Wednesday, November 3, 1999

What is Wrong With The Packers?

I suffered through the Denver game, and could not comprehend how the team could be so flat and inept for a game that meant so much to the fans. Why didn't the players play like it?

Then I enjoyed the San Diego game, deluding myself into thinking that the Packers had turned the corner, and would be just fine from here on out.

Then the Monday night disaster [Ed.note - the Packers played the Seahawks, and lost 27-7.] . The Packers played their worst game since, . . . , well, since two weeks before. A disaster in some ways akin to last year's disaster on Monday night against the Vikings. The players had to care about this one, just as a matter of pride, didn't they? Then how could they play like this?

I have talked with others, read some of the post-game comments, read articles online, mostly just listening, trying to make up my own mind about this. None of the people I have talked to or heard from have suggested that the Packers are playing at the level of their talent. Yes, injuries have hurt them, but not this much. They have much more talent than they have shown in two of their last three games.

Some have suggested that the coaching staff is to blame. The "country club atmosphere" has returned, and the team does not have enough discipline (the Earl Dotson debacle fits right in with this theory). The play-calling has been questioned. Why, for example, did the Packers not run more in the second half, before it got too late to recover? Dorsey Levens was gaining big chunks of yards, and the running game would have taken some pressure off of the ineffective Favre?

Others have suggested that the real problem is that Favre's hand is bothering him more than people realize. Certainly one of the fumbles could be attributed to inability to get a proper grip on the ball. I'm not surenif the interceptions could be attributed to the thumb problem, but maybe. The thing that is a bit ominous about the thumb theory is that I remember Favre having made a comment before the San Diego game, suggesting that the warm weather would make it easier to play with his injured thumb. And, maybe not coincidentally, the San Diego game was the Packers' best game of the year. Monday night in Green Bay, it was cold and blustery, and Favre had his worst (or second worst) game of the year. The ominous part is that there are only a couple of truly warm weather games left on the schedule (at Dallas, at Tampa, and at Minnesota if you count a dome game as a warm weather game). So if the thumb is the problem, we could be in for a very long year.

I come out thinking that the thumb is the main problem. The defense has looked alright. I certainly can't blame the defense for giving up 20 points (not counting the 7 points on the blocked field goal), when the offense turned the ball over 7 times. The offense was horrible, but mostly just because of the turnovers. If you could somehow cut the turnovers out of the game, it would have been a very different game. I just have a feeling that the thumb is getting worse, that it acts up more in cold weather, and that Favre is going to have this problem all year long.

Having said that, I am starting to agree with those who criticize the coaching staff, as well. It is becoming apparent that Sherman Lewis is not as good an offensive coordinator as Mike Holmgren was. I think that the Packers have been out-coached in several of the games this year. That was not usually the case with Holmgren. On the lack of discipline, certainly Dotson's outburst was inexcusable. I felt that it single-handedly eliminated any chance the Packers had of coming back to win that game. And to the extent that Favre is doing erratic things like throwing into double coverage instead of being smarter about his decision-making, maybe that is indicative of a lack of discipline as well. I'm going to try to pay more attention to the coaching decisions as the game progresses, and see if I can get a better sense of this question in the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, it is Bear week. This game does not have the luster it had a few years back, but the Bears almost always play the Packers tough. I'm looking for a relatively low-scoring game, with a defensive touchdown for the Packers and more of a ball control game on offense. Packers, 21-13.

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