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Inbox: This is their chance

The Packers need all hands on deck to contain Atlanta’s weapons


Trish from Columbus, OH

Wes, thanks for your personal tribute to Coach McCarthy on the podcast.

I appreciate you checking it out, Trish. I felt it was important to pull back the curtain to show the man behind the coach for a minute. As welcoming as Spoff and my coworkers have been, this wouldn't have worked without McCarthy being on board with packers.com hiring me 2½ years ago. I talked with him shortly thereafter about everything that played into my decision to make the move. He's as real as they get. As the first NFL head coach I ever covered, I'll always remember my interactions with him fondly. Good morning!

Bob from Atlanta, GA

Calvin looks like a future star and is scoring lots of touchdowns. Mohammed Sanu can be very effective over the middle and on third downs. We know what Julio Jones has done to the Packers in previous games. Tevin Coleman is very effective catching passes out of the backfield. Austin Hooper has been getting better at tight end. How do you think the Packers will try to defend the Falcons' passing attack?

It won't be easy. The Packers need all hands on deck to contain Atlanta's weapons. Getting Bashaud Breeland and Kentrell Brice back would help and possibly free up Tramon Williams, Josh Jackson or Josh Jones to matchup inside with Hooper, who's developing into a big threat.

Andrew from Murphysboro, IL

I want to start by saying first I am a huge fan of this column! I read it every day. I never really send in any submissions but this time I feel like I just have to. So much has happened this year we haven't played up to our potential and we ended up losing our head coach for it. But with four games left in the season we STILL have meaningful football! Sure, we need a lot of dominoes to fall in our favor, but if Joe can light a fire under these guys these last four games, let the pieces fall!

I had a chance to talk with Tyler Lancaster on Wednesday. While Spoff has written some nice stories on him, it was my first time talking with the Northwestern product. When asked about the season and the team's record, Lancaster mentioned how these next four games are everything for a young guy like him. It's an opportunity to show he belongs and deserves to stick around this offseason. The only point I want to make with this is to illustrate how many young, hungry players like Lancaster there are on this roster. Don't tell the young guys on the roster there isn't meaningful football left to be played. This is their chance.

Pat from Smyrna, TN

I just want to say that I am happy that Kendall Donnerson is finally getting a shot. He is a great young man with a lot of intangibles that you just can't teach. What is your assessment on him and the role you see him playing for this franchise?

Like Lancaster, this is a big month for Donnerson. He has all the talent in the world when it comes to the measureables, but needs to translate it to the field. With Nick Perry on IR and Clay Matthews dealing with an ankle injury, Donnerson should get a chance to crack that edge-rushing rotation during these final four games.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, in the 2016 season, Tom Brady threw two picks. In 2018, AR has thrown one. Do you think Aaron can make it to the end of the year without throwing another interception?

He's played eight consecutive games without one – and even the one he did have in Week 4 was off a deflection – so what's another four?

Dan from Kenosha, WI

Insiders, I am a huge believer in the talent we have assembled on the back end of our defense. King and Alexander can be a dominant duo for years to come IF they can stay on the field. At what point does a player's inability to stay healthy, i.e. Kevin King, affect the team's desire to have them on the roster? At what point is talent alone not enough?

King was a second-round pick last year, so he's not going anywhere and nor should he. We've seen what King can do when he's healthy. Hopefully, he can put together a strong offseason and press the reset button next summer. The talent is there when No. 20 is on the field.

Bruce from Arbor Vitae, WI

The Packers' fan base appears to be totally divided (and very vocal) with the actions of the last 72 hours. Lots of blame is being tossed at management, coaches, and individual players. The parties involved obviously can hear and read what is being said about them. How does this team and organization deal with all of this, and keep it from turning into the Favre saga all over again?

It's not easy to ignore all the noise, but the reality is those criticisms have no bearing on what happens on the field. This team needs to stay together, play this thing out and focus on the future.

Guy from Hudson, WI

With respect to the annual "slow starts" during the MM era, do you think that the tendency to rest players for three-and-a-half preseason games has a lot to do with it? Add the injury situation and the poor tackling issues, are the players not in "football" shape? I realize that the collective bargaining agreement is a factor but other teams seem to adjust better than the Packers did during the MM era. Your thoughts.

To say "annual slow starts" is somewhat disingenuous. The Packers started 6-0 in 2015, 4-2 in 2016 and 4-1 a year ago. But to your question, I don't think so, especially this year when many of the starters seemed to play deeper into the preseason than previous years. Bryan Bulaga, Perry, Lane Taylor, Aaron Jones, Kevin King and Justin McCray all started against Kansas City in the finale.

Aaron from Wheeling, IL

New coaches usually like to build their own staff of assistants. With that can we expect wholesale coaching changes across the board?

Coaching changes don't always result in wholesale changes. When McCarthy was hired in 2006, he kept Joe Philbin, James Campen, Edgar Bennett and several others on his staff. When Matt Nagy was hired in Chicago last offseason, Nagy's first move was to convince Vic Fangio to stick around. You don't know until you know.

Tom from Oxford, MI

There was an amusing story on FOX Sports last night about the equipment guy that chased the turkey around Lambeau 30 years ago. Is that guy still with the Packers? Does he have any thoughts/memories about that event?

Bryan Nehring is still a member of the Packers' equipment staff. He's also one of the two guys who attends the NFL Draft every year to relay the team's draft picks. I've never formally asked him about it, but it's quite the story if you haven't seen the video yet.

Ray from Middletown, NY

Our draft picks from 2011-15 netted us six players still on the roster – one first, two seconds and three fourths. Missing on so many players that should have been the core of this team is the problem in 2018. Who do you blame and why?

You Ray. Why? Because this is a ridiculous argument. What a gerrymandered statistic, especially cutting off the timeline before a favorable 2016 class for Green Bay. But sure, let's play this game anyway – how many players do the Bears have on their roster from the 2011-15 drafts? Three? Let's try the Saints. What, maybe four? Man, what's wrong with those teams? The Packers hit on several players from 2011-15, but it's not like they could re-sign every player to a second contract in a salary-cap league. I'll hang up and listen.

Dale from Owatonna, MN

One play stands out in each loss. Dropped interception in last game, missing a field goal in the first Minnesota game etc. We have not made the necessary play at the right time. Does "the change" put more pressure on them to succeed and if it does is that going to help or hurt their ability to just play football?

One thing I've learned in all my years covering the NFL is how much momentum drives the league. Everyone starts out at a baseline and a string of wins or losses moves teams either up or below that average. Winning often leads to winning and vice versa with losing. I think what you see with the Packers and Falcons are two talented teams whose seasons have gotten away from them a bit. If anything, I think the change you speak of maybe helps reset things a little.

Rick from Mounds View, MN

I think MM did a lot of great things in GB. He brought us a championship in SB XLV, and a couple more NFC title games along the way. He apparently had the respect of other coaches around the league, too. Zimmer said that he thinks the firing was a mistake. Payton said "Don't even get me started..." when he was asked about the firing. I have never heard opposing coaches speak out when another coach had been fired. Why are they speaking out now with MM being dismissed?

Because reporters are asking the question. It literally was the first thing Dan Quinn was asked during his conference call with Green Bay media Wednesday afternoon. I think their responses come from a place of respect and reflects their membership in one of sports' greatest fraternities. Being an NFL head coach is a stressful, time-consuming way to make a living. It requires discipline and sacrifice. McCarthy epitomized those qualities. Zimmer and Quinn clearly admire McCarthy. That's why they're saying what they've said.

Corey from Las Vegas, MV

Bruce Arians came out and said he doesn't want the Packers' head coaching gig. Guess it's not as desirable a position as everyone wants to believe, is it?

I think Arians, a former OC in Cleveland, has made it abundently clear the only job he desires is returning to the Browns. I don't take that as a referendum on the attractiveness of Green Bay.

Jason from Austin, TX

You knew exactly what you were doing when you threw out the golden nugget that Joe Philbin called the plays during the '11 Flynn finale vs. Detroit. I'll use that game as the foundation of my expectations for these next four games. No pressure. As a side question, which Flynn performance was better, that one in the 2011 season or the second half against Dallas in 2013?

The second half against the Cowboys without a doubt. As impressive as that performance was against the Lions, it was a meaningless game for the Packers at the end of the day. Flynn saved the Packers' season when he completed 16-of-22 passes for 198 yards and four TDs in the second half after falling behind 26-3. That has to be the best non-Rodgers performance over the last decade.

Keith from Normal, IL

Good morning, Wes. Do you think it's strange that the last three head coaches have been named Mike. What are the odds of a fourth Mike?

There's a year of Ray Rhodes mixed in there, too, but I get what you're saying. What are the chances of another Mike? Either really, really good or really, really bad depending on your perspective.

Chris from Lubbock, TX

I think that one commenter meant to say Panthers, Eagles, Redskins have to lose twice and the Vikings (not the Bears) have to lose three for us to get in. The Bears have to lose four for us to have a shot. Basically out of the Seahawks, Vikings, and Bears, two of those three teams have to have a total collapse. I like our chances.

I'm putting all of those hypotheticals on the backburner for now. The Packers need to win Sunday. Period.

Carl from Simi Valley, CA

It has probably been asked and answered, but does Cole Madison become a free agent if he never reports?

No. Madison signed a contract with the Packers. His rights reside in Green Bay whenever he decides to resume his football career.

Jake from Loveland, CO

Wes, this is more of a comment than question. I was recently let go from my position and can relate to MM. I know I personally struggled with my confidence in my talents and skills. I imagine that is pretty typical for anyone who is fired. However, MM has always shown steady grace through fire and challenges. His example through the termination has given me a new sense of hope as I continue the job hunt! I hope MM lands fast. Do you think MM is already interviewing with teams?

My thoughts are with you during this difficult time, Jake. As someone who came from a volatile industry himself, I can tell you there is no shame in losing a job. There are men and women better than me who were let go during my years at the Press-Gazette. I can only hope to show as much class as they did should my number ever get pulled someday. Best of luck in your next chapter.

Zach from Clarkfield, MN

My wife informed me that "Closing Time" is actually about pregnancy birth. Will never listen to it in the same way again.

I remember hearing that a few years ago. That isn't what I was envisioning when my good friend, Nick Goddard, used to play it while closing up the McDonald's in Howard, WI, back in 2004.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

Thanks Mike, your research made me feel better. Here is to hope that THE PACK WILL BE BACK sooner than many people think.

I wouldn't bet against it.


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