Cheeseheads I have spoken with since last weekend's loss to the Eagles have expressed outrage and frustration over the stupid loss last week. The Packers had a better team than the Eagles this year and thus the frustration flows over. So it was no surprise to me, and probably of some relief to a good many Cheeseheads, that Mike Sherman acted quickly and fired defensive coordinator Ed Donatell this past week. A pound of flesh was called for in Cheesehead Land and this is how it was delivered.
I don't have an issue with Donatell's dismissal although I think the offensive coordinator's head could have easily taken his place on the chopping block. Donatell's lackluster defenses the last couple years cost him his job. This past year Cheeseheads witnessed the Eagles run a game-winning drive at the end of the Monday night game, the pathetic outing against the Lions on Thanksgiving, and the 4th and 26 pass play last week. Those are examples of why the Pack needed to make changes to upgrade their defense. It might have been much worse this year had the Packers' front office not picked up significant in-season defensive help from Grady Jackson, Michael Hawthorne and Larry Smith.
So"¦ a change was in order and Mike Sherman deserves credit for his recognition and quick response. More changes will be forthcoming this off season. Look for defensive linemen Joe Johnson and Jamal Reynolds to be long gone next season. Both have been major disappointments and embarrassments to Packer management"¦. Johnson an extremely expensive and unproductive free agent and Reynolds a total bust of a high draft pick. Gilbert Brown's career as a Packer also likely has come to an end, although, unlike the aforementioned, Gilbert was a heck of a green and gold warrior in his day.
Whomever Sherman chooses as the Packers' next defensive coordinator has decent, although thin, talent to work with next season; notably Nick Barnett, Mike McKenzie, Darren Sharper, Na'il Diggs and Grady Jackson. 2003 underachievers Cletidus Hunt and KGB might benefit from a defensive scheme that captures their abilities in a different mode than what Donatell came up with. The Packers are also likely to use some high draft picks in the April draft on defensive help. Change is always a risk, but the Packers need a dominant defense to win another Super Bowl and they were not headed in that direction under Donatell's leadership.
The bloodletting in Packer management is over for now and soon the task will be to assemble an improved team for next year. The April draft is always of great intrigue and this year will be no exception. The Packers defense needs a couple more players with the aggressive demeanor of 2003 rookie Nick Barnett. Hope springs eternal in the land of the Cheeseheads and so we go forward, even with the bitter memory of the loss to the Eagles fresh in mind.
As the 2003 season wraps up, many thanks to the readers for their comments and support for The Packer Partisan. It has been a hoot. On to the 2004 season"¦