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Inbox: There's a lot to like

There’s more out there and it’s up to them to find it

TE Jace Sternberger
TE Jace Sternberger

Scotty from Lombard, IL

Insiders, we went 13- 3. We were the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. We played in the NFC Championship Game. Our team was entertaining, and interesting. Yet, all of this was unexpected. I would take a season like this any time. One other thing to keep in mind. Our general manager seems to draft well, and sign quality free agents. The arrow is pointing up. One last thing: Thank you for sharing your insight with us, the Packers fans.

The seed sprouted this year faster than most expected. Now let's see what type of flower blooms. Good morning!

Dan from Toledo, OH

Interesting to note Matt LaFleur said this will be his first offseason sticking in the same place since before the 2016 Atlanta Falcons season. I'm not going to say Rodgers will win MVP like Matt Ryan did that season, but this track record bodes very well for the 2020 offense, no?

Whether they win another 13 games or not, the Packers should be better in 2020. The offense has been installed and implemented. Now, it's about fine-tuning everything. Those who return should be able to hit the ground running in April. There's more out there and it's up to them to find it.

Adrian from Chula Vista, CA

Wes, let me know when you get to San Diego, and we can work out together. No question, just a comment. If the Packers were able to make this much of a jump in one year under a first-year head coach and second-year DC, it really intrigues me to see what next year brings when the returning veterans are comfortable in the system. My suggestions for 2020: strengthen the O-line, let loose that young athletic TE, and stress run-stop and tackling. And play mean!

There undoubtedly is still work to be done on both sides of the ball but I felt like Matt LaFleur and Mike Pettine worked well in their first year together. They had their respective phases rowing in the same direction.

Steven from Ladysmith, WI

What's the over/under bet on Bryan Bulaga's free agency turning out like Josh Sitton's? In this case, do you think it's better to let someone walk a year early than keep him a year too late?

I see it more like Chad Clifton's situation than Sitton's. Re-signing Clifton was a catalyst to winning a Super Bowl. The Packers had a readymade Plan B in Lane Taylor at left guard when they let Sitton go. Much like when the Packers brought back Clifton in 2010, I don't think Bulaga's successor is on the roster right now.

Jim from McLean, VA

Which player(s) do you expect to see a big second-year jump?

Jace Sternberger. I'm going to write a story on him in the next week or so, but I thought Marcedes Lewis' comments on the rookie tight end were illuminating. Lewis felt Sternberger was a different player once he came off IR. Everyone knew about the athleticism, but Sternberger surprised me with his blocking and filled in admirably as an H-back. There's a lot to like.

Greg from Conwa, SC

What happened to Rashan Gary this year? As a 12th pick, wouldn't you expect more than what we saw? I never hear him mentioned in any way, shape, or form for most of the year! Was this a first-round bust or a work in progress? Was he on the field during the playoff games?

Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith and Kyler Fackrell were healthy all year, which limited Gary's opportunities. I felt he still showed a lot of promise despite a limited workload. Matt LaFleur stated during his season-ending news conference the team wants to find more ways to get Gary involved next year. At 22, he remains a big part of this defense's future.

Jim from Marietta, GA

Have you heard anything about Rashan Gary having the long-rumored surgery to repair his shoulder? Thanks.

LaFleur said Wednesday Gary shouldn't need it.

Tim from Charlotte, NC

Life has gotten busy for me so I have been tuned in sporadically lately, so I apologize if this has already been asked. Would Rashan Gary have the skill set to be considered for snaps at MLB? If so, a lot or a little?


Paul from Gorham, ME

Jess from Little Chute asked (paraphrasing) why making the playoffs after so much improvement isn't enough. May I offer some thoughts based on living in New England? What the Patriots have done for so long is amazing but so much of an anomaly that fans often forget this level of success is not normal. Nor able to be copied. So many Pats fans already despair for the post-Brady team and can't appreciate it's the memories that make us rich.

Because nothing is ever good enough. If you win 10 games, fans want to know why not 11. And that's not a commentary on Packers fans, either. That's life. Everyone wants more.

Greg from Perkasie, PA

In the days leading up to the championship game, multiple players mentioned it feeling like a normal week and how all the pressure was on San Francisco. Judging from Coach LaFleur's press conference comments, he seemed to feel the team came out flat and without any urgency. Do you think that could be attributed to some players being too loose or minimizing the pressure riding on the game?

No, I don't think the team was being cavalier with its preparation. The Packers lost because they couldn't stop the run, turned the ball over and took a full half to get going on offense. Whether you put that on the coaches or players, the truth is it wasn't good enough. Three of Green Bay's four losses came during those California road trips. The Packers need to find answers in the offseason for why that happened.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

With the season over now, and keeping in mind that the main priority of ML was whether he could connect with AR12 and get him to buy in, do you think he accomplished that feat? What would you point to as markers that AR12 has changed his style of play relative to last year?

I think LaFleur succeeded in connecting with Rodgers and the rest of his locker room. By all accounts, Rodgers was open-minded to what was asked of him in LaFleur's offense. He also seemed to use his check-down options more this season.

Eric from Goodhue, MN

Not a question, just an observation. As a general fan, we tend to lose perspective that these players are human. They have lives outside of football like all of us have lives outside our work. Watching Blake Martinez's postgame interview Sunday and the emotion he was trying to hold back was humbling.

I completely understand the passion fans have for their team, but I think they sometimes lose perspective on the players beneath the pads and facemask. This is Martinez's life work. If you know anything about his story, he has put every bead of sweat and blood into becoming the best version of himself for that team. This place means a lot to him. Martinez is very much in tune with the fact this chapter of his life could be over in a few months. That's emotional.

Jeff from Littlefork, MN

I come to II, in part, specifically to avoid "click-bait" articles. I appreciate actual analysis. Elsewhere, I've seen articles about an emotional Blake Martinez that refer to his last game with the Packers. Do these writers know something I don't? Do we have any sense of what the organization is going to do with our crop of free agents? Or is this all wild speculation unless/until Brian Gutekunst actually makes a move?

Nobody knows. In the past, there have been players who I figured would be gone and then re-signed, and others I expected to be shoo-ins to return and unexpectedly depart. That's just how the business of football works. I remember a long-tenured Packers player who would take home the name placard over his locker after every season, only to have to put it back up when he returned in April.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Can we re-visit the concept of the "hybrid linebacker/safety"? First it was Josh Jones. That didn't work out (a second-round draft choice). Now it's Oren Burks, a third-round pick. Beyond special teams, he barely saw the field this year. Is there simply no role for a hybrid in this defense, or is it more about the players' inability to crack the lineup?

Jones simply didn't work out. It happens. But I still think Burks has a chance to be a player in this defense. His problem the past two years is his skill set falls in this grey area between a three-down linebacker like Martinez and a run-stopper like B.J. Goodson on early downs. This is going to be a massive offseason for him.

Chris from Frederick, MD

In response to Sean from Baltimore about Adrian Amos: As much as I loved having Ha Ha in the secondary, I noticed he tended to give up big plays, either missing a tackle or trying for a pick. More often than not, it went poorly. Amos I've seen save countless big plays by being the last line of defense and making a touchdown-saving tackle. I think he was a home-run FA pickup.

I mentioned this before but I felt like Amos coming to Green Bay and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix going to Chicago was a win-win for both teams. Amos is a good fit for what Green Bay wants from a strong safety in this scheme and Clinton-Dix has a strong bond with Eddie Jackson.

Ralph from Mönchengladbach, Germany

Could you comment (statistics-wise plus your "expert gut feeling") on the seasons of JK Scott and Mason Crosby, perhaps compared to last year? I thought Mason had a good season and if you ignore that one game last season was good, too. JK's last season started good and declined towards the end. This year started good, too, then came a slump or funk, but he seemed to get out of it again. I couldn't see the last games, so I have no opinion on how it ended.

Crosby was steady, consistent and struck the ball well with a field-goal operation that remained the same for the second straight year. He also had arguably his best year on kickoffs, as well. He kept that coverage unit on its feet during a rough September. As you point out, Scott's second year followed a similar pattern as his first. Overall, he did have 10 more punts inside the 20 and cut his touchbacks down by more than half. Scott is still only 24 and has a ton of natural ability. He could be one of the league's top punters should everything come into focus.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, please tell me who would have been the punter if JK had been too ill to play against San Francisco.

They would've signed someone if Scott couldn't play because of the illness. If he were injured in a game, though, I really wonder if they'd let Rodgers take a crack at it.

Jim from Eau Claire, WI

Can you please tell me what a reserve/future contract is?

It's what NFL teams give to unattached free agents to add them to their 90-man offseason roster. Practice-squad players need them because their contracts are non-binding, week-to-week agreements during the regular season.

Mike from Fort Wayne, IN

So what are Mike's and Wes' vacation plans this year? Going anywhere fun and exciting with the family? By the way, I know Indianapolis is work, but is that sort of a nice getaway even if it involves football?

I'm probably taking a day off next week to get my oil changed. Life doesn't get much more exciting than that, does it?

Mike from New Orleans, LA

So while laser goalposts are still a long way off, I read an article about a company that has created laser first-down markers. I also heard about the NFL considering this idea back in the '80s, but it was scrapped because they would have needed to install metal tracks running along both sidelines. I don't know about you, but I'm waiting for the day when everything in the NFL is lasers. Yard markers, sidelines, players, the ball, fans. I bet you could get Pink Floyd to sponsor the whole league.

We may not have laser goalposts yet but I love how the XFL is going to test out hawk-eye technology for reviews. I feel like that's the future of subjective spot-of-the-ball calls.

Nic from Milwaukee, WI

Mike, Wes, did you enjoy the season? Why?

Yeah. This season was a lot of fun. Winning obviously helps with the tenor of this column but it was a great locker room to cover, filled with a lot of very engaging personalities.

Todd from Eau Claire, WI

Thank you Mike and Wes for the great coverage and entertainment all year long. You will both need to get your game faces on for the thousands of questions that will start to roll in regarding FA and the draft.

I really need to commission some "Free Agency Is Coming" T-shirts to pass out.

Jennifer from Middleton, WI

OK, Wes...lay it on me. How long do we have "Unscripted" before you guys go dark? My "save it for tomorrow" strategy has been the best all season to get me out of bed. By the time I listen twice through I'm ready and out the door. When will I need to find a new strategy? Any recommended substitutes?

Ha. Thanks for your patronage. Spoff and I have two more shows this week before we take a month off from recording any new episodes. We'll be back for the NFL Scouting Combine.

Scott from De Pere, WI

Are you and Mike ready to spend an offseason talking about laser goalposts again?

As long as we have two guys penning this column 312 days a year, then I guess I have to find some way of entertaining myself.

Rod from Chugiak, AK

After a long dearth of not making the cut, my yesterday's submission showed up. Know what? II's as enjoyable to me when mine go unprinted as when they appear. I love those submissions and cheer those articulate and insightful writers of our II family that top my efforts. And you two, Mike and Wes, I feast on your knowledge of the game, intimacy with the GB organization and its workings, tutorials. And now amid the storm of negativity out there, the solid voice-of-reason anchorage you provide.

Totally adding "Voice-of-reason anchorage" to the end of my business card.

Ed from Henryville, IN

On many of the social media sites not only were the "experts" against this team but so were many of the "fans." So many said that this team didn't belong in the playoffs much less the NFC Championship Game. I've been a fan for 35 years now and I don't think I've ever seen a more resilient team! Not once did I see the players give up. We won a lot of close games. I can't wait for next season! I know it will be a different team but the possibilities are endless! What say you?

They might have overachieved in the eyes of some but that doesn't diminish this team's accomplishments. They came, they saw, they battled. I hope people remember that.