A Scout’s Take on Tight End Hunter Henry of Arkansas

Hunter Henry

Yes, it’s that time of year again. NFL teams are surveying all of the talent for the 2016 NFL draft. We just had the East-West Shrine Game last weekend and this upcoming weekend will be the Senior Bowl.

The NFL Scouting Combine starts on February 23 and after that we will have the various pro days for the players in the draft to further improve their stock.

The actual draft will start on April 28 and last through April 30.

Any of you who have read my work throughout the years, know that I love this part of the offseason. I’ve been doing mock drafts for several years now and I have had a decent track record in terms of guessing who Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers might select in the draft.

In 2013, I correctly had the Packers taking defensive end Datone Jones in the first round in my final mock draft. In 2014, I also was right about the Packers selecting wide receiver Jared Abbrederis in my final mock draft that year.

Then in 2015, like a blind squirrel finding an acorn, I was able to correctly predict that the Packers would select both cornerback Quinten Rollins and linebacker Jake Ryan in my final mock draft last year.

In addition to that, although I didn’t have the Packers taking these players in my final mock draft of the particular year they were drafted, I did have the Packers taking players like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Jeff Janis, Eddie Lacy, Micah Hyde, Nick Perry and Casey Hayward in earlier mock drafts.

One of the reasons I believe I have been fortunate in correctly naming players who the Packers actually select in the draft, is being able to talk quite often with NFL scout Chris Landry to gain his insight about certain players.

Landry has known Thompson for a long time. He just talked with him again earlier this week at the Senior Bowl as a matter of fact. Landry considers Thompson to be a scout’s scout as a general manager.

I had another opportunity this week to talk to Landry on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show.

During the show, Landry talked about Thompson.

“Ted is one of the really good ones,” Landry said. “Ted is a scout. I think the best general managers are the ones who are scouts. They’re the ones who can evaluate players, plus help train their scouts how to evaluate players and see players in the correct way.”

When I talked with Landry I wanted to get his read on the offensive tackle position in this upcoming draft and also his take on a tight end who I believe would be a great fit for the Packers.

Yes, I know the Packers have Richard Rodgers at the position, and he does have phenomenal hands, but he is limited due to his lack of speed and his inability to break tackles.

Plus, although he improved his blocking in 2015, that part of No. 82’s game still needs improvement.

The Packers need an additional tight end who can stretch the seam down the middle of the field, similar to what Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots and Greg Olsen of the Panthers can do.

It wouldn’t hurt if this tight end could block as well.

The tight end I’m thinking about who can do these things is Hunter Henry of Arkansas. Henry is not playing in the Senior Bowl, as he is coming out early as a junior.

at Tiger Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Henry was named to the 2015 AP first team All-American team, as well as being named to the first team All-SEC squad. Henry also won the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end.

In 2015, Henry had 51 catches for 739 yards and three touchdowns. In his first two years at Arkansas, Henry had 65 receptions for 922 yards and six touchdowns.

Henry did all this in an offense that is primarily a run-first attack. Because of that, Henry also had to block well.

Landry really likes what he has seen from Henry.

“I’ve liked Hunter Henry since he stepped on at Arkansas as a true freshman,” Landry said. “I thought he was one of the best tight ends in the country then. He’s very athletic in the modern day game of football where you can play the wide-flex and put him out.

“He’s outstanding in the passing game and he is really good in the running game, because you have to be in the run-scheme that Bret Bielema has. I like him an awful lot. I think he’s good. I think the kid [Austin Hooper] from Stanford is a good player. The kid from Ohio State has had a really good week here, Nick Vannett, who I think is a really good player as well, so keep an eye out on him.

“But I would definitely put Hunter Henry at the top of this group. I think you can get him later in the first round, simply because tight ends tend to move down a little bit, but it wouldn’t shock me if someone in the teens reached for him. He’s that good.”

In case you were wondering, the Packers will have the 27th selection in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft.

The Packers certainly have a number of needs, like at offensive tackle, inside linebacker and on the defensive line.

But tight end is another area which needs help, especially in terms of stretching the field.

You can be certain that Henry will be one of the players I will take in one of my mock drafts and perhaps even in my final mock draft, depending on how I believe the first round will flow.

I plan on putting out my first mock draft next week.

The Packers are Suddenly Dysfunctional

Ted and Mike

Green Bay Press-Gazette

Things seem to be out of sorts in Titletown. Yes, the Green Bay Packers are acting a bit like a dysfunctional family. Which is surprising, based on the track record which has been laid down ever since Ted Thompson hired Mike McCarthy to be the head coach of the Packers in 2006.

Since 2006, the Packers are second only to the New England Patriots in the NFL in terms of wins and trips to the postseason.

Since McCarthy took over as head coach, the Packers have gone 104-55-1 in the regular season. In that time, Green Bay has also won five NFC North titles, plus have gone to the postseason eight times, which includes seven consecutive years now.

McCarthy seemed to have fully embraced the way that Thompson had built the roster of the Packers. Thompson’s main strategy is to utilize the draft for the most part in constructing the team.

Rarely does Thompson utilize “pure” free agency in acquiring players. When he does, he’s usually very successful. Examples are Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett and Julius Peppers.

Normally, Thompson will sign “street” free agents to bolster the roster. This is how he acquired players like Tim Masthay, Sam Shields, Don Barclay, Chris Banjo and Jayrone Elliott.

Many times in his press conferences with the media over the years, McCarthy has said that the Packers were a draft-and-develop organization.

Up until this season, it sure seemed like Thompson and McCarthy were part of one happy family.

But in a scathing article earlier this week, veteran beat writer Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gives numerous examples of how McCarthy’s poor decision-making helped to undermine the team this year.

McGinn didn’t mince words about Thompson either, as he wrote that Thompson did very little to help McCarthy this season, especially in terms adding players who could help out at positions which were hurt via injuries.

But the one thing in the article which jumped out to everyone was this:

According to several sources, McCarthy is fed up with his boss’ unwillingness to take a chance and reinforce the roster with veteran players that might be unknown to the Packers but have the talent to contribute.

To be fair to Thompson, he did bring back wide receiver James Jones to the team just prior to the opening game of the season, after Jordy Nelson suffered a season-ending ACL tear this preseason.

But let’s be honest. That one sort of fell in Thompson’s lap after the New York Giants released him at the end of training camp.

But when injuries hit the offensive tackle position, the Packers were exposed without having a viable backup in place.

I know it’s hard to find left tackles out on the street who can protect your quarterback’s blindside, but it can be done.

Ron Wolf found one in 1996 when he was still the general manager of the Packers. The Packers were really struggling at the position, as rookie John Michels just wasn’t getting it done through nine games.

After trying veteran Ken Ruettgers as a starter there for one game, the Packers gave Gary Brown the job for a number of games.

But in the final two games of the season and all through the postseason when the Packers ended up winning Super Bowl XXXI, the left tackle was veteran Bruce Wilkerson, who had started 89 games in nine years before coming to Green Bay.

Thompson helped in a similar fashion when the Packers went on to win Super Bowl XLV after the 2010 season. Because of injuries, the Packers added a couple of “street” free agents, linebacker Eric Walden and defensive lineman Howard Green during the season.

Both played key roles for the Packers in the team’s march towards winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

But now it appears a riff has developed between McCarthy and Thompson, at least from McCarthy’s perspective.

Murphy, McCarthy and Thompson

What can be done about it? I believe it’s incumbent upon the President and CEO of the Packers, Mark Murphy, to have a meeting between himself, Thompson and McCarthy.

Based on a story by Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, it certainly appears that Murphy is solidly behind Thompson in terms of how he runs the football side of the organization.

The focus of Dougherty’s article is the looming status of Eliot Wolf, the son of Ron Wolf. Eliot is currently the Director of Player Personnel and some see him as the heir apparent to Thompson as the next GM of the Packers.

But that isn’t a given, at least based on what Murphy told Dougherty.

“I think a lot of Eliot,” Murphy said. “Obviously very bright and literally grew up in the business. This became a big thing in college athletics, having a coach in waiting. I think a couple things: You hate to tie an organization’s or athletic department’s hands. For league rules it’s also important that you go through searches, too.”

Murphy also seems to be very happy with the job that Thompson is doing.

“Hopefully (Thompson will stay on) as long as he wants to and feels good about what he’s doing,” Murphy said. “I think we’re fortunate to have him.”

While Murphy is happy with the job Thompson is doing, McCarthy is apparently not.

That is why a meeting needs to happen. Murphy needs to be the arbitrator if need be. But everyone in the room should air their opinion about the way things are being run at 1265 Lombardi Avenue.

In addition to this particular issue, there also seems to be some dysfunction regarding the coaching staff and the players.

Examples with the coaching staff include removing Tom Clements as the offensive playcaller after 12 games, as well as firing two assistant coaches (Jerry Fontenot and Sam Gash) after the season ended.

Plus prior to the 2015 season, McCarthy assigned two coaching duties to Alex Van Pelt, as he coached both the quarterbacks and wide receivers. Both positions definitely underachieved this past season.

It’s tough enough to coach one position in the NFL, but to try and coach two positions seems pretty ludicrous.

In terms of the players, there were hints and innuendos of younger players on the Packers not taking their jobs seriously and spending too much time playing video games among other things.

Still, even with all of that, the Packers did make the postseason for the seventh straight year. Plus, the team came very close to getting to their second straight NFC Championship Game.

Bottom line, Murphy needs to bring both Thompson and McCarthy together. Both have shown that they can work well with each other, but there seems to be a chink in the armor now.

Hopefully matters can be ironed out if there is indeed an issue between Thompson and McCarthy.

If not, Murphy may be forced to make an executive decision one way or the other.

That’s what Murphy’s predecessor, Bob Harlan, did twice. First when he hired Ron Wolf to be general manager in 1991 and also when he gave Thompson the same title in 2005.

I’m not saying it will come down to something like that in this particular situation, but there definitely needs to be an air-clearing conversation.

Currently, there seems to be a failure to communicate within the organization.

Murphy needs to make sure that Thompson and McCarthy are on the same page heading into the 2016 season.

Since that marriage began in 2006, the Packers have had exceptional success. But even through all of that, the team has only won one Super Bowl.

But it’s also important to remember that the Patriots, the only NFL team which has had even more success than the Packers during that time, have also only won one Super Bowl in those ten years.

The NFL is a tough business, as Thompson likes to say. There is absolutely no doubt about that.

But the business gets even tougher if the head coach and the general manager are not aligned with one another.

And that seems to be the case right now with McCarthy and Thompson.

Happy Birthday, Jerry Kramer!

Jerry II

Today is the 80th birthday of Gerald Louis Kramer. I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know Jerry pretty well over the past several years. I’ve been able to talk with him countless times on the phone, usually for at least an hour at a time. I’ve also done dozens and dozens of stories about him and his exploits with the Green Bay Packers.

It goes without question that Jerry was an outstanding football player in the NFL as a member of the Packers. That was sealed in eternity when he was named as the only offensive guard on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team.

Yet, he is the only member of that first team not enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But as great as he was on the football field, he’s an even better person. Don’t take my word for it. Ask his children. I’ve gotten to know Alicia, Dan and Diana fairly well since I’ve connected with Jerry. Their support for their father is amazing. And so is their love.

One person who helped to mold Jerry into the person that he has become was Vince Lombardi.

When I talked to Jerry about Lombardi, the discussion wasn’t just about football, it was about life in general.

“Coach Lombardi had a tremendous impact on my life,” Jerry told me. “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.”

Kramer also talked about a the values he learned from Lombardi.

“Coach Lombardi use to share a philosophy about life with us,” Kramer said. “He said, ‘After the game is over, the stadium lights are out, the parking lot is empty, the fans have all gone home, the press has done their job and released their information, you are finally back in the quiet of your own room looking at the championship ring on the dresser. The only thing left after that was to have a standard of excellence in your life. Make sure that the world is a better place because you were in it.’

“The coach taught us to leave a positive impact on society,” Kramer said. “The world would be a much better place if we did that. That’s what I have tried to do all these years.”

Vince and Jerry II

Because of all the stories I’ve written about Kramer, I’m often asked if Jerry is as genuine as he looks on television when he doing interviews for various media outlets.

The answer is YES. I’m as comfortable in talking with Jerry as I would be with my favorite uncle.

I have over 20 years of sales experience and have worked for companies like Xerox over that time. I developed a pretty good understanding on how to read people, either via the phone or in person.

You pretty much know where things are going in the first five minutes of your conversation. In my first conversation with Jerry, the ice was melted in the first thirty seconds.

I knew we would have a great relationship.

Back to Jerry’s exploits as a player. Jerry was a five-time All-Pro and named to three Pro Bowls. He was also on the NFL All-Decade team for the 1960s.

No. 64 would have received even more honors except for injuries and illness.

Jerry performed at an exceptional level in the regular season for the Packers under coach Lombardi, but he took it up a notch in games that determined who the champion would be.

I’ll give you three examples.

In the 1962 NFL Championship Game versus the New York Giants at cold and windy Yankee Stadium, Jerry doubled as a right guard and as placekicker. Jerry booted three field goals on a very difficult day to kick, as some wind gusts were over 40 mph during the contest.

Kramer scored 10 points in the 16-7 victory for the Packers, plus helped lead the way for fullback Jimmy Taylor to gain 85 yards rushing and also scored the lone Green Bay touchdown. As a team, the Packers gained 148 yards rushing that day.

In the 1965 NFL Championship Game versus the Cleveland Browns at snowy and muddy Lambeau Field, Kramer and his teammates on the offensive line had a sensational day.

The Packers rushed for 204 yards behind Taylor and halfback Paul Hornung, as the Pack won 23-12. The power sweep was especially effective, as Kramer and fellow guard Fuzzy Thurston kept opening big holes for the backs, mowing down defenders so the Packers gained big chunks of yardage on the ground.

Hornung scored the last touchdown of the game on one of those power sweeps. Kramer pulled left and first blocked the middle linebacker and then a cornerback as the “Golden Boy” found the end zone.

In the 1967 NFL Championship Game (better known as the “Ice Bowl”) versus the Dallas Cowboys at frigid Lambeau Field, Kramer made the most famous block in the history of the NFL.

The playing surface that day was truly a frozen tundra, as the game-time temperature was 13 below zero.

In the closing moments of the game, down by a score of 17-14,  the Packers had to drive 68 yards down the frozen field to either tie or win the game.

Bart's sneak behind Jerry

It all came down to 13 seconds to go with no timeouts at the 1-yard line of the Cowboys. The Packers could have kicked a field goal at that point to tie the game at 17-17.

But coach Lombardi decided to go for the win. If the Packers run the ball and are stopped short of the end zone, the game is over.

Bart Starr called a 31-wedge play in the huddle, which calls for the fullback to get the ball. However, Starr decided to keep the ball after conferring with Lombardi on the sideline about the play.

Starr thought it would be better to try to get into the end zone himself due to the slippery and icy conditions near the goal line. He followed Kramer’s classic block on Jethro Pugh and found a hole behind No. 64 to score the winning touchdown.

When one looks back on the great success of the Lombardi Packers of the 1960s, there are two things about that era which are pretty obvious.

The power sweep was the signature play for the Packers under Lombardi. Plus, Starr’s quarterback sneak with just seconds remaining in the “Ice Bowl”, had to be the signature moment of the Lombardi legacy.

Jerry Kramer played a huge role in both of those iconic memories.

When Kramer played in the NFL, he played against some of the very best defensive tackles in the history of the NFL. Two examples are Merlin Olsen of the Los Angeles Rams and Alex Karras of the Detroit Lions.

Olsen is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while Karras, like Kramer, should be.

Olsen is considered by many to be the best defensive tackle in the history of the NFL. The awards he received as a player certainly seem to say that.

No. 74 was named to 14 Pro Bowls and was named first team All-Pro nine times.

When Kramer had to battle Olsen in the trenches, he knew it was going to be a war of attrition.

“I knew that Merlin was never going to let up on the field,” Kramer said. “He was never going to quit. He wasn’t going to hold you. He wasn’t going to play dirty. But he wasn’t going to take a play off either. He was coming.

“You had to gamble a little bit with Merlin. I liked to pop him every once in awhile. Like if it’s a pass play, I might come off the line of scrimmage and just whack him real quick like it’s a running play. Then I would almost bounce back into my position as a pass-blocker.

“That gave me an extra second for him to figure out that it really was a pass play. I remember one time he was starting to loop around the center towards Fuzzy [Thurston}, and I came up and popped him real quick with my helmet. And he went down to one knee and then bounced back up into a running position.

“He was a load. He was strong. He was motivated. He was smart. And he may have been the best I ever played against.”

The admiration and respect Kramer had for Olsen went both ways, as Merlin sent off this letter of endorsement for Kramer regarding induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame:

“There is no question in my mind that Jerry Kramer has Hall of Fame credentials. Respect is given grudgingly in the trenches of the NFL and Jerry has earned my respect as we battled eye to eye in the pits on so many long afternoons.

Jerry Kramer belongs in the Hall of Fame and I hope you will put this process in motion by including his name on the ballot for this coming year.”

Yes, today is the 80th birthday for Jerry Kramer. No. 64 has been eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame since 1974. That’s 42 years ago.

It’s ridiculous that Kramer has yet to get in, especially knowing he’s been a 10-time finalist. Nine of those ten times occurred from 1974 through 1987, however.

Kramer was also a finalist as a senior in 1997, but also didn’t get the votes necessary for induction.

I honestly can’t fathom an answer as to why No. 64 has not been enshrined yet. Jerry has the playing credentials, the championships and the respect of his peers who are already in Canton.

Packers-Rams playoff game in '67

Here’s hoping that on his 81st birthday, Jerry will be just a couple of weeks from induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. On Saturday February 4, 2017 in Houston, the site of Super Bowl LI, the Class of 2017 will be named.

Jerry rightfully deserves to hear his name called that day. It’s something he should have already heard decades ago.

Happy Birthday, Jerry! All the best on YOUR day! I hope you receive some presents you can enjoy.

Speaking of presents, you have given us all treasured memories which will never be forgotten.

Jerry Kramer is not just a great ambassador for the Packers and the NFL, but also a great ambassador for the human race.

Coach Lombardi would be proud.

The Current Legacy of Mike McCarthy

Mike McCarthy

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, head coach Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers is feeling the heat, as his team lost yet another heartbreaking overtime loss in the postseason.

This time the loss came against the Arizona Cardinals, and while that loss is painful to Packer Nation, nothing hurt more than the epic team meltdown of the team in the final moments of the NFC Championship Game last year versus the Seattle Seahawks.

In his take on McCarthy, Florio said this:

“It’s just a matter of time before we start compiling a list of coaches on the hot seat for 2016 and Mike McCarthy will be at or near the top, despite all those playoff appearances and despite beating Washington in the Wild Card round. More should be expected of a guy who still has Aaron Rodgers, and who still late in the season looked at good as ever. At some point the Packers may decide that maybe we a need a better coach to get the most out of him.”

I would disagree with Florio about Rodgers looking as good as ever late in the season. Don’t get me wrong, Rodgers had some fabulous moments, but the fact is that No. 12 went 12 straight games (including the playoffs) without having a passer rating of over 100.

That says a lot. Why? Rodgers is the all-time passer rating leader in the history of the NFL with a mark of 104.1. To take that a little further, going into 2015, Rodgers had six consecutive seasons of having a passer rating of over 100. But in 2016, Rodgers had his passer rating go down to 92.7.

92.7 is better than average and a lot of NFL quarterbacks would love that passer rating. But not Rodgers.

at Lambeau Field on September 30, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

In terms of McCarthy feeling some heat, that’s up for conjecture.

But it’s also true that he has fired a couple of coaches over the past couple of years who were with him in the beginning of his tenure in Green Bay in 2006.

Last year McCarthy fired Shawn Slocum as special teams coach after the gaffes made by special teams in the NFC title game last year. Earlier this week, he fired Jerry Fontenot as tight ends coach. In addition to firing Fontenot, McCarthy also fired running backs coach Sam Gash.

Is that a case of a head coach feeling the heat or is that a case of a head coach not happy with the performance of the units that a specific coach (Slocum, Fontenot and Gash) looked over?

McCarthy has been head coach of the Packers for ten years now and a lot of NFL teams would gladly take what he and the team have accomplished in that time.

In the regular season, the Packers have gone 104-55-1 in that period (.653 winning percentage) and have won five NFC North titles. The Packers have also been to the postseason eight times in McCarthy’s ten years in Green Bay, which includes seven straight times now.

The main point of contention to the people who believe McCarthy should be on the hot seat is his overall postseason record. After the loss to Arizona, McCarthy’s postseason record is now 8-7.

Including in that record is a victory in Super Bowl XLV.

It also has to be noted, that in five of the seven losses in the postseason, the losses occurred on the last play of the game, four of which were overtime games.

Just think about that for a minute. McCarthy and his Packers are 0-4 in overtime games in the postseason. Let’s just imagine if the team could have gotten a break or two in those contests and the team won actually two or three of those overtime games.

That would put McCarthy at 10-5 or 11-4 in the postseason and maybe even another shot or two at an additional Super Bowl win.

I talked to former Packers great Jerry Kramer earlier this week and we talked about these close losses that the Packers have had in the postseason recently. Kramer talked about what Vince Lombardi used to tell his teams in Green Bay about close football games.

“Coach Lombardi use to say the game is a game of inches,” Kramer said. “And I didn’t believe that it first. I thought is was BS. It’s a game of touchdowns with long runs and passes.

“But the more you play the game and the more you watch the game, you see a first down is short by two inches so you have to punt. Or you make the first down by an inch and the drive continues. Or the ball is tipped or deflected by an inch or two and is intercepted or caught by another receiver.

“So ultimately, it is a game of inches. And you don’t know when that inch is coming. You don’t know when that moment is coming. But if you play every play like it’s a game of inches, than I think you’ll have a better chance of success.”

Kramer should know. When the Packers won the 1966 and 1967 NFL Championship Games against the Dallas Cowboys, each game came down to the final seconds of the game.

In the 1966 title game, on a fourth and goal situation at the two yard of the Packers, it came down to one final play for the Cowboys, as they trailed the Packers 34-27 and were trying to force overtime. Quarterback Don Meredith rolled right and was pressured by linebacker Dave Robinson.

Meredith heaved a desperation pass with Robinson all over him and the pass was intercepted by Tom Brown of the Packers. But what if Meredith would have thrown it further to the right by a foot or so and was caught by a receiver of the Cowboys for a touchdown?

That would have forced overtime and maybe the Cowboys would have been playing in Super Bowl I instead of the Packers.

Or how about the 1967 NFL title game, better known as the “Ice Bowl” game. The Packers were down 17-14 and were at the one yard line of the Cowboys. It was third and goal with 16 seconds to go in the game.

The Cowboys expected a pass on third down, because the Packers didn’t have any time outs. But Lombardi crossed up the Cowboys after conferring with quarterback Bart Starr on the sideline.

Bart's sneak behind Jerry

Lombardi and Starr decided to use a wedge play in the direction of Jethro Pugh of the Cowboys with Starr sneaking the ball. The play had been suggested by Kramer earlier in the week.

“Jethro [Pugh] was high, and I actually suggested that play on Thursday when we were studying short-yardage films. I said we could wedge Pugh if we had to. And Coach Lombardi said, ‘What?’ And I said that we can wedge Pugh if we have to. So we ran the film back three or four times, and coach says, ‘That’s right. Put in a wedge on Pugh.’

Starr followed the classic block by Kramer on Pugh and happily fell into the end zone, as the Packers won 21-17.

But what if Starr had slipped like running back Donny Anderson had done on the previous two plays on the icy surface of Lambeau Field and not made it into the end zone?

Where am I going with this? Lombardi was 9-1 in the postseason, but he came very close to losing a couple of those games. If the Packers had lost both the 1966 and 1967 NFL title games, Lombardi would have had a 5-3 record in the postseason, with no Super Bowl wins.

But the fact is that Lombardi and his Packers did win those games. And it’s also true, that the game truly is a game of inches. Especially in the postseason.

Let’s give a couple of examples here. Don Shula won more games in NFL history than any other coach, as he had a 328-156-6 record in the regular season (.677 winning percentage). He also won a couple of Super Bowls.

But Shula also lost three Super Bowl games and was just 19-17 overall in the postseason.

Look at Tom Landry, who is third all-time in victories in the NFL, as he had a 250-162-6 mark in the regular season (.607 winning percentage). He also won a couple of Super Bowls.

But Landry also lost three Super Bowl games and was just 20-16 in the postseason overall.

McCarthy has only coached about a third of the time that those two coaching icons coached in the NFL and based on his track record so far, would probably match or come near to the accomplishments of Shula and Landry if he even comes close to their coaching tenures.

In fact, I can think of only one head coach in the NFL currently who has exceeded the job that McCarthy has done over the past 10 years in the NFL. That would be Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots.

Belichick and his Patriots were 124-36 in the regular season during that time. Only once did the Pats not make the playoff in those ten years. The Pats also won nine AFC titles.

But in the postseason in those ten years so far, Belichick and his Pats are just 12-7 with one Super Bowl win. That may change as this current postseason continues.

It should also be noted that Belichick and his Patriots won three Super Bowls before 2006. All of the postseason magic has happened with a fellow named Tom Brady as Belichick’s quarterback.

Brady and Belichick

Speaking of a game of inches, do you remember how the Belichick/Brady run of greatness started? It happened in the “Tuck” game against the Oakland Raiders in the 2001 postseason. Without that call which reversed a fumble by Brady, who knows what happens in the future?

Before he left the New York Giants after this past season, Tom Coughlin had been head coach of the G-Men since 2004.

Coughlin had a pretty good run, especially with two Super Bowl wins in the past nine seasons.

But his tenure was up and down. The Giants were 102-90 in the regular season (three NFC East titles) in 12 seasons, and were 8-3 in the postseason.

The only other head coach who has been with the same team in the NFL the past 10 years is Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints.

Payton has done very well with the Saints and has also won a Super Bowl, but his record in the regular season is 87-57 with just three NFC South titles. In the postseason, Payton and the Saints have a 6-4 record.

It’s a debatable point, but besides the coaches I’ve mentioned, you would have to include Pete Carroll and Mike Tomlin into this discussion about coaches who have done well over a five-year period and who are also currently head coaches.

The bottom line is that McCarthy gets a pretty high grade when you compare what he has done so far in the NFL over the past 10 years with other coaches. The fact that only four NFL coaches (out of 32) lasted that long should say something.

Although McCarthy has made some moves with his coaching staff  over the past couple of years , I don’t see him being on the hot seat in 2016. Not as long as Ted Thompson is his boss. That might change if Thompson decides to retire and someone like Eliot Wolf became general manager.

But the Thompson/McCarthy marriage has been a good one. Could it have been better? That goes without question. If it was better though, people might be comparing McCarthy with Belichick, especially if he had brought another Super Bowl win or two back to Titletown.

Unlike Mike Holmgren, the last head coach to lead the Packers to a Super Bowl win before McCarthy, the current head coach of the Packers is not looking for greener pastures or more power within the organization.

That’s an important point.

McCarthy is just 52 years of age. He could coach another dozen or so more years in the NFL, based on his track record. And he would like to remain in Green Bay.

Yes, they say coaches burn out after 10 years with a team. That’s been true in some case, but not all.

Landry spent 29 years coaching the Cowboys, while Shula coached the Dolphins for 26 years.

Belichick has been with the Patriots now for 16 years.

It’s also important to remember that organizations which have stability at the head coaching position do very well over a period of time in the NFL. The Packers have had just four head coaches since 1992 and look at the success the team had had.

Compare that to the Cleveland Browns under the ownership of Jim Haslam. Since he took over the team in 2012, Haslam has fired three head coaches and numerous other front office people.

The Browns have had a 19-45 record in that time. Talk about a team in disarray. It all starts from the top.

The Packers are different. The team has had two team presidents since 1992. Both Bob Harlan and Mark Murphy have allowed the general manager of the Packers to make all the football decisions regarding the team.

That has led to 244-139-1 record in the regular season, along with 11 NFC Central/North titles over those 24 seasons. The Packers have also made the playoffs in 18 of those seasons and have played in three Super Bowls, winning two of them.

TT, MM & MM

McCarthy has played a large part in that success. And he wants to add to it.

Now it’s true that McCarthy has made a few coaching miscalculations over the years in some key games. When one is 0-4 in overtime in the postseason, all of his decisions are looked at under a microscope.

Still, when compared to the best of the best in the NFL among head coaches in the history of the league, McCarthy fares very well.

We shall see what the future holds for McCarthy and the Packers. But all in all, his tenure in Green Bay has been better overall than almost all of the coaches in the NFL during that period.

The only exception in my opinion is Belichick.

Jerry Kramer Talks About the 1967 Playoff Game Versus the Los Angeles Rams

Rams-Packers program

The 1967 NFL season was a special one in the history of the Green Bay Packers. It would turn out to be the last season that Vince Lombardi would be the head coach of the team.

Up until that season, Lombardi and his Packers had won four NFL titles in six years, plus had won Super Bowl I. In addition to that, the Packers had a chance to win their third straight NFL championship, a feat which had never been accomplished in the playoff era of the NFL.

1967 was also the year when right guard Jerry Kramer of the Packers kept a diary of the season.  Kramer would recite his thoughts into a tape recorder and then submit those words to Dick Schaap, who edited the words into the final version of the classic book, Instant Replay.

Little did Kramer know that the 1967 season would be one of the most remarkable in the history of the NFL, culminating with the NFL Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys, better known as the “Ice Bowl.” No. 64 played a key role in the outcome of that game as well, as the Packers won 21-17 in the final seconds of that legendary contest.

From training camp, through the Ice Bowl victory, then the win in Super Bowl II, Kramer provides a fascinating perspective about the viciousness of the NFL back then, when the game was truly a mixture of blood, sweat and tears.

Kramer also offers an insightful view of Lombardi, as a man, as a coach and as a leader.

Two of the more interesting aspects of the ’67 season were the two times the Packers had to face the Los Angeles Rams. With the Rams now going back to the City of Angels in 2016, I thought it would be an apropos time to talk those contests with Kramer.

The first time the team met was late in the season, when the Packers had already clinched the NFL Central division with a 9-2-1 mark heading into the game. They would be traveling to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to take on the 9-1-2 Rams.

The Packers really had nothing to play for except pride. The Rams meanwhile, were in a heated race with the Baltimore Colts to see who would win the Coastal division. Also, the NFL did not have a wild card format at the time, so the Rams had to win the division to advance to the playoffs.

Lombardi gave the team a quick pep talk on the sideline before the game.

“Thousands of people are here in the stands,” Lombardi told the team. “There are millions of people on television and everyone looking. All this speculation to see what kind of a game the Green Bay Packers are going to play today.

“Right? I want you to be proud of your profession. It’s a great profession. You be proud of this game. You can do a great deal for football today. A great deal for all the players in the league and everything else. Now go out there and play this ball game like I know you can play it!”

This past Friday, the NFL Network had a three-hour special as Super Bowl I was replayed in it’s entirety for the first time since that epic event 49 years ago.

In that special, it was presented that the speech that Lombardi gave his team in the 1967 regular season versus the Rams, was the one he gave before Super Bowl I, which also occurred at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles.

I knew that wasn’t the case and I posted a comment about it on Facebook. During a conversation I had with Kramer on Tuesday, I mentioned that to him.

“I saw that,” Kramer said speaking of my comment on Facebook. “I said, ‘Bob knows his sh*t. He’s doing it again. He’s got it right.’

The Packers played a great game on that Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles on December 9, 1967.

It was a hard fought contest, which saw both teams go back and forth taking the lead. The Rams had taken a 17-10 lead in the third period when they kicked off to Travis Williams of the Packers.

Williams had already become a sensation in the NFL in returning kickoffs that season, as he had returned three kicks for touchdowns before this game against the Rams.

No. 23 took the kickoff four yards deep in the end zone and returned the kick for yet another touchdown which tied the game at 17 all.

The Rams took the lead again 20-17 in the fourth quarter on a 16-yard field goal by Bruce Gossett, before the Packers scored on a four-yard touchdown run by fullback Chuck Mercein to give the Packers a 24-20 lead.

Donny's blocked put vs. the Rams

The Packers had that lead until the very last minute when Donny Anderson had his punt blocked by Tony Guillory of the Rams. Quarterback Roman Gabriel and his offense now had the ball on the five-yard line of the Packers with just seconds to go in the game.

Gabriel then threw a touchdown pass to Bernie Casey and the Rams won 27-24, as the Packers lost in heartbreaking fashion.

In Instant Replay, this is what Kramer wrote regarding the outcome of the game:

I was ready to fall down when the game ended. I contained Merlin pretty well, but I was beat from head to toe. I played about as hard as I ever played in my life, and I took an incredible physical pounding in the middle of the line. So did everyone else; everybody gave 100 percent. Coach Lombardi told me I played a great game, but I was down, blue, disappointed, dejected, everything. I never came so close to tears on a football field.

Fortunately for the Packers, they had one more opportunity to play the Rams. This time it would be in the Western Conference Championship Game at Milwaukee County Stadium on December 23, just two weeks after that painful loss to the Rams.

Kramer told me that he knew the Rams would be a very tough test.

“They [the Rams] were a hell of a football team,” Kramer said. “The Fearsome Foursome was very real. There wasn’t any weakness there. They also had a good linebacking corp and good defensive backs. They had a hell of a football team.”

The game didn’t start out well for the Packers as they had a couple of turnovers in the first quarter.  The last turnover led to a score by the Rams, as Gabriel hit Casey on a 29-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead.

But the Packers weren’t phased. The team was definitely ready to play, as Lombardi had given the team another pre-game pep talk in the locker room.

Lombardi and the Packers vs. the Rams

“We really got fired up in the locker room when Coach Lombardi gave us his Run to Win speech,” Kramer said. “That got us pretty high. The ring I wear, from Super Bowl II, has Run to Win on the side of it.

“He gave us this wonderful speech of St. Paul’s epistle,  about when all the runners are running the race, only one can win, and we run, not just to be in the race, but we run to win. That got us pumped up pretty good.”

The Packers basically took control of the game emphatically in the second quarter. Kramer talked about one of the strategies that the Packers employed in the game.

“One of the best things we did for the ball game was to put Marv Fleming next to Forrest [Gregg] to double Deacon [Jones],” Kramer said. “We really spent some time on trying to neutralize him and keep him a way from his favorite target [the quarterback].

“So that worked really well. Of course Travis [Williams] was the wild card in that game. I remember blocking on Merlin [Olsen] and he was starting to slip away to the outside in pursuit and I look outside and Travis was about even with us, but near the sideline running towards the end zone. And I knew that this play was over. He’s gone.”

Gone he was, as Williams galloped 46 yards for a touchdown to tie the game.

The Packers added another touchdown in the second quarter, as Bart Starr threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Carroll Dale for a 14-7 lead going into halftime.

The Packers were never threatened after that. Williams ended up with 88 yards rushing and two scores, while Dale caught six passes for 109 yards and a score.

The Packers had 20 first downs to the Rams 12 in the game. Starr was only sacked once, while Gabriel was sacked five times, including 3.5 sacks by Henry Jordan.

The result was a very satisfying 28-7 victory over the Rams. That win set up the game eight days later, when the Packers played the Cowboys in the Ice Bowl game, when the Packers won their third straight NFL title.

This is what Kramer wrote regarding that great win against the Rams in Instant Replay:

I was misty-eyed myself I felt so good. I felt so proud, proud of myself and proud of my teammates and proud of my coaches. I felt like I was part of something special. I guess it’s the way a group of scientists feel when they make a big breakthrough, though, of course, we aren’t that important. It’s a feeling of being together, completely together, a singleness of purpose, accomplishing something that is very difficult to accomplish, accomplishing something that a lot of people thought you couldn’t accomplish. It sent a beautiful shiver up my back.

One of the reasons Kramer was busting with pride was due to the fact that he had competed against arguably the best defensive tackle in the history of the NFL, Merlin Olsen.

Kramer talked to me about the many times he competed against the great No. 74 of the Rams.

“I knew that Merlin was never going to let up on the field,” Kramer said. “He was never going to quit. He wasn’t going to hold you. He wasn’t going to play dirty. But he wasn’t going to take a play off either. He was coming.

“You had to gamble a little bit with Merlin. I liked to pop him every once in awhile. Like if it’s a pass play, I might come off the line of scrimmage and just whack him real quick like it’s a running play. Then I would almost bounce back into my position as a pass-blocker.

Packers-Rams playoff game in '67

“That gave me an extra second for him to figure out that it really was a pass play. I remember one time he was starting to loop around the center towards Fuzzy [Thurston}, and I came up and popped him real quick with my helmet. And he went down to one knee and then bounced back up into a running position.

“He was a load. He was strong. He was motivated. He was smart. And he may have been the best I ever played against.”

Olsen had the honors to prove it. He was named to 14 Pro Bowls and was named first team All-Pro nine times.

The respect and admiration that Kramer had for Olsen, was equally shared by No. 74 towards No. 64.

In fact, Olsen sent off this letter of endorsement for Kramer regarding induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame:

“There is no question in my mind that Jerry Kramer has Hall of Fame credentials. Respect is given grudgingly in the trenches of the NFL and Jerry has earned my respect as we battled eye to eye in the pits on so many long afternoons.

Jerry Kramer belongs in the Hall of Fame and I hope you will put this process in motion by including his name on the ballot for this coming year.”

That might be the strongest endorsement Kramer has ever received regarding his rightful place in Canton, which has still yet to occur, even with Kramer being a finalist 10 times.

I have written about this travesty many times, including in this story.

How can a man who was on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team, be kept out of Canton? Kramer is the only member of that team not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In addition, No. 64 was a five-time All-Pro and named to three Pro Bowls. He was also on the NFL All-Decade team for the 1960s.

But his biggest moments came on the football field in the postseason, when it truly was win or go home. The Packers kept winning and Kramer was a big reason why, especially in the 1962, 1965 and 1967 NFL title games.

Olsen wasn’t the only player who has come out to speak out on behalf of Kramer being in the Hall of Fame. So have contemporaries like Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Willie Davis, Frank Gifford, Chuck Bednarik, Bob Lilly, Doug Atkins, Alan Page, Joe Schmidt, John Mackey, Raymond Berry, Mel Renfro, Mike Ditka, Jim Otto, Tom Mack, Dave Wilcox, Tommy McDonald and Lem Barney.

You can see all of those endorsements and much more in this great book put together by Randy Simon.

No matter what your occupation in life is, you always want to be respected by your peers. And Kramer certainly was respected by his rivals in the NFL.

“In the wee small hours of the morning, I rather have the applause of my peers, than to not have the applause of my peers and be in the Hall,” Kramer said. “I rather have the guys I admired and I thought a lot of, think that I belong, than to be in there and have them think I didn’t.”

There is absolutely no question that Gerald Louis Kramer belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He has the credentials, the championships and the respect of his peers who are already in Canton.

Merlin Olsen

In less than a week, on January 23rd, Kramer will celebrate his 80th birthday. He has waited far too long for his proper enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Here’s hoping that this injustice will be taken care of when Kramer is part of the Class of 2017 in Canton.

It s a well-deserved honor which has eluded the best guard in the history of the NFL, at least based on his inclusion on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team.

You know Merlin Olsen would certainly agree.

The Postseason History Between the Packers and Cardinals

Rodgers 2009 Playoff vs. Cards

Last week before the Green Bay Packers played the Washington Redskins in a NFC Wild Card Game at FedEx Field, I wrote about the postseason history between the two teams.

In that piece, I mentioned that both Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi eventually became the head coach for the Redskins after leaving Green Bay. In Lambeau’s case, it was after a stop with the then Chicago Cardinals.

I wrote about that scenario about three weeks ago.

This week, I’m going to do a piece about the postseason history between the Packers and Cardinals, as the Packers prepare to play the now Arizona Cardinals on Saturday night at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

On Thursday, I wrote a story about NFL scout Chris Landry’s take on this NFC Divisional Game.

The Packers and Cardinals go way back. The Cardinals joined the American Professional Football Association in 1920 when they were based in Chicago. The APFA became the NFL in 1922.

The Packers joined that same league in 1921.

It’s sort of odd that the two teams have only played each other 71 times in the 90-plus years both teams have been in the NFL. The Packers hold the edge in the series with 44-23-4 mark.

The two teams have also only met twice in the postseason. The first time happened after the 1982 season, when the Cardinals were then based in St. Louis.

The 1982 season was a strike year in the NFL, as only nine league games were played. The Packers finished 5-3-1, while the Cardinals were 5-4. For the playoffs, the NFL decided to do a special 16-team playoff tournament, with eight teams from each conference in the tourney.

The Packers hosted the Cardinals in a NFC First-Round Playoff Game at Lambeau Field on January 8, 1983. The game was the first postseason game played at the storied stadium since the legendary “Ice Bowl”, which was played on December 31, 1967.

The attendance for the game was 54,282.

The Cards struck first as Neil O’Donoghue kicked an 18-yard field goal. After that, it was all Packers.

The Pack scored four straight touchdowns to take a 28-3 lead. The first two scores came on a couple of Lynn Dickey touchdown tosses, one to John Jefferson (60 yards) and one to James Lofton (20 yards).

Lofton and jefferson

Eddie Lee Ivory then ran for a  touchdown from two yards out and then caught a four-yard touchdown pass from Dickey. Kicker Jan Stenerud was perfect on all the extra points.

The Cardinals came back to score on a five-yard touchdown pass from Neil Lomax to Pat Tilley to make it 28-9, as the Cards missed the extra point.

Stenerud connected on a 46-yard field goal, before Dickey connected with Jefferson again on a seven-yard touchdown pass. Stenerud then hit a 34-yard field goal to end the Green Bay scoring for the day.

The Cards got a final touchdown late in the game on another Lomax touchdown pass, this time to Mike Shumann from 18 yards out.

The final score of the game was 41-16. Dickey threw four touchdown passes without throwing a pick for 260 yards. His passer rating in the game was a whopping 150.4, as he completed 17-of-23 passes.

The defense of the Packers forced four turnovers and had five sacks in the game.

The next time the Packers and Cardinals met in the postseason was after the 2009 season, when the Cardinals were and still are based in Arizona.

The NFC Wild Card Game was played on January 10, 2010. The game turned out to be one of the most exciting and thrilling games in NFL postseason history.

The game matched two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL against each other. It would be Kurt Warner of the Cardinals going up against Aaron Rodgers of the Packers.

Ironically, Warner got his first opportunity in the NFL with the Packers in 1994, as he was signed as an undrafted rookie. But Warner didn’t last long in camp, not with Brett Favre, Mark Brunell and Ty Detmer ahead of him on the depth chart.

But by 2009, Warner had already become a two-time NFL MVP, been first-team All-Pro twice, been on four Pro Bowl teams, had played in three Super Bowls and had won Super Bowl XXXIV, plus was MVP of that game.

Kurt Warner vs. Pack in 2009 playoffs

Warner had led the Cardinals to the Super Bowl the previous season as a matter of fact, but Arizona lost in heartbreaking fashion 27-23 to the Pittsburgh Steelers on a late Ben Roethlisberger touchdown pass.

In 2009, Rodgers was just in his second year as starting quarterback of the Packers. No. 12 made the Pro Bowl squad and led the Packers to an 11-5 record, which made the team the No. 5 seed in the playoffs as a wild card.

The Cardinals were the No. 4 seed in the NFC with a 10-6 record, which was good enough to win the NFC West.

The Packers and Cardinals had played each other in Week 17 of the 2009 season, when the Packers won convincingly 33-7. However, Arizona rested a number of their starters, as they had already clinched the NFC West.

The second postseason game between the Cardinals and the Packers started out very badly for the team from Green Bay.

The Cardinals raced out to a 17-0 lead, as Arizona took advantage of an interception by Rodgers and scored on a one-yard touchdown run by Tim Hightower. The Cards followed that up with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Warner to Early Doucet and then Neil Rackers hit a 23-yard field goal.

Rodgers got the Packers on the board with a one-yard quarterback sneak to make it 17-7. But Warner immediately answered with another 15-yard touchdown toss to Doucet.

The Packers got on the board again before halftime with a 20-yard Mason Crosby field goal to make the score 24-10.

But Warner and the Cardinals stayed hot early in the third quarter, as Warner hit Larry Fitzgerald with a 33-yard touchdown pass to make the score 31-10.

But Rodgers and the Packers would not give up. No. 12 threw two touchdown passes, one to Greg Jennings from six yards out and one to Jordy Nelson from 11 yards out. Those touchdown tosses pulled the Packers within a touchdown of the Cards.

But once again, Warner had an answer. He hit Fitzgerald for another touchdown pass, this one from 11 yards out.

Then it was time for Rodgers to respond. First he hit James Jones with a 30-yard touchdown pass. Then he led a drive which culminated with a one-yard touchdown run by John Kuhn.

The score was now 38-38.

Warner remained unflappable, as he hit Steve Breaston with 17 yard touchdown pass.

But Rodgers responded immediately, as he hit Spencer Havner with an 11-yard touchdown pass. That made the score 45-45 and the game was heading to overtime.

Rodgers facemask vs. Cards

On the Packers first possession of overtime, Rodgers narrowly missed Jennings on a deep post pass which would have won the game for Green Bay. And then on a very controversial play, Rodgers fumbled, and Karlos Dansby of the Cardinals returned it 17 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

On the play, Rodgers is clearly hit in the helmet and also grabbed by the facemask. But a penalty was not called and the Cardinals won 51-45.

When it was all said and done, Warner had thrown for 379 yards and five touchdowns, while Rodgers had thrown for 423 yards and four touchdowns.

The game was truly a classic.

So, what will Rodgers do this Saturday night against the Cardinals? Well, if history is a blueprint for the future, Rodgers will toss four touchdown passes. Just like he did in the 2009 playoff game and like Dickey did in the 1982 playoff game.

We shall see what indeed happens in the upcoming game. All I know is that the Packers have averaged 43 points a game in the two postseason games that they have played against the Cardinals.

I know Packer Nation would be very happy if Green Bay comes close to that amount on Saturday night.

A Scout’s Take on the Packers-Cardinals Game

The matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Arizona Cardinals in a NFC Divisional Playoff Game on Saturday night should be much better this time around, as opposed to the 38-8 thrashing the Packers took in Week 16 in Arizona. That’s what NFL scout Chris Landry said on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show on Wednesday.

I didn’t have an opportunity to talk to Landry during the show like I normally do. Just last week on the show, Landry and I talked about defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s departure from the University of Wisconsin and the week prior to that about the issues with the offensive line of the Packers.

Fortunately even without my call, Duemig asked Landry about the matchup between the Packers and the Cardinals this week in Glendale, Arizona at University of Phoenix Stadium.

“The ability to run the football is the key for Green Bay,” Landry said. “If they do that, they slow down the pass rush. That’s the formula. I expect them to play better. A lot better than they played the last time these two teams met a few weeks ago, where Arizona’s defense scored more than Green Bay’s offense could score.

“But I don’t see it [a Green Bay win] being ultimately successful. I think Arizona has the better team. It’s going to have to be a great performance by Green Bay. But I expect them to play well. And I expect it to be a closer game.

“But running the football consistently is the key. If they can, than Aaron Rodgers can make plays. There’s no doubt. As I’ve said, the defense of Green Bay probably doesn’t get enough credit keeping them in there a lot of times [while the offense has struggled]. I give them a puncher’s chance, but certainly I like Arizona.”

I agree with a lot of what Landry said about the game. The game should be much closer. If for nothing else, the Packers might have their entire starting offensive line available for the game.

That wasn’t the case the last time the two teams met. Left tackle David Bakhtiari wasn’t able to play due to an ankle injury and Don Barclay started in his place instead. The results were dreadful, as Barclay gave up four and a half sacks.

In addition to that, right tackle Bryan Bulaga missed most of the second half with an ankle injury and was replaced by Josh Walker. The results again were horrendous. The performance by Walker was so bad that the Packers ended up putting in JC Tretter to take his place at right tackle.

Tretter stopped the bleeding in that game for the most part at right tackle. Plus his performance last week in the NFC Wild Card Game against the Washington Redskins at left tackle, lets the Packers know that they have someone who can at least hold down the fort somewhat if either Bakhtiari or Bulaga can’t play.

Tretter has gotten a lot of playing time this year, mostly at center when Corey Linsley was injured due to another ankle injury. While at center, Tretter performed admirably in Linsley’s absence. And except for an early sack for a safety last week versus the Redskins, Tretter also played very well at left tackle.

While nothing is for certain, it appears that Bakhtiari will be available to start at left tackle, as he practiced on both Wednesday and Thursday. That would be huge, at least based on the carnage which happened in the first matchup  on December 27.

In that game, Rodgers was hit 12 times, sacked eight times and fumbled three times (two of which were returned for touchdowns).

If the Packers can protect Rodgers this Saturday night against the Cardinals similar to how they protected No. 12 against the Redskins, he should have a big game. Against Washington, Rodgers was sacked just that one time for a safety and was hit only one other time, as he threw two touchdown passes without throwing a pick.

That’s an interesting comparison. Why? The Redskins had more sacks (38) than the Cardinals (36) during the 2015 season, even with the nine sacks the Cardinals had in their game against the Packers.

But as Landry says, running the football productively is the formula for success in the playoffs for the Packers. When the Packers went 4-0 in the postseason after the 2010 season and won Super Bowl XLV, the running game really clicked.

Yes, it’s true that Rodgers was terrific that postseason for the Packers, but so was James Starks, who gained 315 yards to lead all NFL rushers in the playoffs that year.

Because the game got out of hand so quickly the last time the two teams met, it was hard to get a real gauge on the running game of the Packers. But for the most part, it was successful.

Eddie Lacy rushed for 60 yards on just 12 carries. Starks only rushed for 11 yards, but that was because he was pulled from the game after a fumble.

The Packers need to do the same thing they did against the Redskins. Keep running the football. Sooner or later, the ground game will be successful.

That will certainly help Rodgers. And Rodgers knows how to get the job done in the postseason, unlike his counterpart Carson Palmer of the Cardinals.

Palmer had a terrific season in 2015 and he will get some votes for NFL MVP, but he has a very short resumé in the postseason.

Let’s compare what both Rodgers and Palmer have done at crunch time in the playoffs.

Rodgers is 7-5 in the postseason, which includes a victory in Super Bowl XLV, when No. 12 was MVP of the game. The record is a bit misleading when on looks at the stats Rodgers has put up.

Rodgers has thrown 25 touchdown passes versus seven picks for 3,193 yards. That adds up to a 100.3 passer rating, which is fourth all-time in NFL annals.

Meanwhile, Palmer has only played in two postseason games and he has lost them both as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals.

In the first playoff game that Palmer played in the 2005 postseason vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers, the former USC Trojan star completed a 66-yard pass early in the game, but also suffered an ACL tear on the very same play which knocked him out of the contest.

In his second game against the New York Jets in the 2009 postseason, Palmer did not play well. He completed just 18-of-36 passes for 146 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception. His passer rating for that game was 58.3.

This is not to say Palmer will play badly this Saturday night. He played well against the Packers in late December when he threw for 265 yards with two touchdown passes versus one pick. His passer rating in that game was a sparkling 107.8.

But with Palmer, you never know what you are going to get. The very next week after the big win against the Packers, Palmer and the Cardinals looked horrible against the Seattle Seahawks at home, when they lost 36-6.

Palmer was just 12-of-25 for 129 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception.The passer rating for No. 3 was just 60.2 against Seattle.

Now Palmer does have one of the best set of wide receivers in the NFL, with Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd.

The group will be going up against a secondary that has played very well this year and might be bolstered by the return of Sam Shields. No. 37 practiced on both Wednesday and Thursday and is expected to be cleared from the concussion evaluation process after missing the last four games.

That would be a huge development for the Packers. If the secondary can play well and the pass rush can  be as effective as it was last week (six sacks) against the Redskins, the Packers will have more than a fighting chance against the Cardinals.

I agree with Landry that the fifth-seeded Packers need to have a great performance on Saturday night for a chance to win against the second-seeded Cardinals. In all phases of the football game…offense, defense and special teams.

The stars are lining up for what could be a memorable spectacle for the Packers. The game on Saturday night is reminding me of the 2010 postseason matchup the Packers had when they played the No. 1 seed Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome in a NFC Divisional Game.

The Packers had lost to the Falcons in the 2010 regular season in Atlanta, but in the playoff game versus the Dirty Birds, the No. 6 seeded Packers shocked the NFL world by whipping the Falcons 48-21.

Rodgers probably played the finest game of his career in that game, which was also played on a Saturday night. Rodgers completed 31-of-36 passes for 366 yards and three touchdown passes and zero interceptions. The passer rating for Rodgers in that game was an amazing 136.8.

If that wasn’t enough, Rodgers also rushed for a touchdown in that game.

Now I’m not saying that Rodgers will have another game like that on Saturday night, but I do believe he will play very well.

The last time he played a postseason game in Arizona, Rodgers threw for 423 yards and four touchdowns, when the Packers lost to the Cardinals 51-45 in overtime in the 2009 postseason.

The bottom line is that I believe the Packers have a real chance to shock the NFL world again this Saturday night. Almost every NFL pundit I’ve heard or seen believes the Cardinals will win.

Of course, they all said the same thing when the Packers played the Falcons in the 2010 postseason.

We shall see what happens, but I would not be surprised if the Packers move on to the NFC Championship Game after the clash on Saturday night.

Jerry Kramer Belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Blog

Jerry leading Bart in Ice Bowl

Those of you who have followed my writing throughout the years, know that I have written countless stories about Jerry Kramer. This goes back over a decade ago when I was writing for Packer Report.

That continued through my recent tenure at Bleacher Report, which lasted three and a half years.

In June, I started my own blog page at WordPress and my writing about Kramer has continued. Even more so.

I’ve also been able to forge a great friendship with Jerry over the years and have spent many an hour on the phone with him discussing a variety of subjects.

Many of the articles that I’ve done regarding Kramer are about the ridiculous omission of No. 64 in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

On this particular blog, I’m going to post links to the two stories that I have done about Kramer on WordPress regarding that subject, as well as 12 more pieces which has Kramer talking about the 11 former teammates of his in Green Bay who are already in Canton, as well as the coach who made it all possible…Vince Lombardi.

I also added a story which talks about Dan Currie. Currie and Kramer were part of the best draft class in Green Bay history. Also in that draft class was Jim Taylor and Ray Nitschke. Taylor and Nitschke have busts in Canton,  while Kramer certainly deserves the same distinction.

There is absolutely no question that Kramer deserves to be among that group of great players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Kramer’s play on the field was superb in the regular season, but even better in the postseason, when it truly was crunch time.

Lombardi and his Packers were 9-1 in the postseason during his tenure, which included five NFL titles in seven years, along with wins in the first two Super Bowls.

Kramer’s play was definitely instrumental in the Packers winning the NFL title in three of those games. I’m talking about the 1962, 1965 and 1967 NFL championship games, in which No. 64 had a key role in the victories by Green Bay.

Lombardi’s legend has risen to the point where the Super Bowl trophy is named after him.

An honor which is well deserved.

Kramer also deserves the highest honor that a NFL player can achieve. That is, being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A distinction which should have occurred decades ago.

Football: Super Bowl II. Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi victorious, getting carried off field by Jerry Kramer (64) after game vs Oakland Raiders. Cover. Miami, FL 1/14/1968 CREDIT: Neil Leifer (Photo by Neil Leifer /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (Set Number: X12952

Why Jerry Kramer Belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Jerry Kramer Has to Wait Another Year for Enshrinement in Canton

Jerry Kramer Talks About Vince Lombardi

Jerry Kramer Talks About Jim Taylor

Jerry Kramer Talks About Forrest Gregg

Jerry Kramer Talks About Bart Starr

Jerry Kramer Talks About Ray Nitschke

Jerry Kramer Talks About Herb Adderley

Jerry Kramer Talks About Willie Davis

Jerry Kramer Talks About Jim Ringo

Jerry Kramer Talks About Paul Hornung

Jerry Kramer Talks About Willie Wood

Jerry Kramer Talks About Henry Jordan

Jerry Kramer Talks About Dave Robinson

Jerry Kramer Talks About Dan Currie

A Scout’s Take on Dave Aranda and Barry Alvarez

The exhilaration after beating the USC Trojans 23-21 in the Holiday Bowl didn’t last too long for the Wisconsin Badgers.

Just two days after the Badgers won their second straight bowl game, it was announced that defensive coordinator Dave Aranda would be leaving the Badgers for that same post with the LSU Tigers.

While at Wisconsin, Aranda was paid $520,000 annually, including a base salary of $300,000.

By taking the same job at LSU, Aranda more than doubled his salary, as he signed a three-year deal which will start out with him making $1.3 million in 2016.

Aranda put together a great résumé at Wisconsin and he was highly sought after by other football programs.

From 2013-15, Aranda’s Wisconsin defense allowed an average of 289.4 yards per game, which ranks first in the nation over that span.

In addition, his defense allowed 16.9 points (No. 2 nationally), 179.9 passing yards (No. 3 nationally) and 109.6 rushing yards (No. 4 nationally) over the three years, a span that saw Wisconsin win 30 games with just 10 losses.

Aranda’s 2015 Badger defense capped the regular season leading the nation in points allowed at 13.1 points a game. Wisconsin also was ranked No. 3 in the nation in total defense (268.5 yards per game), No. 4 in rushing defense (95.4 yards per game) and No. 7 in passing defense (173.2 yards per game).

It’s not hard to see why Aranda was a coach that multiple football programs would want.

The odds were pretty high that Aranda would end up in the SEC conference if he went anywhere. Why? Take a look at the assistant coaching salaries going into the 2015 season, as put together by USA Today.

The SEC far and away blows away the other power conferences in terms of what they pay their assistant coaches.

I had an opportunity this past Wednesday to talk with NFL scout Chris Landry on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show. Although he is strictly a scout now, Landry has also coached in the past, which included a stop at LSU. In fact, Landry still lives near campus in Baton Rouge.

That’s why I thought it would be nice to get his read on the Aranda situation.

“They have tried to get Dave Aranda at LSU for about three years now,” Landry said. “I’m excited that he’s here.”

Landry then talked about the reason why the SEC pays it’s assistant coaches more.

“The reason why they pay more money is they make more money in the SEC,” Landry said. “It’s bigger time programs that fill their stadiums at a larger rate. They get more money from tickets and luxury suites.

“They sell more merchandise and put more money into the football program. That’s why it’s been the best conference in the country. They put more emphasis on that.

“They pay the head coaches more and the assistant coaches more. They have larger support staffs as a result of that.”

Landry then turned his discussion in talking about the SEC compared to someone like Barry Alvarez, the legendary former head coach at Wisconsin, as well as their current athletic director.

“If you listen to someone like Barry Alvarez, he’ll tell you that they have more sports to pay for,” Landry said. “Well, Barry is part of the problem. You don’t have to do anything.

“Guys like Barry Alvarez, he could spend more. But Barry’s ego gets in the way. Barry thinks of himself as the greatest coach ever. And because he didn’t make the big money, therefore, coaches [today] are making too much money.

“Well, they are. Get over it. It’s not what you were worth then. It’s what the going rate is now. And that’s why they [Wisconsin] have had a hard time keeping coaches.

“Barry does a pretty good job finding coaches, but he can’t keep them because he doesn’t pay at the level [he needs to]. If you want to be a top-10 program, pay like it. And they don’t do it at Wisconsin and I think they are capable of doing that, but they just don’t.”

Those are some pretty harsh words from Landry talking about Alvarez. Especially when one looks at where the football program was when Alvarez first arrived on the scene to coach the Badgers.

When Alvarez arrived in Madison in 1990, the football program had hit rock bottom under Don Morton, as the team went 6-27 in the three years Morton coached there.

Plus, in it’s history, the Badgers had only won one bowl game and had never won a Rose Bowl.

That all changed under Alvarez.

From 1990-2005, Alvarez won 118 games for the Badgers, which is 50 more than any coach in the history of Wisconsin football.

The Badgers also won three Big Ten titles, along with three Rose Bowl wins. Overall, the Badgers were 8-3 in bowl games during that span.

Since that time, the Badgers have continued to be successful under coaches like Bret Bielema, Gary Andersen and current head coach Paul Chryst.

The Badgers have won three more Big Ten titles and have gone to 10 straight bowl games since Alvarez became strictly the athletic director.

That being said, Alvarez had to be the interim coach for the Badgers in both the 2013 Rose Bowl (lost 20-14) and the 2015 Outback Bowl (won 34-31) after Bielema (Arkansas) and Andersen (Oregon State) moved on to their current locations.

Still, it’s true that both Bielema and Andersen felt that their assistants were not paid enough, plus they also felt that the academic standards at Wisconsin were set too high compared to the rest of the country.

Bottom line, compared to where the Badgers were before Alvarez arrived and are now, is like night and day.

So, who will replace Aranda as the new defensive coordinator of the Badgers?

Todd Orlando

Todd Orlando

I asked Landry if Todd Orlando would possibly be a candidate for the job. Orlando is currently the defensive coordinator at the University of Houston.

This past year, the Cougars went 13-1 and beat Florida State in the Peach Bowl.

Before then, he followed Aranda to become the defensive coordinator at Utah State after Aranda came to Wisconsin with Andersen.

Like Aranda, Orlando has put together a nice track record with his coaching accomplishments. Orlando also runs the same 3-4 scheme that Aranda utilizes. In addition to all that, Orlando is a Wisconsin grad, who was a three-year letter winner at linebacker.

Orlando played on the 1993 team coached by Alvarez, which won the Big Ten title and the 1994 Rose Bowl.

“They [Wisconsin] have a couple of good candidates,” Landry said. “I think Todd is a good coach. I don’t know where he would fit on their list. I would make him a candidate and see where it goes.”

The Postseason History Between the Packers and Redskins

On late Sunday afternoon, the 10-6 Green Bay Packers will take on the 9-7 and NFC East champion Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in a NFC Wild Card game.

The meeting between the two teams will be the third time the teams have met in the postseason.

Before I get into the two previous matchups between the Packers and Redskins, I wanted to point out some interesting connections between the two teams.

The Packers play their games at Lambeau Field. The stadium is located on Lombardi Avenue.

Why is that? Because Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi are the two most famous and successful coaches in the history of the Packers.

Between the two of them, the Packers won 11 NFL titles.

Both coaches also moved on to become the head coach of the Redskins after their tenures in Green Bay.

Lambeau initially joined the Chicago Cardinals after leaving the Packers in 1950, but after two years in Chicago, Lambeau became head coach of the Redskins in 1952.

In two seasons there, the Redskins went 10-13-1 under Lambeau.

After Lombardi relinquished his head coaching duties in Green Bay in 1968, he stayed on as general manager for one year.

But in 1969, Lombardi was hired by the Redskins to be Executive Vice President, General Manager and Head Coach. Lombardi was also given a stock interest in the team.

Lombardi led the Redskins to a 7-5-2 record in 1969, which was Washington’s first winning record in 14 years.

Tragically, Lombardi passed away in 1970 because of colon cancer at the age of 57.

Lambeau and Lombardi

Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi

In addition to those connections, there is also Green Bay’s current team President and CEO, Mark Murphy. Murphy has held that position since late 2007, when he took over the reins from Bob Harlan.

Murphy has presided over an organization which has gone 89-49-1 and gone to the postseason seven straight years. Included in that run was the Vince Lombardi Trophy the team brought back to Green Bay after winning Super Bowl XLV.

As a player in the NFL, Murphy had an eight-year career with the Redskins playing safety. During that period, Washington won Super Bowl XVII.

In 1983, Murphy led the NFL with nine interceptions and was a consensus All-Pro, as well as getting selected to play in the Pro Bowl.

In terms of their postseason meetings, the Packers and Redskins first met in the 1936 NFL title game.

That game was the very first postseason game the Packers ever played in. Green Bay had already won three NFL titles in 1929, 1930 and 1931, but that was when the NFL awarded the championship by league standing.

In 1933, the NFL went to a playoff system to determine the league champion.

The Packers were 10-1-1 in 1936, which was tops in the Western Division.

The Redskins won the Eastern Division with a 7-5 record. The team was also based in Boston that season.

Owner George Preston Marshall was not happy with the support the team was receiving in Boston. Because of that, Marshall decided to host the NFL title game in New York at the Polo Grounds, instead of Fenway Park.

In 1937, Marshall moved the Redskins to Washington.

The title game in the Big Apple drew 29,545 fans.

The Packers won the contest 21-6, mostly because of the passing of Arnie Herber. The Packers had twice as many passing yards in the game, compared to the Redskins.

The Packers had led the NFL in passing offense in 1936.

Herber hit Don Hutson with a 48-yard touchdown pass in the first three minutes of the game. Hutson finished with five catches for 76 yards and a touchdown.

Don Hutson and Curly Lambeau

Don Hutson and Curly Lambeau

Johnny (Blood) McNally also caught two passes for 55 yards. One was a 52-yard reception which set up a touchdown. Herber ended up throwing two touchdown passes.

Clark Hinkle led the Packers in rushing with 58 yards on 16 carries.

The game was marred by a number of turnovers. The Packers forced five turnovers (four fumbles and an interception), while the Redskins forced five themselves (three fumbles and two interceptions).

The bottom line is the Packers had their fourth NFL title with the win and their first via the playoff format.

The next time the two teams met in the postseason was in 1972, which was five years after the Lombardi-era had ended in Green Bay.

Lombardi had added five more NFL championships (including the first two Super Bowls) to the Green Bay trophy cabinet, along with the six titles Lambeau had won.

The Packers struggled after Lombardi had turned over the coaching duties to Phil Bengtson in 1968. In the three years that Bengtson coached the Packers, the team was 20-21-1.

After Bengtson resigned, the Packers brought in Dan Devine, who had been a successful college coach at Missouri. In Devine’s first year in Green Bay, the Packers were 4-8-2.

But the Packers rebounded in 1972 under Devine and ended up winning the NFC Central division with a 10-4 record.

The Packers were led by their defense, which was ranked second in the NFL in total defense. That included being eighth in passing defense and second in rushing defense.

The only remaining defensive starter from the 1967 title team in Green Bay was linebacker Dave Robinson. In addition, Ray Nitschke was also on the ’72 team, but was a backup to middle linebacker Jim Carter.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Packers had two players from the ’67 team who were still starters in ’72. They were center Ken Bowman and wide receiver Carroll Dale.

Speaking of the offense, it was a completely different story compared to the defense. The Packers were ranked 22nd in total offense. Remember that the NFL was just a 26-member league at the time.

Green Bay was ranked seventh in rushing offense, as the team averaged over 150 yard per game on the ground. The two primary reasons were the performances of John Brockington and MacArthur Lane.

Brockington ran for 1,027 yards and eight touchdowns, while Lane rushed for 821 yards and three touchdowns.

The passing game really struggled however. Bart Starr had retired after the 1971 season. Starr was brought on to be the quarterbacks coach for the 1972 season.

That being said, there wasn’t a lot that Starr could have done to help the quarterback situation that season. It’s hard to make chicken salad out of chicken sh*t if you know what I mean.

Starr was forced to work with second-year quarterback Scott Hunter, who had suffered a shoulder injury while he was playing for Alabama, the same place Starr had played college football.

That shoulder injury severely affected the way Hunter could throw the football once he got to the NFL. The Packers also drafted Green Bay native Jerry Tagge of Nebraska in the first round of the 1972 NFL draft, but Tagge was very raw in terms of his throwing skills.

That is what Starr had to work with in 1972. The Packers ended up throwing for just over 100 yards per game that season.

Hunter started all 14 games for the Packers that season and he threw just six touchdown passes versus nine interceptions for 1,252 yards. The passer rating for Hunter that season was 55.5.

Coincidentally, the Packers and Redskins met in the regular season in 1972, when they met in Week 11 at RFK Stadium in Washington. The Redskins won that game 21-16.

The Packers led in that game 14-13 in the fourth quarter, before the Redskins came back to win.

Lane rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown in the game, while Brockington gained 42 yards.

Hunter and Tagge split the duties at quarterback in the game, as between the two of them, they completed five-of-19 passes for just 66 yards and an interception.

At the end of the season, the Packers won the NFC Central, while the 11-3 Redskins had won the NFC East.

That set up another game at RFK Stadium in the playoffs.

The Redskins knew from their previous meeting with the Packers that they had nothing to fear from the Green Bay passing game, so they stacked up a five-man defensive line to stop the rushing attack of the Packers.

The head coach of the Redskins then was George Allen, who took over the team in 1971. Allen was always known for his coaching prowess on the defensive side of the ball.

That five-man front was a success in stopping the running game of the Packers, as the team had just 78 yards rushing that day, which included just nine yards by Brockington in 13 carries.

Hunter did throw for 150 yards in the game, but he also threw a key interception.

In the end, the Redskins won the game 16-3.

After beating the Packers, the Redskins defeated the the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game, before falling to the undefeated Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VII.

It’s somewhat hard to believe that the game on Sunday will be just the third postseason game that the Packers and Redskins have played.

The Packers joined the NFL in 1921, while the Redskins joined the league in 1932.

In addition to that, the two teams have only met 32 times in the regular season as well, with the Packers having the edge 18-13-1.

As I noted in my most recent story about the declining stats of quarterback Aaron Rodgers in 2015, the Packers have a real chance to kick-start their almost comatose offense versus the Redskins.

Washington is ranked 28th in total defense. The Redskins are also ranked just 25th in passing defense and have allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw 30 touchdown passes versus just 11 picks and have a passer rating of 96.1.

Washington also struggles in stopping the run. The Redskins are just 26th in rushing defense and have given up an average of over 122 yards per game on the ground.

The Redskins have also allowed opposing running backs to average 4.8 yards per carry.

We shall see if Rodgers, running back Eddie Lacy and the rest of the offense of the Packers can take advantage of that situation.

If they do, then they would have most likely won the rubber match in this postseason series between the Packers and Redskins, which first started 80 years ago.