Sunday, January 04, 2009

How the 2008 Pack grades out

Each year, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel sports writer and Packers analyst, Bob McGinn, writes a post-season report card of each aspect of the Packers organization, from the GM and coaches right down to the individual members of the roster. It's always a fascinating read. Especially if you happen to be a stat geek. More numbers than you can shake a yardmarker at.

McGinn also has written an article which appears in the paper's print edition, but is only available online to the Packer Insider subscribers. So for those that aren't subscribers to the Insider or who can't get their hands on an actual newspaper, let me give you a few of the items of note from McGinn's article, entitled "GM stumbled, but aced most important step".

As you many gather from the headline, McGinn is talking primarily about the decision to trade Brett Favre and go with Aaron Rodgers as the team's starting quarterback. The opening paragraphs, sets the tone: "From a personnel standpoint, the first job for any executive atop a National Football League franchise is to secure the quarterback position.

"Ted Thompson has done that with Aaron Rodgers."

McGinn goes on to review Thompson's overall draft moves since at the helm of the Pack, as well as the general personnel strategy. We fans pretty well know the drill by now: continue trading higher draft picks for more draft picks later down in the draft, minimize free agent acquisitions, build from within. This is how the Packers wound up being the youngest team in the NFL for the third straight season. And the argument can be made that this is at least in part one of the reasons, along with key injuries and departures, that the Pack had a seven-game drop off -- the largest in the team's 90-year history -- from one season to the next.

McGinn takes a look at other teams that have had similar falls and goes on to say, "If history repeats itself, the Packers can expect to finish either 9-7 or 10-6 in 2009 and a have a 43% chance of winning the division and/or making the playoffs." Well, that's something to look forward to then.

About the draft specifically, McGinn suggests that Thompson stick with the nine picks we'll have in this year's draft (including the third-rounder we will get for the Favre trade). Further, that he focus on quality picks for a change instead of quantity. Although listening to Thompson's comments on the final Mike McCarthy Show of the season (see an earlier post here about that), it sure doesn't sound as if Thompson will change his modus operandi.

McGinn doesn't focus entirely on Thompson, though. He says that "when Thompson conducts his review, he can ill afford to let McCarthy off easily." He cites the plethora of penalties for the past two seasons, defensive schemes where players are out of position, a zone run game that is easy to prepare for (and which McCarthy asserts will continue to be used next season) and, as we know all too well this season, an inability to do what's needed from a coaching and player standpoint to finish out close games.

Under McCarthy, the Packers have been 8-8, 13-3 and 6-10. Not exactly a picture of consistency. One might reasonably expect (this writer's opinion, not McGinn's) that McCarthy will be on the clock, so to speak, next season. Ray Rhodes had one so-so season and was gone. Although in the end that was supposedly attributable more to a lack of discipline and organization than record. If McCarthy doesn't produce this next season...we'll see. It would help considerably if Thompson gave him an impact defensive lineman with the #9 overall pick in the draft. It will not be a good sign if he trades down out of that pick.

Thompson is rated among the 10 best GMs in the league according to McGinn, however that is calculated. So while we may never be happy with all his picks and personnel moves, McGinn concludes his article by noting that "Amazingly enough, quarterback in the post-Favre era is the least of the Packers' problems. Filling in the other parts of the puzzle should be easy by comparison."

Let's hope so.

If you want to read McGinn's team report card, you can check it out here.