The main theme that trickled out of the Packers’ locker room on Thanksgiving was embarrassment.
The Packers didn’t just take a loss, they endured the worst loss in the Mike McCarthy era.
And with four games left, Green Bay must win out or stay home for the playoffs for the first time since the Packers missed the playoffs in 2008 with a miserable 6-10 record.
But how did they get here?
It’s too simple to say that the left collarbone of Aaron Rodgers is the genesis of all that ails the Packers. That isn’t responsible for the 95 defensive missed tackles or the 20 special teams missed tackles.
It also isn’t responsible for B.J. Raji looking like he is on cruise control when the Packers could use his girth and power to shut down the running game. Coincidentally, the Packers are 27th in the NFL by allowing 126 rushing yards a game.
It’s also not the collarbone’s fault that Marshall Newhouse and Co. have suddenly forgotten how to block. The Packers have allowed 32 sacks, which is surprising seeing as how successful Eddie Lacy has been behind a patchwork offensive line.
So where does the blame lie for a stunning 5-6-1 season that could easily end up in the history books as a dumpster fire?
First and foremost it has to lie with the coach. McCarthy has leaned on Rodgers so much that he may have taken him for granted. McCarthy never had to worry about trick or gadget plays because the impeccable precision and undeniable arm strength of Rodgers overcame a lot of the offense’s weaknesses. Let’s also not forget that McCarthy is a quarterback guru and it’s not exactly a feather in his cap to have four quarterbacks start for an NFL team that isn’t even finished with the season.
McCarthy obviously cannot do more than put players in position to succeed. But it’s the players’ job to take it from there. The biggest example of players not doing all they can is Raji. The 27-year-old defensive lineman becomes a free agent in March and has been offered a shocking $8 million a year offer by Green Bay — and what’s even more shocking is that Raji hasn’t accepted it yet. McCarthy can continue to put Raji in positions and places to make plays but if Rajij continues to take plays off and play soft, then the Packers should take that offer off the table immediately. Raji only has 13 total tackles and no sacks for a guy that plays a lot more than 30-year-old Johnny Jolly. Yet Jolly has 16 total tackles and one sack.
The final person that needs to be pointed a finger at, or I guess in some circles it may be THE finger, is strength and conditioning coordinator Mark Lovat. If you’re asking what the heck a strength and conditioning coordinator has to do with the Packers’ humiliating record, you haven’t been paying attention. The Packers have placed 14 players on injured reserve so far this year. That number is astounding given that McCarthy was going to focus on player conditioning in the offseason. Apparently it hasn’t worked because legions of Packers have turned up lame this year from Jermichael Finley’s bruised spinal cord to the many hamstring pulls.
Now obviously football is a violent collision sport. These guys know that a day may come when they cannot feel their extremities nor remember where they live after going to the store to get some milk.
But when it comes to things like hamstrings, I have to wonder what philosophy is taking place when players work out? The mental picture I have is of a 300-pounder putting up as much weight as he can before slamming a protein shake and taking a shower. I cannot imagine behemoth bodies in large stretching circles while the weights remain at a stand still, but maybe that’s the mental change that needs to happen in order to keep these guys healthy for 16 games.
The Packers have been so thin that they actually were close to not being able to dress the NFL minimum of 46 players back in October.
We all know that injuries are the most fickle of things to blame a loss on. But it would help if Lovat provided some transparency. Have Lovat answer questions about why he thinks so many injuries have struck the Packers dating back to 2010 when surprisingly enough, Lovat took over the strength and conditioning coordinator job. Whether the answer is to lift less and do more stretching during the season or drink more fluids 24 hours before the game is anybody’s guess.
There are countless reasons why the Packers have been spinning their proverbial tires. But McCarthy, Raji and Lovat are at the center of why.——————
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn