The leadership of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has frequently been questioned over the past couple years. A number of current teammates have defended him, whereas some of these accusers happen to be former teammates.
Whenever the topic comes up, the first words out of Rodgers’ mouth are: “I’m not a rah-rah guy.” In fact, he uttered that line again after the Packers’ loss to the Colts.
“I’m not a rah-rah guy, but I’m a focused, enthusiastic player. I don’t know what the lack of juice was. I felt that over the entire sideline. We didn’t have the same kind of encouragement we had the last two weeks. We have to look deep in the mirror. That’s not acceptable.”
I congratulate the Packers’ acknowledged leader – shortly following the loss – for pointing out a major reason for the unhappy outcome. I think it was an honest and accurate observation.
My question is: if he recognized the problem from the start, what did he – or anyone else connected to the team – do to try to correct it? Was anyone trying to instill some energy and enthusiasm into the players? Was anyone going around during warmups or on the sidelines during the game trying to juice the team up?
Do the Packers even have any rah-rah guys on this team, whether on offense, defense or special teams? Jordy Nelson doesn’t fit the part. Clay Matthews has been a leader of sorts for the defense, but I wouldn’t describe him as a rah-rah guy. Mike Daniels is probably the closest the Packers have to a rah-rah guy on the defense. I believe that last year Chris Banjo assumed the role of rah-rah guy on the special teams units and did a great job, but now he’s gone.
If not a player, what about the coaching staff? A number of NFL teams have coaches who are rah-rah guys. In Seattle, head coach Pete Carroll is that guy. Former Packers’ assistant coach Jon Gruden (1992-94) was another one. We know Mike McCarthy isn’t right for the task, but what about the assistants? The Packers have eight offensive coaches, eight defensive coaches, two special teams coaches and four strength and conditioning coaches.
These guys are out on the field during warmups for hours before the game, they’re in the locker room during halftime and most of them roam the sideline throughout the game. Shouldn’t it be a function of every coach to make sure players are energized? It must have been obvious to many of them that the team was flat even before the Colts scored 13 seconds into the game. Did any of these guys try to fire up the players before or during the game?
Ultimately, it’s the head coach’s responsibility to have his team ready to play. Was McCarthy even aware of the team’s lack of energy? This is one reason why McCarthy tried to give up play-calling last year – to get his nose out of the play sheet and have more awareness of everything going on around him.
The Packers have been one of the league’s lowest-energy teams throughout McCarthy’s tenure. McCarthy doesn’t have to be like Pete Carroll, but he needs to assure that someone is handling this function.
If the Packers don’t have a suitable person, they should hire one. And make each player accountable – by giving the Juice Coach authority to bench anyone who doesn’t show up at the stadium energized and ready to play to win.