated But Not Overconfident: What The 2011 Packers Can Learn From The 2007 Patriots

It feels pretty good, doesn’t it?

The Green Bay Packers, the defending world champions, are 7-0 and the only remaining undefeated team in the National Football League.   Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is playing lights out (and that may be an understatement) and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down.   The Packers’ nearest competition in the NFC North, the Detroit Lions, have lost two straight games which has given the Packers a two game lead in the division. Brett Favre remains a source of scorn and ridicule.

Could life be any better for Packer Nation? Not likely.

There is one major roadblock each week going forward that both the team and its fans will have to face.

Overconfidence or even arrogance.

For their part, Mike McCarthy and his players all seem to be saying the right things.  They know they nearly blew in Minnesota against a rookie quarterback.  The defense is all too aware they are giving up far too many yards.

McCarthy himself said it best in his press conference yesterday: “It’s exciting because we know our best football is ahead of us.”  He even described his team’s play right now as “above-average” despite the Packers not blowing out their opponent for the first time in weeks.  The team knows it can play better and that slow starts could come back to haunt them.

As for the fans, they seem to be doing their part as well.

I honestly expected that heading into the bye at 7-0 and having only a few potentially challenging games remaining that there would be a lot of chest bumping and talk of a 16-0 season.  That’s not to fault fans for doing such a thing. Runs like this only occur so often so they have every right to be excited and fired up.

Thankfully, we seem to have taken a page from the Book of McCarthy.  Fans are taking the season one week at a time and the talk of a perfect season has been limited to whispers if not less. We know our team has its flaws and that the old adage is true:  “Anything can happen on any given Sunday.”

Perhaps we’ve all learned from history.  Rewind to January 2008 and the NFC Championship between the Packers and Giants.  After the Giants beat the Cowboys in Dallas in the divisional round, we thought we had a trip to Super Bowl XLII in the bag.