Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kevin Greene joins coaching staff

Although this will be his first full-time coaching gig, former linebacker Kevin Greene says now is the time to get on this side of the game. The opportunity to join his former coach in Pittsburgh and Carolina, Dom Capers, as part of the new defensive coaching staff at Green Bay was too good to pass up. Greene will coach outside linebackers. Assistant head coach/linebackers Winston Moss will have his title restructured to reflect that in addition to still retaining his assistant head coach title he will coach inside linebackers.

While Greene may not have a lot of coaching experience -- he did have some volunteer coaching experience with a variety of teams over the past five summers -- you can't question his linebacker credentials as a player. He was one of those guys that always brought an attitude and backed it up with his tough-as-nails play. As an article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel points out, "Greene personified the 3-4 outside linebacker in Capers' blitz-happy defense, finishing third on the NFL's all-time sack list behind Bruce Smith and Reggie White. His understanding of the position will help potential outside linebackers Aaron Kampman, Brady Poppinga, Desmond Bishop and Jeremy Thompson adjust to a new position."

In the move to the 3-4, Greene's background could be invaluable. Linebackers play a much larger role in this defensive scheme and the Packers are going to have to maximize the play they get from that unit in order to be successful. If nothing else, having Greene in your face should up the intensity for those players.

You can read a really good article about Greene here.

Peter King says Favre done
In an interview on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption yesterday, Sports Illustrated's Peter King -- a favorite texting buddy of Brett Favre -- said he thinks Brett is done. He said Brett knows that he can still play. According to King, Jets' doctors recommended strongly, though, that if Brett wanted to continue to play he should have surgery to repair his shoulder. Brett said no. For King, that told him Brett had decided to hang it up. The only other possibility was if Brett could play "where he really wanted to be." When pressed by PIT co-host Tony Kornheiser as to where that would be, King didn't say Green Bay. Instead, he said Minnesota. The follow-up question about why Minnesota, of course, was not asked. But we all know that would only be to be able to play the Packers twice and stick it to GM Ted Thompson.

What's the likelihood of this happening? Possible, one supposes, although not probable. The Packers had a provision in their trade deal with the Jets that if the Jets traded Favre to the ViQueens that the Packers would get three first round draft picks from the Jets as "poison pill" compensation. But, if the Jets cut Brett, any team would be free to sign him. However, as King noted in his interview, any team doing so would just be picking up a one-year bandaid at best; and would any team really want to do that?

Let's just hope that King is right and Brett decides, once and for all, to hang up the cleats. It's what he should have done last year when he first announced his retirement. He could have gone out with a lot of class and dignity and the undying affection of Packer fans everywhere. Instead...well...you know.

The drama isn't done yet. But in the next few months one would hope so.

2009 Draft
It's mid-January, Super Bowl week, and the best that most Packer fans can do these days is start thinking about the NFL draft.

For those who want to get an early start on the speculation, check out Mel Kiper's early line on the 2009 picks with his initial mock draft. At this point, he has the Pack taking CB Malcolm Jenkins out of Ohio State. You can see all of Kiper's picks here.

While starting to find replacements for Al Harris and Charles Woodson is not a bad idea, given the move to the 3-4 scheme, one might think that the Packers' need for linebackers and nose tackles might take a higher priority. One other definite need going into this draft will be to find solid offensive tackles. LT Chad Clifton started to show definite signs of wear and age this last season and RT Mark Tauscher is a question mark after his season-ending knee injury, as well as his age.

We'll keep you posted on other mock drafts as they pop up.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A few moments with Dom Capers

The Packers' new defensive coordinator, Dom Capers, didn't waste much time getting in the swing of things. He met with reporters today for about 30 minutes.

Not surprisingly, he said he was excited to be in Green Bay. He said some more interesting things, as well.

If you want to read some excerpts, check those out here.

For the full transcript, go here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

It's official: Capers and the 3-4 now in Green Bay

The hire of Dom Capers as offensive coordinator seemed to come out of the blue. It was a fast and furious romance over the weekend between head coach Mike McCarthy and his new defensive coordinator. It must have been a magical weekend. Because not only did the Pack hire Capers, McCarthy also has already made the decision to run the 3-4 defensive scheme with which Capers is most well-versed.

But in McCarthy's press conference earlier this afternoon in which he made the Capers announcement official, he also gave indications that the team would use both 3- and 4-man fronts.

It will be worth your time to read the transcript of the press conference for more insights on the Capers hire, personnel considerations, other staff hires, etc. It's the whole enchilada right here.

Polls Underway
By the way, for about the next week we're running a pair of polls in the righthand column as to whether you like the move to hire Dom Capers or not, as well as your opinion of the 3-4 in Green Bay. Let us and other fans know what you think by taking a moment to respond to the polls. And best of all...they're FREE!!!

The Capers solution

That's what Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is hoping for right now. He's hoping his hire yesterday, as being reported in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and elsewhere this morning -- will be the solution he needs to resurrect a pathetic defense. Enter Dom (not DON!) Capers. McCarthy wanted someone with experience and with Capers he gets that in spades. Capers is an experienced defensive coordinator who is immersed in the 3-4 scheme, but who has also run 4-3 and hybrid schemes. Capers has also been a head coach with two teams.

Capers has a reputation as a no-nonsense type of coach and a very good defensive coordinator. While discipline isn't something which has been a problem for the Packers defense, perhaps accountability this last season was. Capers will help bring a greater sense of that to the unit.

Wayne Larrivee, the radio voice of the Packers, was asked this morning on 620WTMJ radio in Milwaukee, what he thought the Capers hire would mean for the defense. He acknowledged Capers' primary experience with the 3-4 scheme, but that he was the kind of flexible coach that could work with the Packers 4-3. Larrivee also said that it could be a hybrid type defense at times. Larrivee also noted that running that type of scheme would mean the Packers would have to get a few different types of players than they have now, but it would also allow the Packers to use their best defensive players in different ways, as well.

The needs on defense probably won't change much: defensive linemen and linebackers are key needs. But it might be the type of those players that is different under a Capers-run scheme.

From the perspective of this writer, I think this is a good hire. Some say the big cats -- Nolan and Williams -- got away and that the Packers are having to settle for perhaps a second tier level of coach, especially since the Packers were the first to contact Capers about a D-coordinator position. But given the wealth of Capers' coaching experience -- 38 years overall, with 23 in the NFL -- he might be just what the doctor ordered. McCarthy spent two days with Capers and the two obviously felt comfortable with one another and what the direction of the team needed to be and how things were going to be accomplished.

If you want to read the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article about the hire, you can do so here. There has as yet been no official announcement from the Packers. Once that official announcement is made by the team, PackerFansUnited.com will be running a poll to ask whether you like this hiring decision or not. So keep checking back for further updates.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Capers caper is now afoot

Dom Capers, former head coach with Carolina and Houston, and someone who has spent most if not all of his coaching career on the defensive side of the ball, is the latest candidate to interview with Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. Sometime this weekend, they'll have a face-to-face. Most of Capers' experience is running a 3-4 defense, which has not been the Packers scheme the last several years. Still, Capers is one of those out there with a well-respected name.

Still, he may be off the board soon too. A report in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says, "The Rocky Mountain News has reported that Capers is all but a lock to become the Denver Broncos' defensive backs coach under newly hired coordinator Mike Nolan, but apparently the lure of becoming a coordinator again was enough to get Capers in for an interview."

So, we'll see where this one goes. Jim Haslett is still under consideration, the recently dismissed coaching staff at Tampa Bay may have a possibility or two within it, and of course you can bet McCarthy is awaiting the outcomes of tomorrow's playoff games to see who he might finally be able to talk to.

You can read more here.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Still no defensive coordinator for the Pack

Of the top names initially mentioned as likely prospects for the open Packers defensive coordinator position, arguably the top two are now off the board. Mike Nolan, who was said to be a lock for the job, took the same job with Denver. Today, Gregg Williams accepted the defensive coordinator position -- as many had also projected -- with New Orleans.

So, we're starting to get to option number three. That supposedly is now Jim Haslett, who interviewed with Packers head coach Mike McCarthy on Monday and Tuesday. Haslett is first waiting to hear, however, whether he will be named the Rams new head coach, a position he held on an interim basis this past season for 10 games. According to reports, it seems as if St. Louis wants to go in a different direction. And so far, the Packers are the only team that has shown an interest in Haslett for either a coordinator or head coaching slot.

According to a report in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "It's possible McCarthy will wait until after this weekend to see if any assistant coach prospects become available. Among those would be Philadelphia secondary coach Sean McDermott, Pittsburgh linebackers coach Keith Butler and Baltimore special assistant Vic Fangio."

McDermott is said to be an intriguing possibility given that he's been part of the Jim Johnson defensive coaching staff with Philadelphia for several years. But league rules preclude any team from talking to McDermott until the Eagles are out of the playoffs. That's why McCarthy might wait out the weekend results before making his decision. If the Eagles beat Arizona, as is expected, waiting until after the Super Bowl to see if McDermott is even interested in the position would be too long of a wait, in all likelihood, for the Packers.

It will be an interesting next few days. Unfortunately for the Packers, the decision as to whom eventually fills the key defensive coordinator spot is not entirely in their own hands.

You can read the Journal-Sentinel article here.

Mike Golic's Lambeau Field fan story

On the Mike and Mike in the Morning ESPN radio show today -- also carried live on ESPN2 -- former NFL D-lineman Mike Golic (of Mike and Mike fame...but is he the first one or the second one?) and his counterpart, Mike Greenberg, were discussing -- for whatever reason -- Lambeau Field. Greenberg's memory was of his first time as a reporter driving to Lambeau, which he said was "in the middle of nowhere." But then he went on to say that about a mile or so away from the stadium you start to smell the brats and sauerkraut. Golic added that he had played at Lambeau a few times, but when he later was broadcasting from there he'd sometimes join the fans for the tailgating festivities. Nothing better, he said. Although he did note that about the only other stadium that has as good a smell is Kansas City "with all the barbecue." Greenberg then asked Golic if he'd ever seen the tailgating in San Francisco. "White wine, lobster...". Golic and Greenberg quickly agreed that "No, that's just not right." (I may be paraphrasing here, but that is the sense of it. As it rightly should be.)

But the highlight of Golic's Lambeau stories was another from his broadcast days. He said that one time he was up in the press booth which, he noted, is so close to the last row of fans that if it weren't for the glass you could reach out and touch them. Anyway, he said that right below them this one time was a bunch of guys, said it looked like maybe a bunch of fathers and sons. As the game went on, Golic said he and his colleagues in the press box were noting that these guys were "really pounding the beer down." At one point, Golic said, one of the guys who looked as if he was barely of drinking age started really "horking." (BTW, isn't that one of the better -- and perhaps even under-used -- euphemisms for vomitting that's out there? Go ahead, use it the next time one of your buddies blows chow. Impress your friends!)

Sorry, back to Golic's story. He said that this young guy was "horking everywhere." People were standing back and giving him room, of course, and then were patting him on the back making sure he was OK. But, Golic said, the really impressive thing was what happened next. This young fellow then proceeded to walk down the steps (which in itself may have been a pretty impressive feat given what had just happened). Golic said the folks in the press booth thought the guy was leaving to go clean himself up. But then, Golic recalled, they see this young man coming back up the steps "with a full tray of beers." "We applauded the guy," Golic added.

That, my friends, is one of the classic boot and rally stories. There are, no doubt, many more that help contribute to Lambeau's lore.

It's great to be a Packers fan!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Packers Fan Fest March 13-14

The Fifth Annual Packers Fan Fest will be held in the Lambeau Field Atrium Friday and Saturday March 13-14.

Packers Appearing: Mark Murphy and other members of the Packers staff.

Current Players: Nick Collins, Donald Driver, Aaron Kampman and Al Harris. More to be announced.

Packers Alumni: To be announced.

Tickets are priced at $85 per person and are good for both days of the event. Children 6 and younger are free. Tickets will go on sale at 9 a.m. on Jan. 21 through Ticketmaster and can be purchased online, over the phone and in person. Those ubiquitous Ticketmaster fees will also apply. (Sorry, folks. There's no bigger unregulated monopoly in the U.S. than Ticketmaster.) A direct link to online ticket sales information can be found at www.packers.com.

You can read more about the entire event, schedule, etc. here.

Slocum named new Special Teams Coordinator
The Packers are apparently promoting Shawn Slocum to take over special teams. He previously served as an assistant under retired former coordinator Mike Stock for the past three seasons. Let's hope he learned what not to do.

You can read more about that staff move here, including information about the search for the team's new defensive coordinator.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Nolan as D-Coordinator...Not

According to reports, the info which had led this writer and others to say that former 49ers head coach Mike Nolan would be named as the Packers new defensive coordinator seems to have been, hmmm, not as inside and reliable as initially thought. But hey, even the Green Bay Press-Gazette was saying that Nolan was an 80-90 percent lock.

Anyway, the NFL Network was reporting late last night that Nolan would be named the new defensive coordinator at Denver, which has been known to pay assistance coaches very well.

Whether it all came down to money or something else, we may never know. Nolan had been the special teams/linebackers coach in Denver from 1987-'92.

So, at this point it's really anybody's guess as to who may land the gig in Green Bay. Former Jacksonville Jaguars coordinator Gregg Williams and Philadelphia Eagles secondary coach Sean McDermott are said to be front runners. Williams interviewed with Packers head coach Mike McCarthy on Friday. McDermott can't be be talked to under league rules until the Eagles are out of the playoffs, whether that's another week...or longer.

Winston Moss, one of the lone assistants to be retained in the Packers purge of their defensive coaching staff, is still in the running. But he is also interviewing for a few open head coaching slots, including St. Louis and Oakland.

So, what seemed like a quick pick, isn't. Stay tuned.

Read more here if care to.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ted Thompson Says...

If you want to know what Packers GM Ted Thompson has to say about the 6-10 season and what he sees ahead for the team, you have to check out Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel sports writer Tom Silverstein's article in today's edition. Silverstein interviewed Thompson for 90 minutes prior to Mike McCarthy canning most of the defensive coaching staff so that is not part of the conversation.

Thompson is always guarded in what he says. But there are some interesting aspects of the Q&A, particularly when talking about his having two losing seasons out of his four at the helm compared to no losing seasons between 1992 and 2004 when he took charge, comments about Justin Harrell, having the youngest team in the league for the third straight season, how fans feel about him, and certain personnel moves including, of course, the Brett Favre thing.

Check it out here. It will perhaps tell you some things you wanted to know, but will also leave you with questions still unanswered. That's Thompson, who says in the interview that, "I would like most of the people to understand that we're trying to do the right thing." This writer, for one, believes that. But that doesn't mean we're satisfied.

That also seems to be the point of Mike Vandermause's commentary in the Green Bay Press-Gazette. The title alone tells you where this article is going: "Thompson gaffes contribute to down year". Vandermause is sports editor of the Press-Gazette. And his insights are always a worthwhile read. When he starts comparing some of Thompson's personnel moves to those of former GM/Coach Mike Sherman...well...yikes! You know it can't be good. Read it out for yourself here.

And then hope this next season he and McCarthy get their acts together.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Happy 75th B-day, Bart Starr!

As Packers fans, we should not let this day -- January 9 -- pass (no pun intended...wait for it) without wishing a very Happy Birthday to Packer great and Hall of Famer, Bart Starr. Bart turns 75 today.

While all the talk and focus these days is about the place, eventually, of Brett Favre in Packers and NFL history -- both well established, of course -- any discussion related to the Packers best QB really has to start with Starr.

As Tony Kornheiser said on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption program today, Favre has one Super Bowl ring, Starr has two plus three other NFL championship rings. Now...how do you rate the best Packers QB???

Mr. Starr has been one of the greatest members of the Packers community since he first joined the team in 1956 as a 17th round draft pick (yes, you read that right...17th round...but things were a bit different back then). He has been a quarterback, coach, and good will ambassador for the team, being one of those former "Glory Years" players instrumental in helping get the Brown County funding referendum passed for the renovated Lambeau Field.

Starr has also been involved in the broader Wisconsin community since his playing days. For more than 40 years, he and his wife, Cherry, has been involved in promoting and helping fund the Rawhide Boys Ranch near New London, WI, "a faith-based, non-profit residential care center dedicated to changing the lives of troubled teen boys."

Above all and always, Bart Starr has been a class gentleman. The majority of players in today's NFL could take Starr for a role model on and off the field. If only...

You can read more about Starr here.

Happy Birthday, Bart! And may you have many, many more.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Nolan front-runner for Packers D-coordinator

Reports are circulating that former San Francisco head coach Mike Nolan is likely to be the Packers new defensive coordinator.

According to an article in the Green Bay Press Gazette, "Two NFL sources said Tuesday that coach Mike McCarthy appears likely to bring in Nolan to replace Bob Sanders, whose firing was announced Monday. One source said word at the Cactus Bowl, the all-star game for Division II seniors in Kingsville, Texas, is the move is all but done. Another said there appeared to be at least a 90 percent chance Nolan will join the Packers."

If Nolan is named as the coordinator, he will rejoin Packers head coach Mike McCarthy whom he hired as offensive coordinator with the 49ers.

Nolan has 11 years experience as an NFL defensive coordinator, which is obviously a plus. The Press-Gazette notes that, "As a head coach, Nolan had some problems with players on the offensive side of the ball, but as a defensive coordinator, he has a reputation for being a high-energy, optimistic leader whom players like."

This writer has also received information from a source with close connections to the Packers indicating, in so many words, that Nolan is the leading candidate and likely to be named soon as the new defensive coordinator.

You can read the Press-Gazette article here.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A closer look at the Packers defensive coaching massacre

Were the Packers right to fire so many defensive coaches in one fell swoop, as happened over the last two days? According to a poll in today's online Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 88% of more than 3,500 people responding so far give a resounding "Yes!".

But beyond that, what do we make of this? According to yet another great article by sports writer and Packers analyst Bob McGinn in the Journal-Sentinel, the purging of the defensive staff is of historic proportions. McGinn writes, "Other than a regime change involving an entire staff, the Packers have never witnessed anything like this from a sitting coach."

Given the massive bloodletting that went on -- McGinn's article recounts prior coaching purges over the decades -- there is a bit of a curious note to it all: neither head coach Mike McCarthy or GM Ted Thompson met with the press or even agreed to answer questions about the firings. The announcements came in the form of a news release only.

So far, none of the fired coaches has made any statements.

One of the facts to emerge is that there was apparently a split in the defensive coaching staff that started early in the season. McGinn reports, basically, that there was a faction on the same page with defensive coordinator Bob Sanders and another faction on board with linebackers coach/assistant head coach Winston Moss. Basically, Moss and some others didn't like the scheme Sanders was running.

Local Wisconsin sports radio and pundits have obviously been kicking this topic around since the news broke. One reporter made the comment that head coaches typically don't get more than 2 bad years in a row before they themselves are shown the door. The point was made that with this major house cleaning on the defensive side of the board, McCarthy will be pulling out all the stops to make sure this dismal season is not repeated because, as the reporter said, "the wolves will be at his door then."

Related to this, though, is the whole topic of personnel. Wayne Larrivee, the radio voice of the Packers, was interviewed about the situation and made the point that by cleaning out most of the defensive coaches the new coordinator will be free to build his own team of assistants. That might also mean a change in scheme from 4-3 to 3-4. If so, Larrivee pointed out, that has personnel implications because players suited to the one scheme usually are not suited to the other. Larrivee offered the example of Corey Williams, who was arguably the key Packers defensive lineman in 2007. As we also know, he was traded to Cleveland after the season for a second round pick after the Pack had placed the franchise tag on him. Larrivee noted that Williams was great in the Packers 4-3 scheme, but his production was not the same this past season in Cleveland's 3-4 scheme. Interesting.

Whoever gets the defensive coordinator job will have a huge task ahead of them. They will need to assemble a staff, devise a scheme, and make sure the right players are in the right places to make it all click. If it falls flat, the head coach and a lot of others might also be putting their homes up for sale in and around Green Bay.

You can read McGinn's article here. Like all his articles, it's well worth the read.

Lots of coaches available
The good news for the Packers in this situation is that it's a buyer's market, so to speak. There are a lot of excellent, experienced coaches available. Among the names being floated, along with the un-fired Winston Moss, is former San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Nolan who was the defensive coordinator with Baltimore before heading west to become San Francisco's head coach. Nolan is also the guy who hired Mike McCarthy to be his offensive coordinator and then also allowed him to get interviewed for the Packers head coaching job a year later. Reports are that Nolan looks like the leading candidate for the job but there are no certainties of any kind at this point in the process and there may well be several factors working against Nolan, including cost.

Cost also factors in the discussion of a few other possible coordinators. Gregg Williams who was with Jacksonville and Washington over the last few years is in the mix, as is Eagles secondary coach Sean McDermott. Some reports indicate that McDermott could be a hot property given his long tenure under Eagles defensive guru Jim Johnson. But the Pack can't talk to him as he is still under contract with the Eagles and could only do so with the team's permission once Philly is done playing.

Former Detroit head coach Rod Marinelli is available, as is Jim Haslett. There are other possibilities as well. You can read more about all the candidates here.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Packers confirm defensive firings

In a news release issued by the Packers, they confirm the firings -- reported here and elsewhere earlier -- of the entire defensive coaching staff with the exceptions of assistant head coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss and quality control assistant Joe Whitt Jr. Also fired was strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson.

Head coach Mike McCarthy is quoted as saying, "These are difficult decisions. I hold each of these men in high regard on a personal level, and I want to thank them for their service to the Green Bay Packers."

Stay tuned for more as the story develops.

Reports: Sanders out as Packers defensive coordinator, along with most of the D-coaches

According to a breaking news item posted this morning on former Packers vice president of player finance Andrew Brandt's National Football Post website, "the entire Packers’ defensive coaching staff (with the exception of linebackers/assistant head coach Winston Moss) has just been fired." News broke on this same site yesterday that defensive coordinator Bob Sanders had been fired.

The Packers have not yet confirmed or announced any of these firings. (The dismissal of Sanders was expected and PackerFansUnited.com was one of the many places that said it would happen.)

Winston Moss is one of the likely candidates to assume the defensive coordinator position, and hence perhaps the reason why he was the exception to the rule in the firings. Moss was also interviewed for the vacant head coaching position in St. Louis but apparently is not scheduled for a second interview.

You can read the breaking news here. There is an article about the Sanders firing and possible replacements here.

We still await confirmations and announcements from the Packers on these matters.

Stay tuned.

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.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

ViQueens finally sell their tix

It wasn't easy for the ViQueens: convincing enough of their fans to sell out the HumpDome to avoid a local TV market blackout. Heck, the NFL had to give the team two time extensions to avoid the embarrassment.

But, they finally did it. Despite the fact that only about 55 percent of the 55,000 season-ticket holders bought playoff tickets -- and what does that tell you? geesh -- the 'Queens were finally able to get their sell out. Now the folks in and around Minneapolis will be able to see the 'Queens lose to the Eagles just like the rest of the country will.

If you care, you can read more about their grand accomplishment, here.

ViQueens get another extension to sell-out tix

The 3:30 p.m. Friday deadline -- extension #1 from the NFL to avoid a local market TV blackout -- for the ViQueens came and went. They couldn't sell their remaining 8,000 tickets. Got rid of about 4,300, but still had 3,700 unsold. So, the NFL granted another extension, although it's not clear from reports exactly what the deadline now is.

The Arizona Cardinals, also granted an earlier extension, were able to sell their remaining seats and avoid a blackout for their game versus Atlanta.

If the 'Queens "fans" or some corporate folks don't step up to the plate (is that a mixed metaphor? baseball-football? never mind) by whatever the deadline is, it will apparently be only the second time that a NFL playoff game has been blacked out in the local market.

You'd think with all the big corporations in Minneapolis that at least one of them would ante up to avoid the franchise and civic embarrassment of the situation.

As I said in an earlier post of yesterday, it's just another reason the ViQueens don't deserve to be in the playoffs.

You can read more about all this ticket drama here.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Packers special teams coach retires

As predicted here and many other places, Mike Stock, the Packers special teams coach, will no longer be part of the staff next season. The only difference is that I and others thought he'd be fired after the pathetic play of the special teams this season. Instead, Stock announced his retirement. At age 69, and with 44 years of coaching experience, maybe it's better to retire than be fired. Or at least, give the public appearance that that's the case.

Here's Stock's statement through the Packers: "My passion for the game was strong through the very last contest, but in thinking further about the commitment needed for another season and discussing it with my family, ultimately I decided this was the best decision for us," Stock said. "I've been very fortunate throughout my life to play and coach a sport I love very much. I thank the Green Bay Packers for the opportunity to spend three wonderful years here. I'll miss the games, and I'll miss the people. But I look forward to spending more time with my wife, my three children and five grandchildren."

You can read more about Stock's retirement here.

That's one of the key coaching changes that needed to be made. No word yet on defensive coordinator Bob Sanders. Perhaps there's another "retirement" notice in the works.

Here's another reason the ViQueens shouldn't be in the playoffs

Aside from the fact that the ViQueens squeaked into the playoffs as winners of the NFC North -- which wasn't exactly the best division in football this season, let's be honest -- and will get beat by Philly in the Wild Card round anyway, there's another reason Minnesota shouldn't be in the playoffs.

OK, agreed, the uniforms are a good enough reason on their own for them not to be allowed in the playoffs. But I'm talking about something else. The fans. Yep. I said it.

It's the first time the 'Queens have been back in the playoffs since 2004. That marked only their second time this century (doesn't that sound odd...like you're talking about the Cubs in the World Series or something). You would think the fans would be totally jacked about hosting a Wild Card game. Nope. As of noon yesterday -- which was supposedly the cut off time set by the NFL for selling out to avoid a local TV market blackout -- there were still 8,000 unsold tickets. Can you imagine? And it's not like these so-called "fans" even have to brave the January weather in Minneapolis: they get to sit inside the comfort of the HumpDome. What a bunch of wusses!

According to news reports this a.m., the league extended the deadline until 3;30 p.m. today for the team to avoid the TV blackout. Chances are some corporation will spring for the tickets. Or maybe owner Zygi Wilf (no, that is not random typing that is really a name) and his partners will open up their pockets to avoid the embarrassment of a fan base that basically is saying, "Who cares?". (And these guys deserve a new stadium? Please. You can't get them to sell out the one you've got!)

Now, would this happen anywhere else? Well, yeah. Arizona. That's understandable given the decades of futility for the Cardinals franchise. Fans apparently aren't expecting much in their game against Atlanta. But to be fair, the Cardinals only reported 3,700 tickets left unsold. They received an extension, too.

But back to the ViQueens. Any team's fans that don't support a team enough to sell out a playoff game doesn't deserve to win. Packers fans show up, sell out a stadium, in weather that would make a polar bear shiver, playoff game or not. ViQueens fans? Can't be bothered to show up to a playoff game inside a dome. Bud Grant must be rolling over in his...oh wait, he's not dead yet. OK...but you can bet he'd like to rip all those fair-weather fans a new one.

Go Philly!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Brett: this is why you should never have gone to NY

Ouch! As if it wasn't bad enough for Ol' #4 that he has been getting slammed by the New York media since the Jet's demise this last weekend, his so-called teammates are also letting it fly, so to speak.

You may recall hearing earlier this week that safety Kerry Rhodes basically called Brett out, saying that if he commits to playing with the Jets for next season, he better show that commitment. You know, doing the stuff Brett really didn't have to do his last few years in Green Bay. Things like working out with the team in the offseason, attending the mini-camps, and so on. About Favre, Rhodes said flatly, "But don't come back if it's going to be half-hearted or he doesn't want to put the time in with us."

I ask you: where's the love, man?

But it gets worse. Now, Jets RB Thomas Jones is criticizing Favre's performance in the final game. Jones said in so many words that Brett deserved to be benched because of his poor play. Jones is quoted in an article posted at ESPN's website as having told a New York radio station, "If somebody is not playing well, they need to come out of the game." He said much more than that, too.

The ESPN article also quotes an anonymous Jets player who spoke to Newsday and described Brett as a "distant" teammate. According to this player, when Brett was at the Jets' practice facility he spent his down time away from teammates in an office specially designated for him. "There was a lot of resentment in the room about him. He never socialized with us, never went to dinner with anyone," this player is quoted as telling Newsday.

Again, I ask: where's the love?

Apparently, not in New York.

If Brett thinks he'll have it better in New York next season after all this stuff is being said by his "teammates" he really needs to re-think that whole scenario.

I wonder if Brett sometimes might think that going out in a final career game -- in the NFC Championship Game -- is a heckuva lot better than not making the playoffs and then getting ripped by a bunch of guys who didn't care about you and who you didn't care about either.

Imagine what you had, Brett. Now look at what you've got. Is this really how you wanted it all to end?

Retire, Brett...like you should have done the first time around when you said you would last Spring. Come back home to Green Bay where you know you belong and where you will always get the love of the fans. In New York, as they say, fugetaboutit.

If you want to read the ESPN report, you can do so here.

McCarthy's year-end press conference

As the year 2008 wound down (thank God!), Packers head coach Mike McCarthy met with the media yesterday for his year-end press conference.

Here's a sampler of what he said:

  • It was a season that did not meet expectations (a-duh!)
  • He isn't satisfied.
  • Everything is open for review.
  • He hasn't made any decisions yet on which coaches will be retained or released.
  • He is absolutely certain that the Packers made the right call regarding "the quarterback position."
  • They really do want to settle on a consistent starting five on the O-line.
  • Jason Spitz will have the opportunity to compete with Scott Wells for the starting center job.
  • The loss of DE Cullen Jenkins was a huge blow to the defense (a-duh #2).
  • He does not accept "convenient" excuses for the team's performance and record, e.g., no blitzing, being the youngest team in the NFL for the third straight year, etc.
  • They will continue to run the zone blocking scheme on offense.

There you have a few of the tidbits from McCarthy's 35-minute Q&A with reporters. You can read the full transcript here.

Have a Happy New Year, Packer fans!!!