Sunday, October 22, 2017

Green Bay is a game away from ""Now what?"

Last week I suggested that more recent or bandwagon Green Bay Packer fans may be in for a bit of a shock in the coming weeks, and older fans might want to recall what the “bad old days” were like from 1968 to 1991, when the team made the playoffs only twice after winning five NFL championships and two Super Bowls during the Lombardi years. Yes, Aaron Rodgers missed extended time in 2013 and the Packers still made the playoffs, but this time is different. Scott Tolzien and Seneca Wallace were not going to get the job done, and fortunately Matt Flynn had been cut by the Raiders in favor of Terrell Pryor (yes, that guy who is now playing the wide receiver position), and he manage to step right in and win enough games for the Packers to stand atop the worst division in the NFL that year. Admittedly even the greats can have bad  years; in 2005, coach Mike Sherman lost control of Brett Favre, who threw a career worst 29 interceptions (30 total as a team) as the Packers lost 8 of their 12 defeats by seven points or fewer (it didn’t help that the defense only had 10 interceptions that year). But you took the bad with the good with Favre, and fortunately you got mostly the latter.

Unfortunately, there is no Flynn to fall back on this time. I never thought it was a good idea to let him go; after all, Matt Moore has been a backup in Miami forever and he just led the Dolphins to a comeback victory over the New York Jets. Yeah, Brett Hundley is an athletic player, but even after taking a plurality of snaps during the preseason, often with the “first team,” and after a full week of practice, all he can do is 12 of 25 for 87 yards and an interception at home with one of the top pass receiving corps in the league, against a New Orleans pass defense that is average at best, giving up 268 yards a game. Hundley’s 39.9 passer rating wasn’t exactly an improvement over last week’s 39.6 rating, so the extra work didn’t seem to be of much assistance. Comparing him to Dak Prescott? Even comparing him to Geno Smith could be considered an insult to Smith. The Packers stayed in the game because of another stellar outing by running back Aaron Jones, and two early Drew Brees interceptions, but the eventual outcome, a 26-17 defeat, was predictable. 

Where to go from here? The Packers certainly can’t expect to rush for 180 yards every week, and last week demonstrated what happens when they don’t. Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports noted last week that the Packers’ front office had done a poor job of building the team, particularly on defense. Without Rodgers, the Packers just are not a very good team. But if you insist that the Packers are a good team, then what does that say about Hundley? The Packers will start Hundley next time because they simply have no choice to because of the politics. But if he does play poorly against the Lions after the bye week (and it is a fair bet he will), Mike McCarthy will have to come to grips with the fact that he and the front office have relied too much on one player to mask some glaring problems with this team, and it starts with the backup quarterback position. If Hundley doesn’t improve in a hurry, the only conceivable “gimme” game on the schedule is at Cleveland, and even that is no longer a “sure” thing, unless Joe Callahan or someone with a little experience available on the open market can step in and provide competent play.

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