You know how trends come and go. If you just leave your old clothes in the closet long enough, eventually they'll come back in style. You know, like your Ahman Green jersey.
As we turn on the game this Sunday, we may have to check the channel and make sure we're not watching Retro TV, because it may suddenly seem like the Mike Sherman era all over again.
Oh, sure, the number is different on Ahman Green's jersey, but it is still the same guy. Not quite running like he did in in 2003, like we all were hoping. More likely, he's running like he did in 2006, a season in which we begrudgingly admitted he was no longer the same back and didn't bat an eye when he left for Houston.
And, who is that possibly starting at the tackle spots this week? Why, if the injury fairy works in our favor, it'll be old stalwarts Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, the bookends from those great running teams of the Sherman years. Unfortunately, it's not the Tausch and Clifton from 2003, either, but the older versions we've been murmuring about upgrading for the last several seasons.
Over much of GM Ted Thompson's tenure, much has been made of bringing in young players, putting the future in motion, and only select holdovers from the Sherman regime were kept on the roster. It was time for "Packer People".
But at last check, Green and Tauscher were presumed to be little more than additions to the Packer Hall of Fame, and this offseason, many fans were pushing for Clifton to join them. "We have our young talent, and we're just letting them sit on the bench while the old veterans are just declining. Time to move forward. The train has left the station. We're crossing the Rubicon."
But, after seven games, "moving forward" is looking a whole lot like going back in time. I keep checking around for a souped up DeLorean in the hopes that Doc Brown might be able to explain to me why the Packers can't just get the train moving. And, as long as he's around, I have a couple questions about pad level to shoot at him, too. The way its been going, it sounds like a problem only a quantum physicist could fix, anyway.
In some ways, the sign-backs of two beloved players who had their heyday during the Sherman era is appeasing some of the masses. Veteran leadership, they cried. This team doesn't have the team leaders in the locker room. We need to sign some free agents!
And, the best that Ted Thompson can manage are two street free agents who were willing to come back to the team that had discarded them, for little more than a veteran's minimum salary? Puts a whole different light on the concept of "loyalty", doesn't it?
A skeptic might characterize the signings of Tauscher and Green as little more than a PR move. However, the fact that both Clifton and Tauscher are penciled in to start on Sunday (if healthy), as well as Green already supplanting DeShawn Wynn and Brandon Jackson as the #2 running back behind Ryan Grant should make many of Thompson's supporters take pause.
Why in God's name are these guys getting significant playing time at all? Ted Thompson has had five seasons to prepare for each of these declines and departures. Five years is the "old plan", the universally accepted time period that a good GM could turn things around and get a team to a Super Bowl. In reality, that time period is actually much shorter nowadays, thanks to free agency and salary caps.
But, regardless, there is little excuse for there not being talent on the roster acquired by Thompson over the last five years that would supplant two injured, aging, and declining offensive tackles, and a running back that was discarded after the 2006 season. And yet, here we are, watching TJ Lang and Allen Barbre each take a seat for the old veterans to come back in and try keep defenders out of reach of their quarterback.
Further compounding the intrigue is that fact that the Packers put a waiver claim today on another player from their discard pile, Anthony Smith, who was waived by the Rams. Few final cutdown moves were more surprising and questioned (and defended by some) as much as Smith, a veteran who had made some plays in the preseason and seemed a lock for the third safety spot.
Oh, certainly, there were questions about his locker room presence and his knack for playing outside the scheme at times. But since that time, the Packers have cut their third safety (Aaron Rouse, who is now starting for the Giants next week), acquired a safety from the Ravens via trade (who is apparently nothing better than a special teams player), and ended up having to play...Jarrett Bush.
The very fact that the Packers put in a bid to get this player back seems to suggest that they have come to grips with the belief that he wasn't all that bad of a player after all. Suddenly, that terrible team attitude and freelancing on the field didn't seem like such a big deal anymore, did it? However, the Packers weren't awarded Smith anyway, just adding to the egg on the face in placing the claim to begin with.
This is a sign to me that the cracks in the armor are starting to grow. While we never get to see all the reasons and rationale for personnel moves transparently, one can easily surmise that the Packer brass is starting to backtrack and cover for their errors.
Like, drafting one second-round running back covered with injury red-flags, and populating the rest of the backfield with undrafted rookies and an overpaid guy that cost us a 6th round pick.
Like, building your offensive line with mid-round draft picks hoping that competition would somehow make their fifth-round talent play like top-tier talent.
Like, cutting conceivably the second-best safety in your training camp in order to keep project guys and special teams players.
Now, I predicted this years ago: the Thompson approach of eschewing free agency and trading back in drafts was going to produce a mediocre team. But the call was always for "moving forward". When we let a veteran player go, like Green, we were content to believe that Brandon Jackson would someday be a far better player. Just like Barbre and Rouse.
In many ways, Thompson has been guilty of some of the same over-loyalty to his draft picks that Sherman was accused of. It is no small irony that, as Thompson kept under-producing players like Jackson, Aaron Rouse, and Tony Moll on the roster for far too long, that in response to that failure we actually end up turning back to the players we left behind.
In reality, we all know it is too late for Green, Clifton, and Tauscher to save us. The good players who could actually make a difference aren't going to be sitting on the street waiting for us to give them a vet's minimum salary for the honor to play for the Packers again. Anthony Smith, a guy in his prime that actually may have made a difference, is still too much in demand to come back to Green Bay. Perhaps in 2014 or so, Smith will be sitting at home waiting for a phone call to play for as little as possible, with no other suitors for his services.
The question is, will Thompson be working for the Packers when he makes that call?