by Dave DeLano
The dismal 2017 football season is over for the Green Bay Packers. The Detroit Lions finished off the beleaguered Packers in the season finale by a score of 35-11. In retrospect the Packers’ 2017 season was all but over in mid-October when Aaron Rodgers was slammed to the turf and suffered a broken collarbone. The Packers were never able to overcome that obstacle, but it also unmasked weaknesses that now need to be addressed. The loss leaves the Packers with a 7-9 record, the first time since 2008 that they have finished with a losing record.
The Lions game started out well for the Packers as they pulled off a surprise onside opening kickoff that was successfully recovered. Unfortunately for the Packers that play was the highlight of their game. After taking a brief lead with a field goal, the Packers started making mistakes on top of mistakes. The Lions quickly put up 20 unanswered points and took a 20-3 lead at halftime.
The miscues got even worse in the second half as the Lions scored on a 71-yard pass play. The Packer defense has had real problems for some time surrendering way too many big plays. In this game long passes of 56, 54 and this one for 71 yards all but sealed the Packers’ fate.
Brett Hundley had another bad day at the office. He contributed to three of the four turnovers the Packers committed, but he wasn’t responsible for the six dropped passes that plagued this mistake-prone team. The offensive line didn’t perform very well either nor did the special teams, who botched a punt return attempt into a turnover. The Packers did manage to score a touchdown in garbage time, which was one more touchdown than they scored last week. In all, it was a disastrous performance. True that many of the Packers’ playmakers didn’t play in this game, but only a couple of the young replacements seized their opportunity to step up and make plays.
Despite all the negativity that is associated with sloppy football, injuries by the score and losing football games, there may be a silver lining within this great cloud. On New Year’s Day unofficial reports began trickling out of Green Bay that, at long last, Packer management had dismissed 67-year old Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers and two of his defensive position coaches. The reports further implied that soon-to-be 65-year old Ted Thompson will be stepping down as Packer general manager to take a consulting position within the organization.
Unfortunately, the Packers’ recent defensive strategies have become too predictable and stale. There is a long list (much too long to detail here) of performance-related reasons that scream for change. Defensive scheme, player preparedness issues, talent levels and matching player skills with defensive scheme have all become subjects of discussion for years. Methinks these personnel changes are overdue and will prove beneficial to the organization in the long term.
No doubt much thought has been given by President Mark Murphy and Head Coach Mike McCarthy leading up to these moves, including who to bring in to interview and eventually hire for these important positions. There likely will be both internal and external candidates. Two logical internal candidates for the GM job would be Eliot Wolf, director – football operations; and Brian Gutekunst, director of player personnel. Both of these guys have been seemingly grooming to be Thompson’s successor for years. Many other names will surface this week and I expect decisions will also come quickly. It will be a very interesting next couple weeks at 1265 Lombardi Avenue.