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Inbox: It was one of the most enjoyable human aspects

That held true again

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Wide receivers Allen Lazard and Davante Adams

Dennis from Parrish, FL

What happens if the hay is in the live well and the perch are in the barn?

The farmer goes broke and the fisherman goes hungry. Or the frog eats the key. Take your pick.

Basil from Nags Head, NC

Is it just me, or does anyone else miss the end-of-season pictures of locker room clean-out day? It always added a personal look and feel.

That last visit to the locker room to interview players while they're cleaning out their stuff has always been part of the closure for me. Not to have that was just another strange element to the season.

Wayne from Stevens Point, WI

I didn't write this to you at the beginning of the season so here it is now. I bet the NFL season ends before the third game begins due to the virus. My question is: How long did you think it could realistically go before the season started? And I am so glad I was wrong. You two and the Packers gave me relief on a daily basis. It ended poorly, but sure beats not having a horse in the race for the last month.

I was guessing four or five games before a major interruption, but I was glad to be wrong as well. Very glad.

Otto from Brillion, WI

Based upon seeing the last four or so ST coordinators do so poorly, do you think there's something systemic in Packer management scope or strategy that contributes to multiple failed candidates?

Every coach I've seen hired for that job here has taken steps forward at first, but then the units have regressed in future seasons. I don't have an answer for you except to say they obviously haven't found the right combination of coach and personnel to sustain the initial success.

Mike from Lisle, IL

While there's been a lot of attention paid to pass interference non-calls, the non-call I found most irksome was during Tampa Bay's first drive, on third-and-long, when it seemed half of their offensive line was four yards downfield before the ball left Brady's hand. Is that not an objective infraction, easy to spot? Please don't tell me the rules are different during the playoffs. (The "let 'em play" attitude is ridiculous.)

It was actually the second drive, assuming you're referring to the third-and-13 middle screen to Godwin. I thought the same thing when I saw it live, but the film showed the only players downfield were eligible receivers (two WR, one TE) and no lineman was more than a yard beyond the line of scrimmage when the ball left Brady's hand. All legal. Just great play design and execution.

Michael from Clermont, FL

It looks like Rashan Gary was held on the crucial third down at the end of the game. Am I wrong?

No, but like everything else, flags could have flown for holding throughout the game, either way.

Eric from Kenosha, WI

Let's talk about the real culprit for Sunday's disappointment, global warming. What is this 30 degrees and sunny for an NFCCG at Lambeau?

No kidding, and the Bucs were dropping plenty of passes in the balmy clime anyway.

Matt from La Crosse, WI

As painful as it is to watch the Packers lose another NFC Championship Game, I am most disappointed that we won't get to watch a Super Bowl shootout between Aaron Rodgers and Mahomes. What a game that would have been.

We were robbed of getting to see that matchup in October of 2019. We can always hope.

Sue from Tomah, WI

David from Oak Hills, CA, got me to thinking: We have enjoyed 20-plus years of "greatness" (your very appropriate word) with Favre and Rodgers. Has any other team had such a long run with only two quarterbacks?

When you look at the Montana-Young era in San Francisco lasting 19 years, and Favre-Rodgers is now at 29 and counting, it boggles the mind. Yes, this team should have won more than two championships in that time. We're all disappointed by that and I'm not diminishing that. But to have only seven non-playoff seasons since Favre's first year, and never more than two in a row, has still made for far more we want to remember than would rather forget.

Mike from Milwaukee, WI

I've had a lot of Packer fan friends say we're wasting Aaron Rodgers' career. Their argument is that we should be going all in, spending the money to get free agents to get a Super Bowl. The example they use is Peyton Manning with the Broncos, and I'm sure they'll now add Tom Brady with the Bucs. Can you help me with examples of teams that went all in, spent a ton of money, but failed to get the Lombardi so I can ask them if they're OK with that outcome, which ultimately is much more likely?

I'll reiterate the Bucs probably lose in the divisional round this year if Jared Cook doesn't fumble the ball, and Brady threw three picks in the second half Sunday. But to your question, look at the New Orleans Saints the last four years. They won 49 games in that time and never even made it to a Super Bowl, let alone won one, and now they're in cap hell. The Minnesota Vikings reached the NFC title game in 2017, went all-in for the quarterback they thought they needed, and have one playoff appearance in the last three years. The Dallas Cowboys were the NFC's No. 1 seed in 2016 with a top-flight QB (Prescott) and RB (Elliott) on their rookie contracts, built everything they could around them, and have one playoff win to show for it.

Richard from Madison, WI

"The blessing and the curse for the Packers is they've consistently been one of the NFL's best teams for the past decade ..." You might elaborate a bit on the "curse" part of that. Given the NFL's perfectly understandable emphasis on league-wide parity, always finishing near the top means you always draft near the bottom. It's astonishing what the Packers have been able to do over multiple decades with what, at Thanksgiving, would be called the leftovers.

One of my favorite lines from 2020 was from a miked-up segment during Pittsburgh's first loss of the season to Washington. Mike Tomlin was recorded telling Chase Young, "I don't ever want to lose enough games to get a guy like you…'Cause you gotta lose 14, 15 games to get a guy that looks like you."

Sean from Springfield, OR

I think any discussion of what a team does or doesn't do to win it all needs to leave out Tom Brady. He ruins the curve.

During Brady's 19 years as the starter in New England (2001-19), three quarterbacks accounted for 16 of the 19 AFC representatives in the Super Bowl (Brady 9, P. Manning 4, Roethlisberger 3). During that same time period, 16 different QBs started a Super Bowl for an NFC team, and nobody more than twice. It's clear which conference has seen a greater variety of teams rising up and contending for titles over the years. By a longshot.

Summer from Williamsburg, VA

My favorite play from the game has to be watching AJ Dillon turn a zero-yard gain into six yards, carrying defenders along for a ride. How does his continued progress and success, in that game along with his breakout against the Titans, impact the view on re-signing Jones?

I think the Packers want Aaron Jones back, but they aren't going to overpay for him. They're going to establish a value range and stay disciplined, knowing Dillon has the ability to be a feature back.

Lane from Calgary, Alberta

I'm realizing this is going to take a lot more time to get over than others. I've been trying to figure out where to place the blame for this most recent playoff disaster but have realized that isn't a fair question because it's more than one thing. A frustrating observation has to be our regression of the pass rush year over year. QB pressure was the most constant factor in the outcome on both sides of the ball. Too bad our guys lost the one-on-ones.

I said throughout the playoffs it was clear Tampa Bay's offensive line played a huge part in the Bucs' wins over Washington and New Orleans. That held true again.

Marty from Plymouth, WI

While our defense did make some improvements over the course of the season, I do recall one very disturbing trend: How many times the opponent scored in the last two minutes of the first half. It happened in both playoff games, and occurred at least a handful of times during the regular season. That trend hurt us big-time versus TB. Did anyone pick up on this? And how do we end this trend?

I don't know, but the defensive staff will have to study it to see what was behind it. I went through all 18 games and counted 11 times the opponent scored with less than two minutes left in the first half – nine TDs, two FGs, 69 total points (out of 418 allowed).

Craig from Sheboygan, WI

If the Bears somehow obtain Watson, they will actually be a decent team. Just sayin'.

It would really be something if Watson ends up in Chicago after all.

Jason from Baraboo, WI

When scouts call college coaches to check in on the make-up of a player, how does the scout sift through the B.S. from the facts? A college coach would love nothing more than to boost their program's appeal to potential recruits by having more players drafted, but if a prospect truly has issues that warrant a "warning," how is that line toed?

The scouts talk to a lot of people, not just coaches but others from the player's past. It's in the best long-term interest of those coaches to play it straight and be someone the scout can trust, not someone whose word is worthless.

Dan from Waupun, WI

"Packers Unscripted" (Jan. 28) was nice. Thank you.

We were due to pay tribute, and it was a fun conversation.

Gary from Benevides, Brazil

We lost some significant players after the 2019 season and still came back a better team in 2020. I suspect the losses from this team will be even more significant considering the salary cap situation and the way so many of our free agent signings are hitting their peak salary cap hits in 2021. Do you think improvement is still possible in 2021?

It's always possible when you have good, young players with unknown ceilings. There are no guarantees, of course, but I don't consider the Packers an "old" team.

Brian from Trego, WI

The comments Allen Lazard made at the end of his Q&A this week really hit me in the chest and put the playoff loss in perspective. He stated that one play, one game, one season doesn't define you as a person and that yes, we are athletes but we are also people too, and there is much more that defines us. Sounds like a real leader emerging!

Seeing more of Lazard's personality shine through this year was cool. It was one of the most enjoyable human aspects of a season without the usual human contact.

Tom from Woodbury, MN

In the NHL, NBA, and MLB playoffs you can lose a game or two or three and continue your championship quest. The NFL playoffs are much more intense for players and fans because it is win or go home. It makes winning more exhilarating but also makes losing more gut wrenching.

Which is exactly why the NFL playoffs and March Madness are the most-watched postseasons in all of sports.

Dave from Gainesville, VA

After reading Cliff's column today, I completely understand why his book on the Packers history is still being finalized. What a wealth of Packers history he is. I do not believe I would have the patience to do the extensive research Cliff puts forth.

There is no one more insistent on getting historical facts right nor dedicated to seeing this team's history recorded accurately than Cliff. No one.

Dan from Cross Plains, WI

Rodgers revealed what he saw on film from the 2010 season. He said it had to do with the hitch at the top of his drop which he called a timing mechanism for accurate and on-time throws to receivers. Knowing this, he put in a lot of offseason work on leg strength. This coupled with his attitude and mindfulness has awakened his MVP form. Hopeful as fans we can practice this same mindfulness this offseason. All that said, I believe there's a high chance our MVP stays in the green and gold.

I'd put the chance as much higher than high.

Jeff from Tucson, AZ

Great idea. Hope you two enjoy your 88 jerseys.

Trust me, the decorations in our cubes proudly reflect our readers and their magnanimous (and unnecessary) gestures.

Jesus from Mesa, AZ

Mike, you don't seem to understand. Of course the team balances short- and long-term goals, and must continue to do so. But going for it means overweighting the short-term goal at the expense of the long-term goal. Drafting a first-round QB and the backup to the backup RB with your first two drafts are not "going for it." Quit being a company-line apologist, think for yourself, and the maybe you'll get clued into what folks are saying.

I am clued into what folks are saying, I'm not apologizing for anyone, and I do think for myself. I don't agree with nor defend every decision made here, but I can understand and explain the rationale when asked. There's a difference. By and large, I think "going for it" is a fool's errand because if it doesn't pay off you end up with even fewer chances in a highly random and unpredictable game. That was my point. In the end, the Packers had everything they needed to get to the Super Bowl this year, having earned the No. 1 seed, lone bye, and home field. It came down to one contest, and they blew it. Why? Because the play caller and/or MVP QB abandoned the run at multiple pivotal moments, the All-Pro wide receiver dropped a TD pass, the Pro Bowl running back fumbled, the No. 2 corner who's been a solid cover man when healthy played the worst game of his career, the normally productive edge rushers couldn't get to the QB, the future HOF left tackle's absence caught up with them, the head coach made a questionable decision at crunch time, and the officials changed the tenor of their oversight with the game on the line. Anyone who can explain to me how the first two draft picks last April, or other front-office moves, were going to change any of that, I'll hang up and listen. You sent another note saying I need to join "reality" because my answers are "insulting to the collective intelligence" of the "go for it" folks like you. I implore you to get off your philosophical hobby horse and instead look at the facts and reasons for the loss in a game the Packers had to win even if they had gone 16-0. I've outlined them. The failures had nothing to do with the franchise's off-the-field approach to trying to win. That's the actual reality.

Scotty from Lombard, IL

Insiders, great season, tough ending. What ifs do not matter. Question the coaches, the refs, if you want to. Bottom line: On the field, we did not do what we needed to do to win. End of story.

And with that, my work during the most difficult week of the year is done. I'll stop ranting next week, I promise. Happy Friday.

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