If the goal in the NFL were to almost knock off strong teams on the road but fall just short, the 2018 Green Bay Packers would be so immortal our grandchildren would be telling their grandchildren about them 100 years from now. With so many moving parts in football it’s difficult to put together a blame pie chart, but Mike McCarthy’s time must come to an end and Aaron Rodgers has not played up to the admittedly very lofty standard he’s set for himself.
[UPDATE (12/2): McCarthy has been fired; here are seven candidates for the head coach opening in Green Bay.]
If there’s a silver lining in Thursday night’s loss to the Seahawks for Packers fans like myself, it’s that the Packers did not invent a new way to beat themselves. Instead, they relied on repeating past errors. A Mason Crosby miss that later wound up being the ultimate point difference. Inexplicably abandoning the run (Aaron Jones only got five carries in the second half. WHY?!?!). Wasting timeouts, which a) made McCarthy gun-shy on a challenge he would’ve won on a Tyler Lockett bobble, and b) allowed the Seahawks to bleed out the clock a first down earlier than they should’ve had to on their final drive.
I’ve already written that this needs to be McCarthy’s final season in Green Bay — even if they have a run to get into the playoffs akin to the “run the table” year, there’s no damn way they’re advancing far enough to justify his return. He’s done a better job in his entire run in Green Bay than he’s generally given credit for — this was also true of Ted Thompson — but it’s time for a new voice. The bright side of the long term is that new GM Brian Gutekunst appears to have had a very solid first draft. The risk is that the power structure is weird, president Mark Murphy has never made a coaching hire before, and it’s unclear why anyone should have confidence in him to get it right.
And even if Murphy nails it, Aaron Rodgers’ up and down play this season has been concerning. If Rodgers remains hobbled from a knee injury sustained Week 1 against the Bears, his mind has not adjusted to his body. Whether due to age or the knee or both, he does not have the escapability that he used to but he tries to get away and gets taken down.
There are also throws Rodgers is just missing. There was a play where he had Davante Adams open 50 yards downfield. Adams was covered by linebacker Bobby Wagner, and Rodgers underthrew him. It could’ve been pass interference, but if Rodgers hits him in-stride it’s a touchdown. And then there was this play on 3rd and 2 on what was ultimately the Packers’ final drive:
In fairness, Rodgers did make some of his customary unbelievable throws against Seattle. If you look at the box score, you’d think that Rodgers had a great game: 332 yards, two touchdowns, no picks, 11.1 yards per attempt. How can you reasonably expect better than that in aggregate? Nevertheless, putting up just three points in the second half ain’t going to cut it in Seattle. When the Packers signed him to a blockbuster extension, essentially giving him extra money upfront even though he was effectively under team control for four more seasons, they were expecting more than what they’ve gotten this year.
Rodgers has had a funk like this before, extending approximately midseason in 2015 for about a calendar year into 2016, and snapped out of it. It would certainly be premature to bury him forever. But, if the next several years go as this season has gone for him, with him eating up as much of the cap as he is, the Packers will be quite mediocre.