Packers humiliating themselves to begin 2017

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22: Matt Ryan /

After their 34-23 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the Green Bay Packers reminded us all of the many problems they still haven’t solved since their title run all those years ago.

After a win against the Seahawks to open up the regular season, there was some optimism in Green Bay as there should be for a team with Aaron Rodgers. All of that hype went down the drain after a fairly predictable loss to the Falcons on Sunday Night Football.

The Packers are the best one-man show in football. Rodgers is the best pure thrower of the football in the history of the sport, yet the team has seen the big game just once during his nine years as the starting quarterback. This is in part to an eternally poor defense, average tight ends, and next to no help at all in the running game year after year.

Since the Packers brought home the Lombardi Trophy seven years ago, they have been one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL. A franchise that could have seen three or four championships by now has instead complacently assumed that because of #12, they’ll be OK.

Not so much. By anybody’s measure, the Packers have been very successful under Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson. A Super Bowl title and eight straight playoff appearances is impressive, but considering the team has a Michael Jordan-type talent at quarterback, it’s been a disappointment.

The Packers are notorious for their atrocious defense. The secondary is especially pathetic, easily surrendering first down after first down to completely wide open receivers every single Sunday. The front seven isn’t exactly the best either, but Clay Matthews has been among the better performers for the team over his time with the Packers.

Sunday night in Atlanta was a microcosm of the larger issues in Green Bay. The Packers just do not have answers for their lingering questions on defense. Dom Capers may be “an outstanding football coach” according to McCarthy, but his time in Green Bay has been extremely questionable.

In 2009-2010, Dom Capers coordinated the second ranked defense in the NFL to the playoffs. A year later, he won it all with the Packers and coached the defense to fifth overall. Since then, and that was some time ago, it’s been a catastrophe.

The Packers rode an MVP season from Aaron Rodgers to a 15-1 record despite having the last ranked defense in the NFL. Despite a juggernaut offense led by the explosive quarterback, the team was in fact out-gained by their opponents over the 16-game season. The Giants lit up the Packers for 37 points in the divisional round and ousted the Packers from the playoffs.

A year later, the Packers went 11-5 and finished 11th in total defense while having the 17th ranked rushing defense. Improvements appeared to have been made until Colin Kaepernick rushed for 181 yards on the Packers and knocked them out of the playoffs again.

In 2013, the Packers plummeted to 25th in total defense and embarrassed themselves in another loss in the playoffs to the 49ers, and into an uncharacteristic free agent signing. Julius Peppers may have handed Father Time its first ever loss during his three years in Green Bay, but even the future Hall of Fame defensive end could only do so much for the 15th, 18th and 11th-ranked defenses during his time in Green Bay.

Now in 2017, it’s the same exact scenario. After a good showing against the terrible offense that is the Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay’s defense reminded us all what they really are a week later in Atlanta: An average defensive line with inexperienced linebackers and a migraine-producing secondary.

Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, and Julio Jones looked like they never left the NFC Championship game. Up and down the field they went on the helpless Packers defenders. This trend has been brewing since the Super Bowl in 2011. Here is a list of the defensive draft picks made under Ted Thompson from 2011-2016:

Davon House, Ricky Elmore, D.J. Smith, Lawrence Guy, Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, Casey Hayward, Mike Daniels, Jerron McMillian, Terrell Manning, Datone Jones, Micah Hyde, Josh Boyd, Nate Palmer, Sam Barrington, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Khyri Thornton, Carl Bradford, Demetri Goodson, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, Jake Ryan, Christian Ringo, Kenny Clark, Kyler Fackrell, Blake Martinez, and Dean Lowry.

Of those 27 players, 16 are no longer with the team. It is only a matter of time before Kyler Fackrell becomes the 17th given his play since being drafted last year. Out of 110 cornerbacks ranked by Pro Football Focus, Damarious Randall checked in at 107th last season. In 2016, Rollins’ second year, he matched Randall’s ranking of 107 out of 110.

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This is not to suggest that there haven’t been hits either. Mike Daniels, Nick Perry, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Kenny Clark look like successes, but the overwhelming majority of the selections have been dismal.

Then there is the offensive side of the ball. Rodgers has guided this unit to a successful eight-year run, but the predictability and lack of creativity has caught up to the Packers. Against the Falcons, the Packers exposed their offensive issues for the world to see. Seemingly only having three plays in their back pocket, the Packers gave the Falcons little to be concerned with when it came to stopping the attack.

Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery had strong games, but the lack of variety was appalling throughout the game. The smoke screen, draw-handoff, and play action go-route are the staples of this offense. You know, what was outdated back in 1980 when Brian Sipe had his MVP campaign.

Down both his starting tackles, Coach McCarthy brutally unhinged his offense calling a fake reverse before seeing his quarterback get swallowed up for a sack. The last play you should call when both your tackles are out, is the one play that will take the longest to develop with your quarterback’s back to the line.

Defenses have stopped playing zone against the Packers. Man-to-man is the name of the game against Green Bay. The Packers offensive game plan is to either hand the ball off to whichever makeshift running back they have, or hope Rodgers can find a receiver before he scrambles out of bounds.

Against Atlanta, coaching errors were easy to find on defense too. Randall was rightly benched after his all-too-familiar disaster of a first quarter, replaced by rookie Kevin King. But late in the fourth quarter, when the Packers were hoping to use whatever vestiges of the clock remained to pull out a miracle win, they messed up.

Clearly in a running situation, Atlanta was not trying to fool anyone with their offensive strategy. So the Packers promptly responded by yanking their best run defender from the game, Jake Ryan. Ryan was replaced by Joe Thomas, primarily a third-down linebacker best used in coverage situations.

Against the NFC’s best in their new arena, the Packers were once again “buzz sawed” by Atlanta. It is downright humiliating to be blown out by a team in the NFC title game, only to come back there a year later and be embarrassed again, almost identically. The Packers actually managed to fall behind by a score of 31-7 slightly earlier than in the title game last season.

Yes, it is just Week 2. Yes, the Packers are dealing with injuries all over the place. Yes, they are 1-1. But, why should anyone expect this team to be any more equipped to advance to the Super Bowl?

Only in Green Bay would a team with Aaron Rodgers have Davon House as its top cornerback. Only in Green Bay would a team with Aaron Rodgers have a wide receiver as its starting running back. And of course, only in Green Bay would a team with Aaron Rodgers have Blake Martinez as its best linebacker.

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That Super Bowl all those years ago is a distant memory for the Packers. In 2017, the league’s most talented player since Jerry Rice has so far been rendered average thanks to very questionable play calling, defensive execution, and offensive diversity.

The clock is ticking on Dom Capers especially, but Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy and the rest of the Packers coaching staff should feel their seat beneath them thawing out from under the frozen tundra.