The Packers Want To Lose And Are Dumb, You Guys

COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE? NOT IN GREEN BAY

Well that’s not a good start. I’m not really sure if this guy deserves FJM treatment. We usually reserve it for at least McGinn level. Then again, his name is Al Davis, and for all we know it’s actually Al Davis even though he’s 140 years old and dead and drafting Rocket Ishmael with the first pick in the Afterlife Fantasy Football League because “speed kills.” And the website claims it pays some people and has a paywall. So let’s have at it, shall we? (He’s in bold. I, being sensible, am not.)

The Green Bay Packers refuse to sign other team’s free agents and now they apparently refuse to sign their own.

Technically speaking no teams have free agents. That’s why they’re free agents. This may sound like a semantic argument except…we’ll get to that later.

So much for draft and develop. Today the Packers let one of their most valuable defensive players walk by not using the franchise or transition tag on cornerback Sam Shields.

See, this is why it isn’t just semantic. This isn’t baseball where you can buy out a guy’s arb years for a discount on the free agent years. If Sam Shields wants to be a free agent he can be and there is only one thing the Packers can do about it, which is to use the franchise tag. The franchise tag for corners currently sits at just under $12 million. Aren’t you glad I told you that extremely relevant fact? I mean, I’m sure Al mentions it somewhere here…

Other teams are certainly not as stupid as the Packers so Shields will be long gone once free agency starts.

Does anyone think Sam Shields will get more than $12 million per year in free agency? I don’t. Look, Sam is a really nice player. He’s a very good corner and I would love to have him back, but football has a salary cap and the franchise rate is well above market value for all but the very best players.  And according to Pro Football Focus he was the 52nd-best CB in football last season, though he was 15th in 2012. Having a corner with upside in the top 20 is nice, but it’s not “break the bank” nice.

It is moves like this that explain why the Packers have fallen from Super Bowl champs to a .500 team in just three years.

This is a good way to get me to tear you up on the internet. Basic arithmetic. 

1. The Packers were better than .500, and in fact made the playoffs last year.

2. The only reason they were even close to a .500 team (and not super awesome) is because the league’s best player missed 7.5 games with a broken collarbone. That is the only reason.

3. I look forward to reading more from Al Davis via the @JScomments in the future, probably.

The Packers have $35 million to spend and won’t even use it to keep their own players, which they say is the core of their draft and develop philosophy.

When you sign your own players, you typically do so well before they reach free agency. You usually have a guy on a less lucrative deal, he exceeds the value of that contract, and you lock him up long term to get him some more money now. This is similar to how I described baseball above, but it means you have to have a player who is willing to trade the big free agent payout for some security now, and in football early salaries are not as depressed as in baseball. In any case, using the franchise tag on Shields is nothing like signing your own guy to a long term deal. The whole idea is to get surplus value out of your players, not to overpay them simply because they came up through your system.

The Packers raised ticket prices for the fifth year in a row even though the product on the field doesn’t merit it.

The Packers are 34-13-1 since they won the Super Bowl, as I often mention. Yes last year was a down year - because again, the best player in the league missed half a season - but their prospects are pretty bright going forward. Also, ticket prices are mostly a result of supply and demand. If they went 0-16 for 5 straight years and still sold out every game with a giant waiting list they could still raise ticket prices. If you don’t like it you can simply not go.

It makes you wonder who is calling the shots at 1265 Lombardi Avenue and makes you really wish they had an owner like Robert Kraft who is committed to winning. The Packers appear committed to mediocrity.

(Googles “Packer Front Office”)

President and CEO - Mark Murphy

GM - Ted Thompson

I knew that already, but hey, I also learned about Chelsea Schettle in HR. Keep up the good work Chelsea!

I also might mention that the New England Patriots and their commitment to winning haven’t won a Super Bowl in a decade.  The only thing the Patriots have really done better than the Packers over the last decade is to lose to the Giants one round later. 

But oh, this is stupid for so many more reasons, why stop at the obvious? The NFL has a salary cap and almost all teams use almost all of their cap. The Packers and Patriots will spend almost identical amounts on players. It’s not like some rich owner is just throwing money at every free agent willy-nilly. Well, OK, Daniel Snyder, but we’re talking about the Patriots.

The Patriots also operate in very similar fashion to the Packers. They typically trade down to acquire as many draft picks as they can and rarely sign big-name free agents. Their biggest free agent hits have been older guys with question marks (people forget that many thought Charles Woodson was just about finished when the Packers signed him. The Pats got similar value out of Randy Moss). Other than that it’s usually just cast-offs (Ced Benson, LaGarrette Blount) and draft picks.

To cast aspersions on the Packers by contrasting them with the Patriots makes no sense.

The Packers have to decide if it’s about being OK or if it’s about winning Super Bowls. The cost of doing business is going to be higher in Green Bay. That’s just the way it is when you do business in the league’s smallest market.

This irks me for so many reasons. First of all, the Packer fanbase is huge. The Brewers play in baseball’s smallest market, but the Packers are such a statewide (and nationwide) phenomenon that this frequently used sentence is just a lie. Every time someone says this a Bills fan punches a wall. Second, one of the main reasons Ted Thompson is so reliant on the draft is exactly because free agents are not clamoring to live in a small arctic city in Wisconsin. So rather than rely on sub-market talent through the draft Al here wants the Packers to pay above-market value to free agents in a salary cap league. Hey, maybe this is THE Al Davis!

Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy are running a seemingly sinking ship and showing no signs of distress. It’s amazing. I hope they have a better plan than the one they have using the last three years, because that one ain’t working.

I think the plan is to draft a bunch of defensive players and have a healthy quarterback and go 14-2 and win the Super Bowl.  It worked 4 years ago, after all.

Without Shields I can see the Packers’ defense giving up 2011 numbers again.

Sam Shields is good and I’d be happy to have him back, but I refer to this argument as the “Jay Mariotti Pittsburgh Pirates Outfield Fallacy.” I know, it’s not catchy, but let me explain. Back in the day I used to write a little blog called Brewed Sports where I would frequently go all FJM on woman-beating former columnist Jay Mariotti. One time when the Pirates were just starting their rebuild he took to the papers to tear them a new one for trading off all of their talent. You know, all of that talent that always came in last every single year. You can read the whole thing here. It contains this sentence:

"Bay, McLouth and Morgan would comprise one of the best outfields in the game if still together."

That’s Jason Bay, Nate Mclouth, and Nyjer Morgan. I know this is a football site and you may not all be baseball experts, so just let me tell you that in 2009 that would not have been one of the best outfields in a pre-ringer Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball league. Anyway, the point of this is that people tend to overvalue what they already have, sometimes to an absurd degree. Sam’s a nice player but the Packer defense was garbage last season. (By the way, why did he cite 2011? They were worse in 2013. Playing at the level they did in 2011 would actually be an improvement per Football Outsiders.) Keeping one guy from that defense for a lot more money will possibly preclude you from acquiring more players, and when you have the 2nd worst defense in the league you’re going to need more than one guy to fix it.

All this tough talk at the combine about how the defense is going to be better and they go and do this. All you can do is shake your head.

Instead of just shaking my head I maybe would have Googled what it would take to keep Sam Shields and weighed the benefit of signing him against the added burden of signing or extending additional players without the extra $12 million that I would forego. I at least would have looked up the last time the Patriots won a Super Bowl. 

Let’s Read Some Green Bay Packer Fan Fiction

Look, I understand that this isn’t easy. I write for a baseball blog and occasionally for a football website and this tumblr that barely anyone reads, basically whenever I feel like it. I don’t have to come up with new content every day and in exchange no one pays me anything. It’s a good system. I totally get that if you want to make a living writing about football you have to come up with topics when there is no football, and that is what leads to things like this. I wasn’t even going to bother but then I was randomly googling Larry Fitzgerald and this was the top hit which is just silly

Anyway (article in bold):

How Would Larry Fitzgerald Look with the Green Bay Packers?

Yahoo Contributor Network By Evan Massey

In formal logic if your premises are untrue then whether your conclusion is true or not, your argument is valid. For instance, “if the sky is bright neon yellow, then dogs speak perfect Italian.” That’s valid. It’s not true (necessarily) and kind of stupid, but it’s valid. I only mention this because here in the land where Larry Fitzgerald is a Packer the dogs speak perfect Italian.

COMMENTARY | The Green Bay Packers are entering a very interesting offseason, and there is a very real chance that GM Ted Thompson will look to make a splash or two.

As most of you know, Ted Thompson basically never makes a splash, but since the sky is already bright neon yellow and dogs are speaking Italian and Larry Fitzgerald is a Packer, why the heck not?

Green Bay is coming off of a very tough season last year that saw a lot of injuries, but they were still able to make a playoff run. They will likely be losing multiple weapons on offense in Jermichael Finley and James Jones, so that could very well put them in the market for a wide receiver.

If Ted Thompson has a specialty, surely it is finding wide receivers in the draft. They did not replace Donald Driver in free agency, they did not replace Greg Jennings in free agency, and they almost certainly will not replace Jones and/or Finley in free agency. I know at least a few people who are very high on Brandon Bostick as an offensive weapon and Jarrett Boykin acquitted himself just fine as a 3rd or 4th WR, which is all Jones is at this point. I also would wager that Ted will take a WR in the draft, but I could be wrong. In any case, wide receiver is one of the strongest positions on the team.

Obviously losing James Jones and Jermichael Finley will be big losses for the Packers, but they could make those losses go away with one very simple move.

Ignoring them?

The Arizona Cardinals are expected to listen to offers for star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and he could be the fix for all the offensive issues in Green Bay.

Hey guys, Larry Fitzgerald plays backup QB now!

I honestly have no idea what the offensive issues for the Packers could possibly mean. They were 4th in the NFC in points scored and that’s with only half a season of Aaron Rodgers. Jordy Nelson is still one of the ten (and I would argue five) best receivers in the game, Randall Cobb is still a huge weapon, and they now have a very good running game to complement an elite passing attack. Almost all of the Packers’ issues are on defense and special teams. What is the point of this?

Aaron Rodgers has put up huge numbers with his receiving corps, but adding a player like Fitzgerald would make them look even more unstoppable.

Sort of like being even more pregnant.

This isn’t going to be a trade that the Packers will likely take a look at, but it is certainly an interesting situation to think about. Fitzgerald played in all 16 games with the Cardinals last season, catching 82 passes for 954 yards and 10 touchdowns. Adding a playmaker with his ability in the red zone would be exactly what the doctor ordered for Mike McCarthy and the offense.

I don’t want to sound like I’m implying that the 30-year-old Fitzgerald is washed up or lousy. He’s still one of the NFL’s best. I mean, if the Packers could get him cheap…

Fitzgerald’s contract is extremely pricy,

Oh.

which makes acquiring him next to impossible for the Packers.

Well we should definitely keep talking about it then. Can we speculate about other impossible acquisitions at positions of non-need? Think they can get Christian Okoye as a backup RB? Maybe QB Eagles to back up Aaron?

They could afford to bring him in, but their primary focus is going to be on the defensive side of the football. There wouldn’t be a happier player in the NFL following the acquisition of Fitzgerald than Aaron Rodgers if something like this was to go down.

I’m sure Aaron would love seeing his defense get torched due to horrible mismanagement of resources. 

The Packers’ offense is already one of the most dangerous in the league, but adding Fitzgerald would bring a weapon that Rodgers has never had before.

Oh come on. Look, Larry Fitzgerald is really good, but it’s not like the Packers have surrounded Aaron with chopped liver. According to Pro Football Focus, in 2009 Larry was the 6th best WR. Greg Jennings ranked 16th. In 2010 Larry was again 7th and Jennings climbed to 11th. In 2011 Fitzgerald was 2nd overall, but Jordy Nelson was just barely behind him at 4th and Jennings was still hanging around at 14th.  And in 2012 Randall Cobb finished at 11th with Nelson at 27th while Fitzgerald was all the way down at 61. Rodgers has consistently had plenty of talent on par with Larry Fitzgerald.

His size combined with his athletic ability and great hands would be an incredible duo to watch.

What to make of this sentence…It’s so weird. The duo refers to Fitz and Rodgers but he lists only physical attributes or Fitzgerald and there are three of them which just grates up against “duo”. Maybe it’s like jazz and you have to read the words that aren’t there.

Fitzgerald has never played with a quarterback as talented as Rodgers, so he would be ecstatic about the move as well without question.

There’s this guy named Kurt Warner who led the revolutionary “Greatest Show on Turf” in St. Louis and then ended up on the Cardinals for five years starting in 2005 and played with Larry Fitzgerald for all five of those years and got them to a Super Bowl in 2008 and is a borderline Hall of Famer.* Maybe you’ve heard of him.

Overall, the fact of the matter is that the addition of Larry Fitzgerald would complete the Packers’ offense.

Just like Renee Zellweger completed Jerry Maguire except more expensively and less plausibly.

They don’t need to focus on the offensive side of the football, but if they decided that they wanted to make some improvements, this would be an ideal way to do it.

The best way to argue is to repeat your conclusion over and over unsupported by any facts. The best way to argue is to repeat your conclusion over and over unsupported by any facts.

This is certainly not something that will happen,

Well I’m glad we talked about it then.

but it is very intriguing to think about the Green Bay offense with Fitzgerald on board as well.

I like to think about their offense employing a cave troll. Now that’d be neat! 

*And would have been a sure-fire Hall of Famer had he started his career before the age of 27.

JSonline Getting Left Behind by Elite Football Hot Takes

Some people told me not to rip apart something from Bob McGinn, because people love Bob McGinn, but honestly, this has so many issues it would be crueler not to rip it apart.

 I mean, what if it happens again? Then people will stop liking Bob and JS readership will erode and they’ll go under and we’ll have to get all of our news from Begel. I’m doing a public service here. (Article in bold)

It’s one thing to be confident. It’s another to be smug.

Too true.

Listening to Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers and others last week, it would appear as if the Green Bay Packers think they can just roll the balls out next season and be a prime contender for the Super Bowl.

The Packers went 8-7-1 last year and won their division. Their MVP Hall of Fame level quarterback missed basically 8 games (we’re going to call it 8 because, let’s face it, they win that Bear game if Aaron doesn’t get hurt).  With him they’re probably closer to 11-12 wins, maybe with a 1st round playoff bye. So yeah, probably.

All this stuff about finishing strong and overcoming adversity has to stop.

They won 3 of their last 4, almost beat a very good Pitt team with Matt Flynn and almost beat the reigning NFC champs in the 1st round of the playoffs.  I’d say they finished pretty strong all things considered.

The Packers didn’t finish strong. They were on their home field in their kind of weather and in ideal position to beat a powerful foe in the playoff opener. Then they blew it in the last six minutes.

PACKER WEATHER! I think basically everyone knows at this point that the Packers aren’t really built specifically to play in bad weather anymore. I mean, Eddie Lacy and James Starks give them the ability to do so, but this is more of a precision passing team and they really do prefer being in domes. Calling it “their kind of weather” is silly and Bob would have known this had he interviewed 3 “personnel men” on December 31st:

"Forget about that they’re from California," the scout said. "If you had the Saints coming there you’d feel great. But the 49ers are built like a cold-weather team. As a matter of fact, they’re built better than the cold-weather team.

They also didn’t overcome adversity. The Packers lose their starting quarterback for the first time in 21 years and are proud of going 2-5-1 against a soft schedule (five at home) without him?

It’s pretty easy to replace Aaron Rodgers and still make the playoffs. Remember when the Colts lost Peyton Manning for the entire season?  They courageously fought hard every game; got the #1 overall pick, drafted Andrew Luck, and now they’re right back in the playoffs!

Let’s be clear about something else. The NFC North championship was more about the Detroit Lions pulling a colossal fold than the Green Bay Packers doing anything wonderful.

If you were planning for a significant loss on offense and how you were going to cope, you definitely would want to assume that the extremely well-coached Detroit Lions would not completely collapse down the stretch as that is completely unprecedented (I’m going to miss you Jim Schwartz). I would also point out that the Packers did actually have to win a few games to make this happen, and the Bears were also a factor. 

From the sound of things, the Packers — aside from a tweak here and a tweak there — plan to keep on operating the way they always have under Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers.

In case they missed it, pro football has moved on since the Packers’ lone Super Bowl in their eight seasons as partners.

The Packers won the 2010 Super Bowl against the Steelers. The next year the New York Giants won it in a rematch with the Patriots with a team very similar to the one they used to win it in 2008 over the Patriots. Great front 4, elite defense, Eli Manning, good receivers, power running game. Apparently pro football has moved on back to 2008. It is also worth mentioning that said Giants team had to go through the Packers to reach and win the Super Bowl.

In 2012 the Ravens won with a very good defense and an OK offense that had a nice month at the right time. They beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl, who had to go through the Packers to get there. So the Packers basically keep losing to Super Bowl caliber teams.  If you’re only going to mention the Joe Webb Viking debacle, it’s only fair to mention the other side of the equation too.

While the Packers were beating the Joe Webb-quarterbacked Vikings for their only postseason triumph since the 45th Super Bowl,

See what I mean?

NFC upstarts Seattle, Carolina and San Francisco — a combined 15-33 in 2010 when Green Bay was winning it all — drafted dynamic quarterbacks and made vast improvements to marginal defenses.

The playoffs are often more about matchups than anything and the Packers have had some tough ones, and these tend to balance out over time. The Packers actually had very favorable matchups in 2010 and made the most of it. The last 2 years they’ve run into Super Bowl caliber teams. It happens.

But I don’t want to talk about that right now, I want to talk about the Seattle Seahawks “drafting a dynamic quarterback.” First of all, those 3 guys – they sure are “dynamic” aren’t they?  Hard to think of a more “dynamic” bunch. I mean, I may have thrown Andrew Luck in there too, but that’s just me. I wonder why Bob didn’t.

Second, it’s true that they drafted Russell Wilson in the 3rd round and he won the starter’s job and now commands a Super Bowl favorite, but that wasn’t exactly the plan in Seattle.  The plan in Seattle was to have $26,000,000 Matt Flynn (with $10,000,000 guaranteed) quarterback that team. Hey, maybe the Packers DID learn something  from the Seahawks*!  

It might have been a terrible year in the division, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way.

Yeah, Aaron Rodgers probably won’t miss half a season again.

The Vikings panicked and missed on Christian Ponder, but with the No. 8 pick in the draft they’ll probably be right back in the quarterback hunt.

And they’ve had so much practice at this between drafting Ponder and signing Josh Freeman for no reason, they’re bound to get it right this time. I’m sure whoever is left after Bridgewater and Bortles go before they get to pick will be a dominant franchise QB.

If the Vikings find the next Russell Wilson, Cam Newton or Colin Kaepernick, they have more than enough good young players to be right back in the division race next season and beyond.

This is true for basically every single bad team in the NFL.

Ill-tempered and arrogant Jim Schwartz, whose teams were always undisciplined,

Can’t believe they collapsed!

did get the Lions out of jail. Whoever the next coach is would be a better choice than Schwartz to erase the stench of that 1-6 finish.

I like that he posits that literally anyone is better than Schwartz. X will wipe the stench off this 1-6 finish.

And aggressive general manager Phil Emery, already having built a formidable offense, will be using every means at his disposal in an attempt to rebuild the broken defense in Chicago.

Defensive players drafted by Phil Emery – Shea McClellin, Brandon Hardin, Isaiah Frey, Greg McCoy, Jon Bostic, Khaseem Greene, Cornelius Washington.  I am shaking in my boots.

Meanwhile, in Green Bay, McCarthy on Wednesday talked about what might have been in 2013 and, as his quarterback did a day earlier, a championship window they don’t foresee closing any time soon.

The Packers could forget how fortunate they were that the Lions self-destructed and bask in their third straight NFC North crown and fifth straight playoff berth.

The T-shirts around town say division champs, baby. How can you argue with success?

You could point out a bunch of shortcomings that have nothing to do with Rodgers being gone as if they’re big deals.

Or the Packers can take a long look at themselves, admit to their many shortcomings and failings and come back as a more vibrant organization under old standbys Thompson, McCarthy, Rodgers and Dom Capers.

See?

None of those four men has any reason to feel good about the recent past.

They are 34-13-1 since their last Super Bowl. Did I mention they won a Super Bowl?

Thompson has made his share of outstanding picks in the draft. It’s his area of expertise, and his drafting record over the years is better than the norm.

Hey, there’s something else to feel good about! Better than average drafts.

Last year, Thompson went blithely along with McCarthy on the idea that Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman were capable backups when everyone in America knew that they weren’t. Given Vince Young’s mental limitations, his signing Aug. 5 made no sense, either.

The Packers did with Harrell and Coleman exactly what they’d done before many times, sometime with great success as with the Brunell’s and Hasselbeck’s and Aaron Rodgers’ of the world, and sometime less so with the Matt Flynn’s and Doug Pederson’s of the world. They draft a cheap backup or two who may develop into something more, figuring that they probably won’t win if Aaron goes down anyway. They basically try to turn a wasted position into an asset, much like how Billy Beane used to create and trade closers for the A’s. Vince Young was once viewed as a very talented player and bringing him in as they did was a no-risk high-reward play.

If Thompson hadn’t dawdled for a week before bringing back Matt Flynn, the Packers might have gone 2-0 against the Giants and Vikings instead of 0-1-1.

Probably not. Matt Flynn did a heck of a job for a pretty untalented quarterback, though he did almost single-handedly cost them the Pitt game. But even assuming they win those two games, they finish 10-6 and get…the 4th seed in the playoffs. So signing Flynn earlier would have changed nothing. At all. Under McGinn’s best case scenario.

Thompson made another mistake when he didn’t sign another center after Greg Van Roten was done for the season Sept. 30. When Evan Dietrich-Smith couldn’t play an entire game, at least two changes in the line had to be made and the offense fell apart against the Eagles and Lions.

Maybe, but center’s don’t exactly grow on trees (see the Jeff Saturday debacle from last year).  And against the Eagles the Packers actually sacked Nick Foles (3-17) more than the Eagles sacked Scott Tolzien (1-8).  The Lions have one of the best defensive lines in football when they actually decide to show up. And every time you add one player you have to cut another. Backup centers are pretty limited in what they can contribute.

A secret to the Packers’ continued success has been their ability to identify core players early and sign them to slightly below-market contracts. Thompson’s decision to give Morgan Burnett a big-money extension in mid-July and then watch him perform like a free agent should have rocked the franchise’s draft-and-develop model.

One guy? One guy underperforming should change your entire personnel philosophy?

As good as the Packers have been acquiring extra draft picks, there usually aren’t enough of them to close all the holes. The safety position in Green Bay the past two years is a perfect example.

It’s a decent example, but they lost their awesome safety of the future to a horrible neck injury, and it’s not like they haven’t spent resources at the position. Missing on draft picks hurts, but not as much as missing on free agents. I think that’s what Ted would tell you.

Thompson’s aversion to veteran acquisition, whether through unrestricted free agency, street free agency or trade, must end for the Packers to hang with the top teams.

34-13-1 since the Super Bowl with their current philosophy.

John Schneider, Dave Gettleman and Trent Baalke, the personnel-oriented GMs in Seattle, Carolina and San Francisco, have their teams among the final four in the NFC partly because of their veteran additions.

Oh really?

In the trades of 2013, look what Anquan Boldin did for the 49ers,

They went from 11-4-1 and winning the NFC West and playing in a Super Bowl to 12-4 and being a Wild Card…

what Alex Smith did for the Chiefs,

I think Alex Smith is actually a pretty decent quarterback and that he was a pretty major upgrade from Matt Cassel, but I will forever argue that the biggest addition to the Chiefs was Andy Reid replacing a truly incompetent coaching staff, and that they would have hugely improved even with the same personnel. Also, they made it exactly as far as the Packers.

what LeGarrette Blount did for the Patriots,

Oh come on. The Patriots are probably the closest thing to the Packers in terms of relying on drafted players and cast-offs. Getting Blount for a song is the kind of thing the Packers have been ripped for by many people prior to drafting Eddie Lacy. LaGarrette Blount is basically Cedric Benson.   Praising the Patriots’ player acquisition strategy while ripping the Packers is just…

what Jerry Hughes (10 sacks) did for the Bills, what Carson Palmer did for the Cardinals and what Jon Beason did for the Giants.

Hughes was a good get.  Beason, who played a combined 5 games in 2011 and 2012 had a fine season for a Giants team that went nowhere. Palmer was fine except that he was something like the 20th best QB in the league and they still missed the playoffs and have a terrible offense.

In free agency, some of the wise signings on offense were tight end Martellus Bennett by the Bears, guards Louis Vasquez by the Broncos and Matt Slauson by the Bears, and running back Danny Woodhead by the Chargers.

All fine signings. Should I point out that none of these players would have helped the Packers with what we knew at the beginning of the season? That Finley was about as good as Bennett? That the Packer offensive line is actually quite strong at guard? That RB is strength, anchored by cheap talent?

The list on defense includes ends Michael Bennett by the Seahawks and Mike DeVito by the Chiefs, nose tackle Glenn Dorsey by the 49ers, inside linebacker Karlos Dansby by the Cardinals, outside linebacker John Abraham by the Cardinals, cornerback Keenan Lewis by the Saints, safety Glover Quin by the Lions, kicker Phil Dawson by the 49ers and receiver-returner Ted Ginn Jr. by the Panthers.

Look, some of these are fine signings, though including Phil Dawson is pretty hilarious, but the biggest problem with this whole section is that it ignores a bunch of terrible signings. Steven Jackson was awful for the Falcons. Danny Amendola got $10 million guaranteed from the Pats to barely play and be a worse version of Julian Edelman. The Vikings gave Greg Jennings 18 million guaranteed. The Dolphins gave Mike Wallace a huge pointless contract. And if we’re talking about emulating the “elite teams” of the recent past, maybe the dumbest thing you could possibly do is make Joe Flacco the highest paid QB in NFL history.  And missing on a free agent can be crippling to your cap. If you miss on a draft pick it sucks but you can just cut the guy and try again. If you miss on a free agent it has serious consequences. 

Green Bay’s only signing was Matthew Mulligan.

"They have no pro department up there," an executive in personnel said. "Ted does some good things in drafting but they don’t do (expletive) in personnel.

"Ted has shut it down lately. They’ve gone stone cold. They have not been utilizing all the markets. Now it’s caught up to him."

Wow! I didn’t realize it was so dire! They have no pro department, I mean that’s just…

If Thompson trusts himself, pro personnel director Eliot Wolf and others in the building, he’ll resume activity in free agency and seek bargain-priced or market-priced veterans to augment the draft.

Wait, what’s that?

pro personnel director Eliot Wolf and others in the building

So…they do have a pro department. And not just one guy either. “Others in the building.”

As one scout put it, “You start at 8-8 when you have a franchise quarterback.”

Pretty impressive to finish better than that with half a season of the Flynn/Tolzien/Wallace monster then.

McCarthy deserves a degree of credit for developing Rodgers. He deserves blame for not being able to function better without him.

I’m not surprised that the Packers struggled without Aaron Rodgers but do you know who is surprised? Journal-Sentinel Packer Beat Writer Bob McGinn, who on November 2nd wrote an article titled:

Packers could win without Aaron Rodgers

He’s the quarterback/offensive/play-calling guru. He didn’t get it done with Harrell, Coleman and Young, and when push came to shove he didn’t get it done with Seneca Wallace or Scott Tolzien, either.

Try as he might, McCarthy failed to win a game for a month. In that period, he couldn’t rally the team the way some great coaches in similar straits have done over the decades.

I like the “he failed to win a game for a month” line because it ignores the tie. McGinn should try being a hockey writer sometime, he already has the lingo down. Anyway, the Packers didn’t “win” in November, however Mike then did “rally the team” (whatever that means)to win 3 out of 4 in December to make the playoffs! It was very exciting how they rallied! Maybe Bob stopped watching games in November and missed the rally.

It also would have helped if McCarthy could have counted on his special teams more when Rodgers wasn’t around to outscore the opposition. Unlike coaches that have had to make do without a great quarterback, he never had to depend on his kicking game for field position and points.

I’m with Bob on this. The Packers have atrocious special teams, especially in coverage, but it’s worth noting that injuries really kill your special teams because your normal special teamers are playing starter minutes.

Bill Walsh never seemed to care. If McCarthy really does care, you wouldn’t know it by the performance of his special teams for much of his tenure.

As for the overriding problem of injuries, McCarthy either has the most fragile or the unluckiest team in the league. The Packers need to find tougher players from the standpoint of injuries (see Eddie Lacy), but I’m not sure McCarthy or any of his advisers have a clue how to do it.

The Packers, Panthers and Patriots (among a few others) have been consistently injury-plagued for years now. Typically this kind of thing regresses to the mean, but not with them. I’m not really sure why either, but I know of one theory which I will quote here:

“However, given that Thompson excels at finding talent on the fringes, it makes sense that a) some of that talent is going to have flaws that kept them from going high (for example, being undersized or injury prone) and b) Thompson’s ability to scrounge up good freely available talent minimizes the actual risk of bringing in players with injury concerns. That’s the kind of player-acquisition style that can keep a team both infused with talent and constantly managing injuries, a tradeoff the Packers are more than willing to make.” – Football Outsiders 2013 Almanac

The pipeline from Thompson to the defense has all but dried up after the draft-day trade for Clay Matthews in 2009. That has placed undue burden on Capers, but as someone regarded by many in football as a top-five to top-10 coordinator it’s incumbent upon him to perform better than this.

Why doesn’t anyone like Mike Daniels? That guy is good!

In the last four years, the Packers have ranked 28th, 26th, 26th and 29th in yards allowed per rush. Stopping the run is the foundation for any defense.

Actually stopping the pass is the foundation for any good defense. As evidence for this I will point out that in the last 4 years the Packers actually won a Super Bowl with that run defense.

After a one-year improvement, the total of missed tackles (127) was almost back to the 2011 level (140) that sent McCarthy on an off-season tirade.

Just when it seemed the Packers could never allow as many as the 85 plays of 20 yards or more that they did two years ago, they yielded 82.

Has he mentioned the safeties yet? I guess he mentioned Burnett. Most of this stat is attributable to terrible play by the safeties. Another big figure is the rule changes that have led to more offense in the NFL as a whole, and the shift by the Bears into an actual offensive juggernaut.  It’s bad and needs to be fixed. I would totally not FJM an article on the specific problems with the defense.

The red-zone defensive ranking was in the 20s for the third straight year, and the points-off-takeaways totals the past two years were by far the two lowest of the McCarthy era.

So many evils on defense returned to Green Bay this season.

Capers, however, has owned Jay Cutler (8-1) and Matthew Stafford (6-1), and it’s a critical feather in his cap.

I’m actually in favor of ditching Capers even though he coached a hell of a game in the playoffs this year, but there’s a lot here that’s silly. Takeaways tend to vary wildly for all teams from year to year and they are likely to increase next year for the Packers even if they do nothing (and more so if they improve their safety situation). Red-zone defense is sort of the “batting average with runners in scoring position” of the NFL and we should basically just ignore it. Teams with bad defenses have bad red zone defenses too. As for that last thing…can we not do quarterback wins? This is just making me long for bad baseball writing, which is still months away.

In 2010, Rodgers performed well in the first and third playoff games and brilliantly in the second and fourth. His pelts forever are on the wall.

Since then, in four playoff games, he outplayed the aforementioned Webb (subbing last minute for the injured Ponder) in the only victory and was outplayed by Kaepernick twice and Eli Manning once in the three defeats.

I think it’s totally fair to pick on the Packer defense. What’s not fair is to compare quarterbacks who were facing the defense you were just ripping to Aaron facing some elite defenses.

Not once in those four games did the opposing coordinators all-out blitz Rodgers, and on a mere 12.3% of passes did they even pressure with five. Just as San Francisco’s Vic Fangio did last Sunday, the way to subdue Rodgers in the postseason is to make him be patient.

No. The way to construct a good defense is to acquire personnel who can generate a pass rush without blitzing. The Giants sacked Aaron 4 times in that game. The Packers only got to Eli once and I’d wager they blitzed the hell out of him. The 49ers only got him once the first time, but 4 times last Sunday. They’re not making Aaron be patient, they’re getting pressure while covering everyone. It is what elite defenses do.

After review, it could be said that Rodgers gave the Packers ordinary quarterback play in his last four playoff starts.

I’d say he was pretty good but not great. He couldhave been better, but Aaron is far from being the problem in Green Bay.

Rodgers accepted blame Tuesday, but the only thing that matters will be if he performs a whole lot better than ordinary if and when his team returns to the postseason.

In a league set up for quarterbacks to dominate, the Packers need Rodgers to dominate. By the same token, they need Thompson, McCarthy and Capers to step up their games.

Complacency can be insidious within a National Football League operation. The Packers should have nothing to be complacent about.

Complacency can indeed be insidious.  This article is titled “Packers getting left behind by NFL Elite” and was posted on January 11th, 2014.

On January 19th 2013, Bob McGinn wrote an article titled “Packers too soft to join NFL’s elite”

So at the very least the headline writer is getting a bit complacent.

That article contains this line:

“Is it helpful that the players work in the lap of luxury? Team executives are proud to say football gets everything it wants, but at some point having the best amenities and finest food can be counterproductive in a quasi-militaristic culture.

Is it necessary for McCarthy to give older veterans a practice off just a week or so into training camp? Maybe he could put the hammer down just a little bit more.

The Elite! They’re getting away! And also tough and physical and grrr…

In closing,

A: Sign expensive free agents.

B: Treat them like dirt to toughen them up so no one gets hurt.

C: ????

D: Huge Profits.

*I would also like to mention that the Seattle Seahawks have more PED suspensions over the last 3 seasons – by far – than any other team in football (except for Washington).

The Lions Are Lousy at the Little Things

It’s hard to block field goals, especially in the modern NFL. Kickers are better and stronger than ever, and they generally get good elevation even on long attempts. Still, as a field goal attempt gets longer the kicker will generally lower the trajectory to add distance to the kick, and the farther the attempt, the lower it will get.  This is why it’s easier to block long kicks.

Watching Justin Tucker hit his 61-yard game-winning field goal on Monday night, I was struck by how little the Lions actually seemed to care about blocking the attempt. He had an absolutely giant kicking lane up the middle. Look at this:

image

Where is everyone? Especially up the middle?

Contrast that with Mason Crosby’s 57-yard attempt from Sunday:

image

The Cowboys at least try to bring some people up the gut. Here it is a second later:

image

You’ll note that Brett Goode actually had to stand up and do something. It’s a little thing, but it was big enough that I actually noticed it live. 

"Going For Two Was Wrong Because It Didn’t Work"

You should all be better than this by now. 

In the 4th quarter on Sunday with 11:47 to go in the game the Packers scored a touchdown to cut the deficit to 23-13. Mike McCarthy opted to go for the 2-point conversion to cut it to a one score game. A few people on my timeline griped about it at the time. I’m not here to talk about those people. I think they were wrong, and that McCarthy made the correct call, but my big problem is with simple-minded ex post facto analysis. People who say “it didn’t work so they shouldn’t have done it” drive me nuts. That is an awful way to evaluate decisions. I had a twitter discussion with Aaron Nagler where he made the following statement:

The “wrong call” according to the chart - proving the chart isn’t always right. Don’t go for 2 until you need to.

That’s obviously wrong. If you need further convincing you should read Bill Barnwell on the subject. He includes actual math AND helpful, insightful commentary. 

But you don’t need fancy math in this instance. If the Packers kick the PAT they know for sure they will need 2 more possessions along with some defensive stops. The defensive stops are probably the most important thing. As you may recall, in the 4th quarter of the most recent Bears game, the Bears were able to put together an almost 9-minute drive at the end of the game to wipe out the clock.

In the very next game against Philly the Eagles killed 9:32 to end the game. 

So when McCarthy reached this point he was probably skeptical that his team would have two more possessions. Especially since the Vikings’ previous possession looked like this (starting with 5:26 remaining in the 3rd):

Adrian Peterson for 7

Adrian Peterson for 5

Toby Gerhart for 15

Toby Gerhart for 6

Incomplete to Carlson

Complete to Jennings for 8

Toby Gerhart for 26

Toby Gerhart for 11

Adrian Peterson for 1

Adrian Peterson for 1

Complete to Patterson for 5

Blair Walsh FG.

Total elapsed time: 6:02

On their drive after the failed 2-point converstion, the Vikings started out like this:

Adrian Peterson for 5

Adrian Peterson for 17

Adrian Peterson for 3

Ponder then threw an incomplete pass and a completion to Patterson that lost 3 yards. There’s a decent argument to be made that that 2nd down pass attempt cost the Vikings the game.

The chart says to go for two when you’re down by 10 in the 4th, but the situation screamed at them to go for 2. Sometimes good processes lead to bad results. That doesn’t mean the processes were flawed, it means you’re playing a game with a lot of randomness and uncertainty.

Mason Crosby and Clean Games

Mason Crosby has had a decent year so far in that he hasn’t missed any Field Goals. Sure he doesn’t kick off anymore because Tim Masthay can apparently boom it out of the end zone at will*, and 3 out of the 4 kicks he’s made this year have been under 30 yards (the 4th was a 41-yarder so he hasn’t exactly been tested), but when called upon he has succeeded. In fact, Mason has made all of the field goals he has attempted in his last 4 games.

In baseball when we talk of relief pitchers we will sometimes talk about “clean innings.” Clean innings are innings in which the pitcher doesn’t allow a baserunner. Relief pitchers, much like football players, are more subject to the whims of random chance as they don’t make that many appearances. Some manage to appear superficially valuable by escaping dangerous innings of their own creation unscathed, but if a relief pitcher is consistently allowing baserunners it tends to catch up with them eventually. Likewise, if a reliever is dominating enough to have a high percentage of clean innings, that reliever is more likely to maintain his success going forward. It’s not the most rigorous stat in the world (at all) but it’s not a bad quick-and-dirty indicator.

Anyway, I thought I’d take a look at Mason Crosby’s clean games. I wanted to find out how many has he had as a percentage of total games, how many clean games has he managed to put together in a row, how many games with a miss has he had in a row, and is that number good or bad.   For purposes of this exercise I excluded games in which a kicker had no attempts.

For the sake of comparison I also took a look at Stephen Gostkowski. I did this for several reasons:

  1. Both kickers have played for prolific offenses their entire careers.
  2. Both have kicked in outdoor stadia subject to weather their entire careers.
  3. While Gostkowski has an extra year in the league, he also missed half a season, and they have roughly the same number of attempts (Mason is 156/202, Gostkowski is 178/211).

Let’s take a look. 

Total Clean Games:

Gostkowski – 62/93, or 67%

Crosby – 47/83, or 57%

Longest streak of clean games:

Gostkowski – 6 (twice)

Crosby – 11

From December 12th 2010 to November 14th, 2011, Mason didn’t miss a single field goal going 21/21 (the Packers went 9-2 over this span). This shouldn’t be a huge surprise as 2011 was a career year for Crosby, well outside of his established norms.  Gostkowski’s two 6-game streaks came in 2007 with the latter rolling over into 2008.

Length of streak of clean games, number of streaks of that length

Gostkowski

6 – twice

5 – twice

4 – twice

3 – 5 times

2 – 6 times

1 – 5 times

Crosby

11 – once

4 – twice

3 – 3 times

2 – 5 times

1 – 9 times

Outside of one outlier Gostkowski is far superior to Crosby.  Crosby has 9 instances of an unclean game followed by a lone clean game followed by another clean game. Gostkowski reliably puts together at least 2 clean games for every unclean game.

Length of streak of unclean games, number of streaks of that length.

Gostkowski

3 – twice

2 – 6 times

1 – 14 times

Crosby

9 – once

4 – twice

3 – once

2 – 3 times

1 – 13 times.

Gostkowski has never had more than 3 unclean games in a row. Crosby has had 3 such streaks, one of which lasted 9 games starting with a 0-2 performance on October 7th 2012 and concluding with another 0-2 performance on December 16th, 2012. Over this 9-game streak of pure suckitude Mason was 12/24. The Packers somewhat miraculously went 7-2 over this span.

Every kicker is going to miss kicks, but Mason Crosby just isn’t reliable. I frequently hear media members (mostly on WTMJ when I’m driving in the morning) long for Mason to get back to normal, but normal Mason is actually pretty bad. That 11 game streak is what people tend to remember and think of as “normal”, but on any given Sunday it’s nearly a coin-flip as to whether or not Mason Crosby will make all of his field goals

*and we’re just finding this out now why, exactly? 

The Packers Weirdest Close Losses

I won’t tell you that Aaron Rodgers was never responsible for any of the close losses suffered by the Packers under his tenure. He definitely threw one or two game killing picks and he definitely took a lot of bad sacks. That said, these losses are usually a team effort. Here are a few examples of close games that probably should have been won if not for something unusual.

  1. December 22nd, 2008 Bears 20, Packers 17

Green Bay led 14-10 entering the 4th, and went up 17-10 on a 28-yard Mason Crosby FG.  Nick Collins picked off Orton and they looked to be in business, but they went 3-and-out and Hester brought back Kapinos’ 33 yard punt 24 yards for a 9-yard net. Forte ran on 6 of the next 7 plays and that was good enough for a TD. This included a gutsy  1-yard gain on 4th and 1 from the GB 4. On the kickoff Will Blackmon had a great return,  and an  unnecessary roughness penalty on the other Adrian Peterson tacked on 15 more. Aaron took over on the 35 and drove them down to the 20 where…

The weird part…

Mason had a game winning FG blocked by Alex Brown and the Packers never got the ball in OT. On the first play Orton hit Greg Olsen for 17 and another 15 was tacked on for an unnecessary roughness penalty on Rouse. They just ran Forte and kicked a FG. 

Mason Crosby was a disaster in this game. Not only was his potential game-winner blocked, he also missed a 46-yarder early in the game. 

     2. September 27th, 2010, Bears 20, Packers 17

No, this is not the same game. It was much, much more infuriating. The Packers entered the 4th up 10-7, however that lasted 1 play as Devin Hester took a Tim Masthay punt the distance for a 14-10 lead. Aaron took them right down the field and scored on a 3-yard scramble to regain a 17-14 lead.  Things looked great as Nick Barnett picked off Cutler on the next series but it was nullified by a roughing the passer penalty on Zombo. Two plays later the Pack were called for another unnecessary roughness penalty, this time on Collins tackling Forte.  That was basically the whole drive for the Bears as Robbie Gould hit a FG to tie it up. On the next drive Aaron got them out to midfield where he was called for intentional grounding which moved them back to the Packer 38. On 2nd and 20 he hit Jones for 8 yards but Urlacher stripped him and Tim Jennings recovered. On the Bears next drive, Nick Collins picked off Cutler but the pick was wiped out by a pass interference call on Burnett which moved them from the GB 33 to the GB 9. Gould hit a 19 yard FG with 8 seconds left for the win.

The weird part…

You may recall the ridiculous officiating in this game. The Packers were flagged a franchise record 18 times for 152 yards. The Bears were flagged 5 for 38.  Bear drives routinely consisted entirely of penalties, and many Bear turnovers were negated by dubious Packer penalties. Also, Julius Peppers blocked a 37 yard Mason Crosby FG because Mason isn’t allowed to make FGs against the Bears.

     3. October 17th, 2010, Dolphins 23, Packers 20

The Pack entered the 4th down 13-10. Rodgers drove them right down the field, but they settled for a 26-yard FG on 4th and 3 from the 8 to tie it.  The Dolphins punted on their next drive and the Packers did likewise. Then…

The weird part…

The Dolphins were punting on 4th and 2 from the GB 43, but Robert Francois was called for illegal formation and the 5 yard penalty gave the Dolphins a 1st down. What does that even mean? Apparently one may not line up directly over the center within 3 yards of the line during a punt. 

With new life, Chad Henne hit Anthony Fasano for a 22 yard TD to go up 20-13. Aaron went right down the field. 69 yards in 5 minutes capped off by a 1 yard TD run to tie it. In OT the Dolphins started with a 3 and out, but so did the Packers. While Miami’s punter boomed a 50 yarder with a penalty tagged on, Masthay hit a 37 yard turd. A few Ricky Williams runs got them into Carpenter’s FG range.  Had Francois simply not committed a penalty that I don’t believe I’ve seen called before or since, they almost certainly win the game.

     4. October 7th, 2012. Colts 30, Packers 27.

GB was up 21-19 entering the 4th, but punted to start the frame. Casey Hayward picked off Luck at the GB 49, but after a 19 yard scramble by Rodgers they could do no more and had to punt. Luck took the Colts down the field quickly resulting in a 28 yarder by Vinatieri to go up 22-21. After a decent start to the next drive Aaron took two consecutive sacks around midfield and they punted, but the Colts went 3 and out and punted back. After a 41 yard run by Alex Green Rodgers hit Jones for an 8 yard TD, but the 2-point try failed. On the ensuing drive Reggie Wayne just destroyed the Packer defense and scored a 4-yard TD with 39 seconds to go. Donald Brown ran in a 2-pointer.

Weirdness…

Trailing 30-27 with 2 TOs and 35 seconds left Aaron hit Cobb for 7 and 26, Driver for 14, and spiked it at the Colt 33 with 9 seconds left. They did not get any closer, but used their last timeout anyway presumably to ice Mason, which worked beautifully as he missed a 51 yarder.  Mason was 0-2 on the day.

     5. November 9th, 2008. Vikings 28, Packers 27

The Packers entered the 4th up 24-21. After punting from the Minnesota 45, AP ripped off a few runs before fumbling. A Colledge holding penalty and a Clifton false start put them in a hole and Aaron could only get back 20 of the 25 yards they needed. Crosby hit a 40 yarder to go up 27-21. On the next drive Adrian Peterson got the ball on 7 of 8 plays and scored on a 29 yard TD run to go up 28-27 with 2:30 left. Wil Blackmon had a nice 31 yard kick return out to the GB 41. Rodgers hit Driver for 19 on the first play down to the Minnesota 40 with 2:00 to go.

Coaching weirdness…

There, Mike McCarthy choked as Grant ran for -1, for 4, and then Aaron checked down to Driver for 3. On 4th and 4 with 31 seconds left Mason missed a 52 yarder in the dome for the loss.  I remember this game like it was yesterday, and why there were completely fine with a 50+ yard FG with plenty of time to go I’ll never know.

      6. December 20th, 2009, Steelers 37, Packers 36

No weirdness here, just too good teams, and Ben had it last.

 The Pack trailed 24-14 entering the 4th, but due to a heroic effort from Aaron they got back into it. Aaron hit Finley for an 11 yard TD on the 5th play of the quarter to cut the lead to 24-21, but Pitt answered with a Jeff Reed FG. Aaron came right back hitting Jordy Nelson for 27 followed by a 24 yard Ryan Grant TD run to take a 28-27 lead. Pitt marched right back down the field for a Jeff Reed FG to go up 30-28. Pitt then apparently tried a surprise onside kick but it didn’t go 10 yards. Aaron made the most of the short field eventually hitting James Jones for a 24 yard TD, and a 2-pt conversion to go up 6 with 2:12 to go. You know what happened next. Ben marched Pitt right down the field, including converting a 4th and 7 at the Pitt 22, hitting Santonio Holmes for 32 yards, and later hitting Heath Miller for 20 on 3rd and 15. Eventually he hit Mike Wallace on the extreme right side of the end zone for a 19 yard TD as time expired. Aaron played great in the 4th, it just wasn’t enough to overcome a good Steelers team.

You may not remember…

Mason Crosby was 0-1 on the day, missing a 34 yarder in the 2nd quarter.

     7. September 24th, 2012. Seahawks 14, Packers 12

Yes, this would be the Fail Mary game, one year ago today. The Packers actually trailed 7-6 entering the 4th, but Aaron led a long drive to open the quarter culminating in a 1-yard plunge by Ced Benson. The Pack went for two to try to make it 14-7 but the attempt failed leaving it 12-7. On the first play of the next drive Jerron McMillian actually picked off a pass from Russell Wilson but it was wiped out by a roughing the passer penalty on Erik Walden. Later in the same drive the Hawks committed back to back penalties to create a first and 25 but got bailed out on a 32 yard DPI by Sam Shields. They’d get all the way down to the GB 7 with 2 minutes to go, but were stopped on 4th and 3 on an incomplete pass to Tate. The Pack took over with 1:54 to go from their own 7, but they went backward. Benson lost 5 yards and fumbled on his first carry, had no gain on his second, and on 3rd and 15 Mike McCarthy choose to run John Kuhn up the middle which worked twice as well as expected in that he got 2 yards.

The stupid weird badness…

You all know what happened next. Funny thing about the Fail Mary. The Seahawks were at the 24, which seems close enough to run actual pass plays. I remembered it as being from the 40 or so.

So Aaron has 17 losses of 4 points or less on his resume. These are 7 of them. Bears blocking Mason, a record in penalties, a defensive illegal formation penalty, conservative play calling resulting in long Crosby misses, the Packers icing Mason for some reason, the Fail Mary, and simply not having the ball last.  Which of these was Aaron’s fault again? 

On Aaron Rodgers’ Clutchiness, Part 2

Last week was all about Aaron’s ability to come back. This week is apparently about his record in games decided by “4 points or less.”  I assume this number was chosen because they lost by 4 points on Sunday, but it’s kind of an odd choice.  Anyway, I figured I’d look at Aaron’s record in games decided by, well, basically everything. I again eliminated all games prior to 2008 before he was the starter. Before we get into the nitty-gritty I just wanted to mention that:

  1. Close games for any given team will tend to approach 50% over time just because close games are by and large played between fairly equal teams, 
  2. And because close games are within one score by definition, the effects of randomness will increase, and again, we’d expect that over time the record for any given team/player in close games would regress to around .500

So back to Aaron.  First, he’s only “lost”* 28 games total while he’s won 53. Since the Packers have been very good almost the entire time he’s been at the helm, we would expect a high number of blowout wins and a low number of blowout losses. When you’re a good team you don’t get killed much, and you do destroy teams on a fairly regular basis. And that’s what we see.

We would also expect then that as a percentage of total losses, most losses would be close. And indeed, Aaron has suffered only 2 losses over 20 points. He’s suffered only 5 losses over 10 points. He’s suffered only 7 losses over a touchdown. Beating the Packers is difficult, and teams that manage to do it are usually only going to do it by the slimmest of margins.

On the other side, Aaron has won 16 games by 20+. He’s won 23 by 2 TDs or more.   Aaron has lost 28 games total, but he’s won 32 games by 10 points or more. Here’s a breakdown of every margin below 2 TDs.

Differential  - Record

1                                             1-2

2                                             2-3

3                                             3-13

4                                             5-17

5                                             6-18

6                                             9-19

7                                             15-21

8                                             17-22

9                                             21-23

10                                         26-24

11                                         27-25

12                                         28-26

13                                         30-26

14                                         32-26

There are only 2 losses beyond 12 points: in 2008 against New Orleans when they lost by 22, and in 2012 against the Giants when they lost by 28. There are many more wins.

I’d point out again that close losses say as much – or more – about your defense, kicker, and coaching staff as they do about your QB. Maybe I’ll also take a closer look at the 3 point games as I suspect that if Mason Crosby were a better kicker that number would be more like 10-12.

The biggest thing to remember is that we’re looking a very small sample size with some arbitrary cutoffs. As Aaron Rodgers continues to play, this will almost certainly regress to the mean and get closer to .500.

John Elway is considered by many people to be one of the most clutch players in NFL history. He is generally thought of as one of the 5 best quarterbacks ever to play the game and he is the choice of many as the finest the NFL has ever seen. His comebacks are the stuff of legend.

His record in games decided by 4 points or less is 39-37-1.

*Please note that every time I type that Aaron Rodgers, as an individual, has “lost” a game, a small part of me dies inside, but for purposes of this post it’s probably unavoidable. I hope you all appreciate the sacrifice.

The Wisconsin-ASU call was worse than the Fail Mary

I write a lot about managers and coaches. The reason for that is because managers and coaches act without opposition. If James Starks wants to score a TD he has to get past some safety who is willing to knock himself unconscious to stop him. If Ron Roenicke want to bring in a lefty, he just has to tap the proper arm.

Refs fall into a similar category. It might be tough to make certain calls, but refs are all powerful. They merely have to speak, and thy will be done.

This is one of the reasons it’s infuriating when someone says something like “well they shouldn’t have let themselves get in that position.” Ridiculous. They were put in that position by another team actively trying to stop them, and under the assumption that the middle management functionaries in charge of officiating the game would do so fairly.

Anyway, the Fail Mary was awful, but it wasn’t as awful as the Wisconsin-ASU game. The refs in charge of the Fail Mary screwed up a matter of fact. They ruled that Golden Tate had “control” before MD Jennings, and that replay was too inconclusive to rule otherwise. That’s stupid, but “control” isn’t well defined (not possession, control) so it’s essentially a judgment call. Honestly, I don’t think anyone in the NFL can tell you with much certainty what is and is not a catch. The bottom line is the Fail Mary was called under the rules, reviewed upstairs, and a final judgment was made. It was wrong and stupid, but it followed proper procedure.

On the other hand, in the Wisconsin game rules were just summarily ignored. Stave took a knee. The refs ruled that he took a knee. They signaled as much and blew the whistle. At that point ASU was obligated to stop. Since they didn’t, the refs should have stopped the clock and called a delay of game.

If, as some contend, they thought Stave fumbled, they also should have stopped the clock for change of possession at which point a proper review could have taken place. The one thing you cannot have is a ref ruling a proper down, and then refusing the offense the ball. That is a blatant violation of the rules.

And it’s worse than that. As it was the last play of the game it was a fixable mistake. I understand not correcting a mistake once another play has taken place, but that’s just it; there was no new play. This mistake is, quite literally, still correctable. The only reason the refs did not fix their obvious mistake is that they didn’t feel like it. They did not feel like looking at replay, at retroactively changing their awful call, or admitting error. They thought it too much bother to stay on the field a bit longer and talk it over.

I understand getting judgment calls wrong. That’s going to happen. What I can’t really stand is an official who doesn’t know the rules properly, who can’t be bothered to enforce them, and who is unwilling to correct easily correctable mistakes.

The Fail Mary was your garden variety incompetence. The call against Wisconsin was a conspiracy of proud idiocy.