I know we are entering the crazy season for media to start throwing spit balls against the wall and seeing what will stick but at some point, we have to get serious.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter seems to be conducting his personal crusade to turn the NFL into the NBA by empowering certain players to be in charge of their own playing destinations. Schefter is clearly the leader in stirring the pot with topics for talk radio and what now has become “Talk TV.” I like and respect Schefter, but his carrying the flag for agents who have an agenda only goes so far in the real-life NFL and most front office types realize his intentions and see through his perspective.
Despite the popular belief by media reaching for low-hanging fruit, Aaron Rodgers is not going anywhere. Mark Murphy, the president of the Green Bay Packers, said it best and I quote, “We are not idiots”. Let me repeat that the Packers are not moving on from Rodgers to play Jordan Love, their first-round pick last year. STOP!
And let’s stop saying that the Love pick was wasted. It’s my humble belief that when the Packers picked Love, it has motivated Rodgers to refocus, recommit and take his game to the next level. We saw that from Rodgers in 2020 after a sub-par 2019 where he initially didn’t buy into new head coach Matt Lafleur’s new system and under achieved. A bruised ego has a way of motivating us all.
As I said on our podcast this week (The Football GM w/ Mike Sando, The Athletic), I was disappointed in Rodgers’ timing for taking his case to the public in his post-game session with what might as well of been “Dr. Phil”. He made a tough team loss be about himself. I understand that Rodgers has always been complicated and his press conference after the Packers’ loss on Sunday was an extension of that mindset. In that situation, I would rather he had taken the high road and had the backs of his teammates and the overall organization.
That being said, this emotional plea will soon dissipate and the Packers can move on toward figuring out how they can improve and get back to the NFC Conference Championship game next season, and win it.
There are things to learn from a deeper dive:
1. I thought HC Matt Lafleur’s decision to kick a FG late in the game instead of going for a TD on fourth and eight was a decision influenced by a lack of confidence in himself. I think he looked at his play sheet, saw nothing that he either hadn’t tried already or that stood out, and made the decision to send out the FG team. He forgot that Aaron Rodgers, from the 8-yard line with one play, is as good as his chances were going to get late in that game. And even if not successful, field position was in his favor. If a post-game survey was taken of head coaches around the league, my guess is that at least 25 of them would have said “run the Philly Special” or some similar designed play, but we are going for it. The lesson for Lafleur is, the Packers need a deeper play sheet and more answers for his team, the next time around. I get Rodgers frustration. That’s the price you pay for a young coach. Education is expensive.
2. As crazy as the call was that Mike Pettine, the defensive coordinator for the Packers, sent in late in the first half, that directly sabotaged his teams momentum going into the halftime break was, part of the blame falls to cornerback Kevin King. Sure, it made no sense and resulted in the game-changing TD pass that Tom Brady threw to WR Scottie Miller. However, what I would have taken from that, as Packer GM, would have been only part of the story to blame the kid. I would have taken to heart what I saw on film in college at Washington (where we all evaluated King), that King does not play as fast as his combine 40 time of 4.43 seconds. He struggles to catchup and to run deep and his play speed is really more like 4.55. I’m not saying it’s a fatal flaw, but speed is an issue and it cost the Packers dearly right before halftime. Blame can be shared.
3. And looking forward, let’s upgrade and add a front-line offensive tackle to protect our best player and give DT Kenny Clark some help up front on defense as well.
4. Oh ya, and do not forget, the Packers best RB, Aaron Jones, got hurt and was a non-factor. That’s just bad luck and comes as part of the game, but not with a reason to blow up the ship. Let just re-sign him or if we do not, make sure we don’t take a step backwards to replace him.
In other words, as I was told early on in my career, “Don’t tell me how rough the water is Aaron Rodgers, just get in the boat”. And by the way, Rodgers could have run the ball in on that third down play before the FG team was sent in and we wouldn’t be having this discussion. There was nothing but green grass between Rodgers and the goal line. That’s what he should be lamenting. Plenty of blame to go around. We all need to improve but that is professional football.
At the end of the day, my take is that the Packers blew a game they should have won. They couldn’t take advantage of three Tom Brady INT’s. Rodgers will get over it. He confirmed that frustration, by pontificating publicly in a self-serving manner in the aftermath of the disappointing loss. What he showed was that he can be, at times, a calculating, moody, cry baby. MVP’s are people too. Validity confirmed.