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Inbox: They'll look at everything

The Lambeau Field crowd did its job on Saturday night

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Head Coach Matt LaFleur

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

The four stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Depression, and Acceptance. The first stage was easy (been there, done that) and it took about five minutes for the reality to sink in. I'm still dealing with the second stage but I'm getting closer. I'm thinking the last two might take a while. Any suggestions to speed up the process? I'm counting on packers.com and the Inbox for counseling and to be my support group. Thanks Wes.

I think I'm going to be a lousy counselor today, Dean. For those wanting me to articulate the popular rage, today's column will disappoint you. If you come beleaguered and downtrodden, I'm likely no more equipped to provide absolution than Spoff was on Monday. I find myself pensive and without pen to properly capture my feelings. I have neither the answers you guys seek nor the vision to tell you what lies ahead. I know only two truths – the 2021-22 season is over for the Packers and there are no sick days when it comes to Insider Inbox. So, here we are.

Heather from Green Bay, WI

Thanks to Mike for the hat tip to the Lambeau crowd. As deflated as I was when that kick sailed through the uprights at zero right into my proverbial south end zone lap, I felt good about the fact that I and 80,000 of my friends did our part from start to finish. My voice will recover more quickly than my green and gold heart, but we'll get there.

The crowd did its job Saturday night. You'll hear no complaints out of me there.

Daniel from Lansing, KS

Why is it when we lose like this, some fans are always ready to throw in the towel on our QBs? They did this to Brett Favre now Aaron Rodgers. I think some fans may be ungrateful for what they have accomplished.

Vitriol isn't healthy, but the frustration is understandable. Time, money and passion are valuable commodities and fandom requires all three. We all invested a great deal into this season. You expect the Packers to win. When that doesn't happen, the suggestion box fills.

Joe from London, UK

Wes, Mike, thanks very much for another outstanding season of II. If only the team's performance matched the quality of Dean's poem. It broke my heart when Aaron Jones said in his interview that he hadn't made any plans past this weekend. I can imagine him sitting at home wondering how on Earth our season is over. Do you think he will be replaying that 75-yard reception in his head? What is your take on that play? It looks like he could've made more progress running straight.

I don't want to speak for Jones, but I don't put that on him. That's a difficult catch for a running back to make, especially since he had to slow down to catch the pass. He pushed the gas again but the cornerback was already hot on his heels. The only hiccup was not getting out of bounds.

Brett from Manitowoc, WI

This year's playoff questionable call (2020 Seahawks receiver no fumble, 2021 Bucs Murphy-Bunting no pass interference) occurred when a 49ers receiver appeared to make a catch and fumbled the ball. Packers' Barnes picked up the fumble and took it into 49ers territory. Why was this play ruled an incomplete pass? It appeared to be a carbon copy of Lewis's fumble on the previous possession.

That's a question for the New York office. The broadcast said something about a three-step rule. I don't know. The Packers have to play better. I'll go to my retirement home saying the Packers lost the 2020 NFC title game because of a poorly officiated game by Clete Blakeman and his crew. Green Bay lost this one on its own.

Tom from West Palm Beach, FL

I think what makes this loss so hard to take is that the special-teams problems were evident throughout the season, and for a while it felt like it was only a matter of time before they cost us a game. Compounding matters are the looming roster/salary cap decisions that make it difficult to foresee a 2022 team that is as talented as the 2021 iteration. What are your biggest takeaways from the loss?

My takeaway was when offenses and defenses are a wash, special teams decide playoff games. I've seen it several times now. I don't think anybody was neglecting the fact the Packers needed to improve in that phase. I just don't have an easy reply for what can be done to remedy the situation once the season begins. And I'm still not in favor for kicking people off the boat that you put there when you're halfway to the shore.

Mike from Fort Wayne, IN

Wes, who are the linemen that block for the field goal unit? I saw where Tyler Lancaster was out there who is a defensive lineman, large dude I know, but are there other non-starting OL men out there? Outside of the center, why not keep the starting line out there for field goals?

I wouldn't put this on the personnel grouping. From left to right, it's Lancaster, Dean Lowry, Yosh Nijman, Lucas Patrick, snapper Steven Wirtel, Jon Runyan, T.J. Slaton, Royce Newman and Tyler Davis as the right wing. That appears to be the "optimal" lineup, as the starting left tackle and center rarely appear on field-goal protection. The players must know their markers and execute. You shouldn't need eight All-Pros to make that kick.

Chris from Deerfield, IL

Hi guys, at some point during the year, I remember reading how the Packers were pondering putting starters in for special teams. Any idea why they didn't? Also, for what it's worth, two SF defensive starters made the two blocks (FG and punt) in last weekend's game. Thanks.

They did. AJ Dillon broke his rib as blocker on kickoff return. Josiah Deguara played all three phases. Rasul Douglas and Kevin King made coverage tackles.

Shanna from Colorado Springs, CO

We knew AJ Dillon is an important part of cold-weather games. Did anyone anticipate how non-functional the offense would be without him?

Matt LaFleur said Dillon's injury threw a wrench into the plans. The Packers certainly had a tough time getting the inside-zone stuff going without him. We said over and over how important Dillon was to the offense and his absence was noticeable in the second half.

Ellis from Greensboro, NC

With all the lineup changes all year do you know why Billy Turner was put in when Yosh Nijman had been playing so well?

LaFleur wanted the O-line's best five out there. Turner had made four postseason starts the past two years and the coaching staff felt like that was the best play without Bakhtiari.

Mike from Chaska, MN

Mike and Wes, great job this season! When all healthy (Jaire Alexander), we have the best secondary in the NFL, one of the best middle linebackers in De'Vondre Campbell, truly the best nose tackle in the league, with the two Smiths (subject to being healthy) and Rashan Gary we have one of the best edge-rushing groups in the league! Keep them all together and build a top three defense for next year! Sorry to say (look at our playoff history) we got beat by teams with very good defense teams, not QBs!

The cap will be the No. 1 question this offseason. Campbell and Douglas have earned every penny they get. If it's with the Packers, then that's great for the defense. If they sign elsewhere, I promise you players and agents around the NFL have taken notice of what those two guys accomplished with the opportunity they received in Green Bay this season. That counts for something.

John from Payson, AZ

As much as we love Aaron Rodgers, the one hard knock on him is wanting the deep ball rather than just moving the chains. The third-and-11, with Allen Lazard wide open over the middle, just put the frosting on the cake. Too much focusing on Adams and Jones and not throwing enough to the other receivers.

I'm sure that play will stay with Rodgers for a long time. Other than that, I don't know what you want me to tell you.

Loughlin from Indiana, PA

If Rodgers leaves next year, will the Packers start Love and see what they have, or would they want to go out and sign a FA QB like Mariota or Bridgewater (assuming they have the cap space)? I know that it depends on a number of factors and we may have to wait until the draft to truly know what is happening, but do you have an early prediction?

That's a bridge we'll cross when it's within driving distance. Matt LaFleur reiterated Monday he wants Rodgers to be his QB until he hangs up the cleats. Until I hear differently, Aaron Rodgers is the Packers quarterback.

Ray from Phoenix, AZ

As soon as Rodgers stated he did not want to be part of a rebuilding project, I think he might as well have said he will be leaving GB. Packers fans need to realize and accept that you cannot pay everyone and that this is the end of an era – time for the next chapter. Agree?

I get this idea of cap management is new to many of you because the Packers lived well beneath the cap for many years, but I assure you NFL teams can remodel a house without blowing it up. LaFleur said they have a plan in place to handle the cap. As far as Rodgers' comments, I don't blame him for feeling that way. I doubt there are many established 38-year-old quarterbacks who want to play if the chances of chasing a title appear obsolete.

Rich from De Pere, WI

It seems like Rodgers has what it takes to win regular-season MVP and LaFleur has what it takes to possibly win regular-season Coach of the Year. But the last three seasons (especially last two) show they don't have what it takes to win the big games in the playoffs. Is that a fair assumption?

You can assume whatever you want to assume. The Packers aren't playing anymore. If that was your takeaway from this season, you're entitled to that.

Doug from Lafayette, OH

What does Green Bay have to do this offseason to turn the page on being regular-season darlings? I mean no disrespect here, but something has to give. The standard here is higher than division crowns, records, MVPs, etc. While those are admirable accomplishments, the expectations are greater for the franchise as a whole. Should be an interesting offseason witnessing what changes are made.

That it will be.

Michael from Golden Valley, MN

What impact would Rodgers' retirement have on the Packers for next year?

Significant. The offseason begins with Rodgers' decision. Then, the Packers have to address Davante Adams' situation. Once those two things are figured out, the rest falls into place from there.

Mark from Westminster, CO

Wes, since Mike usually entertains my questions, I wanted to ask you this one to get your feelings on it. Brian Gutekunst has done a phenomenal job at fielding a team these past three years. At what point does he just toss his hands in the air and say, "What in the heck do I need to do to make it to the dance?" My gut says that Gute is going to go in another direction, one no one sees coming. What are your thoughts?

I don't have any.

Joe from Cedar Rapids, IA

When can the Packers begin to re-sign some of their key free agents? I know much of it depends on Rodgers and Adams but we certainly have other important free agents that we should try to keep, even knowing we can't keep them all. Hopefully we can address special teams in free agency and the draft.

New league year starts on March 16.

Robert from Chandler, AZ

Here's hoping Aaron Rodgers returns to Green Bay. But I also hope that Aaron, Coach LaFleur and the team will realize that they will need to improve (especially on offense) if they are going to compete with the NFL's best in the coming years. Having watched all the games and quarterback play this weekend, does anyone expect that we can maintain status quo and race with the Chiefs, Bills, Bengals and others?

Like LaFleur said, they'll look at everything. KC, Buffalo and Cincinnati have done remarkable things in the playoffs. They have the entire league's attention.

Greg from Marquette, MI

I have no words for what occurred Saturday night, none. So, with the Packers out of the playoffs, who are you rooting for now? I am excited about the Bengals. I would love to see that team make it to the Super Bowl and even win it. There is just something about those Bengal helmets of the '80s and '90s that always made me root for them, unless they were playing against GB.

I won't be watching much football, to be honest. There are six months of family weekends I've missed out on, so it's well past time for football to go on the backburner for a little while. In the words of the great Stipe Miocic, "I'm tired. I want to go home."

James from Virginia Beach, VA

Will the sun come out tomorrow? Yes, and life goes on. I have been an avid fan since Vince came to town in 1959. Tomorrow is another day.

James got you.

Dan from Cross Plains , WI

I watched the game in the hospital holding my one-day-old daughter. Only thing I could do was let out the largest sigh ever on that blocked punt. She's definitely helped get over this heartbreaking loss. Find what makes your heart whole and you too will eventually get over this loss. Disappointing for sure and the agony will continue with the unknowns in the offseason. The fall is harder than the climb but have faith we have the right leadership to get back to the top!

Another climb begins. Congrats on your little one.

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