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What a run, what a ride

Packers have a lot to sort out this offseason


Sam from Mooresville, IN

I remember the distinct realization a few weeks back that our win streak couldn't last forever. The only thing masking our decimated defense was the greatness of our QB and receivers. And when our receivers starting getting hurt, I knew it was over. But enjoyed the ride. I accepted the fact that the Packers' season could end at any game a long time ago. At least that game happened to be the NFC Championship.

I remember sitting in the press box on that Monday night in Philly, watching Carson Wentz come out of the gate 6-for-6 and lead the Eagles to a TD on their first drive, wondering how depressing it would be to cover the Packers playing out the string the whole month of December. I'll be forever grateful nothing close to that came to pass. What a run, what a ride.

Andrew from Fullerton, CA

Vic said, "Now, I can sit and watch without the pressure of having to write fast enough to keep up with the action." How fast do you gentlemen type in WPM? Who would win in a type-off?

I'm pretty sure I'm faster than Vic, but I think it would be a close call between me and Wes.

Carl from Chicopee, MA

I had a very upset boy on Sunday night. It's tough when you're a fan and your team loses, but being a dad of an upset child makes it real tough. Living in MA as a Packer fan doesn't help either. In his grief he told me, "Every year we do the same thing." I don't know what I told him, but this morning he was better and tomorrow I'm sure he will be fine. Let's win it next year.

You're right, he will be fine. If I have one regret about this job it's that I can't watch the Packers with my son, who's now heading off to college next fall. We had a great last season together, though, as he rode to the home games with me to work as a Lambeau Field "Wi-Fi coach" for fans. We had a fun ritual down the stretch, too. When I left for the airport to fly to Chicago in mid-December, I told him as I hugged him, "Operation Run the Table, Stage 4," and the references continued with each game, via goodbyes, hellos, and postgame text messages. As Sunday's game ended, his text to me said, "Stage 9, loading … loading … loading … error." I really appreciated his sense of humor, and perspective, at that moment.

Travis from Atlanta, GA

Did you guys ever make it to the Packers Everywhere rally on Saturday? Or did you get diverted to Milwaukee with the team?

Wes and I were on the team charter, so we unfortunately did not make it to the rally. I'm sure it was a great atmosphere. The fans really brought it at all the rallies this year.

LJ from Chicago, IL

Why didn't the recovery following Ripkowski's fumble Sunday result in a Packers safety? The Falcons player clearly recovered it on the 1-yard line and rolled on his own into the end zone where he was touched by a Packers player. There was no "momentum" carrying him into the end zone.

I believe the ruling was he gained possession of the ball with one of his legs touching the goal line (before he rolled in), so it was a touchback. As a turnover play, it was automatically reviewed, so they presumably looked at everything.

Nate from Daufuskie Island, SC

Can the Packers afford to re-sign all the players turning free agent this year? Seems like a long list.

It's always a long list, and they've never been able to re-sign everybody. You establish your priorities and get to work.

Ryan from Big Bend, WI

Today I am doing the yearly "What the Green Bay Packers need in 2017" Google search. When you look around the web at various free-agency scenario articles, draft-need articles, and articles about what team is supposedly in the best salary-cap position, taking a hardline stance on what Ted Thompson ought to do is kind of futile. Nobody agrees and nobody knows. There will be new teams next year that arise, and teams we fear now will fall into the abyss. Nobody knows who will develop into a quality player and who will take a step back.

That's why every season truly is a new season. At this time last year, if I had said six of the top eight seeds in the 2015 postseason (No. 1 Denver and No. 3 Cincinnati in the AFC, and Nos. 1-4 Carolina, Arizona, Minnesota and Washington in the NFC) would not make the playoffs in 2016, would you have believed me?

Richard from Madison, WI

So a lot of analysis says the Packers were doomed because they fell behind early. In hindsight, should we have taken the opening kickoff instead of deferring?

Way too many questions about this. Honestly, if the Packers had driven into Atlanta territory and missed a field goal to open the game, what exactly was going to change? They still had a window of opportunity precisely because they deferred. As bad as the start was, the Packers got the ball with 3:15 left in the first half, down 17-0. Get points there and on the opening drive of the second half to make it 17-10 or 17-14, and you've got a chance. A dropped pass, a sack, and the INT/punt on third-and-21 was followed by two missed interceptions by Green Bay's defense, leading to Atlanta's final TD of the first half. It got out of hand in that sequence, followed by the start to the second half, not because the Falcons got the ball first.

Jack from Birchwood, WI

Can a Week 4 bye have an impact on the high number of injuries later in the season? If the NFL is concerned with player safety, why not shrink the bye weeks to Weeks 7 through 12?

McCarthy knew he had a challenging schedule from the moment he saw it last spring, not just with the Week 4 bye but the Thursday night game just three weeks later, leaving the team to play its final 10 regular-season games without any kind of break. He cut back on practice time late in the year, moreso than he ever has, to try to balance recovery with adequate preparation. I recall saying in this column before the season started if there were a year you wanted a first-round bye to make a Super Bowl run, this was it. They continued to survive and played two dynamite playoff games. The problem was they needed to play three.

John from Denver, IA

First of all, congratulations to the Packers and coaches. I know it wasn't the end result but still one of four left standing. Question is, we are good enough to get into the playoffs but not win the conference. We draft late in the first round every year. Should we be happy with that, or do we need to sign a free agent or trade for the key player(s) that we are missing?

Three years ago, the signing of Julius Peppers took the defense up a notch. This past year, Jared Cook changed things on offense (and Rodgers made his plea after the game for him to be a top priority re-signing). If there's another move like that the Packers can make, I believe they'll make it, but they aren't going to act for the sake of acting. The Giants rebuilt their defense with three big-money free-agent signings, and they hit the jackpot as far as that lottery goes, but what did it get them? They gave up 38 points in 33 minutes in the wild-card round. There is no cure-all. I agree with you it's hard to find difference-makers picking in the late 20s every year. Clay Matthews at 26 was eight years ago. There's a lot for the Packers to sort out on defense. I'm not naïve to that, and neither are they. Regarding personnel and salary cap, the sorting starts with Sam Shields and his situation, and you go from there. This will take some time in the offseason.

Steve from Wauwatosa, WI

Hey Insiders, have you had the chance to read the essay by Jared Cook in The Players' Tribune titled "Only in Green Bay"? I think it really illustrates just how good it's been to be a Packers fan for the last 20-plus years. This team has been in the hunt year after year for that entire time. Very few fan bases have been so blessed for so long. How long can this continue? Until 12 retires?

I believe the Packers will always be a contender with Rodgers at quarterback. Cook's elation at having a season like this was genuine. My favorite part of his essay was his description of Rodgers' leadership – pushing other players to "keep up with him." He demands a lot and took this team as far as it could go this year. The last photo in the essay with Cook's eyes fixated on the ball with his toes just inside the Dallas sideline is fantastic.

Dustin from Onalaska, WI

Insiders, what's the latest on T.J. Lang's injury? It was gut-wrenching to see him so emotional on the sidelines. He's worked so hard for a long time to earn a big contract. What's the best-case scenario for him now? A "prove you're healthy" year and then another shot at a big contract?

He's coming off a big contract as it is, and I don't think the foot injury will have much impact on Lang's prospects, honestly. With full rest, it should be healed in 6-8 weeks. He never gave it full rest because he wanted to keep playing. He said Monday that the silver lining to his foot keeping him out of the Pro Bowl is he'll have his hip scoped on Friday now, so he can start recovering sooner from that as well. Selfishly, as a writer who appreciates his insights and the time he gives the media, I hope Lang is re-signed, but we'll just have to see.

Andy from Fremont, MI

Pass defense seems to continue to be a weakness for this team. Does the Pack need to add talent at CB, or will the development and health of the existing roster be enough?

You never have enough cover corners. You also never have enough pass-rushers. I expect both positions to be fortified between now and training camp. Stock up in whatever ways make sense and let them prove who deserves to play. I don't know how else to go about it.

The Green Bay Packers cleaned out their lockers at Lambeau Field on Monday. Photos by Evan Siegle & Ryan Hartwig,

Paul from Munising, MI

How soon do players leave after their last game? What is the exit procedure? Do some players stay in the area during the offseason?

All players have exit physicals with the medical staff and exit interviews with their coaches. That process began Monday and usually is completed within a couple of days. Some stay in Green Bay during the offseason. Many don't and return in April for the start of workouts.

Maria from Hillsdale, MI

Six years removed from the Super Bowl, and we haven't been back. We've come close, and we've remained a playoff team, but with one of the all-time great QBs and a good head coach/GM, I'm disappointed that we haven't been able to make that leap. What separates Rodgers' situation in GB from Brady's in NE (besides AFC disparity)? Rodgers will end up going down as one of the best QBs ever, so I don't think it would be unreasonable to be bummed if he finished with only one championship. I'd hate to look back on his career here with any regret.

No one wants that. You pick up the pieces and get back at it. Rodgers' second Super Bowl should have been two years ago, but we all know that. This is admittedly a gross oversimplification, and it's not meant to represent Tom Brady's career by any means, but looking specifically at this year alone, the Patriots caught a break. They had a terrible night in the playoffs, but the opposing QB was Brock Osweiler. They would have lost to most playoff teams that night. The Packers had a bad day, and the other guy was the presumptive league MVP. It happens.

Joe from Ormond Beach, FL

Not a question but a comment. I was heartbroken over the Seattle loss. I felt this year we were playing with house money and made a great run. The victory in Dallas was truly sweet. At the end of the day, we were an exhausted, beat-up team that ran out of steam. Hopefully next year we will get the bye and go to the Super Bowl.

I thought Rodgers' comments after the game about needing to play the next NFC title game at home were spot-on. It guarantees nothing, I know, but when the Packers truly get hot late in the season, they're practically unbeatable at Lambeau. We saw it this year down the stretch. They have to give themselves that chance.

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