Sunday, November 8, 2009

Packers vs Vikings, Part Deux

It took me a while to write this post.  Partly, my delay was due to multiple family events this week and a business trip to New York, but mostly it was because I needed some distance from last week’s game.  Talking about the weaknesses that cost the Packers that game is beyond beating a dead horse at this point – it’s dismembering the horse, pounding it into a fleshy pulp, and grinding the remaining bone fragments in a mortar.

I can’t really keep doing my “three observations” since it’s the same things week after week.  1) Sacks – six of them last week, 31 on the season, more than any other team.  2) Inability to run – no commitment to the run whatsoever (only 14 attempts by backs), 3.0 yards per carry for Grant, and Rodgers outgaining Grant nearly 2:1 in rush yards.   3) Penalties – 6 for 45 yards against the Vikings (including the critical head butt personal foul that turned a field goal into a touchdown), and 57 penalties on the season (second only to the Bills in the NFL).

Obviously, the coaching staff and management in Green Bay knows that these things are a problem.  Anyone who even remotely follows the NFL knows they’re a problem.  What’s discouraging as a Packers fan is that the organization seems to be completely unable to do anything to fix them.  Clifton and Tauscher will be back this week, but I’m not optimistic it will solve anything.  We may not see it against Tampa, but most of the remaining teams on the schedule are too good not to exploit these weaknesses.  The Vikings certainly did.  And as much as it pains me to say it, they are simply a better team this year.

I still believe the Packers are a playoff contender, but any chance of taking the NFC North title pretty much disappeared last Sunday.  Barring a complete Vikings meltdown, it’s almost impossible to see how Green Bay gets back in the running.  A couple weeks ago, when I made my picks for the remainder of the season, it looked like the Eagles and Cardinals would be marginal.  But those teams seem to be gaining momentum, which will make the wild card race a bigger challenge.

But after last week and the likelihood the Vikings will win the division and possibly the NFC, I think the question on most Packers fans’ minds is “would we be better off with Favre?”  To that, I still say, emphatically, no.

First, Aaron Rodgers is an elite quarterback.  He is the number one quarterback in the NFL – both in the real league with a 110.4 QB rating, and in the fantasy league with 157 fantasy points by my league’s scoring system.  On the season, he’s thrown 14 TDs to only 2 interceptions (#6 and #3 in the league respectively in those categories).  He’s averaging 284 yards per game (#7 in the league) and has a 65.3% completion percentage (#11 in the league).  Favre, with a 106 QB rating, is having a great season too.  But Rodgers is having a better season.  The most common knocks on Rodgers are:
  1. “He can’t win the big game” – Need I dig out Favre’s stats in “big games” both early in his career (remember the Cowboys) and later in his career (costing us playoff games his last several years in Green Bay).
  2. “He holds on to the ball too long” – I’d gladly take sacks instead of interceptions.  Rodgers has only thrown two on the season.
  3. “He doesn’t start games well” – a relatively new criticism by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal’s Greg Bedard, which places all the Packer’s start-of-game and start-of-half execution woes on Rodgers.
These criticisms are crap -- particularly for a player who has only started 23 games.  Rodgers is playing at a level well beyond his game experience.  Given time, I fully expect him to prove these doubts ill-founded.

Second, who would you rather have???  There’s really only two possible answers to this question: Favre or somebody else we could have drafted.  In terms of other young QBs, there’s nobody better.  Rodgers was the 24th pick in the first round of the NFL 2005 draft.  The only QB to be drafted ahead of him (#1 overall) was Alex Smith to the 49ers – who only recently got back his starting job and is pretty widely regarded as a bust out here. Players at the QB position the Packers passed on that year include:
  • Jason Campbell, Redskins
  • Charlie Frye, Browns
  • Andrew Walter, Raiders
  • David Greene, Seahawks
  • Kyle Orton, Bears/Broncos
  • Stefan LeFors, Panthers
  • Dan Orlovsky, Detroit Lions
  • Adrian McPherson, Saints
  • Derek Anderson, Ravens
  • Matt Cassel, Patriots
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick, Rams
Pretty clear we got the best of that lot.

So what about the drafts in the intervening years?  Here are your choices:
  • 2006 -- Vince Young, Titans; Matt Leinart, Cardinals; Jay Cutler, Broncos/Bears; Tarvaris Jackson, Vikings
  • 2007 -- JaMarcus Russell, Raiders; Brady Quinn, Browns; Trent Edwards, Bills
  • 2008 -- Matt Ryan, Falcons; Joe Flacco, Ravens
  • 2009 -- Matthew Stafford, Lions; Mark Sanchez, Jets; Josh Freeman, Buccaneers; Pat White, Dolphins
Lots of complete busts in there (Russell, Quinn, Young, Jackson), a couple promising players (Ryan and Flacco), but nobody I’d even come close to taking ahead of Rodgers.  You really need to go back to the 2004 draft , which included Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Matt Schaub, to find anyone at Rodgers’ level.  But I’d still rather take Rodgers ahead of all those guys.

So what about Favre?  Would he have vanquished his own post-season demons and gotten us to the promised land the last two seasons?  Personally, I can’t see how.  With such horrible pass protection and lack of a running game, I think we would have seen the “same Favre” we lived with for most of his last four seasons in green and gold – pressing too much, making too many mistakes, throwing too many interceptions, and costing us too many games with is “gun-slinging” style.  Favre is good enough to be great with the solid offensive line, elite running back, and talented young receivers he has in Minnesota.  But with the Packers (and 90% of the other teams in the league for that matter), he’d be no better than average.

Third, we are in this for the long-run.  What Favre, his ego, and most Packers fans have never seemed to understand is it’s not about who is the better quarterback for one game, or even one season.  To be a successful organization, a team needs a quarterback that can lead them for a decade or more.  These guys are really rare, but, with stability and leadership in the front office and coaching staff, a “franchise quarterback” is the essential piece of the puzzle for winning games.  You call him that because he is the person around whom you build your franchise.

We have that with Rodgers.  A young quarterback who is improving every week.  An elite player who will form the foundation of the organization for years to come.  A difference maker, who may not win a championship in his first or second year as a starter, but who will win more games and go further in the post-season over a 10-year span than most teams in the league.  Whether it was drafting genius or pure luck is irrelevant.  The fact is, we have that guy on our roster, and there simply was no other choice for Thompson, McCarthy and the rest of the organization but to ride that horse.

Favre will retire.  He is 40.  As improbable as his current level of play is, continuing it for more than a year or two further is nothing short of impossible.  It won’t happen.  And any fan who acknowledges he is not invincible must accept that the Packers are a better organization with Rodgers.  This season looks like it will end painfully for us, but, over the next 3 to 5 to 10 years, I’ll take our situation over the Vikings’ situation any day.


  1. Elite QB couldn't beat the winless Bucs? Josh Freeman first win against that great new 3-4 scheme?

    I didn't see the game, but seeing the score I am happy to not have wasted my time. I'll start watching again when Thompson and McCarthy are gone.

  2. Still a playoff team? Nope. Even if they made it there what is the point? Are they going to win a game? After yesterday I don't think so.

    Can you really call Rogers an elite QB when he holds the ball for sooooo long? The line is horrible, but that is more the reason that he should be making quick reads and then pulling the trigger. He is either so scared that he can't make reads or maybe that is his weakness -- reading defenses. Either way he is responsible for some of these sacks by not getting rid of the ball.

    Larry Johnson is available? Think we could use a running back? Which coach should we pursue? Holmgren? Gruden? Cower? Others?

    I vote for Gruden -- I like that he has some balls and will push back. Since Thompson doesn't have anyone pushing him from above I guess a strong coach would maybe help. I am sure Thompson will hold on to his yes boy unfortunately.

    No optmism in Lambeau these days. They are a mediocre to bad team.

  3. You can't bitch about Rodgers (by the way, it's with a "d" -- if you're going to trash the guy, at least spell his name correctly) without offering an alternative. Who would you rather have? Do you really think Favre would be performing better with no o-line and no running game???

  4. Ah yes I can bitch. D or no D he isn't an elite QB yet. He might have some good stats, but to be elite don't you need to at least have a winning record or are just stats enough?

    I do not blame ARod for the current state of GB Football -- I just don't hail him as great when he has a record of 10-14 & seems to have a very slow clock on when to get rid of the ball.

    By the way having been forced to absorb a lot of Cowboy koolaid he will be lucky to get out of next weeks game. Take a look at Ware, Ratliff et al. Their defensive front is scary and deadly if you have the GB O-line.

    Gruden, Gruden, Gruden, Gruden!