Green Bay Packers: What must be done to salvage season

Nov 6, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy walks off the field after the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lambeau Field. The Colts beat the Packers 31-26. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 6, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy walks off the field after the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lambeau Field. The Colts beat the Packers 31-26. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

As this season progresses we are finding out that the Green Bay Packers are having some issues.

You can come up with all sorts of excuses for why, at the midway point in the season, that they possess a mediocre 4-4 record. So, what now? How do they salvage the season? I’m glad you asked.  Here are a few places to start.

Better play-calling

I don’t know if that partial year off from play calling has left a black hole in Mike McCarthy’s ability to call a game but something is amiss. McCarthy was always known as a very good play-caller but the Packers offense has struggled over the last year, and it all starts with the coach.

He seems to be out of the flow of the game. His calls, more evident on the critical downs of the game, seem to be predictable and defensible. I’m not sure if he needs to reinvent himself, hand over the play-calling to someone else (which he has already tried, unsuccessfully), or if he should revisit prior game film to find a more prosperous time over that last few years to find out what worked for him.

Something needs to change. The Packers cannot afford to stay the course. That is not working.  They have the talent on offense to make it work. Find something that will keep the defense guessing and that will utilize the weapons they have.

Yeah, Aaron Rodgers might be on to something coach. Go to work.

Playing with more emotion

Aaron Rodgers is right. If you watch last week’s loss to Indianapolis, you can see the lack of emotion on the sideline. Lack of desire. Lack of hustle. It looked like the Packers were expecting the Colts to just lay down and roll over last week. No one, including the Cleveland Browns, are going to do that for you.

Most teams love to play in Green Bay to take in all atmosphere and nostalgia of Lambeau. The Packers needed to be better. More crisp and with more focus. So far this year, that has not happened.

There were numerous plays last week that the Packers were not in the right spot on the field to make the play on offense and defense. Mental mistakes. More fatigue than the other team. More walking around. More frustration.

Why is this?

Brett Favre hit the nail on the head this week when was asked about what was wrong with the Packers. He said that NFL players only have 16 games to do their thing. Every game counts. Every play counts. Give it your all.

Beside Mike Daniels and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, there has been a lot of poor effort by the players on the Packers which includes Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews Julius Peppers and Jordy Nelson. All four are considered to be the leaders of the team. It needs to start there and work its way through the rest of the team.

Gain separation

This has been a problem since last year but it seems like most of the Packers wide receivers and tight ends are not getting the separation from their defenders.

This is not something that you can ramp up as a receiver but it is something you can strive to do better. There is a lot of talent in this receiving crew. Yet, there are not a lot of open targets for Aaron Rodgers to throw to. The receivers that we thought were faster are losing a step or are not comfortable with the offense.

Or maybe they are quietly playing hurt. Maybe they had an errand pass thrown their way. Maybe they are not hustling. Whatever it is they are not getting open and they are not getting separation.  This needs to be a priority on every play by everyone who goes out in a pass route.

Get healthy

Every team deals with injuries. Yet, as a coaching and medical staff, you have to find out why and when many of these injuries occur.

Is it lack of lack of conditioning? Is it improper conditioning? Is it a disregard of proper technique?  Is it mental? Is it lack of confidence? Is it wear and tear on their bodies? Erin Underwood wrote a great piece for Lombardi Ave last week about the Packers’ struggles with soft-tissue injuries.

All of these things could be it or a combination of a few of them. These concerns fall on the head coach, position coaches, strength and conditioning coaches and the players themselves. You cannot cut out injuries but as a staff you have to be aware of how to condition the players, how to rest them and notice when they are not performing at full or close-to-full potential.

Should the Packers throw in the towel and get ready for next year? No. The players and the coaching staff just need to revisit some of these ideas to find out what can make the team perform at a higher level. They are only a game out of first place in the NFC North. It is not too late to turn around this season but something needs to happen sooner rather than later. They have all the tools to still make it to the Super Bowl. They just need to get it all working again.