True confessions, I’m superstitious. I didn’t watch the last 5 minutes of the 2015 NFC Championship between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. I sensed the momentum had swung in favor of the Seahawks and with the 12th man in the Emerald City, they were re-engaged and re-energized, things looked quite tumultuous for the Packers. Or should I say catastrophic? I’ve left past Packer games under other challenging conditions and this often brought them luck. In this scenario, I didn’t have the same level of optimism and with 5 minutes to go, I imagined it all slipping away, a total team collapse. Play by play, on offense, defense and special teams. Needless to say, the Packers obliged.
Two days after the collapse, I listened to WTMJ radio of Milwaukee where they had a talk show with Charlie Sykes trying to make sense of the game. As one could imagine, the majority of fans were disappointed, if not devastated with the loss. If only this would have happened. If only we had recovered the onside kick. If only we had scored more points. they questioned head coach Mike McCarthy’s offensive play calls. To those who were complaining, Mr Sykes said we’re upset (Packer fans) because we lost. In other words, we’d not be complaining about poor clock management, offensive game calling or live game strategy if the results were different.
Au contraire Charlie. I for one have been complaining about McCarthy shifting his offensive play calling toward the end of a game when the Packers had a slight lead. Typically, McCarthy would not try to score and win the game but rather, take as much time off the clock and with whatever time remains, rely on his defense to win the game. I’ve been complaining to the TV about his late game strategy for the last 4-5 years. Funny thing, the TV never talks back.
My approach, which I’ve been aligned to, for the last 5 years.
As a coach, you have several layers to use when ahead and trying to close out the 4th quarter. Offense, Special Teams and Defense. Why automatically rely on your defense if your conservative play calls are too safe and gives your opponent the ball back and a chance to win? Instead, leverage your offense to the fullest. Throw shorter passes with a high completion rate to continue to run clock or have special plays available where you need a first down to win a championship or Super Bowl. If, for whatever reason, your offense doesn’t get the job, leverage your special teams. Leverage your field goal kicker or punter. If necessary, have a “special” or “trick play” available during desperation times. Have the ability to kick the ball during the punt away from the receiver and at the same time, take valuable time off the clock. If this doesn’t work, your defense may be the lasts resort. Have several layers available to help insulate yourself from losing games late when you’re still on the positive end of the score.
If you play not to lose, often, you will lose. A cliche, albeit, a good one. Mind you, the game was to decide the champion of the NFC. Some may argue, the stronger of the two conferences.
Down below, I wrote this article on 01/15/14, however, I felt I was being quite harsh and possibly unfair to the Packer organization so it was never published. Just for grins, after this year’s game, I decided to re-read my article written after the 2013 season. Interesting, many of my comments or frustrations from the ’13 season came to fruition in ’14. Therefore, I had little choice but to publish my thoughts from early last year.
FOR THOSE WHO DON’T LEARN FROM HISTORY ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT!
Why this Green Bay fan currently hates the Packers
Utilize your timeouts more effectively
Get more efficient with the play getting in on time. What the hell are you doing offensive coordinator? If you only have 1 time out at the end of the first or second half, it often affects your team’s strategy.
Do the Packers ever practice the quarterback sneak?
What the play caller have against utilizing the quarterback sneak when it’s 3rd or 4th and short? Do you see how effect New England is at this strategy? Or even the 49ers? Why doesn’t Rodgers sneak it forward — to help ensure the team picks up the key yards to get a new set of downs.
Uncreative play calling
Why is McCarthy so uncreative when it comes to play calling? Why doesn’t he have more plays to work with like other successful offenses? He sometimes looks shell shocked on the sidelines, not knowing what has hit him.
What kind of grades would the special team’s coach receive?
Why have their special teams performed so poorly over the last few years? Has this been reevaluated and closely scrutinized? It appears there’s a block in the back or holding penalty called on about 50% of all Packer kickoff returns. Their return game has not had a low incidence of penalties on kickoffs for the last 3 or 4 years. Is this being addressed?
Lambeau Field has lost its mystique for Green Bay
Why do Packer fans think that Lambeau Field enables the Packers to have a competitive advantage. It ain’t so anymore. Atlanta busted this a few years ago and about half their playoff games have ended in defeat for the green and gold. Cold weather intimation? perhaps against the Packers. Just because you live in this climate and are somewhat adept at driving in the slush and snow doesn’t translate into a competitive advantage. Cold is cold and wind is wind — not sure if the Packers have that advantage any longer.
Employ a legitimate hurry-up offense
Don’t just say you’re committed to a hurry-up offense, actually employ on. I’ve seen the Packers over the last few years try to engage in the hurry up offense from time to time. They may want to “jump start” their offense or keep the defense off balance, whatever the reason, I’m all for this strategy.
The trouble is, is execution. They appear to want to run this offense but it’s anything but a hurry up. With a 40 second play clock, during this type of scheme, it may take their offense 30 seconds to execute the play. Rarely is this offense run in an efficient manner for several drivers. Often, they get away from it when plays are not being run in a rapid speed. Perhaps they get away from it too soon so there’s another issue here being execution. It’s frustrating to watch competitive teams run the hurry up offense in such an efficient and successful manner so when the Packers attempt this, it’s often a painful exercise to accept.
Deep six the Lambeau Leap
Call me a non-traditionalist but let’s deep six the Lambeau Leap. I believe it’s been around for over 2 decades, is it not losing its luster? Rodgers will rarely do it and even though ESPN is still in love with it and everything ‘Lambeau,’ has it run its course?
Opponents no longer fear the cold in Green Bay
Years ago, you might be able to convince certain fans of the competitive advantage the packers have over other teams — home field advantage, especially in cold weather. With technology, better equipment and knowing how to dress, teams don’t fear the cold as much. They may not like playing in it but they know it’s a 3-4 hour commitment and may not have to deal with that type of weather for years to come. I think the mystique of Lambeau has perhaps disappeared into the atrium or parts of the new addition. It’s not effective any longer.
Green Bay needs to focus less on the “hallowed ground” of Lambeau and field a stronger team that can compete with the best teams home and away, turf or grass, indoor or outdoor. Besides, this whole Lambeau Field mystique is only 56 years old. People act as though this field has been around for 90 or 100 years.
The Packers rarely go for the jugular
When is the last time the green and gold destroyed an opponent and didn’t show any mercy? When is the last time that they tried to score 60 points when their offense was humming? I’ve seen at least a dozen or so games over the last 4 years or so where Green Bay will play very cautiously when they are ahead in the second half. The lead may be 6 or 12 points but it doesn’t matter, GB will get into a “safe mode” and try to preserve the lead instead of “going for the jugular” and defeating their opponent. Often, they will run, run and run then punt and rely on their defense to protect the lead.
As I’ve screamed many times to the HDTV, your best defense is an effective offense. By controlling the ball with a mixture of pass and run and some creative play calling, you keep the ball, and slowing extinguish all hope from your opponent. When this is done effectively, your defense does not have to be put to that test.
Why rely solely on the draft?
Complete obsession on the draft. Look, I love teams that build the majority of their team through the draft. I also love teams who draft excellent offensive and defensive talent to build walls to protect and attack the quarterback. Having said that, you can’t solely rely on the draft. There are times you need to sign a free agent or be willing to trade for someone if you think this might your football club. Having watched the Packers from afar, it appears the organization is rarely interested in taking chances with free agency. Moreover, I don’t remember the last time the Packers made a trade to help improve their club.
Build 90% of your team through the draft and obviously draft good football players with good character and at the same time, don’t be so entrenched with your methodology to consider signing a free agent from time to time or taking a chance on a trade if it might help your football club.
Need a fight song (Been saying this for years)
The Packers have arguably two cheers: Go Pack Go, and First Down. Is that it? Could not the Packer organization create a team fight song to sing after every touchdown? To help those newbies learn the song, you could include the words on the video screen like some stadiums do for the national anthem.