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Inbox: One helps a lot more than none

The NFC remains as wide open as ever

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G Jon Runyan

Marty from Guelph, Canada

"Dumbassery"? "Nip it in the butt"? Hmm. II is sinking into a theme we should leave "behind" shall we say? On my way out!

Thankfully.

Bob from Port St. Lucie, FL

Either you have ignored posting the usual negative diatribes after a depressing game like our last one or people just weren't that surprised at the result. Have we actually found Vic's perspective on the game?

Some, but certainly not all. Plenty of readers want everyone fired, no different than after a season-ending loss any other year. I think I've posted plenty of disappointing commentary this week, as I've done after other losses, but I generally stay away from mindless ranting because it serves no purpose.

Jeanne from Holliston, MA

Wes/Mike, so in the end, what is/was the identity of the 2022 Packers? Would it be: They never quit?

That's the best I've come up with.

Paul from Ledgeview, WI

Mike, Wes mentioned his game-day routine and it raised a question whether you (two) have external sources you go to regularly to spark ideas or broaden your perspective. Are there other journalists with a "take" you appreciate or leverage?

I read just about everything written by the local beat reporters who cover this team regularly, to see things from different angles and make sure I'm not overlooking anything. But my analysis is my own. I rarely read or listen to national pundits and their "takes" on this team because they're not here every day and usually just have a narrative they're trying to sell.

Bob from Bella Vista, AR

Thanks for the "5 plays." It was "salve" for the wounds. Can I get more salve, please?

If you haven't given "Unscripted" a try, Wes and I did our best on the season wrap-up show.

Patrick from Valrico, FL

Do either of you have a favorite for the championship this year? Personally I think SF has some nice storylines.

We hit on this on "Unscripted," too.

Matt from Madison, WI

Mike, how many "difference-makers" would you say the Packers currently have on the team? Which position getting a new "difference-maker" would improve the team the most?

Leaving out QB for the time being, because that position takes on a status all its own, I would say the Packers' true elite-level, difference-making players in 2022 were Aaron Jones, Jaire Alexander, David Bakhtiari, Rashan Gary, Keisean Nixon, and Christian Watson. One problem, due to differing circumstances, is the latter two didn't really emerge until the second half of the season, and the middle two couldn't play the whole year. In the past, players like Elgton Jenkins, Kenny Clark and De'Vondre Campbell qualified, but I don't think they played to that standard the entire year, again for various reasons. The reliable, consistent Preston Smith has been on the verge before, too. Other young talent could get there, but you never know. My point is there's certainly a lot to like about this Packers roster, whoever the QB is next season, but it all needs to come together with players staying healthy and playing their best. As to where a new difference-maker would help the most, almost anywhere. High-impact players change how teams game plan and attack/defend you, as long as they're on the field every week.

Josh from Bellingham, WA

Did it seem like the Packers had more drops than a leaking faucet this season? We all remember Watson's in Minnesota (I'm willing to overlook that as rookie nerves) but it seemed like an uncharacteristic problem for all of our receivers as well as running backs that never really went away, all the way through Week 18. Do you have any thoughts on why? And how does that get fixed?

I don't know how it gets fixed aside from players refining their fundamentals and skills individually. The Packers did have a much higher number of drops this season. I didn't chart them all, but I saw several where the pass could've been sharper. I don't know how many times I leaned over to Wes in the press box and said, "Should've been a better throw, still should've been caught." Other drops were with the ball right where anyone would want it. Both parties could've helped each other out a lot more as far as that goes.

Neil from Tunbridge Wells, UK

Any chance of brothers working together next season?

Anything's possible now. We shall see I guess.

Ben from Pensacola, FL

I haven't thrown in the towel on the season completely – I still have BUF in the race. By the way, did you see Hyde was back at practice? Golly, if he could at least play in the DIV/SHIP round, and can play back to his level, with Hyde and Poyer, that defensive backfield for BUF looks much better against CIN and KC. Let's go, Buffalo!

Hearing Hyde returned to practice this week put a smile on my face.

Dave from Lake Zurich, IL

So the stadia in Detroit and Indianapolis were not available for a playoff game. What if the Lions and Colts had made the playoffs? Did stadium management assume their teams wouldn't make the playoffs so they booked events?

Ford Field is having its poor artificial turf replaced (thankfully), and the work was scheduled as soon as it became clear the Lions would not be hosting any playoff games. There's a big volleyball tournament slated for Lucas Oil Stadium the weekend of the AFC title game, so apparently an assumption was made there. If Bills-Chiefs does come to pass, and two outdoor teams are battling it out in late January in Atlanta's dome for the right to go to the Super Bowl, that'll just feel wrong.

Sean from Monroe, WI

Speaking of intriguing matchups, I almost want to see a Super Bowl between Minnesota and Buffalo. Both 0-4. Both fighting for the first "W," and not be the team that brings home the fifth "L."

I notice you said almost. I would love to see Buffalo get off the Super Bowl schneid. Minnesota not so much.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

I'm trying to stay interested in the playoffs but even if I'm not it's quite a group of young QBs in the AFC, isn't it?

Herbert, Lawrence, Allen and Burrow is some quartet in the wild-card games, with Mahomes waiting around for next week. Imagine if Tua and Lamar Jackson were also both playing this weekend.

Joe from Pittsburgh, PA

If both Rodgers and Brady depart in the offseason, what is left of NFC top-flight QBs? Are we reduced to Cousins, Prescott, Hurts and what is left of Stafford? The quality shift to the AFC is astounding.

That's part of what makes the last few years so disappointing. Previously, the Packers were denied decent (or better) chances when young QBs in the NFC like Kaepernick and Wilson ascended and were on top of their games, and when Ryan won an MVP. Brady got in the way two years ago, but wouldn't have been last year, and this year the NFC remains as wide open as ever.

George from Edinburg, VA

Congratulations to Aaron Rouse, who just won a Virginia Senate seat. Any stories about our former safety?

I'll never forget him intercepting Peyton Manning and taking it 99 yards the other way in 2008. Congrats to him. That was cool to hear.

Ryan from Lewisburg, PA

I just want to thank you for these words from your "locker clean-out" editorial, Mike. I appreciate you and would appreciate if you could embellish: "The football gods smiled on them for a month by providing all kinds of outside help, but ultimately squandering that chance blended appropriately with the numerous red-zone and goal-to-go possessions all season that stopped short of the goal line."

Thanks for reading it. If by embellish, you mean elaborate, it was just another way of saying this team had a lot of promising opportunities throughout the course of the year that got away, and Sunday night embodied that on both the micro and macro scale.

Doug from Neenah, WI

"May we get what we want. May we get what we need. But may we never get what we deserve." Looking back at the entirety of the 17-game season, did the Packers get what they deserved?

I don't see how it could be argued they didn't.

Scott from Milwaukee, WI

Hello II, is there any concern the Packers won't be giving a second contract to players drafted rounds 3-7 for the second year in a row (2018 and 2019 drafts)? Looking ahead to the 2020 draft, it doesn't feel like any of those players drafted rounds 3-7 will get a second contract either. There is still another year for a player to "break out" of that class but I think you get my point. If we're searching for reasons the team had a down year in 2022…couldn't we look to the last four draft classes?

Perhaps a fair point, though going back through the Thompson-McCarthy regime, if a player drafted in rounds 3-7 got a second contract, it was rarely more than one from any given class, and there were years then with none as well. I only found two draft classes with two – Finley and Sitton from '08, Burnett and Starks from '10. But with mid- to late-round gems, one helps a lot more than none, I won't dismiss that. I'll also say Jon Runyan (sixth round, '20) looks on track for a possible second contract to break the streak you reference.

Matty from Durango, CO

Looking for silver lining. With our two aging stars we have the 17th oldest average aged team in the NFL. Without Crosby and Rodgers we'd be near the bottom in average age. That youth is a double-edged sword but points to improvement in the future once growing pains are overcome. Veterans just don't seem to make as many dumb mistakes.

The worst thing a team can become is too old. The second-worst thing is to become too young. Welcome to the world of an NFL GM.

Maija from Kalamazoo, MI

Shoving the opponent's medical personnel is truly not a good look. What about Reed's forearm to the head/helmet? Refs missed it. Will the team or league penalize him? ESPN ran that clip a number of times. Stomach-turning.

A fine is no doubt coming.

Tyce from Blackfoot, ID

Is it reasonable to expect Rashan Gary to be back for Game 1 next season? Is there any news on the progress of recovery?

I've heard no updates. The 2023 opener would be just 10 months after his injury, an aggressive timeline. But I wouldn't rule anything out with Gary.

Laurie from Sheboygan, WI

Aaron Rodgers has gone entire seasons without throwing four interceptions, but Detroit's rookie Joseph picked four in one season (one called back on a penalty). Was Rodgers targeting the rookie, or was the rookie just that good at reading Rodgers?

Well, the first one was off a deflection, and the last one was thanks to sending seven pass rushers on the blitz. But the one (or two) in between were great reads by Joseph that displayed both his instincts and athleticism. That looks like a whale of a pick late in the third round by Detroit.

Kevin from Indianapolis, IN

When Favre left Green Bay having thrown an interception on his final pass, I thought it was pretty fitting, given his gunslinger style of play. If Rodgers were to end his time in Green Bay with his final pass being an interception, I would find that tragically ironic, given his proclivity for protecting the ball over the course of his career.

Me, too.

Mike from Baraboo, WI

Rodgers didn't have one 300-yard passing game all year; which is hard to believe. If he decides to not retire or ask to be traded, will the Packers finally bring in a big-time FA WR, or use their 15th pick on a WR? Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb are most likely going to leave. Watson is the real deal but has to stay healthy. They need more weapons and do you think that will be a big part of Rodgers' final decision?

I'm sure Rodgers will want to know what the Packers' plans are, but they can't necessarily guarantee him anything. Free agency and the draft don't work that way, which Rodgers knows.

Matt form Kula, HI

Does ML have the final say on hiring/retaining assistant coaches and coordinators? It seems to me that this may be the most important decision the team will make in the coming days and should be based on a full organizational evaluation. The sentiment of one person should not be allowed to trump objective and collective analysis.

The head coach's staff is the head coach's purview. That's how it works around here, and pretty much everywhere.

Ralf from Arnsberg, Germany

Kudos to Dan Campbell and the Lions…they deserved the win and GB clearly did not! We all agree on that. They're the team to fear next season I believe. What's your perspective?

I touched on this and a number of other topics prevalent in the Inbox in my final mid-week chat of the season.

Bruce from Savage, MN

In reality, does the NFL season ever end?

I'll let Craig explain.

Craig from Sheboygan, WI

It's a long offseason but the NFL does a nice job of keeping things interesting with the free-agent period, the draft, schedule release, OTAs and finally the preseason. Your column helps too. Thank you!

I'd complain about the NFL's year-round calendar except it's probably why my job is full-time with benefits.

Dan from Algonquin, IL

Hi Mike, I find myself trying to focus on all the positives we've been reading in II, but it just feels like a hollow attempt at deflecting the pain, rather than acknowledging it. Another consolation is we don't have to watch another embarrassing beatdown in the playoffs, but that is the coward's way out. All I can say now is our season ended not with a bang, but a whimper. Thanks for all you do for us fanatics. Are you going to enjoy the playoffs, or take a break from football?

I'll always watch the playoffs, though I've spent the last three years with my laptop at the ready on wild-card weekend waiting to update our website as soon as the Packers' next opponent became known. I'll definitely miss that. But I will still have my laptop out Sunday night to write Monday morning's column, so send me your playoff thoughts and observations and let's take a day to talk about other teams, shall we?

Nic from London, UK

So no "Hard Knocks" for the Packers but what about the popular spinoff "Hod Knocks" – a show about a man's quest to find a stolen sandwich?

Happy Friday.

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