So that was something, huh? It’s pretty rare that a team is eliminated from the playoffs for the rest of eternity after game 2, but here we are. A defective quarterback, Sega Genesis Madden era coaching decisions, and Eddie Lacy lost so much weight he is now completely invisible (Yet he’s still enormously obese). The sky is tumbling down, the wheels are flying off the bus, OUR PET’S HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!
Normally I start this shindig by taking a look at the leader of the team. Up until this week, that has always been Aaron Rodgers. This week, Rodgers was more of a liability than an asset. So I’m going to do what Mike McCarthy cannot do, and bench him until the end of this column.
The Entire Defense Except Damarious Randall
The front 7 controlled the line of scrimmage all game. Mike Daniels, Nick Perry, and Clay Matthews were especially disruptive. Daniels faced Vikings guard Brandon Fusco most of the game, and treated him the same way Adrian Peterson treats his children–although I’m assuming Fusco wore a cup.
Perry was very disruptive off of the edge all game. He was only credited with 3 assisted tackles and half a sack, but behind the stats was an aggressive player who blew up several Vikings plays. Matthews recorded 3 tackles and a sack, but like Perry, his stat line belies the true impact he had on the game. Players like Perry and Matthews are catalysts because of their ability to create opportunities for their teammates. Offenses have to account for them, and other defensive players are able to make impactful plays more easily.
Letroy Guion left the game with a knee injury in the first half, leaving the nose tackle spot to Kenny Clark. Clark wasn’t exactly ineffective, but he wasn’t great either. He was just there. Like your uncle who shows up to Thanksgiving just to eat. Doesn’t really contribute anything, but he’s taking up a spot at the table.
3/4 of the secondary played well. Micah Hyde, HaHa Clinton-Dix, and Morgan Burnett shored up the run defense while helping shut down all Vikings receivers not named Stefon Diggs. Quinten Rollins had a nice bounceback game after a dismal showing in week 1. Ladarius Gunter even contributed. Unfortunately, all of this will be forever lost in history because Damarious Randall had the worst game of his young career.
With Sam Shields out due to a concussion, Randall was tasked with guarding Diggs 1 on 1 in man coverage for most of the game. This was an opportunity for Randall to make a statement. A game in which he would introduce himself to the world outside of Green Bay. On this account, he did not fail. Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth said his name. A lot. However, it was usually followed by something along the lines of “got beat on an iso route for a huge gain!” Then Collinsworth would spend the next half an hour gushing about Sam Bradford. Seriously, it was like Bradford was every guy in OneDirection.
Diggs is also a young player, but he had the advantage in this matchup. The offensive youth almost always have the advantage over defensive youth, because they know what plays they are running. Inexperienced defenders are left guessing, which Randall did quite often during this game with sub-optimal results. Diggs is just too fast for a defender to have any indecision. He ate Randall’s lunch, then took his milk money too. Randall needs to use this as a learning opportunity and get better. He has unlimited potential.
If you would have told me 2 years ago that the Packers biggest obstacle to winning games in 2016 would be the head coach and the starting quarterback, I would have given you the same look my dog gives me when I pretend to throw his rawhide across the room. But lo and behold, this is the world we live in.
It’s difficult to even figure out where to begin with this situation. It’s a chicken/egg conundrum. Do Rodgers struggles stem from the unfathomably horrible play calling? Or does the unfathomably horrible play calling stem from McCarthy feeling like he needs to mitigate Rodgers struggles? It’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery slathered with angry tweets.
Rodgers looked lost and scared the entire game. Even when his offensive line gave him enough time to make a commercial, he had hot feet and was dancing all over the field. All that was missing was Yakity Sax. Plus, he apparently thought he was playing basketball and ended up dribbling the football like Meadowlark Lemon in a girdle (Full disclosure: I have no idea if professional players in 2016 still wear girdles).
For his entire career before 2015, Rodgers calling card was that he was cool under pressure. He always made a quick decision, and it was usually correct. If it wasn’t correct, his ability to put a football through a mousehole usually meant the play ended in the Packers favor. If it didn’t end in the Packers favor, he never made that mistake again. Flash forward to present day, however, and Rodgers has consistently been playing the exact opposite way. He panics. He overlooks open receivers. His passes aren’t as accurate. When he does take a chance, unless it’s a hail mary, it doesn’t seem to pan out like before.
The suddenness with which all of this has taken place is startling, and the fact that it is continuing into the 3rd game of this season is concerning. Clearly the talent is still there, as evidenced by the ridiculous touchdown pass to Davante Adams in week 1 versus Jacksonville. There are brief glimpses of vintage Rodgers during games, but since week 4 of 2015, there have been no sustained stretches that resemble the pre Jordy Nelson injury Aaron Rodgers.
Mike McCarthy’s descent into madness should be chronicled on Netflix. It’s mind boggling how far he has fallen as a play caller. He forgets the area of the field between the hashmarks is in play. His favorite running play for a 245lb bull moose is to toss the ball to him and have him run it horizontally. Davante Adams continues to get opportunity after opportunity even though his success rate is lower than mine at Weight Watchers. If you understand what he’s doing, you probably are going to want to find somebody to talk to. In this game, the Packers faced a 4th and goal from inside the Vikings 10 yard line. Eddie Lacy had carried the drive up until this point, and was seemingly getting 4 yards every time he touched the ball. So McCarthy decided to take him off of the field. The Packers failed on 4th down, and ended up losing by 3. #Yolo.
All this brings us back to the root of the problem. Rodgers and McCarthy need to be a package deal. They have to be cohesive, and buy into each other’s abilities. It’s clear that neither of them believe in the other’s capability to do their job correctly. And here’s the thing: they’re both right! Neither of them are doing their jobs at a satisfactory level. Both of them need to be held accountable for their respective mistakes. And even more importantly, they both need to take responsibility when they screw up. Press conference lip service and half-ass answers can only go so far. I’ve been a staunch defender of both Rodgers and McCarthy for a decade. They earned the benefit of the doubt. But after a year of underperforming in such cartoonishly awful ways, my patience is quickly running out. Don’t get me wrong. I know that my opinions mean exactly nothing. But the team I love is making me sad, and I need to vent.
P.S. I know that this article just got a tad hypocritical since I spent the entirety of the game on Twitter begging for people to relax. But much like mold on an overripe tomato, as time has passed my ire has multiplied.
This meathead and his Megatronless group of college all stars. The perfect opportunity to get back on track. I seriously hope they do.