Monday Musings: Preseason Games
The Olympics just ended, and what struck me was all the crazy new sports that have been added in recent years. I used to joke that I’d get a gold medal as soon as walking from the couch to the refrigerator was added to the Summer Games. Well, that might happen yet. Anyway, here are three Packers-related thoughts that went through my mind recently:
1) Last summer proved something I’ve strongly believed for over 20 years – preseason games are worthless, and no key veteran starters should take part in any of them. The quality of play didn’t suffer from not having any fake football, and at least in the case of the Packers, they entered Week 1 with 21 of their 22 preferred starters on the field. Here’s hoping head coach Matt LaFleur learned a lesson. Let the rookies and veteran backups receive most of the snaps as they get accustomed to the speed and the physicality of the NFL and/or battle it out for the final half-dozen or so spots on the roster. Simply put, there should be a full-fledged investigation if we see any of the following uniform numbers in a game before the opener: 12, 17, 18, 23, 26, 31, 33, 39, 52, 55, 74, 77, 85, 91, and 97.
2) The Packers won’t look dramatically different on defense when they take the field in New Orleans on Sept. 13. Ten of the 11 starters figure to be the same as last season, and the scheme will be more tweaked than overhauled. It’s pretty clear that LaFleur is hoping new coordinator Joe Barry’s energy and motivational skills will be the most significant change from a year ago. Is that wishful thinking? Maybe not. In 2005, the fiery Jim Bates replaced the stoic Bob Slowik, and the defense went from 25th to 7th in yards allowed without a major overhaul. The biggest difference was attitude. Guys simply played a lot harder and with more passion. With far better talent now than in 2005, playing a lot harder and with more passion just might be enough to take this defense to the level needed to get the Packers over the hump in January finally. That seems to be the plan. The good news is that it’s worked before.
3) The Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted 21 former players last week, and somehow legendary Packers safety LeRoy Butler wasn’t one of them. I was disappointed but not shocked. I used to know a few voters, and to put it kindly, they were far from experts. And while I’m sure plenty of the current voters are very well-informed, there clearly are too many who don’t know their ass from their elbow when it comes to what a great player looks like. To put John Lynch in ahead of Butler is like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducting Bon Jovi ahead of Springsteen. Hopefully, No. 36 will take his rightful place in Canton next year. After that, we can turn our attention to Sterling Sharpe. He was better than a handful of receivers who already have their gold jacket despite playing only seven seasons.