Monday, January 14, 2013
Free Head Exam: Green Bay Packers
By Kevin Seifert
After the Green Bay Packers' 45-31 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, here are three issues that merit further examination:
And here is one issue I still don't get:
- We utilized plenty of cyberspace discussing a defense that allowed 323 rushing yards, and a total of 571 offensive yards in the loss. In his understated manner, defensive back Charles Woodson made clear he thought coordinator Dom Capers should have adjusted from an approach that included some defensive-back blitzes and a good bit of man-to-man-defense -- which escalated the opportunities for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to run. It's worth noting that Woodson has made similar judgments multiple times in Capers' tenure. After Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner had a near-perfect game against the Packers in the 2009 wild-card round, Woodson said: "They were able to move the ball up and down the field the same way." In 2011, Woodson said the Packers were making a mistake by leaving linebacker Clay Matthews "stuck on a side and double teamed every time he gets upfield." Woodson chooses his spots for public criticism and is almost always right when he speaks out. Capers' slow take to schematic adjustments in the face of failure is an unfortunate hallmark of his tenure.
- There has already been plenty of discussion about the presumed departure of receiver Greg Jennings, a pending free agent. If the Packers make substantive defensive changes, you wonder if Woodson will be in their 2013 plans. He is scheduled to earn $10 million in cash and count the same against the salary cap next season, when he will turn 37. Woodson is in much better physical shape than most players would be after 15 NFL seasons, and his on-field leadership is unquestioned. But when you connect numbers like 37 years old and $10 million, it's always fair to wonder what a team might do. Under general manager Ted Thompson, the Packers have been pretty ruthless about deciding when to end the tenure of a long-time veteran. In truth, they have usually been accurate in their assessments of those players. Woodson said Saturday night that he planned to play -- somewhere -- in 2013. I don't think his status should rank high atop the Packers' list, but it will be related to any decisions coach Mike McCarthy makes about the defensive coaching staff.
- Of the issues surrounding the Packers at the moment, the one I would be worried the least about is the so-called "brain drain" of their front office. There is no doubt the Packers have lost some smart and respected executives in recent years. Most recently, director of football operations John Dorsey left to become the Kansas City Chiefs' general manager. There have also been reports that the New York Jets are interested in vice president of football administration/player finance Russ Ball for their open general manager job. In truth, it is a net positive to lose talented front office men. It means you were well-staffed to begin with an have a respected development program in place. Without embarrassing anyone, we'll just note that there are teams in this division who haven't had a single executive hired into a bigger job during the entire five-year lifespan of this blog. From the Packers' perspective, the only concern I would have is ensuring there is a strong in-house candidate for whenever Thompson retires. He turns 60 this week and is signed through 2015.
For as much discussion as the Packers' defense has generated, you have to at least wonder how different their offense will look in 2013. Jennings appears to be on the way out. Donald Driver could retire. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has reported that tight end Jermichael Finley might have worn out his welcome. (Although in the three regular-season games after that report, Finley caught 18 passes for 203 yards.) The Packers also have their annual search for a starting tailback to look forward to. Those are some significant positions and players. We'll see how thorough of a makeover the Packers are willing to provoke.