Monday Musings: Season Over

The Green Bay Packers made things very interesting by winning four straight late in the season, but those who stuck a fork in them at 4-8 were proven correct at the end of the day. Even while beating Chicago, the Rams, Miami, and Minnesota, the three-time defending NFC North champions never resembled the teams that won 39 regular season games from 2019 to 2021. Anyway, here are a few more thoughts that ran through my dejected mind in the past few hours:

1) Despite all the big plays Christian Watson made during a record-setting four-game stretch late in the season, the Packers can’t go into 2023 counting on the rookie to be their No. 1 receiver. While the former North Dakota State star certainly possesses the skill set to be one of the elite players at his position, he didn’t show the ability to stay on the field. Watson missed three full games and parts of two others, and that’s after he sat out most of the summer with a knee injury. Was it bad luck, or is he just one of those players who will always get hurt? The answer to that question won’t be known for a few years. Until then, general manager Brian Gutekunst must protect the offense by finding a capable replacement for Watson. That means a receiver with the speed to take the top off a defense. Whether that player comes via trade, free agency, or the draft doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is having another deep threat on the roster besides Watson, whose lack of durability in his initial campaign would make even Kevin King chuckle.

2) Nathaniel Hackett’s disastrous first season in Denver ended early when he was fired three weeks ago. Would Matt LaFleur re-hire his former offensive coordinator? Maybe, but the better question is, should he? The answer is no. The Packers didn’t struggle to score points because Hackett left for the Mile High City last January. They struggled because quarterback Aaron Rodgers was a year older, wide receiver Devante Adams wasn’t adequately replaced, the line was reshuffled more often than a Spotify playlist, and perhaps most importantly, defensive coordinators had a better feel for what was coming after three years. Heck, I had a better feel for what was coming after three years. So rather than recycle an old coach like Hackett, why not bring in somebody new? One of Mike McCarthy’s flaws after winning the Super Bowl in 2010 was surrounding himself with “his guys” and never adding fresh ideas to the offense. There are many bright young assistants throughout the league. LaFleur would be smart to hire a few of them in the coming weeks.

3) Extending guard Elgton Jenkins last month was obviously great news, but if the Packers are going to reestablish themselves as one of the elite teams in the league in 2023, more highly-paid players are going to have to earn their huge contracts. Since 2018, general manager Brian Gutekunst has spent over $600 million to re-sign Jenkins ($68M), Rodgers ($150M), running back Aaron Jones ($48M), left tackle David Bakhtiari ($92M), defensive lineman Kenny Clark ($70M), outside linebacker Preston Smith ($53M), inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell ($50M) and cornerback Jaire Alexander ($84M). Of that group, only Jones and, to a lesser extent, Alexander performed up to expectations. Ironically, two of the three elite players Gutekunst decided not to keep around – Adams and Vikings outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith – were both voted to the Pro Bowl a few weeks ago. The third, Chargers center Corey Linsley, was named a first alternate.


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Michael Rodney

Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for over 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2004. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey and covered the Philadelphia Eagles for WTXF-TV. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published, and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.

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January 9, 2023 2:42 pm

In your heart, you knew back in June how this season would end. Like it’s ended all the previous years. Abandoning the run game/play action for a shotgun/spread offense that failed against Tampa two years ago, the 49ers last year and Detroit this year.

We couldn’t win using shotgun/spread when we had Davante and MVS. Surely, with two rookies and Lazard we’ll succeed this time. If we can’t score against the worst defense in the league just what exactly would we do against the 49ers ? If you refuse to throw in the middle of the field, abandon the run, under utilize your best offensive player, refuse to use play action, have a QB that struggles with the deep ball, it makes it significantly easier for the defense.

Our only TD came on play action, good thing we didn’t try that again. LaFleur and his offensive staff poured over film trying to determine why we’re the worst red zone team in the NFL.
Voila ! Not enough shotgun handoffs to Dillon ! Problem solved !

If you want to know the difference in coaching staffs…… when we needed a stop on 4th and 2, Barry had his CB’s play 7 yards off. When Detroit needed a crucial 4th qt stop on 3rd and 10 they played press.

Know why Detroit played press with no fear of a deep ball even though Watson runs like the wind ? Because Rodgers accuracy over 30 yards is about 20%. Rodgers still has the arm but his footwork and mechanics are so awful his accuracy is gone. He threw a swing pass last night where his arm went east and his feet were pointing north. Maybe someone should tell him he’s 39, not 27. I doubt Rodgers accepts a trade. Pretty sure he’ll be back.

The Packers thought they made the playoffs after the Viking win. Guess LaFleur and the offense forgot they had one more game left.

My guess is the front office will think if we draft a top notch WR opposite Watson and a pass rusher opposite Gary that we can make another run with Rodgers coming back. On paper that makes some sense but the reason we’ve been losing lately in the last game of the year is LaFleur and Rodgers haven’t been good enough. At least Barry made some changes, LaFleur is morphing into McCarthy. If LaFleur starts talking about pad level next year, you know his days in GB are numbered.

We lose by 4. Take away LaFleur’s boneheaded decision to go for it on 4th down deep in our own territory just 7 minutes into the game which gave Detroit 3 points and Rasul Douglas’s incomprehensible idiocy moving the ball pre-snap AND hitting an opposing player turning a 48 yd FG into a 33 ydr and we probably win this game.

Nice of Rodgers to blame the rookie WR’s in his post-game presser. Maybe try coming into camp for the OTA’s and work on actually throwing a deep ball in the same zip code as your WR’s. Or throwing at the top of your drop. Or getting behind an offensive scheme that may actually work.

While we all look forward to seeing what Jordan Love has….in reality we all know Rodgers is coming back, Cobb and Marcedes Lewis sign for the vet minimum and the Packers will sulk off the field losing to Atlanta in January 2024 at Lambeau on a failed end around to player eligible Royce Newman.

January 9, 2023 3:41 pm

There weren’t many highlights this season, but Watson was a revelation. His numbers over 17 games would’ve projected to 50 catches, 742 yards, and 9 TDs. That’s a heck of a rookie season. Of course, the key in the future will be getting him to play 17 games.

January 9, 2023 7:49 pm

it is understandable that there will be a lot of talk/analysis about the Packers’ offense this off-season. this is reasonable. in much of the Rodgers’ era, i have most enjoyed the games when the defense was excelling. i had always felt confident that when the defense excelled, the Packers would win. against the Vikings in Week 17, the Packers’ defense excelled. that performance gave myself, and i think nearly all other analysts, hope that the 2022/23 Packers were a dangerous team.

what happened to the defense between Week 17 and Week 18? perhaps the Lions simply have a better offense than the Vikings. certainly the Packers exploited a weakened Vikings offensive line.. something they could not do v. the Lions. in terms of points allowed, the Packers’ starting defense completely dominated the Vikings.. they allowed only 3 points. the Lions did significantly better.. the Lions scored 20 v. the Packers.. which was really, at least, 23 points given the field position of the Lions on their last offensive drive.

it is possible that the Lions are a really good team.. the best team in the NFC North at the end of the 2022/23 season. it will be interesting to witness the Lions next year.. in particular, the Lions’ 2023 defense. maybe the Lions’ defense peaked while playing their final game of this season and are on the cusp of being a respected unit. or, maybe the Packers’ offense is just not strong.

this offseason, the Packers’ will be scrutinized. what is Matt LaFleur without Aaron Rodgers? including the recent Week 18 game, MLF’s coaching during his playoff appearances has looked mediocre at best. is he a championship coach? Titletown demands titles, not early playoff exits. why didn’t a defense full of talent not consistently show its talent during the past season? with looming salary cap issues, can the Packers afford to pay the guys at or near the top of the salary earnings level? will the Packers be relegated to a near future of mediocrity? in light of his behavior in Week 18, can top draft pick Quay Walker be trusted in the future? how can the Packers regain its once reliable home-field advantage?

January 9, 2023 8:29 pm

Oh where to start? Offense

QB Rodgers is likely back and needs to be a player within the system. He needs to hit the open receiver for 15 yards instead of under-throwing into double coverage. He can’t keep trying to avoid interceptions by throwing at receivers feet. I don’t know what to say about playing in the cold. It won’t get better. Love will have every right to request a trade, leaving GB high and dry for 2024. Perhaps Mayfield will need to start in 2024.

WR Yes, GB needs another fast WR to play along with Watson, whether or not Watson is inury prone. Doubs should improve, but they needs three WRs plus Toure. Cobb and Lazard are gone. Capable veterans cost salary cap space that they don’t have.

OL With Bakh saying he wants to play next year and Jenkins signing a new contract, GB has two above average starters. JRJ is OK at RG. But what about C and RT? Nijman may get more dollars elsewhere. Myers is consistently inconsistent. Do they play Tom at C or RT? Is Newman their depth? Hopefully not! Hopefully Jones, Walker or Tenuta can contribute. Who knows about Rhyan. Bakh will need to agree to take a pay cut. Packers will need to refine their blocking schemes. They probably looked good on paper, but often fell short in games.

TE Tonyan was OK, but they need another TE. That is with or without Tonyan.

RB Restructure Jones contract and work with him so that he doesn’t fumble in key games. Dillon is Dillon. Draft a shifty RB.

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