APC’s contributors return after a one-week hiatus from our Walkthroughs to give a handful of takes regarding the Green Bay Packers, their Week 17 win over the Detroit Lions, and their impending matchup with the New York Giants in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
Paul Noonan on being scared of the Giants
I am not above petty feelings and superstition, and losing to the Giants in a playoff game in Lambeau is one of the worst sports things I can imagine. I don’t even have any particular enmity for the Giants as an organization, it’s just that when this happens, the Giants are typically a good, not great team (check) with an excellent defense (check), and often catch the high-flying Packers in a cold weather game (possible) that favors a defense. It all ends with Eli Manning, a historically good, but never great quarterback getting far too much credit, which, given the state of the Green Bay secondary, is far too plausible.
In short, I’m scared of this game, and will probably feel bad about it until it’s over.
Jonathan Barnett on the suddenly hot Packers
Every year we watch the Packers have a few struggles in the early going, Rodgers gives a speech and then things start to improve. Rodgers even ended the season with a remarkable 40 touchdown passes. The Packers passing attack produced the top touchdown receiver in the league and also a player tied for second. While teams across the league seem to fear injury and shun the preseason to one degree or another, Aaron Rodgers played two series of football in the entire preseason. McCarthy’s offense is a complex game of timing and rhythm. Game speed repetitions are important. It seems there might be something to be said for getting some of this timing worked out earlier in the season if the Packers want a bye week. Teams like Minnesota start fast and early games against teams like this hurt the Packers. Still, I would rather see this team hot at the end than flaming out down the stretch like some.
Bob Fitch on the MVP discussion
Arguing over who deserves the NFL’s MVP award is a meaningless endeavour. It’s a subjective award given to a popular quarterback on a successful team (66% going to QB’s over the lifetime of the award, 81% over the last 16 years) and that gets stale. Recently, talking heads have begun to agree that getting into a frothy steam over who deserves the MVP trophy is not worth the vitriolic discussion that occurs amongst fans and analysts alike. Everyone is adopting the same “eh, it doesn’t really matter, it could be a group of guys” mentality.
But isn’t the point of a subjective entertainment award of which you are a fan is to be able to discuss, with passion, your opinion? The playoffs and draft order are determined by math. In-game opportunities, such as going for it on fourth down or attempting a two-point conversion, are increasingly swayed by statistics and data. Hell, the NFL is putting microchips in footballs in order to get increased ball placement accuracy. I’m a proponent of advanced statistics as tools for measurement, but at times, all of this information can make me feel like I’m watching a sport that is guzzling Purell in order to sterilize itself and take subjectivity (Dez dropped it) out of the game. So, please NFL, if you’re going to automate the referees (Dez still dropped it) and turn football into virtual reality, at the very least let me angrily and inarticulately express my passionate and misguided reasoning as to why player 1 deserves a shiny piece of metal over player 2.
Jon Meerdink on LeRoy Butler
The NFL released its list of modern-era Hall of Fame finalists today, and once again, LeRoy Butler was not on it. That’s a shame, because at his best, Butler was one of the best and most unique players in NFL history.
You know, of course, that Butler was the first defensive back in NFL history to log 20 career sacks with 20 career interceptions, but you may not realize exactly how good his 1996 season was.
That year, Butler had 6.5 sacks and five interceptions, a combo only surpassed by Dave Duerson (7 sacks, five interceptions) of the 1986 Bears. Butler and Duerson are the complete list of players with at least 6.5 sacks and five interceptions in a season.
Butler won’t get in. This year, he was up against Brian Dawkins and John Lynch, both good players who benefit from better marketing (and, in Lynch’s case, a post-NFL broadcasting career). In the near future, Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu will be up for consideration, and Butler sure isn’t going to beat them out. It’s too bad, because Butler was a key player on some of the best defenses of the 1990’s.
Gary Zilavy on a unique Packers Hall of Fame tackle
I recently visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio and was reminded as I walked through the hall of bronze heads of just how many Packers have made an indelible mark in league history. 24 men are enshrined, second only (for the time being) to the Chicago Bears.
Of those two dozen Packers, one of the more forgotten names is tackle Robert “Cal” Hubbard. A charter member of the Hall of Fame, Hubbard played both offense and defense for Green Bay. His massive size for the time – 6-foot-2, 253 pounds – puts him physically between linebackers Jake Ryan and Jayrone Elliott on today’s roster.
Because professional football was not considered a high-paying career in the 20’s and 30’s, Hubbard spent his offseason as a minor league baseball umpire. After his playing days in football ended in 1936, Hubbard began a career as an American League umpire that spanned from 1936-1951 and a supervisor for officiating crews until 1969.
A year before his death in 1976, Hubbard was inducted as an umpire to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. To this day, Hubbard remains the only man in both football and baseball’s hall of fames.
Evan “Tex” Western on not-so-highly-touted rookies making big plays
While the Green Bay Packers made their run of the table over the last six weeks, they have received important contributions from plenty of rookies. However, a pair of players - one selected on day three of the draft and another who agreed to terms as a free agent later that evening - have come up big in recent weeks and made plays that changed the direction of Sunday’s win in Detroit.
First is wide receiver Geronimo Allison, the undrafted rookie from Illinois. Allison’s contributions over the past few weeks have been well-documented overall, but his biggest catch on Sunday turned out to be a huge momentum-shifter for the Packers. With Green Bay trailing 14-10 with just 23 seconds remaining in the first half, Aaron Rodgers hit a wide open Allison on a wheel route up the right sideline for 39 yards. That play set up a 53-yard field goal by Mason Crosby to end the half, and the Packers took the lead back for good with a touchdown on the first series of the third quarter. Allison’s huge play was the reason that the Packers had any shot at scoring before the end of the half, and he followed it up with another wheel route on the other side later on in the game.
Allison looks smooth as a route-runner, and certainly deserves the snaps he’s receiving at this point. Remember Moritz Boehringer? Think of Allison as the inverse of him; Geronimo is hardly a physical freak, but he’s a refined receiver who can run a complete route tree, and I for one am grateful that it’s him in a Packers uniform rather than the former Unicorn.
The other player worthy of mention is fourth-round pick Dean Lowry. A SPARQ freak, Lowry’s technique is starting to catch up to his physical tools. On a free play due to an offsides penalty, Lowry broke through the line and sacked Matthew Stafford to prevent a free shot at the end zone. We also have this great look at his technique in disengaging from blockers on the inside when defending the run:
Lowry is showing signs that he should be a long-term contributor on the Packers’ line. He’s also doing it from a whole bunch of different positions, a critical factor for any lineman in a Capers-led defense that calls on them to play in numerous different spots along the line. It’s exciting to see a pair of young players making huge plays at this point in the season, and it’s a big reason why the Packers have had success despite some key injuries.