Ask any fan of the Green Bay Packers or anyone within the organization and everyone will concur that 2018 has been a frustrating and disappointing season. However if we look back at the previous few offseasons, a rapid decline was all but inevitable.
As is the case heading into most seasons, the Green Bay Packers and their fans had high expectations for 2018 in what most thought would be another playoff berth and a potential Super Bowl run.
With good reasons all of this excitement seemed well warranted.
Star quarterback Aaron Rodgers was returning from his injury, new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was replacing the stale system that Dom Capers had left behind, and new GM Brian Gutekunst was aggressive in his first offseason which is something Packers fans were not accustomed to with Ted Thompson at the helm.
Unfortunately for the Packers, one offseason is not nearly enough time to undo the damage that had been taking place for the previous four years. The institutional errors that have occurred have turned the Green Bay Packers into just an average team at best.
The beginning of the Packers’ descent begins with former GM Ted Thompson and the 2015 draft.
Early on his career Thompson was held in high regard for his ability to draft and develop players with the help of his coaching staff. Hitting on players such as Jordy Nelson, David Bahktiari, Mike Daniels and others is a big reason that the Packers were so dominant.
However from 2015 through his final draft in 2017, Thompson and his ability to draft vanished. It was as if he had forgotten everything he once knew.
After the trade of Ty Montgomery, there are currently no players on the Packers active roster that were drafted in 2015. And before this season began, there were only four full-time starters still on the team from the 2015 through 2017 drafts combined.
The mistakes made in these drafts by Thompson were compounded by his reluctance to utilize free agency to fill any gaps on the roster. Thompson was able to get by with this strategy early on because of his success in the draft, but in recent years the roster developed a lot of holes.
Green Bay’s only choice was to put rookies on the field in big moments, many of whom were late-round picks or undrafted, and expect them to perform like a Pro-Bowl veteran. As stated above, very few of these players are still on the active roster, meaning the holes have never been filled.
In addition, when Thompson did make the decision to spend some money, the players receiving the big contacts haven’t played as well as anticipated.
Between just Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, the Green Bay Packers are taking a nearly $35 million cap hit in 2018. Hindsight is 20/20 but at this point that money could be spent better elsewhere.
For as much grief as Thompson has received in recent years, the finger also needs to be pointed at head coach Mike McCarthy and president Mark Murphy for the their inability to recognize when changes need to be made.
Former defensive coordinator Dom Capers was kept far past his expiration date as the defense floundered in mediocrity, and special teams coach Ron Zook is still coaching even though the special teams unit has consistently been one of the worst in the NFL.
Now it appears that McCarthy has passed his expiration date as well. The Packers offense didn’t just become stale in 2018, it’s been a struggle since 2016 where Aaron Rodgers had to play magnificently to “Run the Table” just to make the playoffs and perhaps extended McCarthy’s career in Green Bay.
In Rodgers’ last 16 games, where he has both started and finished the game, the Green Bay Packers are 7-8-1. To put it bluntly that is absolutely unacceptable.
I will be the first to admit that in 2018 the play on the field from this team hasn’t been the best and that includes Aaron Rodgers. However, the past few offseasons have not set this team up to be successful and the vanilla play designs don’t intimidate opposing teams. Green Bay now finds themselves in the middle of a mini-rebuild.
Fortunately for the Packers they have Brian Gutekunst at GM, who in one offseason has made this roster much more talented. Although he has removed a lot of the players from the Ted Thompson era, they are still a young team.
With nearly $42 million in cap space heading into the 2019 season, according to Spotrac, I expect the Green Bay Packers to make a significant jump from what we have seen this year.
Although 2018 has been a disappointment and I agree that it has, if we look back at the last few offseasons this was inevitable.