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Depth can make the difference

Posted Jan 27, 2018

Rewriting a playbook is about building for the future


Tim from Spooner, WI

We've all heard that overused phrase "execution beats recognition," but does the "rewriting" of the Packers’ offense and defensive playbooks as mentioned indicate the organization might have come to the conclusion that the Packers’ game plans were becoming too predictable?

That’s not what I read into it. The Packers have new leadership across the board, especially in regards to the passing offense. It makes complete sense to pull everyone together and draw up the vision for 2018. As Joe Philbin said, things would have continued to evolve and change even if he’d stayed in Green Bay the past six years. Rewriting a playbook can be about building for the future without being an indictment of the past.

Brandon from Flagstaff, AZ

Does Davante Adams participating in the Pro Bowl mean he’s cleared the concussion protocol?

Adams cleared the protocol after the game in Detroit. That’s why he was allowed to address the media during final locker-room availability.

Adam from Madison, WI

2013: Rodgers gets hurt and it's a season full of adversity. 2014: One of the better-rounded Packers teams in recent history. 2017: Rodgers gets hurt and it's a season full of adversity. 2018?

One of the better-rounded Packers teams in recent history? Injuries ruined the 2013 season, but that team wasn’t far away from contention. I view the 2017 team through a similar lens. This past season showed Green Bay where it needs to improve.

Joe from Asbury, IA

I love the talk about Pettine's defense maybe being "too complicated." These are the highest level players, and if they can't pick up a defensive scheme, understand it, and execute it then perhaps they should find a different career or team. Shouldn't all NFL defenses be complicated? Chances are if you showed me a less-complicated NFL defense I'd still be unable to understand it.

All defenses are going to be complicated to a certain extent because of all the pre-snap mind games from no-huddle offenses and run-pass options. The key is developing a defensive system that can be absorbed within the confines of the current NFL landscape, which restricts offseason contact. I think Pettine’s scheme has proven to be adaptable in those conditions.

Vinny from Arlington, VA

Pettine was last a full-time DC in 2013. Most recently, he was a defensive consultant this past season and out of football the year before that. Should there be any concern with any rust or an adjustment period for him? Four years is a long time to not have been a hands-on defensive coordinator.

One of the best things I’ve felt happened to Wade Phillips was being away from the game in 2014. He returned a year later to coordinate Denver’s defense and the Broncos won a Super Bowl, his first as a coach. The defensive consultant job with the Seahawks allowed Pettine to stay current with personnel and schemes. He’s now refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to prove a point.

Nick from Chicago, IL

“It's good to have versatile players just in case someone breaks a chin strap.” I love how his mentality isn't injury-related but situational. Coaches who speak of "what if he gets injured" in my opinion are pessimistic. Yes, you have to address it, but addressing a chin strap sounds a lot better than a pulled hamstring. I love the choice of words by Mike Pettine. I'm super excited to see his leadership impact the defense.

Loved it. Kind of an old-school reference, too.

Skip from Spread Eagle, WI

So, the coaches are in place and their plans sound great! There is a lot of enthusiasm for moving forward. My question is, are the players all still in GB meeting with and getting to know these coaches, or is the relationship-building just done over the phone and tablet nowadays?

Pettine said he’s had a chance to reach out to many of the defensive players to introduce himself. He also had a chance recently to meet Clay Matthews. There still are a few players working out around the building, but I’m not sure how much contact, if any, the coaches are allowed to make.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

Cliff's article about finding-a-kicker woes after Chandler made me think about how bad luck on a missing piece can impact a team. However, it also pointed to kickers being easier to swap than offensive or defensive players, as you clearly couldn't have the revolving door at QB. Do you think scouting now is better to avoid that kind of fiasco?

I’ll never forget what Tim Masthay told me after making the team in 2015 – specialists are in a week-to-week business because they don’t need to know the playbook inside and out to do their jobs effectively. At the same time, NFL teams have to be careful about making a change because it’s not a given Option B is better (Jon Ryan and Derrick Frost in 2008).

Bill from Menominee, MI

"Discipline is key in any draft, and with as many needs as the Packers have, it shouldn’t be difficult to stay disciplined." This was the quote of the week! Last year I treated the Packers’ draft as a bonus. I thought they had what they needed prior to the draft aside from a player or two. I was wrong. 2017 has taught us to focus on depth as well as starters, which will make the "meaningless" preseason games that much more entertaining.

Some of the best players the Packers have drafted over the years have come at positions where there wasn’t an obvious need. I think of Aaron Rodgers in 2005 (Brett Favre), David Bakhtiari in 2013 (Bryan Bulaga slated to start at left tackle) and Corey Linsey in 2014 (JC Tretter pegged in at center). Depth can make the difference.

Aaron from Fort Wayne, IN

Insiders, I want to preface this with the fact that I love everything I'm hearing from the new DC Pettine. The concepts and philosophies for his defense sound great and just what we need. However, I think some people are getting too high on those thoughts. Even the best defenses have bad days (see Minnesota and Jacksonville). It gets pretty annoying then to hear what I would say are many of them commenting on all these high hopes for the defense, only to be the first who will proclaim disaster at the sign of the first bad game.

There are highs, there are lows, and then there’s fans’ perception of reality. It’s the roller coaster you ride in this business. This is the honeymoon phase. Consistency is what counts. All we can go off of is the past and Pettine’s defenses have been overwhelmingly consistent throughout his years as a coordinator.

Mark from Byron, IL

I read in the "Bringing Philbin back” story that McCarthy says it has been fun up until now. There are other coaches that seem to really enjoy the job, but it truly does appear to me that MM is having fun in all aspects of the game: prep, practice, game, etc. Love his even demeanor. Is this the real MM?

If you’re going to be a head coach for 12 continual years in the NFL, you better love it. You can tell McCarthy still has the same enthusiasm for the job he had when he arrived in 2006. His quiet and unwavering commitment to the organization has been critical to the foundation the Packers have built under his watch. Coaches and players know what to expect every day they enter the building.

Dante from Fredericksburg, VA

If it’s one player who could turn this defense around next year I believe it can be King. At 6-3, 200, he has ideal size to dominate his position. I know it's gonna take more than one player, but if you had to guess a player, who would it be?

King is a good place to start because he has the necessary traits to be a No. 1 cornerback in this league. I’ll add Josh Jones to the mix. He has all the tools to be a factor on defense. Experience is going to be his best friend.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

During Ted Thompson's tenure, he seemed to gravitate towards players who had athletic ability, as well as good moral character and integrity. Would you agree with that characterization, and would you expect the selection trend to continue in that direction under the new leadership?

I expect Brian Gutekunst and his scouts to take a similar approach to the draft as Thompson did. The Packers not only selected a lot of talented players under Thompson, but also gained some very high-character individuals who made significant contributions to the community. The biggest question I have is how Gutekunst will approach the other avenues of player acquisition. Is he Ron Wolf, Thompson or somewhere in between?

Jake from Oxford, WI

The Vikings defense benefitted from playing the lackluster offenses of the NFC North six times (ranked 30th, 26th, and 13th, respectively) and fared noticeably worse against the rest of the NFL on average in both yards per game and points per game. I am not suggesting they are not a solid unit, but just playing Rodgers twice would likely have knocked them out of the No. 1 ranking. It is not a coincidence their "dominant" defensive performance ran concurrent with Rodgers' injury. I believe this was "their year" and they blew it. Thoughts?

Minnesota’s window isn’t closed by any means, but the Packers were playing without their ace. So yes, in theory, the Rodgers factor makes it significantly more challenging for the Vikings to get back to the NFC Championship Game next year. It makes every NFC team’s journey more difficult.

Brett from Brisbane, Australia

I have to say my favorite Pettine line was learn your learner. I have a son with some learning difficulties who learns quicker by showing him rather than just telling him. Pettine was very impressive and I have hopes for the D going forward.

When I was working on this Davon House story last month, I felt pass game coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. had some terrific insight into how his own battle with dyslexia taught him how to be a better teacher. Coaches are teachers. It’s up to you to figure out the best way to reach your students and players. Maybe it’s because of his own background as a high school coach, but Pettine seems to have a good grasp on that responsibility.

Jack from Indianapolis, IN

With all the talk about Pettine/Philbin’s top-10 defense/offense, Packers fans seem to be forgetting it’s not all about scheme. As Vic would say, “Players, not plays.” Do the Packers have the personnel to execute a top-10 offense/defense?

My biggest frustration with fans at times is how oblivious they are to how quickly things can change in the NFL. The Packers finished 20th in total defense and 26th against the pass in 2008. McCarthy let the entire coaching staff go. Dom Capers came in the next season and the defense finished second and first, respectively, in those categories. One season doesn’t dictate the next. If players make plays within the scheme, you will be successful.

Gary from Minneapolis, MN

Which Packers scouts or coaches are in Mobile watching the Senior Bowl practices? Is our GM there?

Gutekunst is there for the Senior Bowl. It’s my understanding most, if not all, of his scouts joined him in Alabama this week.

Rick from San Francisco, CA

If a stud linebacker is available when the Pack picks, do you take him, knowing that we have young and hopefully improving linebackers in place? Secondly, I know you can't have too many corners, but there's a lot of young talent. Do you lean towards an edge rusher? A great rush takes the pressure off of all of the CBs.

My stance on this is the same as every year. Take the player you feel has the biggest upside regardless of position. Playmakers make everyone’s life easier, so if that means taking an edge rusher at 14, great. If it means going with another cornerback, fine. Give me plays, not positions.

Nick from Richmond, VA

Hey not curmudgeons, I'll be that guy and let you know that in my fantasy league Jamaal Williams out-produced Blount, and if you take Ty and Aaron Jones together they did the same, so our three backs more than doubled the production of Blount. Philly can have Blount, I'll take our guys.

I’m not trying to be a smart aleck on this topic. You’re just never going to get me to agree with going old at running back. The Packers did that once with Cedric Benson in 2012 and it didn’t work out. The best thing that ever happened to Green Bay was Steven Jackson going to Atlanta and taking Eddie Lacy in the second round the following year.

Matheus from Blumenau, Brazil

How do you see Williams and Jones as pass catchers? I'm rooting for some offensive plays where we have two RBs on the field and Ty is not the one splitting out.

Montgomery is at the front of the class. He’s the best of the bunch, but Williams impressed this year with how well he caught the ball out of the backfield. Jones didn’t have as many opportunities, but he’s shown the ability, as well. They’re willing. That’s the starting point.

Tom from Iron River, WI

Can you see Ty Montgomery being utilized similar to Carolina's Christian McCaffrey, lining up all over the field?

Thanks for reading.

Bob from Colby, KS

What do you think of how the NBA structured the All-Star game this year? A fit for the NFL?

The NFL traveled down that road once before. I always prefer conference versus conference rather than randomly generated competition.

Jerry from Lancaster, CA

In response to Trevor from Peekskill, NY, and Super Bowl XXXI now old enough to drink beer, I wonder how young all of you feel when I tell you I was drinking beer while I watched Super Bowl I.

What if I told you I was drinking Capri Sun during Super Bowl XXXI?

Nick from Richmond, VA

With the big news of the XFL looking to return in 2020, I'm excited to see what changes they make that work. I think there's an opportunity for them to work with helmet cams, online streaming, and tweaked rules on things like DPI that could have a major effect on the NFL. What do you guys think? Excited for it?

Dates and logos are nice, but I want to see more before we start talking about what the league is going to look like two years from now. The biggest compliment I can give the original XFL is it thought outside of the box. Some of those ideas worked (new camera angles/technology) and some were dead on arrival (no fair catch).

Matt from Lansing, MI

I know we’re in the middle of a lot of offseason changes and hype with the Pack, but look at the Brewers making moves. Hopefully they can bolster their pitching. If so, look out.

Come see what’s brewing. Come see what the good times are. Come see what the Brewers are doing. Come on and cheer a superstar.

Gary from Sheboygan, WI

Insiders, have you ever counted how many different countries you get questions from? How many?

I’ve lost track. This place blows me away. I recently got a package in the mail from Kyle in Jenison, Mich., with a Blu-Ray copy of “Fletch” enclosed. I plan to watch it soon, so I can join the party.


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