by Mark Metzler
The Packers didn’t miss Mike McCarthy as they hammered the Atlanta Falcons, 34-20, at Lambeau Field. The game was basically over after Baushad Breeland’s 22-yard interception return of a Matt Ryan pass.
That touchdown, a pass from Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams, and two long field goals by Mason Crosby made the game 20-7 at the half.
The second half included Aaron Jones being featured. He is good, running with speed elusiveness and enough power to break tackles. Plus, he’s a good receiver out of the backfield. He’s on his way to being a star.
The game featured what will likely be a couple lasts, or near lasts, for Packers fans early in the third quarter. Rodgers connected with Randall Cobb on a 24-yard touchdown pass, and Clay Matthews came up with a sack of Ryan on the next possession. Both those fan favorites and their large contracts will probably be gone next year.
Maybe because it was what I wanted to believe, it seemed that the team was playing with more conviction, more belief. At least, it seemed like they were having fun. There hasn’t been much of that this year, and interim head coach Joe Philbin must have enjoyed that for his first game. It certainly was a week full of drama.
Associate head coach Winston Moss was fired this week for a tweet where he said that winning was all about leadership — a shot at Philbin — and then taking a shot at Rodgers.
“Find somebody that is going to hold #12 and everybody in this building to a Lombardi standard.”
Now, Moss could have been angry because he was passed over in favor of Philbin, but whether that was the case or not, his tweet brings up a big question: is a single player bigger than the team? Based on the reaction to the tweet — Moss’ firing — the answer may very well be “yes” in the case of the Packers. Should it be?
The implication of the Moss tweet is that in the Lombardi era that nothing like that would have been allowed to happen. For confirmation of that, all you need to do is look historically at the Jim Ringo and Lombardi contract negotiation story. Ringo was an all-pro center and widely considered the best at his position in the NFL. Ringo showed up with an agent for contract negotiations. Lombardi excused himself to make a phone call. When Lombardi came back into the room, he informed Ringo and the agent that Ringo had been traded to the Philadelphia Eagles.
But, this is a different time, especially in Green Bay. It wasn’t that long ago that the team decided to cut its ties with Brett Favre after he decided against retiring. Arguably, he thought Favre was bigger than the team. But the Packers — then led by McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson — didn’t think so. Now, if they didn’t have Aaron Rodgers ready to play, the outcome may have been different. Getting rid of Favre was the right thing to do.
Today, with the league’s biggest contract in hand and no equal replacement, Rodgers has leverage on the organization, and there is no way the Packers are going to control him — at least not today. So, when it comes to qualifications for the next coach, one of the most important will be how much Rodgers respects him and if Rodgers approves. It shouldn’t matter, but it does. What Moss got wrong with his tweet was the belief that a “Lombardi standard” matters in 2018. Clearly, it doesn’t. It’s about putting a winning team on the field and people in the stands. Egos rule. Integrity doesn’t matter. That’s the NFL today. For that matter, that’s what pro sports is about today.