Rob’s Reasons for Optimism

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Mike Pettine

Mike Pettine talks with a staff member during Training Camp at Ray Nitschke Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Matthews/Green Bay Press-Gazette via USA TODAY Sports

Let’s try to get those blood pressure readings back down. Sure, change is usually accompanied by some anxiety. But too many Packers faithful are unnecessarily worried, skeptical, and even pessimistic. I’ve jotted down a few reasons why gleeful optimism should be the mood in Packerland.

Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson had become incompetent at their jobs. They weren’t getting anywhere near the most out of their players. They’re gone. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t believe their replacements are a massive improvement?

Brian Gutekunst has been solid, if not sensational, in his first year as GM. He’ll only get better. And, he believes in free agency acquisitions.

Another reason for optimism: Mike Pettine has replaced Dom Capers as the defensive coordinator. The consensus is that Pettine did a good job under trying circumstances as the new defensive coordinator. I’m pleased he’s been retained.

We can all agree that Aaron Rodgers, the franchise, has been on the descent for three or four years running. It’s almost certainly not due to the aging process, which doesn’t normally reveal itself at age 32 or 33.

Much of his regression appears to have everything to do with his frustration with the head coach – who’s now gone. I suspect that the weight of the world came off Rodgers on December 2, when Murph finally gave Mac the hook. The departure of Big Mike, in itself, should cause Aaron to rebound in 2019.

More than anything else, the Packers needed a new head coach who would revive Rodgers and the pass offense. They got him. Just a glance at his past experience should calm most fears. This is a guy who’s spent most of the last ten years being a quarterbacks coach or an offensive coordinator. He’s raised the games of Robert Griffin III, Matt Ryan, Jared Goff, and others. He’s helped RGB III become Rookie of the Year and Ryan become the league’s MVP in 2016.

I can’t think of any other conceivable head coaching candidate with a comparable record of improving passing attacks. Who better to mentor Aaron than Matt? My optimism runneth over.

I’m coming around to the point of view that very good coaching can make all the difference in the world in terms of NFL success. Just look at this season’s final four: four very good to great coaches! Very good coaches succeed, or at worst remain competitive, despite injuries and misfortunes – and seemingly even despite the composition of their rosters.

Other recent coaching changes should also reduce fans’ qualms. Sean McVay, Matt’s bosom buddy, was coach of the year in his first campaign, and two weeks ago Chicago’s Matt Nagy received the same honor. Nagy is one year older than LaFleur, and both are former quarterbacks themselves. It obviously doesn’t take several years as an NFL head coach to turn teams around or achieve fine win-loss records. It’s hard for me not to envision LaFleur having success along the lines of McVay and Nagy. Don’t worry, be happy!

Here’s the clincher. Which of the skeptics out there, and I’m including any number of national sports media among them, personally know and have intimately witnessed LaFleur’s progression up the coaching ladder? Those intimately familiar with Matt and his body of work – I think without exception – give him through-the-roof endorsements.

Coach Matt LaFleur

© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The LaFleur fan club includes those who have been coaches alongside him, the quarterbacks he has helped nurture, and the players on the teams in which he’s been a coach: Texans, Redskins, Falcons, Rams, and Titans.

I haven’t seen one negative word from the guys who know him best, have worked with him the closest, or observed him close up for one or more seasons. I put great reliance on these opinions, and little reliance on media blowhards or fans who don’t really know the guy.

I could go on, and talk about having ten draft choices, or being in a good financial position to acquire some quality free agents.

I also have a post coming out about Green Bay needing 17 different defensive backs on the roster in order to get through the onslaught of injuries in 2018. That of course was the worst defensive backfield attrition rate in the league last year. Surely it won’t repeat itself in 2019.

To sum up: a smarter GM in Brian Gutekunst, a seasoned defensive coordinator and good fit in Pettine, a more energetic and modern coach in LaFleur, and a happier and more inspired quarterback in Rodgers are reasons enough for Packers fans to think happy thoughts about the 2019 campaign.

About The Author

The old trial attorney never lost a case – he misplaced a few, but those files were found eventually. His arguments are water-tight, his logic unassailable, and his verdicts non-appealable. Resistance is futile.

20 Comments on "Rob’s Reasons for Optimism"

  1. Kato

    Ok. In this hypothetical situation, the packers have the 12th, 30th, and 44th picks in the draft. Josh Allen, the player I have been praising since early in the season and expressed my desire for the packers to draft as a bonafide franchise altering defensive player. Because I am great at recognizing college talent ;). At the time, he was expected to go in the middle of the first round. Well, now there are expectations he will be top 5, and a lot of mocks have him in the top two. It is my belief, if the packers are truly committed to winning now with Rodgers, then a move needs to be made. It will affect the ability of the packers to fill needs due to trading multiple picks, but his presence will make the defensive unit better. He is the best prospect at the position I have seen since Khalil Mack. Yes, better than Bradley Chubb and Myles Garrett. To me, a first round pick next year won’t help this team win a championship most likely. Trade your 12th overall pick, a first rounder next year, hell, add your second rounder this year if you have to. Or the 30th overall pick. You didnt want to give the picks for Mack, well you are going to have to in this case.

    • R.Duke

      Why overpay? I watched most SEC games and Allen did dominate the edge, but this club needs players. Quantity over Quality. #2 badass from the SEC is Polite. Try to secure him by 12 but he may have to move UP a couple slots for that to happen. #30 has to go to the O line/TE. The two pick I would use on Allen’s teammate Snell @ RB.
      It is apparent that you need to run the ball, elementary my Dear Packson. The #3 can go Safety or ILB. I would bag a slot WR from the veteran ranks.

      • Kato

        I don’t see the need at ILB myself. Already have Martinez, Ryan returning from injury, and Oren Burks. Offensive line depth is way more pressing.

  2. Bradley Brainard

    I see it differently- Packers have so many needs I would envision trading back with WA so they can get a QB, hence 12->15, and picking up their third rounder. There doesn’t seem to be much talent difference in the mid-first round, so getting 5 guys in the top 75 or so could really help. One guy isn’t going to put the Pack over the top. Best hope is for contention in 2020. Critical needs: 2-3 OL, 1-2 TE, slot guy, 2-3 LB/edge rush, 2 S, and maybe a PK. Yikes- I’m already hearing the fat lady singing.
    Optimism is good, but Rick Gossellin’s ratings of special teams for 2018 had the Packers dead last, that’s 32nd out of 32. McCarthy and Zook own some of that but gotta believe the players are lacking also. Has anyone said Broken?

  3. Cheese

    Lol. Don’t forget to hydrate this offseason with plenty of Kool-Aid.

    McCarthy and Ted may be gone but the king of incompetence is still in the building, Alfred E. Newman. There’s not much he can currently do to screw things up more, but the years of damage have already been done which is why this team is in the situation it’s in.

    Gutekunst hasn’t proven anything. Alexander looks promising. Other than that there’s not much to go off of. Sure, he got an extra pick in the draft next year but you also have to pick a quality player or it means nothing, and he passed on Ward to do so. Jimmy Graham is a complete flop and his contract is absurd. Keeping Cobb over Nelson is the dumbest thing he could have done. It’s almost scary to think that any GM would value Cobb over Nelson. Like, does this guy even have a fucking clue? Not to mention the complete lack of respect shown to one of your most respected players. Gute has a long way before I even consider him sensational.

    I remember hearing lots of optimism about having Pettine as the new D-coordinator. Somehow that optimism has remained after the defenses points per game has gotten worse.

    LaFleur has a lot on his plate. I wish him well but there are so many factors that come into play. One of them is having the right players, and that is on Gute to provide. Sometimes it’s hard not to think that LeFleur, like Gute, is just another one of Murphy’s neutered “yes man” puppets.

      • PF4L

        If Cheese keeps on writing highly intelligent post like that. It is going to be harder for me to keep pretending i’m the #1 commenter here.

      • Empacador

        I’m one of those guys glad that Pettine was retained. Stat wise, yeah ok the Packers didn’t fare much better defensively than they had under Capers. But the defense passed the eye test for me. There were times where the defense didn’t cave like wet paper, instead the offense/Crosby completely shit the bed.

        If McCarthy got a pass for basically thirteen years, I think it’s ok to give Pettine another shot. Not having to deal with in season trades and hopefully fewer injuries might actually allow Pettine to live up to what he has previously done as a DC/coach. Plus I like the fact that Pettine has some head coaching experience for LaFleur to lean on if needed.

        I really wish Pettine teamed up with Kevin Greene would have been possible. Maybe Woodson wants to get into coaching, and maybe Chuck Cecil would be a good guy to have back in town as some kind of defensive position coach too. Dream big or go home!

    • MJ

      Hey, the defense went from conceding a score on 40.2% to 39.7% of the opponent’s drive.
      The points per-drive stat went modestly up, from 2.13 to 2.15. However, the scoring stats increased by roughly 1.5 pts/ game leaguewise. Maybe due to some of the innovative offensive approaches (we faced two of them in NE and LAR), maybe due to the ever increasing rule-protections the offensive players get. At the same time, Capers had a Mike Daniels on his prime, while this season he didn’t produce the same while healthy. The DB rotation was ridiculous this year because of the injuries. Mathews is a shell of himself as OLB. Perry was invisible even when healthy, which almost never happened. Both of them were better in the previous 2-3 years.
      We had the crappiest OLB rotation in the league, yet somehow we were up there in sack numbers by sheer scheming.
      I say Pettine deserves another shot, as he did more than Capers with way less talent.

      BTW, a note for Jason.
      I tried posting with my cellphone and the post was killed without trial because the page ventured that “I was posting too fast”, which is ludicrous. Heck, have been barely posting these days.

  4. PF4L

    Gleeful optimism? Sensational?

    I love you man….never change.

    As i’ve said before, implementing change isn’t the end all, cure all. It’s the first step.to recovery.

    When i see improvement, tangible improvement, then and only then will i be optimistic. The days of blind optimism have come and gone. The Packers don’t hold that card right now.

    With all due respect, i’m not going to base my optimism on someone else’s “endorsement”. That and a dollar will buy me a cup of coffee.

    I’m not going to base it on how many draft picks they have, They have wasted many, many picks in recent years, including last year.

    I’m not going to base my optimism on how much money they can spend. The Packers are quite capable of pissing away that money on players who don’t perform as has been proven multiple times, including Gute’s 1st year.

    At some point….Optimism needs to be earned. For me, that point is now.

  5. PF4L

    Just to be clear, this is not an attack on Rob. We love Rob because he spends a lot of his time keeping this place afloat with articles and we hope the new guy appreciates what he’s doing also.

    So just know we are not dumping on Rob…we’re just “talkin” :)

    • Cheese

      Definitely. Kudos to Rob. Someone has to try and cheer us up during these difficult times. It’s just that my joy comes from sarcastically pointing out the blatantly obvious. I can’t pretend to have blind hope for this team anymore just because they have Aaron Rodgers and a few new staffers on the payroll. We’ve been watching this same movie for the past 8 years and it keeps getting worse. They need to gain my confidence with consistent play, not a bunch of hypotheticals. After 2014, the only confidence I have in this team is when the final buzzer has sounded.

    • MJ

      Darn right! Agree with him or not, Rob takes the time to back his assertions with stats. This is often the catalyst for a good discussion. Keep it up, man! I hope Jason keeps you around.
      (now I could say “I’m posting too fast”, let’s see what happens after I push “Post Comment”)

  6. Ash Paladium

    Packers need to draft an OLB first. They’ve passed on it every single year and it’s killed the defense. TJ Watt? Passed on Myles Jack? Passed on. Time to draft either Montez Sweat, Ed Oliver, or Jacai Polite. No more screwing around. Then draft a safety with the 30th pick. Then in the second round draft a tight end. With the remaining picks draft a receiver and offensive lineman.

  7. Deepsky

    Rodgers was the biggest reason the Packers were winning. The Packers have some talent on the team but not enough to make up for poor quarterback play.

    Rodgers has been injured 3 out of the last 6 years and is a year older, so right out the gate there’s a better than 50% chance we are going to see a backup QB again. Even if he stays healthy, Rodgers isn’t Aaron Rodgers anymore. I’m hoping Rodgers just bailed on McCarthy, if he didn’t then he’s lost it completely.

    This team has learned to lose. We are coming up to year 3 of a 10-20 year drought.

  8. PF4L

    “Even if he stays healthy, Rodgers isn’t Aaron Rodgers anymore. I’m hoping Rodgers just bailed on McCarthy, if he didn’t then he’s lost it completely.”

    That’s gold my man…pure gold :)

    So if he’s MVP next season, that’s proof he threw games to get rid of McCarthy? There could be no other reason?

    I gotta find a pen and take notes.

    Thank you.

    • Deepsky

      You did see Rodgers miss seeing wide open receivers, right? You did see him throw the ball into the ground on key third down plays with receivers wide open? You saw him holding onto the ball way too long (that’s been a few years now). You saw his reduced ability to escape a pass rush. You saw his greatly diminished ability to hit a receiver over 15 yards downfield. You saw him throw away the ball so often he set an NFL record for throwing the ball away. You saw all that right?

      What do you suppose the reasons for that are? McCarthy play calling? Bad receivers?

      I’m as much of a Rodgers fan as anyone, but something ain’t right.

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