Green Bay Packers: Looking Ahead

Mike McCarthy

The 2014 Green Bay Packers are finished.  In the books.  Done.  And it still doesn’t seem right.  By now, we’ve all seen a lot of write up’s, videos, meme’s and tweets about the game between the Packers and Seattle Seahawks.  Many of the narratives, common ideas and frustrations have already been aired.  At the end of it all, it was an atrocious loss for this storied franchise and it cost them a chance at another championship.  I mentioned the curse of the Arizona Super Bowl and how all three times that the Grand Canyon state (my home state) has hosted the Big Game, the Packers have appeared in the conference championship and lost.  In the first two, they lost to the eventual champions that season.  And now, all we’re left with is how to make sense of it all and move forward.

That begins by looking ahead to what this team, staff and management can do from today forth.  It’s impossible to ask anyone who cares about the Packers to just try and block it out as if it never happened.  It’s also tough not to re-hash what could have been.  A catch here, a stop there.  It’s a game of inches and the saying “give someone an inch and they’ll take a foot” is exactly what the Packers allowed the Seahawks to do.  But instead of recyling the same questions, debates and arguments about how the game turned out and the opportunity lost, perhaps we try to focus more on the big picture.  The Packers lost another playoff game and need to somehow regroup and retool this team for another run next season.

For me, things start near the top.  General manager Ted Thompson will now face some decisions about free agents-to-be and also at any outside options to add to this roster.  Last year, he brought in Julius Peppers to stimulate the defense and broke his ritual of not adding any outside and established players to this team.  Prior to Peppers, it had been years since Thompson dipped into the league’s marquis talent pool.  Overall, I’d say Peppers was a plus for the Packers and did add to their success.  He had some big plays in the last few games, including sacks in each playoff game this season.  And let’s not forget about Letroy Guion, who came on during the second half of the season and seems to have found a home in Green Bay for at least a few more years while the team works on a long-term deal with the defensive tackle.  Will that prompt Thompson to look outside once again this year?

Thompson will undoubtedly and tirelessly look for more fresh talent to add via the draft.  In last year’s draft, he found safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, receiver Davante Adams and center Corey Linsley, both of whom became starters and regular contributors by season’s end.  This year, the Packers will be picking 30th which means most of the top-level guys will be off the board by the time their name is called.  This may be a year we see the rebirth of trader Ted.  Senior Bowl is coming up soon and Thompson is said to be one of the first to arrive and last to leave every year.  His passion is scouting and it shows.  Every GM misses every now and then, but if you’re able to step back and be objective, Thompson has done this team very well over the last 10 years.  Thompson signed an extension with the team in late July last year.

Midway through the season, Thompson added some more years to the deal of head coach Mike McCarthy and the two will continue working together for the foreseeable future.  McCarthy has surpassed the legendary Vince Lombardi in wins as a head coach (although don’t construe that as a direct comparison of the two), and has had this team in the postseason in seven of his nine seasons as head coach.  Many out there count every season that doesn’t culminate with a Super Bowl trophy a failure, but I maintain that it’s impossible to win one if you don’t get in the tournament in the first place.  Of course, getting there could lead to more outcomes like yesterday’s or it could result in some of the magic we saw in 2010.

The thing that keeps resonating with me over the last day about McCarthy is the way these playoff losses tend to finish.  Which is to say, dramatically and poorly.  2007 and 2009 with late turnovers.  2011 with an inexplicably horrible showing by the offense that propelled the team to a 15-1 regular season record.  2012, an inexplicably horrible showing by the defense.  2013 was injury-plagued and was the most “normal” of the ousters.  I’m aware the coach doesn’t throw the ball, drop it, miss a coverage, fumble or miss tackles, but he is responsible for getting the team ready every week.  When it comes to January football, a different type of preparation is needed.  And I’ll say it: I’m not sure that McCarthy always has his teams ready for the circumstances that these games present.  One of the biggest debates about Sunday’s loss is whether it was player execution or coaching that was more to blame.

It’s both.  But there’s no way Morgan Burnett slides with way too much time left on the clock unless he was told to do so.  Whether that was McCarthy himself or one of the defensive coaches, it was a poor decision.  Piss poor, if we’re being brutally honest.  And that it came from one of his coaches falls squarely on Mac’s shoulders.  Dom Capers may call the defense, but the head coach always has final say.  Why abandon what was working all day and allow big play after big play to energize and eventually lift Seattle to an improbable victory?  To get outplayed is one thing and it happens.  Sometimes the guys across from you are just better on that day.  But to get outcoached over and over starts to become a hallmark.  For a guy who outdid one of the best in the game and the head coach of the AFC champion New England Patriots earlier this season, McCarthy allowed his and his team’s soul to be sucked right out from underneath them at CenturyLink Field.  That game will be talked about for years and years.  Probably longer than that.  Those are the types of things the legacies are built on.  And that’s not the right type of thing any coach should want.  Disagree all you want that the coach was to blame.  I’m not saying he’s 100% at fault, but he certainly deserves a lion’s share.  Did he anticipate that Brandon Bostick would leave his responsibility and allow the Seahawks to get the ball back and take the lead?  He surely did not.  But from there, sheer madness ensued and in my eyes, McCarthy has to take the fall for the team’s mentality.  It’s been said a hundred times:  the Packers played not to lose.  It’s killed them in the past and it did again in this game.  Teams take on the persona of their head coaches and this lack of a “killer instinct” is starting to concern me.  Seattle had no problem throwing one up and hoping their guy would make a play in a sudden death, overtime scenario.  And after their quarterback had thrown four interceptions on the day.  I get that the Packers never got a chance at the ball and that Rodgers might have done the same had they won the coin flip.  But they didn’t.  This team just lacks that loose, confidence that other successful teams have.  I liken it to book smarts versus street smarts.  Both can lead to a lot of success and the Packers pride themselves on having some of the highest-character players there are in the league.  But at times like the end of yesterday’s game, the street smarts were nowhere to be found and the Packers left themselves open for one of the biggest sucker punches the game has thrown at them in their nearly 100-year history.

Zebra’s don’t change their stripes so I don’t think we’ll see a huge change from McCarthy in 2015 and beyond.  Perhaps a big change isn’t needed.  He made some small tweaks this season in training camp and in the practice schedule and it netted them 12 wins and the healthiest roster they’ve had since he arrived in Green Bay.  The Pack was five minutes from a Super Bowl appearance that still seems like it belongs to them.  Now it’s McCarthy’s job to get them back there and soon.  With Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, that’s always a possibility.  As spoiled as Packers fans can be, myself included, anything less is almost unacceptable.  My hope is that the sting and burn of yesterday’s game lingers with these players for a good, long time.  Maybe even calling for some Tums to deal with it all.  From pain and loss can come strength and growth.

Let’s hope McCarthy is ready to instill both into the 2015 version of the Green Bay Packers.



Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on

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29 thoughts on “Green Bay Packers: Looking Ahead

  1. “It’s been said a hundred times: the Packers played not to lose. It’s killed them in the past and it did again in this game. Teams take on the persona of their head coaches and this lack of a “killer instinct” is starting to concern me.”

    The frustration with this game, was that they started WITH that killer mentality, but they ended exactly as you stated: playing not to lose. They tightened up, and it cost them.

    1. They started and played most of the game with the killer instinct because they had nothing to lose – Seattle was gonna win, no matter what. With time running out though and a trip to the Super Bowl was all but in the bag, they suddenly had something to lose and that’s when they went into their “play not to lose” shell.

  2. Letroy Guion was playing well all season. Nobody watches film anymore they just copy other people’s impressions.

  3. When as much goes wrong across the entire spectrum of a team in such a short period of time, that buck stops in one place and one place only – with the head coach. If he’s not responsible for the play of the team, then who the hell is?

    And in that moment of truth, under the glare of answering for a legendary failure, when MM had the chance to own the shortcomings which he as head coach is responsible for, what did he do? He threw one of his players under the bus, and claimed that “he had no regrets”. That is a man who has been undone by his own hubris.

    I’ve said this before, and it bears repeating. Mike is a great Monday-Saturday coach, who’s contributed an awful lot to this team. But he is not a battlefield general that you go to war with in those time when you absolutely need to ensure victory. He’s Omar Bradley during those times when George Patton is needed.

    1. Spot on, He has not been able to beat the real battlefield generals in today’s NFL in the post season like Harbaugh, Carroll in the NFC. The truth problem is that he doesn’t run the team, he called the plays. Belicheck, Harbaugh,and Carroll hire OC to do that and run their teams like field generals.

    2. It’s he really that great Monday through Saturday? If he’s coaching therm to play don’t-lose football, presumably he’s doing that over the course of the week.

    3. ” He’s Omar Bradley during those times when George Patton is needed.”

      Great line. Memorable line.

  4. There is no doubt that McCarthy played not to lose. You are playing the defending Super Bowl champs in Seattle and you have them on the ropes and you don’t go in for the kill. In order to beat the champions you have to take it away from them not play careful. What concerns me about McCarthy is that he comes from the Marty Schottenheimer coaching tree and we all know how well he did in the playoffs. For those that may remember, when Schottenheimer was coaching the Chargers the Chargers intercepted Tom Brady in a playoff game and while running with the interception he fumbled and the Patriots recovered and that led to the winning TD for the Patriots. This may explain why Morgan Burnett was being told to slide down.

  5. MM just needs a good swift kick to the ding ding and he will be fine…Even his enormous ego has to be a little deflated…

  6. We have new athletes today. This comes down to Aaron Rodgers legacy with MM tagging along or the status quo in Green Bay. If there was an owner, moot pt.there would be changes and there would have been changes.Look at the Elite teams in the NFL, the offensive coordinator calls the plays. MM needs to separate himself from that. It will be interesting if Kubiak let’s the OC call the plays. Rodgers could demand that, no different when superstars in other sports demand changes. Would other ELITE quarterbacks demand that. Legacy is the truth serum.

  7. Jason – I’ve mentioned in several of my posts since the end of the Seattle game that the Packers need to play smarter and nastier (“killer instinct”) in big games. For some reason that doesn’t happen in big games. The other point that no one seems to mention is that Aaron, while courageously playing hurt, was unable to run. This had an impact on the Seattle game. The Packers were 3/14 on 3rd downs. If Rodgers is healthy he runs for 2 or 3 of those 1st downs. That keeps drives alive maybe adds to the score, but most importantly it chews up the clock which reduces or eliminates time for a Seattle comeback. Plus if Seattle has to respect Rodgers running the can’t drop everyone into coverage which opens up the passing and Rodgers hits more passes. If Rodgers is healthy that game is over, way before the final meltdown. As we already know despite looking at possible off-season changes, draft picks and scenarios, if we keep Rodgers healthy we win it all. We’ll be back. Thanks, Since ’61

  8. Now that was a well written article!

    If McCarthy had just a little bit of Sean Payton in him I do believe they would have won that game handily. First of all Slocum wouldn’t have been coaching the special teams this year; he would have been fired. Overall, I like McCarthy better than Payton, but McCarthy and his staff was out coached in that game.

    Also, just like J.T. Rubley who back in 1995, blew a game by not doing what he was told with the Vikings was released (fired), the same should happen to Bostick. It merely demonstrates a lack of discipline/intelligence with the greatest of consequences!

  9. Jasone, good article, and I’m telling you. Next year expect Packers in killing mode. They will won SB 50. Write that down. I will be hear. I’m not going anywhere. I want to be witness of that epic season for Packers…

  10. Lombardi and Holmgren are special coaches, just like Belicheck today. It is rare to find a head coach with all the talent and poise to win in the post season. After nine years, Mike McCarthy is not one of them. Like MIke Sherman before him. Both were good coaches but not Head coaching material for the post season. Both had Hall of Fame QB,s, but did not have great post season records. Expect more of the same with Mike McCarthy, He has been good not great and that is why Belicheck, Carroll, Harburgh beat up on him in the playoffs.

    1. Yep. He’s a mediocrity riding #12’s coattails.

      And don’t forget Coughlin. He’s got MM’s number, too.

  11. The Seattle collapse may be the biggest choke that I have ever witnessed in sport and it is obvious that the hurt still lingers. Even Jason’s great article can’t escape the disbelief and pain. Frankly, I don’t know if that locker room and staff can forge a trust to come together for a championship. Changes need to be part of a better Packer team.

    People make mistakes, I can live with that. Daniels stupid penalty, Burnett’s slide or Bostick’s error are part of the moment getting bigger than the man. Persistent defensive lapses, one dimensional play calling and chronic special teams under-performance are the history that we need to escape. Relying on AJ Hawk or Brad Jones as ILB for the past three years or seeing our old friend, the prevent defense play out again tells you something bigger has to change. Not being able to run to the right side of the O-line, or fooling a defense with all our firepower or get more creative than a 20 run target is the ceiling that we have hit.

    A rebuild is not in order but significant coaching changes and a couple of key adds are required to change some of these persistent deficiencies. Of course Mike McCarthy has to put his ego aside and recognize that he has to take care of business and it start with him.

  12. MM called the 1st Q RZ O like crap. He called the 4th Q like crap. He needs to hand off playcalling and clock management duties to his OC. We beat their asses all damn day. And lost on stupidity and a few bad bounces. Damn. Damn. DAMN. It STILL rankles. And it will for awhile. The better team lost. DAMN IT. (I don’t normally curse… but I’m still PO’d. Sorry.)

    The other thing that I’ll say is that only one team walks away happy every year. GB had the roster to do it. And I think they had the coaching to do it too. But they blew it. But look at how many times the “standard of excellence” Pats have blown it in the playoffs! They haven’t won in 10 years. The Seahawks were great last year and lucky this year. The 9ers should have won one in the past 3. The Broncos and Colts have choked every year but 1. Winning is hard, and it’s not as easy as “fix this and we’ve got it.” It takes almost as much luck as skill in a one-and-youre-done situation. GB had some really bad luck going on on Sunday too.

    Going forward, the roster and salary cap are in a really good place. I’d like to see Cobb, Bulaga and House back. Guion and Raji too if they come at a reasonable price – but do whatever you have to do to get the first 3 back. Tramon, as good as he’s been, is 31. House will be cheaper. Buh bye to everyone else. Cut Hawk and B. Jones.

    We need an ILB (or OLB if Clay stays inside – which I think merits discussion) and a stout run defender in the draft.

    1. I don’t usually curse either, so I’m glad you did it for me! This one just plain HURTS, no matter how hard we try to get over it. I keep wanting to wake up and find that it was all just a bad dream. If it had been back and forth all game and we just wound up on the short end it would’ve been easier to take than this. We beat them handily for all but about 44 seconds. What a gut punch. Like Josh Sitton said, it all seems like a waste of 7-8 months.

      That said, however, the Pack WILL be back!

  13. I saw an ESPN piece Monday. Trent Dilfer made an interesting observation and put into words what we all hope AR told MM during exit interviews.
    Dilfer said, and I agree, that AR should tell MM “Don’t ever take the ball out of my hands like that again!” In his post-game interview, AR alluded to the observation that the play-calling was not to his liking.

    1. Therein lies the problem with heaping all the criticism on MM. AR told Bradshaw in the pregame interview that he has 100% authority to change the call at the LOS. Thus the criticism for “going conservative” has to be shared. In fact, that is probably what AR was saying.

      1. Shared? Possibly, but who makes the decision to kick the FG twice? That wasn’t #12.

  14. There is another arena in which MM shows that he coaches not to lose, and that is his personnel decisions. For example, he trotted out Hawk and B. Jones each week because they were assignment sure, even though they were really pretty bad. Too risky to start Barrington (or Desmond Bishop a few years ago, until injuries forced MM’s hand), or move CMIII to ILB until after the bye. Same with MD Jennings, McMillan, and so on. I also think he is very stubborn, and too loyal to his players and coaches. I strongly suspect that Tretter would have been GB’s starting center had he not been injured, and we would be wondering whether Linsley could play guard or tackle, instead of the other way around as things worked out. Tretter was MM’s guy. I suppose it is possible that Tretter would have played center as well as Linsley in fact did, pretty much from the get go, but the odds say it is unlikely. The most obvious item on the list, to me at least, is not firing Slocum years ago.

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