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Inbox: It comes down to controlling what you can control

Dontayvion Wicks fits the mold of a vintage Packers wideout

QB Jordan Love
QB Jordan Love

Bruce from Jackson, WI

Wes, can I say something in your defense? I hope someone let you back in a side door if you were hovering outside, or a lot of fans are going to be disappointed when they look for the II today. If you have been let back in, please, "as/and you may continue" made me laugh out loud. As for a comment, I hope Santa drops a "W" off in Charlotte for the Packers on Sunday! Merry Christmas all and GPG!

Spoff nearly called for the reliever after that one. Lauren the Intern came thisclose to penning today's Inbox. Luckily, he had a change of heart and let me finish the inning.

Paul from Ledgeview, WI

Wes, it has been a season of discovery. I look forward to what more we will discover about this team Sunday. Go Pack Go!

It has been an exciting season. I can't think of a single game this year I haven't looked forward to. Three more guaranteed dates to go. We'll see what the Packers can do with 'em.

Al from Green Bay, WI

I admit it. My confidence is shaken. After taking out Detroit and KC, two clunkers have dimmed our playoff hopes. This team can rise again, and it starts this week in Carolina. Reasons to believe: 1) Backs are to the wall, and this team has shown resilience. 2) We face a vulnerable opponent with a struggling rookie QB and coaches in flux. 3) It's Christmas, for Pete's sake, and this team owes us this little gift. GPG.

Bryce Young may turn out to be a solid NFL quarterback. He's been thrown in a tough spot this year in Carolina, but the fact remains Young hasn't thrown for a touchdown in more than a month and fashioned a passer rating north of 90 just three times this season. Not surprisingly, the Panthers' only two wins came when Young has hit that mark: a 15-13 win over Houston (103.6) and last week's 9-7 victory over Atlanta (93.6). Carolina ranks 30th in total offense while allowing the fourth-most sacks (54). The Packers need to make the Panthers play to those statistics.

Doug from Neenah, WI

Good morning, Wes. Some experts say the reason to defer taking the kickoff after winning the coin flip is to give your team a chance to "double up" by scoring at the end of the first half and then again at the start of the third quarter. Have the 2023 Packers actually accomplished this feat? Thanks.

Once. It worked in the opener against Chicago, with the Packers stacking an Anders Carlson field goal with a touchdown coming out of halftime. I don't know what the analytics say, but if the Packers win the coin toss, I'm taking the ball from here on out. I've watched this team play 14 meaningful games this year, and the offense and defense both seem to play better when staked to an early lead.

Kurt from Long Lake, WI

I listened to Joe Barry's press conference yesterday and was impressed with him taking ownership for the problems on defense. I question who is at fault for the lack of consistency demonstrated by our defense? It's difficult to understand how our defense can shut down high-powered offenses on any given series and then turn around and allow other offensively challenged teams to have success. I'm probably wrong, but that seems more on the players than the coach.

I'm not here to point fingers any which way. Again, what happened last week wasn't good enough. But Joe Barry is a good man. When Barry was hired in 2021, Matt LaFleur talked about how he brings the same, positive attitude to the workplace every day and that's very much proven to be the case. Barry is the type of guy who greets people by name and efforts to learn their story. Criticize the defense if you must but some of the garbage that I've seen on social media sickens me. Call me an empath, but these are real human beings behind those microphones. The defense needs to bounce back – no doubt about it – but class goes a long way during adverse moments. Professionally, as frustrating as the past two weeks have been, it's important for Barry and the defense to remember they're just weeks removed from shutting down Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. I can't tell you what defensive changes need to happen Sunday in Carolina. My advice is to remember who you are and what it looked like when things were going your way. It's still there.

Scott from Hudson, WI

You have taken lots of questions and comments about the poor performances of the Packers' defense, but I'd like to know what Mike and Wes think is the real root cause of a Packer defense that is not playing well?

The short answer is I don't know, Scott. This is a complex game with 11 individuals trying to work for 175-200 plays each game throughout all three phases. On any given play, a bad call, missed tackle or broken shoelace can spell disaster. To act like we have all the answers is a misrepresentation of our place in the football world. Players play, coaches coach and we react to what we see. The Packers need to respond, though. Taking nothing away from the Panthers, this is an opponent Green Bay must beat.

Jeff from Victorville, CA

Wes, this year has gone pretty much as you and Mike (and most fans) expected. The talent to beat top teams yet the youth rearing its ugly head at inopportune times. After beating the Lions and Chiefs and looking good doing it, the fans felt the problems of youth were gone and when they returned, I'm sure the angst was even worse than earlier in the year. I feel good about winning the next three and feel even better about next year. Certainly, the injury luck has to be better next year.

I take solace in the future but still have a hankering for success in the present. I stand by every word I wrote last week. I believe the NFC playoffs would be much more entertaining with a young, ascending team like Green Bay in the mix, but the Packers must do their part. The past two weeks, that hasn't happened. Now, it comes down to controlling what you can control in Carolina and letting the chips falling where they may.

Jeffery from Brooklyn, WI

I'm not sure if you can but if you put together a few plays of Tae Adams' releases off the line and Tay Wicks' releases. I would like to see the similarities or differences; my guess is it's not much different. Out of all the receivers drafted in the last two years he just seems to have the best ceiling. I know Christian Watson is up there and so is Jayden Reed but just my feeling is all. Romeo Doubs has a lot of Jordy Nelson in him, man the future looks bright.

There's something special there with Wicks. He went through a lot during his final year at Virginia, both on and off the field. If Wicks registered another 1,000-yard season, he probably ends up a Day 2 pick. But all's well that ends well and Green Bay was happy to get him where it did. Wicks fits the mold of a vintage Packers wideout.

Mike from Ames, IA

Responses today got me thinking: Is Kenny Clark one of the most underrated players in Packers history? It seems like the media and fans don't often bring him up – unless it's a random complaint after a "bad" game – but he's certainly a Packers Hall of Famer in my eyes. Are there any other Packers you remember feeling didn't always get the respect they deserve?

Given the nature of the position, defensive tackles often get overlooked but Clark is up there. We talk a lot about drafting players in the first round to be 10-year franchise players and Clark fits that description. He's been a foundational piece of the defense for nearly a decade. My answer to your question, though, is Earl Dotson. He had some injuries later in his career, but I don't think we talk nearly enough about Dotson's consistency on the offensive line during the Packers' rise to prominence in the 1990s.

The Green Bay Packers held a practice at Clarke Hinkle Field on Friday, Dec. 22, 2023.

Dan from Richmond, VA

There seems to be a growing consensus that Rasheed Walker has emerged from the season-long competition as our No. 1 left tackle. What about the same competition at right guard? Do you see a clear favorite yet between Jon Runyan and Sean Rhyan, or do we still need two games to sort that out? Happiest of holidays to you and Mike!

I've been impressed with Rhyan. He's shown improved fundamentals and the power to move defensive tackles. At the same time, Jon Runyan has amassed a lot of experience and done good things for this offense, too. I think the Packers have handled things the right way, giving opportunities to both Rhyan and Yosh Nijman. It also gives the opponent another variable it must account for.

Benjamin from Bear, DE

I don't know how NFL teams' "cap gurus" do it. I've been trying to determine where the Packers stand after the 2023 season as it relates to the Aaron Rodgers money coming off the books. Simply put, where do the Packers stand going into next year's free-agency period? My head's still spinning. Thank you!

I was digging around on Spotrac a couple days ago and left more confused than I started. We'll have to revisit that after the season. All I know for sure is the Packers have a substantial amount of "dead money" coming off the cap that should help lighten the 2024 load.

Craig from Sussex, WI

How did so many teams miss on Brock Purdy?

The NFL Draft is an entrance exam, not a graduation ceremony.

Joshua from Bellingham, WA

Rick from Trempealeau's question about losses you were glad to be part of got me thinking back to that 2015 game in Arizona. As a fan of just about every sport, I don't think I've ever spent the next day smiling about a loss before and never since. That next morning, I was just happy to be a fan of football, period. That brings me to asking the reverse of that question. Are there losses that are just so bad you can't forget them? The Seahawks playoff loss and the Fail Mary sure top my list.

I never re-watched the 2014 NFC Championship Game. Considering it's been nine years and I've still yet to cover a Super Bowl, I doubt I ever will. I know I've said it before in this column, but the thing about that Green Bay/Arizona playoff game in 2015 is the outcome didn't match the story. It's the only game I've ever categorized that way because Green Bay did more to win that contest than it did lose. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. Sadly, that was also the last game of James Jones' career. It was an absolutely maddening game to analyze on a newspaper deadline.

Scott from Sauk City, WI

You know, Spoff, Bob Uecker isn't going to be on the air forever, as much as we all want that. What I'm saying is, there's still time to get your play-by-play chops up to par. Hopefully LOTS of time, of course. Don't you know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy? Larrivee has some pull somewhere, doesn't he?

The dream would be short-lived, I fear. In the heat of the moment, I've witnessed too much sodium chloride in Mike's baseball language. The FCC would take Spoff off the air after a week.

Robert from Verona, WI

We're looking forward to a Packers win this weekend, but our trip to Florida means we'll be streaming the audio and following the live blog. I've only followed the live blog while also watching on TV in the past so this will be a new experience. Thanks for doing the blog each week, and for all that both of you (and the folks diligently working to support you) throughout the year. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Go Pack Go!

I made a crack in the office about how the largely regional broadcast of this game likely will result in big blog business for Spoff…just in time for his contract renegotiations.

Jeffrey from Eveleth, MN

Come on Wes, "a little incident" when describing what happened on the Tucker Kraft hurdle? Anything in that area isn't considered little. Kind of like someone saying "minor groin surgery." No way!

They should've had a GoPro and a stopwatch on me while I tried to find a delicate way to describe what happened on that play.

Joe from Hampshire, IL

Instead of the peanut gallery, we have the Insider Inbox Nuthouse. With the game on Christmas Eve, I say the calendar was kind to the team since you all can be home on Christmas. Hope you get home to see your kid's Christmas Eve excitement. Any unique Hod family traditions?

I wouldn't call them unique, but my family has a small tradition of watching "It's a Wonderful Life" while opening presents on Christmas Eve (aside from this year, of course). It's been fun getting my son in on that. My dad also buys a box of Beerntsen's Candy, which is the first present we open.

Andrew from Placentia, CA

I must confess that I have fallen off the Insider Express the last few weeks. It's been a rough November/December for me and my kids' health, but I count my blessings because I know things could always be so much worse. I just want to wish both of you a very Merry Christmas and thank you for the tireless work you do to bring us A-plus content and connect us with the team we love. It's hard being a sick teacher, but your jobs are so demanding, I pray for your health the rest of the season!

Same to you, Andrew. Sending positive vibes your way. Wishing all the best for you and your family in the new year.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

A brutal loss and the light of the playoffs grows dim
Do not go gently into the darkness, Green and Gold
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
Now on to Carolina with a chance to right the ship
And another chance to show all your true identity

The Packers can't worry about anything but stacking wins right now. Three cracks at notching a winning season begins in Carolina.

Joe from Las Vegas, NV

Merry Christmas to all in Packer land and throughout the world. Go Pack Go.

I know we still have a couple days to go, but this is my last column before Christmas. I want to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and thank you again for being part of our small literary community. Eat, drink and enjoy the ballgame.

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