Now that you’ve all had some time to thaw out after watching Phil Dawson put this season’s hopes and dreams on ice, it’s time to reflect on what just happened.
First of all, Mike McCarthy needs to get the lion’s share of criticism. He is under contract through the 2015 season at roughly $5 million per year. If any season was a good example of how much he needed to prove his coaching mettle, this was the one. He lost his star quarterback in Week 9 and magically backed into the playoffs thanks to the combined efforts of said quarterback’s right arm and the inept Bears’ defense.
He was also dealt the second-most important injury on the team in Jermichael Finley. Without him eating up the middle of the field, receivers had more work to do to get separation and move the chains.
Granted, he was blessed with the Offensive Rookie of the Year in my opinion in Eddie Lacy but McCarthy didn’t exactly utilize him very well. Too often when backups Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn were under center he was more apt to call the predictable running plays on first and second down which usually set up the usual 3rd-and-7. That’s a tall task for an NFL starter let alone a backup.
As soon as the Packers lost Aaron Rodgers they lost who they were. And the head coach, who is also known as a quarterback guru, cannot let that happen. I’m not saying McCarthy should expect left rollouts thrown on a dime by his backups, but he shouldn’t pare the playbook down to the JV level either. The best example is that fateful game when Rodgers suffered that left collarbone injury.
With the Bears beating the Packers 24-20 very early in the fourth quarter, McCarthy dialed up a Lacy run on 2nd-and-7 from the 50. The run around the left end generated two yards setting up a tough third down which ultimately failed. And that came on the heels of the Packers throwing for 29 yards on back-to-back plays that took place on second and first down.
There’s a time and place to be conservative. I realize that coaches’ jobs have been lost due to knee-jerk risky decisions but when your team is losing in the fourth quarter, it’s at least a good time to start contemplating moves against the grain.
The second aspect I want to draw on is likely going to ruffle a few feathers. Heck, I’ve been hearing about it nearly all year.
But, I’m glad that Dom Capers got a vote of confidence from McCarthy. Don’t worry, I watched the games and realized that unit finished the regular season ranked 25th in total defense, 24th in passing defense and 25th in rushing defense. The tackling was bad, some of the schemes were inefficient and perhaps at times it appeared this unit lacked a deep fire in its belly.
However, with all that said, Capers is still the right man for the job. Next to Dick LeBeau, Capers has one of the best 3-4 defenses in the league. The reason it didn’t show itself this season was because the Packers don’t have the horses on defense to get the job done.
B.J. Raji decided to take a sabbatical in his contract year, Nick Perry looks like he is running with a flat tire and A.J. Hawk still cannot guard a folding chair, even though this was one the best seasons he’s ever had.
No matter who was leading this unit, there still would have been breakdowns, mental lapses and missed tackles. Every week I surprise myself when I see that Jarrett Bush is still a professional football player for all his limitations in the secondary.
I know that Clay Matthews is supposed to be the heart and soul of the defense, but how can that be when he hasn’t played a full season since his rookie year of 2009?
The thinking was that Morgan Burnett would replace Nick Collins, which is why he was rewarded with a five-year deal this past July. Collins would eat nails and urinate vinegar, which would force opponents to always check where he was. Burnett doesn’t get that kind of respect.
Johnny Jolly sure helped, but remember that the 30-year-old who hadn’t played in three years was behind the eight ball to begin with.
It’s not on Capers to lasso up some toughness and give it to his defense through osmosis. That’s something the veterans preach to the rookies, it gets passed on and before long, you’ve got a whole defense cued up on toughness expectations and how to go about it.
The defense looked awful this year, but there’s plenty of room to grow. Don’t forget that when Capers gets the guys he wants, he is great at devising creative schemes like the infamous Psycho and Jumbo packages.
He just needs the guys that can do it.——————
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