The Packers are still among the NFL’s Elite (if they can stop being so fragile)

ALLGBP.com All Green Bay Packers All the Time
It’s tough to be an elite team when the franchise quarterback breaks his collar bone.

I’ve heard all about how the Packers aren’t on the same level as the Seahawks or 49ers.

I’ve read the pleas for Ted Thompson to start signing veteran free agents to plug roster holes.

I’ve seen the calls for Dom Capers to be fired.

I’ve noted the cries for more playmakers on both sides of the ball.

I’ve gotten frustrated at the Packers poor special teams play.

I’ve been exasperated by the play of Morgan Burnett and Brad Jones after they signed contract extensions.

I’ve been just as frustrated (warning: NSFW. And it’s not me in the video. I swear.) as all of you have been after another early playoff exit.

I agree that the Packers haven’t been as good as San Francisco or Seattle over the last two seasons.

I agree that Ted Thompson should not completely ignore veteran free agency when building his roster.

I wouldn’t mind seeing Capers gone.

I’d like more playmakers on the field, just like every other team’s fanbase would.

I hate getting irrationally angry after the Packers allow a long kickoff return.

I wish Burnett and Jones (and Raji, as long as we’re at it) would quit stealing money from the Packers.

These are legit problems that the Packers faced this season and should address in the future. But isn’t the Packers main problem injuries?

If the Packers don’t play significant parts of the season without Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Casey Hayward, Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley and Bryan Bulaga, wouldn’t a lot of these other issues be covered up?

If Eddie Lacy, Sam Shields, James Jones, Nick Perry, Evan Dietrich-Smith and Robert Francois don’t miss all or parts of multiple games, would the Packers be on the same level as San Francisco and Seattle?

I think they would be. And that’s not making excuses or being blind to the fact that a few things around 1265 Lombardi Ave. could be done differently. It’s hard to be elite when you play without your best offensive player, best defensive player, your starting left tackle, your top tight end, one of your best wide receivers and a really good special teams player for most of the season.

If the Packers choose to only fix one problem area on this team during the offseason, it needs to be their constant injury issues. That’s the issue that’s really keeping the Packers from being great.

How do you remedy the injury pandemic? I don’t know. Say a few extra prayers. Cross your fingers. Wear different color socks. Tackle more in practice. Make players eat rocks to increase toughness. Who knows?

But if the Packers stay healthy — hell, even if they cut the number of injuries in half — they will be elite once again.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam\\\'s writing on the Packers here.

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  • Matt Roeloffs

    thank you for this article, im tired of seeing our team annually be the most injured in the NFL….we could field an all-pro injured reserved team every year. Ive been calling for it since 2010, our strength and conditioning program needs to be completely retooled because clearly its not working. I knew we were in for a rough year when bulaga went down before the season started but seriously, we are a damn good team to get to 8-6-1 without our QB, WR1, TE, Practically our entire OL, LB, OLB, and CB for most of the season. If matthews were able to play in the wild card game this year no doubt in my mind that we would have won. but then again, if we didnt have such a sh*tty S&C program we wouldnt have even been playing in the wild card game because we would have been at least 14-2

    • Max

      Elite, No way. Look at the numbers (record) We should have six in our division. With tt mm & dc we stand no chance at all.

  • Nostradamus

    AAAAAAaaaaaaaaahhhh-men!!

    I went back and read out loud (yelled) everything you wrote. Very therapeutic!
    THANKS!!!

    • Nostradamus

      Forgot to say, GREAT article Adam!

      THANKS again!!

  • billy

    the injury bug bites the Packers bad, but still need upgrades at ILB Safety, and a few other areas even if fully healthy so no, we arent at the same level as Niners or Chickenhawks…close but not there…i mean..Raji, Brad Jones, Jennings Burnett Hawk Perry all average or worse players..Newhouse!!! There’s a few more…it would be nice to see the Packers go one season without so many key injuries though…we certainly arent in the bottom half of the league…

    • Packermeister

      Agree that injuring had a really really huge impact. The Pack has GOT to figure out a solution to prevent the epidemic of hamstring injuries. That said, we still lack the necessary talent to dominate average teams and compete with Seattle. Look at their D. They’re all fast, tough, big, and nasty. I was on the anti-capers bandwagon for a while until I read a recent article (can’t remember source) discussing the talent gap and others discussing Capers himself as a coach. We’re fortunate to have him. TT needs to seriously step up and make an impact on the D that he hasn’t yet accomplished as has his protege’ in Seattle.

  • JimR_in_DC

    That’s a lot of “ifs,” Adam. In the absence of positive changes coming out of 1245 Lombardi Ave., we’re gonna need fingers crossed, and lucky rabbits’ feet, and some 4-leaf clovers to compete with the NFL elite.

    • Adam Czech

      It’s only one “if.” If the Packers figure out how to not be so injured, they’re still an elite team.

      • JimR_in_DC

        My bad. It’s certainly an if that I have been pushing for tangible action on. The Packers need to take a long, hard look at their strength & conditioning staff, and their practice approach.

        I think the injuries are still insufficient to move the Packers into the elite category. I question the coaching and personnel, too.

        • Rich

          JimR – I totally agree with your post. S&C needs to be addressed. Broken bones (e.g., Cobb) can’t be prevented. However, too many soft tissue injuries (e.g. hamstrings, muscle bruises, etc.) 4 years in a row of this stuff is not a coincidence. I also worry about Matthews for the the long term. One of the reasons he is special is that he is willing to give up his body and fly around. Does not bode well for his longevity.

      • Packermeister

        The problem is defensive talent, not injuries and not coaching. Period. In addition to my arguments, below, here’s a great article that I agree with: http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20140111/PKR07/301090495/

        I can’t argue that the offense was seriously set back when 12 and 18 went down, and yet they were still a #3 offense. TT screwed up on the QB backup situation and he knows it. That’s a talent issue that cost us games. With a competent and system-ready backup in place when Rogers went down we would not have gone 2-5-1. That’s on TT. Our O-line always disappoints me, but they weren’t a complete disaster and things look bright for next year. Overall our Offense continues to be scary for opponents.

        Our problems are on D; keeping opponents from making big plays and scoring more than we do. You’re saying the problem is injuries. So if we had Brad Jones, Hayward, Perry, Worthy, Jolly, and Matthews all season long, then we would have had a defense to compete for a championship. Maybe. But I don’t see that, and either does Mike Vandermause in his article. The trouble is that TT hasn’t made the right calls on the defensive side of the ball. The safety position was ignored and it cost the team dearly. We’ll see how Hayward, Datone Jones, Perry, and Worthy and other young players step up. I think they’ll be better. But is it enough? I don’t think so. We need more big play defensive threats than CM3. TT’s got to improve as GM.

        • Bedroske

          Again, two injuries really stand out, as far as what Capers said he needs. He has stated he needs a run-stuffing DT and stud OLBs. Did he have those? Maybe TT overestimated Raji’s ability ($8mil? seriously?) and bet on Pickett’s youth. But the OLBs, how much did he operate with both of them healthy?

    • lmills

      C’mon. It’s 1265 Lombardi Ave

      • JimR_in_DC

        My wife was giving me the directions! Yeah, that’s it! :D

  • Razer

    Good perspective Adam. If you think of a team playing together for long stretches, you recognize that it is one of the key factors in people playing together. Our O-line is a good example of a unit that is greater than the sum of its parts. The injuries keep us from gelling as a unit. There have been multiple times this past year where 4 and 5 out of our last 6 first rounders were watching from the sidelines. Your biggest talent not even on the field.

    Still, as Billy points out we do have chronic weakness at ILB and safety (and some might argue D-line). A little more talent and a couple of years with less injury and we could go toe-to-toe with the best in this league.

  • Rymetyme81

    Look what injuries helped do to the Atlanta Falcons of 2013, weren’t they the NFC 1 seed last year?

  • Chris V

    I’d say fix the injuries and find guys on defense who know how to tackle. The defensive play could be the perfect defense for the situation and the scheme could be executed to perfection and it makes no difference if the players can’t make the tackle.

  • Big O

    We had some good play from some backups this year, but when it gets down to the nitty gritty and we have to get (THAT PLAY) done to win the big games you need to have those playmakers on the feild that have the experience and playmaking ability to do that!! Unfortunately ours are usually on the sideline in Street Cloths!!

  • Since ’61

    Adam – We have an elite offense, no question about that. But our defense and our special teams are not elite. Our coverage and return teams provide little support if not negative plays. On defense, which of our players does an offensive coordinator worry about? CM3, maybe. Even then, they can run him out of plays, double team him or neutralize him. Even when our defense has been relatively healthy during the last 3 seasons, they are far from elite. BTW, if you want to use injuries as a reason that prevents our elite status, I would say that part of the defining characteristics of an elite team is their ability to overcome the adversity brought on by having injured players. Our offense is capable of playing well with injuries but our defense has not since the 2010 SB run. If we were still elite we would be playing this weekend. If we add an ILB and a Safety and we stay healthy, maybe we return to the elite in 2014, but I think that we have a way to go. Thanks, Since’61

    • Adam Czech

      Our offense didn’t look very elite going 3-and-out three straight times to begin the 49ers game.

      If the Packers had a healthy Desmond Bishop and Nick Collins patrolling the middle, I think we’d be saying this defense isn’t so bad.

      Yes, players need to step up and coaches need to coach better to cover for injuries yadda yadda yadda. But most of the flaws and shortcomings I see on this squad can be traced back to some type of injury.

      • Leo

        We played the playoff game without our best defender (Clay) and 2 of our best CB, Sam and Casey. They are the play makers we needed. Of course I think we need an upgrade at safety and ILB, but when people yell asking for play makers, they should look to the sideline and calm down.

    • Rob

      An elite offense is all that is needed. An adequate defense would be enough, and may be all that is possible given CAP and draft order.

      The current defense is NOT bad. And if your definition of elite is “able to overcome adversity”, then it may already be elite. It was the defense that kept the Packers in the SF game until the offense finally started clicking. If the defense had been bad, the game would have been as good as over by the end of the first quarter.

      I believe this defense is only a no more injuries and few pieces away from being good.

    • Nopainnogain

      he never says the defense or special teams were elite. He says the team could be elite (as in the overall team). You can have an elite team without being elite in every facet. Seahawks are an elite team, but their offense is nowhere near elite. Even with Rodgers and Cobb back, the offense wasn’t what it could’ve been with a rookie struggling to fill in for Bulaga.

      You can’t ignore the impact of injuries. By my count, this year the Niners have lost 16 games from starters on offense and 15 on defense. Packers have lost 48 and 36, respectively. The only serious injury for the Niners was Crabtree and he ended up coming back. 13 of 22 starters finished the season without missing a game and 19 finished with 3 or fewer games missed to injury

      For the packers, Rodgers, Cobb, Finley, Bulaga, and Hayward all missed at least 8 games and Matthews and Perry both missed 5. Only 9 starters escaped injury and only 15 missed 3 or fewer games. and that’s not counting losing collins and bishop. what if the niners had played in Lambeau without Aldon smith, Navorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, and Anthony Davis and then lost 3 other starters during the game? Do you think they would have escaped with the win?

  • packett

    Two examples back up my opinion: Saints amazing turnaround on Defense with a change of D-coordinator, and essentially the same players. This support the theory that coach and scheme are very big (though not more important) to talent.
    Two: Patriots playing at very high level despite all the injuries.
    So: I still hold D-coordinator and all his d-coach staff responsible…and most of all…it falls on McCarthy. Yeah, I fully recognize GB was heavily impacted by injuries. Again, look at Patriots high level of meticulous technique. GB hasn’t had any game that matched Patriot’s penchant for technique all year (with or without injuries). The technique/discipline is clearly in the middle of average.

  • Big T

    The 2 biggest injuries were to MM and TT’s brains…Takes a long time for brain injuries to heal, sometimes they never fully heal. Hope they get better soon.

  • JimR_in_DC
  • Since ’61

    Adam – I’m confused!!! You write an article stating that you think the Packers are an elite team,except for injury issues. Then I post that we have elite offense and your response is to contradict your own article by pointing out 3 series from the SF game. WTF??? You said we’re elite but I’m wrong for pointing out that we have an elite offense? Also, I was referring to the overall performance of our offense over the course of, basically Aaron Rodgers career. When our offense is healthy we average about 30 ponts a game and usually rank high in points and offensive stats. Even this year our offense was 6th in passing and 7th in rushing. Our skill players, especially now with Lacy are among the best if not the best in the league. Rodgers was named by like 27 NFL GMs as the first player they would chose to start a team from scratch (Pretty elite to me!). I would agree that our offensive line needs some improvement but hopefully we can look to the return of Bulaga, Sherrod and Tretter for that in 2014. As for the defense, I have mentioned in several previous posts that it has been sub-par for the last 3 seasons and specifically in 2013 they did not step up at all when Rodgers went down. I have acknowledged (again in previous posts)tha they did play heroically during th SF game, but even then they could not get the ball back during the last 5 minutes of the game and the results were the same, a loss. I should not have to point out the 9 minute drive the Bears had to close out the game on our home field, or the 7 minute drive the Eagles had again at home, or the Vikings FG drive (at home)in OT to make my point about our defense or do I? Should I mention that we don’t tackle, miss assignments, fail to hold the edge, run ourselves out of plays, can’t or don’t communicate on the field, rarely stop a short yardage ground play or hold a lead, which BTW we had twice in the SF game, but couldn’t hold for even one defensive series. Sorry, it’s not all about the injuries. If all of this sounds elite to you your definition of elite is very different from mine. My definition is based on watching the Lombardi teams in the ’60s. Maybe I’m spoiled because of that. But his name is on the league’s trophy for excellence during the NFL football season, therefore, that’s where my definition of elite begins. Case closed! Thanks, Since ’61

    • Packermeister

      Amen!

  • palmda

    What does “Elite” really mean? Yes we can beat Minnesota, but not by much? Yes we can beat Chicago if they let us and yes we can beat Detroit at lambeau if they self destruct? Ok that’s kind of “Elite”. We have one good running back and one good qb, That’s kind of “Elite”. We seem to have recovered a good field goal kicker and god knows we need him because we can’t score touch down in the Red zone, Yep that “Elite”, We have tickets sold until hell freezes over that “Elite”. Now after that I can’t find anything “Elite” about the 2013/2014 Packer Organization. Even a Healthy Davon House or Newhouse don’t qualify as “Elite”. I will go out on a limb and predict the 2014/2015 packers will go 9 and 7 and not make the playoff’s with the team as it stands..Healthy.

    • Nopainnogain

      They had the #6 offense in the league, and that was without Rodgers,Cobb,Bulaga, and Finley out for half the season. Seems elite to me. bookmarking this so we can laugh at your dumbass next year.

  • tomkat

    I had a dream. No No!I was not on a mountain top,but that the Packers traded B.J Raji & a 1st.& 3rd. Rd.draft pick to the re-building Texans for J.J.Watt.Can you imagian a healthy Clay & J.J.on the same defense!! The only problem was,then I woke up.

    • Leo

      I would trade everything but Rodgers for JJ. I love the player, love the guy, he is from Wisconsin, a Packer fan, former Badger. A match made in heaven. Too good to be true

  • Two Bears, One Cup

    The injuries don’t just kill our ability to win the present game, it also hurts our chances in future games. I still think Perry could be a very good player if he can stay healthy. But he can’t improve when he misses so much practice. Same could be said for many other players on our team. This also makes it quite a bit harder to learn to play together and be on the same page.

  • nypackfan

    Great post. There was an interesting article in the NY Times several weeks ago about how the innovative strength and conditioning program at Stanford University has significantly reduced injuries among the football players, contributing to the overall success of Stanford football in an important way. Instead of visiting some college to learn how to defend the latest wrinkle in the read/option, perhaps the Packers staff could benefit far more from a trip to Stanford this summer.

  • http://12ave larry valdes

    Since61 greate article you are correct. Since62.

  • Tarynfor12

    The fact that the guys are our teams look the part of physical specimens in their spandex outfits,they are far from the physical specimens needed on the field in uniform.

    Perhaps the Strength and Conditioning can’t help or fix what seems inferior to the rest….since we witness one aspect of it in Packer games and certainly see the other aspect in many other teams games.

  • Since ’61

    Thanks Larry Valdes! Since ’61

  • GBPDAN

    The injuries on this team are absolutely ridiculous. It got to the point that I didn’t want to read about the Packers during the regular season anymore. One of my favorite past times turned into a depressing nightmare on a weekly basis. All I read about was injury after injury. Is TT drafting sissies? Bad training staff? Or is it just bad luck?

  • stevie vegas

    I have the solution to everything. We trade Rodgers to Houston for 1st and second round pick in 2014 and a 1st in 2015. We trade Mathews to the Rams for their second first round pick in 2014. We draft Manziel, draft a safety and an inside linebacker in the first round. We free up millions and can actually get this team back to a Super Bowl in three years. Even TT tight wad will be able to roll the dice on some free agents. He can also sign any Packer free agent he wants.
    It’s really stupid…right? Or is it!

  • Bill

    How does the NFL gauge injuries per team? Is it based on players that go to IR? Do PUP players add into the mix? How do they decide the impact on a teams ability to perform? How would the Packers injury total be different than Detroit’s or Chicago’s?

  • Icebowler

    The failure of our Strength & Conditioning coaches is evident not just with the injuries, but with our play in the 4th quarter. In the majority of our games we played relatively well in the first three quarters but ran out of gas in the forth quarter. It’s time for a change! Could it get any worse? It might just get a lot better.

  • http://jerseyal Bob

    Wouldn’t call the Packers elite on any basis-but healthy they’re probably good enenough to beat anybody on a given day.
    Injuries are the #1 problem, really since the year of the Super Bowl. Sprains, breaks, concussions, are pretty well unavoidable but a gazillion hamstrings along with sports hernias. What to do is a harder question. Particularly, injuries hurt a draft and develop team by depriving younger players of reps or/ by forcing them to play a role they’re not ready for to cover for the injured.