A 3-2-1 start is not what anyone was hoping for. That much is true.
But beyond that, it’s hard to nail down a lot of firm details about the 2018 Green Bay Packers. Are they good? Bad? Utterly mediocre? At times any of those three options could be true. So we asked our writers what they thought the Packers are at this point of the season.
The answers...may surprise you.
Shawn Wagner: The biggest head-scratcher of Mike McCarthy’s tenure
Aaron Rodgers said it perfectly on the field after the game when he said that the two games after the bye would tell us what type of team the Packers are. There might be enough talent to make a solid postseason run. There might be too much inconsistency and lack of discipline to reach eight wins.
When the Packers’ offense finds a groove as it did to open and close the game against San Francisco or finish off Chicago, this is a scary team. But long third down attempts, driven by penalties and indecisive sacks, have doomed this unit in the middle parts of games. Maybe Green Bay needs more no-huddle, up-tempo offense to find a rhythm and avoid unnecessary timeouts on play clocks dwindling down to one second. Maybe they need to give Aaron Jones more snaps than Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery after averaging almost six yards per carry this season. Maybe Davante Adams and Jimmy Graham need to continue getting touches early in games. There are so many maybes with this team after six games and many of them seem like obvious “yeses” to everyone but the Packers’ coaching staff.
For the reasons above, Green Bay remains a head-scratcher. Take out two improbable comebacks and this team is 1-4-1. Take out a Clay Matthews penalty and a poor kicking day from Mason Crosby and the Packers are 5-1. These next two games will truly define this season.
Bob Fitch: Last week’s leftover Chicken Parmesan in the back of your refrigerator
This was your dinner last week at the nice Italian restaurant in your town, the one with a faint air of arrogance. Served fresh and piping hot, this meal filled you up and you took half of it home with you. You left the place feeling good about your belly full of food as well as your future meal.
The base of the meal, the chicken, is Mike McCarthy. Originally juicy and fresh, it’s now a bit rubbery and should probably be tossed out before much longer as its once tender and filling bites now might make some people sick and render them useless. The cheese - Aaron Rodgers - typically makes everything around it better than it really is, and can cover up the flaws with the rest of the meal. Aged to perfection with a bit of a hard rind, cheese can take a while to heat up properly but once it does, there isn’t much better in this world. Too much cheese though, all you’ll taste is salt and a feeling of wasting something in its prime. The pasta and sauce - the rest of the roster - was O.K. the first time around. Nothing spectacular, but good enough. Now though, it’s getting strangely slimy and there’s mold growing on some of the penne. Why would anyone else really want this now? Is penne even that good? Why did that piece just start moving on its own? The latest addition to the meal, which was first offered at your table when the plate arrived, is the black pepper - the rookies. At this point in time, they seem to be the only thing in the dish giving it any flavor. A few pieces have soaked into the cheese and those two things really work well together (yum, MVS) but it’s still not enough to mask up the faint scent of decay and stale tomatoes.
It’s up to you to decide whether or not you’ll eat the chicken parm - if you do, you may regret it, but then again it may also be one of the better meals you’ll eat. At this point, nobody truly knows.
Evan “Tex” Western: A Chevrolet Vega
Aaron Rodgers looks like the Aaron Rodgers of 2011 and 2014 when the Packers get down late in games, slinging the ball all over the field to Davante Adams and his young receivers. But he’s missing gimme throws in the early and middle parts of some games and seems to be failing to trust his own eyes when he sees a receiver not named Adams getting open. The defense can rip off stretches where it becomes a truly immovable object, but can let an offense led by C.J. Beathard, Matt Breida, and Raheem Mostert gash them for 13 yards per play over nearly two quarters.
Then there’s the head coach, who alternates between calling a solid game and then forgetting that scheming his receivers open is allowed by league rules. He also can’t seem to find it within himself to put his best runner on the field for 25 or more plays per game, despite the fact that Aaron Jones has actually improved his yards-per-carry average from 5.5 yards a year ago to 5.9. Give him the ball multiple times on the first drive of the third quarter? Great! Now let’s bury him on the bench for the remainder of the game.
This team isn’t a Ford Pinto, where one fatal flaw can cause a catastrophic failure for the system as a whole. It’s more like the Chevrolet Vega of the 1970s -- it seems innovative at first with some new technology and it draws in a lot of buyers, but it’s actually subject to any number of problems that can seriously limit its performance and functionality. Ultimately, patching the car’s numerous flaws didn’t work, and the whole model was scrapped. The Vega’s flop is widely viewed as one of the main reasons for General Motors’ downfall; if Mike McCarthy can’t get things to run more smoothly in Green Bay the rest of the season, the 2018 Packers could be the same catalyst for his eventual departure.
Jon Meerdink: In the first year of a two-year rebuild
When Ted Thompson took over as general manager of the Packers in 2005, the cupboard was pretty bare. Mike Sherman had floundered in his dual coach/GM role and the Packers needed a teardown on both sides of the ball before they could return to contention.
Though the Packers roster and cap situation is in much better shape than when Thompson got the job, his last few years at the helm didn’t leave much in the way of roster depth for his successor. Though having Aaron Rodgers at quarterback does make the Packers nominal contenders, the season so far has shown us they clearly rank outside the realm of the league’s elite. (And yes, they could be 5-1 if a couple calls and kicks went differently. They would still be a deeply flawed team.)
Thus, Brian Gutekunst has spent much of his tenure to date collecting assets (the trade back in the first round of the draft) and positioning himself to enter his second offseason as GM with a boatload of cap space by both discarding aging veterans outright (Jordy Nelson) or declining to make serious overtures towards other higher priced but inconsistent players (Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix).
What we’re seeing this season is the result of Gutekunst accepting the fact that this team is farther from contending than most would want to admit, but his moves have put the Packers back on the path to success.
Mike Vieth: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The Packers are a team that doesn’t know it’s true identity. They have shown us more to be the nice polite Dr. Jekyll type of team more than the monster that’s hiding beneath. That’s right, Dr. Jekyll is the bad guy in this scenario while Mr. Hyde is what it takes to be successful in the NFL.
The offense has been a major disappointment so far this year. Yes, Aaron Rodgers and company have given us two thrilling comebacks but they were against the Bears and 49ers. Two teams that are on the upswing overall but should not be able to play with the Packers at this time. Mike McCarthy has become increasingly predictable with his play calls and they just aren’t plays that seem to play to the team’s strengths.
Devante Adams and Jimmy Graham have been reliable targets this season but with rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown just starting to emerge the passing game isn’t a major threat to opposing teams. The running game is just as confusing to me. We have Aaron Jones who is lighting it up while he’s in the game yet McCarthy doesn’t seem to trust him because of his dropped balls and the wrong routes he runs in the passing game. Nothing against Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery but, at this point, they have to get their explosive players in the game to help the other aspects of the offense.
The defense also doesn’t seem to have a grasp on Mike Pettine’s new system and haven’t put a strong four-quarter appearance up yet. The pass rush of Clay Matthews and Nick Perry is as spotty as cell coverage in the Northwoods and that allows teams to double team Mike Daniels and neutralize the other defensive lineman. Blake Martinez is quietly having another good season but the secondary is getting torched on a regular basis.
The frustrating part is that it is the veterans that are struggling more than the young defensive backs. Tramon Williams and Kentrell Brice have regularly seen their assignments celebrating in the end zone. While I still want to have faith in HaHa Clinton-Dix, he is another struggling with his reads. Luckily, the young players (like Kevin King and Josh Jackson) have been solid and shown to be getting better as the weeks roll on.
The first six weeks are over. They need to be put behind the team and need to be used as a learning experience. Now, the Packers need to let Mr. Hyde out of the box and put everything together. The pieces are there for the offense to click and become an unstoppable machine. The pieces are there for the defense to put an entire game together and wreak havoc on opposing offenses. The question that needs to be seen is: will Mike McCarthy and Mike Pettine let the monster out of the box? Otherwise, it could be another season of watching the playoffs from the sideline.