Season of change ahead for the Green Bay Packers


Jan 12, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) runs the ball against Green Bay Packers inside linebacker Brad Jones (59) during the second quarter of the NFC divisional round playoff game at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Times they are a-changing, especially in the National Football League and specifically so it seems, for the Green Bay Packers.

Just ask Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, A.J. Hawk, Charles Woodson, and Jermichael Finley. They are all unsure of their futures with the 13-time NFL champions. After the Saturday night beatdown they suffered at the hands of the better prepared San Francisco 49ers, there will probably be several others, including those who draw up the game plans, who might be reconsidering their futures.

While many are today calling for the head of defensive coordinator Dom Capers, the jury is still out at this point. But judging from his inability to think on his feet against the 49ers and two straight seasons of bad to mediocre defenses, I tend to agree that the possibility for change in that seat has to at least be considered.

After a few hours to digest what happened last night in San Francisco, frankly I’m still baffled. Yes, Colin Kaepernick is a tremendous athlete. Yes, the Packers offense left at least at couple of scores on the field. Yes, the turnovers gift-wrapped 14 points for the 49ers.

Dom Capers (left) shares some words with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

But it seems, at least in these early hours after the game, that it was the Packers’ coaching that failed in this one – specifically on the defensive side. There were no adjustments made in the second half when things really fell apart – even B.J. Raji and Charles Woodson questioned why no changes were made.

“I think it’s the right defense,” Woodson said after the game. “I just think when the game is going the way it is, you’ve got to try something different. It’s hard to just continue to do the same thing over and over again and continue to get burned. That’s what I was talking about going forward. We need to figure out, could we have done something differently as far as our gameplan was concerned.

“It hurts you bad, especially if you’re in a lot of fire zones. If there is a breakdown somewhere, it’s going to turn into a big breakdown. It was just about trying to execute the defense we were running. That’s what it boils down to. If it works, then it works. If it doesn’t, then like I say, maybe you change. If not, you just try to execute.”

Clearly, the Packers had no answer in trying to execute the defense they were in, nor did the coaches make any attempts to fix what wasn’t working.

B.J. Raji questioned the Packers inability to adjust their defensive scheme Saturday night.

Raymond T. Rivard photograpy

When asked about the defensive scheme in place for the Packers defense and the inability to make any changes, Raji said, “That’s a question better left for the coordinator.”

But one quote that really left me wondering came from Woodson” “What we didn’t anticipate was him running and getting out of the pocket the way he did. Those things killed us. Broke our backs.”


The 49ers have been running the same thing with Kaepernick for the past month. Everybody saw it. Why didn’t the Packers coaching staff? What film were they watching?

When the Packers score 31 points, you expect them to win. The Packers were outplayed, outcoached, outprepared and simply had their butts handed to them in this one.

Clearly, this will be an offseason of many changes on a team that is still among the elite in the league. The difficult part of last night’s loss was the fact that the Packers have, for the second straight year, been knocked in the teeth and knocked out of the tournament in the second round. They are among the eight best teams in the league, but haven’t gotten any better than that since they won Super Bowl XVL.

Cornerback Casey Hayward was a big contributor to the Packers defense this year after serious injuries forced the team to make changes.

In my humble opinion, the Packers are still two offensive linemen, two stud linebackers, two defensive linemen, another defensive back and maybe even a creative defensive coordinator away from taking that next step.

Throw in some luck, a couple of referees’ calls, and the right chemistry in the locker room and the Packers could again be on track for another run at a championship in 2013.

What we have to remember is that winning a Super Bowl is probably one of the more difficult things to achieve in sports. There are 31 other teams with the same goal. With that said, the Packers have consistently been in the running … and that’s because there are a lot of good things going for this franchise.

On the field, you have to start with Aaron Rodgers. His no-quit leadership on the field is the reason the Packers have been so successful. You can add to that the consistent work of head coach Mike McCarthy. I know it’s difficult to acknowledge that fact the day after a humiliating defeat that lands directly in his lap, but what he has achieved during his time with the franchise is nothing short of astounding. We can only expect him to learn from this latest debacle and move the team forward.

And while the Packers will have to adjust to the loss of John Dorsey in their front office, Ted Thompson is among the top five general managers in the league. Like him or not, he consistently surprises us with shrewd drafting and player manipulation – the most recent being the acquisition of DuJuan Harris off the scrap heap of forgotten players. There’s no reason not to think he will continue to pull the trigger on deals that make the team better.

Ted Thompson has been one of the top general managers during his tenure with the Packers. The question is this: For how many more years will he be with the Packers? Raymond T. Rivard photograph

The only question is how much longer Thompson will continue to do what he does in the stress-filled life of the National Football League.

So, on this day of mourning following the Packers convincing defeat to the 49ers, we need to acknowledge the need for changes in the coming months. We need to understand that we will never see this group together again.

Rodgers said it best from a player’s perspective: “Now, you stand here and you realize: It’s the last time that group is going to be together. It’ll be a different team next year. There’ll be additions, subtractions. That’s the most frustrating part. Because you spend a lot of time with those guys, you care about them, you care about this a lot. And then to go out and play like that is disappointing.”

But Rodgers also realizes that with disappointment comes the potential for positive changes that should help the team and allow them to take that next step forward.

To begin, those changes will have to start with the subtractions. Whether it’s Driver, Jennings, Hawk, Finley doesn’t matter. The subtractions will be made and then the need for additions will be considered.

We’ll let the team sort through those needs. No doubt, those changes will be well-thought out and made in the best interest of the franchise and we can again look forward to another strong run by this storied franchise in 2013.

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