There’s a difference between playing bad football and being a bad football team, but a few things can provide the benefit of the doubt: name recognition, recent success, and a quarterback with the ability to win games singlehandedly. But the Green Bay Packers have been playing such terrible football for so long that it might be time to stop dwelling on semantics.
After a 42-24 shellacking at Washington last night, the Packers are 4-6, have lost four in a row and five of six, and possess a record better than only two teams in the conference: Chicago and San Francisco, both woeful, yet both perhaps in stations more achievable for Green Bay than, say, a playoff spot. The Packers are two games behind both Detroit and Minnesota in the NFC North, and since the two play each other on Thanksgiving, the very best the Packers can be after next week is two games out with five games to play.
“We understand clearly what’s in front of us, so six losses puts your ass against the wall,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “And that’s where we are.”
The record tells a story of mediocrity, but the numbers speak of carnage. The Packers allowed Washington 515 yards and six touchdowns, and while Kirk Cousins played excellently, this was more anomalous for him than it was for Green Bay’s defense. It’s the second straight week the Packers have allowed at least 40 points, and the fourth straight week they’ve surrendered at least 30.
The problem starts in the secondary, which has been without opening day starting corners Sam Shields and Damarious Randall, and lost Demetri Goodson in the first half last night. They’ve been getting torched, a product of the fill-ins’ lack of speed, a non-existent pass rush that gives opposing QBs all the time in the world to wait for a receiver to gain separation, and a sometimes-baffling lack of help from safeties Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
In past years, the Packers could keep up in a shootout. Not this season. While Aaron Rodgers has been fine (a 96.0 passer rating, 13th in the league, and a 73.8 QBR, good for fifth, though both numbers are aided by being encouraged to air it out late in blowouts like this), there’s really not much else to recommend this offense. “They can’t run the ball and they have trouble pass protecting,” an unnamed personnel executive told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Not a good combination.”
The truest thing Mike McCarthy said last night was that any digging out is going to require using the same shovels that made the hole this deep in the first place.
“This is no time for personnel evaluation or coaching evaluation. This is our football team, the 2016 Green Bay Packers. We’re in a rough stretch right now. We’ve lost four in a row and we’ve got a tough one on Monday night against Philadelphia. We’re gonna rally and stick together.”
The Packers haven’t had a losing season since 2008, yet Mike McCarthy has been on and off the hot seat for years amid the perception that he hasn’t gotten the most out of his players. It’s maybe a little ironic that the thing that finally gets the NFL’s second-longest tenured head coach fired is an active roster totally worthy of its poor results. These Packers are not turning this season around, and they’re running out of opportunities to rebuild around the 32-year-old Rodgers. A house-cleaning is in order.