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Inbox: It’s a matter of pride

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Joe from Cary, NC

Let’s say that the Packers get a great coach for next season. Do we immediately expect a playoff run or do we give the team a year to rebuild with the new structure?

This isn’t a rebuild. It’s been a tough year, but there are non-perishables in the cupboard. Structurally, in my opinion, this team is closer to being a contender than it was when Mike McCarthy was hired in 2006. Good morning!

Ben from Pensacola, FL

I have the utmost respect for Mark Murphy and Brian Gutekunst. I like the way they handled themselves, despite some frustrating questions to get them to reveal more of this and that. I also think that the direction they are going is good, with my limited understanding of how these things work. But they're right – this is an attractive job. Who doesn't want the ability to see what they can do with the weapons in this offense?

It’s not a comfortable chair to sit in, but to their credit, Murphy and Gutekunst answered every question thrown their way Monday (a few of them multiple times). There’s no question this is one of the best jobs in the NFL. There are no meddling owners. The organization has proven willing to invest resources into the team. The community lives and breathes football. It’s all right there.

Dexter from Chicago, IL

What does Joe Philbin say to the team first day on the job?

Philbin threw the number 13 on a projector in the team meeting Monday and told players the team’s focus needs to be set squarely on the 13th game of the season this Sunday against Atlanta. Philbin doesn’t want to make any grandiose changes to scheme in December, but he challenged the coaches to pinpoint three or four areas where each phase can improve. He also gave an introduction to the defensive players, telling them he expects four things the next four weeks – be professional, be accountable, be respectful and be punctual.

Justin from Tucumcari, NM

Hello Insiders. No question, just a comment. I think this team will rally around Philbin. I think everyone knew if they didn't win on Sunday that it would solidify Mike’s fate, but I don't think anyone expected it to be until the end of the season and it kind of shocked everyone. So with that being said, I like Philbin’s attitude, and I think every player, not wanting to be a part of hurting his chances of staying with the team as well, will rally and try their hardest to win out.

I don’t know how the next four weeks will play out, but Philbin is the kind of coach players rally behind. He epitomizes class and is the right pick to lead in the interim.

James from Asheville, NC

So, does Coach Philbin get or deserve an audition for the head coaching job, removing the interim? With only a few relatively meaningless games to go, how does he put his imprint on the team?

Win.

Joe from Dundee, IL

Who on the offensive coaching side is most logical to take over OC duties? Or is that more likely to be divided up for these four games?

Philbin said it’s yet to be determined how all his day-to-day responsibilities as OC will be divided. However, Philbin confirmed he will be calling plays moving forward.

Paul from Milwaukee, WI

So how do you see us finishing the season? Do they keep playing Rodgers the rest of this year and hope to someway, somehow we get a shot at the playoffs? If so, we could risk Rodgers getting another long-term, or even worse, career-ending injury. Or will they bench him and allow the younger guys (Kizer and Boyle) to develop in case we need them for a game or two next year?

The Packers aren’t sitting Aaron Rodgers. The plan calls for the quarterback to play. That’s why all these players are here. It’s a matter of pride. Philbin said on Monday he hasn’t been given any indication by the medical staff that Rodgers is at any increased risk by playing in the next four games and added Rodgers looked as mobile in the pocket against Arizona as he has all season.

Jay from Brookfield, CT

Lots of blame to throw around this year with MM now taking the brunt of it. But as I watch the games this year I can't help but think that maybe this team was just too young and inexperienced. Lots of first- and second-year players starting, some as replacements for more experienced players. That leads to critical mistakes, penalties, and in the case of the offense clearly not having the connection with AR as our starters or Jordy had. Is this too simplistic or does this argument have merit?

It was a sum of the whole. It wasn’t one thing. It never is during a topsy-turvy season like this. What’s to blame? It’s the rhythm of the offense being off. It’s the defense yielding big plays at key moments. It’s special teams drawing penalties. You win and lose as a team. It’s a game of big plays and the Packers just didn’t make enough of them this season. As the head coach of a team with Super Bowl aspirations, McCarthy answered for the disappointment, and by all accounts, handled it like a true pro.

Bob from Racine, WI

Just a comment on the passing of the Mike McCarthy era in GB. I think at least some of what did him in was stuff that was beyond his control. Yet, he has never made an excuse, threw anyone else under the bus, or even spoken ill of anyone else...even when they probably had it coming. The guy is a total professional and a fiercely class act. I wish him all the luck in the world, and I can’t see him not coaching somewhere in the NFL.

I know fans occasionally got frustrated about McCarthy being unwilling to criticize players from his bully pulpit, but that’s not the way he was wired. He answered a lot of tough questions for more than a decade, but he never intended to make any of his players have to do the same because of something he said about them.

Jason from New Hampton, IA

What do you see as the team’s goals going through the rest of this season?

Instead of speculating, I’m just going to quote David Bakhtiari from Monday: “We have four games left and we intend on winning all four games.”

Timmy from Marion, IA

Do you think that if the NFL wouldn’t have flagged Clay Matthews for roughing at the beginning of the year things might have been different for this team, especially since it seems they’ve reversed the way they make the call now?

Don’t think that didn’t cross my mind over the last 24 hours. Sometimes forces of nature just seem to be working against you, but you still need to respond to that adversity.

David from Milwaukee, WI

Insiders, do you think because McCarthy has been such a consistent presence it’s easy for us fans to forget he came in on a tidal wave of change?

His first three seasons in Green Bay have to go down as one of the most difficult stretches an NFL head coach has endured on his way to winning a Super Bowl. McCarthy had to earn the respect of a future Hall of Famer, help develop Aaron Rodgers and then weather the backlash to the summer of Favre. He navigated those turbulent waters and emerged on the other side. His consistency was his greatness, particularly when adversity was at its peak. McCarthy was the same man the day he entered the building as the night in which he left it. He did things the right way. His line about listening to your bartenders are words to live by, as well.

Brandon from Omaha, NE

I was curious when in games the Packers have struggled the most, so I broke down points scored and allowed per quarter. Surprisingly (to me), the second quarter is where the Packers dig the biggest hole for themselves. On the season they've been outscored by eight points in the first quarter and 22 points in the second, while they're outscoring opponents by 20 points in the third and four points in the fourth. Having said all that they've still been ahead or tied at the half in seven of 12 games. I'm so confused.

It’s a pretty easy answer, Brandon. Outside of those heart-attack games early in the season, the Packers have struggled to finish games. Aside from maybe Buffalo and Miami, they haven’t put together those complete performances that help teams get on winning streaks. Hence the disparity between halftime leads and their overall record.

Daniel from Appleton, WI

What is Aaron Rodgers’ cumulative record against the NFC West? Seems like as a whole that is the one division the Packers have struggled to beat with Rodgers at the helm.

He’s actually 16-8 in the regular season against the NFC West in his career, but it’s probably those five playoff losses leaving a sour taste in your mouth.

Matthew from Portland, OR

When will we get clarity on the WR situation in Green Bay?

Tomorrow. No, wait, next Thursday. Actually, it’ll be on Jan. 4. No. That’s my wife’s birthday. Um, maybe Feb. 17 or March 20? You know what? I’ll say sometime between now and the start of training camp next July.

Casey from Frisco, TX

Lost in the sea of questions and comments about the McCarthy firing was Kumerow Uno's first career catch in Sunday's game. With that catch in hand, do you think Jake Kumerow has done enough to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, or does he still have work to do?

Hey, every Hall of Fame career at the receiver position started with the first catch. My snarky responses aside, this is an important month for both the Packers and Kumerow. They need to see what they have. It would be nice to see him get more opportunities, especially with Geronimo Allison and Trevor Davis on IR.

Zach from Delavan, WI

It’s funny. Everyone likes progress and improvements. But no one really enjoys the pains of change. You can’t have one without the other. How do you think this very young squad will deal with all this going forward?

I actually think it might be more of a challenge for the veterans who have only known McCarthy as their NFL coach. There are a handful of young players on this roster who experienced coaching changes in college. Regardless of how long a player has been in the league, however, the key is in how each individual responds to it.

Zach from Rochester, NY

Coaching seems to be trending towards being a “young man’s game.” Just look at how McVay and Nagy jumpstarted the offenses in L.A. and Chicago. Why do you think younger coaches are able to hold their own for the first time in league history?

Or are GMs just more willing to hire them in 2018?

Tony from River Falls, WI

Well, no “Hard Knocks” for the Packers this offseason now. How would you feel about the Packers being on that show?

Indifferent.

Darren from Kingston, Ontario

Understandably Monday showcased a lot of doom and gloom. But mathematically we’re still alive. We can still win a wild-card berth. We can still win the division. It seems over but it’s not. Is a 0.97 percent chance too much of a long shot? I still believe in Christmas miracles. Do you, Wes?

Credit to Blake Martinez. He wasn’t giving up hope when speaking to reporters in the locker room Monday. The boar still believes.

Jason from Austin, TX

With only four games left, let Rodgers call the plays the rest of the way. I'd be curious if that's even possible throughout the course of a game, and if it would be successful.

I can’t speak to how successful or unsuccessful it would be, but Peyton Manning largely did a lot of that in concert with offensive coordinator Tom Moore during the latter half of his career with the Colts.

Sebastian from Erlangen, Germany

Among all the scuttlebutt, I did like how Jaire Alexander handled the punt return role.

I thought Alexander did well. Heck, he had the Packers’ longest official punt return of the year. He’s shifty and sees the field well. I don’t know how much I want to see him on returns in 2019 and beyond given how important Alexander is to the defense, but he did his job against the Cardinals.

Michael from Morrison, IL

Mike/Wes, it really is quite interesting how quickly things change. In 2016, the Packers and Falcons faced off for a spot in Super Bowl LI with two of the most explosive offenses in the league. Fast forward two years, the two will face off with a combined 8-15-1 record and minimal playoff hopes after entering the year as NFC contenders, not to mention one team having just fired their head coach and the other contemplating such a move. And to think this game was a prime "flex" candidate in April.

That’s life in the NFL. Likewise, things also can turn back quickly the other way. It’s a year-to-year league. Unfortunately for the Packers, 2018 hasn’t been theirs.

Jeff from South Grafton, MA

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. Thank you, Mike.

Well put.

Ivan from Dublin, Ireland

Busy couple of days, boys? Got to give a lot of credit to Mike McCarthy over his tenure, but it strikes me once again that professional sports has little or no room for sentiment...How is the mood over there?

Subdued, but fine. Everyone is a professional. It’s part of the business. The future starts now.

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