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Inbox: How quickly things can change

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Lynn from Somers, WI

Mike McCarthy's Wednesday speech to the locker room cemented my respect and admiration for him. What a stand-up thing to do. Am I right in thinking that this is a rare thing, both that a fired coach would ask to do it and that the organization would be willing to allow it?

I don’t think it’s common, but it certainly speaks to how much McCarthy always cared about the players under his command. The organization’s willingness, in my view, reflects the respect and gratitude it will always have for him and what he accomplished here.

Alan from Madison, WI

Certain individuals are great offensive or defensive coordinators but fail when they move up to a head coaching position but are able to return to success as a coordinator after failing as a head coach, such as Wade Phillips. How does a GM determine that a great coordinator has what it takes to be a successful head coach?

You never know for sure. You just don’t. McCarthy was considered a risky hire in 2006, and he started 4-8 before winning 18 of his next 21 games. Some have it, some don’t. Some find the right situation, some don’t. It’s about fitting the right personality and vision to the team that you have and hope to build. But there’s no foolproof process. If there were, we wouldn’t see roughly one-third of the league’s coaches turn over every two years or so.

Darrell from San Antonio, TX

This is in response to a question Wes addressed from Ray of Middletown. What you failed to acknowledge/mention is that under the previous GM the Packers did not actively participate in free agency so we had to hit home runs in the draft because experienced reinforcements weren't being signed. The Bears and Saints however have had a history of participating in the FA market so they could afford to miss on some picks. A difference and that has hurt the Packers for some time now.

Perfectly fair point. One aggressive offseason in free agency isn’t going to fill all the gaps.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Can Aaron Rodgers return to elite status? I would agree with some pundits that he has been in a funk since November 2015, with an occasional flash of sandlot brilliance. The greatest challenge for a new head coach will be to hold 12 accountable.

Since November 2015? Wow. I don’t think I’d classify 195-of-283 (69 percent) for 2,384 yards with 21 TDs and one INT for a 117.9 passer rating during the eight-game winning streak in 2016 an “occasional flash.” And let’s not forget the Packers were 4-1 last year and he had back-to-back 120-plus rating games before the broken collarbone. Look, for any number of reasons, he hasn’t been at his best this year. I’ve said it. He’s said it. I think he’s been accountable when he’s come up short, but I don’t think he deserves all the blame, which is apparently what some fans and many pundits demand he assume. There’s plenty to go around.

Randy from Mukwonago, WI

Even though the Packers do not have a head coach at the moment does Gutekunst have a board started on the college players for next year’s draft? If not, when would he start that board, after they find a head coach?

They started that board when the scouts started hitting all the campuses in September, if not before. The personnel process is separate from the coaching one.

Ryan from Fredericton, Canada

One of the lasting lessons I learned from Vic was to recognize and block out the media noise that aims to disrupt and create stories. It’s a game so just enjoy it. With McCarthy’s firing the two most anti-Packers mainstream media critics have been feasting, one even wore a fake Rodgers-like moustache. Is there a general threshold for fans, players, or fellow journalists/media where these constant attacks become unprofessional? Or relevant?

We’re in an age where the audience, by its views and clicks, determines what’s “mainstream,” not the product itself. If the audience doesn’t care about professionalism or relevance, the product won’t either.

Jeremiah from Denver, CO

The Saints' decision to keep Payton while experiencing a downturn has been brought up quite a bit as an example of favoring stability. What is the upside for opting for change and what factors account for the difference?

I didn’t follow the Saints as closely, of course, but my impression is their offense never really fell off. It was always the defense letting them down. With the acumen of the two coaches in question, I think that was the primary difference.

Rob from Antioch, IL

While I am sad to see MM go out this way, I do support the move. The pundits are saying that the Packers should stick to the basic type of offense the Packers have run, which emphasizes simplicity in order for Rodgers to be able to improvise. I feel that Rodgers needs to become less of an improviser. The speed of the game is such that you need to execute much more quickly than when Rodgers first took the helm and was dropping back. We need speed. What do you think needs to change?

Find what gets the whole offense, starting with Rodgers, in a rhythm, so the improv can be a complementary piece, not the way to live on third down. I know what the analytics say about big plays, but don’t force them. Big plays don’t create rhythm, they’re the result of it. They’ll happen for an offense that moves the chains more consistently and can use play-action to strong effect off a good running game. I don’t pretend to know how to do that, I just believe that’s what it should look like.

Patrick from Valrico, FL

It appears like there is some extra motivation among the players according to one of your latest articles. Attendance for voluntary workouts is up and it sounds like players are even practicing with more attention to detail. This is great, but does this not reflect poorly on those players? I mean if a guy was average all season up to this point and now all of a sudden he seems to be excelling, is he more likely to earn a spot due to talent level or lose his spot due to effort level?

The whole body of work is taken into account, but it’s human nature that different players respond to different forms of leadership. That’s why you make a change. You can find out a lot, and some of what you find out you may not like. That factors in, too.

Daniel from Delta, PA

There was talk that the team needed a "galvanizing moment" and it seems like maybe this is it. Rodgers talked about there being a "sense of urgency" at practice and more guys showing up for voluntary workouts. They have a desire to finish strong and show what they're made of. Do you get the sense that the coaching change is what brings this team together and finish the season on a high note?

We’ll see, and then we’ll decide what it means.

Patrick from Brentwood, CA

I just realized that the Packers never hosted an NFC Championship Game in the Rodgers-McCarthy era (2007 with Favre obviously so not counting that). Seems hard to believe considering all the division titles and playoff appearances. Apart from the Super Bowl win, I think I will remember the 2010s most for so many heartbreaking playoff losses. Year after year...what do you think 2011-2018 will be remembered for?

That and all the exhilarating wins that led to the eventual heartbreaks. ’11 at Giants to stay unbeaten, ’12 vs. New Orleans coming off the Fail Mary, ’13 at Dallas and at Chicago, ’14 at Miami and vs. New England, ’15 Hail Mary at Detroit, ’16 at Chicago and at Dallas in the playoffs. They all made the postseason heartbreaks hurt that much more, because the pain was inversely proportional to the joy it took to get there.

Chris from Maple Ridge, BC

Hey Spoff, with King going on IR he will have only played in 15 games through his first two seasons – 44 tackles, one INT, seven passes defensed and one fumble recovery. Stats don’t tell the whole story for shutdown corners but in order to be a shutdown corner you have to be available. T.J. Watt, 27 of 28 regular-season games so far, 103 tackles, one INT, eight passes defensed, four forced fumbles and 17 sacks. I’ll give it another year but King NEEDS to be healthy.

There’s no question the Packers are well on the wrong side of the King-Watt ledger right now. The frustration with how this has played out is justified. I won’t argue. The truly disappointing thing this year is we saw how good this Packers defense can be with both King and Alexander on the field as the top cover corners. The opener against Chicago, the first half vs. Minnesota in Week 2, Los Angeles in Week 8 – it’s clear Green Bay’s defense was on a different level at those times, but those times have been too few.

Christoph from Lake Mary, FL

What's happened to the Falcons? They were flying high and in the Super Bowl a few years ago and now seem down with the Pack.

They’re just another example, like the Packers, of how quickly things can change in this league when you let opportunities slip away. Just under 11 months ago, the Falcons were down 15-10 at the Linc in Philly with 1:19 left and first-and-goal on the 9-yard line to return to the NFC title game. Their season ended, and now they’re 4-8. I don’t know what happened. They had some key injuries on defense, but it’s mind-boggling to me that with the numbers put up by Ryan, Jones, Ridley, Hooper, etc., they have not once scored 20 points during their current four-game losing streak.

KJ from Cheyenne, WY

Ted Thompson gets most the blame for the "lack of drafting results the last 6-7 years"... however, between 2010-12 we lost three top personnel/scouts. John Dorsey, John Schneider, and Reggie McKenzie all moved on to GM positions across the league. How much impact do you believe this had on Ted Thompson's success in drafting players?

The Packers’ personnel department was the envy of the league at the end of the last decade, and good people are going to move on. But I can’t answer your question because only the people in the draft room in any given year can speak to whose input on certain players, decisions, etc., carried the most weight with Thompson. Yes, it’s always a team effort, but it’s also always one person making the final call.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

Spoff posted my comment regarding sitting AR and getting reps to Kizer as well as posting that fans want to see AR play. Duly noted that people buy tickets to see stars compete. That said, how is this different than last year when AR came back to play and, once the playoff chase was over following a loss to Carolina, sat back down? If anything the fact our fans are as die-hard and knowledgeable as they are would be more evidence to play a prospect and adhere to the long game.

Last year’s decision with Rodgers clearly reflected the level of medical risk he was taking when he came back to play in the first place.

Trevor from Carmel, NY

Can we break the FOX curse this week? 0-5-1 so far this season.

Wasn’t aware of that. Hopefully you mentioning it will jinx it.

Doug from Lafayette, OH

We need another 1993-type offseason. We have our Brett Favre. We need our Reggie White.

Except 25 years after the advent of free agency, Hall of Famers in their prime aren’t the free agents being signed in March. Just because a player is at the top of the market at his position doesn’t mean he’s another White. It just means he’s at the top of the market at his position.

Bob from Atlanta, GA

A lot of winning teams have running backs who gain a lot of yards catching passes – James White of New England, Alvin Kamara of the Saints, Todd Gurley of the Rams, etc. Do you think Aaron Jones will reach that level as a pass catcher?

I believe he’s capable, yes.

Chris from New Richmond, IN

As a fan of Green Bay and Coach McCarthy, I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during his final speech to the locker room. What a class act by the coach and the organization. That is what I want to remember from this past week. On to the Falcons, we have a game to win.

Happy Friday.

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