Way to go, Pete Dougherty. You cracked the code. You were able to connect those dots and you have finally come to the conclusion that many of us saw a long time ago. Well, I know I did.
The offensive line scheme and talent we've built over the last three years isn't working. Nice bit of deduction there.
You may have figured this out sooner, Pete, but we know the pro-TT stance that the Press-Gazette has taken over the last couple of years. It's not good to dis the program when Mikey V is looking over your shoulder.
Now, this isn't an all-out attack on Ted Thompson. I've gone from Ted Critic back in the days when it wasn't politically correct to be a Ted Critic and have come around to some of his approaches to the game. Heck, I've even praised him, and stand by those accolades.
But not when it comes to the offensive line. I stood up and declared when the Packers announced their switch to the ZBS and went through the 2006 draft picking up tweener players who would all "be a good fit for a zone blocking scheme" that this had failure written all over it.
And it has nothing to do with Mike Wahle or Marco Rivera. While I wasn't happy with their release, we all knew it was a foregone conclusion that they would have been let go regardless of who was the GM. It has everything to do with what happened from that point on.
And what happened? The Packers switched to a gimmicky scheme, a scheme (as Dougherty points out) that has never duplicated the success that Alex Gibbs had with it. I said YEARS ago that the ZBS not only has had little success elsewhere, but I quoted how the Falcons had to completely blow up the talent they had brought in when they gave up on it. You see, like the Packers, they brought in talent tailored to the ZBS, and then when it didn't work, they had to change the talent. Completely.
I think that Ted Thompson liked the idea of the ZBS, because it was a gimmick that he saw could allow for effective pass and run blocking without the high draft picks or free agent moves that most teams have to invest to get it. So, we drafted tweener players that fell in the draft, bragged up how versatile they were, and waited for them to develop.
But, they haven't developed, and versatility isn't all it is cracked up to be. Moving average lineman around the line doesn't make the line any better than average. There's a reason why you never dreamed of Mark Tauscher or Chad Clifton playing any other position than tackle: because they were built for that position. They weren't jacks-of-all-trades. They were masters of their positions, just as Rivera and Wahle had been before them.
But, we kept at it. We invested our high picks and free agents in other areas. We got a premier quarterback, an elite receiving corps, tons of linebackers, some veterans in the secondary, and most recently, a mammoth guy to play along the defensive front.
But after a second-rounder was spent of Daryn Colledge in 2006, the Packers have never spent better than a third round pick along the line, nor have they signed anything more than a street free agent to bolster the ranks.
Dougherty scratches his head and connects, "Hey...I don't think they even run the ZBS all the time anymore" in his article today. Um, yeah, Pete...we all caught that back in 2006, when McCarthy started running some stretch plays at the end of the season when keeping in eight blockers wasn't doing enough.
Simply stated, you don't build your talent around a scheme. You build your scheme around the talent that you have. The reason why the ZBS worked in Denver all those years was because they started with the average talent they had, and they devised the scheme to work around them.
The sad thing is, though, I am considering that MM tried to communicate this to Thompson a couple years ago, but it didn't change the urgency. Instead of drafting the tweeners that were felt could come in and start immediately in the scheme, he began investing in raw talent that dropped in the draft. Such talent may not be as dialed in to the ZBS, but it was still talent that would take time and a roll of the dice to work out. Sitton, Giacomini, Meredith, and Lang may all be big ol' bruisers with a mean streak, but they aren't ready for prime time (and some of them may never be).
The results of all this, though, are exactly what I stated years ago: if you invest in talent to fit a scheme and the scheme doesn't work, you have less-than-desirable talent for a traditional scheme. The "Wait And See" crowd (you remember them) said that we should sit back and allow them to develop, and we can trust Thompson to remedy the situation if they don't.
And yet, here we are. The offensive line is, quite simply, the Achilles Heel of what should be a pretty strong team and a potent offense. We Waited and we Saw, and what we have now is a disappointment....we have all the pieces in place around this offensive line: a young upstart quarterback, a receiving corps that is the envy of nearly every other team, a set of solid tight ends with upside, and a backfield that would be able to consistently contribute with the right guys in front of them.
And, as the line fails, the entire offense has collapsed like a deck of cards.
Well, we Waited. We Saw. Now what? Do we do what Atlanta has done and slowly rebuild our line from scratch? How long before our quarterback gets hit so hard he suffers injury? How many more years will Ryan Grant have hitting the hole and getting smacked back at the line of scrimmage twenty times a game? What a let-down when the rest of the team seemed ready to take that next step, maturing all at about the same time, just as Thompson and McCarthy planned.
And Pete has just figured this out now.
Any GM has to know that any offense starts up front. Thompson chose to ignore this wisdom as he built this offense, and now the offense is suffering for it.