Wisconsin Sports Teams Have Fared Well at Yankee Stadium in the Postseason

lew burdette at yankee stadium in 1957 world series

As I was watching the Wisconsin Badgers pummel the Miami Hurricanes 35-3 in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at the new Yankee Stadium in December, I got to thinking about all the great moments other Wisconsin sports teams had at the original Yankee Stadium.

The new Yankee Stadium replaced “The House That Ruth Built” in 2009. That original stadium was considered to be the cathedral of baseball while it existed from 1923 through 2008. The stadium also hosted other sporting events such as college football, as well as NFL football (the New York Giants played there from 1956-1973), plus their were also a number of great boxing matches at the venerable stadium.

In terms of great moments for a Wisconsin sports team, it all started in 1957, when the Milwaukee Braves played the New York Yankees in the World Series.

Game 1 was played at Yankee Stadium and the Braves did not get off to a great start, as Whitey Ford out-pitched Warren Spahn and the Yankees won 3-1 in front of 69,476 fans. But in Game 2, Lew Burdette got the Braves back to even in the series, as he pitched a beauty as Milwaukee won 4-2, as 65,202 fans attended.

But that performance by Burdette was just the beginning of even more excellence as the series continued.

The Braves then won two out of three games played at Milwaukee County Stadium to take a 3-2 lead in the series as it headed back to Yankee Stadium. One of those wins in Milwaukee was another great performance by Burdette in Game 5, as he shut out the Yanks 1-0 in a great pitching duel with Ford.

In Game 6 at Yankee Stadium, New York evened the series at 3-3, as the Yankees edged the Braves 3-2 in front of 61,408 fans.

That set up a winner-take-all situation in Game 7, as the Braves were putting out Burdette on the mound again versus Don Larsen. Milwaukee was led offensively by Bob Hazle, Del Crandall and Hank Aaron, who each had two hits, while Burdette was magnificent on the mound. Crandall hit the only homer of the game, as the Braves won 5-0.

Burdette had his third straight complete game win in the series and his second straight shutout.  In all, No. 33 was 3-0 in the series, pitched 24 consecutive scoreless innings, had an ERA of .067 and was named the MVP of the World Series.

On this offensive side, Aaron was fantastic in the series, as No. 44 hit .393, plus knocked out three homers and drove in seven runs. Third baseman Eddie Mathews added a homer (the game-winner in Game 4) and four RBIs.

As it has turned out, 1957 was the only year the city of Milwaukee has had a World Series champion. And that clinching victory happened at Yankee Stadium.

braves celebrate winning 1957 world series

Then there was the 1962 NFL Championship Game played at Yankee Stadium between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants. This would be the second straight year the two teams had played for the NFL title, as the Packers beat the G-Men at new City Stadium (now Lambeau Field) 37-0 in the 1961 NFL Championship Game, as Paul Hornung scored 19 of those points by himself.

The environment at Yankee Stadium was reminiscent of the conditions at the 1967 NFL Championship Game, better know as the “Ice Bowl”, as it was a bitterly cold day (13 degrees), plus the wind was gusting up to 40 miles per hour, which made things feel much colder.

Even with the blustery weather, right guard/kicker Jerry Kramer was awestruck as he walked into the storied stadium.

“It was really a highlight for me walking into Yankee Stadium,” Kramer said. “It was an emotional experience for me. All the great fights and the World Series games that had gone on there. You had the statues of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio in center field.

“You also looked into the crowd and saw the sophisticated sports fans who were booing your ass. Then you look across the line of scrimmage and you see [Andy] Robustelli, [Jim] Katcavage, [Sam] Huff, [Dick] Lynch and that whole group, you definitely get pumped.”

Kramer wasn’t the only one pumped on the Green Bay sideline. Being at Yankee Stadium was also a homecoming for head coach Vince Lombardi, as he was a New York City native and was the offensive coordiantor for the Giants from 1954-1958.

“We knew how badly coach Lombardi wanted to win that ball game,” Kramer said. “And we knew the Giants had been embarrassed the year before in Green Bay. We knew the Giants were going to be loaded for bear that day. But we also knew coach Lombardi desperately wanted a victory, and so we wanted to win for him and much as ourselves.”

Kramer was excited for another reason. No. 64 had missed the 1961 NFL title game due to a broken ankle/leg suffered midway in the 1961 season. But Kramer went on to have his best season in the NFL in 1962.

Kramer was named first team All-Pro by AP, NEA and UPI, while No. 64 was also named to his first Pro Bowl squad.

Not only was Kramer exceptional playing right guard for the Packers, but he also took over the placekicking duties of the Packers during the season after Hornung suffered a knee injury.

For the season, Kramer scored 65 points, which included being 9-for-11 in field goal attempts.

The NFL title game in the Bronx turned out to be extremely physical in arctic-like conditions. The Packers rushed for 148 yards in the game, with fullback Jimmy Taylor getting 85 of those yards, as well as the only touchdown scored by the Packers.

jim taylor in 1962 nfl title game

Taylor and middle linebacker Sam Huff of the Giants brawled all game long. Huff made it a personal mission to stop Taylor, and he hit the bruising fullback after the whistle a number of times in the game. Talking about that confrontation, Kramer said, “Huff probably would have gotten arrested for assaulting Taylor today.”

After the victory by the Packers, middle linebacker Ray Nitschke was named the game’s MVP, as he had been tenacious with his tackling on defense and also recovered two fumbles.

Kramer certainly could have received that honor as well, based on the way he played that day. Besides blocking very well and recovering a fumble by Taylor, Kramer had to kick that day under very difficult conditions, with the gusty wind hampering his efforts.

Kramer ended up scoring 10 points (three field goals and an extra point) in the 16-7 victory for the Packers. After the game, the coaches and the players presented No. 64 with a game ball because of the great performance he had in that year’s championship game.

jerry kramer fg

Then there was the 1981 American League Division Series between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Yankees. The 1981 season was a strike year in baseball and the season was split into halves. The Yankees won the AL East in the first half of the season, while the Brew Crew won the AL East in the second half of the season. That set up this playoff series to find out who would go on to the AL Championship Series.

1981 was the first time the Brewers had ever played in the postseason. The season was set up by a big offseason trade that saw Milwaukee acquire relief pitcher Rollie Fingers, starting pitcher Pete Vuckovich and catcher Ted Simmons from the St, Louis Cardinals.

Fingers was awesome all season long as he was 6-3 with 28 saves, plus had a phenomenal 1.04 ERA, which led the Brewers to the second-half AL East title. That performance garnered Fingers the AL MVP award, as well as the Cy Young honor in the AL.

In the series against the Yanks, the Brewers did not play very well in the first two games at County Stadium in Milwaukee, as they were beaten 5-3 in Game 1 and then 3-0 in Game 2. That meant all the Yankees needed was just one win at Yankee Stadium to move on to the ALCS.

paul molitor in 1981 al division series at yankee stadium

But the Brewers battled back in Game 3. Randy Lerch went up against Tommy John and allowed just one run over six innings. Fingers came in to finish the game in the seventh inning, and although he allowed two runs, the Brewers won 5-3. Fingers got the victory, while Simmons (three RBIs) and Paul Molitor each had a homer.

In Game 4, Vuckovich allowed only one unearned run over five innings, as the bullpen took over after that, as Jamie Easterly, Jim Slaton, Bob McClure and Fingers finished it out, as the Brewers won 2-1. Vuckovich got the win, while Fingers got the save. Ben Oglivie and Cecil Cooper each had a RBI.

In Game 5, the Brewers started Moose Haas, who would be going up against Ron Guidry. The Brewers got off to a nice start, as they led 2-0. Gorman Thomas hit a homer and Robin Yount had three hits, but the Yankees stormed back and won 7-3.

Still, it was a great experience for the Brewers, as it set the stage for 1982, when Milwaukee advanced to the World Series under manager Harvey Kuenn, who took over for Buck Rodgers early in that season.

The Badgers had their way against the Canes at the new Yankee Stadium on this past December with running back Jonathan Taylor leading the way, as No. 23 rushed for 205 yards and a touchdown.

The game was attended by just 37,821 fans, but most were Wisconsin backers who enjoyed another great moment in the Big Apple. The bowl victory was the fifth straight for the Badgers and gave head coach Paul Chryst a perfect 4-0 record in bowl games.

NCAA Football: Pinstripe Bowl-Wisconsin vs Miami

The Badgers are now 16-14 in their bowl history.

The bottom line is that both old Yankee Stadium and new Yankee Stadium have given the state of Wisconsin some great sports memories. The memories may continue still, as the Brewers are now in the National League and it’s entirely possible that they might match up one day in the near future with the Yankees in the World Series.

That would be apropos. Especially if the Brewers clinched the series at Yankee Stadium.

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.