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Hot Takes from the First Half of the Season

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Hot Takes from the First Half of the Season

As the third quarter drew to an end last night in Foxborough, the Packers were driving down the field and setting themselves up for a score that would give them a lead in the fourth quarter.  What happened next?, Aaron Jones fumbled the ball as he was approaching the red zone which flipped the momentum of the game and would propel the Patriots to a 14-0 run to end the game, giving them a 31-17 victory over the Packers.

During this roller coaster season, we all have witnessed the Green Bay Packers at their best as well as at their worst.  Week after week we have been treated to these back-breaking plays that have been holding the team back to this point in the season.  We have seen the team play toe to toe with two of the leagues best teams and still manage to find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  

As the dust settles from the first half of this season, here are just a few of the thoughts that I have taken from the Packers unbelievably frustrating 3-4-1 start.

1. This team is unbelievably snake bit:  

I know as Packer fans we are used to things never going our way, and we are used to having some wild finishes to games, but this season has literally been one roller coaster turn of luck after another.  First, the Packers are blessed by the football gods as Aaron Rodgers comes jogging out of the tunnel after it was feared that his season could be over on opening night, and leads the team to a come from behind win after trailing by 20 points in the second half.  

This incredible luck was followed by awful luck as the referees had a stretch of weeks where they called some horrific roughing the passer calls which cost the Packers a home win against the Vikings.  Presently, the Packers are marred in a stretch of games in which they cannot seem to get out of their own way.  In the last two weeks alone, they have fumbled the ball twice in key situations which have cost them an opportunity to win both of those games.  Their odd record of 3-4-1 record paints a picture of just how erratic this season has been through the halfway point.

2. Jimmy Graham's production thus far has been a bit of a Disappointment:

The Aaron Rodgers to Jimmy Graham connection has certainly not lived up to all the hype and advertisement that we heard it was going to be during the offseason and training camp.  To this point in the season, the combination has just 2 touchdowns and has not helped the Packers inconsistent red zone offense.  Often times, Aaron Rodgers will try to force feed Graham early and then go away from him throughout the game as he exploits other matchups.  

The inconsistencies of the production out of the tight end position have left the Packers searching to find a target that is a threat to stretch the field since the departure of Jermichael Finley.  Graham was supposed to be that athletic tight end who could consistently stretch the field and make the Packers offense as dynamic as it had been back in the days that Finley wore the Packer colors.

The good news is that Jimmy Graham's production has been trending upward in two of his last three games as he has had solid showings against San Fransisco and last night in New England.  The hope is that the Packers can try some slants, curls, and screens in the red zone to maximize Graham's production in the second half of the season as the fades, they have been throwing him have allowed his route running to become far too predictable.   The truth is that Graham needs to start finding the end zone more in order for the Packers offense to be more consistent.

3. Special Teams has been a Weekly Dumpster Fire:

Whether it has been JK Scott's inconsistent play, a bonehead penalty on a return, a fumble in the final two minutes of a game, or your steady kicker single-handedly leaving 13 points on the field, this special teams unit has been nothing short of horrendous at times this season.  Their sub-par grading of 55.7 is certainly backed up by the eye test of their weekly inconsistencies which has cost the Packers two games already.  

In order to turn their season around, the Packers desperately need to clean up their play on special teams so that they can start to win the field position battle and not cost themselves extra points or extra possessions throughout the course of the game.  

4. Brian Gutekunst has Major Stones:

The first year GM has shown that he will swing for the fences in the trade and free agent markets, maximize his draft capital for the future while still drafting his guy for the present season, and, that he will cut ties with any player that is a negative presence in the locker room or on the field.  Gutekunst's moto thus far has been, you are either on board, or I am throwing you overboard.  

As inconsistent play has abounded during the first eight games of the season, Mike McCarthy and his staff should be on high alert and realize that they had better be part of the solution rather than the problem or else they may be looking for work elsewhere come black Monday.

5. The Offense Should Not be this Inconsistent:

Going into the season, I really liked the Packers offense to return to its dynamic form.  I figured that with a healthy Aaron Rodgers, the addition of Jimmy Graham, and another year of experience for Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, this would be one of the most balanced and explosive offenses that the Packers have seen in some time.  I also figured that Randall Cobb would return to form, Geronimo Allison would have a breakout season and Davante Adams would put up his typical 85-90 catches and 10-12 touchdowns.  

Aside from Davante’s performance thus far, nothing has gone according to plan for the Packers offense. In fact, this group seems like one of their least potent offenses in years. The offensive unit has crippled themselves with untimely penalties, missed throws, atrocious play calling, and inconsistent play.  Right now, the Packers offense is playing like a mediocre unit that needs to get its act together fast, or this season will quickly get away from them.  

Mike McCarthy has left many scratching their heads with his play calling as well as his running back by committee approach to the rushing attack.  Although in hindsight, Aaron Jones’s fumble essentially ended any hopes of a Packer victory last night, Mike McCarthy cannot afford to bench him for the next three weeks to prove a point.  At this point, patience is waning quickly and the Packers had better come up with an explosive performance this Sunday at home against the Dolphins or things will get ugly in a hurry.  

6. Mike McCarthy is on his Last Leg in Green Bay:

Sometimes it is necessary to make a change for change’s sake, and I think that it is getting to that point with Mike McCarthy.  His message is clearly losing its effectiveness in the locker room as is evidenced by the team's inconsistent play, careless penalties, and the failure to execute the basic fundamentals.  At the end of the day, whether it is fair or not, sloppy and inconsistent play reflects on the head coach and his staff.  

I feel like at this point the issues with McCarthy go beyond play calling, message, and lack of fundamentals.  I think one of the main issues is that both sides are just beginning to get tired of each other which is why I believe that these rumors that have begun to surface about McCarthy going to the Cleveland Browns next season could actually have some truth to them.  

7. Brian Gutekunst Deserves to Have his Training Wheels Taken Off: 

Brian Gutekunst is clearly in the process of changing the culture in Green Bay with his aggressive, my way or the high way mentality.  The only problem to this point, is that he has no actual power to make decisions without consulting CEO Mark Murphy.  This new power structure is absurd since it champions factions and power struggles within the organization.  

Instead of having any kind of conviction, Mark Murphy decided to change parts of the old guard and keep others, which ultimately can never really work.  Either you clean house and get rid of every member of the old regime or you stand behind your front office.  In this case, Mark Murphy displayed poor leadership and tried to find a middle ground which clearly is not working, and maybe, just maybe, we are seeing some of the affects of an unstable leadership structure playing out on the field.  

Mark Murphy needs to take a stand and trust Brian Gutekunst with running the organization, as he has proven that he is more than capable of creating a winning culture for years to come.  

As things continue to look bleak and many futures hang in the balance, The Green Bay Packers still control the way in which this season will be remembered, as a simple winning streak coupled with consistent play will cure all of their ailments and silence their critics.  




David Michalski is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter @kilbas27dave 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (46) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Tarynfor12's picture

5. The Offense Should Not be this Inconsistent:

Sure it should...MM is still using the same the play sheet that resembles a menu that everyone has memorized.
Rodgers still tells the defense we snap the ball at 1 sec.
Rodgers loves Adams more than Danica and he said so when making the MVS catch sound...should have held on for Adams a little longer.
When the defense screams the play right before the snap.

Bearmeat's picture

You know what?

Even when you're right, you're obnoxious as hell.

Spud Rapids's picture

I think Gute can turn around this roster over the next two years... I hope they keep Pettine but I definitely think McCarthy is gone if they miss the playoffs.

Ultimately TT's last 3 drafts has handicapped this team so bad they are where they are. I think McCarthy is still a good head coach but he needs to let go of the offense and coach the team. He can't do both anymore and it shows

Lphill's picture

Jimmy Graham still should have caught that end zone pass for a TD, It went right through his hands he does not seem like much of an upgrade over Richard Rodgers at this point ,he seems slow has some drops and goes down as soon as contacted.

Kb999's picture

I think he's an upgrade, but should have caught that pass. When you play N E you can't leave points on the field. It will come back to bite you and it did. Giving Brady all day to throw didn't help either.

HankScorpio's picture

My hot take is that the offense is keeping the team from realizing their full potential, not the defense. It's not the first time in recent memory either. I had been chalking up some down years due to the injury of Nelson (2015) and Rodgers (2017). Maybe I should have put more stock in the opinion of people that pointed a little bit higher up the organizational structure (like the HC)

Lare's picture

I would suggest pointing a little higher in the organizational structure than the HC.

HankScorpio's picture

That's been addressed already

cuervo's picture

I've been on the fire MCarthy train since 2016, he's not a "bad" coach...he is the modern day Marty Schottenheimer. He can get you close but he can't ever seal the deal. Yes, I know they won a SB in 2010, but that was a streak of luck and performance that one cannot ever count on again.

If MM goes to Cleveland, I'd bet they will be a much improved team, win the division within a couple years and be in the playoffs multiple years.....just like Marty Schottenheimer...good coach, performed everywhere he went, but could never get over the hump.

Point Packer's picture

"If MM goes to Cleveland, I'd bet they will be a much improved team, win the division within a couple years and be in the playoffs multiple years.."

HAHA. LOL. That's a joke, right?

cuervo's picture

Not at all....probably would be the best for MM. I know it would be the best thing for the Packers.

Point Packer's picture

Going to the Browns is never good for anything ever. MM leaving GB would be great for GB. The idea that Mike McCarthy can turn Cleveland into a perennial playoff team is nothing short of hysterical.

GeorgiaCheesehead's picture

These guys with MM will lead the browns to the promised land LMAO what a joke -

GeorgiaCheesehead's picture


Bearmeat's picture

"Instead of having any kind of conviction, Mark Murphy decided to change parts of the old guard and keep others, which ultimately can never really work. Either you clean house and get rid of every member of the old regime or you stand behind your front office. In this case, Mark Murphy displayed poor leadership and tried to find a middle ground which clearly is not working, and maybe, just maybe, we are seeing some of the affects of an unstable leadership structure playing out on the field. "


dobber's picture

"The first year GM has shown that he will swing for the fences in the trade and free agent markets, "

I disagree: he's been a doubles-hitter, but didn't take all-in shots at high-end CBs in the FA market (most agree his shot at Fuller was a wing and a prayer that would certainly have been matched), or other high-end prizes. He's better-utilized the different facets of player acquisition than TT, and shown that he's managing this team differently from TT, but he hasn't made the huge splash.

AgrippaLII's picture

You want better Offensive Performance...draft OL's before round four...the bargain basement approach for the offensive line won't get it done!

Point Packer's picture

Hot Take: Our starting OLB combo is not only the most expensive in football, its also the least effective!

Perry and Mathews were absolute garbage last night. Thanks Ted!

Bearmeat's picture

Personally, I think that's more "fact" than "HAWT TAEK"......

D Ernie's picture

I expected Perry to go missing once he got his big contract, The year he wasnt injured much and played tough was his contract renewal year. You get da mooooony and thats all you need

EdsLaces's picture

Hot Take ...Mike Pettine is a wizard. He is keeping us in games that we have no reason to be in...

Rufus's picture

Ed, I agree somewhat, the problem Pettine has is the lack of talent he was dealt with. Not being able to pressure Brady was hard to watch.

The TKstinator's picture

Very encouraging so far.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Yeah, I don't know. My eye test tells me the D looks better. Nothing else does. GB is giving up 25.5 points/game and ranks 21st. Last year GB gave up 24 points per game and ranked 26th. We have played some good offenses this year: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 13th, 18th, 20th, 25th and 32nd ranked offenses by points scored. We held Buffalo, Chicago (hard to believe Chicago is 5th in points scored - some is defense), and the Rams (not counting Gurley deciding not to score a TD late in the game) below their season averages. It does appear just by scanning the stats that scoring is up about one point this year.

The DL and OLBs are the same. (DL seems better, OLBs are worse.) We lost a half-time ILB in Ryan. ILBs are playing worse this year. Safeties were the same for most of the current season. They were bad last year too. CBs are better this year.

We are 20th in DVOA at 1.5. Last year we finished 20th in DVOA, but with a 5.9.

dobber's picture

Chicago has scored 4 defensive TDs and leads the league in TOs forced. Offense is easy when you play with a lead and get set up on short fields. When the defense isn't forcing TOs, they struggle.

nostradanus's picture

McCarthy is a good coach, but alas his message is getting tired. Gute has to put his big boy pants on and make a choice between Aaron Rodgers & Mike McCarthy.
These two are clearly sick of each other and can no longer co-exist.

Bearmeat's picture

Mike needs to go, no doubt. But Rodgers needs to be brought under control and forced to play on schedule too.

GeorgiaCheesehead's picture

exactly what makes MM a good coach???

Rufus's picture

I get so pissed watching this team. I sit there hoping they don't screw up. Never fails they always do. Always a turn over to stop the momentum. They were out coached, outplayed in every aspect of the game. Rodgers isn't playing like a 100 million dollar man. They are not an elite team.

henry113's picture

Ruffus, relax. Life is short

Lare's picture

And Rodgers salary isn't taking a penny out of my pocket.

Kb999's picture

Jimmy Grahams production! Talking about not utilizing a major weapon. Only 2 touchdowns half way through the season!! I couldn't believe that stat, but it's true. What's up with that. Way to go M&M.

Chuck Farley's picture

Graham is old and half the speed he used to be. His days are numbered. People expected way too much. He was let go for a reason by more than one team.

Kb999's picture

Chuck, you just described half of this team. Used up.

Chuck Farley's picture

Stop with getting rid of Mike. Make him head coach, no play calling duties again. Time for him to manage the game, red flags, time outs replacements, let the o coach and d coach run their show. Get the he'll out of the way.

David Aures's picture

My hot takes so far is let McCarthy go. Also keep pettine the Def. Coordinator. Once he has pass rushers the sky's the limit.

The first half of season results in piss poor coaching by Mike and mediocre everything else. We need discipline and pass rushers bad!!!!!

ILPackerBacker's picture

All these comments and nothing about adams missing the two balls that would have changed the game. Just like the queens and lions games. A true # 1 wide out makes those tough catches which were to difficult to be labelled drops. yet adams missed 4 that would have the team 6-2. Fact. Not Rodgers, not Graham, not rookies earning trust. Adams.

Not a word about the team including adams walking around in circles after it was ruled a catch instead of heading to the line and snapping the ball.

Key things that don't exist when it is so easy to pile on Rodgers and Dix....btw that was not dix who wiffed on Josh G.....who should be playing for GB while Cobb gets a commentator job

D Ernie's picture

Insanity is sometimes framed as 'one doing the same thing over and over and each time expecting a different result'. Sounds like MM to me. Same playbook, same routes, same game plan.

Since '61's picture

Prior to the season many of us here posted that the Packers had question marks at best at OLB, pass rush, safety, CBs, and the right side of our OL. Also many of us posted that due to all the holes in the roster this team was still at least a year away. We also knew that there was not much depth behind our starters and that is proving to be true except for our young WRs and CBs.

Except for our CBs who have been excellent overall those other weaknesses have been exposed and exploited by the good teams that we have played on the road so far this season. Add to that the fact that we are playing numerous 1st and 2nd year players and we are watching a team that is making mistakes physically and mentally (stupid penalties) which are hurting the team.

On top of that we have new coaches who are implementing schemes and plays which are new to the veteran players and the younger players. Based on most of the comments I've read over the last 2-3 weeks it appears that we have not aligned our expectations for the team with the realities of the team and now we need to blame Gute, MM, Murphy(!?), and/or Rodgers for the results of the first half of the season. As I've posted here many times before, understand what we are watching. We are watching a team that is trying to develop and find out who can play and who can't.

Rodgers has been a disappointment but we don't know how hurt he really is. He has played through a knee injury and for all we know his shoulder has yet to fully recover. To me some of his throws look like his shoulder is still hurt. Also, I wonder if all the time off since early 2017 has made the game faster for him again. He is also playing behind a very shaky offensive line with the exception of Bakthiari.

Our WRs have been inconsistent at best. Cobb and Graham have been non-factors at best while Adams and MVS have played very well. Our TEs rarely make a play. the best players on our offense have been Jones and Williams, even with Jone's unfortunate fumble.

Defense, little or no pass rush. Non-Existent OLBs. Solid play from Martinez, but not game changing. Excellent play from our young CBs, especially Alexander and poor play from our safeties until last evening when Tramon made some nice plays at Safety.

Special teams have mostly hurt more than helped.

I think Gute is aware and was expecting at least some of this. He is continuing to try to improve the team even signing another Safety today. He's looking for the players who are going to be effective and stay with the team. It will probably take another season or two to come up with a roster that can play at a high level and provide Rodgers with a solid supporting cast. But he is on the right track.

Will/should MM survive? I think that depends on how the team responds during the second half of the season. As Gute said after the Rams game, "this is a performance business and if you don't perform there will be consequences." I think the same needs to apply to MM.

A new HC only means that he will be new and different. Not necessarily better or worse, just different.

For now this team needs a win against Miami and then desperately needs a win on the road against either Seattle or the Viqueens. My expectations are that this team can still come together this season for whatever that means but it is looking like it will be too late to make the playoffs. Manage your expectations and the disappointments become easier to take. Thanks, Since '61

flackcatcher's picture

Yup. Well put '61, I whole heartily agree. One note of caution. If Green Bay decides to fire McCarthy, it will be a total rebuilt from the ground up, which brings considerable risk to the football side of the operation. And McCarthy has shown his ability to bounce back after horrible seasons. Frankly, parts of this season are reminding me of the 2008, when the Packers lost most of their games on last second field goals or touchdowns. Got to believe that this season will turn out better than that.

Since '61's picture

Flak - yes a new HC means a total rebuild and we probably never reach a Super Bowl level again during Rodgers remaining career. It's really a matter of how strongly Gute feels about hiring his own HC. I believe that this season will still end better than 2008 but probably not well enough to reach the playoffs.

The Packers desperately need a win and/or some type of game changing play to pull this team together and launch a playoff run. I'm not sure that will happen. This team is in search of its leaders and playmakers. That will help this team find its identity. Thanks, Since '61

Minniman's picture

Dear Mike McCarthy,
Please go back and watch every game that Jimmy Graham played for the Saints.

While you are at it please re-watch the games that Marcedes Lewis played for the Jags.

Kind regards,

(an insignificant packers fan)

Kb999's picture

Well said

mauro539's picture

To do list for next season

1) Fire Mike McCarthy and hire a coach with creative offensive mind (I'd go with Eric Bienemy)

2) Keep Pettine

3) Sign a FA edge rusher that has potential for double digit sacks, so it wouldn't put so much pressure in an eventual first round pick (Jadeveon Clowney, DeMarcus Lawrence, Dante Fowler)

4) Restructure/trade/release Nick Perry

5) Re-sign Clay Matthews for at most 11M/2y

6) Let Randall Cobb go and give more game time for the young WR

7) Use at least the top pick in edge rusher, depending on our draft position i wouldn't mind trade up to make sure we get a stud

8) Invest in the safety position (draft and/or FA), Tramon Williams is not the long term solution and all the other safety are unproven and bad in coverage (free agent options: Tyrann Mathieu, Landon Collins, Earl Thomas, Tre Boston)

9) Invest in the OL through draft, Bulaga is getting old (not always a bad thing for an OL) and makes too much money for how often gets injured. Spriggs for now is another Ted Thompson bust and the guards are unreliable. Hopefully Cole Madison can help this unit if he ever returns

10) Although i assume the front office has high praise for Oren Burks, i’d also invest in the LB position. Ryan is in contract year and if Blake gets injured we are dangerously thin in the position (a free agent option i'd love to see in green and gold is CJ Mosley)

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

IF we lose to Miami, it is probably time to start MVS, give ESB major snaps at slot, recall Kumerow from IR, bench Cobb, call up Donnerson and any other interesting guys from the PS, give Jmon Moore some snaps if we can find some, and give these guys a taste of the NFL.

IDK, maybe the 2nd additional loss before we do this (if we lose two!).

ILPackerBacker's picture

It has been past time to do all these things for several games.

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