The Green Bay Packers weren’t just defeated by the Dallas Cowboys Sunday at Lambeau Field, they were humiliated by them.
The problems went beyond Aaron Rodgers. But his issues have been going on for well over a year now and if the Packers are going to be a contender, let alone a playoff team, he needs to be fixed — now.
I am not going to go into a deep statistical breakdown of Rodgers’ play. I did that here following the Vikings game and Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel did so Sunday, before the Dallas debacle.
In that article, McGinn said that Rodgers was no longer an elite quarterback. And sadly, he’s exactly right. Rodgers has been astonishingly average for the last 16 games and it’s a trend that can no longer be ignored.
Sometimes great players struggle. Remember, it wasn’t long ago (2014) that following a loss, critics were calling for the head of Tom Brady after that Monday night game against the Chiefs.
Many stuck a fork in Brady — like some will do this week with Rodgers. All Brady did that season, was lead New England to its fourth Super Bowl Championship.
People were too quick to write off Brady and while Rodgers is about to get written off as well, let’s remember, two years ago he was the league MVP.
The guy can still throw the football with the best of them. He’s fairly young (32), he’s smart and athletic. He can turn it around — the first step, is recognizing there’s a problem.
For too long, it seemed that Mike McCarthy and Rodgers just swept his issues under the rug. McCarthy even got chippy with local media last week as they questioned the offense.
Well, after yesterday’s game, where at times, it seemed like Rodgers couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn, the Packers can no longer deny the problem. Now, it’s time to fix it.
Here are three reasons how:
1 — Get back to fundamentals —
After being in the NFL for 11 years, Rodgers certainly believes he knows it all when it comes to fundamentals. But over the years, he has gotten sloppier and sloppier.
As McGinn correctly pointed out, Rodgers rarely has his feet set when he throws and rarely steps into them anymore. For so long, he was so good at throwing from any angle or any spot. That’s because he practiced weird throws and angles so much.
But at some point, you wonder if he forgot the everyday fundamentals that made him so great. He used to be a total technician when it came to throwing the football. His mechanics were flawless, but that’s no longer the case.
Therefore, it’s up to McCarthy to reign that in. He needs to coach his quarterback and he needs to bring in the leash. Rodgers deserved the freedom and leeway to do what he wanted before, but no longer.
McCarthy needs to get him focused on improving his footwork and getting back to simple mechanics of throwing the ball. Rodgers isn’t doing those things right now and it shows.
2 — Get back to a true west coast offense —
At his press conference following the loss, McCarthy talked about the west-coast offense and how it’s supposed to showcase the quarterback.
Well, right now, it’s not working. And a big reason why, is that McCarthy has abandoned a lot of the principles.
Here’s a passage from McGinn’s article:
One NFC personnel man has said several times that the Packers’ receivers don’t run routes in the classic sense of the word. The talent at wide receiver is more than adequate, according to several scouts, but McCarthy’s staple remains isolation routes instead of using bunches, rubs and other creative devices to give receivers easier releases into the secondary.
When you read it, his words ring true. You rarely see crossing routes or seemingly anything over the middle of the field. It’s gotten down-right weird.
I remember when McCarthy first came to the team. He mastered mixing personnel and the short-passing game. Run-after-the-catch was the mantra — now the slants, the quick outs and all the easy throws seem to be missing.
Those staples of the west-coast offense need to return. Rodgers needs to get rid of the ball quickly and the Packers need to put their receivers in a position, where they can run after the catch.
McCarthy’s obsession with the no-huddle is part to blame. He got so obsessed with tempo, that he forgot the basic fundamentals of the offense. Defenses have figured it out and McCarthy needs to adjust and as he said, make his quarterbacks success his top priority.
3 — Forget the hard count —
The hard count has been effective for Rodgers, but he tries it too much. And as McGinn pointed out, the Packers haven’t completed a pass after a defender jumped offside since last season.
Yet, on every play, Rodgers is trying to get them to jump so he get’s a free play. Sure, it’s great once in a while and he should absolutely try to catch defenses subbing and with 12 men on the field.
But it seems often times, he’s focused more on trying to get defenders to jump, then actually reading the defense. He’s also taking the team out of its rhythm by waiting until the final second to snap the ball on almost every play.
If I was McCarthy, I’d make it a point, to put less emphasis on it. Yes, try it every so often, but not every down. Read the defense, make quick decisions and throw the ball accurately.
That’s really all Rodgers needs to do. It’s not rocket science and he has more than enough physical talent to do it. His skills haven’t eroded, look at the sideline throw he made to Jordy Nelson on the Packers’ only touchdown drive.
That throw was a bullet — a strike. It showed that Rodgers still has greatness in him. He just needs to get back to the basics and it will be up to McCarthy to make sure that happens.
For over a year now, McCarthy and Rodgers have failed at their jobs. It’s harsh, but true.
Now, it’s crunch time — the season is on the brink — and the only way things will be fixed, is by McCarthy and Rodgers seeing there’s a problem and working together to find solutions.
If they don’t, their jobs, which not long ago seemed among the most secure in the NFL, may not be so secure anymore.