Saturday, December 22, 2018

Packers 2018: What Went Wrong?

The Story of Rodgers' Day, Photo by Nam Huh, AP
Now that the Packers' season, or at least their playoff hopes, are ended, it might be time for a little reflection on what went wrong with the Packers this year.  Obviously, if you had to name a single factor, it was injuries.  Rodgers was injured in the first half of the first game against the Bears, and I would argue that he has never been quite right for the rest of the season. The second Bears game, last Sunday, bears this out (if you will excuse the pun).  The Packers lost a game, 24-17, that I am convinced they would have won or at least had a shot at winning in the closing minutes, if only Rodgers were fully healthy.  Still, the Bears earned the division crown, by consistent play on offense, and dominant play on defense, all year long.  Congratulations to the Bears.  I won't be rooting for them, but they deserve our congratulations.

Before getting back to the injuries, there were of course other factors, too.  Knowing what we know now, that Rodgers doesn't have full trust in the young receivers, maybe it wasn't such a smart idea to get rid of Jordy Nelson.  In hindsight, Khalil Mack looks like he was worth whatever the Raiders were asking of the Packers in a trade. 

Last Sunday's game was a good example of the injury problem.  Three offensive linemen (Bulaga, Pankey and Siragusa) were inactive, as was Kenny Clark on defense.  Playing against the Bears' defense, you don't want to see this, especially with a guy like Bulaga on the inactive list.  And especially with a quarterback who is not 100%, doesn't trust his young receivers, who seemingly hates to throw checkdown passes, and whose injury status gets worse during the game. 

And of course last week's inactive list is the least of the Packers' problems.  Going into the game, just to name the most prominent players, Geronimo Allison, Byron Bell, Trevor Davis, and Kyle Murphy were already on injured reserve on offense, and Aaron Jones was added after the game.  On defense, Mike Daniels, Raven Greene, Davon House, Kevin King, Nick Perry, Jake Ryan, and Muhammad Wilkerson were on injured reserve, and Kenny Clark was supposed to be headed there after the game, but has not yet been moved to IR.  How do you even win 5 games with that many injured players?  Oh, and Clark is out, and Cobb and Spriggs are doubtful, for the Jets game tomorrow.  Rodgers arguably should not play with his injured knee and groin (what is the point?) but he has announced that he is playing anyway.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I took another look at the Bears' game.  There is no doubt that Rodgers got worse as the game wore on.  He was perfect in the first quarter.  It is sometimes hard to decide which are bad throws and which are throwaways.  But in the second quarter Rodgers had 3 throwaways/bad throws, and one flat out bad throw.  He then injured his groin on the Hail Mary pass at the end of the half. 

In the third quarter, he made some good passes, but some of them were defensed well by the Bears, and one was dropped by Cobb.  But beyond those, he had an inexcusable overthrow to Cobb.  Things got worse in the fourth quarter.  Rodgers had bad overthrows to Cobb and Valdes-Scantling early on, and then Cobb dropped another ball.  Between throwaways and bad throws, there were another 5 missed connections in the fourth quarter, and of course the interception, ending his streak of passes without an interception.  On first viewing, that looked like a ball that bounced off the hands of a guy with a broken thumb and was intercepted.  Which it was.  But it was also thrown behind Graham, when a better throw would be right in front of him.  So it is, in my book, yet another errant throw. 

So what happens next year?  Maybe Rodgers recovers from his injuries, lots of players come off of IR, new and improved players are obtained in the draft or free agency, a new coach creates a spark, and we are right back in contention for the playoffs and the Super Bowl.  Or, father time is catching up with Rodgers, he will never be the same, and every year will be touch and go as to whether we even make the playoffs.  Having committed to Rodgers with the big contract, we better hope the former is true.  With my Green and Gold colored glasses firmly perched on my face, I think we will be right back in it next year.

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