Baseball's no fun from now until September, and we can only watch old NFL highlights on YouTube for so long before we need to start prognosticating on the '06-'07 NFL season. Fall can't come soon enough. In the meantime, here's the 13th of our 32 team previews for the upcoming season, the Green Bay Packers.
TOM'S TAKE: I still cannot get over the hiring of Mike McCarthy as the Packers' head coach. When the Packers hired McCarthy, a lot of good head coaches were available, raising skepticism as to the hire of a relatively unknown coordinator. But research reveals everything, and it's become obvious with time that the hiring of McCarthy was to serve one purpose -- to keep Brett Favre for another season. McCarthy helped coach Favre to the third-best season of his career, and bringing him back to head the team was a move designed to alleviate a veteran unwilling to accept a foreign coach and adapt to a new offense so late in his career. Unfortunately, the Packers are shooting themselves in the foot.
I understand the delicacy required in dealing with the Favre situation, a deity in Green Bay and in the football world. You can't cut him, you can't trade him. But Favre needs to realize he's being selfish and the Packers need to realize they're stunting progress for the future on a player who will probably not play again after this year. They're stalling the development to Aaron Rodgers, they've hired a coach for no other purpose than to acquiesce Favre, and they're stuck in a position that has one foot in the past and one foot in the future. No team can be successful under those conditions.
Offensively, the Packers have returned a line that was below average in protecting Favre without any major contributions in the draft or free agency. This will lead Favre to continue his gun-slinging ways, and will result in a similar interception total to last year. The Pack have lost reliable target Javon Walker and also let Antonio Chatman, a receiver who stepped in admirably last year, walk to Cincinnati. But worse off than their receiving corps is their roster of running backs. Their top two, Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport, have various injury / defecating issues. Chances are, the Pack will have to rely on Samkon Gado at another point this year.
The defense has improved with the addition of A.J. Hawk and Abdul Hodge at linebacker, two guys who can make an immediate impact. But the Packers overpaid for Charles Woodson, a cornerback relying on name alone who has seriously underperformed in recent years.
The Packers aren't in the toughest division but they'll struggle this year with no set commitment to winning now or rebuilding for the future. McCarthy is not a head coach -- he put together a flashy offense in New Orleans that knew all about the big play but had no idea of logic, discipline, or avoiding penalties. I fear he was put in an unwinnable situation, and may only last as long as Favre, when the front office realizes (if they haven't already) that McCarthy's skillset is not that of a head coach, prior relationship to Brett Favre aside.
KYLE'S TAKE: The biggest story about the Packers is obviously Brett Favre. Last year, he sucked, throwing 29 interceptions. And then he made everyone wait forever before he made a decision about coming back. Of course he was going to come back. No one wants to end an excellent career with performance as shitty as his season last year. Unfortunately for him, it's not going to get better. Sure, maybe his game will pick up a bit but even with an above average Brett Favre, these Packers are not going to the playoffs.
The Packers are one of those teams that completely rebuilt their team. They hired head coach Mike McCarthy, who served as the 49ers offensive coordinator last year. That blew my mind. Someone from the 49ers staff was hired as a head coach? Did any of the Packers front office watch a 49ers game last year? Now, supposedly, McCarthy has put together good offenses in the past. He was even named "NFC Assistant Coach of the Year" by USA Today Sports Weekly in 2000 when with the Saints. You certainly know how Tom feels about his tenure there. I would figure people would want to see if he could do anything with top pick Alex Smith in San Francisco before giving him a shot at running such a coveted team like the Packers. He has, however, worked with Favre in 1999, a year Favre did throw 4,091 yards, but I still think they could have done better.
The Packers lost their top receiver Javon Walker after Brett Favre stuck his nose into business he shouldn't have. Favre told Walker to stop holding out for a better contract and come to camp, he did, and then he got hurt for the entire year. Well, karma is in effect because besides an aging Donald Driver, Favre doesn't have many desirable targets.
Of course, he can hand off the ball. There's Ahman Green but when he's not hurt he's too busy fumbling. He's been too injury prone in the past and has always had trouble holding onto the ball. It doesn't help that he and backup Najeh Davenport are still recovering from lingering injuries as well as 4th stringer Samkon Gado who ended up starting at the end of last year.
Interstingly enough, defensively, this squad wasn't that bad last year. Their defense was 7th overall and 1st against the pass. That's pretty good for a team that had to keep taking the field after the offensive turned it over. I know Favre is a God over there, but the defensive unit had to be getting annoyed on the bench. I can just hear Al Harris saying "What? Another interception? You're fuckin' kidding me! I just sat down!"
The Packers drafted A.J. Hawk to help their run defense, which was the weak link. Hawk was a beast in college and he will become an immediate force. They also picked up nose tackle Ryan Pickett from the Rams in the offseason, one of the few on the Rams defense who was actually decent last year. If their defense can keep them in games, the Packers may not be as pathetic as last year. But they're not going to the playoffs. They're in a division with Chicago and Detroit, both teams that are going to be extremely tough to beat. Minnesota is still a question mark, but I don't believe they'll be any worse than Green Bay.
Of course, I could be wrong. Brett Favre can whip out that Favre magic people are still talking about and do something amazing. I doubt it though. I think he's lost what made him great. Brett, you should have just retired last year and avoided what will be another disappointing season.