2018 de­ba­cle looks some­what like 2005

Packer Plus - - News - Pete Dougherty

So ends the Green Bay Pack­ers’ worst sea­son in 13 years.

A life­less 31-0 loss at Lam­beau Field to the six-win Detroit Li­ons en­sured that 2018 will be re­mem­bered as noth­ing short of a dis­as­ter for a Pack­ers team that, ac­cord­ing to Bo­vada.lv, had the sixth-best pre­sea­son odds to win the Su­per Bowl.

This eye­sore of a de­feat in a game that had no play­off im­pli­ca­tions doesn’t war­rant much at­ten­tion. The Pack­ers didn’t show up for in­terim coach Joe Philbin. End of story.

All we know for sure about the up­com­ing off­sea­son is that the Pack­ers’ 6-9-1 record leaves them with the No. 12 pick in the 2019 draft. They’re usu­ally pick­ing in the 20s, so that’s their head start for next year.

But this ends a sea­son that’s been rare in th­ese parts for the last quar­ter cen­tury. At least when the Pack­ers went 7-9 in 2017, they could say it was be­cause their quar­ter­back was in­jured for the bulk of the year. No such ex­cuses this go-round. Aaron Rodgers played ev­ery game, even if he didn’t last long in Sun­day’s fi­nale, which he left early in the sec­ond quar­ter be­cause of a con­cus­sion.

Their only com­pa­ra­ble sea­son since the fran­chise’s re­vival in the early 1990s was 2005, when they bot­tomed out at 412 de­spite hav­ing Pro Foot­ball Hall of Famer Brett Favre play ev­ery game.

The sim­i­lar­ity be­tween the sea­sons jumps out: Their mul­ti­ple-MVP quar­ter­back was in his mid-30s and had his worst year.

In ’05, Favre’s rat­ing (70.9) was the low­est of his ca­reer. Worse yet, his 29 in­ter­cep­tions led the league.

It cost Mike Sher­man his job, though from ev­ery­thing I’ve heard for­mer GM Ted Thomp­son fired him not be­cause of the won-loss record but be­cause Sher­man had been un­com­mu­nica­tive af­ter be­ing stripped of his GM du­ties the pre­vi­ous off­sea­son.

Re­gard­less, Favre wasn’t the lone rea­son the Pack­ers were 4-12 — they had no ground game af­ter los­ing star run­ning back Ah­man Green to a sea­son-end­ing in­jury in Oc­to­ber — but it was the big­gest rea­son.

It also raised red flags. The alarm­ing num­ber of in­ter­cep­tions sug­gested he’d be­come un­coach­able. Ei­ther that or he was in de­cline.

Sim­i­larly, this year was the 35-year-old Rodgers’ worst since he was a first-time starter in 2008. His 97.8 rat­ing com­ing into this week ranked only 13th in the NFL. That from a guy who’s the NFL’s all­time ca­reer leader in passer rat­ing. He missed more throws and had more mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tions with his re­ceivers in a week than he used to en­dure in a month.

Like with Favre and Sher­man, it cost Mike McCarthy his job.

Now the ques­tions are out on Rodgers, and you’ve surely heard them, if you haven’t won­dered your­self. Have in­juries has­tened his de­cline? Has he be­come un­coach­able?

We know how things went af­ter ’05.

Thomp­son hired McCarthy and jump­started the two-year re­build with two keys moves: sign­ing Charles Wood­son in free agency and pick­ing re­ceiver Greg Jen­nings a few weeks later in the draft. The coach then set the tone af­ter an early train­ing camp prac­tice in which Favre threw sev­eral in­ter­cep­tions when he pub­licly ad­mon­ished his quar­ter­back for com­mit­ting the car­di­nal sin of throw­ing down the mid­dle late.

McCarthy’s team fin­ished the ’06 sea­son 8-8 by win­ning its fi­nal four games. Then in ’07 the Pack­ers were back. They had the NFC’s best record (13-3) and ad­vanced to the con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship game, while a 38-year-old Favre put up the sec­ond-best passer rat­ing of his ca­reer to that point.

Can the cur­rent Pack­ers do the same? Can they re­build in one year? Or is a dry spell on its way? The com­ing months will tell that story. Mur­phy and Gutekunst first have to hire a coach, and I wouldn’t put a nickel on any­one as the lead can­di­date.

It’s hard to be­lieve the coaches they’ve al­ready in­ter­viewed, Jim Cald­well and Chuck Pagano, have much chance. But af­ter that, who knows? Pat Fitzger­ald? Josh McDaniels? Pete Carmichael? Vic Fan­gio? Zac Tay­lor? Jim Har­baugh? Eric Bie­niemy? Philbin? None of the above?

Your guess is as good as mine, though Philbin’s chances, what­ever they were, might have taken a fa­tal hit Sun­day.

Ei­ther way, this is a big off­sea­son, with big change.

Be­sides the new coach, Gutekunst will have plenty of salary-cap room to work with — per­haps as much as $55 mil­lion if he cuts Jimmy Gra­ham and Bryan Bu­laga.

The GM also will have New Or­leans’ first-round pick, which will be near the end of the round. The re­sources are there. Now it’s on the team’s CEO and GM to find a coach who can get Rodgers back on track, and add the game-chang­ing tal­ent this ros­ter badly needs.

PACKER PLUS FILES

A lot of un­flat­ter­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties jump out when com­par­ing the 2005 sea­son for Brett Favre (left) and this sea­son for Aaron Rodgers, in­clud­ing head coaches get­ting fired. For Favre and the Pack­ers, how­ever, a two-year re­build had the team in the NFC Cham­pi­onship Game in the 2007 sea­son.

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