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Inbox: Leadership will still be there

It’s part of the deal

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LB Preston Smith

David from Milwaukee, WI

Is there a certain position you're looking at for next season?

No, I'm good with senior writer, thanks.

Scott from Sauk City, WI

First of all, I was so non-hyped that I forgot about the CFP title game. And then when I remembered about it, it was already well in-hand. Can anything be done to fix the college game?

The playoff is going to expand soon, and the more games against top-quality teams that contenders have to win in order to reach the final, the greater chance of a competitive championship. But otherwise, that level of the sport is going to remain pretty chaotic, with constant conference realignment, the transfer portal, etc.

Patrick from Oregon, OH

Not sure about you guys, but one of the most exciting things I noticed in these last few games was how much more playing time Devonte Wyatt had, and the impact he had during that playing time. I can't wait to see what he will do next season, when he will probably get even more opportunities to prove himself. I'm still surprised that he wasn't on the field more this season, but he did well in his limited playing time.

I agree on his future, and the Packers will be counting on him to be a big part of things next year. His bump of the Detroit trainer after Quay Walker shoved him was a pretty bad look, though, and not the memory of his rookie season I wanted to take into the offseason. Hopefully he can learn from it and his teammate's issues to make it truly a singular lapse in judgment.

Gretchen from Dousman, WI

Mike, I'm concerned about Quay Walker. The right words are being said, but is there someone on the Packers' staff who can actually help this talented young man? It's a difficult time in the season where everyone leaves to pursue their own path. I think he needs a safety net.

I'm not going to project Walker's on-field transgressions into off-field ones when there's no evidence of such, but the Packers have resources to get him any help he needs.

Caleb from Knoxville, TN

Any playoff matches catch your eye this weekend? Jags-Chargers could be sneaky good.

For sure on that one. I don't expect the No. 7 seeds, Seattle and Miami, to provide compelling games against San Francisco and Buffalo, respectively. And Baltimore-Cincinnati probably hinges on whether Lamar Jackson returns. But Chargers at Jacksonville, Giants at Minnesota and Cowboys at Tampa Bay feel like total toss-ups to me. I can't believe I'm saying that about the Dallas game, but after the Cowboys barely beat the Philadelphia Minshews and got whipped by the Washington Howells, I just don't know what to think of that club.

Josh from Nicholasville, KY

Looking at the locker room clean-out pictures I noticed several players had images from the season on large canvases. Were those a gift from a player?

I believe players can request certain photos of Evan's to get blown up for them, and they pay for the reproductions. They're just on posterboard so nothing super fancy, but they really highlight Evan's superb work.

Jeff from Des Moines, IA

While nothing is certain at the present time, the Packers appear to be in a position to lose some rather important veteran leadership from the team. What players do you view as the next generation of strong leadership?

You're right regarding the amount of uncertainty, but Preston Smith, Kenny Clark and De'Vondre Campbell aren't going anywhere on defense, so leadership will still be there. On offense, whoever the quarterback is will naturally take on a major leadership role, and Elgton Jenkins just got a new contract. If the cap situations with David Bakhtiari and Aaron Jones can be worked out, that's still a lot of veteran leadership on that side of the ball. Obvious leadership on special teams likely hinges on whether Mason Crosby and/or Keisean Nixon get re-signed.

Dustin from Kansas City, MO

Wes, not to be that guy, but the saying is actually "nip it in the bud." As in take care of the problem while it's in the bud stage, before it has time to flower and become a larger issue. Only reason I know this is because I used to watch Andy Griffith with my grandpa when I was a kid and Barney Fife was always one of my favorite characters. One time I said "nip it in the butt" and grandpa corrected me and explained what it meant. It was one of a million things I learned from that man.

I'll have to check whether Wes even knows who Barney Fife is.

Andrew from Burke, VA

Can we talk about how great of a leader Rich Bisaccia is? He first proves he could coach after inheriting a dysfunctional Raiders team and taking them to the playoffs, and then turns one of the worst special-teams units into one of the most feared within one season. I figured he would be near the top of the new head coach lists, but there seems to be very little mention of him. What gives? I don't want him to go, but of the candidates, I honestly feel like he is at least top three most deserving.

I don't get it either. Bisaccia deserves his shot to be a head coach. Heck, he deserved the Raiders job last year when he led them to just their second playoff appearance since 2002 under very difficult circumstances. NFL teams/owners just seem reluctant to hire a head coach whose experience is primarily on special teams. John Harbaugh is a longtime success story. Joe Judge is the recent failure. Bisaccia has had assistant or associate head coach as part of his title in five different places (Mississippi in college; Buccaneers, Chargers, Cowboys, Raiders in the NFL). I'm thrilled he came to Green Bay, but I sincerely hope he gets his chance someday.

Carmen from Trimbach, Switzerland

More a media question than a football question: I didn't like the cameras showing Quay Walker walking out. I didn't much like the cameras showing Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb together, at least not for as long as they did. I don't like it when they show injured players in pain. Somehow I feel that players have the right to some privacy in certain moments. What are your thoughts about that? (And yes, I know, ultimately it's about business.)

The networks pay billions upon billions of dollars to broadcast the games. The players know they get privacy behind closed doors. It's part of the deal.

Mitch from Eagle River, WI

Hey guys, on Rasul Douglas' penalty on the kick, Wes said if he hadn't retaliated to being shoved, he would not have been penalized. Why is an initial shove tolerated and only retaliation penalized? Even though both shoves were essentially identical acts as far as physicality and maliciousness goes. Would this not incentivize instigation?

Sometimes they'll flag the first guy, sometimes they don't see it. Most often, if the retaliation is more aggressive or forceful than the instigation, the second offender gets flagged. What bothers me the most about the Douglas incident is if he's going to knock the ball away after the Packers call timeout to prevent the Lions from getting a cheap practice kick, he has to know someone's going to react to a stunt like that, so he should've prepared himself to control his emotions.

Nathan from Philadelphia, PA

When Rodgers said he thinks the Packers are a couple of players away, did you get the sense he was talking about another target or two for him to throw to, or players to bring the defense up to the level they were hyped up at before the season?

I'm sure one of the two, in his mind, is an offensive weapon of some sort. The other might be anything. Or he was just generally referring to true difference-makers, which adding a couple more of those, anywhere, can really change how any team looks.

Sue from Three Lakes, WI

I'm no expert on defensive formations. Could you explain two shell and two high safeties? Are they the same thing? I feel like I heard that defenses were playing that against Aaron often. I don't understand why we never seem to have an answer when teams played us that way. It's a copycat league and it seems they found a weakness in us and exploited it all year. Am I wrong?

Those two defensive terms are the same, referring to both safeties playing deep. Defenses use it to take away the big play, and the Packers saw more this year after Christian Watson's emergence than prior. The counter is to run the ball to pull the defense out of that and draw more single coverage on the outside. But even with the Watson threat, the Packers still didn't seem to run the ball as well as they should down the stretch. I do owe the readers a correction, though. In Monday's Inbox, I referenced the Lions "sitting back in two-high most of the night." That's not accurate. I made a mental note during two possessions on either side of halftime the Lions seemed to be sitting back, which was the origin of my postgame comment. But after reviewing the film, that wasn't their strategy most of the game. They actually played a lot of single-high, especially on early downs, moving the second safety closer just before or after the snap. It helped clog up the run, and the Packers frankly just didn't make enough plays in the passing game to make them regret their emphasis.

Mark from Lakeville, MN

Re: opposing fans at home games, I live several hours from GB and sell my tickets when unable to travel for a game. I, like many, use the NFL Ticket Exchange to do so because doing so protects me from whatever dumbassery the buyer might perpetrate while sitting in my seats. If I sell them any other way I am liable for the buyer's behavior and expose myself to losing my season tix. Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing who buys my tickets or what their allegiance may be.

I hear you, and I really love the word dumbassery.

Nick from Pewaukee, WI

Two notes from watching Green Bay fall short in seemingly the same way. A lot is made about ML's Dec/Jan record, but when the lights are the brightest and it really matters, the play-calling, strategy, discipline and team energy is consistently subpar. Second, the mystique of "late-season Lambeau" seems to be gone. Teams obviously aren't afraid to come here. The real question is, what can possibly be done to fix this?

There is no obvious fix or the season wouldn't have ended at home in January three straight years. But I don't think it's fair to characterize the things you mention as "consistently subpar" or "gone." It's been a matter of sustaining the needed level of play in those late-season stretches. In 2020, the Packers won a big Week 16 home game, convincingly, over playoff-bound Tennessee, then a home playoff game over the Rams, before losing to Tampa Bay. In 2021, on Christmas, they beat a Cleveland team fighting for a playoff spot and then blew out the QB-less Vikings to secure the No. 1 seed before the San Fran loss. This year they "had to have it" at home against the division-champion Vikings and romped, but that level wasn't sustained the next week vs. the Lions. So it's been there in many important late home games, but there's always another one, right? And it hasn't been maintained. Why not? If I knew that I think my paycheck would have some more zeroes.

CL from Nashville, TN

Good morning, thank you for another year of insight, patience and perspective. I would like to note a positive: Matt LaFleur's leadership in front of the media. After every loss, after every question about poor play or coaching, after every question about Rodgers' dissatisfaction with the offense, he stands up there and takes responsibility. He says it starts with him and that he needs to do better. That form of leadership and humility is rare, and it makes me like and trust him all the more.

Nobody in good conscience can pass the buck if the man at the top never does.

James from Ottawa, Canada

In his postseason interview, Coach LaFleur said his hope is to bring back seemingly all of his coaching staff, as having that continuity is key to success. Do you think he sees that value after this year's growing pains following the departure of some important coaches last offseason? Anytime new coaches come aboard, there are inevitably growing pains that come with learning new plays/tendencies. Do you think the turnover in coaches last offseason contributed to some of this year's woes?

I don't think anyone can deny it was a factor on offense, but I wouldn't rank it nearly as high as the overhaul of the receiving corps and all the early injury issues up front. That said, the combination of change was not ideal. But LaFleur indicated Monday he clearly believes in his guys. He wants to develop the same continuity he felt with the offensive staff in '20 and '21 after their first year together. Defensively, I believe the message is if the unit can play like it did the final month without arguably its best player (Rashan Gary), there's no reason that kind of defense can't show up more consistently next year.

Dan from Lignite, ND

Now that the pain of the season-ending loss is subsiding, it really seems appropriate that the game ended in the way it did. The season-long question – Would the Packers' persistent resolve and effort be enough to overcome their miscues and mistakes? – has finally been answered. Not the answer I wanted to hear. We will of course watch the season play out without us, and then the offseason, draft and then… Hope springs eternal …

Happy Wednesday.

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