We continue on our review of the offensive coaches with a look at offensive coordinator Tom Clements. In many ways I feel bad for Clements, offensive coordinator for a team with an offensive minded head coach is a bit of a lose/lose job. If you do well then many will overlook you, attributing most of the success to the head coach. If you do poorly then you are an easy fall guy if the head coach has the least bit of notoriety. This year Clements not only faced this challenge, but is also replacing long time McCarthy man Joe Philbin. Once again this puts Clements in a position where he is expected to meet high expectations from the start. It’s not fair, but such is life in the NFL.
Clements first year as OC is a bit of a mixed bag. The Packers struggled on offense early in the year and really seemed to struggle for an identity on offense for much of the season. Eventually they found their rhythm and still were able to rank in the top five teams for points scored, but it is important to note that the team failed to rank in the top ten of yards per game for the first time during Mike McCarthy’s tenure in Green Bay. These two statistics together point to the mixed bag the Clements had during his first year as offensive coordinator.
Motivation/Discipline – C+
Throughout this offseason we are going to talk about how bad the offensive line has been. The dirty secret of any one of these rants is that the situation with penalties is as bad as the run blocking or the pass blocking problems. PFF ranked the Packers at 21st in the league for offensive line penalties and nflpenalties.com reports that nearly all of the starting offensive linemen had at least 5 penalties on the year (Bryan Bulaga, Josh Sitton, and Marshall Newhouse each had 6, T.J. Lang, Evan Dietrich-Smith, and Don Barclay each had five) with 22 offensive holding penalties and 17 false start penalties. The fact that the offensive line never got settled due to injuries and a lack of depth may mitigate, or at least explain, some of this sloppy play….but the amount of penalties is still troubling.
Two factors help this grade. First, the ability that Clements had in keeping the offense focused and together as it dealt with injuries. The offense as a whole suffered through major injuries all year at RB, OL, and WR; but through it all Clements was able to get the next man up ready to play as well as getting the most out of the other starters so the season was never lost. Second, despite the penalties and poor play the offensive line was able to find a groove towards the end of the year.
Player Development – C-
Unfortunately the list of players who suffered a noticeable regression is about as long players who showed development. Newhouse, James Jones, and Randall Cobb all showed some significant improvement in 2012. Meanwhile Lang, Bulaga, and EDS all seemed to take a step backwards. The difference between a C and a C- grade here then is the amount of players who disappointed this year. D.J. Williams was supposed to have a break out year. Alex Green missed his chance to seize the starting RB’s role. Jermichael Finley could not seem to put it together until Rodgers started sitting down with him Saturday night before the game to get on the same page. Some disappointment is to be expected, but this much mixed with the amount of regression the Packers offense faced leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth.
X’s & O’s – C-
This is probably where the average fan (myself included) really can only see the negative of what Clements has done this year. The Packers offense did pretty good overall in 2012, but the majority of this credit is bound to go to Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy. Clements meanwhile gets the blame for some of the high profile miscues. For me this is the absolute failure of a game plan against San Francisco in Week 1 and against Seattle in Week 3, as well as terrible adjustments made against Indianapolis and the Divisional Playoff game against San Fran. The rational side of my brain says that Clements had a large hand in the successes as well, but these failures mixed with a seven year low in the total offense ranks prevents me from giving him the benefit of the doubt here.
Total Grade – C-
It’s not time to fire up the torches and protest around Lambeau with "FIRE CLEMENTS" signs, but this was not a good start for Clements as OC. The optimist in me hopes that the Clements goes back to the drawing board and sticks to the balance the offense had during the last third of the year. If he can do that then the Packers should be alright get back to where they have been previously in the total yards rankings.