First & foremost, I want to applaud the incomparable support displayed by the fans during the tumultuous defeat suffered at the hands of the 'queens. Down 24-3, that game had the feeling of a 48-17 finish. The overwhelming energy ignited the spark that the team required to make a comeback. While the effort did not result in a victory, the effects of the G-Force was felt. Bryant McKinnie was quoted as saying that "the fans were great. I could not even hear. I had to watch the ball all game." I commend the fans undying passion in the franchise.
It seems as though I stand isolated on the present status of Mike McCarthy & Ted Thompson. It's fashionable to want McCarthy & Thompson ousted from their current posts. Don't mistake me, I'm not satisfied with defeat. In fact, the loss was devastating. However, I don't think we're far off the natural trend of success that is undertaken when a franchise moves towards a younger QB that is expected to win football games for his team.
Ben Roethlisberger & Joe Flacco are recent young QB's to have success early in their careers. The difference is that Rodgers plays in a pass first offense. The Steelers and Ravens play on teams that were founded on ball control and tremendous defenses. My barometer for the current state of the franchise is the Atlanta Falcons. Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers' careers should be forever compared. They were thrown into similar situations. While it could be argued that the Falcons have played much better than us, both teams hold 4-3 records after 7 games.
In July, I wrote that via the natural progression of our franchise, I felt that 9 wins should be a minimum expectation. 10 wins would make it a great year. http://talkins-mac.blogspot.com/2009/07/lessons-learned-experience-gained.html. Even though we have gaping holes in our roster, I still feel that we've progressed from '08 to '09. I truly believe that one successful offseason could have us in the mix of Super Bowl talk. We need a draft a la 1995. We must sign a veteran OT to protect Rodgers back side.
Again, I'm not completely satisfied with Thompson & McCarthy. I wanted Thompson to sign Vonnie Holliday. I was begging for it. I wanted the Packers to talk to Brian Dawkins. I was hollering for the Packers to talk to Greg Ellis (he has 4 sacks this year for the pathetic Oakland Raiders). Thompson ignored all of them. However, Thompson has traded up to find CM3 who has superstar potential. J-Mike has blossomed in his 2nd year. Thompson has not failed completely.
McCarthy frustrates as his team seems to make the same mistakes every week. But, offensively, he's been dealt a difficult hand. He has had to endure a plethora of injuries over the last two years. Grant, B-Jack, Wynn, Hall, Jones, Nelson, J-Mike, Spitz, Tauscher, Colledge, and Clifton have all either missed significant time or played with difficult injuries. It's been tough to find continuity. Plus, he's playing a version of a West Coast offense which demands heightened QB play. Rodgers has been a starting QB for less than 1.5 years. This week marks his 24th game as a starting QB. If McCarthy's Packers can finish 6-3, they'll finish with a 10-6 record. That may not be good enough for a Wild Card berth, but it should be enough for another season as coach of the Green Bay Packers.
Also, for the record, I disagree with the trendy take that the Packers did not come out ready to play early in the Minnesota game. Other than Aaron Rodgers, I thought the Packers came out aggressively. Rodgers came out nervously. After Jolly recovered the fumble, we were staring at a 3rd & 5. Rodgers had James Jones wide open on a crossing route. It would have been a 1st & goal. I contend that if Rodgers makes that pass, he may have relaxed and the game might have been differently. Instead, Rodgers takes a sack and the Packers are forced to settle for 3. It makes me wonder, is Rodgers looking down field or is he looking solely at the DL applying the pressure?
Before everyone jumps on the fire Thompson/McCarthy bandwagon, I ask for you to remember 1994. Recall the way you felt when an inferior New England team beat us. Our record went to 2-3. Or how about when we went to Minnesota in Week 8. After a bye. It seemed as though our season was on the line. We choked away the game on a Mark Brunell fumble. We lost a 10-7 4th quarter lead and dropped to 3-4. The similarities are strikingly similar. After both Week 5 & Week 8, I remember sitting in my kitchen, eating dinner and listening to the local media questioning whether Mike Holmgren was the right coach for us.
In 1994, on Thanksgiving Day, I listened to my Grandpa, my uncles and my Dad tell me how Holmgren was wrong for us. We lost to a Jason Garrett led Dallas Cowboys team. We had given up 42 points. The media trashed Holmgren. They questioned Fritz Shurmur's defense. Remember that 1994 was also Shurmur's first year implementing a new defense. The following week we went to Detroit. Again, we got exposed as we lost 34-31. Shurmur & Holmgren were questioned as distinguished leaders. LeRoy Butler was complaining as to whether he was a fit for the new Packers defense. Can you draw comparisons to the present day Packers?
Oh, but the Packers won their last three games and finished 9-7. We clinched a playoff berth. We beat the Lions in the 1st round of the playoffs. Today, Holmgren has a prominent street in Green Bay named after him. In no way, am I predicting that this happens with McCarthy. Instead I'm suggesting that McCarthy deserves an open mind over the next 9 games.
For the past couple of weeks, I've talked about the 8-game swing stretch that will determine our season. Currently, we're 2-1 in those games. I'm headed to Tampa to ensure that we go 3-1. I'm off to Siesta Key on Friday Night. I'm spending Saturday eating oysters & crawfish on the beach. The only shirts I'm bringing are Packer t-shirts. I'm going to find the Packer community on the Gulf Coast of Florida. We will unite. We will stand strong. We will bring the G-Force to Tampa in joyous fashion.
As I've tried to emphasize for weeks, there are two ways to make the playoffs:
1.) Win the Division
2.) Win the Wild Card
Let's focus on the Wild Card. It starts with a win at Tampa Bay.
Tampa is a terrible football team. Arguably the worst in the NFL. This should make for a game in which we get rid of some frustrations. Tampa will try to control the clock on the ground. They'll attempt to pound away at us and hope that Aqib Talib can make a play to keep the Yucks in the game. It's not happening.
This is a blowout victory for the Packers. Once again, we find our stride offensively. The Sunshine State brings warmth to the Packers mentality through a necessary dose of Vitamin D.
Rodgers goes for 250 and 2. Grant tops 75 and grabs a TD. Jenkins finds a sack. CM3 also notches a sack.
Packers 34. Yucks 13.
I'm off to marinate in the beach & bring peace to the G-Force.
*** I've been slacking in the "Who Are You Watching Now?" portion of the blog. While I've been intently watching a plethora of college football and taking enormous amounts of mental notes, I've failed to jot much of it on paper. I've struggled to find time. As of now, my mock draft for 2010 reads (Clearly, OL is a pressing problem, but I don't follow it closely enough to include them in my rankings):
Round 1.) CJ Spiller, RB, Clemson. He's the game breaker the Packers need. He's a Darren Sproles type back. Fast. Elusive. And when he finds the open field, consider it 6 points. Lord knows, I'd love Eric Berry, S, Tennessee as I feel he's the best player in CFB, but I've estimated that the Packers pick between 15-22 and there's no way Berry lasts that far. Should Spiller be drafted, I'd select Jahvid Best, RB, Cal.
Round 2.) Jermaine Cunningham, OLB/DE, FL. He is a natural pass rusher who is athletic enough to drop in coverage. Every time I watch him, he impresses me. Cunningham is a physical specimen who's caught my eye on numerous occasions. I am always intent on watching Carlos Dunlap yet Cunningham steals my attention. I'm also high on pass rushing OLB/DE Ricky Sapp and Eric Norwood. I'm also hoping Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State falls. We don't need another WR, but I think Bryant is absolutely legit and he could drop due to his suspension.
Round 3.) Perrish Cox, CB, Oklahoma State. I'm also impressed with Alterraun Verner as a mid round prospect.
Round 4.) Von Miller, OLB, Texas A & M. Miller can flat out rush the passer. The Packers love A & M grads. Miller would fit as a 3-4 OLB.
Round 5.) Jordan Shipley, WR, Texas. He's a game changer. A speedy WR. Workaholic. Great attitude. Sure to end up a NE Patriot.
Round 6.) Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee. He has the size to play the NT spot. Been taught by Monte Kiffin for the last year. That's enough for me, at this point.
Round 7a.) Dan LeFevor, QB, Central Michigan. He'll definitely be drafted. We'll definitely draft a QB. He has the size and has shown great promise.
Round 7b.) Lucien Antoine, S, Oklahoma State. I never see his name listed on draft sites. But, every time I watch Oklahoma State, this guy is physically making his presence felt. Hence, his nickname is the "Punisher."
The Packers acquired a 7th Round pick from the Panthers for long snapper J.J. Jansen. ***
Never Say Die,