It’s only Week 4 of the NFL season but with the one quarter mark of the 2014 season coming after this weekend, now is the time fans will get either giddy or jittery about their team’s chances.
Fans of the Green Bay Packers as of right now definitely fall into the latter category.
The Packers are off to a 1-2 start and to say the natives are getting restless would be an understatement. All offseason fans had prepared to continue their disdain for defensive coordinator Dom Capers, but after three weeks the attention has turned to struggles on the on the other side of the ball.
Green Bay is not built to have the defense carry the team on its back. Not when you have a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers and a running back like Eddie Lacy. The Packers are built around a high-octane offense and a defense that’s not great but good enough to get the job done.
If the offense can’t find its groove and fast, the Packers could be starting at their first losing season since 2008, the first year Rodgers was the team’s starting quarterback.
You know what? That would be ok.
While Packers fans have never been a group to embrace mediocrity or losing, especially since 1992, it’s becoming more and more clear Green Bay isn’t quite the contender many had them made out to be in training camp and the preseason. It’s true the season is only three games old but when a quarterback like Rodgers can’t take advantage of a depleted Lions secondary, something is amiss.
Fans can see it and analysts can see it. It seems like the only people who can’t are head coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson. Both men seem content to rest on their laurels, after all they have won three straight division titles and the Packers are one of only two teams to make the postseason the past five seasons. They deserve credit for that success.
However, the last two seasons have shown an eye opening trend. The Packers continue to get shredded defensively by teams who run the read option or have a mobile quarterback. Despite Thompson infusing the roster with new defensive talent in the 2012-2014 draft classes, the defense continues to have the same issues.
The offensive problems that have unexpectedly appeared this season are another example.
McCarthy seems to still be desperately clinging to his 2011 playbook despite the fact he has arguably less talent (or at least unproven talent) than he had three years ago. When the talent level drops off and there is little change in the offensive playbook, guess what happens? Opposing defenses begin figuring you out.
Is that what’s happened to the offense in 2014? If it is and McCarthy continues to be a stubborn mule when it comes to evolving his offense, then the Packers are doomed to a sub-.500 season.
As bad as watching that kind of season unfold is, it might just be what the doctor ordered for the Packers.
First off, it would open up Thompson and McCarthy’s eyes that their team is much more flawed than they previously thought. McCarthy especially would eat humble pie given how he declared this was the best he felt about his team exiting the preseason.
A losing season could finally be the catalyst to knock the complacency out of Green Bay and reignite the fires of innovation on both sides of the ball. It’d probably spell the end of Dom Capers as defensive coordinator and would open the door for someone else to take the reigns (Rex Ryan please, when the Jets fire him).
It could also mean the end of McCarthy as play caller. He’s a terrific head coach and a wonderful leader but his game day decisions seem to be growing more puzzling by the game. You can’t get through a game now without the Packers’ coach challenging a play he has no business challenging or a deep pass on 3rd and short when moving the chains with a short play would perfectly suffice.
Also another thing to keep in mind: only Thompson signed a contract extension this offseason. McCarthy did not. Could this mean that the coach’s seat is heating up? It seems crazy now but you never know. An utter collapse by the Packers this season could lead to some changes some fans have been crying for.
Sometimes you have to take one step back to make two steps forward. Obviously we all want to see the Packers do well this year. However, if they don’t fans will need to come to terms with that reality.
That said should the Packers finish 7-9 or even 5-11, I’d argue that the 2014 season was a course correction and that while it stunk to sit through, Green Bay will be better off having had a season like this.
Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. That’s some sage advice any Packers fan should heed right now.
Packers fans have been fortunate. One season below .500 would not be the end of the world. It’s been a magical run the past 20+ years and sometimes seasons that don’t live up to expectations need to happens
Enjoy the season folks. It might be a bumpy ride.——————
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. Follow @KrisLBurke