Just like that, the 2020 season is over, and the 2021 off-season work and planning begins. We now have plenty of time to dissect what went wrong in the playoffs, and I’m sure that’s a conversation that will dribble on right up to the 2021 draft, which runs from April 29 through May 1.
Right now my mind is all mixed up: should I be dwelling on the game that just concluded or on what lies ahead for the organization. I’ll try to blend in both.
I know for sure that I’m proud of what our Packers accomplished this past season. The team confounded almost everyone’s expectations, the players got better with almost each ensuing game, and they entertained us with more offensive brilliance than we’ve seen since. . .whenever we last had a dominant offense. I suppose that would be 2011, when we led the league in scoring and finished third in offensive yardage.
There’s a very good reason why Green Bay fans should not be down over Sunday’s loss: they were playing an excellent – and I’m now convinced superior – team and organization. Bruce Arians is as seasoned, wily, and gutsy as head coaches come. By winning the Brady sweepstakes, the Bucs were able in one fell swoop to transform a roster that had been ho-hum from at least 2009 through 2019. During those 11 dark years, the Bucs won 62 games and lost 114, and they never finished better than third in their division, or played a postseason game.
On the flip side, and from a macro perspective, the Bucs have enjoyed a substantial advantage over the Packers and other strong teams for over a decade now. Starting with 2014 and going forward, here are where they picked in the draft: #7 (overall), #1, #11, #19, #12, #5, and #13. In 2014 they drafted WR Mike Evans, In 2015 they picked Jameis Winston, in 2018 they got DT Vita Vea, in 2019 they got LB Devin White, and in 2020 they got T Tristan Wirfs. Fortunately for the rest of the NFL, the Bucs made terrible selections in 2016 and 2017 – except for getting Chris Godwin in round 3 in 2017.
By the way, one of my basic precepts of drafting is to use your first round choice (and second if possible) on a player who can start immediately – get full usage out of players while they are on a rookie contract. Tampa Bay does this. For example, tackle Tristan Wirfs played every offensive snap in this his first pro season.
These are the quality of players the Packers haven’t had a shot at since 2009, when B.J. Raji was chosen with the ninth overall pick. The Packers, along with a few other perennial contenders, have to try to overcome this stacked deck year after year.
Leading up to Sunday’s game, all the talk was about Tampa Bay’s inside linebackers: Devin White and Lavonte David. Both guys attained All Pro status (second-team) this season.
For once, all the talk was accurate – maybe even understated. All game long, the Packers struggled to gain yardage on the ground. It was actually worse than when the Packers got trounced by the Bucs in Week 6 – the Pack managed 4.2 yards per carry this time, but only had 13 carries for 67 yards, whereas before they gained 94 yards on 21 carries (4.5 average). On Sunday, White was a monster, as he registered 15 tackles (9 were solo) and recovered a fumble. I’d say that White was Sunday’s MVP.
Inside linebacker is arguably the position that calls for the most versatility: you’ve got to be able to fend off blockers and bring down rushers while also being able to provide pass coverage against wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs.
The Bucs have made the inside linebacker job a top priority – Devin White was a fifth overall pick in 2019 – a spot usually reserved for potential franchise quarterbacks. Devin was chosen ahead of the likes of quarterbacks Daniel Jones (#6), Josh Allen (#7), and Dwayne Haskins (#15).
Meanwhile, the Packers have for years treated the ILB positions as an afterthought. DC Mike Pettine doesn’t even believe in having two (true) ILBs on the field at the same time.
We can blame the Packers’ offensive game planners all day long, or we can accept the indisputable: the Bucs have the league’s best rushing defense – and by a goodly margin. In 2020 they gave up 1,289 rushing yards, or only 80.56 yards per game. They also completed the trifecta, by allowed a league-low 3.6 yards per carry, and the fewest rushing first downs, 78 (4.9 per game).
Yes, the Packers failed to establish a run game threat on Sunday, and that failure made it that much more difficult to have solid and steady passing production. But that’s a credit to Tampa Bay, more than a knock on Green Bay.
All week leading up to the game, the pundits, forecasters, and analysts were obsessed with looking for ways to exploit the other side’s weaknesses. While we were jabbering away, Bruce Arians and his staff apparently were focused on one Green Bay player. They eventually appeared to design their entire offensive game plan around getting receivers one-on-one against cornerback Kevin King.
It was no contest – and it was the big difference in the game. King was outmanned. He let people get deep on him, he played them soft – as he has all year. He’s too slow foot-wise, reaction-wise, and burst-wise. He’s also a crappy tackler. There’s only one reason he was out of the field on Sunday: his backups are even less athletic, less physical, and slower than he is. It will require a separate posting dedicated entirely to King to illustrate just how poorly he played – and how it came to pass that such a weak link was left unattended.
As I work on that next post, I’ll just conclude with the thought that every team has a weak link or two. Tampa Bay discovered Green Bay’s weak link, and exploited it to the max – even right up to the final two-minute mark.
With 1:46 to go, the Packers still had a slim chance to win this game: it was third and four for Tampa Bay at its own 37-yard line. What does Kevin do? He doesn’t just hold the receiver, he grabs onto his white undershirt and pulls it about two feet out from under his jersey. The refs didn’t even want to throw a flag at this juncture of the game, but King’s actions forced them to.
In the past, I said I thought that lining up off-sides was the stupidest thing a football player could do. I was wrong. Grabbing hold of and hanging onto another’s shirt tail is even dumber – not that King needed any more nasty adjectives to describe his deplorable play against the Bucs.
So, come April we’ll need to expend a high draft choice – once again – on a defensive back.
Well written, Rob.
Did you see Aaron’s after game press conference? He looked like a Dutch eco-terrorist to me. What do you think? Or like the too-old bastard son of a rich fishing tycoon who decided to go to sea to prove his manhood?
40 yards to the zone, 6 seconds on the clock and you man cover against Brody???? Thats the game, should have gone to prevent D, also Aaron Rodgers is the greatest regular season qb, thats it!!! He was given 2 late game chances by the D, and the so called MVP did nothing. Also you go for it on 4th. Stop with the good season crap, the super bowl was right there for the taking. Let’s see what Love can do.
Brody didn’t even have a very good game, but he still won…go figure. That’s a head scratcher amirite?
Brody can have 280 yards 3 TD’s 3 picks, a 73 passer rating, get sacked once and still wins a NFCCG
Rodgers can have 346 yards 3 Td’s, 1 pick, a passer rating of 101, get sacked 5 times and Packer fans insist he needs to play better for the Packers to win.
The problem…..is Rodgers
Yea, (Lets see what love can do)..let the entertainment begin :)
Kato…i saw where you requested opinions about Rodgers presser.
I thought it was very raw, too soon after the game, but that’s how it works and Rodgers knows that.
If he wanted to say it wasn’t his call to kick the field goal i guess that’s fair, but just say it once.
As far as the uncertainties of the future…..i think he speaks more freely than some other high level QB’s and i like that about him.
Rodgers knows the score…he knows he’s going to lose people, not only teammates but good friends, and we’ve seen how that’s manifested in the past.
He said he wants to see how things unfold, i think that involves looking at the whole picture and how it transpires. Including who they lose, but maybe more importantly what they do in the draft. Obviously it didn’t effect his play, but if he see’s another draft where the team isn’t making an effort to ..A) draft starter’s…B) draft help for him. I think they may or may not sense some dissension.
So basically, i think he’s going to sit and watch how it unfolds through April.
If Rodgers does stay, which i deem very probable. I don’t see him coming back for 2022 as his dead cap money is much lower.
Sometimes a change of scenery is necessary.
If they get rid of King, i see the Packers drafting a receiver and a corner early. Yes…back to trying to find a cornerback.
I maybe alone, but i still don’t think a #2 receiver has been established, i know MVS had a nice game, but those come sporadically. A #2 has to be able to run a route tree and be consistent.
The Packers would do themselves a favor in finding a solid slot receiver somewhere. I’m one of those that wished they had signed Emmanuel Sanders after Cobb left.
The other thing is whether they keep Pettine, and if not, do they go to a 4-3?
I’m not sure, but those 3 interceptions may have kept Pettine safe.
But imo, if it’s that close of a call, go with your instincts.
If nothing else…it will be entertaining as always.
Against TB, GB needed another CB and Left Tackle. With Bak out awhile, maybe they take a LT high to protect Rogers.
Yesterday on XM radio, Brett Favre commented on Rodgers presser. He said to not read too much into the remarks Rodgers made at the end of the game. It was too emotional at the time. Not only is Rodgers thinking about the changes that are coming this off season, loosing friends, teammates he is comfortable with, but also he is thinking about his own time left in the game. That’s a lot of worms in the head at one time. Also, it shows how much football and winning means to him. It’s up to the organization to do the right thing here! Will they?
I’m going to touch base briefly on the decision to kick the field goal and kick off to Tampa with 2 minutes left and hinging your only hope on the defense getting a 3 n out.
The Packers defense never forced Tampa into a 3 n out punt situation, the entire game.
They did get an interception on 3rd down in the 4th quarter, but other than that they couldn’t stop Tampa in 3 plays.
So the strategy of a field goal was ill advised.
Not only that, but lets say you go for it on 4th down, and you don’t get it. You have Tampa pinned at the 8 yard line to start their drive.
I have no doubt in my mind that in retrospect, LaFleur would go for it on 4th down given a reboot.
Couldn’t agree more!
PF4L January 20, 2021
The Packers have equaled the success of last season…credit given.
What have i been saying all season long? What?
The Packers have to PROVE it, in the PLAYOFFS.
The Packers are playing for first place for the NFC Championship
The table is set. PROVE IT….and i’ll be the first giving credit.
Lose….and its the same as the last 4 NFCCG’s. That gets you a….. nice try, and a pat on the back.
“In our business there is no second place, either you’re first, or you’re last” – Vince Lombardi
2:27 – 2:31
Huh! According to Lombardi the Packers, this year, are exactly as good as the Vikings! Very in-ter-est-ing….
Please refrain from replying to my post in the future.
It isn’t just because i lose brain cells reading your post, i have plenty to spare.
It isn’t that i don’t like you because you’re a queen fan,
That has nothing to do with it.
I just don’t like associating with registered sex offenders/child molesters.
Or them associating with me.
Thank you for understanding.
There’s that Packer classiness. Go straight to the child molestation insinuation. I guess you think child molestation is useful or amusing.
You give Packers fans a bad name.
Am i to understand..in 2 games against the Bucs…63 drop backs, all our pass rush specialist can muster is one sack from Kenny Clark? Rodgers better get his act together.
This reminds me when loudmouth soup Mike Daniels was here and in the playoffs…nobody could make a play.
What’s changed? High priced free agents?
I think Brady launched the ball instead of taking sacks on 1 or 2 of the picks he threw plus the ball that went through Redman’s hands (savage’s blitz). He also spiked the ball instead of taking a sack before the field goal TB made. So you are correct about the lack of sacks by GB — but does a “forced” pick count as a plus for the pass rush?
I think that Bak in this game would have prevented 2 or 3 sacks.He would have locked down one side, and then the TE could have helped Turner on the right side. Just makes you appreciate Bak more now.
Blake Martinez (PFF Best Addition) Grade: 75.9
” Though many second-level defenders were eaten alive by the onslaught of passing games, Martinez held his own by allowing zero touchdowns across 573 coverage snaps and 63 targets.”
A. Rodgers grade: 89.2
Kevin King grade: 31.1
Shaq Barrett grade: 83.7
JPP grade: 70.1
Aaron Rodgers played up to the standard he set for himself and was able to pick apart the Bucs secondary when given time in the pocket. The only problem was that Rodgers was put under pressure on 15 of his drop backs and was brought down for a season-high five sacks. He posted an 83.4% adjusted completion percentage and a 112.4 passer rating when he was able to throw from a clean pocket.
PFF’s highest-graded cornerback, Jaire Alexander, put up a heroic effort in the loss. He was targeted just four times in coverage and allowed zero catches with a forced incompletion and two interceptions. It did not go as well for fellow corner Kevin King, who gave up two touchdowns in the first half and allowed a 140.5 passer rating on throws into his coverage.
Jaire played coverage well but at times at the expense of doing his job as a run defender. For instance, the long Fournette TD run was on him. So he did not allow a passing TD but he did allow a TD. He cheats towards coverage at the expense of shirking the run game. He is one of the reasons the Packers under perform in run D.
The Packers had the easiest schedule in the NFL this year and Rodgers had he best pass protection of any QB. We saw in the NFC championship what happens when the Packers do not have those two giant advantages. You guys are going to need to invest a lot into ref bribes next year to have a chance at a winning record.
Excellent read on acmepackingco.com. Aaron Rodgers did indeed deserve better.
That’s a long read….
In a nutshell……
“The Packers have not only relied on Rodgers for the past decade and change, the Packers have required him to be the best player in football in every single game. The fact that he hasn’t delivered that in every game against the league’s best is not Aaron Rodgers’ fault. The fact he has had to be that player is an indictment on everyone else. He deserved better.” – By rcon14 Jan 27, 2021.
It’s nice to see when someone else…gets it.
So goes The Days of our Packers…..
The Packers may have drafted what they felt was there next franchise QB in Love. That was before Rodgers played himself to another MVP which i doubt the Packers top brass saw coming. Well….as fate would have it…….Karma won.
Rodgers now has the leverage and sits in the catbird seat sipping on some scotch and smoking a stogie.
The new train of thought on Rodgers comments after the NFCCG is that Rodgers wants his contract redone. New guaranteed money…which would tell Rodgers the team is committed to him. If they refuse, then that sends Rodgers a message from the Packers that the Jordan Love plan is still in place, and the Packers are moving on as planned, despite your MVP. This way….if they don’t redo his deal, it gives Rodgers a “real” signal. That the Packers don’t plan on having him around for 2022 and he can strategize accordingly.
The pro side for the Packers to give him a deal, is some much needed salary cap relief.
This doesn’t mean Rodgers isn’t necessarily looking for more money, but guaranteed money equals commitment, and more importantly…an answer to where his future lies.
Mike Florio on January 25, 2021
Rodgers has a cap number in excess of $37 million for 2021, but a new contract easily could reduce it. A new deal also would reflect the team’s commitment to Rodgers over the next few years, based on the guaranteed payments and the cap consequences arising from cutting or trading him.
If Rodgers officially asks for a new contract, he’ll definitely get one thing: Clarity as to where he stands. A new deal means renewed vows. No new deal means the clock will still tick toward a potential, if not inevitable, divorce.
While Rodgers may want more (especially as it relates to efforts to improve the team), one thing he wants — and deserves — is a new contract.
By Evan “Tex” [email protected] Jan 27, 2021
In 2020, the cap was $198.2 million. That number could drop as low as $175 million for 2020, a brutal and unexpected drop for a team that has relied heavily on steady increases over the last several years. A recent report from Sports Illustrated suggests that the NFL will try to keep the cap more flat over the next few years, effectively borrowing against future years’ increases to avoid a massive drop next season. However, teams still need to prepare for a worst-case scenario in case the league and NFLPA cannot come to an agreement.
So if the cap does indeed drop to about $176 million, as projected by Overthecap.com, the Packers as currently constructed project to fall about $32 million over that number based solely on current contracts on the books.
So picking Kenny King instead of Wisconsin boy All Pro TJ Watt was a bad pick? Raise your hand if you had heard of King or watched him play at all prior to the Packers picking him…Yep my hand is down too. EVERYONE except TT was so thrilled Watt was still on the board only to hear…The GB Packers have traded…..and we all turned off the TV. That day led to this loss. He sucked from day 1.
Interesting story from SI. I’m sure that most teams would be affected by a one time gouge in the salary cap. Otherwise, there are going to be a lot of talent available in FA this time around, but only a handful of teams to pursue them. It makes sense to spread the damage out over time, and even then; salary cap gurus will have their work cut out for them.