Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Do The Packers Need An Overhaul?

I don't think so. Most NFL teams do not. A few good draft picks, and a few correct free agent acquisitions and you can fix anything not managed by Matt Millen. Look at the Falcons.

Football teams have "Cascading Personnel Disasters" just like players have cascade injuries. A few of you even identified one of these in the comments to the Overhaul post. It is very likely that the linebackers have taken a step back because of the defensive line. Fix the defensive line, and you also fix your linebackers.

It's important to keep this in mind. The front 7 isn't a 7-player problem. With a healthy Cullen Jenkins it's probably a 1 or at most a 2 player problem.

Offense is in a similar bind, especially now that Tauscher is quite possibly done as a Packer. The offensive line really could use an overhaul, but there are two problems with this:

1. Offensive line continuity is very important.

2. The Packer blocking strategy is very complicated.

That said, now is clearly the time to do it. One good thing about offensive lines is that apart from left tackle, talent tends to be fairly deep in the draft.

As for the skill positions, I think they're in pretty good shape. Greg Jennings is one of the 5 best receivers in football, and Donald Driver is still productive. Jordy Nelson looks like he'll be OK. And running backs are highly fungible, and not worth worrying about.

A few tweaks here and a few tweaks there, plus a regression to the mean in fumble recovery rate, and you're probably back in the playoffs.


There are bigger issues at work. Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy made some awful and preventable decisions, and the pattern seems to be "their guys" at the expense of good guys. Here is what stands out to me.

1. Justin Harrell. Almost literally the elephant in the room, much interior defensive line was cast aside in favor of this bust of busts. Like Cleditus Hunt without the talent, Harrell has acquired a reputation as lazy and injury prone. The poor packer run defense starts here. The Harrell pick was ripped by almost every talking head at the time, and all proved to be correct.

(Players taken after Harrell in the draft, by the way, include Aaron Ross,Dwayne Bowe, Jon Beason, Greg Olsen, Anthony Gonzalez, Eric Weddle, and Lamarr Woodley.)

Picking Harrell was bad enough, but sticking with him made it much worse.

2. The Lack of Running Back By Committee

Remember Noah Herron? And DeSean Wynn? These guys used to get a few carries now and then. Ryan Grant played great last year, and he earned his increased role, but Brandon Jackson and that rookie who got hurt should have started seeing the field more when Grant struggled. And having Noah around to pick up a blitz now and then would have been nice.

But once again, the problem was bigger than that. The Packers gave Ryan Grant a pretty big (though not disastrous) new contract. This goes against everything that the zone blocking scheme, and Ted Thompson, have done in the past. Running Backs simply aren't valuable. Look at zone blocking exhibit A out in Denver. Peyton Hillis was tearing it up until he screwed up his hamstring this week. He was, by my count, their 7th RB. And by all accounts the Packers best RB spends most of his time on the Pine so that Ryan Grant can try to live up to his contract.

More options may have put Grant on the pine earlier. Stubbornness, again, reared its ugly head.

3. The fucking punter.

God I hate the punter. Ron Wolfe's biggest regret was losing Craig Hentrich, and this should have been a warning to all future GMs. Punting is important. It has definitely cost this team at least 1 game this year. And it is all on the GM.

4. Woodson to safety.

Don't move your best cover corner to safety if you play man-to-man. Just don't. It's really stupid.

5. Penalties, Penalties, Penalties.

The Overhaul

This leads us to one obvious conclusion. This GM and coach cannot be trusted to execute a complete overhaul. The more decisions they make, the worse it will be. This team is not far away in spite of their recent pathetic nature, but they need an intelligent front office to make it happen. Let's not burn it down when the arsonists will be responsible for rebuilding.

Hope Springs Eternal

According to the Outsiders, the Packers still have a 3.3% chance of making the playoffs. The Colorado Rockies once overcame taller odds than that and made the World Series, so stranger things literally have happened.

(Remember, that sequence of events required a Tony Gwynn, Jr. triple! What are the odds of that alone?)

Locker Room Presence

In the future, whenever anyone talks about someone's presence in the locker room I'm just going to assume they mean this.

1 comment:

E.S.K. said...

Coaching-wise, I say yes.

Player personnel wise? Nope. A defensive lineman or two would do wonders for this club.