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Pack It Up, Pack It In; It’s Time to Re:Begin #100

1. Pack it up, pack it in, It’s Time to Re-Begin…

For those unaware, “Jump Around” has become a hype song for football in Wisconsin. And it may well have been the game highlight for many fans recently. Calling Lambeau Field a house of pain may be too far (save for a game or two), but you could argue it’s become a house of stagnant mediocrity laced with jaw-dropping hail marys.

Full disclosure –  this article was due to be a longer format but was proving difficult to un-pack (sorry, not sorry.) With the sudden immediacy of McCarthy’s firing on Sunday (the shared birthday of  the two Aarons; Rodgers and Jones), it will instead be released as a series throughout this time of significant change for the franchise.

In future editions we’ll move on to the details of what the Pack need to turn things around, along with some recent missed opportunities. After #100 years, how does the NFL’s smallest market re-establish dominance?

Sing it with me;

1.Pack it up, pack it in, It’s Time to Re-Begin…

2.We came to win, not battle for 2nd with Minn
3. The results don’t stack up, punk we need better back-ups
Need more leaders in the roles and yo’ the whole crew’ll act up
Get up, stand up, J’mon get your hands out!

If you’ve got the feeling, draft some players with more than just a high ceilin’
Suggs still has flo’, our pass rush’s walkin’ junk!

4. Yo we bust him in the eye, and then then took the punk’s Joe
Feelin’, funkin’, Aaron’s in the trunk’n he got more dimes, Than Mitchell has biscuits for dunkin’!

Sure enough, we got drops
From the kids runnin’ out my Endzone, this **** never stops
It’s meant to be Titletown, not watching rookies drown
5. So let’s get up and rebuild Titletown! Titletown!

2. We came to win, not battle for 2nd with Minn

Atop the mountain in 2011 (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

After a Super Bowl in 2011 and a 15-1 season the following year, the NFC North has become an increasingly difficult place for the Packers. With the loss of the second coming and two-time MVP last season, the team went from 4-1 to finish 7-9. After reaching the NFC Championship games in 2014 and 2016 this could be chalked off as a fluke – without Aaron Rodgers what do you expect?

Even in the giddy days, seasons were marked with adversity though. In 2014, after a slow start, Rodgers told ESPN Milwaukee to “Relax” and in 2016 after a four game collapse he proclaimed the team would “Run the table.” These things happened as if purely from Rodgers’ strength of will.

This type of reliance can only get you so far however. The unrelenting, gifted leader cannot mask the shortcomings of an entire team. We’ve seen others such as LeBron and Steven Gerrard heroically lead and achieve similar feats, but even at the most influential position in team sports you can’t sustainably maintain a “one-man team”. They need more leaders in the roles.

The impact of seeing the team overtaken by the Bears should not be underestimated. Previously considered an “also ran” team, now with a 2nd year quarterback and first year offensive head coach on trend with the rest of the league, the Bears top the division.


3. The results don’t stack up

This season the Packers and their fans can’t justify the outcome and missed opportunities can no longer be ignored.

So why has this season not lived up to expectation and what more should McCarthy have done? On some level these questions are rhetorical, winning cures all ills. But the Packers have lost and done so in frustrating fashion.

Coaching Aaron Rodgers, the most physically gifted quarterback of all time, brings high expectations and pressure. Those that watch him frequently know two things; the ease with which he can throw the ball is from another planet, and that his best plays are generally improvised.

To be improvised, plays have to be imperfect or unplanned. For that to happen either the play breaks down, or the play is altered mid-stream. But here’s the thing, plays don’t break down that often.

Rodgers is clearly creative in the way he plays the game, he’s not a cookie-cutter quarterback, as Baker Mayfield would say. I expect he’s likely a creative personality type, which is rare, and seeing this coupled with that arm-talent has led to some of the most dramatic plays of all time.

Rodgers told Josh Rosen in an NFL produced video  that he makes things as difficult as possible for himself in training in order to stay sharp. Presumably he gets bored with structure and repetition. When you “desperately want to be coached” as he told MMQB in 2015  this makes things difficult.

Most coaches teach you their plan repeatedly until you get it. Rodgers, as was the knock on Rosen, (who coincidentally beat the Packers last night) likes to challenge the status quo and constantly prove himself against the unknown.

Mike McCarthy and his staff helped develop Rodgers for a long time. This worked well for a long time but there is only so much you can teach someone, or so long you can learn together. Especially with such a demanding personality type. Sometimes change is just simply needed.

It’s interesting to consider how far this relationship has moved. Before the 2011 Super Bowl McCarthy told Rodgers “Let me be aggressive as the play-caller. You have to be the disciplined one. You keep us in the favourable plays and throw it away if we get a bad look.”

Recent years have been the polar opposite. Fans bemoaned what seemed a crippling fear of McCarthy’s to step on the neck and finish teams off. Always taking the soft, apparently safe option. Perhaps that’s why this off-season the team introduced more “home run” options to the route tree.

As Rodgers acknowledges, delays have plagued the season and it still isn’t clear whether this is down to him or McCarthy. He then describes how teammates need to be in the right mindset for the deep plays introduced in the off-season, rather than simplify the play and check the ball down.

Mysteries such as the choice not to ride with Aaron Jones or to punt away control of the game against Seattle can be questioned of course. But for me the message centres around working relationships and the shelf life attached to them.


4. Yo we bust him in the eye, and then  took the punk’s Joe

Not his coffee, his Joe – Philbin.

“Paint drying”, by Joe Philbin. Photo credit: Packers.Com

Air-raid concepts and run play options are still sweeping the league. When a new wave appears, people question why everyone wasn’t on it to begin with. Well Joe Philbin must have missed the waves all those years in Miami, surrounded by colleges.

Today’s NFL allows for creativity to be brought from the sideline and the cost of a superhero quarterback to be distributed in improving the rest of the team. Whether Green Bay will opt for a new innovative genius to scheme players open for Rodgers is one thing but with his improvisational style, would that work? Or give the same increase in value the way McVay has with Goff?

It’s been said by many smarter than I that if you want to get ahead – you zig when others zag. Taking risks to try something new essentially, and when successful it’s proclaimed innovation. Having a coach that can take Rodgers to another level, whether that be in consistency or talent would be no small win.

But, should such a coach exist, perhaps someone capable of quickly building a defensive unit that can pressure and knock volatile offenses off their game would be a better match. The Packers now join the Browns in getting a head start on the hiring process.

The reasons for making someone a Head Coach rather than a coordinator should be obvious. Either they are the Managing Director (MD) capable of bringing people together and ensuring the whole factory is delivering, or they are the coordinator you couldn’t get without offering the lead role.

If Rodgers works best out of structure and someone can coach the offense to live with that, maybe you get the MD or the defensive mind. To clarify, I don’t believe Joe fits any of the above criteria.

5. So let’s get up and rebuild Titletown!

Make no mistake, Mike McCarthy has been a great, Lombardi winning, coach for the Packers. The second longest tenure in Packers’ history. Nine playoff appearances and four conference championships in thirteen years. Thrice falling short (twice in overtime), to deprive the world of multiple Favre/ Rodgers v Brady Super Bowls.

It’s the plays that were left on the field for legends of the game that McCarthy is held to account for most. Rightly or wrongly. Don’t forget the fans literally own the Packers, it’s not the media who get to decide who succeeded.

There’s a re-beginning now for the Packers, who are currently slated for a top ten draft pick. Were the team to have lost the infamous draw with the Vikings ( currently a 4-7-1 record), that pick would be top 5. This is rarefied air for a team with no top ten picks for ten years and no top four picks for thirty years.

Gutekunst is German for skilled artist. Well Brian, let’s see if you can help the tortured artist out. Aaron, not me.

N.b. The House of Pain were not involved in the writing of this article but they wish Mike McCarthy the best, as does great football-mind, The Miz.

You can follow Dan @NFLaXthePond for future roster construction analysis and an exciting new podcast.

Prior article.

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