Tuesday, January 11, 2011

No Excuses, No Regrets....and No Complaining?

An interesting debate popped up this week amongst Packer fans, as our team celebrated a massive playoff victory.  It seems that there were some folks who were complaining about how the team played, how plays were called, how the clock was managed, and it was causing some miffage for those who wanted to bask in the glory of the moment.

Perhaps it started at halftime, when Bill Johnson and Jason Wilde, the hosts of "The Green and Gold Show" over at ESPN Milwaukee, engaged in a virtual slapfight in over some of Jason's negative commentary.

Wilde: Packers head to the locker room, Eagles hear the boos. 14-3 Packers at the half. Should be 21-3 though. Costly drop by Jones. Ouch.

Johnson:  The Packers play a GREAT have in the playoffs, on the road, and all we can do is bitch about a timeout at the end of the half?

Wilde: Still worthwhile question, man

Johnson: Rarely wins or loses games. It's usually moot. Silly topic.

Wilde: Not saying it's THE BIGGEST DEAL IN THE WORLD. But it's a legit question. My goodness.

Johnson:  Not yelling. Calm down.

Now, this opened up commentary from all throughout the Packer Twitterverse on whether or not Packer fans should be raining on any parade.  When the game finally concluded, complaining continued, accompanied by complaining about complainers, which naturally led into the initial complainers complaining about not being allowed to complain.

And, I totally see both sides.  This was a monumental game for many Packers and their fans.  Heck, Aaron Rodgers just got his first playoff win.  And you're going to bitch about it?  Would you like some nit to go with your pick?

But this was a tremendous victory for many other reasons.  First and foremost, this has been a season of resiliency, a season pockmarked with key injury after injury and reaching farther and farther down the depth chart, the practice squad, and finally, the street free agent market to  ably fill certain spots on the roster.  It's a testament to Ted Thompson's ability to build a deep roster and bring in decent bodies to the team, without having to mortgage the future for Marshawn Lynch.

Listening to Charles Woodson make his post-game speech underscored what I've been trying to say all season:  you can't use the injuries as an excuse, as many tried to suggest after a regular-season loss or two.  The 2005 Green Bay Packers had just as many injuries as this year's squad, but their 4-12 record is testament to a team-wide surrender.  This teams fought to be where it is today, and a playoff win is all that more satisfying.

And it is also a great day for Mike McCarthy, who's sole playoff win in 2007 came under the auspices of Brett Favre and a core group of Mike Sherman holdovers who seemed to be making their last gasp before their window closed.  This is Mike McCarthy's team, and with all the "Fire McCarthy" speculation there's been over the course of the season, a 10-6 record with a road playoff win suddenly looks pretty darned good.

Naturally, from there you can go on to all the great stories:  Clay Matthews, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, James Starks, Chad Clifton's resurgance, and the emergence of players like Josh Sitton, BJ Raji, and Charlie Peprah.

And, perhaps more importantly, you can celebrate the absence of negative stories.  We had no crises, no major drama, no Randy Moss sign-and-cuts, no controversy.  As Woodson so plainly stated, this teams has remained focused and left no regrets on the field.

So, when the Green Bay Packers narrowly win a playoff game on the road against a team (that, quite frankly, matched up pretty well against them), anyone complaining is just a pessimist, a nitpicker, and more than likely, not even a real fan.


Oh, don't get me wrong...there's folks out there who are actually like that, who wouldn't give Ted Thompson or Mike McCarthy credit if they did win the Lombardi trophy six years in a row.  But, that's not what we're talking about.

We're talking about looking at weaknesses, gaffes, and breakdowns despite the win, something that can't be, nor should be, censored or ridiculed.  The whole of the game is open to celebration and to scrutiny, and it shouldn't be any other way.

Quite simply:  if you can't allow for criticism after the Packers win, wouldn't it serve that you can't point out the positives after a loss?

I'll be honest, after the Packers lost close games to the Falcons and Patriots, I couldn't help but be encouraged by their performances.  Heck, the Falcons game was lost because of one small stretch of events in the second quarter...otherwise, the Packers played a near-perfect game against Atlanta, who essentially played a perfect game.  And the Patriots game?  The best team in the NFL having to defend their endzone against a backup quarterback making his first NFL start?  Fantastic, and perhaps it was Matt Flynn's meltdown at the end of the game that was the only difference in who won or lost.

I don't want to go through life not being allowed to see the silver lining in a loss, simply because someone else dictates to me that a loss means that we should all be miserable and looking for fingers to point at the scapegoat, and nothing more.  But, that means that the opposite should also be true.

I was elated, even ecstatic after the game on Sunday.  I had just shook the windowpanes screaming after the Tramon Williams endzone interception, and as my wife heated up the supper I had missed to watch the game, I was in a daze, unable to form a coherent sentence (she will attest to this).  Trust me...I love to play the part of the rational fan, but on Sunday, I was a giddy kid again watching my favorite team, not worrying about articles or report cards or anything I had to do...I just lived in that moment and savored every second.

But in the end, the targets of criticism:  the accidental touching of a live punt, the first-half clock mismanagement, the critical drops by Jones and the other receivers, the inability of the offense to generate a game-sealing four-minute drive at the end of the game...all of these are legitimate topics of discussion.

And why?  Because the Eagles and the Packers are who we thought they were.  This is a wild-card weekend game, and both teams played like it.  Teams that play in the first weekend are usually teams loaded with talented players, but either have holes in their personnel and/or in their execution.  They are the warm-up act for the favored teams who are resting up, the teams expected to actually make it to the Super Bowl.

The Packers' victory was sensational, but the gaffes and failures have to loom large in the second season.  No, neither the Packers nor the Eagles are the Cowboys or the early '90's or the Patriots of the last decade, complete teams with nary an Achilles' heel.   As the Packers advance further in the playoffs, those gaffes will be more and more costly.

Green Bay and Philadelphia each had their share of dumb penalties, execution errors, dropped passes, and missed opportunities.  Do I believe that Green Bay was the better team that day?  Absolutely and unequivocally.

But that doesn't change the fact that Green Bay's advancement to Atlanta has everything to do with 5'11" Tramon Williams being able to win his individual matchup against 6'3" Riley Cooper.  Heck, if Tramon  stumbles on that play, it's the Eagles advancing on a last-second heroic touchdown by Michael Vick.

Or, if David Akers makes just one of his two missed field goals, the Eagles were already in field goal range for him on that final drive, only behind by two points.

Yes, it's a lot of "ifs", and luckily, ones we no longer have to worry about, as the Packers won this game on one of the most breathtaking finishes in recent history.  But to ignore those mistakes going into a game against the #1 seed in the NFC is foolish.

We can't saddle up James "Neo" Starks and simply assume that the Packers are going to walk all over the Falcons.  The Packers had to play a perfect game against Atlanta the first time, and very nearly did...and still lost.  Foolish special teams turnovers, dropped sure-touchdown passes, and turning the game over to the defense without a fight will not spell a victory in the ATL.

You can be certain that Mike McCarthy isn't glossing over those errors, so why should we?

If you are the kind of fan that doesn't want anyone to bring up any negatives simply because the Packers won, then you might be the same one that doesn't want to listen to reason when they lose.

In the end, it is the attitude of Charles Woodson that colors this team, and as fans we need to hold ourselves to the same standards:  no excuses, and no regrets. 


Musing on Sports said...

I love your statement comparing negatives in a win a d positives in a loss. The thing is, I've found, that either someone is complaining about "complainers". As a silver lining kind of gal, after a loss I hear the moral victory jokes.
I've come to the conclusion that we all say whatever we want. If mm bugs you fine. Say it loud and clear. And I'll say that's silly and you'll say I'm shuttin you down. And after a loss I'll say it wasn't all bad and you'll call me silly and I'll say you're not letting be my kind of fan. (using the universal "I" and "you" here, CD fears me thus never disagrees).

I guess my main point is, no one will ever agree, by dammit peeps it's the playoffs, can't we all just get along, agree to disagree and turn our hate to the falcons?

Musing on Sports said...

Side note: trying to comment via iPhone can cause many spelling and wording mishaps. There should be a way after either. And obviously a d positives means nothing.

Oh. Hope my point is in that jumbled mess somewhere. If not, complain. :)

John Rehor said...

Excellent read! Normally I'm one to criticize at a moments notice. Now that the Packers are in the playoffs, I go to the other extreme: as long as a decision does not affect the outcome of the game in a negative way, I sit back and enjoy the ride through the playoffs.

After the season is for analysis-the playoffs are for the pure love of being a fan in my opinion.

salmar80 said...

You almost hit the nail in the head.

You're right the fans have the right and it's only reasonable to criticise the team after a win: Criticism (and positive feedback) is how players learn to correct the mistakes.

I, myself, just have problems with immediate and overflowing criticism RIGHT AFTER a big-ass win. I like to savour the moment, enjoy the positive and just be happy for one night that the Packers won. That's entertainment!

So, I can't stand people who make a win feel like a loss with a "Weeeell, sure, we won, BUT we still sucked". Like it's not enough to win, but you'd have to win with a perfect game every time.

Blastering a winning team right after a win is like holding a bachelor party right after the wedding - spoils a great night..

Anonymous said...

Great article and valid points. It is frustrating though when fans constantly focus on the "bad" plays of a win. Yes, there are mistakes made and, quite honestly, that is part of any sporting event. With a full team out on the field, getting everyone to play perfect is virtually impossible. As fans, we should be happy with the win. The coaches and players should worry about correcting the mistakes. GO PACK GO!!!

BigSnakeMan said...

I have no problem with pointing out the flaws in the Packers; hell, I do it myself quite often. There's nothing wrong with well reasoned constructive criticism of the variety I usually find on this site. That's why I am a regular reader of yours.

What I find disappointing, however, is the tenor that such criticism sometimes takes. Many people who came of age as Packer fans during the "Favre Era" were conditioned to expect nothing but success from their teams. IMHO, this has led to an unfortunate sense of 'entitlement' without an appreciation of how difficult it is to maintain a winning program in today's NFL. Too often this leads to mindless admonitions to 'fire the coach' and/or GM without a rational look at the underlying reasons that are behind the deficiencies.

Thankfully, I never have to worry about that on this site. ;)

Chris Richards said...

I don't think those who are complaining about the complainers are censoring or otherwise limiting the free speech of the complainers. They are just exercising their right to counter arguments they feel are misplaced.

So complainers -- have at it. Just don't expect your views to go unchecked. You have the right to complain, just as others have the right to complain about your opinions.