Is Mike McCarthy a championship caliber coach? Is he getting too much of the blame? Will the outcomes in close games ever change?
Questions like these have been raised on our site and many other blogs this week in the aftermath of last Sunday’s loss in New England. While I agree mostly with what Gene and Chris have to say on the issue, I am holding my own judgment on McCarthy until after the Giants game Sunday because we will see the true character of this team and more importantly this coach then. In short, I was fuming in how the game ended in New England, but I was far more upset two weeks ago when the scored only three freaking points against the Lions in a game they needed a lot more than the one against New England.
So, until after this Sunday I want to turn my attention to the man whose job this year shouldn’t be questioned or debated by anybody and that is Ted Thompson.
I always hate using injuries as an excuse, but to ignore the Packers’ injury list this year is very hard. It has been said numerous times this year, “if you would have done me at the beginning of the year all of these players would be on IR or miss time, i.e. Rodgers and Matthews and the team would hold their own playoff fate with two games left…”. No matter how much faith you had in the this team it would be a tough sell for this to be believable.
Defensive injuries aside, the team lost two of their top four offensive players in Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant and have survived. Look at arguably the top two teams in the NFC right now in Atlanta and Philadelphia. Take away Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez from the Falcons and say LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin from the Eagles; would these teams still be where they are, let alone playoff teams?
Basically, what the Packers have done is pretty remarkable. However, it doesn’t negate their failures in close games because it is obvious that they still have enough talent, despite all the injuries, to compete and beat the game’s best.
All of that credit needs to be directed towards Thompson.
It makes it even more very frustrating to see the team drop close games with all of these guys out and that’s on the coach. Something needs to change quick because the next two games will not be blowouts. But, I don’t want to waste space on McCarthy’s flaws. Thompson deserves more recognition in constructing a team that is competing at a high level (even if it is for only 58 minutes some games) with seven opening day starters on the IR and numerous top players missing time.
Many fans ragged on Thompson for not making a move after Grant went down. Look at Marshawn Lynch’s stats in Seattle: 131 rushes, 445 yards and six touchdowns. Brandon Jackson’s stats: 165 rushes, 645 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson also has 316 receiving yards to Lynch’s 145. Enough about stats though, the fact is that Lynch hasn’t been any better than Jackson, so everyone was wrong on that front. The problem with the running game isn’t the guys the Packers have, it is playcalling. Just look at Sunday’s game on how effective a running game can be when it is a focus.
There are some obvious holes on the roster. The team desperately needs a pass rush opposite of Clay Matthews. The left guard needs a major upgrade and special teams are a mess. But, a lot of these weak areas we knew going in.
Look at the type of players who played major minutes in Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Guys like Eric Walden, Dmitri Nance, and Howard Green. Ever hear of those guys before the season? Well they will all find contracts somewhere in the NFL next year because of their time with the Packers. Even guys we did know like Charlie Peprah, John Kuhn, Sam Shields and Frank Zombo all have bright futures in the NFL because of their strong play this season. I hope Thompson finds the way to re-sign Desmond Bishop and James Jones, but they are both going to get paid handsomely this offseason by the Packers or someone else. The common denominator is that none of these players (maybe except Jones) were expected to play the roles they have the season.
Say what you want about Thompson constantly having one of the youngest rosters in the league and never making a big move in free agency, but he has built one of the deepest rosters in the league. Not a whole lot of teams could have absorbed the blow the Packers have received this year on the injury front. In the last two losses, talent cannot be blamed even with this depleted roster.
In the middle of this current mess with McCarthy and the debate on his future as Packers head coach, no one should forget about Thompson because he is the reason we are even having this debate. On many other teams McCarthy probably wouldn’t even have a shot at the playoffs right now. Thompson’s patchwork of a team that doesn’t even resemble the one that took the field in Week One is only two wins away from the postseason. Let’s just hope McCarthy doesn’t screw it up.