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Butler: Players Make The Plays


Since the Green Bay Packers are coming off their bye, we don't have a game to review this week, but that doesn't mean there aren't topics worth discussing.

As I have read through your emails in recent weeks, I have noticed that many of you are questioning whether poor offensive or defensive play-calling is at the root of the Packers' 3-4 start.

Certainly you don't need me to tell you that coaching and play-calling are important parts of the game of football, but in my opinion there is something far more important to consider.

Look at any team and it's simple to see that it's the players who make plays, not the plays that make play-makers.

Sure, good coaches find a way to make their players better, but no coach -- no matter how good he is -- can make a bad player a great one.

This is especially true on defense.

When I was a player, I was of the opinion that no matter what formation I was in or what play was called, it was up to me to make plays out of that scheme.

If I couldn't tackle, there was no defensive scheme that was going to help me stop the run. If I couldn't keep up with opposing receivers, there was no defensive scheme that was going to help me be effective in the secondary.

Those were things I needed to bring to the table myself. And if I wanted to be a premier player, I had to play like one, no matter where I lined up.

Of course it's true that a coach is responsible for setting up schemes that allow playmakers to make plays. This is especially true on offense, where if your superstar never gets the ball in his hands, he can't help you.

But show me any player who thinks that he can only play under one type of offense or defense, and I'll show you a worthless player.

Having said all of this, does that mean that the Packers are off to a 3-4 start because they don't have playmakers on the roster?

Not at all. But what it does mean is that if the Packers want to turn things around, it's up to the players more so than the coaches.

For an example of the impact one player can make, just look at the Packers' middle linebacker position.

Last season Hardy Nickerson struggled in that spot. This season the Packers threw in rookie Nick Barnett and he's been tearing it up.

The scheme hasn't changed, the player has. And here Barnett is proving all those people wrong who thought he was undersized to play in the middle.

He's still learning and he makes some mistakes, but he makes them at full-speed and the Packers are a stronger defense with him in the middle.

When I listen to the fans, I get the sense that people are comparing this year's team to those 1996 and '97 Packers teams that went to the Super Bowl. But those teams were stacked with talent.

The NFL system is set up for parity now and doesn't allow for dynasties anymore. And it's going to be tough for any modern day team to be as balanced as we were then.

Fans don't have to be happy about the Packers 3-4 start, but they do have to keep things in perspective. And it's unfair to compare this team with those mid-90s teams.

The game has changed. But the Packers can still succeed in this current era.

And the first step, always, is for the Packers' current players to play to their ability more often, on every play. If they do that, they'll commit fewer turnovers on offense and make more stops on defense.

And if they make those changes, watch out. Then they can beat anyone.

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is providing exclusive analysis to with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays and a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website,*

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