It is time for the Packers to move on from defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
Bad defense has been as synonymous with the Aaron Rodgers era as anything else. For years, the unit was led by whatever was left of Dom Capers, who like many other Green Bay Packers, has not even found another job since leaving the team. The Packers quickly replaced him with Mike Pettine, and haven’t gotten a lick better.
Pettine’s first year in Green Bay was bad, but a lack of personnel, a firing of the head coach, and numerous injuries had a lot to do with the lack of progress made. But in his second year, Green Bay’s defense was as bad as ever. The new additions of Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith, and Adrian Amos in free agency along with two first-round picks devoted to that side of the ball gave Pettine the horses he needed.
The notion that the defense actually got any better a season ago is ridiculous. The two Smiths were simply flashier players who provided new blood, but little to no progress on that side of the ball. Brian Gutekunst, like his predecessor, has all but entirely ignored the middle linebacker position, bringing in undrafted free agents and the nearly always-injured Christian Kirksey to somehow downgrade from Blake Martinez.
The loss to Tampa Bay was a very convincing encapsulation on what the Packers are, and aren’t. They can ride high against a weak schedule, but will get rag dolled by physical offensive lines and speedy linebackers. Gutekunst should be looking for help at all three levels of his defense.
A trade for an actually competent defensive lineman not named Kenny Clark would do wonders, and a potential move for Joe Schobert or Deion Jones could help too. Kevin King is simply not good enough to handle any of the NFC’s top receivers.
The only player on Green Bay’s defense who is excelling under Pettine is Jaire Alexander. The third-year cornerback has jumped into the All-Pro conversation and is the best all-around cornerback the Packers have had since Charles Woodson. But Alexander desperately needs a hand in the pass rush and across the field at cornerback.
Replacing Pettine won’t fix everything, but it will give the Packers another chance to restart on that side of the ball. While hardly anyone is playing up to their contracts, there is undeniably some talent on that side of the ball. Green Bay will not, under any set of circumstances, get to the Super Bowl with this defense.