When the Green Bay Packers lost back-to-back games to the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, it was easy to rationalize both losses as the result of playing undefeated opponents on the road. However, after Green Bay's shocking 18-16 defeat at the hands of the lowly Detroit Lions, those excuses are out the window. The team has played poorly since the bye, and there are no obvious causes for their shortcomings. At this point, it may be time to revisit the Packers' biggest non-personnel move of the offseason.
McCarthy may as well call the offensive plays
When Packers head coach Mike McCarthy handed off the play-calling duties to assistant Tom Clements during the offseason, he discussed how the decision would free him to manage the rest of the team better on game day. In theory, the idea makes plenty of sense. There are any number of issues a head coach must handle during games, and calling plays necessarily reduces the amount of attention that person can devote to other problems.
However, as evidenced by Sunday's game, McCarthy hasn't taken advantage of his newfound freedom.
With time running low in the fourth quarter and the Lions charging into the red zone, the Packers had a chance to save precious seconds by utilizing his timeouts ahead of the two-minute warning. Instead, McCarthy allowed the clock to tick down to the warning, losing nearly half a minute in the process. This is precisely the type of situation that the play-calling handoff was supposed to resolve, yet still McCarthy made a critical error. With more time, Green Bay's offense may have found a way to drive further down the field on the final possession, reducing the length of Mason Crosby's final field-goal attempt.
If McCarthy isn't going to correct those mistakes, then why continue to let someone else call the plays? Tom Clements doesn't deserve all the fault for how poorly the offense has functioned this season, but even before its post-bye dip, the unit failed to match the heights of the McCarthy-guided version.
Don't expect any change, at least not this season. However, the play-calling duties probably should return to McCarthy's possession.
Randall should start over Hayward at boundary corner
Under Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy, the Packers have leaned towards the "play 'em" approach when it comes to rookies. That's how David Bakhtiari came to start at left tackle over the more experienced Marshall Newhouse in 2013 and why Davante Adams quickly took Jarrett Boykin's place in the offense last season. This year, the team finds itself with a somewhat comparable situation with rookie Damarious Randall and veteran corner Casey Hayward.
Hayward has provided the Packers with steady, albeit unspectacular play along the boundaries this season. Randall, meanwhile, has arguably been the defense's top defensive back since the bye. On Sunday, the rookie found himself covering Calvin Johnson for a sizable portion of the game. He yielded only three catches for 45 yards to Megatron. Better still, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford virtually stopped looking Randall's way during the second half.
The time has come for the Packers to install Randall as the fulltime starter opposite Sam Shields. The change isn't as dramatic as it sounds -- Randall has played over 70 percent of the team's defensive snaps -- but it should have a demonstrable impact on the secondary. Not only would the rookie gain more time on the field, but Hayward could also slide back into the slot where he thrived earlier in this career. For a defense that hasn't generated much pass rush of late, improving the coverage is a necessity.
Rodgers is in a funk, but don't expect it to last
Anyone watching the Packers over the last month has surely noticed a downturn in Aaron Rodgers' typical deadeye accuracy. He failed to complete at least 60 percent of his passes in three of his last four games, and many of those misses came as the result of poorly placed throws. Against the Lions, Rodgers skipped multiple passes to receivers less than 10 yards down the field, an unthinkable idea as recently as last season. Yet, accuracy issues have plagued the quarterback for much of the 2015 season. He doesn't seem to trust his protection, nor does he appear to have much faith in his receiving corps to win in contested-ball situations.
Still, at some point Rodgers' slump will dissipate.
MVP quarterbacks in the middle of their prime don't lose their skills overnight, and unless Rodgers has an undisclosed injury, it doesn't seem likely that he forgot how to play football. Green Bay has three winnable division games on the docket, and Rodgers' track record against those opponents -- 106.8 passer rating or better versus each -- suggests that a return to form is on the horizon.
Rodgers and the Packers have suffered through an ugly stretch, but they have plenty of time to right the ship.