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Inbox: That level of effort and execution is required

It really is uncanny

RB Emanuel Wilson & WR Jayden Reed
RB Emanuel Wilson & WR Jayden Reed

Barry from Green Bay, WI

Short and sweet II. Thank you for an incredible season of common-sense input to a multitude of questions and comments. This was my first year of discovery of Inbox and I must say I am hooked! Now my question is does this go year round or must I suffer until next season without this avenue of information, sarcasm, and following you "Football Gods"!? Thank you again!

Oh, we're still here.

Phil from Phoenix, AZ

Not a question, but now that the season is over, can we give a shout out to Evan Siegle? Seemingly every week I see one or more amazing images he's shot, and of course, this week he had a perfect angle for Eric Wilson's fumble recovery on the long punt return. The skill and anticipation needed to get that shot is unbelievable.

Sure, but can he answer a dozen questions from fans in a live blog during one commercial break? Huh? Can he? I'm kidding, of course, for Evan's benefit. He and I worked together in the newspaper world long before we crossed paths here and I've never known a better sports photographer.

Zak from Huntington Beach, CA

What does a team do after being eliminated in the playoffs? Are there team/player meetings this week to review the tape, or process the loss, commiserate/say goodbyes/etc.? Does the CBA mandate what a team can require of a contracted player (insofar as attendance) after the last whistle blows in the final game of their season?

After the final team meeting, which was Monday morning, players take an exit physical and have exit interviews with various coaches. That can take a couple of days to get through the entire roster, but then they're on their own.

Bill from San Antonio, TX

I read your 5 things from the locker room article. I was wondering what can they take home and what do they have to leave?

I don't know all the rules on team-issued clothing, but at least some of that gets turned back in. They also ask players to go through their locker and throw all used gloves and cleats into bins to be donated, stuff like that.

Nathan from Williamstown, MA

Plenty of ink has been spilled over the Bucs not taking a timeout and forcing the Lions to close them out. At the end of the other game from Sunday, shouldn't the Bills have committed an intentional offsides rather than let Pacheco have two tries to get two yards? We saw LaFleur pull that off a few years back against the Colts.

The Dolphins did it to the Packers on Christmas in '22 as well. But no, Buffalo's best chance was to stop the two plays for two yards. They only had one timeout left on second-and-2 with 1:37 to go. An intentional offside and fresh set of downs would've allowed the Chiefs to run the clock down under 10 seconds before punting, if necessary.

Richard from Telford, TN

I'm overall very pleased with how the season went. I thought the difference in the game is SF had two chances for interceptions and caught them. GB also had two and didn't. Seems we had a lot of dropped interceptions this year. What can be done to change that next year?

Catch the ball?

Mark from Champaign, IL

You mentioned the numerous amounts of potential picks that affected the outcomes of so many postseason games recently. You forgot one on your list, maybe the biggest one of them all. Will Redmond dropping a surefire gift from Tom Brady right before halftime in the 2020 NFC Championship. I believe it was the very next play that they allowed the gut punch Scotty Miller TD.

It was two plays later, but otherwise you are absolutely correct and that's a massive oversight on my part. Clearly that's one game I've tried to block from my memory, and maybe I've been successful because the circumstances were so unusual.

Doug from Eugene, OR

Gentlemen, by my estimation in the grand scheme of case scenarios we finished significantly closer to best-case than worst-case. The really hard thing about Saturday's game was we met the performance goals without achieving the outcome goal. In recent years that hasn't been the case as we have (inexplicably at times) underperformed in these crucial games. I know it's a subtle distinction but do you agree it's an important one moving forward?

To some degree, every year is different, every situation is different. Given the construction of the Packers' roster, and the number of players who had never experienced a playoff game before, I do think it matters that they answered the bell every time the stakes were raised.

Gary from Davenport, IA

Mike, with the talk about all of the heartbreaking playoff games in Packers history, I don't think this game even makes the top five. Compared to Rice fumbled, fourth-and-26 and the unmentionable game, this game had a delightful outcome. Would you put it in your list of most heartbreaking playoff losses?

I wouldn't call it delightful, but it's not top five on the heartbreak chart. No way. The three you mentioned, plus SB 32, Ice Bowl 2, the empty Lambeau, the blocked-punt TD, and maybe even both OTs in the desert would all rank higher.

Moe from Jacksonville, FL

Knowing no team ever looks the same from one year to the next, could you list a few of the current Packers players who will be free agents this offseason?

The Packers have a dozen pending unrestricted free agents. In no particular order, they are Jonathan Owens, Kristian Welch, Tyler Davis, Corey Ballentine, Josiah Deguara, Eric Wilson, AJ Dillon, Rudy Ford, Jon Runyan, Darnell Savage, Keisean Nixon and Yosh Nijman.

Troy from Bakersfield, CA

I have been an insanely avid Packers fan since 1965. I can never remember feeling a range of emotions quite like this season delivered. On Sunday morning, I was grappling with my state of mind and failing to put a finger on my emotional conclusion for the season. And then on Monday morning, Mike delivers the perfect nugget that tied up all of my loose ends. For two months they have been proving people wrong. Soon enough they will have to prove people right. Bingo!

And the expectations won't mean a hill of beans once the first game kicks off. They will have to earn everything they get, just like every other team.

Kyle from St. Charles, MO

Do you recall a clear-cut turning point from optimism to expectation with Rodgers and Co.? Loved watching this season unfold through the former lenses and hope there's a smooth transition for JL and this young team. Sad finality to Saturday evening, but extremely interested in the years to come. Also, one more point to Wes's response yesterday. As much as we loved watching these guys, we get to come back year after year as fans and this group will never be together again. Crazy to think.

I anticipate less personnel turnover than usual, particularly on the offensive side, given the youth of the team. To your first question, despite the 6-10 mark in '08 with Rodgers, there was a lot of optimism heading into '09 with a new defensive coordinator and two first-round draft picks on that side of the ball. But losing the two games early to Favre and the Vikings preceded a brutal loss to a winless Buccaneers team that dropped the Packers to 4-4. At that point, Green Bay was 10-14 with Rodgers at QB for 1½ seasons and surrounded by questions about where everything was headed. Then a 6-2 Cowboys team on a four-game winning streak came into Lambeau, the defense locked down a crucial 17-7 win, and the Rodgers era took off.

Kurt from Sartell, MN

Regarding the failed fourth-down QB sneak, isn't that a reviewable play? If coach would have challenged the spot, could the referees have also looked at the defense lined up in the neutral zone? The play occurred in the first half so losing a TO may not have hurt.

Failed fourth downs were added to the list of automatically reviewed plays this past year, so New York looked at it, but offside is not considered a reviewable aspect.

Matthew from Louisburg, KS

While this is yet another playoff loss in which GB outplayed the opponent for nearly all of the game, I cannot think of a single playoff win in which the opponent was the better team for most of the game. Can you? Maybe the Dallas game in 2014? Maybe?

Maybe that one. The Cowboys controlled the game for almost three quarters but the Packers went 90 and 80 yards for TDs on back-to-back drives late third/early fourth. Maybe 2003 vs. Seattle? But that game was awfully even start to (OT) finish.

Bill from Raleigh, NC

Hi Mike, I've read stories from other sources about how some of our OL players are lacking. With a superior RB like Aaron Jones, I thought our running game was very effective, but not so good when he's been out (not a big surprise). Our pass protection was very good. I can't say anything about how each OL player has done, but wouldn't you say the unit was a strength of our team, even with DB out, and we should try to keep as many of them with the team as the salary cap allows?

The offensive line definitely became a strength of the team once it settled in and made the transition without David Bakhtiari. Elgton Jenkins and Zach Tom had some injury issues they had to work through early as well. After that, the unit came together nicely. But I don't see them going into next season with two starting right guards when one would need a new contract. I also expect a draft investment at tackle to fortify the depth and create competition there.

Don from Auro, Canada

I could not help but notice how well the Packers' receivers blocked for each other and for Jones. There were at least three plays in the SF game where a receiver took on the SF DE and got the block to spring Jones. Those to me are the plays and player character that will bring Vince's trophy back to Titletown. Did you also see how well the young receivers blocked?

Yes. Yes I did. That level of effort and execution is required to play receiver for this team. Has been for a while now.

Mark from Eureka, IL

Still watching the replay. Aaron Jones may lead the league in uncalled facemask penalties. How can this be missed so frequently?

It really is uncanny with him, but my face can't get any bluer.

Carl from Dewitt, MI

I live in the middle of Lion fandom. I lived through the hard times of the '70s and '80s. All my Lion friends and family definitely did not want to play the Packers. Thanks for all you guys do.

They should've wanted to play the Packers at home rather than travel out west. As I mentioned on our season-ending "Unscripted," I think the 49ers shook some rust off and are going to play much better start to finish this week than they did against Green Bay. They beat a game and hard-charging Packers team because they got away with some bad mistakes and raised their level of play in key moments. I don't think their play will be so uneven this week.

Mark from Vienna, VA

I disagree with the comments about the defense improving. When you allow back-to-back plays for over 70 yards and tackle poorly or allow a non-running QB to gain a first down on their winning TD drive, that's not an improvement. At best this defense is middle of the road. Needs a lot more consistency for one.

Another aspect I delved into on "Unscripted." The defense's lack of consistency has been the issue for two full seasons now, and it's not about the occasional bad day at the office, which happens all the time in this league. It's about prolonged rough stretches – like the Giants-Bucs-Panthers games in December, or allowing 200-plus rushing yards twice in three weeks to the Falcons and Lions early on – before turning things around. A few poor missed tackles cost the Packers dearly against the Niners, but on balance the defense played solidly, the way it had down the stretch. But not knowing what you can reasonably count on any given week is no way to compete for a championship in my view.

James from Augusta, WI

Playoff woes? Yes, the Pack has had their share of "playoff woes." But we have also had some great success also. I think if you want to really define playoff woes, you need look no further than Buffalo. Lost four Super Bowls in a row and haven't made it back since. And now, wide right V2.0. Although Green Bay is my team, I can't help but have a bit of remorse for the fans in Buffalo.

Likewise. The Bills became my second team, so to speak, in recent years with my son going to grad school in Buffalo and telling me about seeing Josh Allen picking out produce next to him in the grocery store. I feel for those fans, too.

Jay from Altoona, WI

Given that some wanted the Packers to tank this past season, do you sense more optimism for the 2024 Packers currently holding the 25th pick in the NFL Draft, or do you think there would have been more optimism if the Packers instead held a top-five pick in the draft?

Well, the teams holding picks 2-5 in the draft won either four or five games this season. Do you really think there'd be much of a vibe after a four- or five-win season?

Tucker from Belton, TX

A lot of people mentioning how this was their favorite season to watch in years. I hope we collectively learn to carry that perspective into each new season. It's way more fun over the course of the year when you just enjoy the ride. Expectation is the thief of joy.

Happy Wednesday.

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