The Green Bay Packers were supposed to be Super Bowl contenders this year. In fact, if you checked out most of the top NFL betting sites ahead of each season, that’s been the case the last several years.
But that isn’t how things have played out.
Instead, Green Bay is set to miss postseason play for the second consecutive year and they haven’t truly sniffed the Super Bowl since an epic collapse in Seattle during the 2014 NFC title game.
They got back to the NFC Championship game in 2016, but a crushing blowout loss to the mighty Falcons doesn’t exactly qualify as getting “close” to the Super Bowl.
Aaron Rodgers is what has always kept the Packers in the discussion. He led the green and gold to the promised land back in 2010 and has almost single-handedly kept them in the league’s top half for the majority of his career.
Even Rodgers couldn’t hold everything together as things unraveled over the last two seasons, though. A rash of injuries – including one to Rodgers in 2017 – and poor roster construction set Green Bay up for failure.
A predictable offense pieced together by fading head coach Mike McCarthy ultimately delivered the death blow. And in turn, it led to his own exit:
The end of an era in Green Bay…https://t.co/zkoXgwJwfK
— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) December 3, 2018
For years, Rodgers and McCarthy worked together to field one of the better offenses in pro football. It was Green Bay’s defense and failure in the clutch that kept them from obtaining further success at the highest level.
This year was different, though. The defense was surprisingly better under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. It didn’t look that way at first, of course, as Green Bay routinely gave up yardage and points.
However, the Packers would often hold strong for the first half or even the first three quarters, only to see the floodgates open when the offense would stall or pun the ball away drive after drive after drive.
McCarthy’s inability to fix those issues led to his downfall and suddenly, after 13 successful seasons, the Packers are looking for a new head coach.
That’s just step one in a legit turnaround for the Packers, however. Let’s break down what this team needs to do in order to be more than a preseason tease in 2019 and beyond:
Finding a Replacement
Obviously, the first step is to bring in a new head coach. Green Bay CEO Mark Murphy is heading the search and by the looks of it, it’s going to be a long one.
It should be, too. McCarthy wasn’t flashy and his tenure was due to end, but he wasn’t a bad coach. He got the Packers to the playoffs most of the time and he nearly got to three additional Super Bowls.
Whatever coach the Packers bring in will likely be a little splashier, but should be innovative offensively to the point where McCarthy’s stale approach isn’t repeated.
Does that mean the Packers pluck a brilliant mind out of college football, nab a hot shot assistant or bring in an experienced retread? Only time will tell.
The Favre bet is a waste of time. Favre was a great quarterback but he doesn’t have the focus of a head coach. I also don’t think the Packers would go out of their way to annoy Aaron Rodgers by bringing in a guy he had a conflict with earlier in his career.
Favre is a novelty bet at +10000, but he’s a waste of money.
If bettors get the option to bet on Jay Gruden and Adam Gase, they should be able to look at John Harbaugh and a few other coaches that currently have jobs. I’m not particularly high on either of these options, but that does promote the argument to expand the list a bit.
I otherwise like this list just fine and the odds are very appealing. You’re looking at some brilliant offensive minds in guys like Arians, Gase, Taylor, and Bieniemy. I just don’t know if they’re really right for this job.
The guy who has to deal with Rodgers on the regular needs to have some experience working with difficult personalities. He also needs to bring something to the table that doesn’t just counter whatever Rodgers does, but complements it.
Of the lot, McDaniels makes the most sense to me.
There is no telling if he actually wants the job or if he’s the guy Green Bay covets. Everyone thought he was a lock to go to Indianapolis and then he spurned the Colts at the last second.
However, perhaps McDaniels is just waiting for the perfect situation he can’t say no to. Assuming Bill Belichick isn’t keeping a seat warm for him as the main shot-caller in New England, McDaniels would be wise to move on and if the Packers want him, this would be too good of an opportunity to bypass.
For now, McDaniels is the correct favorite and you’re still getting solid value by betting on him. His price at MyBookie.ag (+300) is a little nice, though.
Whoever takes over in Green Bay, their main objective at first is – ironically enough – rejuvenating a stale Packers offense.
They are definitely going to want to pay attention to how the progress is going on the defensive side of the ball, but as long as Pettine remains in town and Green Bay keeps adding positive pieces, that may take care of itself.
The innovation can come from an offensive guru taking over as head coach, much like McDaniels, but it doesn’t have to. A balanced or defensive-minded head coach can run the ship as well, simply opting to bring on a proven offensive specialist that can give Rodgers and company a mental lift.
I don’t even know if it needs to be overly creative or something we’ve never seen before, either. It just needs to not be absurdly predictable and so conservative.
Was watered down with short area plays that asked his skill position players to do too much of the work. When they couldn’t get open or create for themselves in the open field, the offense suffered.
That was further complicated by Green Bay not really utilizing Ty Montgomery or Aaron Jones early in the year, cutting Jordy Nelson, seeing Randall Cobb get hurt and also drafting three big wide receivers that are probably best served – at least right now – being targeted deep down the field or in the red-zone.
The only guy that could really make things happen for the Packers this year was Davante Adams. The rest of the time, a largely hobbled Rodgers was buying time, hoping someone would get open.
Whoever runs the offense needs to make things more vertical and take advantage of Rodgers’ biggest strength. He also needs to ease the pressure on Rodgers by actually utilizing the running game and finding ways to attack the middle of the field.
McCarthy’s system was largely horizontal. Green Bay needs to open things up, be less predictable and attack down the field with one of the best arm talents the NFL has to offer.
Hold A-Rod Accountable
While Rodgers can still be a menace with the deep ball, he was still exposed quite a bit in 2018. He absolutely has the ability to win at every level in terms of his throwing ability, ball placement, and pocket presence.
We just didn’t see it with regularity this year.
The pass protection wasn’t always very good, the Packers didn’t run the ball well enough (or even try to at times), the rookie receivers were inconsistent and Rodgers wasn’t even healthy half the time.
But he also gave up on plays, threw the ball away, got himself into unnecessary trouble, bypassed wide open check downs and held onto the ball too long.
Even at 35, Rodgers is still a top-five passer if he can correct these issues and get the ball out of hands faster. A better scheme and improved weapons should assist him, but the new coach and/or new offensive coordinator needs to hold him accountable and coach him up.
Run the Football
I touched on this for a second, but it’s so huge that it deserves a massive bullet point of its own. Green Bay rarely has an elite rushing talent, but even when Aaron Jones popped up as a very useful option on the ground, McCarthy inexplicably refused to use him as a workhorse.
Jones flashed ball control issues and he hasn’t been amazing in pass protection, but he also can only get better in those areas by playing more. Adding that dimension was crucial for Green Bay, as it could take the pressure off of Rodgers, help rest the defense and also open up the play action passes.
The best teams in football do not rely solely on their star quarterback to carry them down the field the entire game. They try to maintain balance and they establish the running game to the point where they can either run at will or at least try to ice games with it.
Green Bay still should want to attack defenses with their best weapons (Rodgers), but they did a disservice to him by not trying to run the ball more. The next Packers head coach needs to make this a clear priority.
Add More Talent
You can get a genius coach. You can correct Rodgers’ flaws. You can run the ball and the defense can get better. But are the Packers still going to be good enough to hang with the Saints and Rams?
Heck, will they even be good enough to get past the Bears and Vikings in the improving NFC North?
As things stand, that is clearly in doubt. Green Bay now has at best the third most talented roster in this division and they have to know it.
Green Bay needs to continue to draft well and luring 1-2 big free agents or making a huge trade could be necessary to push their talent level up to where it needs to be. Precisely who they bring in to run the show could dictate their personnel and the moves they end up making, but one way or another this roster needs an infusion of talent.
Offensively, that is going to translate to speed and explosiveness.
They have guys who can get down the field, but they don’t have anyone who can do damage in the short area game. Defensively, they need to upgrade both safety spots and move on from Clay Matthews.
Some subtractions alone could help this roster, but adding talent and rounding out a roster that is more athletic in general will be a step in the right direction.
Lastly, this is something that isn’t even necessarily in Green Bay’s control, but they need to do all they can to get and stay healthy.
Injuries have been a huge problem for the Packers the past two years. Rodgers going down with a broken clavicle clearly took the cake in 2017, but in 2018 Green Bay has lost big names like Muhammad Wilkerson, Nick Perry, Mike Daniels, Kentrell Brice, Jake Ryan, and others.
The Packers were not very deep or laden with elite talent to begin with. No matter who they bring in or how much they coach up their current guys, avoiding a long line if devastating injuries is something they’ll want to work towards.
This was compounded by in-season trades of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Ty Montgomery, as well as the team releasing fan-favorite Jordy Nelson during the summer.
Avoiding this on the fly roster turnover is key for anyone to march to a Super Bowl. Green Bay has had a heck of a time staying healthy lately and if their best players can simply stay on the field in 2019 it’d go a long way in turning them back into a playoff team, if not more.
Can the Packers Win Super Bowl 54?
They have Aaron Rodgers and some assets to work with, so yes I do think they can. But not how they stand right now. The Packers made the mistake of not being aggressive for years and it’s finally come back to bite them.
Green Bay has a game-changer under center. They identified a legit starting running back in Aaron Jones. They have a capable offensive line when healthy. Davante Adams gives them at least one-star wide receiver and Jimmy Graham can be useful in specific situations.
The defense should get better in a second offseason with Pettine running things. Jaire Alexander is already a star in year one and the Packers do have a few pieces on defense they can hang their hat on.
But the defense needs to be a lot better. Their needs to be more consistency against the run, more reliable pressure and actual turnovers. Offensively, Rodgers needs to rediscover his mojo and Green Bay needs to accept being more balanced while also being way more aggressive.
The new coach will dictate a lot of this, but the Packers really aren’t that far off. Maybe it only starts with taking back the division in 2019 and they make a real push in 2020.
Right now, betting on the Packers to win Super Bowl 54 feels like a reach. But their odds will be attractive and they’re in the position to make a slew of positive moves. Depending on what they end up doing, they just might end up being one of the top Super Bowl 54 sleepers out there.