Tuesday, November 29, 2005

LA's Crystal Ball For 2006

It is times like these, when your team has gone 2-9, that the media and fans grow rabid and demand change. With the Green Bay Packers on their way to a losing season, everyone and their brother has a theory as where to place blame, and their own personally designed “want list” that will fix the franchise and return the team to glory.

Alas, what we want and hope don’t always match up with reality. We want Brett Favre to be an efficient game manager…it’s just not going to happen. We want Mike Sherman to put down the charts and beat the opposing coach to the checkmate. It’s a rarity, especially this year. We want Ahmad Carroll to not hold, we want KGB to dominate like he should, we want Nick Barnett to take that next step, we want Robert Ferguson to play like a solid starter…and alas, it’s just not reality.

So, I shall go into my special room patterned after the French Quarter, where I keep my crystal ball, and look into the future. This isn’t some honey-coated, best-case scenario with a happy ending. This is balancing what we’d like to see happen with reality.

Let’s see…the crystal is a little foggy. Kind of like the Packer second-half gameplans…wait a minute! There we go…

January 1, 2006 – The Green Bay Packers finish their season with a home loss to the Seattle Seahawks, who need the game to clinch home-field advantage. This is the first final game of the season in five years in which there is no hope for another game after today, and the Packers play like it. An uninspired performance at home is the exclamation point on the season.

The Packers finish 3-13, and clinch the third pick in the NFL draft. This is a mixed blessing, as it seems likely that both Reggie Bush and Matt Lienart will be gone to Houston and the Saints, who will pick ahead of the Packers.

January 4, 2006 – Mike Sherman is fired as head coach of the Green Bay Packers. Now, wait a minute, don’t dog me here…I’m not a Sherman hater, I’m just reading the tea leaves here. There is simply too much criticism and too poor of a performance, especially to finish out the season. Ted Thompson, however, true to his persona, is vague in his plans for a replacement and holds no timetable for a replacement. Tom Rossley is also fired, though Jim Bates is kept on as defensive coordinator. For now.

January 11, 2004 – With little excitement in the wild card playoffs, the media runs wild on Packer News. First of all, the media is constantly speculating on whether Brett Favre will retire now that Sherman has been fired. Favre has said he will go back to his home in Mississippi to think about it, but the media is relentless, particularly those who believe Favre owes the team an answer now.

The media is also relentlessly pushing Steve Mariucci as the next head coach. Mariucci does little to discourage the media from his interest in the job, which keeps not only the team and the coach in the spotlight, but encourages even more speculation that Favre will stay if Mariucci is hired.

Thompson is still very quiet on the hiring process.

January 18, 2006 – Ted Thompson holds a press conference to address the increasing media pressure as to the coaching hiring process. He announces that he does not plan on conducting a search until some of the coaches he is targeting are out of the playoffs.

January 19, 2006 – Brett Favre arrives in Green Bay for a closed-door meeting with Ted Thompson. Speculation runs rampant.

February 2, 2006 – During Super Bowl XL week, Brett Favre announces his retirement. While professional and sincere in his press conference, Favre makes vague references to not being a part of the future of the franchise.

February 5, 2006 – Brett Favre is honored in pre-game ceremonies at Super Bowl XL, featuring the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts.

February 18, 2006 – Chris Havel writes an opinion piece for the Green Bay Press-Gazette that Brett Favre was told by Ted Thompson that he would not make any promises as to Favre’s future in Green Bay during the closed-door meeting, and that he was going to have to make a commitment to Aaron Rodgers. Havel hints that this is a ploy by Thompson to encourage Favre to retire in order to build his own team without Sherman and Favre. Criticism abounds.

Thompson announces several candidates for the coaching job, including Jim Bates, Steve Mariucci, Brad Childress, Pete Carroll, and others. However, it is clear that Bates is not being seriously considered, Mariucci isn’t being considered, and Carroll won’t be available. Thompson is coming under more and more criticism for not having a plan in place.

March, 2006 – In another somewhat expected move, Ted Thompson cuts ties to Ahman Green, clearing his way to free agency, avoiding a roster bonus. Because of his injury, there are no takers until UFA season begins after the draft.

Brad Childress is hired as Green Bay head coach, and the reaction is lukewarm, at best.

April, 2006 – Jim Bates resigns as defensive coordinator to take a position as defensive coordinator/assistant head coach for another team.

April 28, 2006 – Draft talk is reaching its peak. Talk of Either Bush or Leinart falling to #3 is gripping the fans, as many fans and media formulate plans to even trade up a spot or two to guarantee getting them.

April 29, 2006 – In a surprising move, Houston does take Reggie Bush, and the Jets offer the pick for Leinart to the highest bidder. Someone bites, and its not Ted Thompson.

To the dismay of already jilted fans, instead of taking DeAngelo Williams, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, or A.J. Hawk, Thompson trades the pick for a mid-first round pick, a second round pick, and a fifth round pick. Packerchatters.com has its highest traffic in internet history, and the recently-installed language filter crashes from overuse.

Thompson takes players not on a lot of radar screens, such as Max Jean-Giles (OG, Gerogia), Frostee Rucker (DE, USC) and Wali Lundy (RB, Virginia) with those top three picks.

With a couple more trade-downs, the Packers draft nine players in this class.

May, 2006 – Mini-camps prove to be stressful. Josh Betts, Craig Nall, and Aaron Rodgers share reps at QB in an effort to replace Brett Favre, and none impress. Brett Favre laughs while riding his tractor, and those that attacked Favre relentlessly now prepare endless excuses as to why the team is better off. Unconvincingly.

July, 2006 – Training camp starts. Aaron Kampman has been signed to a large contract. However, Grady Jackson, Ryan Longwell, William Henderson, and Bubba Franks are gone from the team, and Al Harris has joined Javon Walker in holding out. New coach Brad Childress appears in over his head, as once again, the Packers were not major players in UFA, as salary cap accelerations from Favre and Green, as well as Hunt and others are still limiting how much money can be invested.

It is pretty obvious that Thompson is looking to clear a large chunk of money for the 2007 season, and is choosing to play with a minimal amount of long-term contracts for 2006.

At this point, the crystal goes foggy again…but it is clear that the future isn’t going to be as perfect as what we hope and wish.

Ted Thompson is going to do what he believes he feels is going to make his team. This can easily be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you see things unfold.

But, let it be known…the end of a Packer era has finally come. Will the Pack be back in 2006 or 2007, or will we be looking at another 29-year drought?

The crystal doesn’t see that far. Sorry.

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