Final 2019 NFL Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers

Brian Gutekunst, Matt LaFleur and Mark Murphy at PC

The 2019 NFL draft is now just two days away and will take place in Nashville, Tennessee. The Green Bay Packers, behind general manager Brian Gutekunst and his scouting team, surely have their draft board set.

As a matter of fact, Gutekunst told the media on Monday that he closed the draft room door. “I wouldn’t imagine there’d be a whole lot of changes between now and Thursday,” said the man who replaced Ted Thompson as GM of the Packers last year.

The scouting team has done it’s work, as they have scouted the bowl games, the all-star games (the East-West Shrine Game, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and the Senior Bowl), the NFL Scouting Combine and finally the pro days.

Gutekunst, who along with Mark Murphy, the President and CEO of the Packers, hired Matt LaFleur to replace Mike McCarthy as the new head coach of the Packers back in January.

The draft is one way to help LaFleur succeed. But for that to happen, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has to get back to the way he played when he was twice named NFL MVP, not to mention winning Super Bowl XLV, when he was MVP of that game. I expect the Packers to utilize the draft to get Rodgers some help.

Just like the way Gutekunst used free agency to help out Mike Pettine’s defense.

Gutekunst shocked just about everyone in Packer Nation when he signed four free agents in one day back in March, when he signed edge rusher Preston Smith (formerly of the Washington Redskins), edge rusher Za’Darius Smith (formerly of the Baltimore Ravens), safety Adrian Amos (formerly of the Chicago Bears) and offensive lineman Billy Turner (formerly of the Denver Broncos).

The men called Smith will certainly help improve the pass rush of the Packers, while Amos will help out at safety, a position that was continuously being exploited by opponents of the Packers.

Turner adds real depth and talent on the offensive line of the Packers and has played both guard and tackle in his career thus far in the NFL. In addition to that, the Packers also now have Cole Madison back in the fold, after he missed his entire rookie year due to some personal issues.

Madison started 47 games at right tackle for Washington State, but is also seen as a player, who like Turner, can move inside to guard and play very effectively in the NFL.

Both Turner and Madison seem like perfect fits in LaFleur’s outside zone running scheme.

I did my first mock draft a little over a month ago. Since then, the Packers have lost both Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb to free agency. Unfortunately, that is life in the NFL, especially when the production doesn’t match the salary allocated to the player who leaves.

Throughout the years, like a blind squirrel who finds an acorn, I have had decent success with my selections in my mock drafts and a lot of that is due to the relationship I have struck with NFL scout Chris Landry.

I am using the draft analysis and grades of Landry to guide me through this mock draft.

As I mentioned in my first mock draft, as you look through my draft selections, especially the ones later in the draft, please note that I am trying to address the special teams issues which have plagued the Packers recently and are now trying to improve with new coaches.

In this mock draft, you will note that I am again drafting three players who I had the Packers selecting in my first mock draft.

That being said, here is my second and final 2019 NFL mock draft for the Packers.

Round 1: Tight End T.J. Hockenson (Iowa)

T.J. Hockenson II

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 251 pounds

As we get closer to the 2019 NFL draft, it appears that if the Green Bay Packers want one of the top two tight ends in this particular draft, they will most likely have to pick that player at selection No. 12, which is the first of two picks that the Packers have in Round 1. The two tight ends who I am talking about are T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, both of whom played at Iowa.

Hockenson had a breakout season in 2018 with the Hawkeyes, as he hauled in 49 passes for 760 yards and six touchdowns. Iowa had a dynamic duo at tight end last season with both Hockenson and Fant (39-517-7).

Overall in his career at Iowa, Hockenson had 73 receptions for 1,080 yards and nine touchdowns. Hockenson also had a rushing TD.

In terms of his draft status, Hockenson has a higher rating from most scouts than Fant going into the upcoming draft, as he is a much better blocker.

This is what Chris Landry said about Hockenson at the Senior Bowl.

“Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson is an excellent receiver and a unusually great blocker coming out of college. He is more advanced than 2018 breakout tight end George Kittle at the same stage.”

The Packers certainly need additional help at the tight end position, as Jimmy Graham is nearing the end of his career, as is Marcedes Lewis (who was re-signed). The Packers also have Robert Tonyan.

Hockenson would help in two big areas. One as a productive pass-catching receiver, plus would tremendously help with his run-blocking in the outside zone scheme which Matt LaFleur will be utilizing in 2019.

If Hockenson is off the board at No. 12, I would expect the Packers to select Fant, because he won’t be there at No. 30. If by chance both are gone, then the Packers might select someone like edge rusher Montez Sweat of Mississippi State, who I had the Packers taking in my first mock draft or an offensive lineman, perhaps a player like Jonah Williams of Alabama or Jawaan Taylor of Florida.

Round 1: Wide Receiver A.J. Brown (Mississippi)

A.J. Brown

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 226 pounds

Wide receiver Arthur “A.J.” Brown had a great three-year career at Mississippi, as he was twice named first-team All-SEC when he played with the Rebels.

The Rebels had quite a passing attack with Brown on one side and D.K. Metcalf on the other. Metcalf also looks to be selected in Round 1 in this year’s draft.

In his career, Brown had 189 receptions for 2,984 yards and 19 touchdowns. In his last two years at Ole Miss, Brown averaged 80 catches for 1,280 yards and 8.5 TDs.

Brown can play both outside and inside, but I see him more as a slot receiver with the Packers. Brown has great body control, plus can change direction quickly and runs extremely well after the catch. Also has great separation skills.

At the combine, Brown ran a 4.49 in the 40 and had a vertical jump of 36.5 inches.

Chris Landry said this about the talented wide receiver.

“Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown will be a quality NFL WR who can work outside and in the slot. Brown (6’0/226) has plenty of experience inside, but he also played on the perimeter in the second half of 2018 and he did well in those reps as well. He is an efficient route runner and is both competitive and tough with natural hands.”

Round 2: Offensive Tackle Kaleb McGary (Washington)

Kaleb McGary

Height: 6’7″

Weight: 317 pounds

Kaleb McGary was a four-year starter at right tackle for the Washington Huskies. Not only that, but McGary was named All-Pac-12 there in both 2017 and 2018.

McGary has the strength and agility which has made him a very good run blocker throughout his career at Washington. Those attributes will come in handy in the outside zone blocking scheme which will be utilized by new head coach Matt LaFleur of the Packers.

The former star of the Huskies is not a bad pass blocker either based on the honors he has received in the Pac-12, but his ability to run block is his biggest strength.

McGary is also mentally tough, as he and his family have gone through some difficult times recently.

Chris Landry said this about McGary after watching film of him at the Senior Bowl.

“Kaleb McGary was impressive when studying senior bowl practice tape. He was a stalwart for the Washington offensive line in his four seasons as a starter. He could potentially step in right away and help someone and should go no later than mid second round.”

The Packers desperately need a right tackle to come in and play well, as Bryan Bulaga has often been injured playing at that position. Since 2012, Bulaga has missed 40 games due to injury, plus has had to leave a number of games early due to an injury.

I believe McGary can be the guy to step in for Bulaga.

Round 3: Safety Juan Thornhill (Virginia)

Juan Thornhill

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 205 pounds

The draft stock of safety Juan Thornhill of Virginia is definitely starting to rise, so if the Packers were able to select Thornhill in Round 3 they would have to be quite pleased.

Thornhill was a three-year starter at Virginia, as he had 208 total tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 13 interceptions, 26 passes defended and one forced fumble. In 2017, Thornhill was third-team All-ACC and in 2018 was first-team All-ACC.

Thornhill would be just what the Packers need, a pure free safety who can play center field.

The former Cavalier impressed at the combine, as he ran a 4.42 in the 40 and had an explosive vertical jump of 44 inches.

Chris Landry said this about Thornhill back in March.

“Virginia S Juan Thornhill was impressive for the Cavaliers in 2018, and his stock has risen after his strong testing at the NFL Scouting Combine. He has the size and cover skills that we look for at the NFL level in today’s game. He is skilled enough to play inside over a slot and can cover well enough outside to play some corner looks.”

Round 4: Running Back Trayveon Williams (Texas A&M)

Trayveon Williams

Height: 5’8″

Weight: 206 pounds

Running back Trayveon Williams of Texas A&M may be a bit on the short side, but he is not small. In fact, he plays like a much larger RB. In addition to that, he has all the abilities that one wants in a three-down back, as he runs extremely well, catches the ball reliably and blocks very efficiently too.

Add to that, Williams is a great character guy who works well with coaches and teammates.

In his three-year career as an Aggie, Williams ran for 3,615 yards (6.0 average) and 34 touchdowns. Williams also caught 66 passes for 561 yards and another score.

In 2019, Williams was named first-team All-SEC and second-team All-American, as he ran for 1,524 rushing yards, plus scored 15 times on 252 carries (6.1 average). He also caught 27 passes for 278 yards (10.3 average) and a touchdown.

At the combine, Williams ran a 4.51 in the 40.

Chris Landry said this about Williams prior to the Texas A&M vs. LSU game.

“RB Trayveon Williams ran for more than 100 yards last week for the third straight game as he amassed 167 on 20 carries with two touchdowns against UAB. Williams has 1,326 yards rushing this year, the most in the SEC and averages 6.1 yards per carry.”

Round 4: Outside Linebacker Justin Hollins (Oregon)

Justin Hollins

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 248 pounds

Even with the additions of Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith, the Packers will still be looking for some more edge rushing help in this draft. And in the fourth round, they would be able to find a real gem if they were able to select Justin Hollins of Oregon.

Hollins played on the other side of OLB Jalen Jenks, who is the better known of the two. But once the Ducks switched their defense into a 3-4 scheme from a 4-3 look, Hollins really flourished.

Hollins started out as a defensive end in 2016, but switched to OLB in 2017 and 2018. In those two years, Hollins had 123 total tackles, 25.5 tackles for a loss, 11 sacks, two interceptions (one for a TD), six passes defended. one fumble recovery and seven forced fumbles.

Hollins was named honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection in 2018, as he had 64 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, one interception, seven pass breakups, and five forced fumbles (tied for second in the FBS).

Hollins wowed at the combine, as he ran a 4.5 in the 40.

Chris Landry said this about Hollins back in October.

“A defensive playmaker, Hollins has been making big plays all year long, leading the Ducks with four sacks and creating three forced fumbles this season. He was out of position in the Ducks 4-3 scheme and looks much more comfortable playing outside linebacker in their 3-4 system. The one-time track star ran a 10.88 in the 100-yard meters during junior high school.”

Round 5: Defensive Lineman Daniel Wise (Kansas)

Daniel Wise

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 281 pounds

The Packers have drafted a defensive lineman in every draft since 1996 and this year I expect them to do the same. Especially knowing that this is the last year in the contract of Mike Daniels.

A guy who impressed me and others during the East-West Shrine Game week here in nearby St. Pete was Daniel Wise of Kansas.

Wise, like Daniels, plays until he hears the whistle and sometimes past it. He plays the run very well and flashes as a pass rusher from time to time.

Wise was All-Big 12 in both 2017 and 2018, as he combined for 87 total tackles, had 28 tackles for a loss, had 10 sacks and had two forced fumbles.

Chris Landry said this about Wise after watching him all week at the East-West Shrine Game.

“Wise was used all along the defensive front at Kansas, but his skill set is maximized as a three-technique which became evident at Shrine practices. His quickness, play strength, hand technique and motor are optimized in a penetration-style role where he was unblockable in both 1v1s and team drills. He leaves St. Pete with plenty of positive buzz after dominating the week from start to finish.”

No matter whether the Packers select Wise or another defensive lineman, the team is still interested in bringing back free agent DE Muhammad Wilkerson.

Round 6: Linebacker Cole Holcomb (North Carolina)

Cole Holcomb

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 235 pounds

If there was ever a definition of a tackling machine, linebacker Cole Holcomb of North Carolina would deserve consideration.

In the last three seasons that Holcomb played for the Tarheels at LB, he averaged 104 tackles per season. Holcomb also looked the part in pass coverage, plus forced four fumbles.

At his pro day, Holcomb was off the charts, as he ran a 4.48 in the 40.

Holcomb would be a natural stud on special teams, plus would add a nice piece of depth at the ILB position.

Chris Landry said this about Holcomb in late October prior to the North Carolina vs. Georgia Tech game when Holcomb had 22 tackles.

“LB Cole Holcomb was the defensive leader at Virginia with 13 tackles, a season high for the senior and former walk-on. Holcomb has a team-high 59 tackles for the season with 5.5 for losses and figures to be a busy man against Georgia Tech’s option game.”

Round 6: Cornerback Derrek Thomas (Baylor)

Derrek Thomas

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 189 pounds

Similar to former Packer CB Sam Shields, Derrek Thomas switched positions in college from wide receiver to cornerback. Thomas started college at Temple before moving to Baylor for the 2018 season along with his former coach Matt Rhule.

Thomas had one pick and seven pass breakups for the Bears in 2018 in 11 starts.

Thomas is still raw, as he is still learning how to play the CB position. But the size, athleticism and speed are all there, as Thomas ran a 4.4 in the 40 at the combine, plus had a vertical jump of 39.5 inches.

The NFL doesn’t have a lot of 6’3″ CBs who can run a 4.4.

Chris Landry said this about Thomas last month.

“Baylor CB Derrek Thomas doesn’t impress on tape but he did test well with a 4.44 second 40-yard dash while measuring in at 6-foot-3, 189-pounds. Thomas has just 14 career collegiate starts, and though he doesn’t break down well in coverage or as a tackler, his athletic traits give him a late round chance.”

With good coaching, Thomas has the size and speed to help out eventually in the secondary, plus can be a real fixture on special teams if his tackling skills improve. Shields was not a good tackler initially either, but he learned to improve that facet of his game.

Round 7: Outside Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel (Wisconsin)

Andrew Van Ginkel

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 241 pounds

Although outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel of the Wisconsin Badgers certainly wasn’t near the classification of former Badger T.J. Watt (who Ted Thompson should have drafted in Round 1 of the 2017 NFL draft) or even Vince Biegel (who Thompson did draft in Round 4 of that same 2017 NFL draft), No. 17 definitely had his moments on the field for the Badgers.

Van Ginkel had a solid two-year career at Wisconsin after transferring from Iowa Western Community College. In 2017 and 2018, Van Ginkel had 98 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks, two interceptions (one for a TD), five passes defended, one fumble recovery and four forced fumbles.

In 2018, Van Ginkel was named third-team All-Big Ten.

Besides being productive at outside linebacker for the Badgers, Van Ginkel’s play on special teams stood out.

At the combine, Van Ginkel put up nice numbers, as he had a 38 inch vertical jump and ran the 20-yards shuttle in 4.14 seconds. At the Wisconsin pro day, Van Ginkel ran a 4.56 in the 40.

Chris Landry said this about Van Ginkel prior to the Wisconsin-Minnesota game late in the 2018 season.

“LB Andrew Van Ginkel is coming off a 10-tackle showing. All 10 were solo tackles. When healthy, his hustle and long reach combined with T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly give the Badgers a strong linebacking core.”

Green Bay Packers: Jerry Kramer’s Message to Aaron Rodgers

Jerry and Aaron at Lambeau

Aaron Rodgers has been with the Green Bay Packers since 2005. That means that the 2019 season will be Rodgers’ 15th season with the team.

That mark will tie Rodgers with legendary Pro Football Hall of Fame middle linebacker Ray Nitschke in terms of length of service with the Packers.

The only two players who served a longer tenure with the Packers were quarterbacks Bart Starr and Brett Favre, both of whom played with the Packers for 16 years and both also have busts in Canton.

Rodgers is on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well. Like Nitschke, Starr and Favre, he has been able to call himself a NFL champion. He also has put up mind-boggling statistics.

Rodgers has the highest passer rating in the history of the NFL with a 103.1. No. 12 has thrown 338 touchdowns passes versus just 80 interceptions for 42,944 yards in his career.

Over the time when Rodgers has been the starting quarterback of the Packers, the team went to the NFC playoffs for eight consecutive years and won five NFC North titles. Plus, Green Bay also won Super Bowl XLV, as Rodgers was the MVP of the game.

In addition to that, Rodgers has been a NFL MVP twice, has been named to seven Pro Bowl teams and has been a first-team AP All-Pro twice.

Yes, Rodgers will definitely be among the best of the best at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Just like Jerry Kramer, who finally received his rightful due in 2018 after the great 11-year career he had with the Packers.

Kramer understood how Rodgers had to feel after a recent article from Bleacher Report written by Tyler Dunne came out.

And just to give full disclosure, I worked with Dunne for a couple of years at Packer Report before he moved on to cover the Packers for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a number of years.

I also worked for Bleacher Report for three and a half years.

In the article from B/R, both Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy were certainly not put in the best light, due to some comments by ex-teammates like Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley. The piece also had some not-so-glowing remarks from some anonymous sources.

When Kramer was a player, he also saw some bad press about the Packers, as well as negative articles about his head coach. Plus, like Rodgers and McCarthy had at times, Kramer also had some fiery moments with his coach who went by the name of Vince Lombardi.

Kramer believes that Rodgers has handled the B/R article just fine.

“I think Aaron showed a lot of class in the aftermath of this article,” Kramer said. “God bless him for being angry. God bless him for caring. God bless him for busting his ass and taking people to task who weren’t always serious about the game.

“He’s a leader. That is what he is supposed to do. That’s what leaders do.”

Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers

In terms of how Rodgers responded to the article, he said this in an interview that was aired on ESPN Wisconsin, hosted by Jason Wilde and Mark Tauscher.

“It’s not a mystery,” Rodgers said. “This was a smear attack by a writer looking to advance his career, talking to mostly irrelevant, bitter players who all have an agenda, whether they’re advancing their own careers or just trying to stir old stuff up. What happens is the same, tired media folks picking it up and talking about it, which just emphasizes their opinion about me already.

“The crazy thing is, there’s super-slanted opinions in that piece stated as fact, and then there’s quote-unquote facts that are just outright lies.”

Rodgers also talked about some other things in the article, like when an anonymous source said that president/CEO Mark Murphy told Rodgers “don’t be the problem” on a phone call informing him Matt LaFleur was being hired as the new head coach.

“It’s ridiculous. It is 100 percent, patently false,” Rodgers said. “So it’s either he made that crap up, or what he would probably do as a writer is say, this is my source’s problem. He told me something. I talked to Mark last week, and I said, ‘Mark, did you tell somebody about the conversation?’ He goes, ‘That’s ridiculous.’ And I said, ‘Because that’s not what happened.’ And he told me, ‘Yeah, of course that’s not what happened.’ We had a great conversation like we always do.’”

Murphy also denied the account of that situation in the story. In an interview on Wednesday with Scott Emerich of WXOW-TV in La Crosse during a Packers Tailgate Tour stop, Murphy rejected the part of the story which described a impaired relationship between Rodgers and McCarthy.

“It’s all in the past, a lot of half-truths and a lot of stuff just made up,” Murphy said. “The conversation that allegedly took place between Aaron and I was completely false.

“We had a great conversation. It was very positive. We talked about Matt LaFleur and I said, ‘Aaron, I think the change is going to be great for you and the organization’ and he was very positive.”

Matt LaFleur is gretted by Mark Murphy

In his interview with Wilde and Tauscher on ESPN Wisconsin, Rodgers talked about his relationship with McCarthy.

“This idea that I had this grudge against him for years is absolutely ridiculous,” Rodgers said. “It’s just not true. I mean, where was this grudge when we won the Super Bowl? Where was that grudge when we won 19 games in a row? Because I will tell you this about Mike, and if you look at the comments I’ve made about him over the years, I love Mike McCarthy. Mike has been a huge part of my success in my career, and I’ve had some amazing moments on and off the field with Mike. We have had issues, no doubt about it. Any long relationship has issues, but the way that we dealt with those issues, Mike and I, was face to face.

“We had conversations. Things didn’t fester for weeks, months, years. It’d be up in his office. It’d be after a Thursday night practice down in the big team room, it’d be in the quarterback room. It’d be at my house sometimes, it’d be at his house sometimes. We spent time together. We talked about things. Even at the most difficult moments, when I was stubborn about something, when he was stubborn about something, the conversation ended the same way every time. We came to an agreement and agreed to move forward on the same page.”

Kramer and Lombardi also had their share of moments.

And it was one of those periods in time in which Kramer realized that he could become a great player in the NFL.

“I jumped offsides one time in a scrimmage and he [Lombardi] got in my face,” Kramer said. “Lombardi told me, ‘Mister, the concentration period of a college student is five minutes, high school is three minutes and kindergarten is 30 seconds. You don’t even have that. Where does that put you?’

“So I go into the locker room with my chin in my hand, my elbow on my knee and I’m looking at the floor. I’m thinking, I’m never going to play for this guy. But then Coach Lombardi came into the locker room and came across the room, slapped me on the back of the neck, mussed up my hair and he said, ‘Son, one of these days you are going to be the best guard in football.’ He then turned around and walked away.

“That statement gave me a new feeling about myself. From that point on, I really became a player. That positive reinforcement by him at that moment changed my whole career.

“It was a major turning point for me. Not only in performance, but also in effort. I really went to work at football after that. I believed Lombardi to be an honest man, so I believed what he said. I decided then that it was up to me to prove Coach Lombardi right.”

But there were also some moments with Lombardi when Kramer had just about enough of the criticism by his coach.

It was early in his career under Lombardi, when Kramer vividly recalls a situation that almost became volatile.

“I played a game against the 49ers in San Francisco when I broke some ribs,” Kramer said. ” I saw the team doctor early the next week and he told me that I just had a pulled muscle and not to worry about it. I didn’t tell the doc that his assessment was BS, but I told some of the guys that I knew I had busted a couple of ribs.

“So, I wasn’t going to rock the program, so I continued to practice even with my ribs hurting like hell. Then later that week an article came out in The Chicago Tribune that said that Fuzzy [Thurston] and I were the best guards in the NFL. Well, Fuzz and I were glowing in it pretty good, feeling pretty cool.

“Anyway, we are practicing that week with my ribs hurting and we were running a play when Fuzzy wasn’t in the lineup for this particular play and I believe a rookie was filling in for him. So, we run a sweep to the left and the rookie didn’t belly deep enough on the play and he and the blocking back collided and fell down and I fell over them and the ball carrier fell over all of us.

“Coach Lombardi sees this and he yells, ‘Best guards in the NFL my ass! We’ve got the worst guards in football! The worst!’

“Something popped in my head after he yelled that. We had been standing together on the 40-yard line on the practice field and I’m going after him. I’m walking towards him and my ass is just chapped. Well, Coach Lombardi goes to the area where the coaches normally stand behind our huddle and he walks past that by about 25 yards where he isolated and completely by himself.

“So I stop at the huddle and I’m glaring at him. I’m pretty much out of control. I’m really angry. But Coach won’t look at me. He’s walking back and forth with his head down. I’m standing there with my hands on my hips staring at Coach Lombardi while Bart is calling the play.

“After Bart called the play, the team broke the huddle and went to the line of scrimmage, but I just stood there. Still glaring at him. Finally, I go to the line of scrimmage and just bent over a little bit and didn’t put my hand down like I normally would. We run the play and I didn’t move.

“So I go back to the huddle and I’m figuring out what to do, as Lombardi was still 25 yards back. It was like a barrier that stopped me. So Bart is calling another play and I yell to Fuzzy to get in here as I had just about enough and I go to the sideline and now I’m about 30 yards from everyone. I’m still steaming with my arms crossed over my chest.

“I’m just trying to figure out what I’m going to do. Finally after about three minutes, Coach Lombardi comes over to me and punches me on the shoulder and messes up my hair a little and says, ‘Oh, I didn’t mean you. I wasn’t talking to you!’

“I knew that his line was all BS, but Coach Lombardi was basically apologizing and trying to re-establish communications and I allowed him to do that.”

Vince and Jerry II

In the next game, the Packers played the Rams in Los Angeles and Kramer went up against the great Merlin Olsen. After the game, Olsen asked Kramer what was wrong. Kramer told him that he was playing with extremely sore ribs. Olsen said, ‘Yep, I knew something was wrong.’

The next week Kramer saw his own doctor and not the team doctor. After he had some x-rays done, Kramer’s doctor told him that he indeed had two broken ribs.

Kramer made a point of telling Lombardi about that diagnosis as soon as he saw him.

“I see Coach Lombardi in the locker room and I go over and get right in front of him. I tell him that my sore ribs were actually two broken ribs. Coach Lombardi’s exact quote was, ‘No shit! They don’t hurt anymore do they?’

But that is how it went at times with the players who played under Lombardi in Green Bay. Lombardi knew how to motivate his players and he treated them all differently and knew what the right buttons were to push for a particular player.

It led to five NFL championships in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls. Including in that span was three consecutive NFL titles. That is a mark which has never been duplicated in the playoff era of the NFL.

That success was certainly appreciated the players, as one of the other things that Lombardi preached was love. Love for your God, love for your family and love for your team.

Kramer expressed his love for Lombardi after the legendary “Ice Bowl “ game, which gave No. 64 the platform to discuss some bad press that his coach had received.

“After that game, I was interviewed by Tom Brookshier,” Kramer said. “There had been a negative article about Coach Lombardi that had come out recently from Esquire magazine. The article compared him to Mussolini and a pigeon walking around with his chest thrown out. It was just a hatchet job.

“Tommy asked me about Coach Lombardi. I had made up my mind previously to talk about him, as I heard that Coach’s mother was really upset with the article. She even cried over it.

“So when Tommy asked me about the coach and mentioned the criticism, I said, ‘People don’t understand Coach Lombardi. They don’t know him. But we know him. We understand him. And we love him. And this is one beautiful man.’

“And that still fits today. I still feel that same way.”

After that classic game, Lombardi received a phone call in the locker room from his mentor Red Blaik, who taught Lombardi so much at Army. The words from Blaik to Lombardi can be read in the fantastic book, When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss, which to me is the greatest book ever written about Lombardi.

“Vince,” Blaik said. “A great victory, but greater were the words of Kramer, who has stilled those who are skeptical about you as a person.”

Kramer also feels the same way about Rodgers. He likes the fact that he cares about the way his teammates practice or about the way they play during a game. It’s also okay to have squabbles with your coach and it’s also okay to get angry, even during a game.

But it has to be controlled anger. Kramer used that technique when he was a player. It started on Thursday when he would think about his upcoming opponent who he would see in the trenches on Sunday. Kramer would go through an exercise in his mind. That his opponent was trying to hurt his family, take away his home and his job. That served him well during his career.

The first time Kramer used anger to motivate himself was while he was in a state track meet in Idaho while he was in high school. Because of a mishap with a shotgun, Kramer had accidentally shot himself in the lower arm and wrist area. That is not a good omen for a person who has to throw the shot put.

But between hard work and using a different throwing technique which was used by Olympic champion Parry O’Brien, Kramer was able to throw the shot put close to 49 feet heading into the state track meet.

But when he was announced on the loudspeaker just before he was about to throw, Kramer tensed up and threw the shot put around 30 feet. Luckily for Kramer, the throw was not able to be spotted because the judges were back near 49 feet, the distance Kramer had thrown recently. This situation gave Kramer one more chance to make a throw.

But this time, he was pissed. Kramer used that anger and threw the shot put 51 feet, 10 inches, which broke a 20-year state record.

It was the controlled anger that helped Kramer break the state record in the shot put in Idaho. It was also controlled anger that Kramer witnessed from Rodgers in the opening game of the 2018 season, when the Packers played the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football on NBC.

That game was also played on alumni weekend, so Kramer and many of the Packer greats from yesteryear were on hand to see the game.

In that game, Rodgers had a 130.7 passer rating, as he threw three touchdown passes without a pick for 286 yards. Most of this came after No. 12 had his season almost ended on one of the two sacks he took that night, as Rodgers suffered what was called a knee sprain, which saw the quarterback leave the field on a cart in the second quarter.

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

Aaron vs. da Bears in 2018 at Lambeau

But it wasn’t just a sprain, as it was actually a tibial plateau fracture and sprained MCL in Rodgers’ left knee.

Rodgers talked about that knee injury last week on ESPN Wisconsin, as he talked about the play which injured him, when 294-pound Bears defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris came crashing down on him for a sack.

“If you watch the hit back,” Rodgers said, “just my two bones are coming together on the outside, just kind of made an indent fracture. Very painful. The good thing was it’s not super weight bearing, like load bearing every single time. but there definitely was some movement and things you do naturally that affected it.”

But you wouldn’t have known that watching Rodgers play in the second half against da Bears, as No. 12 led the Packers back to an unforgettable comeback.

“I don’t know for sure, but I’ll bet Aaron was really mad after the injury,” Kramer said. “To see your season almost end against your most hated rival and on national television, had to have angered him. But in my mind, he used that anger in a controlled way and was almost flawless to lead the Packers back to a great victory.”

Yes, controlled anger is a great asset to have. Ask Tom Brady. How many times have you seen him scream at teammates and coaches on the sidelines? But he doesn’t let that anger affect his play negatively. He uses that anger to enhance it.

That is the credo which Kramer utilized in his Hall of Fame career with the Packers, both with his relationship with coaches and also with his play on the field.

And that is how Kramer believes it should be for Rodgers as well.

“Aaron has always played with a chip on his shoulder, just like Tom Brady has,” Kramer said. “It has served him well in the past and will serve him well in the future. He has to deflect the things in the media that aren’t important to him and his team and just continue to focus on getting the job done.

“There will be times when there will be issues with your head coach or your position coach. That is life in the NFL. But all of that has to put be aside when the time comes and you have to prepare for the game.

“Aaron is a winner and a champion. And that is something which will never change, as long as he keeps that chip on his shoulder.”

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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall, Holmgren was 9-5 in the postseason.

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

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

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

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

Overall, McCarthy was 10-8 in the postseason.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lambeau and Lombardi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vince and Jack

Vince Lombardi talks with Jack Vainisi.

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

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

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

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

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

The answer is highly unlikely.

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

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

Kramer said it best to me once.

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

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

“Those things are still helping me today.”

 

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

Mike McCarthy in Seattle

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

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

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

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

That’s four overtime losses in the postseason.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what was McCarthy’s explanation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jerry Kramer and the Packers Were Both Kicked in the Stomach at Lambeau vs. the Vikings

Jerry getting his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring at Lambeau

Evan Siegle, packers.com

Lambeau Field sure looked like the place to be on Sunday. The 1-0 Green Bay Packers were hosting the 1-0 Minnesota Vikings, plus quarterback Aaron Rodgers was cleared to play.

This after the knee injury Rodgers suffered last Sunday night versus the Chicago Bears, as he led the Packers to a thrilling 24-23 victory over da Bears on basically one leg in the second half of the game.

The Vikings are the defending NFC North champs and together with the Packers, the two teams have won the division seven years in a row, with the Packers winning the title in five of those seasons.

The game on Sunday against the Vikings was also the first time Rodgers had played against Minnesota since Week 6 of last season at U.S. Bank Stadium when No. 12 fractured a collarbone. The injury occurred when he was thrown down by linebacker Anthony Barr after he had thrown the ball.

Lambeau was also the place to be for another reason. Jerry Kramer was in town to receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring and to see his name unveiled on the facade at the legendary stadium.

Kramer became the 25th member of the Green Bay organization to have his name displayed on the southwest façade inside the stadium.

I had been in Canton for Kramer’s enshrinement and was invited by Jerry to sit with he and his family in his suite for the game. The Packers had arranged that Kramer and his family would be able to sit in the alumni suite, which is normally used by former Green Bay players.

Unfortunately and regrettably, I was not able to attend. But I truly appreciated the kind offer.

Joining Kramer and his family in the suite was one of No. 64’s old teammates, Donny Anderson.

You might recall a game that both Kramer and Anderson had key roles in from 50-plus years ago at frigid Lambeau Field. And unlike Sunday, when the temperature was hovering around 86 degrees, the classic game from New Year’s Eve in 1967 was about 99 degrees colder.

The organization of the Packers did a fantastic job in honoring Kramer, especially during the halftime ceremony. The website of the Packers did a very nice job in terms of filming the ceremony, taking excellent photos and also showing Kramer’s press conference with the media.

Larry McCarren was the emcee for the ceremony, plus both David Baker (President/Executive Director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame) and Mark Murphy (President & CEO of the Packers) also spoke before Kramer talked to and thanked the 78,461 people in attendance.

Jerry being honored at Lambeau

Evan Siegle, packers.com

Kramer was asked about how he felt when he saw his name displayed on the facade when he talked with the media.

“It felt like a kick in the stomach,” Kramer said. “It was a ‘oomph.’ It was a physical reaction and I wondered if I was going to faint or fall over or what I was going to do. It just lasted for an instant, but it was a noticeable shock.”

Very late in the game against the Vikings, the Packers also felt a kick in the stomach, but this one was painful. More on that later.

I had a chance to talk to Kramer today, as he was getting ready to fly out of Wisconsin and get back home to Boise, Idaho where he can relax (in his Big Chair) for a few days after a whirlwind of traveling over the past few months.

When I asked him about what he remembered most from yesterday, he said it was the response from the Green Bay faithful in the stands at Lambeau.

“It was very gratifying and also very humbling to see and hear the reaction that I received from the fans,” Kramer said. “As I was walking, section after section kept cheering for me. Old linemen like me aren’t used to that type of applause.”

Kramer talked about that dynamic at his press conference.

“It’s surreal, I think is the best way to describe it,” Kramer said. “Especially for a lineman. You know, lineman don’t do those kinds of things. Rarely do they do those kinds of things. It was a wonderful day.”

Surreal is a perfect way to describe yesterday, both in terms of honoring Kramer and also the ball game played by the Packers and Vikings.

The Packers were up 29-21 with less than two minutes to go in the game, when quarterback Kirk Cousins of the Vikings threw what looked like the game-clinching interception to Jaire Alexander.

This is when the Packers were kicked in the gut.

Clay Matthews hit on Kirk Cousins

startribune.com

You see, referee Tony Corrente decided to throw a flag. Corrente called a 15-yard penalty on outside linebacker Clay Matthews for unnecessary roughness after Matthews had tackled Cousins to the ground just as he had thrown the ball.

Matthews had used perfect form in tackling Cousins, as he didn’t hit Cousins with his helmet, leading instead with his shoulder. Plus, No. 52 didn’t hit Cousins high, as he tackled at the numbers.

But still Corrente threw the flag and gave no explanation to Matthews as to why he threw the yellow hanky.

After the game, Corrente said he penalized Matthews because he “lifted (Cousins) up and drove him into the ground.”

I don’t know what game Corrente was watching, but Matthews did not lift Cousins up and drive him into the turf at Lambeau.

“I don’t know what else to do,” Matthews said after the game. “Did I put pressure on him? I thought I hit him within from his waist to chest, got my head across, put my hands down.”

That is exactly what Matthews did if you have looked at this play.

But still the flag was thrown and the gut was kicked.

So what should have been a 29-21 win turned into a 29-29 tie and a real nail-biter for Packer Nation in overtime.

Luckily, rookie kicker Daniel Carlson of the Vikings missed both of his field goal attempts in overtime, including a 35-yard chip shot to win the game at the end of OT.

I had a funny feeling Carlson might miss in OT, even though he was considered one of the best kickers in college football.

I saw Carlson play in the 2015 Outback Bowl when his Auburn Tigers took on the Wisconsin Badgers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

The Badgers won 34-31 in overtime, as Carlson missed a game-tying field goal in OT to give Wisconsin the victory.

So although the tie against the Vikings wasn’t great and the penalty called on Matthews was a terrible call, it could have been worse. As in a loss, had Carlson made his field goal attempts.

Rodgers played courageously in the game with limited mobility, as No. 12 threw for 281 yards and threw a touchdown pass without tossing a pick. Rodgers was also sacked four times for 28 yards.

Rodgers was obviously very disappointed in the tie.

“Close to an ‘L,’ ” Rodgers said after the game. “Doesn’t feel great.”

Jerry and Aaron at Lambeau

Evan Siegle, packers.com

But was great was seeing Rodgers get with Kramer on the field after the halftime ceremony.

“Yes, Aaron came up to me and congratulated me,” Kramer told me. “He was real cordial to me and we talked for a bit. It was a real classy gesture by Aaron.”

I reminded Kramer that it was against the Vikings at County Stadium in Milwaukee in 1961, when he suffered the most serious injury of his NFL career, when he broke his leg below the knee and separated the bones in his ankle.

I also reminded Jerry that the final score 29-29, which adds up to 58. Talk about surreal or apropos.

1958 was Kramer’s first year with the Packers.  That was the year he was part of the best draft class that the Packers ever had, as three of draftees ended up getting a bust in Canton. I’m talking about Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke and now Kramer.

“It’s hard to believe that was 60 years ago,” Kramer said. “But what a wonderful journey it has been over all these years.”

When I talked to Kramer shortly after he was inducted, he talked about how much he was looking forward to not only being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but also about coming back to the stadium at 1265 Lombardi Avenue in Green Bay.

“Certainly the Hall of Fame itself in Canton in August and all of that,” Kramer told me back in February. “But another moment which will be awfully powerful for me is seeing my name on the facade at Lambeau Field and being honored there in front of those great fans.”

I asked Kramer to describe the events from yesterday at the field he played on from 1958 through 1968.

“It was everything I expected and more. Much, much more!”

Jerry Kramer: A Weekend for the Ages in Canton

Bob and Jerry at JK's party.

I’m back in Florida now, getting ready for another trip. Soon I will be making my annual summer excursion to Wisconsin. But this past weekend, I had one of the best times of my life in Canton, Ohio, as Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

What made the experience even more special, was that my son Andrew was with me. He agreed with me that the time we spent in Canton was exceptional.

Before we traveled from Tampa to Cleveland on Friday, some things were set in stone. Andrew and I had tickets to the enshrinement ceremony on Saturday night, plus had tickets to the party the Packers would be throwing for Jerry on Saturday afternoon. In addition to that, we had VIP passes to the actual Pro Football Hall of Fame Museum.

But our biggest problem was where to stay. Hotel rooms in Canton were priced at over $300 per night. That would have meant spending close to $1,000 for the three nights we stayed in the area. That was a bit too much for my limited budget.

While searching for rooms, I found a motel in Richfield, which is about 40 miles from Canton, that had rooms for $70 a night. So I booked a room for three nights.

Then something extraordinary happened. One of my loyal readers and a huge fan of the Packers, Greg Kloehn, sent me a note and asked me what my plans were for the weekend.

You see, Kloehn is a cardiologist in Canton, who is originally from Brookfield, Wisconsin. When I told him that I was going to be staying at a motel in Richfield, Kloehn said that would not be a good idea, at least on Friday and Saturday night, because of the distance, all the events going on and some other factors like highway construction.

Kloehn then graciously invited my son and myself to stay at his home, which is about five miles from the Hall of Fame. Fortunately, Kloehn has a large home, as he had a number of other guests that weekend, which included his two brothers Tim (and son Ian) and Phil, plus his good friend John Donaldson.

Greg and his wife Lisa, along with their four children (Alyssa, Andrew, Olivia and Anna), were kind beyond belief with their hospitality. On Friday night, Kloehn had a party which reminded me of my college days in Wisconsin, as I had an immediate connection with Greg, his brothers Tim and Phil,  and also John. It felt like I was back at UW-Oshkosh.

That feeling really surfaced when my buddy Jeff Kurszewski (who I went to high school and college with) and his wife Therese joined us at the party after first going to the Gold Jacket Dinner, which unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend. Jeff took some great photos though at the event, as that was when Jerry was given his Gold Jacket by his daughter Alicia, after first going through a gauntlet of other Hall of Famers. More on that later.

Greg’s party was just fantastic, with a large assortment of great food (Tim did a great job on the grill) and there were a number of superb possibilities in terms of selecting an adult beverage.

Later in the evening, Jeff and I called our good buddy Kevin Cosgrove, who is currently the defensive coordinator at New Mexico, but who also spent many years at that same position at Wisconsin, including when the Badgers won back-to-back Rose Bowls in 1999 and 2000.

Kevin went to school with Jeff and I at UWO. We talked for at least a half hour and we talked about all the good times that we had at the Big O.

Bottom line, Friday night at Greg’s house was a fantastic start to the weekend in Canton, as we partied until well after 2:00 am.

But that was just a warm up to Saturday, which would end up being an epic day.

After enjoying a late-morning breakfast put together by Lisa, Andrew and I headed out to join Jeff and Therese at Jerry’s party at the beautiful Gervasi Vineyard.

20180804_141336

What a party it was! It was like going to a Hollywood premiere, with celebrities everywhere.

The first person I saw was Jerry’s son Dan. Then I talked with Rick Gosselin, who really helped Jerry get his rightful place in Canton, due to his hard work on the seniors committee, as well as the overall selection committee.

It was then when I had an opportunity to get with Jerry and talk for a little while. It was somewhat short-lived, as Jerry was being approached by anybody and everybody at the party, which was to be expected.

Besides Dan, I also got to see Jerry’s other children…Alicia, Diana, Tony, Matt and Jordan.

In the 2018 Green Bay Packers Yearbook, I wrote the story about Jerry’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Alicia played a prominent role in that article with her unrelenting goal of getting her father his rightful place in Canton.

It was really neat to see Alicia, as we both had worked so hard to get No. 64 a place among the best of the best in the Hall of Fame. I also saw Randy Simon, who also played a big part in helping Jerry’s cause, as he put together a Flipsnack booklet of testimonials from Hall of Fame teammates and opponents.

The list included Paul Hornung, Bart Starr, Willie Davis, Merlin Olsen, Frank Gifford, Chuck Bednarik, Doug Atkins, John Mackey, Raymond Berry, Mel Renfro, Mike Ditka, Bob Lilly, Jim Otto, and Lem Barney, among others.

I also saw Mike Spofford of the Packers, who is the editor of the Packers Yearbook. I thanked him for the opportunity to write the induction piece about Jerry.

There were also a number of former Packers at the party, which included Hornung, Dave Robinson, James Lofton, Frank Winters and Marco Rivera. Plus, Tony Fisher was also there, helping guests as they made their way in and out of the party.

I talked with all of them except the “Golden Boy”, who left the party early.

Mark Murphy, the President and CEO of the Packers, was also in attendance and I talked with him as well.

One of Jerry’s very best friends, Claude Crabb, who is a former NFL player, was also on hand for his buddy’s well-deserved party. I told Claude how much Jerry appreciated him being there for his enshrinement. I could see Claude’s eyes moisten.

Cathy Dworak of the Packers did a fantastic job organizing and putting together this event, with help from Mark Mayfield, who is Jerry’s marketing agent.

There were a number of talented writers besides Gosselin at the party as well. It was great to see and talk to David Maraniss, who wrote one of my favorite books about Vince Lombardi, When Pride Still Mattered.

Andy Benoit of SI was also there and we also talked for a bit. I also saw Jeremy Schaap, who was late getting to the party due to a delayed flight. Jeremy and I also chatted. I had written a story about Jeremy’s father Dick a few months earlier.

I was also pleased to meet a number of loyal backers of Jerry’s from Packer Nation, which included Dinger Mueller, Chuck Velek, Dmitriy Solodov, Jef Taylor and Ryan VanAcker.

The party for Jerry was just the beginning of things on that epic Saturday.

The actual enshrinement ceremony was unbelievable. I sat in the club seating area, which allowed free beer and food (which is always a good thing) and sat next to my buddy Jeff Kurszewski and his wife.

20180804_195643

Alicia did a fantastic job presenting her father and then Jerry hit one out of the park with his speech.

“You can, if you will,” is the phrase I’ll never forget from that oratory from Jerry.

After the ceremony, I saw Jerry and his family and friends at the Holiday Inn. I congratulated Jerry on his speech and told him how good he looked in the Gold Jacket. Shortly thereafter, Jerry had to call it a night after a very long day.

Andrew and I then headed to Greg’s for our second sleepover. Greg and company were waiting for us and we all had a nightcap before we hit the hay.

On Sunday, Greg had a ticket for me to use to go with him, John Donaldson and his son Andrew to the Enshrinees’ Roundtable event at the Canton Auditorium.

There were only four members of the Class of 2018 at the event. Ray Lewis, Robert Brazile, Randy Moss and Jerry. And what a performance they put on!

Before they got started, my buddy Jeff, who was sitting near the stage, was talking to Jerry when Kramer asked, “Where’s Bob?” Jeff walked to my table which was a ways away and he had me stand up and wave to Jerry. Jerry did the same and we both gave each other the thumb’s up.

It was a memorable moment for me.

After the the roundtable was over, I was able to meet the President/Executive Director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, David Baker. I then rushed out to talk with Jerry for just a minute before he drove away. I could tell he was pretty exhausted from all of the events that he had taken part in the last few days.

Our weekend in Canton wasn’t over. My son Andrew and I then went to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. What a glorious place that is. We quickly made it over to where the busts of the Class of 2018 were.

20180805_181301

While I was looking at Jerry’s bust, I gave him a call. People standing around me couldn’t believe I was talking to the man whose bust I was looking at. It was an apropos moment.

The entire Hall was great to go through and I have to say that the Packers Hall of Fame is in the same category in terms of being an upper echelon attraction for pro football fans.

Andrew and I then left for Richfield for our last night in Ohio. We were back in Florida the next day.

A day later, I wanted to check on Jerry. I caught him at his home in Boise sitting in his “Big Chair” having some coffee. Jerry told me that it felt good to get a couple of good night’s sleep in his own bed.

Then Jerry reflected.

“Canton was a fantastic experience. It’s something I’ll never forget,” Kramer said. “It was a validation of my career with the Packers and in the NFL. And with my family there and so many friends and fans, it just made the whole time there so memorable and unforgettable.”

When we talked, Jerry as usual thought of his coach.

Coach Lombardi is the reason that so many players, including myself, are now in Canton.”

Vince and Jerry after Super Bowl II

Jerry then talked about one of the more momentous moments in the days he spent in Canton.

“At the Gold Jacket dinner, as I was heading to get my Gold Jacket from Alicia, I had a group hug with fellow Hall of Fame guards John Hannah, Joe DeLamielleure and Tom Mack. They told me how much they tried to emulate my play in their careers. There wasn’t a dry eye among us.”

Had Jerry been able to see where I was sitting in the club seat section during his enshrinement speech, he would have seen the same reaction from me.

A Scout’s Take on the Hiring of GM Brian Gutekunst by the Green Bay Packers

Brian Gutekunst as GM

Brian Gutekunst

Last week I had the opportunity to talk with NFL scout Chris Landry to get his take about who the Green Bay Packers were possibly going to hire to become their new general manager and new defensive coordinator.

Landry told me that the Packers were most likely going to hire from within to replace Ted Thompson (now senior advisor to football operations), and if they did, Brian Gutekunst would be the best choice.  Well, that’s exactly what the Packers did, as they hired Gutekunst.

Besides saying Gutekunst would be the best candidate for GM, Landry also though that the Packers would look to someone like Vic Fangio to be their next defensive coordinator after head coach Mike McCarthy fired Dom Capers from that role.

The Packers definitely were interested in Fangio, but he decided to remain with the Chicago Bears as their defensive coordinator, after agreeing to a new three -year deal on Friday. The Packers instead went with Mike Pettine as their new defensive coordinator earlier this week.

More on Pettine and other coaching changes later in the story.

Back to Gutekunst now. I had another conversation with Landy this past Wednesday on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show to get his take on the hiring of Gutekunst and the other changes made in the front office.

“I think they are significant,” Landry said, speaking of the changes made. “Brian Gutekunst is the new GM. Definitely the right move if they were going to promote from within. But they have lost some key guys. Obviously Eliot Wolf is going to Cleveland now to be with John Dorsey.

“I think Eliot is a good guy, and I think he’ll do a nice job for them. I think that was expected, once you make a decision to promote from within. When you have two or three guys [competing]. Guys like [Alonzo] Highsmith, who I think is a bigger loss than Wolf, because he’s a better evaluator of talent. Wolf is a little bit more organized and he’s probably going to be a bigger asset to John Dorsey in Cleveland.

“Listen, there are changes. There always is. I will say something which is unique and different and I’m not sure how it’s going to work out, but now you are going to have the head coach and GM both reporting to the President [Mark Murphy]. I’m just not sure about that. He [Murphy] thinks it was necessary. Mark Murphy thought there were some communication issues.

“I think you correct that by having a GM who does a better job of communicating. I’m very curious to see how that’s going to work out. I think that’s a little bit of a cop-out. I think it’s another way of saying Mike McCarthy won’t look with the same view of Brian Gutekunst, who is a younger guy, he won’t look at him with the same type of respect that he had for Ted Thompson.

“So, here’s what we are going to do. Mike, you can report to me. Brian can report to me. And I’ll just be the guy the kind of President who won’t have to worry about egos. I think that move had more to do with Mike McCarthy and potentially massaging his ego.”

In 12 years as head coach of the Packers, McCarthy has a 121-70-1 regular season record and has a 10-8 postseason record. The Packers have won six NFC North titles and have gone to the postseason nine times under McCarthy, which includes four NFC title game appearances and a win in Super Bowl XLV.

Speaking of McCarthy, he has made a number of changes on his coaching staff. Let’s get back to Pettine to start with.

This looks to be an excellent hire, just like it would have been had he brought on Fangio. Pettine’s track record as a defensive coordinator with the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills was certainly outstanding.

From 2009 through 2012, the Jets ranked 1st, 3rd, 5th and 8th in overall defense. In 2013, when he ran the Bills defense, Buffalo finished 10th in total defense.

Pettine worked under Rex Ryan, who himself was a defensive coordinator before he became a head coach with the Jets and Bills.

The Ryan-Pettine  defensive system is pressure-based. Both the 3-4 and the 4-3 defense will be used, which means players must understand each concept.

Ryan thinks the Packers hit a home run when they hired Pettine, according to this article by Rob Demovsky of ESPN.

“He’ll be the best coordinator in the league; that’s how good he is,” Ryan said. “I think the big thing is, the fan base ought to be super excited about him because this is a good get. There’s other names out there or whatever, but this is the best coach out there that they could’ve got.”

Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine II

Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine

After being very successful under Ryan as a defensive coordinator, Pettine was hired to be the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Pettine had a 10-22 record with the Browns in 2014 and 2015, but was then fired along with GM Ray Farmer after the 2015 season.

That seems to a be a broken record with the Browns under owner Jimmy Haslam, as the team has made multiple head coaching and front office changes since Haslam became the owner in 2012.

That 10-22 record of Pettine doesn’t look so bad today, as the 2017 version of the Browns went 0-16.

Besides interviewing Pettine, McCarthy also interviewed three in-house candidates, associate head coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss, secondary/safeties coach Darren Perry and secondary/cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. for the defensive coordinator job.

McCarthy decided to go with Pettine, but has been able to keep Whitt, who now will serve as the passing game coordinator. There is no word yet on whether Moss or Perry will or won’t return to the Packers.

The Packers also hired Patrick Graham to the defensive coaching staff on Thursday. Graham, who is 38, has worked under Ben McAdoo with the New York Giants and Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots . Graham has coached both the defensive line and linebackers.

These additions were made after McCarthy had fired defensive line coach Mike Trgovac, assistant linebackers coach Scott McCurley and defensive quality control coach Tim McGarigle.

Also, defensive front assistant coach Jerry Montgomery left to become the defensive line coach at Texas A&M.

On the offensive side of the ball, there has also been changes. Edgar Bennett was removed from his post as offensive coordinator. There is still no word whether Bennett will remain on the coaching staff.

Replacing Bennett will be be former offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who spent three-plus seasons (24-28) as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins and the last two seasons as the offensive line coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

While Philbin was the offensive coordinator of the Packers from 2007 through 2011, Green Bay never finished outside the top 10 in terms of total offense in the NFL.

Quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt (contract not renewed) has been replaced by Frank Cignetti, who has spent the past two years as QB coach of the Giants under McAdoo.

Wide receivers coach Luke Getsy left the Packers to become the offensive coordinator at Mississippi State and he was replaced by Jim Hostler, who had that same role with the Colts. Hostler also worked under McCarthy in 2005, when both were with the San Francisco 49ers, as McCarthy was offensive coordinator and Hostler was QB coach.

Bottom line, there are still a lot of moving parts going on within the front office and the coaching staff of the Packers.

In terms of replacing both Wolf and Highsmith, Gutekunst will likely promote director of college scouting Jon-Eric Sullivan and director of pro personnel John Wojciechowski to be his top assistants.

The Packers were able to keep Russ Ball in the organization after he also interviewed for the GM job along with Wolf, as the Packers promoted him to executive vice president/director of football operations.

I would expect that all the coaching staff and front office changes will completed by next week heading into the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Florida.

A Scout’s Take on Who the Packers Might Name as Their New GM and New DC

Mark Murphy and Mike McCarthy

It’s been a crazy week for the Green Bay Packers after they finished their 2017 NFL season by losing 35-11 to the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford Field. The loss put the record of the Packers at 7-9.

It wasn’t the only loss suffered by the team.

We learned on Monday that head coach Mike McCarthy fired defensive coordinator Dom Capers Sunday night. We also learned that two of the defensive assistants to Capers were also given the pink slip. They would be defensive line coach Mike Trgovac and assistant linebackers coach Scott McCurley.

If that news wasn’t enough for Packer Nation to absorb, it was also learned that Executive Vice President, General Manager & Director of Football Operations Ted Thompson would transition to a new role as senior advisor to football operations.

That of course means that Mark Murphy, President & CEO of the Packers, will be hiring a new general manager.

Murphy talked to the media on Tuesday and talked about how the process will work.

“This is an attractive job and we’re going to have a lot of strong candidates across the league,” Murphy said. “I’m confident that we’ll be able to put the right person in place to help us win championships.”

The front office of the Packers has three candidates who might end up with the job. That would be V.P. of football administration/player finance Russ Ball, Director of Football Operations Eliot Wolf and Director of Player Personnel Brian Gutekunst.

In fact, the Packers have already scheduled interviews with Ball, Wolf and Gutekunst.

Brian Gutekunst

Brian Gutekunst

The Packers would have most likely interviewed another member of their front office for the GM job, but Senior Personnel Executive Alonzo Highsmith left the organization to join former Packers executive John Dorsey in Cleveland and he’s now the Browns Vice President of Football Operations.

It is also believed that the Packers will also look outside the organization as they look for a new GM. It has been reported that the Packers will also interview former Bills GM Doug Whaley.

Murphy told the media that Jed Hughes, a consultant from Korn Ferry, will assist him in the search for a new GM, although the ultimate decision will be his.

One of the other things that Murphy told the media was that the head coaching job of McCarthy’s was safe.

“You know Mike is our man,” Murphy said. “He is our coach and we have all the confidence in the world in Mike that we’re going to have great success moving forward.”

It was later learned that McCarthy was given a contract extension last season which will run through 2019.

On Wednesday, McCarthy made some more moves regarding his coaching staff, this time on offense. McCarthy removed Edgar Bennett from his role as offensive coordinator, while quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt did not have his contract renewed.

There is a slight chance Bennett might remain on the staff, after receivers coach Luke Getsy left to become offensive coordinator at Mississippi State. Bennett had been the receivers coach for the Packers from 2011 though 2014. In all, Bennett has been on the Green Bay coaching staff since 2005, when Mike Sherman was the head coach.

Two former assistant coaches for the Packers under McCarthy may be returning when it’s all said and done. One possibility might be Joe Philbin, who was Indianapolis Colts’ offensive line coach last season,  and who also worked under McCarthy from 2006 through 2011 and was offensive coordinator in five of those years.

Plus, another name to keep an eye on is former New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo, who was on McCarthy’s staff in Green Bay from 2006-13, including coaching quarterbacks for two of those years.

There is definitely a lot of moving parts going on within the Green Bay organization, as well as key additions to both the coaching staff and perhaps at general manager from the outside as well.

It’s been awhile since the Green Bay Packers had this much attention in terms of prominent hiring opportunities within their organization.

The Packers haven’t hired a new general manager since 2005, when former Packers’ President  Bob Harlan hired Thompson. Plus, McCarthy hasn’t hired a new defensive coordinator since 2009, when he hired Capers to replace Bob Sanders, who McCarthy had fired.

With all this news going on, I wanted to get the opinion of one of the best in the business, NFL scout Chris Landry. I had an opportunity to talk with Landry on Wednesday on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show about the vacancies that the Packers have both at general manager and at defensive coordinator.

Landry has an unique perspective in all of this, as he has known Thompson since both were members of the Houston Oilers’ organization back in the 1980s, when Landry was a scout with the Oilers and Thompson was backup linebacker with Houston.

Landry first talked about the job opening at general manager.

“I think they probably promote from within at GM,” Landry said. “I think there would be a consideration of looking at a guy like [Reggie] McKenzie. I don’t think [John] Schneider would come. But they probably would consider that.

“They tend to want to go in-line with their philosophy closely tied to Ron Wolf. Ted was part of that. So, I think that’s probably where they go. Probably promote from within. But we’ll see there.  [Brian] Gutekunst is probably the best guy. I’m not as big a fan as other people are on Eliot Wolf. It’s his last name.

Eliot and Ron Wolf

“I think there are some good candidates. It’s a really good job. I would look outside maybe a little bit more than they will.”

One name that Landry did not mention who is within the organization of the Packers is Ball. Yesterday, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote a piece which says that the next GM of the Packers will probably be Ball.

I talked about Ball earlier in the summer of 2017 with Landry, when we were chatting about who may be the possible successor to Thompson and this is was his response about Ball:

“He’s [Ball] an administrator, just like Andrew [Brandt],” Landry said. “Andrew was not a football guy. Russ is not a football guy. He’s an administrator.”

That sort of tells you that Landry does not believe the Packers should hire Ball as their next general manager.

After Landry talked about the GM possibilities, he turned his attention to who the next defensive coordinator might be.

“I think Vic Vangio is the type of guy that there are looking for at the defensive coordinator spot,” Landry said. “I know I talked to the Packers yesterday morning at length about Dave Aranda, who is a bright, young defensive coordinator at LSU. I think he would be a good fit.

“But I think somebody like Vic Fangio would make some sense. It’s certainly more in line with what I think Mike McCarthy will go with.”

Wisconsin fans will note that Aranda was the defensive coordinator for the Badgers from 2013 through 2015 and he helped put together one of the top defenses in college football. Aranda also interviewed with the Packers in 2015 for a coaching job under Capers.

But things come and go quickly when it comes to pursuing coaches and it was announced that Aranda has received a boost in salary ($2.5 million in each of the next four seasons) at LSU. Aranda was making $1.8 million in 2017. Besides some interest from the Packers perhaps, Texas A&M was also trying to pry Aranda away from LSU.

In terms of Fangio, he interviewed for the head coaching job of the Chicago Bears, where he has been the defensive coordinator under John Fox the past three seasons.

It is believed that the Bears will be looking for an offensive-minded head coach, but one never knows.

Vic Fangio

Vic Fangio

The 59-year old Fangio has a solid reputation as a defensive coordinator, as he did a great job in that position with the San Francisco 49ers under head coach Jim Harbaugh from 2011 through 2014. The 49ers were always in the top five in defense under Fangio.

In 2011, the Niners were fourth in total defense, in 2012, they were third, in 2013, they were fifth and in 2014, they were fifth again.

With da Bears, Fangio took the defense to the top ten this year, as Chicago finished tenth in total defense, after finishing 14th in 2015 and 15th in 2016.

Fangio runs the 3-4 defense that the Packers employ, plus has been a defensive coordinator under Capers twice, once in Carolina with the Panthers and once in Houston with the Texans.

Time will tell what the Packers will do at filling their openings at GM and defensive coordinator, but Fangio certainly appears to be a great fit for the defense and Gutekunst is probably the best choice for being the next GM, at least according to Landry.

A Scout’s Take on the State of the Green Bay Packers

Dom Capers III

For the first time since the 2008 NFL season, the Green Bay Packers will not be playing in the postseason. There are a number of reasons why the Packers are 7-7 and already eliminated from playoff contention in 2017.

Injuries are certainly one big reason why, especially the broken right collarbone suffered by quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Week 6, which kept him out of action for several weeks, a time in which Green Bay went 3-5, to put their record at 7-6 going into last Sunday’s game versus the Carolina Panthers.

Even with a gutty performance by Rodgers, who was hit a number of times during the game, it wasn’t enough, as the Packers lost 31-24, which more or less eliminated the playoff hopes of the Packers.

That became official, when the Tampa Bay Bucs lost to the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night in Tampa.

Rodgers was not 100 percent in the game against the Panthers, as one could tell with three deep passes that were under-thrown and picked off. Still, Rodgers did throw three touchdown passes as well for 290 yards and had the Packers in position to score the game-tying touchdown. But after Rodgers completed a pass to Geronimo Allison, the second-year wide receiver fumbled and the game was all but over.

After the Packers were officially eliminated, the Packers placed Rodgers back on injured reserve and ended his 2017 season.

But it wasn’t just the injury to Rodgers and to other players which torpedoed the 2017 season for the Packers.

There was also the uneven and inconsistent play on both the offensive and defensive lines. Being good in the trenches is a vital ingredient in terms of winning in the NFL or in any type of football.

The area that stuck out the most this year for the Packers, was the very disappointing play by the defense of the Packers.

This came after the 2017 NFL draft conducted by Ted Thompson and his scouting staff, which gave defensive coordinator Dom Capers the first four picks (CB Kevin King, S Josh Jones, DL Montravius Adams and OLB Vince Biegel) that the team utilized in the draft.

Add to that, Thompson also signed a couple of free agents to help the Packers on defense, which included former All-Pro and Pro Bowl OLB Ahmad Brooks.

But you wouldn’t know that based on the performance of the defense this season.

Going into Saturday night’s games versus the 11-3 Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field, the Packers are ranked 26th in total defense in the NFL. The Packers give up on average 356.4 yards per game, as well as 21.3 first downs per game. The “D” also gives up 5.6 yards per play. That just won’t cut it in today’s NFL.

It gets worse.

The Packers are ranked 24th in passing defense, as they give up 240 passing yards per game. What’s even more troubling, is that they allow opposing quarterbacks to have a 100.5 passer rating, which is third-worst in the league.

Opposing quarterbacks have thrown 26 touchdown passes versus just 11 interceptions, plus have been able make big plays, as they have completed 48 passes of 20-plus yards. In addition to that, the Packers have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete a whopping 68.4 percent of their passes, which is the second-worst mark in the NFL.

The Packers are also dead-last in the league in giving up first down completions. It seems like the defense just can get off the field, at least until after a score. Part of the reason that the Packers are susceptible in the passing game is the lack of a pass rush. The Packers have just 32 sacks, which ties them for 16th in the NFL. Compare that with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have a league-leading 51 sacks.

In terms of stopping the run, the Packers were fairly solid in that area early in the season, but have fallen off as of late. Currently, the Packers are ranked 20th in the NFL in rushing defense, as they allow on average 116.4 yards per game and a 4.0 average per rush.

The bottom line is that the Packers allow 23.8 points per game. That puts a lot of pressure on the offense to score, especially when you have a backup quarterback starting a game, like the Packers have done seven times with Brett Hundley. The third-year quarterback from UCLA now gets to start two more games to end the 2017 season for the Packers.

With all of this in mind, I wanted to get a read on the Packers by talking with one of the best in the business, NFL scout Chris Landry. I was able to do that on Wednesday, as I spoke to Landry 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show.

Before I talked with Landry, he and Duemig were talking about defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and outside linebacker Lavonte David of the Bucs. Landry had told Duemig that he had given both McCoy and David blue grades for their performance defensively in 2017 thus far.

Here is how the color ratings work according to Landry’s grading scale:

BLUE (B) = The best. The top line players in the league. Blue players make the plays that are the difference in close games. Superior talent, big plays and consistent.

RED (R)= Red players win for you. They have starter type production in the league. Top line Reds are usually Blues in either the running or passing game but fall short in the other. Red players are impact players and start on contending teams.

PURPLE (P)= Purple are players you can win with. They are usually Red in some areas and can match up with some Reds but overall fall a little short of Reds. A very good player. Solid starter who will usually get the job done at least in some areas. NFL scouting axiom is to not play anyone who is below purple.

Thompson, Murphy and McCarthy

Knowing all that now, I wanted to find out who on the defense of the Packers had a blue grade and also what the status of Capers might be.

“The Packers didn’t get any blue grades at all this year,” Landry said. “Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels were red-grade guys, who had pretty good year’s. To a lesser degree, you had Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, who were what we call high-purples and partly in the red at times.

“If you go on the offensive side, [David] Bakhtiari graded in the red. Aaron Rodgers is the only guy when he’s been healthy is in that upper tier, and he’s certainly a perennial blue-grade player. This year hasn’t been quite so much. Davante Adams is a high-purple and Aaron Jones has done some good things.

“But the biggest problem that they have is that I don’t think they are talented enough on defense. I don’t think they have enough bodies there. I think Dom is a good coach, but he could pay for this with his job. That’s just the way it works in this league. They’ve not been good enough on defense with him. Why haven’t they been able to consistently improve that defensive personnel, where it needs to be, particularly with edge-rushers, is beyond me.

“They have just missed. It’s pure and simple. They just haven’t been good enough in doing that. I don’t think their defense is very good. It’s quite frankly, a team which is built, or totally reliant on the quarterback. And I think playing him [Rodgers] last week is a perfect example. And I’m all for that. It’s the only chance that they got.

“And going into next year, if they don’t play any better, they are kind of in the same boat. And it’s unfortunate, because they have got an elite quarterback, as good as anybody in the league and one of the best of all-time in terms of physical skill-sets, to not have a defense, to not have a better running game, to not be a better team at the line of scrimmage, is almost criminal when you think about it from a football standpoint.

“They have just completely missed the boat. I don’t just dismiss the one Super Bowl, I don’t want to make it sound like that, but this is a team with this quarterback, that there is no reason why they couldn’t be what New England is, in the NFC. They are good enough with their quarterback. They go in every year with a chance. But the rest of the team pulls them back.

“I think that is a byproduct of them missing an awful lot in a lot of the personnel moves that they have made over the years. So, that’s my take on it.”

After that emphatic declaration, I responded that Ted Thompson also bares some responsibility with all the personnel issues which were brought by Landry.

“That whole staff did,” Landry said. “The whole personnel department. They have missed on some personnel moves.”

So what does this all mean? It means that the Packers won’t be playing in the postseason for the first time in almost a decade and there were definitely some reasons for that. Landry brought up a number of them.

Lack of talent on defense was his No. 1 issue. Is that because of the complicated schemes that Capers utilizes? Or it because Ted Thompson and his scouting staff just aren’t drafting or acquiring the right players? Or is it both?

No matter the cause, there is a sense that changes will definitely be made within the organization of the Packers this offseason.

It’s not that the Packers have not been successful under Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy since they joined forces in 2006. Since that partnership took place, the Packers have had 122-68-1 regular season record, with six NFC North titles, nine playoff appearances, four NFC title game appearances and one Super Bowl win.

But as Landry noted, there should have been even more success over that time.

So now the onus is on team president Mark Murphy to see if he’ll dictate any changes in the front office this offseason. Plus, there will be pressure on McCarthy to make changes on his coaching staff, especially regarding the status of Capers.

Time will tell what will happen, but based on the comments from Landry, one of the best of his kind in the scouting business, something has to give.