I am still processing what happened to the Green Bay Packers just hours ago at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. I am still absorbing it all and I’m still formulating my thoughts. But if you’re a Packer fan and you are not crushed by this result, if you’re not devastated and if you are not humiliated by this, then I don’t know what to say.
It doesn’t mean you don’t love your Packers with your whole heart. It doesn’t mean that you think it’s all doom and gloom going forward. It doesn’t mean that you thought the season was a fraud. But you should be devastated because these things are precious. These moments are not guaranteed. Who knows when the next one may come?
I know you’re going to say, “Czabe, I can’t believe you’re being all doom and gloom!”
I’m not being doom and gloom. All I am trying to do is to warn everybody to appreciate what you got before all of a sudden it just sort of vanishes. This season could be a microcosm for the entire Rodgers – Favre era. This season was like the proverbial George Costanza supermodel bar in Seinfeld. George finds this bar that’s off the grid. It’s tucked in between two buildings and it is packed with 9’s and 10’s. Supermodels as far as the eye can see and George goes back on multiple nights until one night, he goes back and it’s gone. The Packers’ 14-win season is nothing to sneeze at. But are we looking at a time where the Super Bowl bar has turned into an empty Warehouse for Green Bay?
It could be a microcosm of more to come. I hope not, but I worry. Aaron Rodgers is 36 years old now and will be turning 37 during next season. Rodgers is not the problem. Let’s me say it again, Rodgers is NOT the problem. But the thing is, he’s also not the answer.
The NFL continues to evolve as it always does. The days of “we got Peyton Manning”, “oh yeah, we got Tom Brady”, “we got Drew Brees” and “we got Big Ben” . . . . those days are gone. You don’t have to necessarily have an unbelievable quarterback. Of course, the Chiefs do in Mahomes. But the NFL continues to evolve and as I said earlier, Aaron Rodgers is not the problem, but he is also not the solution either. This is news because he had been the solution for so long.
So now, we have to wonder what’s next for the Packers?
Obviously you can say the defense was better this year. Middle linebacker, inside linebacker, other pieces on the defensive front, including the Smith brothers, were outstanding this year . . . against the pass. Against the run . . . not so much. You’ve got names on the defensive front who got handled — badly — against a Niner team tonight that just said we’re not even going to throw it.
As a fan, you can say, “We’ll just plug some holes.” The thing is the Packers rolled into this title game with the healthiest team anyone has ever seen for a championship game in mid January. A perfect team. Basically the exact team you thought you would have had to start the season. And not just the exact team you thought you’d have based on all your roster acquisitions and everything else, but a team that was playing great. Plus you had certain guys that probably even out-performed what they’re expected performance value would be back in August. I would say Aaron Jones out-performed what would be an expected year for him on any given season. He was fantastic this year. Will he be fantastic next year? Maybe? Maybe not? That’s the thing.
I don’t know what it is about the defense — I’m not smart enough sitting on the couch, or anywhere else really — to understand why it is the Niners had wide open spaces to run the ball. When you see a score like 37-20, you say to yourself, “if they had just shown up” or if “Rodgers just didn’t fumble”. No. Forget that line of thought.
The operative scores in this game were 27-0 and then 34-6. The game was over at 27-0 and then it was over a second time at 34-6 before Kyle Shanahan really let off the gas. If you didn’t notice, even my dumb couch football brain could see that they played a basic 4-man rush, with very little blitzes, stunts or anything like that. The played a very deep cover shell defense, which got beat a couple of times in the secondary, but that was it. The Niners said we’re just going to run out the clock.
Kyle Shanahan took it easy on Matt LaFleur, his old coaching buddy and brother-in-arms from their time with the Redskins. Shanahan took it easy on LaFleur because they’re friends and because he knew he could have really humiliated him tonight. When it’s 34-6 and you’ve thrown the ball 6 times . . . I mean, that’s just ridiculous!.
And I don’t want to hear people say, “well, they don’t trust Jimmy Garoppolo.” Pfft, get the fuck outta here with that. In previous times in which teams have won with a quarterback throwing very few passes, most of the time it’s because the quarterback is not very good. Jimmy Garoppolo is most certainly not in the “not very good” camp.
The Niners chose not to pass. The made that choice because the run was working and because Kyle Shanahan did not want to humiliate the Packers. He could have let Jimmy Garoppolo throw 12 passes and it would have been 53 to 6 or worse. That’s all it would have taken. I’m sure that after run, run, run, run, run, for Kyle to call one play-action would have caused the Packers defense to fall like a line of dominos. Kittle didn’t get targeted until the 4th quarter. It was an hour and a half between passing plays! That is unheard of in the modern NFL.
I sat there like everyone else and I watched a pure white elephant just walk right past my eyeballs. It could have been way worse. Just imagine if the Niners had started targeting George Kittle. With that much success running the football, it would have been unbelievable for them to just shove Kittle down the Packers throats.
Now didn’t help that Amos got hurt and left the game. Alexander got hurt and left the game. Didn’t help that JK Scott had the sniffles and hit a shank. Didn’t help that Rodgers botched a snap exchange, which I’m assuming was on him, but again, I’m just a dick on the couch I don’t know what or who’s to blame there. Of course, Troy Aikman was of no help whatsoever. It might have helped for the Pack to be more cautious early on and really try to run, run, run the ball and just hold on for dear life. But, in the end, nothing was going to stop the Niners.
So the season is over. It was a great season. It was a hot season. But I’m not sure it means anything. The NFL is not linear in its progression. The Niners were 4-12 last year. Rodgers is not the problem, but also not the answer. So what will be the answer? How do you get this defense to have more “nasty”? And even if the Packers have a good year and go 10-6, go on the road and make it the 2nd round, it’s another page off the calendar for Aaron Rodgers who will now be 38, going on 39.
I love this kid LaFleur and it was a hell of a season to enjoy after the teeth-gnashing, remote-smashing, aggravating as fuck year the 6-9-1 season was under Mike McCarthy last year. Let’s hope it continues.