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Mike's Mid-Week Chat: How will the Packers finish the season?

Senior writer Mike Spofford answered questions from fans Tuesday


Hey everybody. Thanks for logging on. Might as well get started.

Hi Mike, what do the Jets have to offer? Is Darnold the real deal?

They're counting on him being that. It's why they drafted him as high as they did. It would appear they're going to start over at head coach this offseason, and that hire will probably make or break what happens with Darnold in the long run.

Morning Mike, I made plans to attend the game this weekend while I'm in New York City for the holidays. I'm very excited to see Davante have a great game and inch even closer to breaking the franchise records. He's been fantastic for the packers this season, my question is do you think anyone in the NFL can cover him respectfully? I don't see a match up that doesn't favor #17.

As Rodgers has said all season, he's a legitimately tough cover for anyone. For all the attention he's getting and to still produce the way he has speaks volumes about his ability. I think next year we might see defenses almost relentlessly double him and make Rodgers go elsewhere with the ball, as best they can.

Most fans will discredit New York as an easy victory, but we haven't been successful on the road all season. What do the Jets do well and how can the Pack come out with a road victory?

The Jets have really struggled on defense this season, and Darnold has thrown a bunch of picks (15), not unusual for a rookie. Green Bay needs a game where its offense does it right on the road for all four quarters, and the defense needs a multi-pick type of game with such a low number in that category this year.

You have to think the Packers draft a playmaker for the offense sometime in their first three picks, right? Rodgers, Adams, and Jones are good do get me wrong, but they're not going to carry the load for 16 games. Imagine a potent route runner with speed over the middle.

The Packers have a lot of work to do with their roster in the offseason. One thing we know from the first year of Gutekunst as GM, they aren't going to rely solely on the draft to fill holes. I think this GB roster could look very different between now and when the first round of the draft gets here.

Looking at the point differential, the Packers are the only team in the NFC under .500 with a positive one? What do you take from that?

They've won a couple of games by significant margins (Miami, Atlanta) and they've lost a whole bunch of close ones. That's really all it means.

Will the team be practicing on Christmas? Do you have to work? Or will you be home gobbling up ham and pumpkin pie?

Tuesday is a player off day, so that works nicely with Christmas falling on that day this year. I'm not sure what my work schedule will look like yet, but I do plan to have some family time for sure.

Losing is a real drag. Everybody in sports media is down on the Packers it seems. Sports Illustrated saying that Aaron will never win another Super Bowl if he stays in Green Bay..New territory for us to read this stuff

A lot of the same things were being said about the Saints and Drew Brees when they went 7-9 three straight years and their defense couldn't stop anyone.

Deion Sanders went on the Rich Eisen show and told Packers nation to pretty much give up. He believes this team is years away from a Super Bowl and Rodgers will not win another in Green Bay. What would you say to that?

The Packers have a lot of work to do, but they're going to have three picks in roughly the first 45 slots in the draft. That's not a position Ron Wolf or Ted Thompson was ever in. One big draft can turn any team around. Seattle did it. New Orleans did it. The Packers have to maximize on this draft opportunity.

As I look back, I'm not sure we ever emotionally recovered from the Vikings tie that should have been a win.

To me it was just a series of those moments. The call vs. the Vikings, the dropped pass at Washington, the crazy punt bounce at Detroit, the fumbles in LA and NE ... It was just one of those years where the Packers couldn't compensate for tough breaks and self-inflicted wounds.

The Packers will have somewhere between the 3rd and 16th pick. They are guaranteed a top 9 pick if they lose out. Do you see a significant difference from the 9th pick to the 16th pick?

Of course there is, because it also means your second-round pick is 41 vs. 48. But I'm not an advocate of tanking. I just don't think that's what professional sports should be about.

One thing that seems hopeful is that there seems to be some very attractive options for head coach as much as I loved MM. Isn't addressing the coaching vacancy priority number 1 in the off season?

Absolutely. That'll get settled long before the start of free agency in mid-March.

Hi Mike, do you see Kendall Donnerson getting any playing time these next 2 games?

I could see a lot of younger guys like him getting some snaps. Not full-time duty by any means, but a chance to rotate in against front-line NFL players. These types of snaps can be significant for young players, more valuable in my view than preseason games when they're going against a lot of guys who won't make rosters. But like I said, some work here and there, not suddenly starting and playing full-time.

As I look back, I am not sure Aaron Rodgers ever recovered from his knee injury. I think that is the biggest reason for our offensive woes this year. What do you think?

I can't speak to that. Rodgers has suggested he'll talk more after the season is over. We'll wait to hear what he has to say then.

My brother and I had a great chat on Sunday. 3 big season momentum changers. CMIII phantom foul, 5 missed FGs, and the Ty Montgomery fumble. Big time emotional gut punches, and the last one (I fear) took the breath out of the 2018 Pack. It's a funny shaped ball, and sometimes it bounces the wrong way.

I really felt the final gut punch, so to speak, was the loss late at Seattle. The Packers played a pretty strong game in a tough place but came up short, again. The following week at Minnesota the Packers were pretty much dominated in the second half. I think the loss at Seattle, after close losses at LA and NE, was just too much.

Mike, how long until the NFL forces the Bears to do something to fix their field? Seeing their DB go down after the Rodgers interception reminded me of seeing Eddie Lee Ivery go down twice on that surface nearly 40 years ago! Perhaps this impacting one of their players will get them to do something? Maybe?

Who knows. Aaron Jones injured his knee the exact same way Sunday as he did last year in Chicago, too. The stadium is run by the Chicago Park District, not the Bears. I'm not sure what the league can or would do if it's just a difficult surface, as opposed to any blatant disregard, which I don't believe is the case.

I know other teams have injuries but we always seem to have an inordinate amount each year to key players—especially soft tissue injuries. Can these be prevented or is it just bad luck? I would love to have seen what a healthy team would have done this year.

I think we all would have. I don't comment much on injuries because I know nothing about exercise science or kinesiology or any of that. There are a lot of things players can do in preventive fashion, but there are no guarantees.

Hey Mike, hope all is well today. Could you describe the effect a 'down' or rebuilding type season has on the "non-football" side of operations? I would imagine there are fewer casual fans jumping on the wagon, reading stories, buying merchandise etc. It's worth acknowledging that everyone is accountable, and the ripple effect of such a season is huge.

It's part of the business. No one is going to shed any tears for the Packers. They held a stock sale in 2011 coming off a Super Bowl win and when the team was currently undefeated and raised $60 million in a matter of a couple of months. You weather the rough patches, keep doing your job the best you can, and hope another wave of success is on the horizon.

Loved David Bakhtiari's comment and attitude. Forget tanking and try-outs, I just want to see the 2018 Packers put together an entire game of football.

The pros will handle their business that way, and Bakhtiari is in a position he knows he's not subbing out as long as Rodgers is taking snaps.

Who did Rodgers look to on Sunday after the game when he wanted to know what the movie line he used was from?

That was Tom in the PR dept. He manages all of Rodgers' media obligations, and he does so expertly, even when called upon for a movie reference.

Mike, what is the biggest area of improvement we need to see over the off season? I for one am not worried about Rodgers, I think that knee injury this year affected him a lot more than he let on.

A reset health-wise, a reset coaching-wise ... it's going to be a fresh start for Rodgers in 2019 in more ways than one.

Hey Mike who in your opinion is better suited to be the Packers next coach? Offensive guru? Defense? Or someone more like John Harbaugh a manager type?

I think the natural inclination is to lean offense because of Rodgers, but it all depends on the individual and his vision, his plan, his mode of execution. It really feels to me like it's wide open, so I'm planning not to be surprised by anything.

No matter who the next head coach is, I hope Pettine sticks around as our defensive coordinator. If the offense figures out its woes next season, look out

If you go offense at head coach, I think keeping Pettine and letting him see through the defensive rebuild would be a strong consideration. But again, it depends on the person and his plan, his contacts, etc.

Props to Jamaal Williams for stepping up this past Sunday when he took over the RB duties. He's often overlooked due to Jones, but he always seems to answer the bell when he's given the opportunity.

I agree. Williams always runs hard. I like that about him. For all the dancing he likes to do, he's a pretty tough football player.

I would love to see Mike Pettine return as defensive coordinator next year. I think the second year of his system could be huge. Starting over on both sides of the ball may not be such a good idea.

That's something the next head coach, if he's not a defensive-oriented guy, will have to consider.

What does your crystal ball show you happening this offseason?

I made the comment the other day you have to hope the Packers have another 2006 offseason, which was one of the franchise's bests. The Packers hired McCarthy, drafted Hawk and Jennings, and signed Woodson and Pickett that year. Two seasons after 4-12 they were hosting the NFC title game. We'll see if history in some form can repeat itself.

Are there any good edge rushers available as free agents next year? It seems like every team in front of us in the draft are needing good edge rushers.

We won't know who's available for a long time yet. Players will re-sign, others will get tagged. All that is part of the pre-March process.

Herm said it best, "You play to win the game." I don't care what our outlook is for the rest of the season. Go win. If that means our starters play 60 minutes, so be it.

There are a lot of young guys in the locker room who need to win a road game in the NFL. This week's game is important for that reason, among others. If a player's health is compromised, no undue risks are necessary to play, but otherwise, yeah, you play to win.

What's your single most favorite moment with the Pack?

The Super Bowl is the easy choice. Other than that, the run in 2016 was pretty special. I'll remember that for a long time.

Do you think McCarthy will coach next year, or take some time off?

No idea. He is a family man through and through, and family will play a major part in any future decisions he makes.

As big of a year as 2006 was I hope we have a draft like 2008... Is there a Raji and Clay Available to draft this year?

That was 2009, but I see your point, and I guess we'll find out.

Mike,what do you attribute the special teams poor play to? Field position has hurt us all season and stupid mistakes..

That phase has had its problems all season. The Packers have had too many special-teams miscues to overcome, week after week. I don't chalk it up to one thing. There's plenty of blame to go around.

I've felt many emotions this year, but one that has me reeling is this team's inability to get a road win. Get that monkey off their backs and beat the Jets. What do you make of this team's road woes?

It's just been the inability to play four quarters of solid football away from home. Washington and Detroit were terrible first halves. Minnesota was a bad second half. LA was probably the best road performance all year, derailed with 2 minutes left. NE was a good game for 3 quarters, so were Seattle and Chicago. It's been different moments, but when they've lost their edge on the road they've really lost it and the other team has just taken total command.

I've noticed a lot of violent helmet to helmet contact not being called lately. What gives?

As I've said many times, the league is going to have to start allowing safety violations to go to review. Classic example in Chicago, when Cobb gets clobbered over the middle, flag flies, gets picked up and it's announced no foul because it was shoulder contact. Next thing we hear in the press box is Cobb is out of the game being evaluated for a concussion. You tell me how else to fix it.

Do the teams with "better" special teams Play have more veterans on their team? Is it because we have so many young guys on the special-teams unit that they struggle?

That's certainly part of it, but every team plays young guys on special teams. No team is full of all veteran, polished players on punt, kickoff, returns, etc.

My how the narrative on the Packers has changed. Before the season many pundits had them picked for the Super Bowl. Now the story is that TT left the cupboards bare and they have several holes to fill. What's the real story?

The cupboard isn't bare. If the cupboard were bare, the Packers would have been blown out somewhere in this stretch of five playoff-caliber teams on the road since the bye week. That hasn't happened. But they aren't just a play or two away, either. I've never subscribed to that. Things went south and the team needs a new direction. The Packers aren't the first team to go through this.

Charlie Brown always said, "there's no heavier burden than great expectations."

There's something to be said for that, but the narrative of "nobody believed in us but us" gets pretty old in this league, too. It's competitive, these guys are pros, and anything can happen every week. Just look at last Sunday. Rams, Seahawks, Patriots all lost. They're all headed to the postseason, but this league is crazy. All the rest is just noise.

All right, I guess I'll sign off now. Thanks for the conversation today. Enjoyed it. Not sure what next week will bring as far as the holiday and when I'll have the chat. I'll try to work one in somewhere. Thanks everyone, and Merry Christmas. Take care, Mike

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