2018 debacle looks somewhat like 2005
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.
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.