(Editor’s note: This marks the start of a new regular feature - Wednesday Walkthroughs - in which various APC contributors will give a few observations about the Packers’ most recent game, the NFL at large, or whatever else strikes their fancy over the past week. It’s a similar idea to the “NBA Shootaround” pieces by The Ringer. We hope you enjoy the new addition.)
We had a lot of internal discussion about a topic that came up on last week's APC podcast: Aaron Rodgers vs. Ryan Tannehill. Statistically, they've been close to identical in many areas, and after a rough start, Tannehill has been playing the best football of his career, perhaps (even probably) better than Rodgers this season. I can't ignore the similarities anymore, especially since Tannehill and the Dolphins actually ran the Packers' signature shot play better than we've seen the Packers themselves run it in a long time. Check out the first gif in this story from Deadspin. Does that look familiar?
Marcus Mariota evolved Sunday, displaying poise, pocket presence, and an accurate arm. His 11 dropbacks when the Packers did not blitz resulted in a perfect passer rating of 158.3. For the day, he finished with a stellar 149.8 quarterback rating. Since 2009, eight rookie or second-year quarterbacks have beaten Green Bay. Mariota's 149.8 quarterback rating is the highest among the group:
- Marcus Mariota, 149.8 (2016)
- Nick Foles, 149.3 (2013)
- Christian Ponder, 120.2 (2012)
- Dak Prescott, 117.4 (2016)
- Russell Wilson, 99.3 (2012)
- Josh Freeman, 86.1 (2009)
- Andrew Luck, 81.0 (2012)
- Teddy Bridgewater, 45.7 (2015)
If the Packers are to win in the playoffs, their regressing offense needs a stout defense. In the last month, the Packers defense has looked anything but.
Evan “Tex” Western
Packers fans and analysts alike came into the 2016 season singing the praises of the team’s depth at cornerback, despite Ted Thompson’s decision to let Casey Hayward walk. A unit with rising stars in Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, and LaDarius Gunter, combined with a veteran presence in Sam Shields and Micah Hyde, should have been one of the league’s best. Sure, injuries have ravaged the group, but that alone does not excuse the overall poor play of the players who have been healthy and continue to fail to live up to expectations.
Hayward’s continued success in San Diego and his relatively cheap price tag (about $5 million per year) are further twists of the knife. And the fact that he is playing the way he is on the boundary rather than in the slot (where he was typecast in Green Bay) is even more maddening. Rarely does Ted Thompson choose to let a player walk and see that player get better as a part of his new team. Hayward has done so, and Thompson can and should be criticized for missing out on a player who could be playing a vital role on the 2016 squad.
Just to put an exclamation point on how non-explosive the Packers have been, the team’s’ longest touchdown on the season thus far is 29-yards, on a pass to Davante Adams. (Adams actually has two such receptions.) In 2014 a 29-yard touchdown pass would have been the 19th longest touchdown on the year. In fact, the Packers had 7 touchdowns in 2014 that were more than twice as long as the longest touchdown in 2016.
Having to methodically march down the field time after time is both inefficient and dangerous. It is also a result of the Packer offense’s frequent and maddening lack of any kind of deception. Big plays are often set up off of earlier short plays, and the Packer o-line, when healthy, gives Rodgers plenty of time to let a double move develop, but they rarely do. Given the absurd amount of time Rodgers typically has to throw, this team should be able to hit big plays routinely. While the receiver talent may not be great, the scheme is what keeps them covered. To twist the knife a bit further from Tex’s walkthrough, Casey Hayward had an 82-yard interception return and a 49-yard fumble return in 2014. This would easily make him the most explosive offensive player on the 2016 team.
Just like Rick James with Cocaine, football is one hell of a drug. There are highs - Super Bowl XLIX - and the lows - Seahawks Cardinals week 7. For many, a bad game of football is still good enough to get a fix. Sunday’s beatdown at the hands of the Titans was such a game; as I sat there watching the Packers get lit up, I kept saying to myself “That’s the last play, I swear. Time to turn it off and move on”. 4 hours and 47 points against later, I did. And you know what? I’m going to do it again next weekend, and I’m not alone. Just remember, Packers fans, when you’re sparking up next week’s slate of games - whether it be at the local pub, at a friend's house, or alone in your living room with the curtains drawn and the doors locked as you perform your ritualistic dance around a tattered Favre jersey wearing nothing but greasy sweatpants (don’t judge me) - remember, it can be worse. At least we don’t root for the Browns.
Jason B. Hirschhorn
After a long, unsatisfying 10 weeks with Case Keenum at the helm, the Los Angeles Rams have finally turned the reins over to No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff. Naturally, this transition has already garnered considerable national attention, but the situation bears discussion on a different level. Part of the reason Goff required over half the season of seasoning just to make his first start while signal-callers drafted after him -- namely Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott -- managed to excel to varying degrees in the same role relates direction to the coaches charged with their development.
As it turns out, Doug Pederson and Jason Garrett and their respective staffs possess a stronger knack for improving young passers than Jeff Fisher and company.
Why does this matter? Because much of what makes or breaks coaching staffs takes place on the six days of the week the public doesn't see them on their television sets. Building up players over the course of the season makes a dramatic impact on whether a team makes the playoffs as well as dictating how it performs once it gets there. While fans often ignore the value of teaching skills in head coaches, it remains an important factor in any hiring or firing decision. That could come into play for the Packers and Mike McCarthy in the not too distant future.
While most of us have been watching the dismal display the Packers call football the past few weeks and thinking about making a change with Mike McCarthy, what about a change at the other half of the top of the totem pole? While McCarthy is the head coach, Ted Thompson is the one responsible for putting the team together. While his plan always pertains to draft and develop, he hasn’t has the greatest success at drafting or developing players recently.
Thompson has had 35 draft picks in the past five years (the last class under rookie contracts) and, out of those picks, only 16 get significant playing time. That’s only a percentage of 45.8% of players that get regular time. Only one from this past draft, 4th rounder Blake Martinez, is making an impact with this team. Maybe it’s just me, but for a draft and develop team and having under a 50% success rate, maybe this season was a long time coming. It might be time to call on Eliot Wolf, who is waiting in the wings for when Thompson leaves, to see if he can produce some of magic his dad was capable of.