Following the Packers 38-10 loss to the Tom Brady lead Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the whole NFL had their take on how good Green Bay really is. The two sides seemed to be either A.) the Packers aren’t a top 10 team and this is why they drafted Jordan Love or B.) This game was a complete fluke and has no implications. Somewhere in the middle you find a few fans who come in with some more rational takes.
The Real Issues
The truth is, this game is a worry, and it’s not because they cannot compete with anyone in the league. Instead, it’s because of the pattern of games like this fans have had to sit through under Matt Lafleur. A 19-5 overall record including playoffs is nothing to storm the offices of Mark Murphy about demanding for a change. Neither is what I have seen as our biggest issues. But it is something to keep an eye on as you move forward as a Packers fan.
The problem is the way we lose. Take away the 7 point loss to the Eagles last year-which was a coaching disaster in its own right, but a rather isolated incident. The Packers have lost by a total of 89 points in the 4 other losses. 2 of those games were to the 2019 49ers who, most everyone can agree, was a better team. While the other 2 were to the 2019 Chargers and the 2020 Buccaneers. Those teams, especially the Chargers, are/were not better than the Packers teams that they beat.
In those games, even with Aaron Rodgers, there was a sense of hopelessness much earlier in the game then there ever used to be. By “used to be” I do mean “under Mike McCarthy.” And while it was more than past his time to be replaced, something feels off about the way the Matt Lafleur-run Packers operate when things go wrong. It is not being behind that seems to rattle this team. As a matter of fact, out of their 19 wins, the Packers have begun the second half at a deficit in 6 games.
The difference I see between this team and championship winners, is how they react when things go bad.
Now “bad” can be as simple as “the offense is out of sync”, or “bad” can be a pick six and a pick taken back to inside the 5 yard line on back to back possessions. Either way, championship teams are miles more resilient when things go wrong.
For comparison’s sake, lets take the most recent Super Bowl winner, and the most recent Packers Super Bowl winning team.
The 2019 Kansas City Chiefs were, to a certain extent, a comparable teams to this year’s Packers. Explosive offenses dragging basically dead weight defenses. Although the Chiefs defense came around late in the year, their playoff performances started off poorly each game. The Chiefs were down by a total of 44 points through their three game playoff run that ended in a Super Bowl Victory.
All year long, Andy Reid was praised for his offensive wizardry while leading an extremely successful Chiefs squad. Not to say that coaching a team is ever “easy” but he did not have a whole lot of challenges until their playoff run where proved who he was as a coach and a leader of men. The resiliency and passion that a teams’ coach and leaders must display to come back in all of those games is missing with the Packers.
The 2010 Green Bay Packers started off with a 4-6 record. They won 6 straight regular season games and squeaked into the playoffs with a week 17 win over the number two seeded Chicago Bears. They won 2 playoff games convincingly and then went back to Chicago again and took down the Bears. They then went to Dallas to play a Steelers team lead by a plethora of 2 time Super Bowl winning leaders.
That did not stop Aaron Rodgers and co. from walking in there and practically dominating that game. With 16 guys on IR, it was clear that team wanted it more. Donald Driver and Charles Woodson went down in that game and it was next man up to make a play. When the tides were turning in favor of the Steelers and the Packers’ lead was shrinking, linebackers coach Kevin Greene famously took a young Clay Matthews aside and said “It is time,” Which was then followed by a forced fumble.
Where Are Our Leaders?
Where are these moments from today’s Packers? Where is the leadership when things are not going well? It is easy for Aaron Rodgers to get excited for the 50th guy on the roster making a big play when they are up big but how about showing some enthusiasm when they are down?
The Smith’s are some of the biggest characters on the whole team-with leads. Not only do their personalities and leadership seem to disappear, but also their production on the field. There is the leadership that they produce, and then there is the greats like Charles Woodson, Reggie White, or Brett Favre who’s leadership never stops.
It’s important to realize that young, first time head coaches usually are joining a losing situation where they need to lose for a while before they can start winning. As ironic as it sounds, Matt Lafluer’s lack of success in bad situations could be attributed to his lack of experience losing.
As far as the football side of this team goes, they can compete with anyone in the league but their DNA lacks the resiliency that championship teams have, and the Buccaneers game proved that. This can turn around, but this squad may need to have a few more bad losses before they learn how to truly operate in these situations.