The Packers have lost three in a row. The good news is that the team built up some margin for error with a 6-0 start. But, that is mostly eroded now, and they need to start playing better immediately for this season to be a meaningful one. Though Green Bay had a chance to steal Sunday’s game against Detroit, a win may have masked some structural deficiencies. Right now, this is an average football team, or worse. Here’s hoping that the team is more aware that major adjustments are necessary than they are letting on publicly.
For the third straight week, and the fourth game out of five, Aaron Rodgers has not been able to muster up a formidable offense. There are lots of moving parts here that contribute to these struggles — don’t worry, we’ll get to them — but they start with Rodgers. It might not be fair to give him a lion’s share of the blame when the pocket is always collapsing and his receivers are getting paltry separation, but a month ago we were talking about him like he could be the greatest quarterback of all-time, and he frankly hasn’t been playing like it.
(Rivals have gleefully pointed out that the Packers haven’t won a game since Mike Ditka became a “fan” of the team in a series of McDonald’s ads, which is such an obvious case of correlation over causation it doesn’t merit further examination.)
Let’s not over dramatize. It’s not as though Aaron Rodgers has been playing like Geno Smith or Blaine Gabbert. But, the lack of a stable pocket has caused him to panic more than is necessary, he’s missing some throws we’ve been accustomed to seeing him drop in tight windows over the past half-dozen years, and his frustrations are perpetuating. Beyond that, the only time the Packers offense has been in rhythm during this skid has been in the last 10 minutes against the Panthers and Lions, when failure to adequately move the ball earlier in games put them on the ropes.
But Rodgers hasn’t had much help. The offensive line has been porous. There’s no running game to speak of. None of the healthy receivers get open down the field. Consequently, opponents are daring the Packers to beat them deep, which isn’t happening. It’s profoundly difficult to move the ball down the field consistently, in 4-8 yard chunks, while the opposing defense is stifling short and intermediate routes. Jordy Nelson’s preseason injury has had a massive impact, and so has the absence of rookie receiver Ty Montgomery, who’s missed all three losses with a sprained left ankle. Justin Perillo (who our site profiled before last year’s draft) is in the process of gobbling up Richard Rodgers’ market share of targets at tight end. He’s valuable on quick routes, he’s not the fleet of foot they’d need to really stretch the field.
As the Packers offense has been out of sync, many have called for Mike McCarthy to resume playcalling duties, which were given to Tom Clements this season to allow the head coach to focus more on the broader aspects of the teams. ESPN’s Jason Wilde shared quotes from McCarthy that did not make it sound like this is a possibility in the short term, and Aaron Rodgers, who sounds alright with the schematic status quo:
Asked if he’s comfortable with the play-calling operation, Rodgers replied, “I am, yeah. I think it’s been really good. I think it’s been a good flow during the week. We’ve had good preparation, Tom’s in every meeting and there’s not a time where I say something about something I like or dislike in the plan that he’s not within earshot to hear that.” Rodgers, who set career highs for completions (35) and attempts (61) Sunday, was later asked if he thought McCarthy should get more involved. “I think the way things are going are just fine,” Rodgers replied.
Many Packers fans have also suggested bringing Joe Philbin back into the fold. Philbin’s strength was in game-planning for opponents, the Packers could give him a title as a consultant to apply an extra set of eyes to what’s ailing the offense, and he could share in the credit in the event of a turnaround. He’s available. What would be the downside? This Packers season is more than salvageable, but there’s legitimate cause for urgency with two games against the Vikings in the next three weeks.