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These Packers Are Missing an Essential Ingredient

I’ve been unable to watch a bunch of games live this season, so I’ve taken to following the live-streaming that takes place on the Acme Packing blog. They have a dozen or so established Packer pundits who submit instant written comments about what’s occurring on the field.

Here’s a sampling from Sunday’s game – all rendered before the end of the first quarter:

For the first time this season, the Packers fail to score on their opening drive. – Matt Schneidman

Packers look…flat. In the cold with no fans in the stands. – Zach Kruse

Between the wind and the penalty calls on Jack and Turner on that drive, I am prepared for this game to be among the worst of the year. – JR Radcliffe

What a sluggish start for the Packers offense and defense. – Dave Schroeder

The Packers have to find a way to jumpstart this offense immediately. The longer you allow Jacksonville to feel like they have a chance… – Dave Schroeder

#Packers at their own 4-yard line. Now would be an opportune time for them to stop hitting snooze.. – Ryan Wood

And the snooze button liveth on. – Ryan Wood

Another three-and-out for the Packers. On three possessions, the Packers have 38 yards of total offense. – Olivia Reiner

Yea… this game is shaping up to be as troublesome as I feared. – Dave Schroeder

Packers offense to start the drive at their own nine. Let’s see if they can find the juice somewhere. – Olivia Reiner

(Sarcastically) The Green Bay Packers have converted on third down. – Olivia Reiner

The belabored point? From the git-go, Green Bay came out on Sunday uninspired and unspirited – much the same as they did in their two previous losses on the year, and much the same as they did on two of their three regular-season losses in 2019. The pundits instantly recognized it; you and I recognized it; hell, all Packer Nation knew almost right from the start on Sunday that the Packers were going to struggle mightily to keep the league’s second worst team’s 7-game losing streak intact.

In a nutshell, the worse the competition, the more mentally unprepared are these Packers to play football. Houston, we have a problem. It’s one of the few challenges that second-year head coach Matt LaFleur has yet to respond well to.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole (84) is brought down by the Green Bay Packers defense in the first quarter Sunday, November 15, 2020, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

 

It’s Intense

Call it what you will, the Packers came out flat and pretty much remained that way throughout the matchup with the Jags. I’d frame it as a team-wide lack of intensity, effort, and commitment.

This is a problem that I addressed one month ago (hereKeeping the Powder Dry Sub-heading). At that time I described it as a failure to get revved up for games, to “pull out all the stops.” Here we are a month later, and we still have yet to see this team get emotionally revved up for more than a few plays.

Yes, the offense got it going with the 7-play 75-yard drive that gave them the winning margin, and the woeful defense saved the day by shutting down the Jags on their final four offensive snaps of the game. What this really illustrates, however, is how little intensity Green Bay showed when the outcome of the game wasn’t on the line.

The next game, in which the Packers are an underdog against the Colts, would be a great time for an “emotional explosion” from LaFleur’s charges.

Every player is personally responsible for his own degree of intensity. But there’s also a group dynamic in play here. There remains a lack of leadership on the current team. Especially at critical times, and in critical games, Green Bay needs to cultivate the kind of intensity and momentum that spreads around, and rubs off on, the entire squad. The Packers need to create a group effort that spreads like a wildfire in a windstorm.

 

Nov 15, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson (30) runs against Green Bay Packers defensive end Dean Lowry (94) in the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

 

Is it LaFleur’s job to create such intensity? I think so. I watched most of the Rams-Seahawks game on Sunday, which I believe featured the league’s youngest and oldest head coaches. Both teams were hyped from start to finish. Emotions were high, tackling was fierce, skirmishes were frequent, the play was fast and crisp, and players went all out, throughout. It looked like a postseason game, whereas Packers-Jags resembled a preseason affair.

I’ve praised Matt LaFleur for his many fine attributes – among them level-headedness and organization. When it comes to instilling intensity, however, these very qualities work against him and his team. Intensity implies a certain lack of control and restraint. Maybe Matt will get there in time, but I doubt he’ll ever achieve the level of intensity of a Pete Carroll or a Sean McVay. On the other hand Bill Belichick churns out high-intensity teams despite his withdrawn and undemonstrative manner.

How about a boost of intensity from some of LaFleur’s twenty or so assistant coaches? From 2009 through 2013, Green Bay’s outside linebackers coach was Kevin Greene. Both as a coach and a player, Kevin’s intensity was infectious. The Super Bowl winning 2010 team wasn’t as talented as some others, but Kevin Greene saw to it that they did not lack for intensity. I believe Kevin was last in the NFL as a coach for the Jets in 2018 – he’d be a great balance to our button-downed head coach.

As for players, the Packers have not in recent times been blessed with many guys whose intensity could light a fire among their teammates. On that 2010 team, one of the (several) catalysts was actually a spirited rookie: Clay Matthews. Since Clay’s heyday, the Pack has been short of the kind of leadership I’m talking about. For examples, Jordy Nelson didn’t, and Davante Adams doesn’t, possess such a personality.

On the other hand, Brett Favre had the ability to inspire his entire team. Going back further, Reggie White was a model of intensity for the Packers from 1993 through 1998 – it’s no accident that the Pack went to two Super Bowls, and won one, during Reggie’s time in Green Bay.

 

Green Bay Packers defensive tackle David Bakhtiari (69) blocks Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dawuane Smoot (94)) as quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) looks to pass Sunday, November 15, 2020, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

 

Aaron Rodgers is of course in the perfect position to rally the troops, but he doesn’t possess the special traits of, say, a Tom Brady or a Russell Wilson. Za’Darius Smith might be the closest we’ve got on the current roster.

Unless one or more people connected with this team emerges who can lead, inspire, or shame an otherwise pretty solid group of athletes into playing up to their full abilities, week in and week out, Packer fans will have to endure many more games like Sunday’s. As of now, the team’s intensity level seems to vary according to their opponent’s ability.

A healthy dose of pride wouldn’t hurt either. I believe that Sunday’s game was about the sixth in the brief LaFleur era in which a rookie QB gave the Packers all they could handle. That shouldn’t be happening.

Unless the Packers quickly raise their intensity level, Philip Rivers and the Colts are going to administer a drubbing on Sunday. Rivers is the veteran QB who most recently faced Green Bay on November 3 of last year. He was then with the Chargers, and the 26-11 final score doesn’t begin to tell how badly the Packers were beaten by a team who finished the year at 5-11, and in last place in their division.

Tags:
Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.

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19 Comments

  1. Ed November 18, 2020

    You are correct Sir.
    Kevin Green was the reason we won the Super Bowl.

    Reply
    1. PF4L November 19, 2020

      It’s time.

      Reply
      1. PF4L November 19, 2020

        We very well might have beat the Seahawks and went to the Super Bowl if Kevin Green was on the sideline coaching during that NFCCG.

        Greene: You need a minute?
        Mathews: Yea
        Greene: Take all the minutes you want, after the game, now get your ass back out there.

        Reply
  2. Mick November 18, 2020

    I’ve heard some time ago that the players on a team resemble the personality of it’s coach. Fiery coach; fiery players, etc. Belichick is so calm and collected on the sidelines during games. But, I’m willing to guess he is different during practice. Each and every coach and player needs to look in the mirror and determine how can I help; what can I do to inspire my teammates or team. Football, no matter how you spin it; IS AN EMOTIONAL GAME. This team needs to get with it..

    Reply
  3. PF4L November 18, 2020

    The offensive game plan started with the dink and dunk game. I don’t like it, never did, and never will like it. The Packers players don’t have the elite blocking, aren’t fast and elusive enough for that scheme to work. The Jags defense feasted on that debacle. That’s on the coaches.
    .
    As far as the players having fire…Pettine and LeFluer aren’t your guys if your looking for them to light their players asses up. They aren’t Mike Tomlin or Gregg Williams.
    So who usually motivates weak minded players who need their hands held?….Leaders on your team, we see it every week, some leader has his players around him and he’s going off like a madman, trying to fire up his team.
    Who else needs to fire the players up?
    How about…………….the players themselves? They can’t motivate themselves? Their bi monthly game checks don’t motivate them? Winning doesn’t motivate. Playing a game for a living earning sick wages doesn’t motivate them? Living a dream doesn’t motivate them?
    Did anyone ever have to…fire up Ray Lewis, Prime Time, Favre, etc?
    Granted….lackadaisical traits can work it’s way down from the top. But these are adult men. Successful people don’t need to be motivated, because they’re already self motivated.
    …………………….
    Just sayin.

    Reply
    1. Kato November 22, 2020

      Great post. If making/the ability to make a hell of a lot more money doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will

      Reply
  4. Cheese November 18, 2020

    Clay got his sack numbers and was a force in his prime but I’m not sure he was much of a leader. Greene was more of a leader to Clay than Clay was to the rest of the team. After Greene was gone I didn’t see Clay trying to rally up the defense, sans tackling Kaepernick out of bounds that one time. But I wasn’t in that locker room so what do I know. I’m just some chump who watches football on his couch.
    .
    Jordy didn’t have an over the top personality but he was definitely a leader on the team. Davante isn’t a huge personality either but he seems to be more about himself than anything. Yes, Zadarius is the closest thing they have to being a rah-rah motivator. Last year the “Smith Bros” did a good job of hyping the team up but Preston hasn’t shown up much this year, and I suppose it’s easier to be that rah-rah guy when you’re actually producing. Otherwise, that fun new energy they had last year hasn’t really shown up this season. Then again, being rah-rah doesn’t mean you’re gonna win. You still need to make plays. Mike Daniels tried to be that tough, intense leader but for some reason that didn’t work out too well. Maybe because he stopped making plays after a while too.

    Reply
    1. PF4L November 19, 2020

      Yea man….Jordy….i thought the same thing when i wrote my post. He wasn’t a rah rah guy, but nobody had to motivate him either. He just went about his business and made spectacular catches and moved the chains and scored TD’s, week after week, month after month, year after year.
      Jordy was never any drama…he didn’t bitch after a win about only getting 4 targets. Never complained about money, never threw shade at anyone.
      When you think of the top 5 stand up guys in the history of the NFL. Jordy Nelson needs to be in that conversation.
      By all accounts and and the eye test….He played for the love of the game.
      ……………………
      On and off the field….I’m not too bashful to say, Jordy Nelson sits on top of the Mountain. Always will in my eyes.
      ………………………………………………
      BTW…..Did anyone see the sack Z Smith made?
      He tapped Preston on the shoulder after the sack to get him over for a celebration. Z Man went and sat down on the field indian style. When he realized nobody was coming to celebrate with him, he put out his hands as so say…wtf, where is everyone? Then got up and ran off the field.
      It was a little funny…but i kind of felt bad for him
      ………………….
      I’ll add this Cheese, as i just read yours about Daniels. Daniels was a rah rah guy, when (he) did something good….even when…..they were losing by 20. A lot of mouth…..not enough plays. Especially when it counted, in the playoffs.

      Reply
      1. PF4L November 19, 2020

        Just to add one more thing…..one reason i’ll always have a problem with Gute.
        Besides making the wrong decision about releasing Jordy, and signing Graham.
        .
        Gute just plain and simple, did Jordy dirty, or unprofessional, or whatever you want to call it.
        Gute wasn’t the new guy in town making changes, he was here longer than Jordy, he knew what Jordy meant to this team.
        Apparently Gute offered him a slap in the face as far as a contract to stay on, which Jordy really wanted to do, stay on.
        He said he would have taken a pay cut, but i don’t think he was thinking near the veteran minimum.
        ……….
        So at the end of the day, there was no communication between Gute and Jordy. Nobody said….Jordy, what’s the least you would take to stay on board? There was NO dialogue like that. Not sure why Gute low balled him an offer that Nelson would refuse….that made no sense, other than to humiliate him.
        ……..
        That was his first move as GM. His last might be drafting Love…we’ll see.

        Reply
        1. Cheese November 19, 2020

          I agree on all points PF4L. I thought about going deeper on the Jordy topic but I’ve done it plenty of times before. That situation alone makes me thinks Gute doesn’t have a fucking clue what he’s doing. Of course you want to have hope, give him the benefit of the doubt, wait and see what changes are made in the future, etc. Now that it’s been a few years we all can see what an astronomical fuck up that was.
          .
          To get rid of your most productive (led the league in TD’s until Hundley!) and respected receiver with that slap in the face offer, all while keeping the overpaid and underwhelming Randall Cobb is ridiculous. Gute even went out of his way afterward to assure Cobb that he wasn’t going anywhere. Strange, huh? They screwed Jordy over because they thought he was getting paid too much and he was “up there” in age,” (still more productive than any of the younger WR’s mind you). Then they turn around and pay Jimmy Graham (only one year younger) out the ass and expect him to replace Jordy? With five touchdowns in two years, for $20 million?!?! Fucking laughable.
          .
          As Bakhtiari said on his twitter after this all went down, “Loyalty is in your actions, not your rhetoric.”
          .
          I’m not sure drafting Love will be Gute’s last move. Even if there’s a massive meltdown this year, I can see Gute coasting on these past two years for quite a while.

          Reply
          1. PF4L November 19, 2020

            You’re right…it won’t be his last move, because he bought himself time drafting him. But it may be the one move that defines him and ultimately does him in.
            .
            When you are one game short of a SB…when you have Aaron Rodgers..then you go and draft a QB for the future and get no starters out of the draft.
            .
            Lol…well, lets just say he better pray that Love isn’t a bust, because his career and Green Bay Legacy is riding on it.

            Reply
          2. PF4L November 19, 2020

            As far as Bakhtiari’s tweet……
            .
            To me…it has nothing to do with loyalty. It has everything to do with trying to get to a Super Bowl inside Aaron Rodgers window.
            .
            I said it after Love was drafted and i’ll say it again. Gute gave up on Rodgers, the Packer players and Packer Nation

            Reply
  5. Mick November 19, 2020

    Dink and dunk game!!!! I used to roll up into a ball, and hide in the corner; when McCarthy would pound the wide receiver screen Throwing to wide receivers with no speed and having the blockers get blown up against a 7 or 8 man box;;;;; often produced a gain or loss of 1 to 2 yards, time after time. Definition of coaching bull-headedness, and insanity. .

    Reply
  6. Howard November 19, 2020

    Many times when you hear a team’s fans or writers saying the team is flat or lacks emotion, the team, and certain players on that team were just beat by better coaching, play calls, and players. The words flat and no emotion are usually excuses for getting your ass handed to you by more physical and aggressive players opposite of you, or you have been out coached/play called.
    .
    After both the Vikings and the Jaguars games LaFleur, in part, at the post game press conference indicated the team showed no emotion and was not prepared. On the Monday press conferences LaFleur walked those statements back a bit. LaFleur is safe from being fired, but I will say it is usually the kiss of death for a coach to proclaim his team is not prepared and is playing with little emotion. Even though I think the no emotion/flat comments as excuses, I also think LaFleur is being honest in his post game statements, in fact I had the feeling that after the Jaguars game LaFleur was flat mad. So I believe in this case there is something to the no emotion/flat statements. I also think that in windy and semi-cold weather conditions at home the Packers have “showed little emotion or were flat”.
    .
    I know QB#1 and LaFleur want to see January games at home. I question that the Packers are built for cold weather games. A team that can’t stop the run, and can’t run when needed can have a hard time with inclement weather games in January. To me it is up to the offensive line/TEs, and defensive front seven to pump some energy into the team via the run games. Dominating or being efficient in the run game on both sides of the ball is the spark that brings energy to a team. If marked improvement doesn’t occur on both sides of the ball in the run game, then you will hear the words no emotion/flat as the season continues and in the first or second week in January.

    Reply
    1. PF4L November 19, 2020

      I think “flat” might be another term for “slow”. Being slow (flat) is usually caused by 2 things. You lack speed, or….players don’t play fast when they are not sure what their assignment is, if they are unsure of schemes, etc. Teams that are fast, are assignment sure and it’s instinctive, they know it, they don’t have to think (process) first, then react.
      Some in here have brought this up, but when you watch other teams players, and compare them to the Packers, don’t they just look a lot quicker?
      This is another reason why LeFleur should have been given power to hire his own guys. If Pettine is fired and we get a new Def. Coordinator, in turn we have yet another learning curve.
      BROKEN
      .
      Don’t get me wrong, i do think we have gotten quicker in some area’s, mostly in the secondary and some of our young LB’s. By and large, our front 7 as a whole is a mess.
      .
      I would watch other teams wide receivers and tight ends, against us, or against other teams over the years……and i was always thinking…why are their pass catchers getting so open all the time, but Rodgers always has to throw into tight coverage? mostly on a comeback with the player having little chance of any YAC.
      …..
      Again, this season is better in that area, but on both sides, this team has work to do, there is room to grow. How much time do we have…when does our window close?
      ………………………………
      Random…..The problem with missing on draft picks consistently, coupled with drafting for the bench (future)…..is that teams usually improve each year. If they don’t, they fall behind. Exception, a stud at 3, sometimes 4 offensive positions and a 2nd year playbook.

      Reply
  7. Mick November 19, 2020

    Good stuff Howard! Maybe this team needs to re-invent itself in future drafts and FA signings. Being an upper midwest team, considering climate, usually the team that dominates both sides of the line of scrimmage would be a priority. (in any climate really) In cold, snow and rain, you can still function fairly well in any offense. High windy conditions is a different animal in that, if you are a pass dominate team; wind reduces you to being one dimensional. One thing I like about Belichick and Saban; they realize the game is controlled at the line of scrimmage. Their teams can win in GB, TB, LA or on the moon.

    Reply
  8. Robster November 19, 2020

    When you watch our team’s press interviews, whether of the coaches or players, you’ll most often hear them talk about a lack of “energy,” which I view as a cop-out. Energy is a physical attribute, and one largely outside of one’s immediate control. I’m careful to use the term “intensity,” which designates a mental quality. Another good synonym is “effort,” and an even better one is “desire.” I think LaFleur will increasingly come to realize that he needs to play a bigger role in rallying and inspiring his players. However, I agree with PF that the players themselves, especially the team leaders, are the ones best suited to inspire not only themselves but their teammates as well. When I was watching the Seahawks/Rams game, they often had camera shots, from roof-mounted cameras, looking straight down on the players on the sidelines. Instead of sitting on the bench and lost in their own individual thoughts, the starters who were not on the field at the time tended to be more or less huddled, often face to face, and having a group conversation. I imagine they were stoking each other up on how they were going to overwhelm the opposition as soon as they got their chance to return to the field. I’d like to see the Packers do this.

    Reply
  9. Mick November 19, 2020

    Ya man; I think our coach being visually upset after the Jags game is a healthy thing. As stated above, coach seemed to have retraced a bit, but you can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube. I think coach needs to be more assertive and let everyone know when things aren’t going right. It’s a fine line between being honest and smoothing over problems when facing the media. Everyone can see thru that. As for the players, I don’t buy it, for one second; we were flat, lacked energy. I can accept loosing to a better team but, not to excuses like “we came out flat, we lacked energy”. It’s happened more than once this season alone. It’s the coaches responsibility to have the players prepped to play, the players responsibility to be motivated to play; and if they aren’t, sit their ass on the bench.

    Reply
  10. PF4L November 19, 2020

    OK…..someone besides me said it…..thank you Mick
    .
    That is something you almost never see, a player getting benched for poor play. Benching a player isn’t permanent, but it’s a valuable tool. You have to be a strong head coach or coordinator to use that tool.
    There were countless times where McCarthy should have benched players. But he wasn’t about that, word is…he wanted everyone on the team to like him.
    Who was it recently….Micheal Thomas of the Saints, he acted like he was more important than the team, being selfish or some shit, i don’t remember….but what did Sean Peyton do…..he benched his ass.
    .
    Could Antonia Brown been “woke” a long time ago with some benching? By all accounts he was out of control for years with the Steelers. Starting when he “Facebooked Live” in the Steelers locker room at the beginning of his career. He did it for cash…the flags were up long ago with him.
    .
    I could stack examples….but the point is…the head coach sets the tone….for everything. He dictates what is acceptable, and not acceptable with his players. That ranges from everyday conduct, player work ethic, practice ethic, playing standards, discipline, effort, etc. Players have ego’s and feelings, i get it. But the strong survive. i hate to say it because it’s a broken record…but if Bellichick thinks you can’t help them, or are more of a problem than an asset. You are gone. They have a way they do things and if you can’t conform to their winning formula, then have a nice day.
    NFL players need to stop being coddled like spoiled children.
    .
    This is the NFL….Men can be disciplined….Boys need baby sitters until they can learn how to act like men. No offence Cam or Dez.
    .
    Just so i’m not misunderstood…i think the majority of NFL players are stand up human beings that i respect. I just don’t have any tolerance for the me players, or man/children in the NFL.

    Reply

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