Category Archives: 2013 OffSeason

6

May

Cory’s Corner: Ted Thompson averages a draft whiff a year

Packers general manager Ted Thompson selected future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers with his first pick as the Green Bay GM.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson selected future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers with his first pick as the Green Bay GM.

This will be Ted Thompson’s 10th NFL Draft as the Packers general manager. He has been arguably the biggest lightning rod for criticism over the years.

There is inherent value in every round of the draft, but the most consistent value lies in rounds 1-3, which is where I also focus my attention.

Thompson did a masterful job early on. When you land a guy like Aaron Rodgers as your first pick to begin your new job, things are looking pretty good. He added safety Nick Collins and wide receiver Terrence Murphy, who were both forced to leave pro football early after suffering neck injuries.

The next year, Thompson did another excellent job by adding fifth overall pick in linebacker A.J. Hawk, second rounders in guard Daryn Colledge and wide receiver Greg Jennings and third round guard Jason Spitz. The only guy that was a question mark was third round linebacker Abdul Hodge because injuries forced him to only start one game in four NFL seasons.

But after hitting so many home runs in his first two seasons, Thompson was due for some whiffs. And that’s exactly what happened in 2007. Justin Harrell, arguably the worst pick of Thompson’s career, started just two of 14 games in his three-year career. It was a little head scratching that the Packers even used a first round pick on Harrell, who entered the league hurt after tearing his biceps at Tennessee.

Brandon Jackson is another strikeout. The former Nebraska track star/football player was able to play bit roles but is now looking for a job. James Jones gave the Packers a good return on its third-round investment. He proved he could start but was never capable of winning the top receiver job. The final whiff of 2007 is Aaron Rouse. The safety played just three seasons before signing with the now-defunct United Football League.

The following year, there were two more whiffs sandwiched in between a couple of home runs. Obviously, second rounder Jordy Nelson has carved out a pretty nice career as one of Rodgers’ go-to targets. However, second rounder Brian Brohm, after not being able to get comfortable with the speed of the NFL game, is now playing quarterback for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL. The other miss was second round cornerback Patrick Lee, who only started one game in his Green Bay career. The other great get that Thompson secured was third rounder Jermichael Finley. Although his mouth got in the way early on, Finley was one of the most athletic tight ends in the game when healthy.

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29

March

Cory’s Corner: Packers are undervaluing the center position

Frank Winters was Brett Favre's starting center for 10 seasons and the two shared an inseparable bond.

Frank Winters was Brett Favre’s starting center for 10 seasons and the two shared an inseparable bond.

Just how important is the quarterback-center battery in the NFL?

Apparently, it’s not that overly important to the Packers because Aaron Rodgers is about to embark on his fourth different starting center to begin the season.

Think about that for a second.

Rodgers is the best quarterback on the planet. Amazingly, he has been able to average 31 touchdowns a season with a 58-29 record in six seasons. And he’s done it despite playing with a revolving door at the leadership position of the offensive line.

In 16 years with the Packers, Brett Favre had five different centers start the majority of games. But that counts James Campen for one season in 1992 and the person nobody remembers — Grey Ruegamer in 2004.

Favre’s mainstay was Frank Winters. “Bag of Doughnuts” and Favre were teammates for 11 seasons and were able to grow up together and make each other better.

Rodgers hasn’t had that yet. Right when Rodgers and Scott Wells were beginning to form a cohesive bond, the Packers didn’t bring him back after four years of working as the quarterback-center battery and thus, the process started all over again.

The next person to come on down is JC Tretter. Last year’s fourth round draft pick hasn’t started a game in the NFL but the Packers are handing him a shot to ignite one of the most dynamic offenses in the league with each snap.

Centers aren’t exactly a glory position. No kid gazes into the mirror and dreams of one day making a perfect shotgun snap to his quarterback before quickly reasserting himself as a pass blocker. Heck, Tretter was a quarterback, running back and wideout in high school.

JC Tretter is looking to become the fourth starting center to begin the season for the Packers since 2008.

JC Tretter is looking to become the fourth starting center to begin the season for the Packers since 2008.

But that doesn’t mean the job of a center should be understated. While left tackles get the money for protecting the quarterback’s blind side, it’s the center that makes the coverage adjustments. A center is the quarterback of the offensive line.

So when Rodgers comes back to camp not knowing much about his next center, he needs to spend time getting to know how things will work. If you’re Rodgers, you don’t want to learn in Week 3 that your center has a problem with a quick snap count or a pronounced loud bark in order to draw a defense offsides.

26

March

Why Haven’t The Packers Resigned Matt Flynn?

Matt Flynn

In case anyone forgot, the 2013 Packers will always be remembered as the “oh shit, Aaron Rodgers got hurt” season.  After Rodgers broke his clavicle against the Bears, it became quite apparent that the Packers front office had been unusually caught with its collective pants off by having no viable backup to keep the team afloat.  This all started in training camp and the preseason as the Packers cut incumbent backup quarterbacks Graham Harrell and BJ Coleman, leaving former 1st round pick and overall bust Vince Young as the presumed backup, only to release him at the 53 man cut deadline.  After all that, the Packers front office signed Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien to actually backup the season.  Obviously the football gods didn’t look favorably to all this as Seneca Wallace got hurt almost immediately into his first start for the Packers and left an unproven and inexperienced Scott Tolzien to start for the Packers against the Giants and part of the Vikings game.  It was only when the Packers got to “plan F” did they get really desperate and call back old buddy Matt Flynn, who took over halfway into the Vikings game, managed to scrape a couple of tight wins against the Falcons and the Cowboys and managed to do just enough to keep the team afloat until Rodgers came back to play the Bears in the season finale with playoff hopes on the line.

This story is something that the Packers can ill afford to repeat; in all honestly the Packers did not get into the playoffs last year, the Bears and Lions were just even less deserving of a playoff berth.  So the question really becomes, why are the Packers repeating 2013 by not resigned Matt Flynn and what reason could they possibly have?

Matt Flynn would not be an expensive backup, after bombing out in Seattle, Oakland and Buffalo, its pretty apparent that the only team that has any value for Flynn is the Packers, and thus his asking price would be low due to no competition for his services.  There has been no news of Matt Flynn taking any visits with any other teams and no rumors that any other team is even interested.  Furthermore, Flynn missed out on the free agent signing rush, where some backup quarterbacks commanded as much as a $5 million average over 2-3 years.  As such, the best Flynn will likely see is a 1 year veteran minimum, which for a player with 6 years of experience means $730,000.

3

March

The Green Bay Packers Are At A Fork In The Road

NFL, Green Bay Packers, Ted Thompson

What Ted Thompson is currently looking at–metaphorically speaking.

Imagine this scenario: you’re traveling with your family on a vacation.  You mapped out the route you would take and foresaw smooth travels ahead.  What actually happens, however, is road filled with bumps and potholes and you suffer some damage and keep getting detoured from your ultimate destination.

For Ted Thompson, with perhaps his legacy as general manager for the Green Bay Packers in the balance, such a moment is at hand.

Ever since the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, Thompson’s ultimate destination has been a return trip to the title game.  Many, including Thompson himself, thought the Packers were in prime position for multiple Super Bowl runs and some even uttered the word “dynasty” when looking at Green Bay’s long term prognosis.

Instead, Thompson’s team has suffered through multiple injury plagued seasons while the defense continues to suffer blowout after blowout like a cheaply made tire on an RV.  The offense is the engine that keeps the vehicle moving at a decent speed but what good does that do with consistently flat tires on defense?

Heading into the 2014 offseason, Thompson has to put solid rubber underneath the Packer vehicle in order to take some pressure off the offense and keep that engine from overheating. The defense must get better (and fast) if the Packers want any chance of returning to the Super Bowl.

Aaron Rodgers was dead on when he said one window has closed for the Packers and another has opened.  The franchise quarterback is 30 and will turn 31 late in the upcoming season. The clock is ticking.

Thompson has relied heavily on drafting talent and developing it along to replace aging stars.  This method has worked well in spots, the wide receiver position is a case in point.

It has been an utter disaster on defense. The Packers have yet to find a suitable replacement for Nick Collins and also haven’t fully replaced Cullen Jenkins either. After both these players left the team via injury and free agency, the performance of the Green Bay defense has gone into a tailspin.

That is why this off season is crucial for the Packers. The Packers managed to stay afloat without Rodgers for half of 2013 but they’d have been in even better shape had the defense even resembled competence. Thompson has not been the best in terms of drafting defensive talent and that was on display for all to see in 2013.

7

February

Packers News: Four added to coaching staff, five get new titles

Alex Van Pelt was a backup quarterback in the NFL and will now coach Aaron Rodgers and the quarterbacks after spending two seasons in charge of the Packers' running backs.

Alex Van Pelt was a backup quarterback in the NFL and will now coach Aaron Rodgers and the quarterbacks after spending two seasons in charge of the Packers’ running backs.

The Green Bay Packers have announced the final changes to their coaching staff, according to the team’s official website.

Winston Moss was named assistant head coach/linebackers, Scott McCurley assistant linebackers coach, Alex Van Pelt quarterbacks coach, Jason Simmons defense/special teams assistant, John Rushing defensive quality control coach, Sam Gash running backs coach, Ron Zook assistant special teams coach, Luke Getsy offensive quality control coach and Chris Gizzi strength and conditioning assistant.

Five coaches–Moss, McCurley, Van Pelt, Simmons and Rushing–have been with the Packers for at least the past two seasons.

Moss had served as assistant head coach/inside linebackers for the past five seasons but will now add the outside linebackers to his responsibilities. Former outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene decided earlier in the offseason to step away from coaching. Moss was the only defensive coached retained by head coach Mike McCarthy following the 2008 season and his role on the coaching staff has continued to grow. He will be assisted by McCurley, who had been the team’s defensive quality control coach since 2007.

Van Pelt, a career backup quarterback, joined the Packers in 2012 as running backs coach but will now serve as the quarterbacks coach, replacing Ben McAdoo who joined the New York Giants as offensive coordinator. Overseeing the running backs this past season, Van Pelt helped the Packers’ run game improve to No. 7 in the NFL. Van Pelt was the quarterbacks coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two seasons (2010-2011) and helped quarterback Josh Freeman enjoy his most successful season as a professional in 2010.

Simmons is entering his fourth season with the Packers after joining the coaching staff in 2011 following a ten-year NFL playing career. Having served as coaching administrator the past three seasons, Simmons will now work with special teams, defensive backs and quality control.

Rushing, entering his sixth season in Green Bay, served as offensive assistant/special teams for the past two seasons after starting his Packers coaching career as an offensive quality control coach for 2009-10 and assistant wide receivers/special teams in 2011.

The four newcomers–Gash, Getsy, Gizzi and Zook–bring different backgrounds to Green Bay’s coaching staff.

20

January

Ted Thompson Could Learn Some Things From John Elway

John Elway showed the Packers how it was done in Super Bowl XXXII. 16 years later, he might be showing them again.

Approximately 16 years ago, John Elway broke the hearts of the Green Bay Packers and their fans when his Denver Broncos upset them in a 31-24 victory in Super Bowl XXXII.

That loss has gone down as one of the bitterest defeats in the history of the Packers and the failure to win that game hastened the departure of head coach Mike Holmgren from Green Bay. Holmgren coached only one more season before leaving to become both the head coach and general manager of the Seattle Seahawks.

Elway meanwhile won his second straight ring the following year before retiring from pro football.  In 2011, not soon after the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, the Hall of Fame quarterback was hired by Denver to run their football operations.  It was a move that was criticized by many as Elway didn’t have much front office experience, aside from owning Colorado’s arena football team.

Much like in his playing days, Elway silenced his critics.  In his first year at the helm, he picked up the pieces from the disastrous tenure of Josh McDaniels as head coach and the Broncos won the AFC West title with Tim Tebow (TIM TEBOW!) at quarterback.  Denver even upset the then-defending AFC champion Steelers in the first round of the playoffs before falling to the Patriots.

Elway then of course signed Peyton Manning the following offseason and the rest is history.  With the Broncos on their way to Super Bowl XLVIII, many teams around the NFL will be looking at how Elway built his roster. Despite a recent run of success, the Green Bay Packers should be one of those teams.

While a full roster rebuild is not necessary in Green Bay, Packers general manager Ted Thompson would be wise to look at exactly how Elway has built the Broncos and how that could serve as a blueprint to get the Packers back in contention for a Super Bowl.

The common excuse for Elway’s detractors is “Oh, he has Peyton Manning.”  That’s true, but remember this team won the AFC West in 2011 with a quarterback whose throwing style resembles loose Jell-O. There is plenty of talent on the team even if you don’t count Manning.

7

January

Packers Free Agent Overview: Offense

Will Packers running back James Starks return and once again team up with Eddie Lacy?

With 17 free agents and just under $10 million in salary cap space carrying over into 2014, changes are coming to the Green Bay Packers roster.

We’ve already taken a look at upcoming Packers free agents on defense. Now let’s examine the decisions Packers general manager Ted Thompson has to make about free agents on offense.

WR James Jones
When Jones hit the open market in 2011, there were few buyers and he ended up back in Green Bay. After three good seasons, will Jones find more suitors this time around? He’s been a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver his whole career, but Jones has had stretches where he kinda sorta looks like a No. 1. At 29 years old, though, I doubt anyone will pay Jones as a No. 1 receiver and it could lead to him once again landing back in Green Bay at another Packers-friendly contract. With the emergence of Jarrett Boykin down the stretch, Thompson has plenty of leverage when negotiating with Jones and might even feel comfortable enough to move on entirely from the man who wears a sleeveless turtleneck. It’ll be interesting to see if Aaron Rodgers lobbies for Jones to be re-signed like he did back in 2011.

TE Jermichael Finley
This one will be up to the doctors. If Finley is cleared to play football again, how big of a contract is a team willing to give him? Does Finley sign a cheaper one-year deal and try to prove himself all over again to land a fat deal in 2015? Even if he is cleared to play, are the Packers interested in re-signing him?

TE Andrew Quarless
Quarless didn’t come close to filling the playmaking void left by Finley, but he did have a few moments. Quarless’s future will be determined by what happens with Finley and whether the Packers address the tight end position in the draft.

C Evan Dietrich-Smith
The Packers put the lowest restricted free-agent tender on Dietrich-Smith last offseason and were able to retain him. When Dietrich-Smith hits the market this offseason, he should have more interest. The Packers were effective on the ground in 2013 and Dietrich-Smith’s physical play was a contributing factor. But with J.C. Tretter waiting in the wings and capable centers available in the mid-rounds of the draft, Thompson could choose to save some money for other areas of the team and let Dietrch-Smith find work elsewhere.