Monday, December 13, 2010

The Injury Excuse Doesn't Work With Me

Had a good exchange with Packer Therapy host Chris Richards in the aftermath of the Packer Debacle yesterday.  Naturally, the conversation headed towards the inordinate number of Packers on the injury list this year.

CD: I think the legitimate present concern is if this team is living up to its potential it could achieve this year.

Chris: Hard to do that with 13 guys on IR. 

CD: Ack. No one talks about the injuries when we beat the Jets, Vikes, and 49ers. We didn't lose to the Lions b/c of the IR today.

Chris: I've cited the injuries all season as why I don't believe in this team. Given the IR roster, I'd say they've overachieved. 

Now, I have tons of respect for Chris, who does a nice job over at Therapy.  I just think this sells the Packers far short of where they should be.

Alex Tallitsch harps on the mantra, "You don't plan for injuries."  They do affect a team, especially in bunches, no doubt.  But there's different ways that you mentally deal with those injuries, as well as simply making adjustments with your personnel and schemes.

There's been what I will call a "rash of injuries" a couple of times earlier in the Thompson era.  If you think 13 players on IR is bad, look back at 2005 when no less than 19 players (including five running backs) finished the season on IR.  The Packer limped to a 4-12 season that year, and certainly, injuries were a factor.

But, that's not the point.  This was a team that gave up early.  The whole Sherman-apalooza and "NFL-E talent and stumblebums" had brought this team way down, and as the season wore on, you could tell some players just decided to feign injury to save themselves the trauma of having to keep going out every Sunday.

That is not the 2010 Packers.

 Just two years ago, in the face of Favre-apalooza, the Packers again saw the injuries pile up as the season went on.  While only 10 players finished on IR, they were key players (Barnett, Bigby, Tauscher, Jenkins), and were accompanied by plenty of games missed by starters.  Again, you could see the psychological struggle over the course of the season, with Aaron Rodgers under the microscope and team administration under fire.  The Packers started out 4-3, but finished the season 2-7 with a lot of close losses (not unlike this year). 

It was another season where you could see the hurt in the eyes of the players, where expectations got lower and lower as the season went on.   

That is not the 2010 Packers.

Yes, the Packers suffered a lot of critical injuries: Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley, and Nick Barnett come to mind.  But the Packers haven't seemed to really take a downturn all year.  The expectations were extraordinarily high to start, indeed, but their somewhat inconsistent play started long before anyone found themselves on IR.  

In fact, after falling to 3-3, the Packers went on a tear, taking out division rival Minnesota twice, the Cowboys, and the 49ers.  Most convincing, though, was a road victory against the New York Jets.  Even a road loss to the NFC-leading Falcons was played solidly by the team with a narrow three-point margin.

Why, just last week we were still touting Aaron Rodgers as MVP, Mike McCarthy as a Coach of the Year candidate, and praising Ted Thompson up and down for the tremendous depth he provided the team with to compensate for the key injuries.

And then, we lay an embarrassing egg against the lowly Lions, and NOW suddenly we're supposed to believe that injuries were the reason?  No. Flipping. Way.

This Packer team has never stopped believing in itself all season, regardless of who was on the field.  You saw young players like Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree step in for, nowhere near the same level of play, but they didn't give up, nor did the Packers try and hide them or not use them.  Brandon Jackson has been getting probably the same number of carries Ryan Grant would have gotten, and Desmond Bishop, Frank Zombo, and Charlie Peprah have all made us forget about Barnett, Jones, and Bigby.

Yes, the machine was running with different pistons, but it was still running, and the playoffs were clearly in sight.  There was no let-up.

Until Sunday.  For whatever reason, the Packers let up.  Don't blame it on Rodgers' injury, either, because he was having one of his worst games in his career before he made a error we all pray he doesn't make again.  No, this loss had nothing to do with the 13 players on the injured reserve list.  If it did, the Packers would have looked like the December Packers in 2005 and 2008 all along.

But, they haven't.  The reason and rationale for this stunning letdown against one of the worst teams in the league, especially in the face of such serious playoff implications, may have yet to be known.  But it wasn't injuries.

And I do agree with Chris wholeheartedly on his main point;  this team HAS overachieved in spite of its injuries.  Especially when compared with the 2005 quitters and the 2008 empty-tankers, the 2010 Packers have persevered.

But is it over-achieving as much as simply doing what you're supposed to be doing:  playing the game, having reserves ready to go, and continuing to play each game to win?  Maybe 2010 is what the Packers should be doing when there are massive injuries, and 2005 and 2008 were perfect examples of underachieving and quitting.

No matter how you slice it, the Packers did wrong on Sunday.  But the last thing I want Mike McCarthy to do is hide behind his injury list.  He has done a fantastic job keeping this team focused, spit-and-wiring a team together that stays in every game, and keeping the playoffs a reality.  Give him credit, up until 11:59 A.M. on Sunday.

Because at noon, the Packers came out and did everything wrong.  They played unfocused and half-assed.  They committed foolish penalties and had brain-numbing playcalls.  They turned the ball over.  And they did all this against a 2-10 team that appeared ready to roll over as soon as the Packers figured out how to walk in a straight line without falling.  

That had nothing to do with injuries.  All we needed was preparation, motivation, perspiration, and execution.  All we got, though, was exasperation.


john rehor said...

What I hope is that with all the injuries, all of the second, third, fourth stringers forced to play as a result, is that a 9-7 or 10-6 season and missing the playoffs is not seen as an acceptable season by the Packers brass. McCarthy has shown on more than one occasion this season that his game plan has been terrible, and has cost the team victories.

Even if they win out, the 5 losses they have by a total of 17 points may separate the Packers from a team which was good, but decimated by injuries, from a team which was able to overcome injuries and make a deep run into the playoffs. And that is what makes a team great.

BigSnakeMan said...

I'm not sure I completely understand your argument. When Chris cited the injuries, I believe he was referring more to the season as a whole as opposed to the loss at Detroit. As you point out, the coaching staff is to be commended for keeping the team afloat. But whenever a team is forced to dip into the depth chart, it is unavoidably diminished.

I don't think anyone would argue that the Packers didn't lay a colossal egg this past Sunday. It was especially disappointing given what was at stake. Unfortunately, stuff like that can happen over the course of a season under the best of circumstances. Even the mighty Patriots let one get away at Cleveland, a team arguably not much better (if at all) than Detroit.

This season has been understandably frustrating for the opportunities missed. But it's hard to judge the Packers too harshly in light of the personnel losses.

Chris Richards said...

BigSnakeMan is right--that is the way I meant it. I was viewing the situation holistically, not specific to the Disaster in Detroit. In any case, I am glad that BSM is around to translate for me; sometimes I am not as clear as I think.

As for the post itself, it is a prime reason why I referred to you on our Facebook page as a "made man" in Packer Nation, CD: You are able to disagree without being disagreeable, and you do it is a rational, coherent manner.

Thanks, also, for the nice words about Packers Therapy. Coming from you those words are much appreciated.

C.D. Angeli said...

No problem, Chris, and I probably did a poor job saying that I essentially agreed with you in general...I just don't like the Injury Card pulled out in the face of a loss, which it seemed it was (not necessarily by you).

Anonymous said...

a long time coming but finally a piece that lives up to your prior standards

the point however is once again missed or glossed over

there are no fewer than 3 positions, arguably more, where injuries have really helped us, yes improved the team

and the biggest is EXACTLY why ted t is never going to produce a SB champion

at S a draft choice stunk, not that he was bad or learning, HE STUNK was TERRIBLE

yet it was his job just like so many ted t draft choices who SHOULD NOT BE IN THE LINE UP

Pepprah is a huge upgrade at S

but most just gloss over the fact that the better, and better by a wide margin, player sat on the bench so a thompson draft choice could play

IPB said...

Hello C.D. - Great write-up, like always, despite Mr. Anonymous trying to cheapen the discussion with his/her bait conversation as a TT-hater. These Favre-kids just never seem to go away.

I would seriously like to be in the locker room or find someone who was in the LR, both before & after the "Disaster in Detroit" - great label, Chris - I suppose that's what we fans need when the team plays a game like they did in Ford Field that day. I'm glad it wasn't on Thanksgiving Day, at least.

One wonders what they will do on this Sunday Nite, against the Patriots - who just skunked the NY Jets, almost like they were up to their old Beli-cheatin' ways all over again. Sure smelled like it watchin that game ... we'll see!

You don't mind, I want to add this Article to our IPB site, as well. (with linkage, of course).

Cudos, partner!