Has Packer Nation Gone Off the Deep End?

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Calm down, Packers fans. Things are going to be OK.
Calm down, Packers fans. Things are going to be OK.


OK, I do know what everyone is yelling about and it’s understandable….to a degree.

The 2013 season has completely come off the rails for the Green Bay Packers who are 0-4-1 since quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down against the Chicago Bears with a fractured collarbone.  Green Bay since then has gone through three starting quarterbacks (Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn) that have all struggled badly at some point.  The Packers defense, meanwhile, has suffered a complete meltdown.

Unfortunately, though not necessarily surprising, so has a decent chunk of the team’s uber-passionate and ever loyal fan base.

Everyone knew it would be a struggle for the Packers to win without Rodgers.  What so many didn’t expect, however, was that the team would basically not even be in any of the games since the 2011 NFL MVP went down.  The defense in particular would have to step up and they didn’t.  That’s not necessarily a surprise, either.

Many Packers fans, however, are suddenly in a white hot rage and ready to storm Lambeau Field with pitchforks and torches.  Packers Nation consists of some of the most knowledgeable fans in the NFL yet the team’s longest losing streak in years suddenly has them thinking the return to the dark ages (post-Lombardi to the arrival of Mike Holmgren, Ron Wolf and Brett Favre) are suddenly upon us.  They want to fire everybody, including the general manager that just three short years ago hoisted a Lombardi Trophy.

If this non-winning streak has taught me anything (it’s not a “losing streak” due to that tie against the Minnesota Vikings) it’s that Packer fans are the most spoiled fans in the NFL with the exception maybe of fans of the New England Patriots.

This is not to lecture fans about their passion for their team.  That passion has made Packer Nation one of the most revered in the NFL and has sold out Lambeau Field even when the team was much MUCH worse than it is right now.

What I am saying is that Packer Nation needs to get a grip.  There is no reason to fire Ted Thompson or Mike McCarthy.  There is a definite argument for firing Dom Capers, but even some of the defensive issues have been out of his control.

What Packer Nation needs to comes to terms with is this: it’s the NFL. Stuff happens. Seasons like this happen to every team, even the good or great ones. Look at the Packers’ next opponent, the Atlanta Falcons.  They were the number one seed in the NFC last year and were within a whisker of the Super Bowl and now are possibly in position for the first overall pick in the 2014 draft.  They also lost a franchise player for the season in wide receiver Julio Jones.

Stuff happens.

The streak the Packers are enduring right now could easily happen to any other team with a franchise quarterback.  How would the Denver Broncos do with Brock Osweiler instead of Peyton Manning? How about the Giants with Curtis Painter and not Eli Manning? The Patriots without Tom Brady?  They’d more than likely be in the same predicament as Green Bay.

Some will argue “What about the Patriots with Matt Cassel?” keep in mind that was the exception not the rule.  I’d counter with the 2011 Indianapolis Colts.

Many Packers fans are seemingly convinced major changes need to be made and that’s just not true. Look at the injuries the team had to endure this year, Rodgers aside.  They’re without one of football’s most electrifying talents in Randall Cobb, they basically didn’t have last year’s best cornerback in Casey Hayward at all, Clay Matthews, the defense’s MVP, missed significant playing time and James Jones also missed a couple games. Arguably their best offensive lineman in Bryan Bulaga went down for the year during training camp.

The Packers overcame an injury epidemic in 2010 to win Super Bowl XLV and battled through a similar bout last season to make the playoffs, but fans need to realize that those types of seasons don’t occur too often.  It’s a stretch to say to the Packers were “lucky” per se in 2010 and 2012, but don’t forget they still had Rodgers.

Looking to the rest of the season, 2013 is more than likely a lost season. It’s a tough pill to swallow for sure, given how good the Packers were looking heading into the game against the Bears when Rodgers went down. Fans have every right to (and arguably should) hold their team to high expectations.  Thompson and McCarthy have the same goals.  This season was the doomsday scenario and unfortunately, it became reality.

This isn’t to say Thompson, McCarthy and Capers don’t shoulder some of the blame for the year.  The revolving door at the backup quarterback position caught up with them and the inability to find a suitable replacement for Nick Collins hindered the defense. Those are on Thompson, but that’s not worth firing him for.  He undoubtedly has learned his lesson about the backup quarterback position and they will certainly address the safety position in the draft.

Multiple opponents stated they could tell what Green Bay was going to do on offense and that’s on McCarthy.  I wrote earlier this year that the Packers offense was too predictable and was swiftly lambasted by many for it.  I hate being right, because that means Green Bay struggled.  McCarthy is still a creative offensive mind and he likely rested on his laurels of the team’s run from 2010-2012. This season is enough cause for the head coach to add some new wrinkles to the offensive playbook, especially with a (finally) established running game.

As for the maligned defensive coordinator, there is a better-than-decent chance that Capers won’t be back in Green Bay next season.  Thompson did infuse the defense with new bodies via the draft and yet many of the same issues plaguing the defense in 2011 and 2012 carried over into 2013. Yes, there were injuries but the problems were there for two years and it’s not just injuries that led to them reoccurring again in 2013.

All these problems aside, the Packers will be right back in contention next season. Rodgers will be back. Randall Cobb will be back.  Casey Hayward will be back.  The team has at last a stud running back in Eddie Lacy which was having noticeable results on the offense before the Rodgers injury.   James Jones will be a free agent, but the team stands a decent chance of retaining him.  Jones needs to look no further than Greg Jennings to see what happens when a receiver leaves the Packers for alleged greener pastures.

Things are murkier on the defensive side of the ball, especially if Capers is fired, but the defensive line is much improved. Johnny Jolly brought much needed fire to the line and Datone Jones has shown promising flashes.  The futures of the aging Ryan Pickett and soon-to-be free agent B.J. Raji remain in doubt, but Mike Daniels’ emergence will likely soften the blow of their potential departures.

The linebackers are in decent shape too. A.J. Hawk has played like a man possessed this year and Matthews will of course be healthy again. Nick Perry showed improvement over his rookie season and Jamari Lattimore could very well challenge Brad Jones for more playing time.

The secondary is the defense’s Achilles heel. Morgan Burnett and M.D. Jennings turned in poor performances this year and have made a safety a top priority for the Packers to address in the offseason. Sam Shields (assuming he stays and he should) and the return of Hayward give the Packers solid options at cornerback.  The future of Tramon Williams is in doubt as he’s struggled since Collins was lost. He might get 2014 to see how he does with improved safety play.

Should Capers be fired, it’s unclear what defensive scheme Green Bay would utilize.  Judging by the current personnel, the Packers seem committed to a 3-4 but depending on what candidates they would interview, a move to a hybrid-type defensive scheme could be possible but a total switch to a 4-3 shouldn’t be ruled out either.

The only thing that could keep Green Bay from returning to contention in 2014 is yet another injury epidemic.  Given the Packers’ recent run of bad luck in concerns to the injury bug, one would think Thompson and McCarthy would prepare for 2014 assuming a bunch of players will again miss the season.  While injuries are a part of football, you can’t just play that way.  You just can’t assume Aaron Rodgers will go down.  You can’t play this game scared.   Injuries happen and the roster needs to be flexible enough to adjust. Thompson has done that fairly well over the years.

Green Bay has enjoyed such a brilliant run these past 20+ years that seasons like this suddenly cause a mass panic amongst the fans. A lot of younger fans weren’t around for the 70s and 80s.  I was nine years old when Favre and Holmgren came to town.  Still, I have watched enough football that sometimes seasons like this happen and that’s just the cruel nature of the National Football league sometimes.

Step off the ledge, Packer fans.  Has 2013 been lousy? Sure. Don’t forget however that there are plenty of guys coming off injured reserve next year and that Rodgers guy will be back healthy and will be fired up like never before.  Thompson will fix the roster. He’s still the same guy who has found gems all through the NFL draft.  One losing streak (sorry, non-winning streak) has not changed that.

Let Detroit or Chicago enjoy their time at the top of the NFC North.

Green Bay will rise again. The Pack will be back.


Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com.


121 thoughts on “Has Packer Nation Gone Off the Deep End?

  1. Wow, Burke your job as the good fairy is safe, I am glad that someone wrote this kind of article because I know a lot of Packer fans that are less than happy about the almost complete breakdown of every facet of OUR team!! I hope I’m around next year to see this miracle come about!!! Frankly I would like to see them win out get the right help and kick some a%$ THIS YEAR!! Go Pack and I mean it!!!!!!!

  2. Are Packer fans over-reacting? Yes, probably. Is this essay an under-reaction? Yes, probably. pointing out players will return next year does not sell me on this blue-skies optimism. These are the same players Packer fans over-rated this season.

    The real story probably lies in the middle, between fan despair and this essay’s rose-colored glasses view.

  3. Everyone including me expected the Packers to struggle with out Rodgers but what I saw last Sunday was the poorest showing I have ever seen from a professional football team. In past Packer loses they were beaten. In this game they didn’t even show up. Even the coaching was pathetic. There is no comment that I could make either about the team or any individual player because they were all just that bad. The entire team owes anyone that buy’s a ticket to watch them an apology. I have yet so see anyone from the organization show any remorse for embarrassing packer fans and the organization. They say they need to get better, that is a great understatement. They need more than to get better they need someone to give them a dose of reality. Stop handing out millions of dollars not tied to performance.

  4. Here’s a stat for you, time of possession: Packers 19:34, Lions 40:26. In a Packers shoot-out game, that might work. But, when the offense doesn’t score, the defense is going to be on the ropes no matter who you have on your team.

    The Lions have the #2 offense in the league; they are going to score. If your offense doesn’t at least match them, then you’re throwing your defense to the Lions.

    The Packer defense outscored the Packer offense. The defense is not as bad as some would like to paint it. It needs help unquestionably, but it’s not rotten through and through.

    The offense totally collapsed–a seventh choice quarterback [dismissed 3 from preseason, lost #1, lost replacement #2, and benched practice squad #3], a patchwork bandaged O-line, half of the top receivers missing. The collapse is not surprising.

    What is sad is that no one stuck up for the defense. With all of the opportunities that Detroit had to score they could ONLY manage to put up 40 points. They should have put up much more with the time of possession differential that they had.

    The defense was handicapped not so much from poor play calling or lack of talent as much as from support from the offense.

  5. Having just turned off the game at halftime between the Saints and the Sinners (Seahawks), it is so obvious that even if ARod was well and playing having missed no games and the Packers are 9 – 2, the Packers are not even close to beating the Seahawks. The Seahawks defense is fast, big, lean, quick, mean and angry. Each player knows what is expected of him and he knows he had better give it 110% or get his ass kicked in on the sidelines by Pete (the Cheater) Carroll. They know they have each others’ backs and often their are four players making the tackle with the first one their not allowing any extra yards. They hit, they tackle, they knock the ball out of the receivers’ hands. I know it’s loud there, but I cannot recall a defense like theirs. Now switch to the Packers defense with twin big asses Raji and Jolly, corners and safeties like House, Williams (who hits refs and thinks he’d get away with it), and Burnett. Throw in Hawk, Jennings and B Jones and it’s sadly laughable. This has nothing to do with Aaron Rodgers. His injury merely exposed so many of the rest of the players that would be on Seattle’s practice squad. The Packers have a very long way to go to be ready to challenge the Seahawks. Please don’t misunderstand me, a Packers fan forever and hate the Seahawks, especially Carroll. I’m just being real.

    1. Seattle is good, but they struggled against the Texans, Titans, Rams and Buccaneers this year. They’re far from unbeatable.

  6. I suppose now that the Chiefs have lost three straight they should can everyone and start anew.

  7. Art – you bring up the Seattle/Saints game and you are probably correct about the Pack in their current state not being ready to defeat Seattle. However, what this game tells us is that the Saints, who are a really good team, with a really good coach, they are healthy, and have one of the best QBs in the league with a full week to prepare got beat as badly as the Packers on Turkey Day. My point is sometimes even a good team just gets whipped. Yes, Seattle is better than Detroit but NO is in much better shape than our Packers right and looked inept on offense and their D could not stop the run and had DBs running in circles last night. Sound familiar? It happens to every team. I wonder if the Saint fans are screaming to fire Sean Peyton today? Not likely after last season. Thanks Since ’61

    1. Can you imagine what the Packers would of looking like!!!!! The Saints would roll the Packers right now and they got pounded, so that tells ya what the Pack would of looked like…unwatchable…would of been worth it to see Newhouse get steamrolled again though….

  8. Its easy to say that TT has failed to address team deficiencies. Safety, Outside Linebacker, Offensive Line, Backup Quarterback, etc. However, as long as the team wins games, he’s always going to be drafting at the lower end of the rounds. People complain that he doesn’t take chances; I argue that he has taken many chances in the draft due to having lower picks in the rounds. How many players that have been drafted have ended up injured? But then again, how many times has he found players who have played important roles (albeit when healthy) through the draft and rookie free agency?

    Honestly, I think they need this season to go completely in the crapper. Picking in the upper parts of the draft helps. I can see TT trading up, a’la 2009. Keep the faith, one bad season out of 8-10 does not mean the return of the 1970’s/1980’s.

    1. Good comment. I accidentally thumbed down when I meant to thumb up. I think TT has tried to fix most holes, but you can’t pick every position in the first round. Some players won’t pan out, some will be injured. Sure, I’d like to get a mid-level FA or two, but they rarely pan out. Mostly it’s just fun to think about FA just like it’s fun to think about drafting all the top prospects.

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