Rodgers in a slump?

History seems to repeat as Packers on brink

Mike Clemens
November 18, 2018 - 12:57 pm

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

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Milwaukee, WI - We've been here before.

How can Aaron Rodgers rolling to his right, on the run, throw a dart 54-yards downfield to a new guy making his first NFL catch ever, tight end Robert Tonyan, for a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks, yet, in the same game overthrow veteran Davante Adams open for a TD? Why was Rodgers unable to hit a wide open 6-foot-4 Marquez Valdes-Scantling from just 10 yards out on a critical 3rd down?

Last Thursday night the Packers let a 21-17 halftime lead slip to a 27-24 defeat.

They are now 0-5 on the road this season. They had leads in LA against the Rams and lost. They were tied at 17-all with the Patriots in New England, and went to sleep in the 4th quarter. And in Seattle, they went from a 14-3 lead, to only managing 1 field goal and 5 punts in the second half. 

When Rodgers walked off the field at Century Link Stadium after the game last Thursday night, it wasn't along side Davante Adams. Or left tackle David Bahktiari. Certainly not current quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti Jr. or Mike McCarthy. It was with his sports agent David Dunn, pictured above. Sometimes an agent's best opportunity to show support for their star players is attending games with a sideline pass issued through the league. Nevertheless, it's an interesting snapshot of where things are at with the quarterback who signed for $103 million guaranteed this summer, thanks in part to Dunn. 

This morning I spent time going through 3 boxes labeled "Packers 2015, 2016, 2017" in my home office. Game stats, press conference & interview notes, scripts. I was stunned to see how similar the team's offensive situation now matches where the Packers were in November of 2016, exactly two years ago.

In 2015 Jordy Nelson went down in a preseason game in Pittsburgh and yet the Packers got off to a 6 - 0 start, until Halloween weekend, when the undefeated (and Super Bowl bound) Broncos beat them in Denver 29-10. Green Bay was a 3 - point favorite heading into the game. “I haven’t had my ass kicked like that in a long time,” said McCarthy after the loss.  Rodgers threw for just 77 yards, a career low.

The Packers went on to lose 4 of their next 5 in 2015, recover and make it to the playoffs. The season ended in an overtime divisional playoff loss to the Cardinals in Arizona, 26-20. Randall Cobb left the game when an NFL Films microphone he was wired with punctured his lung, leaving Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis as Rodgers only targets at wide out. Cobb would tell Bill Michaels later that month he would never allow to be mic'd up again. 

In 2016, two years ago this month, Mike McCarthy went into Nashville and told the NFL Network, "We have 21 personnel groups in our game plan. Twenty-one! I've gone into games with a lot of personnel combinations, but I don't ever think I've done that before. But hey, that's where we are right now. It's on all of us to find a way to get it done."

Instead the Titans rolled past the Packers defense, scoring 21 unanswered points, on the way to a 47-25 beat down. The next week the Packers lost on the road to the Redskins to fall to 4-6, yet the following Wednesday Aaron Rodgers stood at his locker and when asked if his season was over, replied "I still think we can run the table." They did, winning the next 8 games in a row.

Rodgers shook off what then quarterback's coach Alex Van Pelt called "a funk the quarterback has been in" since the previous year in Denver. Green Bay ran out of healthy wide receivers and cornerbacks and lost to the Super Bowl bound Falcons 44-21 in the NFC Championship in Atlanta. Rodgers asked that Ted Thompson "not make wholesale changes" to the roster, but several players did not return, including tight end Jared Cook, who signed with the Raiders, saying Green Bay never made him an offer to stay. 

In 2017 Rodgers got off to a great start, and to many of us, was playing the very best of his career, until he suffered a broken right collar bone against Minnesota. The Packers finished 9-7 with Brett Hundley under center. McCarthy was given only a 1- year contract extension through 2019, while Brian Gutenkunst replaced Ted Thompson as general manager, signing a deal through 2022. Rodgers signed a deal at the end of August, keeping him a Packer through 2024.

And there the die was cast - McCarthy was coaching for his job this season. 

Although there is a perception McCarthy's coaching staff has remained intact since winning the Super Bowl in February, 2011, there really have been plenty of changes.

Joe Philbin left to coach the Miami Dolphins. Former tight end and quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo went to the Giants where he failed as a head coach. Tom Clements was promoted to assistant head coach and given play calling duties at the start of the 2015 season. By the end of 2016 his contract expired and was not renewed. After 20 seasons with the Packers organization as a player, assistant coach, and offensive coordinator, Edgar Bennett was let go after 2017. Receivers coach Luke Getsy accepted an offer to become an offensive coordinator of the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

This season, after dismal performances against the Lions in Detroit, and the Redskins in Washington, we began to wonder if McCarthy "was in trouble?"

Today the NFL Network reported "McCarthy is on the hot seat" in Green Bay. 

The network also says tight end Jimmy Graham suffered a broken thumb in Seattle, and that defensive end Mike Daniels has a foot injury that could sideline him "several weeks."

The Packers have six remaining games on their regular season schedule.

Can they win all six and slip into the post-season at 10-5-1? Would it be enough to sign McCarthy to an extension? Or is a major rebuild coming in the offseason, starting at head coach?

I don't have the answers. I don't think a decision has been made. 

It just seems this time around, the odds are against McCarthy. 

Jump back in time to two years ago to mid-season 2016 and see how veteran NFL writer Bob McGinn raised some of these very same questions:  READ MORE

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