What’s Wrong With The Packers?

Robert Trader is a songwriter/musician, the ringmaster at Circus World, a passionate Packers fan and a friend. Whenever he stops by the Barroom to share his thoughts I’m incredibly grateful. Given there are grey skies over his green and gold team I eagerly awaited his thoughts on the Pack. After reading the following, I contacted him and said, “that’s a great, great piece. Thanks for bearing your soul.” His response, perfectly captures the mood of his essay 

I’ve been told my best songwriting comes from my heartache

With that, let me introduce to you… Robert Trader (aldo)

The Packers vaunted offense has fallen from grace right before our eyes.

The most troubling part about the Detroit game for Packers fans isn’t that they simply lost. It’s HOW they lost the game. Normally, a bad team like the Lions would have to play way above their heads to beat a Green Bay squad at home (considering it hadn’t happened in 24 years, I think that’s fair to say).

But no offense, Lions fans (“no offense” see what I did there?), that wasn’t the case at all. The Lions did what the Lions always do, which is SUCK. Matthew Stafford threw a critical interception in the red zone, they failed to convert not one, but two PATs, they let the Packers receive an onside kick, their running game was pathetic as usual, and their offense was entirely unimpressive. BUT, the Packers offense was even WORSE somehow.

Where does most of the blame go for these problems?

Why is this happening to a team that everyone thought was a Super Bowl contender just three weeks ago?

I probably don’t have all (or any) of the answers, but I’m going to delve into the mess that is my favorite football team. Crack me open a Spotted and…

Lets Do This

First of all, this has to be said: Aaron Rodgers was mediocre on Sunday. In fact, over the past six weeks he has not played up to his usual standard. Not even close.

If you would have told me prior to kickoff on Sunday that Rodgers was going to throw for 333 yards with 2 TDs, I would have probably told you that the Packers would be just fine on offense. But the number of throws it took him to get those stats is alarming; 61 attempts. I can’t remember the last time Aaron Rodgers had to throw the ball that much and was so inefficient doing it. Yes, the Packers wide receivers deserve their share of the blame for not making plays (we’ll get into that later), and yes, the refs missed a few interference calls. But ultimately, this level of inefficiency is alarming for a quarterback that is far and away the most efficient quarterback to ever play the game.

If we look more closely at Rodgers play dating back to San Francisco in week four, we see a trend. I did the math (an epic feat for me, especially while drinking) and over the last six games the Packers MVP is: Completing only 59% of his throws, averaging only 6.7 yards per attempt, and has a pedestrian passer rating of 90.2.

Week 4 - 10-3

These are all WAY below his career marks of 65.6%, 8.1YPA and 105.8 respectively. Fans out there who want to defend him will say that his receivers have dropped a fair share of balls. That’s true, but Rodgers has also missed a good number of passes that are usually routine throws for him. Some experts are saying this is happening because he doesn’t trust his protection, which leads me to my next area of concern for this offense…

OLine Sucks

Over the last six games comes an even worse showing from the offensive line. This was a unit that was touted as a top 5 offensive line going into the season, but over the last six games they have allowed pass rushers to get to their quarterback at a troubling rate. 19 sacks have occurred over this time, and 41 knock downs (those numbers would be even higher if not for Rodgers’ incredible escape-ability). Contrast that with the first three games where they allowed just three sacks and 10 knock downs. So, what the hell happened? I can only shake my head, pound down another beer, and wonder.

When we look at the O-Line in the running game it becomes clear that there are big concerns there as well, especially on the left side. Tackle David Bakhtiari could never run-block to save his life, but you’d think having an all-pro like Josh Sitton lining up next to him would help mask his deficiencies. Well, it hasn’t. The Packers have just four rushes of 10 or more yards all year when running to the left side of the field, good for third worst in the NFL. Which leads me to my next area of concern for this offense…

RBs Suck

Eddie Lacy went from being a consensus top-five fantasy draft pick to not even being the starting running back on his own team. It’s not like the guy who he lost his job to is tearing it up either. James Starks is a solid backup, but he’s just that– a back up. He’s good out of the backfield in the screen game (something I think the Packers should utilize more) but has been woeful as a runner since the Denver game, averaging just three yards per rush. If not for one 65-yard TD run against the sad-sack Chargers, his season rushing stats would be flat-out bad.

But back to Lacy. He’s either overweight, hurt, or (probably) both. This guy has pounded the rock like a beast for 1100+ yards for two straight seasons and now is a shell of himself. To my fan-trained eyes, he’s been indecisive with his first step and has lost speed. He’s a big back that needs to get his momentum going towards the running lanes. Even when his blockers are winning for him he looks passive and slow. It’s concerning because we all assumed Lacy and the running game would be effective enough for the wide receivers to get open downfield in the absence of Jordy Nelson. That hasn’t been the case, which leads me to my next area of concern for this offense…

WRs suck

More specifically, at getting open! This week, on local talk radio here in Wisconsin, I listened to former Packer pro-bowl WR Antonio Freeman bemoan the fact that the wide receivers can’t seem to create separation from the defenders. He went as far as to call out Devonte Adams specifically, saying he needs to run better routes, use his physicality to win match-ups, and not drop passes.

The trust factor is lacking now between Rodgers and his wide-outs. Perhaps that is the result of a position that’s been a revolving door due to injuries to Adams, Montgomery and now Abbrederis (who was one of the lone bright spots in the game, along with TE Justin Perillo), which could also lead to continuity issues during the week’s work of preparation. We have to remember that just a few years ago the Packers managed to get by with a much less talented player like Jarrett Boykin (now out of the NFL) getting significant time. So what’s going on? This leads me to my final point of concern for this offense…

Coaches suck

Let me amend that. MIGHT suck

Let’s look at the offensive coaching situation, and then ask ourselves a few questions.

Mike McCarthy is the offensive-minded head coach, Edgar Bennett is the offensive coordinator, and Tom Clements is the play caller/associate head coach. That’s an interesting power structure and a big change to how the Packers have traditionally operated. At the beginning of the year I had my doubts on how this coaching situation would unfold (unlike some Packers fans I’ve always held McCarthy in high regard as a play-caller), but I ultimately concluded it would be fine after the first few games when there seemed to be no issues.

Well, now I think it’s more than fair to revisit that initial concern. Are there “too many cooks in the kitchen” for this offense? Are there issues in the film room, or in the huddle, or over the headset? Does Rodgers have a good rapport with his new play caller?  Given the way the unit has performed, and based on what we’ve come to expect from a McCarthy coached team, these are all valid questions. I think it may be beneficial to go back to the way things have been with McCarthy calling the plays, and Clements simply coaching up Rodgers during the week.

Yes my Barroom friends, the Packers vaunted offense has fallen from grace, but that doesn’t mean they can’t rise again. I think all of the above issues probably deserve equal parts blame, and everyone involved in the offense needs to look in a mirror and get it together.  Thanks to a good 6-0 start the Packers still control their own destiny in regards to the division crown. However, it’s not going to be an easy road anymore or a sure thing like it once looked. Getting a huge win up in Minnesota this weekend will go a long way toward putting myself and many fans at ease. Losing? That could be devastating. I’ll be watching, hoping and drinking. We’ll see if my beloved Packers finally answer the bell.

Make sure you give Robert a twitter follow at @RobTraderSongs

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Robert Trader

Robert Trader

Robert is a life-long Packers fan. In the bar rooms of old, Robert may have been called, a troubadour, or bard. Now, most just refer to him as the "Artsy Fartsy Sports Guy," or something along those lines. Having spent the majority of his adult life working and living in the Mid-West (as an actor, singer, songwriter, and even circus ringmaster), he has been an avid follower of all the NFC North teams. Favorite alcoholic beverages include but are not limited to: Beer (stouts, ales, and IPAs among favorites), whiskey (Tullamore Dew is a favorite), Brandy Old Fashioned (sour, Korbel or bust) and on Sunday, a spicy Bloody Mary (as long as the Vodka's not cheap and gross) with a beer chaser!

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