I'm in shock after yesterday's loss to the Buccaneers. The previously winless Buccaneers, who couldn't score more than 21 points in a game prior to facing the Packers. The Bucs who turned to a rookie quarterback to make his first start. I'm shocked.
But not surprised.
I'm disappointed. I saw the Packers squander opportunity after opportunity. I saw our best players look like they didn't know how to counter the efforts of a desperate team making desperate plays. I saw an offensive line that played servicably through most of the game collapse like a house of cards when it mattered most. I was devastated.
But not surprised.
I'm angry. How could the Packers have sunk to this low point, after teasing us with a 13-3 season two years ago? And, other than changing the quarterback, adding to the cast since then, rather than having any other major subtractions? How can our line be so bad, our pass rush so inept, our playcalling so uneven, our special teams so awful? I'm ticked.
But not surprised.
No, I was surprised in 2007, when the Packers had a dream season, nearly making the Super Bowl. For a team that was building through the draft, it seemed unlikely to have it all come together so quickly. In retrospect, it sure seems like that one winning season out of Ted Thompson's four-and-a-half was the aberration to what appears to be the rule in Packertown today.
For all the potshots that have been volleyed over the last couple of seasons, I am here to define to you today what a REAL PACKER FAN is. It is NOT being a fan of certain players. It is also NOT defining the team as the head coach or the general manager, either.
Being a REAL PACKER FAN is about caring for your team above all, above any player, any coach, any GM. If that player/coach/GM is helping your team, he's great. If he isn't, he's a toxin that needs to be removed, like an ugly wart or mole from your skin.
Because, in the end, every piece of this team is transitory, sooner or later. Every person who celebrated the departures of Mike Sherman and Brett Favre is now seeing the men they glorified right on the same path out of town. Funny how what comes around, goes around, isn't it? But, there's always enough pitchforks and torches for everyone.
I was actually reviewing some of my posts from 2006 over in the archives at PackerChatters, and was amused at some of my musings all those years ago. So many of my words that I published back then are being recited today, I'm considering filing a plagiarism complaint.
* I expressed discontent at how, despite his claims that the Packers were "trying to win now" in 2005, Mike Sherman became an expensive scapegoat for what was clearly a cap-clearing year. A few years later, Mike McCarthy pulled a mass execution of his defensive and special teams coaches following a late-season collapse.
* I expressed concern that we kept so much cap money unspent in the offseason and early parts of the season that might have been used for free agents or trades options.
* I expressed how just because Mike Sherman traded up unsuccessfully in the draft did not automatically mean trading back was a guaranteed success. In fact, I often cited "quantity over quality" would leave the Packers with a mediocre talent base in the future.
* I expressed little vitriol in the release of established Sherman veterans, but ruminated many times over the lack of an apparent plan to replace them. Trust me, Klemm and Whittaker were not upgrades over Wahle and Rivera. I certainly understood the way the business works, and that losses in free agency are expected, but there was seemingly no plan in place to at least compensate, other than street free agents and late-round draft picks.
But the whole Thompson/McCarthy regime had a certain glimmer to it with many fans who celebrated the ouster of Sherman. I joked at the time that by simply firing Sherman, there were fans ready to bronze another statue outside the Atrium of ol' White Top. Took some flack for that too, but most of those folks have now gone pretty quiet or changed their tune.
There was a point of realization I had before the game, that despite drafting ten offensive linemen in five drafts, the Packers were starting three holdovers from the Sherman regime this Sunday (Wells, Tauscher, and Clifton).
Mike "McPadLevel" McCarthy is getting the most heat following this loss, and much of it deservedly so. But equal criticism should be leveled at the man who hired him and bought into his scheme changes as he pursued personnel, Ted Thompson. Certainly, McCarthy's press conference excuses and explanations have eroded from coachspeak to repeating vague errors to some borderline self-deception (my favorite from the PC today: "I'm very confident in the issues that we've had in pass protection, that they are correctable." You're confident that the issues exist?).
And, as I've mentioned several times in the past few weeks, the Packers are suffering from "antergy", the opposite of synergy. As the good players get weighted down by the ineffectiveness of the team, the end result is a team that is worse than it looks on paper. Right now, the Packers are not even equal to the sum of its parts. And that falls squarely on the head of the head coach, who axed a lot of assistants at the end of last season in what is looking more and more as a scapegoating move.
But like any leadership, it starts at the top, and Ted Thompson has the responsibility of giving the chef (McCarthy) the quality ingredients he needs to turn this team into a decent meal. And, as McCarthy has devolved from being so gruff and ornery his first couple of years to the more passive sidestepper of the issues, you have to believe he is taking on Thompson's leadership style.
And face it: Thompson has invested only one draft pick in the first two rounds on an offensive lineman, and that was for a guard. The majority of "competition" along the line has been with mid-level draft choices, which explains why we just can't seem to shake the aging players left over from the last regime.
The Vikings have done more than defeat us twice this season. They have stuck a silencer on all the people who claimed that free agency won't buy you success. I have no idea if the Vikings will go far in the playoffs, but I can guarantee you one thing: they will go a lot farther than the Packers will. Just like trading up or trading down in the draft, the success of free agency is picking the right guy at the right time (for the right price). Avoiding any of them at all costs simply costs your team opportunities to improve itself.
When the Packers bid farewell to Brett Favre two summers ago, the team was squarely placed on the shoulders of Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson. This was no longer Brett Favre's team, and the successes or failures of the team had nowhere else to fall. Perhaps they had an inflated self-image given the success of the 2007 season, but since the train left the station, the Packers have gone 10-14, and according the ColdHardFootballFacts.com, are 3-10 against quality opponents (0-3 this year).
I'm not naive enough to suggest that this implosion is all because Favre is no longer here, or that the Packers should have caved in and brought him back. But, I do believe that Ted Thompson far overestimated what he had to work with when he placed the Packers under the microscope by sending Favre on his way, and the results have not been pretty.
As a TRUE PACKER FAN, I questioned Thompson's methods three years ago not because I was a fan of a quarterback or a head coach, but because I had some serious reservations about where those methods would lead us. In the end, I am a Packer fan until the end, born and bred in the 70's and 80's, when diehard fans were the only fans there were.
I am not calling for anyone's head. But, I will say that the climate that is currently being developed is quickly working its way to DEFCON 1. I'm not in any mood for another complete overhaul and rebuilding effort. There are a lot of players I've grown to like on this roster and would like to see them have success and develop into the players that they have the potential to be: Greg Jennings, Aaron Rodgers, Tramon Williams, Clay Matthews. These guys are going to be the leaders on this team once Donald Driver, Charles Woodson, and Al Harris have moved on.
As a TRUE PACKER FAN, I want what is best for this team, a team that I want to win and be competitive, not just piling up cheap wins against terrible teams. But this last game may have sealed not only the virtual end of this season, but have been the clock tolling on the master plan of Ted Thompson. In the end, perhaps it is the fans who booed Brett Favre at Lambeau Field who may come to realize that Favre didn't do what he did to hurt Packer fans, but to call out the man he felt had taken away the competitiveness of the team.
Could he have been right? Certainly, there's little evidence that the Packers are being competitive, at least against quality opponents. Is that the fault of the cook, or the man supplying the ingredients?
All I know is that yesterday's game left an awful sour taste in my mouth. I'm not going to any other restaurant, but the management better figure out the problems real soon or they will be looking for new jobs.