Presented by

Inbox: He'll be better for it

The sports world feels a little empty today

S Darnell Savage
S Darnell Savage

Jason from Oslo, Norway

It has been an extremely exciting season, with two bonus games. What the heck are we supposed to do to ease the withdrawal symptoms?

I binged on Season 7 of "Homeland" this past weekend. Whatever works.

Hansen from Waukesha, WI

Even though this is a column about football (primarily the Packers), I feel like the Insider Inbox should take a moment to pay respect to basketball legend. Kobe Bryant. I'm sure every sports fan was stunned at the news of his sudden passing.

It's difficult to process. He was one of the few whose sheer competitiveness and drive set him apart. The sports world feels a little empty today. RIP Mamba.

Greg from Perkasie, PA

Shout-out to Davante Adams and Za'Darius Smith for their Kobe celebrations. It was pretty awesome to see two Packers take the lead in honoring one of sports' greatest.

Touching tributes to be sure.

LeeAnn from Leavenworth, IN

What the heck was that? Two-handed tag?

You expected something else?

Craig from Sheboygan, WI

Darnell Savage rarely had his name called this year. Clearly needs to improve tackling. But with his speed, size and youth do you feel he will have a more impactful year next year?

Absolutely. His arrow is pointing up. Rookies don't often get all that playing time and experience. He'll be better for it.

Mike from Ames, IA

I know this is looking way too far into the future and with a lot of variables, but is there anyone from this year's practice-squad group that you're keeping your eye on for next year's roster?

Cornerback Kabion Ento and outside linebacker Randy Ramsey. I thought Ento had a chance to make the team in camp last year until he got hurt, and Ramsey just has that classic edge-rusher physique.

Maggie from Kenosha, WI

Since we know the 2020 opponents already, without knowing the schedule yet, which away games are you most looking forward to? My plan is to get to the Tampa game, so if that wanted to be a November or December trip on the schedule, I wouldn't complain.

Since the two games I've covered in New Orleans ('08, '14) were both disasters for Green Bay that left me with an absolutely pounding, multi-day headache, I'm going to apply the reverse-psyche and really, really look forward to the trip to the Superdome.

Al from Green Bay, WI

By the power vested in me, I hereby declare you to be "Commissioner for a day." In addition to the incredible compensation, you are given the ability to make two rule changes for the upcoming football season. What are your changes?

Roger's salary for a day would pay me about $100K, so thanks. I would make all potential safety-related penalties/violations subject to automatic review, and for the replay system in general, the call on the field no longer would take precedence.

Jesse from Bonita Springs, FL

It just dawned on me that we don't need to draft an edge rusher, CB or safety this year (at least not in the first few rounds). It seems like forever since we've talked about other positions. How long has it been?

The last time the Packers didn't draft an edge rusher and/or defensive back in the first three rounds was 2013, and even then Datone Jones was playing outside linebacker by the end of his rookie year.

Craig from Brookfield, WI

It was not that long ago the Rams looked unbelievably loaded, and were the team all others should emulate. Now the 49ers are breaking the pass-happy mold and we're all enamored with that (especially after a spanking). Is this new 49er model a trend, or an anomaly? Honestly, I'd rather not go through five years of high first-round draft picks. And we're truly blessed as Packer fans that most seasons we can realistically ask, "Might this be our year?"

I thought the point Gutekunst made Friday about the offseason not being totally about chasing the 49ers was a salient one. It's why I expounded on it a bit on our final "Unscripted." It's a potential trap, because as noted, the Rams went from the Super Bowl to out of the playoffs with largely the same roster. I'm not saying that'll happen with the 49ers, but the point is you never know in this league. It's year to year. Ron Wolf focused his 1999 draft on Randy Moss by drafting cornerbacks with his first three picks. Only when he traded one of those corners for Ahman Green did the Packers actually get back on track.

Brett from Boonsboro, MD

I can't help but feel the Packers are just one undefeated season away from winning the Super Bowl.

That's actually pretty funny.

Gregory from Post Lake, WI

Let's end this discussion about under- or overachieving. "You are what your record says you are" is the way the great Bill Parcells looked at it. Hard to argue with his thinking.

And that record means bupkis once the playoffs begin. It primarily determines where the game is played, but that's about it.

Lites from Long Beach, CA

Longtime reader, seldom poster but I noticed something today: Mike is a "senior" writer while Wes is a "staff" writer. Is this due to longevity, ability or the capacity for stealing lunch? Inquiring minds need to know.

It certainly has nothing to do with ability. I arrived here in 2006 as a staff writer and was named senior writer in 2014. Then Wes arrived as a staff writer in 2016. I'm also roughly 15 years older than he is, so I've got that going for me, which is nice.

Tucker from Temple, TX

The thing that frustrates me most about offseason II is the complete refusal of questioners to acknowledge that BG and Co. might have a little more insight into the matter than they do. Also, I really don't get the rush to try and produce every free-agent contract as a mistake, usually by the same people who vilified Thompson for not signing any.

Amen.

Dan from Augusta, KS

Why is everyone so quick to write off Aaron Rodgers? It was his first year in a new system and the offense never seemed to find its stride. Next year is Year 2 and this system, to me, seems it could make any quarterback look good and a great quarterback look legendary. Can we give it another year or two before we pull the plug on a Hall of Famer who seems to have plenty left in the tank?

Amen again.

Gary from Bear Valley, WI

I'm rooting for Andy in Super Bowl. A speedy offense against a speedy defense. Hopefully, we can get the right speed guys next year.

It's hard not to root for Andy Reid. It would be cool to see another member of Holmgren's '92 staff join Gruden with a ring.

Todd from Winona, MN

13-3 and made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game. This may turn out to be the worst way for a new head coach to debut. There is plenty of room for improvement on the team, but there is not much room for improvement on a 13-3 record and NFC championship appearance. Next year will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

That's why I mentioned last week how this team deals with expectations will be an important element to 2020. McCarthy's oft-repeated words about handling success being the biggest challenge in this league will apply to the Packers next season.

Jim from Chicago, IL

Do you know what's worse than being the worst 13-3 team ever? Being the best 8-8 team and not in the playoffs.

That was McCarthy's first team, back in '06. Those Packers almost squeaked in with a four-game winning streak at the end of the season, and no one would have wanted to play them. Then they took off the next year. There's value in having that status, but exercising patience for the payoff still guarantees nothing.

Brian from Maple Grove, MN

Mike, both you and Wes have expressed high expectations for the combo of Jaire Alexander and Kevin King as a shutdown tandem, but after watching King get burned a number of times this year and many times picked on with success in big games, I'm wondering what your honest opinion is of his performance this year and if you think he will truly meet high expectations in the next couple years?

Cornerbacks are going to get beat. They just are. That's life in this league. I think King is a talented corner who gets challenged a lot because offenses are less inclined to attack Alexander. He led the team by a wide margin with five picks and easily could have had two or three more. He also wasn't nearly as effective in zone coverage as he was in press man, and his tackling, while aggressive, was inconsistent at times. He knows where he can improve and if he stays healthy, I think we'll see that improvement next year.

Bruce from Menomonie, WI

Thank you, Mike and Wes, for keeping us grounded. Serious question for you that I've been pondering. All I hear is how the arrow is pointing up and things should be even better next year. Isn't this likely how the Bears and their fans felt last year? Both teams had better-than-expected seasons in the first year of a new coach. The Bears regressed considerably this year. How is our situation different? Is there any reason to be wary that our team might go through a "sophomore slump" with its coach?

Quarterback is still the most important position on the field.

Michael from Santa Cruz, CA

Not going to call anybody out, but instead will submit a priority position list for where I personally believe the team needs to upgrade. I welcome your thoughts. 1. Three-down MLB (there is a 26-year old FA that would be perfect in this spot), 2. Cover corner (we have two solid ones, but a third would help the front seven immensely), 3. WR (but not necessarily a "big" one or a "stretch the field" guy. Just a solid threat that opposing defenses have to account for on an every-down basis).

I might change the order of the last two, and I also think building depth with the big guys up front on both sides of the ball will be important, too.

Check out photos of Packers WR Davante Adams, LB Za'Darius Smith and DL Kenny Clark participating in the 2020 Pro Bowl.

Brad from Fort Myers, FL

Teams have a tendency to revert to the mean from one season to the next. A defense that seems to come up with a ton of takeaways usually can't rely on that to carry them the next season. And teams who manage to win all the close games don't seem to do it again the following year. Do you see this team carrying their close-game heroics on to 2020, or are we bound to come back down to Earth with our regular-season record inevitably following, even if the team improves overall?

The Packers' takeaway total of 25 was modestly tied for seventh in the league, and they actually lost more fumbles than they recovered (nine to eight), so I don't view that statistic as a huge anomaly. If you're good enough, not all the close games will suddenly flip the other way, and (again, if you're good enough), some of the close games will be ones you start putting away. If you don't change, you regress to the mean. I don't see this team staying the same under Gutekunst and LaFleur.

John from Green Bay, WI

The question about who aside from Rodgers is a HOF candidate got me thinking. There's a player on the roster I believe was overlooked: Jimmy Graham. His career prior to GB is where his case has been made, but he IS on the roster. Also, David Bakhtiari is a good candidate but he is very similar to another former Packer LT. Chad Clifton dominated the best pass rushers in the league from his rookie year onward, just like Bakhtiari, but he is never mentioned as a HOF candidate.

With all due respect to two great players, Graham has two All-Pro selections and Clifton had none. They aren't in the same category as Bakhtiari, who has four and is still going strong, when it comes to HOF candidacy.

Martin from Mainz, Germany

The compromise for the kickoff suggested by Mike unfortunately eliminates the surprise onside kick. Here is a variant: The kickoff is blown dead, if the ball crosses the 25 and the game continues at the 25 (a la touchback). This will prevent any dangerous return runs but allows onside kicks. What do you think?

It's worth considering as part of the solution, but you're not going to get onside-kick recoveries back to their prior percentages without adjusting these new alignment rules, or reverting to the old ones.

Jennifer from Middleton, WI

If you are Gute, is it fair to say the biggest surprise this season was with all the young talent, no one grabbed and owned the No. 2 WR spot? Two years ago, he was clearly going after it with the draft. Maybe EQ becomes the guy if not injured, and I know guys contributed at times, but not consistently. Gute has got to be looking around going, "Seriously, no one wants this thing?" It was no surprise he said at his presser he'll be looking to add.

Opportunity abounded, and it was not fully seized.

Josh from Waukesha, WI

Beer me a bold prediction on anything.

When Season 3 of "Ozark" is released, I'm calling in sick. Happy Monday.

Advertising