I feel like I’m listening to a broken record. Except when this record plays, it’s only after the Green Bay Packers lose a game. For some strange reason, I never hear this record after wins. So it’s been a while that this song has played. The Packers won four straight games before losing to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. Throw a bye week in there, and it’s been rather blissful for a good solid month.
But now the axe-grinding fans are crawling back out of the woodwork to lambast Ted Thompson for putting together a weak roster.
The last time I addressed this crowd was after the Cincinnati Bengals game, when the Packers blew a gigantic lead to end up losing. While fingers were being pointed in all sorts of directions, there seemed to be few fans dealing sensibly with the problems of the team.
One theme that has persisted between then and now, however, is the injury bug. The Packers have it bad, and it’s starting to cost the team. Yet for some reason, we don’t give this fact its due consideration. Should teams be able to find success beyond their key starters? Absolutely. General managers need to put together a roster that can handle the adversity of a football season. But injuries to enough key players can be crippling.
Take a look at the following names for a moment:
- Nick Perry
- Derek Sherrod
- Bryan Bulaga
- B.J. Raji
- Clay Matthews
- A.J. Hawk
- Aaron Rodgers
Figure out the common thread yet? Yes, those are all of the Packers’ first round draft picks that are currently on the team’s payroll (listed in reverse chronological order). Now I want you to look back at that list and count the number of players who played a majority of the Packers-Bears game. What do you get?
Yup, two. Out of seven.
That means five first round draft picks were absent from the game on Monday. What do you expect Ted Thompson to do in a situation like this? There aren’t any players wandering around on the streets who can make up for that level of talent. And when one of those players is the highest paid quarterback in the league right now – and arguably one of the best three quarterbacks in the league – then you’ve got a problem on your hands.
Did the Green Bay Packers mess up their quarterback situation this year? Sure. That’s an easy answer. But even though hindsight proved them wrong, Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff expected Graham Harrel and/or B.J. Coleman to rise up to their scouted potential. At least one of them should have stuck.
But they didn’t, and Thompson was forced to look elsewhere for a back-up quarterback.
No quarterback would have known this offensive system well enough at that point to have made a significant difference. Even “system quarterback” Matt Flynn struggled in his emergency role during the 2010 game against the Detroit Lions when Rodgers left with a concussion.
Then there’s the issue of the outside linebackers. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry are not easily replaced. Just like Rodgers, Matthews is the highest paid player at his position right now. There’s a reason for that. While issues abounded in the secondary on Monday night, the front seven had to figure out how to get pressure without two primary players.
Against a division opponent. Against a quarterback who was making last-second throws in the face of oncoming blitzers. With a porous secondary behind them.
Look, it was downright painful to watch the Packers lose to the Bears like that this week. I hated that Aaron Rodgers suffered a critical injury. And while I didn’t like the loss, I hated even more that it was to the Chicago Bears. It sucked.
But what does a general manager do when five of his seven first round draft picks are on the sidelines? Throw in the fact that two of Thompson’s last three second round picks (Randall Cobb, Jerel Worthy) were also out, and it’s probably more frustrating to him than it is to any of you. Can you plan for that many key players to be gone? Is there even enough salary cap room to do so?
How many other teams would still be relevant after this level of player injury? Imagine the Bears without not just Cutler, but also Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Julius Peppers, and Shea McClellin. And then consider the fact that the Packers are STILL favored to win against the Philadelphia Eagles this week.
I don’t know about you, but to me that’s a sign of success for Ted Thompson, not a sign of failure.——————Follow @ChadToporski