What the Green Bay Packers Must Do To Return to the Super Bowl

The Green Bay Packers were just a few plays away from going to the Super Bowl.

Rather than talking about how the Packers will match-up against the Patriots in next week’s Super Bowl, their stunning loss in Seattle means it’s time to concentrate on off-season improvements so they won’t miss out on Super Bowl 50 (no Roman Numerals) next season.

Here is what the Packers must do to return to the Super Bowl.

Signing Their Own Key Free Agents

The team has 16 free agents – 12 unrestricted, three restricted and one exclusive rights.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first, they have the money to afford those FA who matter. Randall Cobb must and will be re-signed. The same for Brian Bulaga.

I expect that Tramon Williams will be deemed too expensive given his age and will sign elsewhere which would garner yet another high compensatory draft pick in 2016. They will choose to sign the younger player with more long-term upside that is Devon House.

They will mid-level tender Don Barclay and Sean Richardson and may consider a right-of-first-refusal tender for Jarrett Boykin, although that is not a given. Expect all of them in camp but Boykin may not make the final roster.

They will let John Kuhn, Jarrett Bush, BJ Raji and Matt Flynn test the waters and each will only return if available late in free agency at a rock bottom sale price.

Valuable DT Letroy Guion will return as will QB Scott Tolzein at reasonable contracts.

The remaining free agents will be gone to make way for draft-and-develop players.

Parting Ways with Unproductive Players

I really like AJ Hawk and Brad Jones. They are both quality individuals and give their all for the team. Unfortunately for them their play-making ability doesn’t measure up to their contracts. Hawk and Jones represent the 8th and 9th most expensive 2015 contracts respectively.

It is time to part ways with both and trim about $7.2M from Green Bay’s salary cap (net after cap hit).

I don’t see the Packers continuing to hope for improvement from the unproductive and mistake-prone Brandon Bostick especially after his bone-headed play in the NFC Championship Game. Cutting Bostick would save another $600K.

Although not a huge cap hit, it may be time to replace the league’s 31st ranked punter Tim Mastay and eliminate his $1.4M salary.

Coaching Decisions – Special Teams

As I opined on this web-site several weeks ago, special teams were going to cost this team an important game and unfortunately it happened in the biggest game of the year.

Rich Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News just released his annual report which rated and ranked all special teams’ performance in the NFL as he has done since 1990. Gosselin’s highly respected analysis consists of 22 different categories.

Not a surprise to Packers fans their team ranked dead last in 2014 special teams performance – number 32 of 32. This follows a ranking of 31st in 2009, 29th in 2010, slight improvements in 2011 and 2012 before slipping to 19th last year and dead last this year.

McCarthy replaced the Asst. Special Teams coach last year, Chad Morton with Ron Zook. This was the second time a ST assistant was replaced. He also added Jason Simmons to assist. The one constant here is special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum. Slocum is reportedly a close personal friend of Head Coach Mike McCarthy and they have a long history together.

The Packers simply cannot continue to give away games while rewarding the poor coaching job done by Slocum. The time has come for Shawn Slocum to go which also sends a message to his team that there is equal accountability for all.

Draft and Develop

The Packers have a young and relatively deep roster however they have some pressing needs.

An athletic sideline-to-sideline linebacker in the middle of their defense along with a thumper to clog up the running lanes would be welcome. Luckily, this is a deep and talented year for inside backers.

Massive Bernardrick McKenny from Mississippi State or athletic Eric Kendricks from UCLA would look mighty good in green and gold, but both may be gone by the Packers 30th pick. Denzel Perryman from Miami or Reggie Ragland from Alabama should be available at the end of round one and either one would fit the bill.

An athletic TE such as Jason Whitten clone Maxx Winters from Minnesota or athletic Clive Walford from Miami could be targets in round two. Notre Dame’s dependable Nick O’Leary should be available in round three.

In the mid rounds if a tough offensive tackle or athletic cornerback were available they would have value along with a quarterback that the team could develop to replace the aging and limited Matt Flynn.

It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if a stud D-lineman fell to them early, they would snatch him up in a heartbeat.

A punter later in the draft would provide valuable competition.

Free Agents Finds

Will this be the year that Ted Thompson is active in the free agent market?

Thompson is usually adverse to committing money to other team’s free agents, so the answer is probably not. Although when he has done so he has struck gold with players such as Charles Woodson and Julius Peppers.

As was the case with Peppers, who was signed after being cut by the Bears, the Packers lost no draft choice compensation. If a star player such DT Haloti Ngata becomes available as a salary cap casualty, it might be tempting for Ted to make a bid for his services.

Keeping Their Own

The Packers need to find a way to keep Julius Peppers around by restructuring his current contract. The man has shown he has something left in the tank and the Packers value both his play and his leadership.


Jeff Albrecht grew up just north of Green Bay and was lucky enough to attend some of the Lombardi Era classic games, like the 1962 championship and the Ice Bowl. Jeff went on to play HS football in the Green Bay area and College ball at UW - Stevens Point. Jeff is retired but still does some writing for his local paper. Jeff is a writer with AllGreenBayPackers.com and you can follow him on twitter at @pointerjeff .


32 thoughts on “What the Green Bay Packers Must Do To Return to the Super Bowl

  1. Good Article.

    How about playing NFC Championship games to win and not lose?

    How about not getting out coached on game day?

    How about not quitting after 54 minutes and 56 seconds?

    It is real hard to get to the Super Bowl as the Packers proved this year.

    Go Pack Go!

    1. I still don’t have a problem with MM going the last five minutes playing not to lose. Statistically, he was correct. Same for Burnett going down after his pick. What if MM was more aggressive and GB turned the ball over? What if Burnett ran it back some and fumbled? It wasn’t MM bad calls at that time as it was HaHa allowing the 2 point conversion of Bonehead going after the onside kick. That’s not MM’s fault.

      1. Totally disagree.Your what ifs, if they actually happened would, at worst, ended with the same result, a loss. Burnett had the left sideline and may have scored and then ball game over. Once Seattle scored the go ahead TD it was game over.

        With 1:25 to go MM did not use the clock correctly as they, the Packers, still had two time outs left when Crosby kicked the FG.

        They could have and should have had at least a couple of opportunities for the end zone.

        No, MM blew it big time. No two ways about it.

      2. And what if Burnett had fumbled it back? So what? It was not a game sealing pick in a one score game with little time left. They would have still been up 12 points and, most likely, Seattle would have had a longer field to travel and score.

        Had he fumbled, most likely an offensive lineman recovers and does not advance it. They would have been no worse off than they were.The benefits of attempting a return on that play far outweighed the risks. It could have been a kill shot, one that would have, appropriately enough, been administered by the defense, the unit that had won the game for them up to that point. And then, had he scored, the game WOULD have been over. Seattle wasn’t coming back from 26-7.

        If you look at the all-22 view of that play, when Burnett caught that ball, Kearse did not get up and attempt to catch him. He laid on the ground with his head down. Russell Wilson momentarily put his hands on his thighs, bent over, in disbelief at yet another pick. That was not the body language of a team posed to make a historic comeback. It was body language of a defeated team.

        The Packers checked out mentally after that Burnett pick and the switch went off. They completely lost their focus. And they let the Seahawks get up off the floor.

  2. Good outline Jeff. I agree with most of your assessments

    – Hawk and Brad Jones – time to move on
    – Tramon Williams – I wish we could keep him but too expensive
    – Masthay – total liability most of last season and down the stretch
    – Julius Peppers made our defense so much better – keep him
    – Letroy Guion stiffen the D-Line – keep him
    – Raji – re-up for another prove-it year
    – Bryan Bulaga – sorry he is too fragile and will be too expensive. Get someone we can run behind, train-up Don Barclay and draft a RT
    – Randall Cobb needs to settle for Golden Tate money or the Packers will let him walk for Comp picks

    The biggest changes need to come to this coaching staff. Slocum needs to shown the door as well as Winston Moss and maybe one or all of the secondary coaches. There is way too much confusion in our secondary and our linebackers have under performed for the last half decade. Finally, MM needs to hire a OC and relinquish the play calling duties.

    To just come back next year with a draft class and the usual roster turnover will send the “good enough” signal and we all know what that looks like.

    1. Packers have OC. His name is Tom Clements!
      I can not believe that you are still with bad play calling… There can not be good play calling if your players will not execute the called plays… Whatever plays you will call!

      1. We can live with McCarthy’s average play calling and keep putting the under-performance down to guys not doing their jobs. Whatever blend of coaching and player error you want to blame is fine with me – it still amounts to the same result. When your head coach is devoting his time and thoughts to play calling who is taking care of all the other game aspects that affect the outcome. When the HC keeps proclaiming a focus on fundamentals – how can a team commit a dozen fundamental errors in half a quarter of play to have one of the biggest meltdowns in modern football.

        Football teams don’t have coaches that are GM/HC because the job is just too big for one person. The majority of teams don’t have coaches that call their own plays for the same reason. Someone is missing all those details that the players don’t seem to have a grasp on. Stupid players, I guess?!

        And to be clear, more than any one failure, I attribute the Seattle loss to the under performance of the offense. The defense did its job for 55 minutes while the offense couldn’t find its rhythm. Aside from Mason Crosby, the problem was all about lack of scoringproduction. Lucky McCarthy and Clements don’t have anything to do with that.

        1. Totally totally agree. HC needs to focus and manage the big picture, flow of game. A vocal DC on the field wouldn’t hurt either. IMO .

      2. I agree the players did not execute the prevent plan like they were asked to do but my concern is why McCarthy changes to the prevent when being aggressive was what got them the lead in the first place. Bottom line is let them play what they were executing well instead of playing not to lose.. We have seen McCarthy do this on several occasions and lose so why keep doing it? We can only hope he will learn from his mistake but highly doubt it since he has called games this way since he came here 🙁

      3. Still need to create matchup difficulties for the defense, as the Patriots do so well. It is a combination of play calling AND execution not either or.

        Having said that, Seattle had 10 in the box towards the end of the game just daring GB to throw it.

        MM just blew it, let’s face it.

    2. Razer – what happens if we lose with an OC calling the plays? Who do we turn the play calling over to then? Also, with the way the Packers run their offense now Rodgers is calling the plays anyway. You may disagree but the fact is that Rodgers has 100% control of the offense and can change any play that comes in from MM. Some plays he decides after the snap as he drops back from center as he goes by the RB he can hand the ball off or keep it and pass based on how he reads the defense post snap. We had an article on that on this very site. Even pre-snap Rodgers can change the play. So that means that when he doesn’t change the play he is in fact calling the play MM called by not changing it. In this scenario why change the play caller or why not? It doesn’t matter, it’s up to Rodgers anyway. In the end execution is all that matters and you only judge the quality of the play call based on the result of the play. Thanks, Since ’61

      1. “what happens if we lose with an OC calling the plays?…”

        Now, how could that happen with McCarthy helping you all the way

      2. “Also, with the way the Packers run their offense now Rodgers is calling the plays anyway.” I am not so keen on this argument. I think the better arguments are questioning whether MM’s playcalling is really bad (I have defended MM before as to ratio of run to pass – I don’t know enough to question specific play calls) and whether Clements or whomever would be any better than MM.

        If Rodgers calls the plays anyway, then it doesn’t matter whether it’s MM, Clements, or someone throwing darts at the playbook who calls the plays in from the sideline. I suspect that while Rodgers can change most any play, there is a dynamic btw him and MM, some parameters, or at least an understanding of what/when MM would approve of the change/audible.

        My own guess is that Rodgers changes the play if he sees a defensive look that really militates against running MM’s play, or he sees something that can be exploited, (something he can point to during the film session after the game).

    3. Cobb is head and shoulders better than Tate, who signed a 5 yr., $31 million (ave $6.2) contract with $10.5 million guaranteed (41% guaranteed). Cobb is going to get an average of $8.5 to $9.25 million per year with 40% or more guaranteed. I would let Cobb walk if he wants more than $9 million per year.

      We already know that Barclay can’t play RT w/o help on every pass play. A mid level tender (cost is about $2.2 million) is unwarranted. Depends on what TT thinks of Tretter and Lane Taylor. Pay Bulaga his $6.5 to (gulp) $7.5 million per year, but with 25% guaranteed. If I don’t think Barclay is worthy of a mid level tender, there’s no way Richardson, and surely not Boykin, are, either.

      GB has had trouble when it cuts its punters. So, no, but okay to bring in competition. As to the author, drafting a punter rarely works out. There are plenty of FA punters.

      There is no point in letting Kuhn test the FA waters, either. He played for $1 million last year. Vet min is not much less. Sign him to a “qualifying contract” and be done with it.

      1. Agree with everything you said tgr, except for Kuhn. Cobb is light years better than Tate. Cobb is probably the second best player on this team (with apologies to Jordy, Lacy, and Sitton), probay the second best QB also. The dude’s a football player.

        Would never draft a punter, way too many FAs available that are just as good. Masthay will be fine, hard to stay sharp with limited chances.

        Barclay is a good story, but lacking on the field. His replacement may already be on the roster (Vuchovich? Sorry, can’t recall the exact name).

        Regarding Kuhn, there’s no reason to commit now, something better may surface. It’s doubtful Kuhn is going anywhere, and he’s replaceable if he does.

  3. Great Read Jeff, McCarthy’s friendship with Slocum is a perfect reason why you don’t hire your friends. It put’s McCarthy in an awkward position. Slocum needs to be jettisoned forthwith if not sooner, Your display on Special Teams stats over the last few years paint a grim picture.McCarthy’s inability to maintain discipline (Stupid penalties ) and holding his coaching staff accountable for players who deviate from their responsibilities and assignments (Brandon Bostick) have led to this recent mess and one of the most embarrassing playoff losses in this franchise’s history. Mike McCarthy has to put his Big Boy Pants on and make some changes!

    1. “McCarthy’s inability to maintain discipline (Stupid penalties )”

      Over the last several seasons, the Packers are one of the least penalized teams in the league…

  4. I think pointing out friendship of Mike McCarthy and Shawn Slocum as the factor in the decision not to fire ST coordinator is cheap shot! If they are so good and close friends, than Shawn Slocum should place his resignation to help Mike McCarthy. So that is not something that holds the water. I think that the evaluation of ST production was overshadowed last seasons by huge number of injuries. We all know that injuries strikes ST first and in the full amount. But after this season, there is clear view on ST…
    Also, I see that most of the fans from this comment section constantly call for coaches heads. If Packers are playing well, that is because Packers were lucky. If something went wrong there is coaches guilt, either as whole group, or one by one… Lets try to put it this way. When Packers plays well, that should be put in favor of coaches. When Packers play bad, Packers are unlucky that day! It is the same logic. Once a while you will have right. But most of the times you are wrong!

    1. Croat, love your posts, please don’t get caught up in heavy criticism between posters. I have before, it might provide instant gratification, but I always feel bad later.

      I too believe pointing out MM’s/Slocum’s alleged friendship is a cheap shot, but that is not meant to criticize the author. First, there have been many references over the years to this alleged relationship, or MM’s relationship with RC Slocum, but I’ve never read any proof. Perhaps the GB resident readers could enlighten us. Second, friends work together quite frequently without any issues. Third, I believe MM will do the best for the team regardless of personal issues.

      Fourth, and most importantly, it’s also ultimately shot at TT. Anyone who believes that MM keeps Slocum for personal reasons also has believe TT would not intervene in that situation. That’s very highly doubtful.

  5. Jeff – In addition to the free agent signings and re-signings and the drafting strategy that you covered, this Packers teams needs to up their level of play when they reach the playoffs. They need to play smarter and they need to get nastier especially on defense. They need to eliminate stupid penalties. They need to go all out for the entire game. The defense cannot check out with 5 minutes left in the game and assume that the offense is going to close out the game. The mental mistakes that this team consistently makes are ridiculous and that is on the coaches. The physical mistakes like Dix having a pick go through his hands are one thing, but Burnett sliding down with at least 10 yards to run and Bostick leaving his feet to catch an onside kick are bone head plays. Daniels unnecessary and stupid penalty on Dix’s 1st quarter pick is another example. B. Jones penalties against Detroit and Dallas and then his play on the fake FG are inexcusable. He needs to go. The Packers have the physical skills to get to the Super Bowl, what they need are the brains to get to the Super Bowl and that is lacking from both the coaches and the players. Thanks, Since ’61

    1. At least the defense played lights-out for 55 minutes. Where was our high powered offense for most of the game? Right, they were getting Mason Crosby into position to kick field goals. If the offense came out after the half with a strategy and performance beyond ‘3 and out’ you wouldn’t be ragging on the defense. There is enough blame to go around – just spread it evenly.

      1. Razor – I’m not blaming the defense for the loss at all. I’m trying to say and maybe not very effectively, that the entire team including the offense and Rodgers need to raise their level of play in playoff games. To be fair, Rodgers’s injury had an impact on the offense and on play selection, but that is not an excuse. The offense needs to play better and smarter. As we know, Special teams were a disaster all season and finally costs us the biggest game of the season on the fake FG and fumbled onside kick. So yes, there is plenty of blame to go around and that is my point. The entire team including the coaches need to up their game and get smarter in the big games. Thanks, Since ’61

        1. I hear you Since 61. The loss rests on a lot of shoulders, even our most talented guys. And, while we all see some of the weaknesses on this team, you have to wonder why we continue to play such inconsistent ball and why we are hindered by persistent problems. If the point of the article is “what do we need to do to improve”, then the answer must extend beyond turning over 20% of our roster. The coaching staff isn’t getting the fundamental message through on several fronts so something has to change. McCarthy needs to get more out of his high power offense in big games and against the best teams. Since he is the play caller, I am looking for him to prove he can do this. And since he is the HC, we need him to do a better job of managing the coaching staff and the games.

      2. MM’s goal, as he said himself, was to run the ball 20 times in the second half. Nice goal MM. If the goal was to score 10 or more points then Seattle does not come up with the “Miracle at Century Link.”

        1. You do not want to get it, do you? You are the happiest person in the whole world. Now you can spit on Mike McCarthy with “justify” anger! How poor you’ll be if Packers are in SB or if they will win it! Almost kill yourself…

  6. Only thing I’d change is that I’d bet Raji gets a similar short term, “prove it” deal.

    Cobb coming back is a given. NO WAY TT lets him walk. A mid level ILB FA would be welcome.

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