Green Bay Packers: Being Too Conservative in Big Games Cost Both Mike Sherman and Mike McCarthy

mike sherman and make mccarthy

Since the year 2000, there have only been three permanent head coaches for the Green Bay Packers. Those coaches are Mike Sherman (2000-2005), Mike McCarthy (2006-2018) and currently Matt LaFleur, who was recently hired.

Joe Philbin took over for McCarthy as interim head coach for the last four weeks of the 2018 season after McCarthy was fired and the team went 2-2.

The Packers have been pretty successful in the NFL over the last 19 years with Sherman and McCarthy holding down the fort as head coach.

Sherman was 57-39 in the regular season, with five postseason appearances during that time, which included four straight divisional titles.

However, Sherman was just 2-4 in the postseason, which included the first ever postseason loss in the state of Wisconsin by a Green Bay team.

McCarthy was 125-76-2 in the regular season, with nine appearances in the postseason, which including eight straight seasons at one point and also six NFC North divisional titles.

Although McCarthy and his Packers won Super Bowl XLV, he was just 1-3 in NFC title games and just 10-8 overall in the postseason. Plus, McCarthy was also 0-4 in overtime games in the postseason.

So, how does one read that?

I mean, think about it. In 19 years, the Packers were 184-117-2 in the regular season, went to the postseason 14 times, won 10 divisional titles and a Super Bowl.

I would think any franchise in the NFL, with the exception of the New England Patriots, would be thrilled with those results.

I bring up the Patriots for a reason. The head coach of the Patriots is Bill Belichick, who has been the head coach of the Pats since 2000. Which is exactly when Sherman took over in Green Bay.

In those 19 years, Belichick and the Pats have been 225-79 in the regular season. That also includes 16 appearances in the postseason and 16 AFC East titles, which includes 10 straight times now.

Overall, Belichick is now 28-10 in the postseason with his Patriots after the win on Sunday versus the Los Angles Chargers and have been to eight Super Bowls, winning five of them.

The Patriots will be making an astonishing ninth straight appearance in the AFC title game this upcoming Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Now granted, Belichick has achieved that with Tom Brady as his quarterback.

That being said, Sherman and McCarthy had Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers to work with.

After the Patriots, there are very few teams who have been as successful as the Packers since 2000. The two that are in same area code are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts.

Since 2000, the Steelers have been 197-105-1 in the regular season, went to the postseason 12 times, won nine divisional titles and two Super Bowls.

The Steelers have only had two head coaches since 2000. The first was Bill Cowher, who coached from 1992 through 2006 and now current head coach Mike Tomlin.

Since 2000, the Colts have been 190-114 in the regular season, went to the postseason 14 times, won nine divisional titles and a Super Bowl.

The Colts have been a bit more liberal with their head coaching changes since 2000, starting with Jim Mora (1998-2001), Tony Dungy (2002-2008), Jim Caldwell (2008-2011), Chuck Pagano (2012-2017) and current head coach Frank Reich who took over in 2018.

The common denominator there again is mostly due to the excellent quarterback play, as over that time Ben Roethlisberger had led the Steelers for the most part during that period, while Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck have been under center for the Colts most of the time.

When one looks back on the demise of the Packers under Sherman and McCarthy, I can point to a postseason game that each of them should have won, but instead lost. The main reason was being too conservative.

For Sherman it happened in the 2003 postseason in a NFC Divisional Game versus the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Packers were 10-6 in 2003 and won the NFC North. The Packers had back to back 12-4 seasons going into 2003, but the team had a rough start to the season.

But after a strong second half, when the Packers won six out of seven games, including four straight to end the season, Green Bay lucked out and won the NFC North. I say lucked out, because it took a last-second touchdown pass in a game between the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings to win the division.

Had the Vikings won that game, they, not the Packers, would be NFC North champs. But instead Josh McCown of the Cardinals threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Nathan Poole as time expired. The Cards won the game 33-28 at Sun Devil Stadium and the Vikings not only lost the game, but also a spot in the playoffs.

The Packers took that good karma and ran with it in their Wild Card Game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field. The Packers string of good luck continued, as an Al Harris 52-yard interception return for a touchdown beat Mike Holmgren and his Hawks 33-27 in OT.

That win led to the divisional game against the Eagles. The winner would be going to the NFC title game.

The Packers started fast in the game and led 14-0. The ground game of the Packers was especially effective as running back Ahman Green rushed for 156 yards in the game. The Packers were leading 17-14 late in the game when Sherman had a difficult decision to make.

ahman green vs. eagles in playoffs

It was fourth down and about a foot to go at the 40 of the Eagles. One more first down ends the game. It’s either go for it or punt.  To me, there was nothing to think about. Run for the first down and get ready for the NFC title game the next week.

Why? Well, not only had the Packers been running wild on the Eagles the whole game, they were also ranked third in the NFL in running the ball in 2003. Toting the rock was a big strength of the team.

Still, Sherman decided to punt. The punt went into the end zone and the ball was placed on the 20. The Packers had a net gain of 20 yards after that punt. Plus, Sherman was putting the game in the hands of a defense that was 17th in total defense in 2003 and was even worse in passing defense, as the team was ranked 23rd.

It all led to the 28-yard completion by Donovan McNabb to Freddie Mitchell on the infamous fourth-and-26 play, which led to the game-tying field goal. The Packers later lost in OT, as the Eagles kicked another field goal after Brett Favre was picked off on a deep pass.

I don’t think that team ever got over that loss. Yes, the Packers went 10-6 in 2004 and won the NFC North again, but the team had a number of holes, due to the bad drafts and free agency miscues that Sherman had been part of, as he was also general manager at the time.

It all led to an embarrassing 31-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in a 2004 NFC Wild Card Game at Lambeau Field.

That led to Sherman being stripped of his GM duties, as Ted Thompson was hired for that position. It also led to the Packers driving into the ditch in 2005, as the team went 4-12 and Favre had the worst year of his career.

Shortly thereafter, Sherman was fired. I believe it all stemmed from the postseason game against the Eagles, where had Sherman been proactive instead of be reactive, the Packers probably win.

After Sherman was fired, Thompson hired McCarthy.

McCarthy had a great run as head coach, as I indicated earlier. But when he was one play away from getting his team into their second Super Bowl under him, he decided to play the conservative game, just like Sherman did.

The game I’m talking about is the 2014 NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

The Packers totally dominated that NFC title game for about 55 minutes, but a late meltdown in all phases of the game led to the most agonizing postseason loss in the history of the Packers, as they lost 28-22 in overtime.

The Packers had a number of opportunities where they could have basically ended the game with just one play.

For instance, safety Morgan Burnett went to the ground after an interception, when it looked like he had a good chance to run the pick back deep into Seattle territory (perhaps even a touchdown) which would have clinched the game.

aaron rodgers vs. the seahawks in the 2014 nfc title game

Still, even with that mistake, the Packers could have won on offense by just getting one more first down. Instead of allowing Rodgers, the MVP of the league in 2014 to throw the ball at least one time, head coach McCarthy instead had the Packers run it three straight times when getting a first down basically would have ended the game. The Packers didn’t get the needed first down.

It led to a Seattle touchdown after the ensuing punt.

Then came the onside kick debacle. Instead of blocking like he was supposed to do, so Jordy Nelson could catch the ball, Brandon Bostick tried to be a hero and catch the ball himself. He didn’t and the Seahawks recovered.

Seattle scored again and were now up by three points. The Packers had to drive down the field to tie the game with a Mason Crosby field goal. McCarthy had no choice but to allow Rodgers to throw the ball in that situation and No. 12 quickly got the Packers in field goal position.

The Packers did indeed tie the game but lost in overtime.

Ironically in the 2018 season, at the very same field late in the game facing a fourth-and-2 from their own 33-yard line, McCarthy decided to punt. Yes, the Packers had one timeout left and there was 4:02 left on the clock. But guess what? Green Bay never got the ball back.

The reason was pretty obvious to anyone watching the game in the second half. Because of injuries on their defensive line, the Packers could not stop the running game of the Seahawks. And they didn’t stop them after the McCarthy decided to punt either.

17 days later, McCarthy was fired after the loss to the Cardinals at Lambeau Field.

Now I know what some will say. The Packers did get back into the postseason in 2015 and 2016 after that brutal loss in Seattle in the 2014 NFC title game.

But in 2015, the Packers had to go in as a Wild Card with a 10-6 record, as the team was flat down the stretch and lost the final game of the season to the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field which enabled the Vikings to win the NFC North title.

Then after defeating the Washington Redskins in a NFC Wild Card game at FedEx Field, the Packers had a chance to steal a win in the NFC Divisional round against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

The Packers were trailing 20-13 with 55 seconds left in the game. They were facing a fourth-and-20 from their own four. Somehow, Rodgers miraculously was able to complete a 60-yard pass to wide receiver Jeff Janis, which put the ball at the Arizona 36.

Janis and fellow backup wide receiver Jared Abbrederis were only in the game because of injuries to Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. Jordy Nelson was out for the year with an ACL injury he suffered in the preseason.

It came down to five seconds to go from the Arizona 41. Rodgers once again pulled out another miracle as hit Janis in the end zone for a Hail Mary touchdown.

Earlier in the drive, color commentator Cris Collinsworth said that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Packers went for two if they scored a touchdown. I was thinking the same thing.

The Packers were an injury depleted team. They had just shocked the Cardinals with a late touchdown with no time left. On a drive that went 96 yards in 55 seconds. Arizona was wobbling. But alas, McCarthy decided to kick the extra point and tie the game.

Of course, the Cardinals scored on the opening drive of OT and the Packers lost 26-20.

In 2017, the Packers had to win their last six games of the season which won them the NFC North with a 10-6 record. The team also won two postseason games before they were blown out by the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game 44-21 at the Georgia Dome.

The Packers were never able to regain their swagger under McCarthy, as they team went 7-9 in 2017, as Rodgers missed several games again with another broken collarbone and were 4-7-1 when McCarthy was fired in 2018.

Bottom line, both Sherman and McCarthy had nice runs in Green Bay. But both could have been even more successful had they been willing to put their foot on the throat of their opponents in key moments to win the game.

The Super Bowl trophy is named after Vince Lombardi. Was Lombardi a conservative head coach? Hardly. He blamed himself for the only postseason loss (against the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1960 NFL Championship Game) he ever suffered by going for it on a couple of fourth and short situations and being stopped in Philadelphia territory at Franklin Field.

The Packers lost that game 17-13, as fullback Jim Taylor was tackled at the Philadelphia 8-yardline as time ran out. The Packers needed a touchdown to win the game instead of a field goal that Lombardi could have kicked earlier in the game.

Plus there is the legendary “Ice Bowl” game, also known as the 1967 NFL Championship game. That classic game came down to the Packers having just 16 seconds to go with no timeouts at the Dallas 1-yard line and trailing 17-14.

Bart's QB sneak behind Jerry

Lombardi could have brought in Don Chandler to kick a short field goal to tie the game then, but he decided to go for it and instead went for the touchdown. It worked out perfectly, as quarterback Bart Starr followed Jerry Kramer’s classic block on Jethro Pugh (with help from center Ken Bowman) and No. 15 tumbled happily into the end zone for the winning score.

The Lombardi of current times is Belichick, based on what he done over the past 19 years. Like Lombardi, Belichick is a confident coach and will try to end the game on his terms.  And also like Lombardi did, Belichick trusts his players to get the job done when the situation calls for it.

Now did all the gambles that Lombardi and Belichick utilized work? No. But many more times than not they did. And together the two coaches won 10 NFL titles.

As a head coach, sometimes the situation calls for trusting your players in big moments in big games. Sherman and McCarthy did not in key situations and it ending up costing them. First in the deflating the spirit of their teams, which led to them eventually losing their jobs further down the road.

Green Bay Packers: Matt LaFleur has the Attributes to be a Successful Head Coach

matt lafleur

I’m sure many in Packer Nation asked the same question when it was announced that the Green Bay Packers had hired Matt LaFleur to be their new head coach.

Who the hell is Matt LaFleur?

The 39 year-old LaFleur was definitely an under the radar selection by president Mark Murphy and general manager Brian Gutekunst of the Packers, but when one takes a closer look at the background of LaFleur and peels back the onion a bit, there is a lot to like.

First off, LaFleur has worked under some great offensive minds in the NFL. LaFleur has been an assistant under head coach Gary Kubiak of the Houston Texans, head coach Mike Shanahan of the Washington Redskins, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan of the Atlanta Falcons, head coach Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams before running the offense of the Tennessee Titans in 2018 as offensive coordinator under head coach Mike Vrabel.

At Houston, LaFleur was offensive quality control coach and then was the quarterbacks coach at Washington and Atlanta. In Los Angeles, his title was offensive coordinator, but McVay called the plays. When he became the OC in Tennessee, LaFleur was able to call the plays himself.

Let’s look at the success that players who have been tutored by LaFleur have done.

In 2012, while he was the QBs coach of the Redskins, quarterback Robert Griffin III was the rage of the NFL and became the Offensive Rookie of the Year, as he threw 20 touchdown passes, compared to just five picks for 3,200 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 102.4.

RGIII also ran for 815 yards and seven more scores.

In Atlanta, again as QB coach, quarterback Matt Ryan became the NFL MVP in 2016, as he threw 38 touchdown passes versus just seven picks for 4,944 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 117.1.

Ryan just carved the defense of the Packers apart during the 2016 regular season as he threw three TD passes without an interception for 288 yards and a passer rating of 129. 5, as the Falcons squeezed by the Pack 33-32. But that was nothing compared to what Ryan did to the defense of the Packers in the 2016 NFL title game.

Ryan threw four TD passes, without a pick once again, for 392 yards and a passer rating of 139.4, as the Dirty Birds blew out the Packers 44-21.

matt lafleur and matt ryan

As offensive coordinator of the Rams in 2017, his number one priority was to get second-year quarterback Jared Goff to the next level after a very tough rookie year.

In seven starts as a rookie in 2016, Goff was 0-7 as a starter and had just five TD passes versus seven interceptions for 1,089 yards. That adds up to a paltry passer rating of 63.6.

But in 2017, under the guidance of LaFleur, Goff really took off, as he was 11-4 as a starter, plus threw 28 touchdown passes versus seven picks for 3,804 yards. Goff’s passer rating improved to a very nice 100.4 level.

Not only did LaFleur get Goff on the right track, but the Rams started using the skills of talented running back Todd Gurley much better in 2017.

In 2015, Gurley was the Offensive Rookie of the Year, but in 2016, things went south for the former Georgia Bulldog. In his second season, Gurley only rushed for 885 yards and his yards-per-carry average went down by over a yard and a half, as he only averaged 3.2 yards per rush.

But in 2017 under LaFleur, Gurley had a monster year, as he was named Offensive Player of the Year. Gurley rushed for 1,305 yards (4.7 average) and 13 TDs, plus caught 64 passes for 788 yards and six more scores.

In 2018, as offensive coordinator of the Titans, the offense struggled early, as quarterback Marcus Mariota suffered an elbow injury which would linger all season long.

Tennessee didn’t flash statistically under LaFleur (25th in total offense and 27th in scoring), but he figured out the best way to run his offense down the stretch. It led to five straight wins before the Titans were beaten by the Indianapolis Colts in the final game of the season, in a game which would see the winner get into the playoffs.

Knowing that he had an ailing Mariota dealing with elbow issues, LaFleur leaned on the running game for the last quarter of the 2018 season. Running back Derrick Henry became a force (and you who had him in fantasy football know this), as he rushed for 585 yards and seven touchdowns in four games to end the season.

So, based on the excellent work that LaFleur has done in both the passing and running game, not to mention the coaches he has developed under, it’s no wonder why the Packers made him their new head coach.

The Mike McCarthy tenure had run it’s course and although he and then general manager Ted Thompson had a lot of success over several years, it was time to turn the page. Which is what Murphy did after the brutal loss to the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field on December 2nd.

In addition to all that, reports say that LaFleur is inclined to keep defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and perhaps even keep other coaches as well, including Joe Philbin, who was interim head coach after the firing of McCarthy.

To me, that is good news. As was the report that quarterback Aaron Rodgers gave his blessing to the hiring of LaFleur. That is key.

When McCarthy was hired in 2006, his first priority was to get quarterback Brett Favre back to playing a MVP level again. That’s because is 2005, Favre had his worse season ever, as he threw 20 touchdown passes versus a whopping 29 interception for 3,881 yards. That added up to a very mediocre passer rating of 70.9.

Favre improved in 2006 and then really took off in his last season in Green Bay in 2007, as he threw 28 TD passes versus 15 picks for 4,155 yards. No. 4’s passer rating improved to 95.7 and the Packers made it to the NFC title game.

LaFleur has a similar situation with Rodgers, although not near as much work as McCarthy had to do with Favre.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Green Bay Packers

Most quarterbacks in the NFL would have loved to have the stats Rodgers had in 2018. No. 12 threw 25 touchdown passes versus just two picks for 4,442 yards. That added up to a passer rating of 97.6, which isn’t too far from his career passer rating mark of 103.1, which is tops in NFL history.

Still, something wasn’t right. First, there was an obvious disconnect between Rodgers and McCarthy. Plus, the completion percentage for Rodgers was just 62.3 percent, which is two points lower than his career average. Adding to that, Rodgers threw away more passes than he has ever done in his career and his accuracy was off at times. Sometimes missing low and other times high.

Some of that can be blamed on the sprained knee Rodgers suffered in the first game of the season against the Chicago Bears, but the two-time NFL MVP gutted it out and played in all 16 games.

Speaking of Green Bay quarterbacks, back in 2014, LaFleur was the QBs coach at Notre Dame. Which means he has a good read on the skills of backup quarterback DeShone Kizer, who was with the Fighting Irish then.

It’s important that LaFleur can aid in the development of Kizer and to find out whether or not he is a viable backup QB to Rodgers.

The bottom line is that I believe the hiring of LaFleur as head coach by Murphy and Gutekunst was excellent. LaFleur has proven that he can help make quarterbacks and running backs play much better.

The key now for LaFleur is to put together the best possible coaching staff he can. Keeping Pettine and possibly Philbin are two good moves in my opinion.

Adding an excellent special teams coach will also be paramount to the success of the teams LaFleur will put together in Green Bay.

But just like Vince Lombardi in 1959, Mike Holmgren in 1992 and McCarthy in 2006, I have a feeling that the hiring of LaFleur will yield similar success.

Packer Nation will get to meet LaFleur tomorrow, as he will be introduced as the new head coach of the Green Bay Packers.

 

Green Bay Packers: David Bakhtiari is Deserving of his 2018 AP All-Pro Status

david bakhtiari at jets

On Friday, left tackle David Bakhtiari of the Green Bay Packers was named first-team AP All-Pro. This is the third straight year that Bakhtiari was named to the AP All-Pro team, but in both 2016 and 2017, he was named to the second team.

The honor given to Bakhtiari is rightly deserved, although you wouldn’t know it based on the fact that he was not even named to the Pro Bowl this year. No. 69 was named to the Pro Bowl squad in 2016.

Pro Football Focus also rated him the best offensive tackle in the NFL in 2018. Here is what Austin Gayle of PFF wrote about Bakhtiari:

Bakhtiari is in a league of his own when it comes to pass protection. He was the only offensive tackle with at least 350 pass-block snaps to earn a pass-blocking grade above 86.8 in 2018, allowing just 28 total pressures across his 737 pass-blocking snaps.

PFF also ranks Bakhtiari high in his run-blocking as well.

Since 2013, which was Bakhtiari’s rookie year, the former Colorado Buffalo has started 90 out of a possible 96 games (94 percent). Bakhtiari has played hurt as well, as he has gone out on the field with ankle, knee and hamstring injuries.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has to feel very fortunate to have such a capable pass-blocker protecting his blind side.

That is not always the case at right tackle for Rodgers. The reason? Bryan Bulaga is often injured and not able to play. Bulaga is a very capable right tackle when healthy, but that’s the problem. When healthy are the two key words.

Since 2010, Bulaga has started 95 of a possible 140 games (68 percent). Over the past two years, No. 75 has only been able to start in 23 of the 32 games because of injury issues, plus left a number of those games he has started because he aggravated the injury or suffered a new one.

That has caused some issues, because the Packers have no quality depth at offensive tackle. Jason Spriggs has proven that every time he has come in to play either right tackle or left tackle (when Bakhtaiari was out).

Spriggs is way too inconsistent and has now played three years in the NFL. In my opinion, the Packers should do what they did with Mike Wahle after he showed he could not play offensive tackle. Move Spriggs to guard. It worked out very well for Wahle and what do the Packers have to lose with Spriggs, who is going into the last year of his rookie contract?

Plus there is this. Bulaga is slated to make $8.3 million in 2019. That’s a lot of money for a guy who is often injured.

jonah williams

Jonah Williams of Alabama.

In my opinion, the Packers need to use the draft and free agency to help out their quality depth issues on the offensive line. Mostly at tackle, but also a guard. If I were general manager Brian Gutekunst, I would draft an offensive tackle early in the draft and also one a bit later in the draft.

I would also draft a guard in the draft.

I know the Packers have other positional issues like at edge rusher, safety and tight end, but the health of the face of the franchise (Rodgers) is at stake here.

I’ll be putting out my draft work soon, but just looking at the draft board as I see it now, the Packers should jump at the chance to select Jonah Williams of Alabama if he is still available at pick No. 12 in Round 1, when Green Bay has it’s first of two selections in that round.

NFL scout Chris Landry has Williams rated as the No. 5 player on his overall draft board.

The bottom line is that then GM Ted Thompson tried to address the lack of quality depth at offensive tackle in the 2016 NFL draft when he drafted Spriggs and Kyle Murphy. That has not panned out.

It’s time to finally fix a problem that has been festering for years now.

At least the Packers know that they have the best left tackle in the NFL in Bakhtiari. Now it’s time to get him some quality help on the other side and also someone who will be on the field each and every game.

Starr, Favre and Rodgers Have Been Instrumental in the Packers Series Lead vs. the Bears

Bart, Brett and Aaron(1)

Before Brett Favre arrived in Green Bay in 1992, the series between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, which first started in 1921, was lopsided.

The Bears held a commanding 79-58-6 series lead over the Packers going into the 1992 season.

That was the record then, even with Vince Lombardi as head coach of the Packers, when he was going up against George Halas from 1959 through 1967. During his tenure, Lombardi’s Packers were 13-5 versus “Papa Bear” and da Bears.

The Packers also won five NFL championships under Lombardi, which included the first two Super Bowls. Halas and his Bears also won a NFL title in that era, as Chicago won it all in 1963.

The Lombardi era certainly helped the Packers to gain some ground in the series against the Bears.

The MVP of Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II was Bart Starr. Starr had some great moments against the Bears and was 12-3 against Chicago with Lombardi as his head coach. In all, No. 15 was 15-5 in his career versus da Bears as a starter.

And it was against the Bears that Starr showed Lombardi and his teammates in 1960 (when Starr was splitting time with Lamar McHan at QB) that he was the man to lead them to greatness at quarterback.

Jerry Kramer related that story to me in one of our many conversations.

“We were playing the Chicago Bears,” Kramer said. “Bill George was their middle linebacker at the time. On a deep pass attempt, George thought he would try to intimidate Bart.

“Bill took about a five-yard run and he gave Bart a forearm right in the mouth. George timed it perfectly and put Bart right on his behind. He also cut Bart badly, from his lip all the way to his nose. After that, George said, ‘That ought to take care of you Starr, you pu**y.’ Bart snapped right back at George and said, ‘F— you, Bill George, we’re coming after you.’

“My jaw dropped after that exchange, as I was shocked. Meanwhile Bart was bleeding profusely. I told Bart that he better go to the sideline and get sewn up. Bart replied, ‘Shut up and get in the huddle.’

“Bart took us down the field in seven or eight plays and we scored. That series of plays really solidified Bart as our leader and we never looked back.”

Bart vs. da Bears

In all, Starr was also the NFL MVP in 1966, plus was 94-57-6 as a starting quarterback with the Packers. In addition to that, No. 15 was an amazing 9-1 in the postseason, which included five NFL championships (including three titles in a row) and victories in the first two Super Bowls.

Still, before the arrival of Favre, the Packers chances of ever catching the Bears in their series seemed very remote. But in 16 years in Green Bay, Favre had a 22-10 record against Chicago.

Overall, Favre had a fantastic career in Green Bay, as he had 160 wins over 16 seasons, with 96 of those wins occurring at Lambeau Field (.762 winning percentage).

The former Southern Miss gunslinger also started 253 straight games (275 including the postseason) for the Pack in his career, plus Green Bay won the NFC Central/North seven times.

Favre also threw 442 touchdown passes for 61,655 yards while he was a Packer and also won three straight NFL MVP awards in 1995, 1996 and 1997.

And like it was with Starr, the Packers were regulars in the postseason under Favre, as the Packers went there 11 times under Favre.

The biggest prize of them all was the victory in Super Bowl XXXI.

Favre’s most memorable win against the Bears had to be on Halloween night at Soldier Field in 1994. That was the night that the Bears were retiring the jerseys of both Dick Butkus (No.51) and Gale Sayers (No. 40), plus both Green Bay and Chicago were wearing their throwback jerseys.

It was a scary night weather-wise, as the temperature was in the low 40s on a very windy and rainy night. It was raining sideways for awhile as a matter of fact. Favre didn’t have his best night throwing in those conditions, even with his strong arm, but he did throw for 82 yards and one touchdown, without throwing a pick.

It was Favre’s legs that made the difference in the game though, as he rushed for 58 yards on just two carries, including a memorable 36-yard touchdown scamper. The Packers as a team ran for 223 yards, which was very Lombardi-like.

But in his career, Favre always seemed to throw well against Chicago. In 1995, playing with a heavily-wrapped ankle, Favre threw five touchdown passes against the Bears in a 35-28 win at Lambeau Field.

In 1993 at Soldier Field, Favre threw for 402 yards, which was the first and only time he threw for 400 yards in his Green Bay career. It was also at Soldier Field in 1995, when Favre completed a 99-yard touchdown pass to Robert Brooks in a 27-24 victory.

Brett vs. da Bears

Aaron Rodgers took over for Favre in 2008 and he has truly been a Bear-killer, as he has a 16-4 record against Chicago in the regular season, plus beat da Bears at Soldier Field in the 2010 NFC title game.

The numbers that Rodgers has put up against Chicago have just been amazing. In 20 regular season games against the Bears, Rodgers has thrown 45 touchdown passes versus just nine interceptions for 4,882 yards. That adds up to a very robust passer rating of 108.3.

The first game of the 2018 season against Chicago on Sunday night at Lambeau Field added more to his legend against the Monsters of the Midway. In that game, Rodgers suffered a knee sprain that saw the quarterback leave the field on a cart in the second quarter.

But No. 12 returned in the second half, basically playing on one leg. And what a performance he put on! The Packers were down 20-3 , when Rodgers brought the Packers back.

Rodgers threw three touchdown passes without a pick in a stirring comeback as the Packers won 24-23.

As great as that game was for Rodgers, he has beaten the Bears in even more dramatic fashion.

Like in the season finale in 2013 at Soldier Field, when the winner of that game would be NFC North champs.

Rodgers had missed seven games due that year to a broken collarbone, which ironically occurred when the Packers played the Bears at Lambeau Field in Week 9.

In that game, Rodgers appeared to be a bit rusty due to his layoff, but No. 12 still threw for 315 yards with two touchdown passes versus two picks.

But the second touchdown he threw in that game was one that will live on in Green Bay lore. With 46 seconds to go in the game and with the Packers trailing the Bears 28-27, Rodgers and the Packers faced a fourth-and-8 scenario.

In the moment of truth, Rodgers first avoided being sacked by Julius Peppers by sprinting to his left and getting a chip-block by fullback John Kuhn. Rodgers then delivered a 48-yard touchdown pass on the move to wide receiver Randall Cobb, as the Packers won 33-28.

Rodgers to Cobb in 2013 vs. da Bears

In his career, Rodgers has followed in Favre’s footsteps quite well, as he is on his way to breaking some of the tremendous records that No. 4 set in Green Bay.

Rodgers is 98-55-1 as a starter, plus has thrown 336 touchdown passes versus just 79 picks for 42,202 yards. No QB in NFL history has ever thrown for a 4-1 ratio for TD passes vs. picks like Rodgers has. Add to that, Rodgers is the highest rated passer in NFL history, with a 103.4 mark.

Rodgers has also won the NFL MVP award twice (2011 and 2014).

And like Starr and Favre, Rodgers has led his team to the playoffs several times, as he has done it nine times, including eight seasons in a row.

In fact, like Starr did twice, Rodgers was the MVP of Super Bowl XLV, as the Packers beat the Steelers 31-25.

Rodgers can perhaps make it to the postseason for the 10th time this year, but the Packers will need to win their last three games of the year, starting with Sunday’s game against the Bears.

The Packers will also need some good fortune to get in if they do that, but the odds have gotten better as of late.

The Packers need the Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins to lose one of their last three games to pass all three of those teams in the Wild Card race. That has a decent chance of happening, perhaps even this weekend.

The Eagles have to go out to Los Angeles to play the Rams, while the Panthers will host the New Orleans Saints and finally the Redskins have to travel to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars.

If those three teams lose just one game, then the Packers would need one more set of odd circumstances to occur. They need the Minnesota Vikings to lose two out of their last three games.

The Vikings have lost three out of their last four games, with their lone victory coming against the Packers in Minneapolis. So, you just never know.

But all of that will be a moot point, unless the Packers can take care of the Bears.

The good news is that the Green Bay offense looked much more in rhythm last Sunday under new head coach Joe Philbin than it did under Mike McCarthy most of this season.

That needs to happen again this Sunday at Soldier Field, plus the defense and special teams need to do their jobs as well.

Bottom line, based on the track record of Rodgers against Chicago, I wouldn’t bet against No. 12 in pulling off another dramatic win.

What If the Green Bay Packers Had Not Hired Vince Lombardi?

Vince meeting Dominic to become the new head coach of the Packers

Vince Lombardi is greeted by the President of the Green Bay Packers, Dominic Olejniczak.

With the somewhat abrupt firing of head coach Mike McCarthy after his Green Bay Packers suffered a bad 20-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday, I started to think about the some of the coaching hires that the Packers had made in the past, as Mark Murphy and Brian Gutekunst will now have to find another head coach.

I started specifically thinking about the coaching hires that brought NFL championships to Green Bay.

When Ron Wolf was brought in by Bob Harlan in 1991, he had total control and full authority as general manager to hire the next head coach after he had fired Lindy Infante after the ’91 season.

Initially, Wolf wanted to bring in Bill Parcells to be the head coach of the Packers, but because Parcells was going to have open-heart surgery, it was decided that the time was not right for that hire.

Wolf ended up hiring Mike Holmgren, who was definitely the hot NFL assistant coach prospect of his day because of his fine work with the San Francisco 49ers, as both quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.

Holmgren had a great seven-year tenure with the Packers as head coach, which was helped by the fact that Wolf had traded away a first-round pick to get Brett Favre from the Atlanta Falcons.

In those seven years, the Packers were 75-37 in the regular season, made the playoffs six times, won three NFC Central titles, won two NFC championships and also Super Bowl XXXI.

Overall, Holmgren was 9-5 in the postseason.

Favre also won three consecutive NFL MVP awards under Holmgren from 1995 through 1997.

In 2006, after general manager Ted Thompson fired head coach Mike Sherman, he conducted several interviews with head coach candidates, including current NFL coaches Sean Payton and Ron Rivera, before finally settling on McCarthy.

Like Holmgren, McCarthy had a great run in Green Bay as head coach, both with Favre (for two years) and Aaron Rodgers as his quarterbacks.

In 12-plus seasons, McCarthy’s teams had a 125-77-2 record in the regular season. His teams made the playoff nine times, won six NFC North titles, played in four NFC title games and won Super Bowl XLV.

Overall, McCarthy was 10-8 in the postseason.

This brings me to the hiring of Vince Lombardi in 1959 by the Packers. David Maraniss wrote about the hiring process that the Packers went through that year in his fantastic book, When Pride Still Mattered.

The bottom line is that hiring Lombardi almost didn’t happen.

While the 1958 regular season was still ongoing and with Scooter McLean’s Packers having a 1-8-1 record, the first part of the 1959 NFL draft was held. In those days, the draft was was staggered, with the early rounds done in late November or early December and the later rounds done in mid-to-late January.

This was done from 1956 through 1959. The draft was 30 rounds in those days.

There was speculation that the Packers were interested in bringing in Forest Evashevski, who had been very successful as the head coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes.

From 1952 through 1958, the Hawkeyes under Evashevski were 39-22-4 and had won two Big Ten titles and two Rose Bowls. And in 1958, the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America) voted Iowa as the national champion.

The quarterback for that Iowa team was Randy Duncan. And guess who the Packers selected in the first round of the 1959 NFL draft as the first overall selection? You guessed it. It was Duncan. That really stoked up the talk that “Evy” was going to be the next head coach of the Packers.

But there was another fellow who was very interested in becoming the Packers new head coach. And this fellow knew all about the Packers, as he was one of the founders of the team and was their first head coach. Yes, I’m talking about Curly Lambeau.

Lambeau coached the Packers from 1921 to 1949, as the team won 209 games (a .656 winning percentage) and six NFL championships.

Lambeau and Lombardi

Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi on the cover of the Green Packers Packers Yearbook in 1965.

The newest Packer player to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Jerry Kramer, saw Lambeau late in the 1958 season when the rumors about who might be the next coach of the Packers were really swirling.

“Before we played the Rams in Los Angeles in 1958 on the last game of the season, a bunch of us went out to dinner at the Rams Horn restaurant, which was owned by Don Paul, who used to play linebacker for the Rams,” Kramer said. “Our group included Paul [Hornung], Max [McGee], Jimmy [Taylor] and Fuzzy [Thurston].

“We noticed that Curly Lambeau was also at the restaurant. By then, the word have been circulating that Scooter McLean would soon be without a job as our head coach. So when Curly sat at our table, we asked him if he was interested in coming back to the Packers and being our next head coach. Curly said, ‘Hell yes!’ So we all figured that would end up happening.”

In fact, three days after the Packers lost to the Rams 34-20 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, McLean submitted his resignation to the Packers.

Soon after McLean’s resignation, as Maraniss noted in his book, Lambeau sent a wire to the Packers promoting himself to become general manager of the team, which would likely include also becoming head coach as well. At least based on what he told Kramer and the other Green Bay players in Los Angeles.

Lambeau even flew into Green Bay and met with Dominic Olejniczak, who was the president of the Packers board of directors.

But Lambeau had burnt too many bridges with the Packers executive committee, as I wrote about Lambeau’s time in Green Bay.

For instance, Lambeau ticked off members of the executive committee by purchasing the Rockwood Lodge north of Green Bay for $25,000 for the Packers to practice at from 1946 to 1949.

There were also a number of people who were not that enamored with Lambeau anyway, as he spent his offseasons in California. The word in Green Bay was that “Lambeau’s gone Hollywood”, especially among committee members.

Plus Lambeau’s teams weren’t exactly playing well either at the end of his tenure in Green Bay. The Packers went 3-9 in 1948 and then 2-10 in 1949.

Then after the Rockwood Lodge burned down on January 24, 1950, Lambeau resigned a week later to coach the Chicago Cardinals (later the St. Louis Cardinals, the Phoenix Cardinals and now the Arizona Cardinals).

The Cardinals were considered a very talented team when Lambeau arrived there. The Cardinals had won the NFL championship in 1947 and had played in the NFL title game in 1948, and next to the Chicago Bears, were clearly the next-biggest rival to the Packers at the time.

The only thing that could have made his departure worse, was if Lambeau had gone to the Bears to be their head coach.

The shining light of the Packers in the 1950s was super scout Jack Vainisi. That decade was the worst in Green Bay history, as the Packers were 32-74-2 heading into the 1959 season.

Still, Vainisi accumulated some fantastic talent for the Packers in the NFL draft, as he selected seven players who would eventually be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Vainisi also led the charge in getting Lombardi to come to Green Bay. He talked to coaches like Red Blaik, George Halas and Paul Brown, who all heartily endorsed Lombardi.

Vince and Jack

Vince Lombardi talks with Jack Vainisi.

It was Vainisi who convinced the Packers board of directors that Lombardi was the man they needed to hire.

And that’s what they did. The board named Lombardi not only head coach, but also general manager.

Lombardi had a .754 winning percentage in the regular season as head coach of the Packers, as the team had an 89-29-4 record over nine years.

But in the postseason, the Packers really shined under Lombardi, as the team went 9-1, as the team won five NFL titles in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls.

Would Evashevski or Lambeau had the same success? I mean, both were very successful coaches.

The answer is highly unlikely.

There is a reason why the Super Bowl trophy is named after Vince Lombardi.

He was not only a great coach, but a great teacher, a great motivator and a great man.

Kramer said it best to me once.

“Coach Lombardi had a tremendous impact on my life,” Kramer said. “The fundamentals that he taught us were fundamentals for life. They were about football, but also about business or anything else you wanted to achieve.

“You would use the Lombardi principles. He believed in paying the price. He believed in hard work and making sacrifices for the betterment of the team. His principles were preparation, commitment, consistency, discipline, character, pride, tenacity and perseverance.

“Those things are still helping me today.”

 

The Track Record of Aaron Rodgers vs. the NFC North Gives the Packers Hope

Aaron Rodgers vs. the Vikings in 2016

Although the Green Bay Packers are 4-5-1 after 10 games in the 2018 NFL season, there is still hope that the Packers can still make the playoffs. The biggest reason is quarterback Aaron Rodgers, as he will be playing all three of his NFC North rivals during the final six-game stretch of the year.

Rodgers is a combined 41-15-1 versus the Minnesota Vikings (12-7-1), Chicago Bears (16-4) and Detroit Lions (13-4).

There is a big reason for his success. It’s the numbers he puts up against those teams. Combined, Rodgers has thrown 122 touchdown passes compared to just 21 interceptions for 19,122 yards against his biggest rivals. That adds up to a combined passer rating of 109.4, which is even better than his all-time NFL best career mark of 103.7.

That rating is helped by his off the charts ratio of touchdown passes (332) vs. interceptions (79). That means that Rodgers throws 4.20 touchdown passes compared to every pick he throws.

No one else in NFL history comes close. In fact, Tom Brady (3.02) of the New England Patriots and Russell Wilson (3.01) of the Seattle Seahawks are the only other QBs in NFL history to be above the three to one ratio when comparing touchdown passes to interceptions.

Bottom line, since Rodgers became the starting QB of the Packers in 2008, Rodgers and the Packers have won the NFC North five times and have made the playoffs eight times overall.

Currently, the Bears lead the NFC North with a 8-3 record, followed by the Vikings at 5-4-1, the Packers at 4-5-1 and the Lions at 4-7. The Bears and Lions have played one more game, as they met in Detroit on Thanksgiving, as Chicago won 23-16.

Rodgers has had a very good 2018 season, as he has thrown 19 touchdown passes versus just one pick for 3,073 yards. Plus, he has played very well against his NFC North rivals as well.

Against da Bears and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the season opener at Lambeau Field, Rodgers had a 130.7 passer rating, as he threw three touchdown passes without a pick for 286 yards. Most of this came after No. 12 had his season almost ended on one of the two sacks he took that night, as Rodgers suffered a knee sprain that saw the quarterback leave the field on a cart in the second quarter.

But Rodgers was able to come back in the second half, as he led the Packers back from a 20-3 deficit, as Green Bay roared back to beat Chicago 24-23.

Aaron versus da Bears at Lambeau in 2018

In Week 2, versus the Vikings at Lambeau, on the same day the Packers put Jerry Kramer’s name on the stadium facade and he was given his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring, the Packers saw a sure win taken away from them due to a very controversial roughing the quarterback call against Clay Matthews as he hit Kirk Cousins.

The game ended in a 29-29 tie, as Rodgers threw for 281 yards and a touchdown (without a pick). No. 12’s passer rating in the game was 97.4. And this all happened a week after Rodgers almost had his season ended against da Bears with his knee injury.

As it was, the Vikings sacked Rodgers four times.

In Week 5 against the Lions at Ford Field, Rodgers and the Packers were hurt by the kicking game, as kicker Mason Crosby missed four field goals and an extra point, as Detroit beat Green Bay 31-23.

Rodgers had a nice game, as he threw three touchdown passes without a pick for 442 yards. That added up to a passer rating of 108.0.

But for the Packers to have any chance of making the postseason, either as division champs or as a Wild Card team, they have to certainly defeat the Vikings Sunday night at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Rodgers can’t do it alone, but he has to play well for Green Bay to win. And as good as Rodgers has played in 2018, in spite of his lingering knee issues, he has also shown a few tendencies that have been rare throughout his career.

For one thing, Rodgers has just a 61.8 completion percentage this season, which is the second lowest of his career (64.9 average). Some of that could be due to his knee woes, plus he is playing with a number of younger wide receivers, including rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown.

That has led to a number of inaccurate throws to open receivers. Besides that, we can’t forget that Rodgers has suffered two broken collarbones in his career, including the one from last season (after a hit by Anthony Barr of the Vikings) when Rodgers had to have 13 screws put in to repair his broken collarbone.

Still, Rodgers is still playing at a very high level, even though the Packers are 1-3 in their last four games. In those four games, Rodgers has thrown seven touchdown passes without a pick for 1,076 yards. That adds up to a combined passer rating of 108.2.

Teams should not be 1-3 when their quarterbacks play like Rodgers has the past four games overall, but it goes to show that there are a number of other issues with the 2018 Packers.

And a lot of heat is going in the direction of head coach Mike McCarthy.

Besides utilizing the skills of Rodgers on offense, the Packers also need to rely on running back Aaron Jones more.

The defensive and special teams units have to play better as well.

All that being said, Rodgers is the best chance the Packers have in getting back to the postseason again in 2018, after missing out in 2017.

A lot of that is due to the great success Rodgers has had against his NFC North rivals in his career.

The Hourglass is Running Out on Mike McCarthy’s Tenure in Green Bay

Mike McCarthy in Seattle

When one looks at the track record of Mike McCarthy as head coach of the Green Bay Packers over close to 13 seasons, there is a lot to like.

Things like having a 125-75-2 record in the regular season, which equates to a .624 winning percentage. That includes six NFC North titles.

Plus there is the fact that the Packers have been to the postseason nine times under his watch, including eight seasons in a row. But even though his team won Super Bowl XLV, McCarthy has not fared as well in the postseason overall, as he is just 10-8.

Included in that were three losses in the NFC title game, two of which were lost in overtime. In addition to that, McCarthy’s teams have lost two other postseason games in overtime.

That’s four overtime losses in the postseason.

Just imagine what McCarthy’s record might be in the postseason if his teams got a break or two in those games. Instead of 10-8, McCarthy’s record in the postseason might be much better and might include another Vince Lombardi Trophy or two.

But sometimes you have to create your own breaks. And that’s where some of us take issue with McCarthy’s tactics over the years in big games. Like being too conservative.

I’ll give you two examples and they both happened in the same stadium (CenturyLink Field) when the Packers played the Seattle Seahawks.

The first example is the 2014 NFC championship game. The Packers dominated the game for 55 minutes, but a breakdown on offense, defense and special teams in the last five minutes led to an agonizing 28-22 loss in overtime.

At one point the Packers were basically one more first down away from putting the game away. So what plays did McCarthy call in that instance? Three straight running plays. This with the 2014 NFL MVP (Aaron Rodgers) as your quarterback.

Then on Thursday night with the Packers down 27-24 with 4:02 to go in the game and the Packers facing a fourth-and-2 from their own 33-yard line, with just one timeout, McCarthy decided to punt, again with Rodgers as his QB.

The Packers never got the ball back, as the Packers were having big issues stopping the run in the second half of the game, plus defensive lineman Mike Daniels was out of the game with an ankle injury and fellow D-lineman Kenny Clark had also limped off with an injury.

So what was McCarthy’s explanation?

“We have the injuries to Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels, so yeah, it was definitely a consideration there,” McCarthy said. “But with the one timeout and the ability to stop the clock at the two-minute [warning], we played the numbers.”

That doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense.

Which is why the now 4-5-1 Packers might not make the postseason for the second straight year. Which also places McCarthy is the hot seat of being perhaps fired.

I hear from a lot of fans that McCarthy was fortunate that he had Brett Favre and Rodgers playing quarterback for him during most of his tenure. Plus, when Rodgers was hurt last year, the team didn’t fare very well with Brett Hundley at quarterback.

That is true, but at least McCarthy was smart enough to bring back Matt Flynn in 2013 when Rodgers was out with a similar injury. That helped the Packers achieve their third straight NFC North title.

But now things look much worse. It certainly appears that McCarthy and Rodgers are not on the same page in terms of the play calling on offense.

Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers

Plus, now McCarthy doesn’t have Ted Thompson as his GM anymore. That job now belongs to Brian Gutekunst. But even with a new general manager, the decision to keep or fire McCarthy lies with team president Mark Murphy.

On Friday, McCarthy talked to the media about his job status.

“That’s the job,” McCarthy said. “That’s the way this business has gone. I’m not going to get into comparables, but at the end of the day that’s part of the job responsibility of the head coach.

“We set a standard here the past 12 years, and it’s our responsibility to play to that standard.”

But McCarthy also realizes that things are different in today’s NFL, especially now that people can get information off the social media.

“I don’t think you can tune (criticism) out,” McCarthy said. “That’s the old days. That’s when you had newspapers. But I think today’s world, everything is accessible, everything is instant. I’m sure (Packers players are) all aware.”

McCarthy has been down this road before with his team, both in 2013 (when the Packers need a strong push from Flynn at the end of the season) and in 2016 (when the Packers need to win the last six games of the season to win the NFC North and make the playoffs).

Green Bay almost certainly has to run the table again with six straight wins in 2018 for the team to perhaps win the NFC North or get in as a Wild Card.

The odds of that don’t seem too good, especially knowing the team is 0-5 on the road.

There is growing speculation that McCarthy’s time in Green Bay is short. An article by Mike Silver of NFL.com illustrates that.

In the article, Silver uses a couple of quotes about McCarthy’s decision to punt late in the game.

Defensive back Tramon Williams of the Packers shared his thoughts on that subject.

“I want to go for it,” Williams said. “I want to play to win. We’ve got Aaron Rodgers. We (should) play to win — period. We don’t want to put it in anybody else’s hands. We’ve got the best quarterback in the league. We’ve got to put it in his hands and let him do what he does.”

Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. of the Seahawks was very happy with McCarthy’s decision.

“Oh my God,” Norton said after the game. “I was like, ‘Please! Punt! Punt! Punt!’ ”

Time will tell how this will all play out, but unless things change pretty drastically, the Packers will most likely will have a new head coach in 2019.

The Packers Can Exorcise Some Demons in Seattle on Thursday Night

Brandon Bostick Flub vs. Seahawks

Since Aaron Rodgers became the starting quarterback of the Green Bay Packers in 2008, he is 6-2 lifetime versus the Seattle Seahawks in the regular season and 0-1 against the Hawks in the postseason.

All three of those defeats happened at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, where it seems like every game between the two teams in the Emerald City has been written by Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame.

In 2012, the Packers lost 14-12 on the final play of the game on the infamous “Fail Mary” pass that was “caught” by Golden Tate.

In the season opener in 2014, the Packers were whipped 36-16, as Rodgers was sacked eight times in the first half alone.

But the topper was the 2014 NFC title game.

The Packers dominated that NFC championship game for about 55 minutes, but a late meltdown in all phases of the game led to the most agonizing postseason loss in the history of the Packers, as they lost 28-22 in overtime.

The Packers had a number of opportunities where they could have basically ended the game with just one play.

Plays like safety Morgan Burnett going to the ground after an interception, when it looked like he had a good chance to run the pick back for a touchdown, which would have clinched the game.

Or just getting one more first down. Instead of allowing Rodgers, the MVP of the league in 2014 to throw the ball, head coach Mike McCarthy had the Packers run it three straight times when getting just one first down basically would have ended the game.

Or just not screwing up on an onside kick, which is exactly what backup tight end Brandon Bostick did. Instead of blocking like he was supposed to do, so Jordy Nelson could catch the ball, Bostick tried to be a hero and catch the ball himself. He didn’t and the Seahawks recovered.

But all that is in the past now.

The good news is that Rodgers normally plays very well against the Seahawks. In the eight regular season games he has played against Seattle, Rodgers has completed almost 69 percent of his passes and has thrown 10 touchdown passes versus just two picks for 1,663 yards.

That adds up to a passer rating of 101.5.

That comes close to Rodgers’ career rating of 103.5, which is tops all time in the NFL, based on 1,500 passing attempts.

Aaron Rodgers vs. Seahawks

On Thursday night, Rodgers will be going up against the quarterback who is second on the all-time career passer rating. That would be the former Wisconsin Badger, Russell Wilson, who has a career passer rating of 99.7.

Wilson is 2-3 against the Packers in the regular season, and 1-0 versus the Pack in the postseason. All three of his wins happened at CenturyLink Field.

In the five regular season games, Wilson has thrown seven touchdown passes versus six interceptions for 925 yards. The completion percentage for Wilson is just under 58 percent. All told, his passer rating is just 75.8.

Both Rodgers and Wilson are playing better than the 2018 versions of their respective teams.

The Packers are 4-4-1, but Rodgers is having another Pro Bowl season, as he has thrown 17 touchdown passes versus just one interception for 2,741 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of exactly 100.

The Seahawks are just 4-5, but Wilson has thrown 21 touchdown passes compared to five picks for 1,967 yards. That adds up to an outstanding passer rating of 110.2.

In terms of how this game will play out, the Packers are ranked seventh in total offense and 11th in total defense. The Seahawks have struggled a bit on offense at times, as they are ranked 22nd in total offense and 12th in total defense.

As good as both quarterbacks have been for each team, the Packers and Seahawks both are more successful on offense in different ways.

The Packers are sixth in the NFL in passing, while the Seahawks are just 27th. But when it comes to running the rock, the Seahawks lead the NFL in rushing, as they average over 152 yards per game. The Green Bay running game (14th in the NFL) is getting better as well, as Aaron Jones has been a catalyst in that improvement.

While the Packers primarily use Jones (494 yards and a 6.8 yard rushing average) and Jamaal Williams (270 yards) to tote the rock, the Seahawks have been effective with three different running backs.

The Hawks have used Chris Carson (497 yards), Mike Davis (346 yards) and Rashaad Penny (254 yards).

The Packers are tied for the NFL lead in rushing average with the Denver Broncos, as they average 5.2 yards per carry. The Seahawks are tied for seventh with a 4.8 rushing average.

When it comes to the passing game, the Packers look to Davante Adams more times than not and No. 17 is having another outstanding season. Adams has 62 receptions for 787 yards and nine touchdowns.

The wide receiver who is really coming on for the Packers is rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The rookie out of USF has 23 catches for 402 yards (17.5 average) and two scores. Lately the rookie has been getting as many snaps at wide receiver as Adams has. That tells you how much the Packers think of him.

The Packers also have former Seahawk Jimmy Graham at tight end. No. 80 has not produced like many thought he would in Green Bay, but is still a dangerous weapon, especially in the red zone. For the year, Graham has 33 catches for 439 yards and two touchdowns.

One of the reasons that the passing game has not jelled as much as it could for the Seahawks has been because of the injury issues (knee) with Doug Baldwin (23 catches for 275 yards). No. 89 is as healthy as he has been all year right now.

Russell Wilson vs. Packers

The primary target for Wilson has been Tyler Lockett, who has 33 receptions for 483 yards and seven touchdowns.

Nick Vannett has been the primary target at tight end, as he has 20 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns.

The strength of the Green Bay defense has been the play of their young secondary, especially rookies Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson. Overall, the Packers are 5th in the NFL in passing defense.

On defense, the Packers might have an advantage, as defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was a consultant with the Seahawks in 2017 under head coach Pete Carroll. Pettine knows the personnel of the Hawks pretty well and he understands what it will take to stop Seattle defensively.

Stopping the run is No. 1 and that is where the Packers have to improve, as they are ranked 22nd in the NFL in run defense, as Green Bay gives up an average of almost 121 yards per game and 4.5 yards per carry.

Going up against the best running team in the NFL will be a real test.

But if the Packers can stop the run or at least shut it down somewhat, Green Bay should be able to put pressure on Wilson when he goes back to pass.

Some may find this hard to believe, but the Packers are tied for the NFL lead in sacks with 31, along with the Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have given up 29 sacks, which ranks them seventh in the NFL in sacks allowed.

Like the Packers do with Pettine, the Seahawks also have someone who knows the Green Bay personnel pretty well. That would be backup quarterback Brett Hundley, who the Hawks acquired via trade.

Bottom line, this should be one hell of a game, but I like the Packers to exorcise some demons in this game and get a big victory. A win would be a key turning point for the team in 2018.

That’s how important this game is for the Packers, especially with the Vikings being their next opponent on the road.

The Packers have beaten the Seahawks three straight times. All of those wins occurred at Lambeau Field in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

I see that streak going to four in a row, but this time the win will finally come in Seattle.

Green Bay Packers: Give Aaron Jones the Rock Often vs. the Miami Dolphins

Aaron Jones at Lambeau

When the 3-4-1 Green Bay Packers host the 5-4 Miami Dolphins at Lambeau Field on late Sunday afternoon, the host team should be in a good position to win the game.

For one, the Fins are starting Brock Osweiler, who is their second-string quarterback. In addition to that, Miami might be without three of their starting offensive linemen, as guard Ted Larsen (neck) is doubtful, while both left tackle Laremy Tunsil (knee and ankle) and right tackle Ja’Wuan James (knee) are questionable.

The 15th-ranked Green Bay defense has to take advantage of that against the 28th-ranked Miami offense in the NFL.

But the big edge that the Packers should have against the Dolphins is when they are on offense. The Packers are ranked sixth in the NFL in total offense, while the Dolphins are ranked 26th in total defense.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has thrown 15 touchdown passes versus just one interception for 2,542 yards (98.9 passer rating), should have a nice game against the 21st-ranked pass defense of Miami.

But the biggest advantage should come in the Green Bay running game, specifically by utilizing running back Aaron Jones.

Why is that?

Well, the Dolphins are ranked 28th in the NFL in stopping the run. Miami gives up an average of 136 yards per game on the ground and allow a whopping 4.6 yards per carry.

The Dolphins have also allowed 10 runs of 20 or more yards and two runs of 40 or more yards.

And this is where the Packers need to use Jones to their advantage.

Jones leads the NFL (with 50 rushes or more) with a rushing average of six yards per carry. Jones has also had two runs of 20 yards or more. But his touches have been limited.

Right now Jones has averaged less than 10 carries a game over the six games he has played. That is ridiculous based on his production.

Yes, I know that until Ty Montgomery was traded, Jones was part of a three-man rotation along with Montgomery and Jamaal Williams. Now, thanks to the subtraction of Montgomery, Jones should get ample opportunity to carry the rock.

But that also means that head coach Mike McCarthy has to be committed to the run game.

Jones has rushed for 349 yards in just 58 carries. Williams has rushed for 267 yards in 70 carries (a 3.8 average). Between the two of them, they only have three rushing touchdowns, with two of them coming from Jones.

The Packers are ranked 29th in the NFL in rushing attempts. Green Bay averages 22 rushes per game. That total need to get closer to 30 per game, even with Rodgers as your quarterback.

For one thing, that will make the play-action pass that more dangerous for Rodgers and give the opposing defense something to think about instead of pinning their ears back and rushing Rodgers.

Rodgers has been sacked 23 times this season already (tied for 8th in the NFL), including one that almost ended his season in Week 1 versus da Bears.

It just doesn’t make any sense why the Packers don’t run more often. The team is ranked 20th in rushing in the NFL, but that is almost solely based on the lack of rushing attempts.

The Packers are tied for fourth in the NFL in rushing average, as the team averages 4.8 yards per carry. And remember, Jones averages six yards per carry.

In the last two weeks, with both games on the road, Jones ran for 86 yards (and one TD) on just 12 carries (7.2 average) against the 8-1 Los Angeles Rams, and for 75 yards on just 14 carries (5.4 average) against the 7-2 New England Patriots.

Aaron Jones vs. the Pats

Yes, it was a fumble by Jones in the fourth quarter that turned the game against the Pats around. But it wasn’t a case of being careless with the ball. Jones had two hands wrapped around the ball as he ran through the hole and it took a great defensive play to force the fumble as Jones was rushing for more yardage.

That is the only fumble of the year for Jones, by the way. It was also the first fumble of No. 33’s NFL career…in 139 carries.

Bottom line, the Packers need to run the ball at least 30 times against the Dolphins, with Jones getting at least 20 of those carries.

For the Packers to salvage their postseason hopes, the team is going to need both of the guys named Aaron on offense to come through.

It’s pretty obvious to me that Jones needs to shoulder the load this week.

Comparing Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady Going Into Their SNF Showdown

Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady

Both Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots are considered two of the best quarterbacks to have ever played in the NFL.

When Rodgers and his 3-3-1 Packers take on Brady and his 6-2 Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Sunday night, it’s hard to fathom that this will be only the second time that the two have met as starters in a NFL game.

The last time the two met was also on a Sunday night, but that game was played at Lambeau Field in 2014. In that game, which the Packers won 26-21 over the Pats, Rodgers threw two touchdown passes without an interception for 368 yards, which added up to a passer rating of 112.6.

Brady wasn’t bad either, as he also threw two touchdown passes without a pick, but only for 245 yards, which adds up to a 102.7 passer rating.

Speaking of passer ratings, Rodgers is the all-time leader in NFL history with a career passer rating of 103.6. Meanwhile Brady is third on the list with a rating of 97.6. Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks and formerly of the University of Wisconsin, is second with a rating 99.6.

When one looks at what Rodgers and Brady have done so far in their NFL careers, it’s almost mind-boggling when you see what they have accomplished.

Besides being the all-time leader in passer rating, Rodgers is also the only quarterback in NFL history to have thrown an average of four touchdown passes to just one interception, as he has 326 career touchdown passes compared to just 79 interceptions, which equates to 4.13 TD passes vs. a pick.

Tom Terrific isn’t bad either in this stat, as he has thrown 504 touchdown passes compared to 167 interceptions, which equates to 3.02 TD passes to a one pick ratio.

Rodgers has been a NFL MVP twice, while Brady has won that award three times. Rodgers has been named to six Pro Bowl teams, while Brady has been named to a whopping 13 Pro Bowl teams.

Rodgers has been an AP first-team All-Pro twice, while Brady has been an AP first-team All-Pro three times.

Rodgers has won one Super Bowl, while Brady has won five. In Super Bowl XLV, Rodgers was named the MVP of the game, while Brady has won that same award in Super Bowl XXXVI, Super Bowl XXXVIII, Super Bowl XLIX and Super Bowl LI.

In terms of their postseason play, it might be surprising to some to know that Rodgers actually has a better passer rating than Brady. Rodgers is fifth all-time with a passer rating of 99.4, while Brady is 13th, with a passer rating of 90.9.

Rodgers has thrown 36 career touchdown passes in the postseason versus 10 interceptions for 4,458 yards. Brady has thrown 71 touchdown passes versus 31 picks for 10,226 yards.

So why then is Rodgers 9-7 in the postseason, while Brady is 27-10? It really comes down to defense for the most part. Brady has been surrounded by some really good defensive teams during his time in New England, while Rodgers except for a couple of years, has seen his defense get gashed many times in the playoffs.

In the seven losses that Rodgers has had in the postseason, his defense has given up point totals of 51, 37, 45, 23, 28, 26 and 44. That averages out to around 36 points a game.

Compare that to Brady’s 10 losses. When Brady has lost (and this includes three Super Bowl games), his teams have given up an average of 27.9 points.

All I know, is that it is easier to score four touchdowns in a game, as opposed to five touchdowns and a field goal.

Rodgers, the former Cal Bear star and Brady, the former Michigan Wolverine star, have a lot in common, besides being among the best who ever played in the NFL.

Both players wear No. 12 and both hail from Northern California. Rodgers is from Chico, while Brady is from San Mateo. The two are also good friends and have a deep respect for one another.

Aaron and Tom at Gillette Stadium

On Wednesday, when Rodgers spoke to the media, he said this about Brady being the greatest of all time, “”He’s got five championships. I think that ends most discussions.”

A day earlier when Brady was on WEEI’s Kirk and Callahan show, he talked about Rodgers and the debate about who is the best ever QB in NFL history.

“I think it’s a hypothetical question that is truly impossible to answer,” Brady  said. “It’s great to debate and those types of things. … It’s hard to compare positions and eras. It’s impossible to answer. I think Aaron is one of the best ever to play the game. He’s got every skill you need to be a great quarterback. I think there is a lot of other guys who are playing today that are phenomenal — Ben Roethlisberger, I think he is an incredible player. What Drew Brees has done, and I am just talking players who are playing. I mean Peyton Manning, I don’t think there was anyone who commanded the position better than Peyton what he did from Indy to Denver. That was spectacular. I got a chance to play against Brett Favre and I saw Steve Young last night and Joe Montana is a guy I have always looked up to.”

Brady brings up a great list of NFL quarterbacks. But only he and Bart Starr have won five NFL championships as quarterbacks. Starr, by the way, is the all-time postseason leader in passer ratings with a mark of 104.8.

Rodgers learned a lot from playing behind Favre for three years, but he and his quarterbacks coach Tom Clements closely studied the pocket presence of Brady when Rodgers got his opportunity to become a starter in 2008.

“Really tried to work on his pocket movement,” Rodgers said. “He’s phenomenal with his subtle movements in the pocket, creating space and getting into a cleaner launch point in that pocket. And that’s one thing we really worked on. Some of that is just natural instincts, but I think there is a good deal of that you can work on and try to incorporate in your own game.”

Rodgers learned his lessons from both Favre and Brady very well.

The bottom line in Sunday’s game between the Packers and Patriots is that it is almost a must win game for the Packers, especially after their heartbreaking 29-27 loss to the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday.

The loss was painful because soon to be former Packer Ty Montgomery took a kickoff out of the end zone and fumbled when he was told to take a knee. That fumble erased any chance Rodgers had to take the Packers down the field with over two minutes to go (and one timeout) to win the game.

Kicker Mason Crosby had already kicked two field goals in the game, including one from 53 yards out, plus Rodgers had thrown for 286 yards and one touchdown and had a passer rating of 102.9 heading into the drive that never took place due to Montgomery’s gaff.

I expect both Rodgers and Brady to play well on Sunday night, as both are having fine seasons once again in 2018.

Rodgers has thrown 13 touchdown passes and has only thrown one interception for 2,283 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 100.4.

Brady has thrown 16 touchdown passes compared to seven picks for 2,200 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 97.6.

I expect another close game with these two icons going at it on Sunday. In terms of who wins this big game, I’m leaning towards the No. 12 who wears green and gold.