JS: Blame for underachieving season falls on Mike McCarthy, Ted Thompson



Too good not to post.

They'll roll the ball out again next season, these Green Bay Packers, hopeful of putting an end to their five-year string of unfulfilled seasons.

They'll be banking on the heretofore prolific quarterbacking of Aaron Rodgers, the consistent management/scouting style of Ted Thompson and the steady coaching of Mike McCarthy.

They're seeking a record 14th National Football League championship, and Packers President Mark Murphy has made the only logical decision he can make by opting to stand pat.

Next season, the Packers will play what is judged to be the easiest schedule in the league, at least on paper. Matched against the two weakest divisions, the NFC East and the AFC South, the Packers will play opponents that finished 117-139 (.457) in 2015.

They were Super Bowl co-favorites with New England this season despite a schedule that turned out to be just as difficult as it looked. Given their creampuff slate, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising if the Packers were the consensus choice to win it all in 2016.

Most of the shrill calls for change and the cries of anger tinged with depression among the faithful will wash away as spring arrives with the draft, as summer arrives with training camp and as fall arrives with the 96th season of professional football in the NFL's smallest city.

As usual, the Packers will make less news than almost any other team. They probably won't be active in free agency, they probably won't acquire anybody by trade and their general manager, their coach and most of their players will say as little as possible.

They'll draft eight to 10 players, they'll sign 12 to 15 college free agents immediately after the draft, they'll say improvement first must come from the off-season program and they'll report record or near-record profit for another fiscal year.

Construction will have begun on the massive Titletown building initiative just west of Lambeau Field. In August, Brett Favre will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the Packers probably will play in the exhibition game the following night.

The everyday rhythms of the Packers in the 21st century are as familiar as winning seasons, playoff appearances and crushing defeats in January.

My charge, as always at the close of another season, is to analyze what occurred over the last 12 months.

In summary, I still can't believe a team with Rodgers taking every snap and that much talent could lose six times in the regular season, could fail to win another NFC North Division crown and isn't playing Sunday in the NFC Championship Game for the right to reclaim the Lombardi Trophy that was well within its means.

The explanation starts with McCarthy.

Why in the world would McCarthy mess with an offense that had been humming along for almost a decade?

Calling plays is what the man does. His ability to develop Rodgers and tighten Favre's game is real. Not only was it necessary for him to keep calling the plays, he needed to remain the primary voice during the week and on game day when it came to offensive design and dealing with Rodgers.

Dom Capers and Ron Zook weren't made better with McCarthy having more time looking over their shoulders. Someone else could scour the analytics material.

Tom Clements didn't have the authority to be McCarthy as the play-caller.

Thompson said he didn't try to dissuade McCarthy. He should have, but that's just another example of his laissez-faire management approach.

McCarthy compounded his mistake by taking wide receivers away from Edgar Bennett.

McCarthy promoted Bennett to offensive coordinator, replacing Clements, which was fine. But it made the offensive staff top-heavy and left the wide receivers in the hands of Alex Van Pelt, who was asked by McCarthy to keep coaching quarterbacks as well.

Rodgers' pal, Clements, suddenly became his boss on game days, and that was a cozy arrangement destined for failure. The wide receivers missed Bennett's hands-on attention. Van Pelt, a smart assistant with coordinator capabilities, probably was overextended.

It has been 25 years or more since a coach in Green Bay made more errors in allocating playing time than McCarthy did this year.

Is it second-guessing McCarthy now to say Jeff Janis should have been playing earlier and a lot more than he did?

Absolutely not. We can't watch every practice in full. We're not around players 12 hours a day. We're not privy to the intimate details shared among coaches, players and staff.

McCarthy had better know who his best players are. This year, he didn't.

It would have been so easy for McCarthy to design some plays for Janis, who obviously had the speed and the size the offense so desperately needed. At the same time, he could have benched Davante Adams, who never seemed to pick up on how awful he was playing.

Make people accountable. Sit down Adams, or Eddie Lacy, for that matter.

No, the Packers under McCarthy and Thompson don't operate that way. Apparently a player's feelings shouldn't be hurt.

Meanwhile, it just seemed so obvious to think athletic JC Tretter should have replaced injured David Bakhtiari late in the season. Talk about being out of touch with the roster.

McCarthy sends out Don Barclay in Arizona, doesn't give him much help and the entire offense gets destroyed. Then he sends out left guard Josh Sitton, with a bad back and no experience at left tackle since high school, to block Minnesota's Everson Griffen with the division title at stake.

With Sitton's inadequacies too much to overcome, the Packers basically threw away a fifth straight NFC North championship.

And, really, why did it take 11 games for McCarthy to realize that inside linebacker Nate Palmer couldn't play and that Jake Ryan was the better option?

You might argue the decision to play Casey Hayward ahead of Quinten Rollins was flawed, but that's at least debatable. The others aren't.

Given the decisions made by McCarthy over the course of the year, it would be difficult to trust his judgment.

McCarthy, however, got almost no help from Thompson in 2015 other than the first five selections in the draft. According to several sources, McCarthy is fed up with his boss' unwillingness to take a chance and reinforce the roster with veteran players that might be unknown to the Packers but have the talent to contribute.

By and large, Thompson does put together good rosters. They're the foundation of the Packers' success. All Thompson need do is be a little more open-minded.

Take Mason Foster, 26 and a starting inside linebacker for Tampa Bay from 2011-'14. He was cut by the Bears on Sept. 5 and was on the street until Redskins GM Scot McCloughan signed him Sept. 29 for minimum salary.

Foster, who beat out a pair of veterans to start in Washington, is better than Palmer, Joe Thomas and probably Ryan, at least now.

Make the coaches burn the midnight oil getting a new player up to speed. Let players like Mike Daniels and T.J. Lang see that we're in this thing together trying to get better. Bring in a successful veteran to show young players new ways to prepare and practice.

No, no, no. It's almost always no with Thompson.

Do the Packers win the super Bowl if Ron Wolf doesn't sign kick returner Desmond Howard off the street seven days before the first practice in the summer of 1996?

"People do things differently," Ron Wolf, Thompson's mentor, said in November. "He's discovered a way to do things. It's been successful. Until it's not, he's going to say with it...he's going to stay the course."

In truth, Thompson operates like a glorified director of college scouting.

After arriving back in the wee hours Sunday from Phoenix, Thompson spent a few hours in Green Bay before flying that night to Florida for the East-West Shrine Game practices that began Monday. With no owner to answer to, Thompson can choose not to deal with the uncomfortable issues associated with the end of any season.

Instead, McCarthy handles the news conference and all the other difficult, face-to-face assignments that go with wrapping up a disappointing season. It might be helpful for everyone in the organization to see and feel support from the GM.

As for Jordy Nelson, seldom in NFL history has an offense folded quite like Green Bay's did this season in the absence of one starter.

It wasn't until there was time earlier in the week to pore over my notebooks did I realize the depths of the offensive collapse.

Can you imagine this offense finishing 25th in passing yards? It's the Packers' lowest ranking since the strike season of 1987.

Or this offense coming in 23rd in total yards, the worst ranking since Lindy Infante was trying to coach in 1991.

Thirty-first on first down and 28th on third down, the lowest finish for the Packers since before the arrival of Wolf, Favre and Mike Holmgren 24 years ago. There were 58 penalties on the offense as well, a high under McCarthy.

You can say whatever you want to say. With that quarterback, those offensive linemen, those running backs and, yes, even those wide receivers and tight ends, if used properly and creatively, the personnel was there to move the ball consistently running or passing, fast or slow tempo, spread formation or jumbo.

Look at how the Patriots, Broncos and Panthers coped with an injury list on offense probably more severe than the Packers'. Those coaches did much more with less, but their active personnel departments chipped in with helpful spare parts as well.

After an offensive disaster of this magnitude, the need for new ideas has never been more paramount. If anyone on the current staff has fresh views, they would have been expressed and implemented by now.

Rodgers had a poor season, and it was a huge problem for McCarthy and his coaches. Much of this rests on his shoulders. He regressed.

Capers did a terrific job with the defense, and Zook improved special teams. But the defense isn't without blame because its inability to take the ball away gave the offense too many long fields.

The Packers scored just 55 points off turnovers, a far cry from 123 a year ago.

When McCarthy assembles his 11th team next season, he will be seeking to win another Super Bowl with a five-year gap between titles.

There was a nine-year gap between Bill Belichick's third and fourth championships in New England. Tom Landry had a five-year gap between his Super Bowl triumphs in Dallas.

Those are the longest stretches between titles for coaches in the Super Bowl era.

Holmgren worked 12 more seasons looking to win a second Super Bowl, including 10 in Seattle. Chicago's Mike Ditka and Baltimore's Brian Billick tried for seven more years, Jon Gruden went six more years in Tampa Bay to no avail.

Currently, Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin has gone seven seasons without a Super Bowl ring, and New Orleans' Sean Payton has been searching for six.

Three coaches have won the Super Bowl after 10 seasons with the same team: Bill Cowher, Belichick and Landry.

Much like the Bobby Cox's Atlanta Braves in baseball, the Packers always will be a legitimate Super Bowl contender because Rodgers was a franchise quarterback before this year and the formulas espoused by Thompson and McCarthy were successful until this year.

The Packers also have exceptional facilities, undying fan support and money to burn.

What they need less of is the same old same old.

Hockey's Wayne Gretzky once said, "You miss 100% of the shots you never take."

In other words, no guts, no glory.

Most successful institutions slip without a vigorous, healthy critique of leadership and the introduction of fresh perspective. History might be weighing against another championship for McCarthy and Thompson, but it doesn't have to turn out that way.

The future is up to them.


What's wrong is that nothing will ever change. BOD and Murphy are totally hands off how the football side of the team is run and unless the team would be doing so bad they would be forced to make a change they won't get invovled at all. While many other owners would say hey we are this close I give the ok and want you to go sign some FA's that can improve this team. Since they BOD won't say that TT will always view FA as a dirty word and give MM averge to subpar talent to work with and MM will continue to use his outdated playbooks that seems not to have changed very much in his 10 years on the job. Other teams know exactally whats coming at them so they can stop it because they know how we play and they have been busy adding talent to improve their teams why the Packers have been spinning their wheels. I have been hearing people talk since 2011 about their biggest fear was having another MVP QB and only winning 1 SB with him because of how this team is run.

Part of the problem I think is that this is a conservative state and most of the board is made up by CEO's of companies in the state who are also conservative themselves. Thus I feel when they look to hire a President and GM they might not look for the best football minds but look for guys who hold their values and will consider the bottom dollar also and at times have that been the major factor in making a decision. When you have that you will also look at the GM hiring a conservative coach who will not like change and not like to gamble with his roster or playbook.

The old saying it flows down from the top can apply to the Packers. With the teams main goal to always keep their coffers full I think it might be hard to change the current way of thinking even if it means the on the field product will suffer.


What a great article! Great to see TT and MM being challenged to not sit back and say "good enough" Love the fact they brought up the lack of accountability for the starters.

As for Murphy and the BOD.. This isn't the Lombardi era. Football is big business. The focus is less about winning titles and more about revenue and profit margins. That's just the reality of it and Murphy and the BOD have no reason to get involved until the bottom line takes a hit.


Excellent article... I agree with just about everything he said.

It's one thing for homers not to want to hear criticism, but to spit on honest critiques... that's just burying your head in the sand... Their out there.

TT needs to fix the mess at ILB, TE, and on the OL; MM needs to get back to running the offense; they need to be tougher on the players - like Lacy; TT needs to get his head out of his ass and bring a vet or two to fill holes and provide some leadership.

Things that won't get fixed - TT is here for life; and our soft approach to defense and running the ball will never change. Still, with the right changes, we can still win a SB with this regime. The rub is - changes... a leopard doesn't change his spots, so while I say we can win, I'm not convinced TT/MM will do what is necessary to get there.


Lifetime Member
Lifetime Member
I agree with McGinn regarding the offensive coaching. We did not use coaches effectively and we did not use players effectively. The fact Adams was trotted out to drop passes all year when Janis and Abbrederis were available certainly needs to be addressed. And, it really appears that removing Edgar Bennett from coaching the receivers was a disaster.


To be honest what bothers me more than the Janis thing which we've DHH( is the issue the article brought up about how MM completely botched the OL when Bahk went down..


I agree with McGinn regarding the offensive coaching. We did not use coaches effectively and we did not use players effectively. The fact Adams was trotted out to drop passes all year when Janis and Abbrederis were available certainly needs to be addressed. And, it really appears that removing Edgar Bennett from coaching the receivers was a disaster.
I think Mike screwed up big time removing Edgar from coaching the WRs. He must have thought having both groups together in all the meetings would be a benefit but I think it hampered both Abby and Janis' development and this is why they didn't see a lot of playing time this season even with Adams' struggling. Let's hope McCarthy sees the light.


Draft Guru
2018 Draft Guru
The injuries contributed greatly to our problems, but MM and the coaching staff were pretty awful in terms of how they responded. McGinn clearly outlines and main issues - the fascination with Adams despite poor performance is inexcusible. No accountability. The o-line mis-handling to me is just as bad, BUT that I blame just as much on Campen and his assistant. Shouldn't they have a handle on who can play tackle. It could certainly be the case that MM didn't listen to his assistants, but since I've never particularly cared for Campen, I'm probably more prone to blame him as well.

This season is on MM's shoulders and his seat deserves to be warm at the start of next season. He can't make this many mistakes next season or he deserves whatever he gets. Kind of the same thing with TT. Not sure if Murphy is enough in control to put a halt to this with another season like this past one.