Things have changed around the NFL and for the Green Bay Packers


The old man accross the street is dead and gone now, but I’ll never forget what he had to say about the NFL, football, the Green Bay Packers and Brett Favre back in 1997.

We were talking for a while and got on the subject of football. He says that pass, pass, pass stuff is for the birds, flying around with the football. He doesn’t know football unless it’s grinding it out in the trenches for an inch or two here and a foot there to make a difference.

Vince Lombardi, while explaining “extra effort” to his running backs once said, “Football is a game of inches. Sometimes games and drives are won by inches, an inch here, an inch there, and you get the first down. If you miss on getting an inch here and an inch there, you lose the first down and you lose the game.”

“Sometimes games and drives are won by inches, an inch here, an inch there, and you get the first down. If you miss on getting an inch here and an inch there, you lose the first down and you lose the game.”

That old saying is still true, even in today’s pass-all-day-long game – a game that backs a defense off the line to an almost prevent-type defense, and allows the run to go for six or eight yards at a pop.

With a lead, and running the ball for that (8 yards per) kind of gain, play in and out, teams control the clock, holding that lead, and the opponent never gets the ball back to score again.

So, we have moved from “Run to Daylight” to pass to daylight, which in turn, when it’s working well will open the run for larger gains.

There is another almost unnoticed change in football that moved so slowly over the years, from coach to coach, generation to generation.

There have been two-and-a-half generations of football in the past 50 years. If you figure at least two, and maybe more generations have grown to adulthood since the Packers’ glory days of the 1960s.

Those 2-1/2 generations are making bigger players and teams have found ways to put more muscle on bigger frames than were meant to hold as much weight as the linemen of today. The 250 pound lineman of the 1960s are up to 325 pounds in today’s NFL.

Look back 50 years, if you dare.

I have broken down the Packers and Baltimore Colts’ 1964 starting offensive lines. The two averages we took a look at were the average height and weight of the starting offensive linemen on the 1964 Green Bay Packers and the then-Baltimore Colts.

A surprise in averages of the starting lineups in the 2013 rosters of offensive linemen compared to 50 years ago shows that the height is now 1.8 inches taller today than 50 years ago, and 30 to 40 pounds heavier. One of the things that made the Packers great was control of both line of scrimmages. The packers average weight was 11.4 pounds heavier than the Colts in 1964, and yet the one time they played each other, the Colts won.

The old law that bigger will win was wrong. Together the height/weight gave an advantage, but not that one time. This is a known fact in the game of football. The bigger blockers mostly win the battles mostly.

But the human body has limits. There is a point when the person needs to be taller to account for the kind of weight today’s linemen are carrying. A decade ago we saw the first 300-pounders starting on NFL teams.

Even before that the 1980s saw Chicago’s William “Refrigerator” Perry, and there were a few more his size in the years that followed.

Eventualy, the Packers got in on the act, bringing in Gilbert “The Gravedigger” Brown during the Brett Favre years, and he was more than 340 pounds most of his career, in which his team trainers wanted to keep him down to 340 or less.

The strain on his knees allowed for 125 games over the 10 years he spent on Green Bay’s roster. His knees went out at an early age, followed by his lower spine. Players’ bodies are being taken over the limit, going 100 pounds over the normal weight.

It’s been a well documented fact that the Green Bay Packers offense has problems with injuries. The legs are not made to support that kind of weight. Wanting to keep good traction on slippery, wet NFL turf, players can wear longer cleats that help keep slipping from being a problem. But they can keep a foot in position when the rest of the player does not stay in position.

In one or two plays, the injury takes some players out of the game with a sprained ankle ACL tear. As an example, we see this and understand how players get injured more often.

Modern medicine can keep them playing injured longer. Minor sprains are given a break, but in championship games, high paid players are expected to play with injuries not deemed detrimental to further long-term health.

The last game of the season with a tied race for a playoff spot can make a player want to play, but, it also puts players in danger’s way, with injuries that can lead to complications. The player’s health is important to the team, but winning is even more important.No player wants to put themself in a danger zone by playing a playoff game injured.

The woes in Green Bay are at the very least, part of the limits men have between impact and weights the lower body can tolerate. This might be a high percentage of the blame for frequent injuries, and certainly makes good sense.

But then why are other teams filled with players the same size and weight, but not suffering the season-ending injuries that hamper the team’s makeup. The 2014 season in Green Bay is an offensive all-star team of power, speed and talent wrapped into the best 11-man team of starters the Packers have ever seen, on paper to start.

If they can play to their potential for 16 games this season, they will be playing additional games. To do so, injuries must be kept to a minumum. Sitting players may be helpful during the early pre-season, but as the season wears down, this team will need replacements capable of stepping in and continuing with efficient timing on plays that do not allow penetration into the offensive ball handlers.

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  • The personnel on this team has been set up to withstand losing a key player for the season. Others can replace the best players with only minimal changes in getting assignments worked out. A second injury of this sort can be a bit more problematic. Aaron Rodgers saw this last season, and he watched from the sidelines for nearly half a season because of a missed assignment. Need I say more about losing one or two more key linemen offensively? This is a huge concern to team management, even if Ted Thompson or Mark Murphy have not said so.

    It’s not time to pound on the panic button in Packersland, yet. There is time to prepare and hash out the options.

    Players will be cut in a few days, then again in a few weeks. During the next three games, the team will need to adjust to its line of scrimmage, an area that I view as the most important area of intrest on this team.

    A double or triple loss to any unit is trouble, but now the offensive line is starting without one spot that was time tested and ready to go. There is no need to drag on the importance of a change in plans to accomodate this need. You can be sure the proposals have been reviewed and reviewed again, making a list of days, times, places and possible talent left in the mix without a team the Packers might try to bring in yet. It’s getting down to the end of the road in making adjustments, so timely movements are needed to gain the upper hand once again.

    It was an honest statement coach McCarthy made a few weeks back, saying he was confident the protection was there for Rodgers and wished them all a great season.

    Losing a player with the skill to play more than one position can hurt down the stretch of a season. Doing so in preseason is a long time off. Let’s hope this will be the end of the costly injuries for the team this year.

    Then we can say, things have changed for the good.