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Packers’ Lack Of Leadership And Execution Causing Regression

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A Lack of Leadership Continues to Hold Back Pack

It is no longer time to just “trust the process” or “R-E-L-A-X” in Green Bay. There is something missing on this team, and the Dallas Cowboys were just the latest team to expose the Packers deficiency in leadership and identity.

With the Vikings sitting atop both the NFC North and the NFL as a whole, the Packers are in trouble. Sunday afternoon’s 30-16 loss brings them to 3-2 on the season, and a step behind Dallas, Minnesota, Seattle, Atlanta, Washington, and even with Philadelphia in the NFC.

Normally, I would avoid declaring a season in danger off of a five game serving size, but the issues go back so much further than week 1, and seem to start with two time MVP Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers came into Sunday’s game ranking dead last in completion percentage, a category he normally excels in. In fact, in his career he has finished in the top 10 every year except for one (2015).

2015 saw a complete breakdown of Rodgers, and the offense as a whole, that has carried over to 2016. If you need proof of their struggles, here are some glaring examples.

Since Green Bay entered a week seven bye last season at 6-0, the Packers have gone 7-8 (not including playoffs) with a complete dip in offensive production.

Prior to the 2015 bye, Rodgers was completing 68.1% of his passes for about 250 yards a game and a total of 15 touchdowns to only two interceptions. Post bye, he only completed 57.2% of his passes for 233 yards per game and 16 touchdowns to 6 interceptions in 10 games the rest of the year, going 4-6.

So far this season, his poor play continues to hinder the preseason Super Bowl favorites.

In the Packers first 5 games , his completion percentage sits at 60.2%, which rose about four percent from 56.1% after his 31 of 42 passing (73.8%) performance against Dallas on Sunday. Also, as he did in the final portion of 2015, he has only thrown for about 233 yards a game during the stretch, adding 10 touchdowns to 4 interceptions (also two rushing touchdowns and two fumbles lost).

This means in the sub-.500 stretch since last November Rodgers has only completed 58% of his passes while only registering a QB rating of 84.1; well below his career mark of 103.6.

Away from the stats, there has seemed to be a change in his attitude, presence, and leadership during the 15 game stretch.

I’m not one of those people that believes in blaming an athletes significant other on poor performance, but it seems an interesting coincidence that it was the beginning of last year his movie star girlfriend Olivia Munn moved in with him and the two began becoming more serious. His pre-snap reads, focus, and vision has taken a step back from All-Pro to below average, and that comes from preparation.

Another strange occurrence is in previous years, Rodgers refused to use Twitter during the season, but has made a complete 180° in 2016, and is instead quite active. It’s hard to believe a professional athlete once at the pinnacle of the toughest position in sports could be distracted by social media, but as a die-hard Packer fan I am forced to try to rationalize the irrational deterioration of Rodgers efficiency.

Over the years, Rodgers has gotten many passes for bad games. The blame was usually given to a bad offensive line or numerous dropped balls. On Sunday, it was obvious we are past that point.

There were a number of times he had guys running wide open and just missed them or didn’t even have the confidence to make throws. It’s been weeks since he’s actually stepped into a throw, and despite currently having the best offensive line in football in terms of protection, he is playing as if he is facing constant pressure.

Unfortunately, he has not only seen a regression in his on the field play, but it seems his leadership has also taken a hit.

Rodgers was always someone who played with a clear love for the game and showed passion like his predecessor Brett Favre had done before him. However, there are no more smiles, no more jokes, no more fist pumps.

At the moment, the Packers have a complete lack of team unity and leadership starting from the top. This falls on both Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy.

On Sunday, it was more obvious than ever McCarthy has lost his football team.

As I was watching the Seattle Seahawks-Atlanta Falcons game after the Green Bay loss, I couldn’t help but compare the sidelines of the Seahawks and the Packers. The difference is profound.

For instance, after a play in which Richard Sherman got beat for a touchdown by Julio Jones, an upset and fired up Richard Sherman came to the sideline. Instead of letting him lose control, the entire defense gathered, they rallied around him jumping up and down, showing him they were there for him and believed in him. The Seahawks and Sherman built on that moment and pulled out a win in a close game, something Green Bay has struggled with. That’s true leadership and team unity.

It was just one example of how creating a “family” inside an organization is crucial to sustaining a successful franchise. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has done that better than anyone else in the league.

Carroll has created an atmosphere of picking each other up and pushing each other to be better. McCarthy has created an atmosphere where everyone on the sideline seems to be uninterested in not only winning, but the game in general.

Would Russell Wilson or Richard Sherman, along with Carroll ever allow their sideline to become lethargic? How about Tom Brady and Bill Belichick? I don’t think so. So that leads me to believe a lack of leadership is toppling this once budding dynasty.

McCarthy has lost the offensive genius he once had. If it were only this season it would be premature to say, but as I stated earlier it goes back much further. During the 15 game downward spiral there has been little, if any, adjustments made to the offense.

There was a time in previous years that teams were forced to play zone against Rodgers and the Packers. Opposing defenses were scared to press the offense because of Rodgers incredible talent of throwing the perfect deep ball against man coverage.

In the last two years, it has been a rarity to see an accurate deep ball further than 15 yards from the Green Bay offense. That is unless you count back-ups Brett Hundley and Joe Callahan in the preseason, and McCarthy has failed to adjust play-calling to the increase in man coverage and blitzes.

One of the rare bright spots within the offense has been the play of Eddie Lacy. After an off-season filled with talk of his weight, he has come out this year looking great, minus a nagging ankle injury.

He has rushed for 360 yards through five games on 93 carries in 2016. This only averages out to about 70 yards a game, but he has gained over five yards a carry. When given the ball, Lacy has been outstanding.

However, Sunday he was again hobbled by his chronic ankle issues. He only compiled 65 yards on 17 carries and was only effective in bursts, followed by rest. Throughout the game, it seemed Lacy was one of the few players on the field for Green Bay with a will to win or any fight in him. During his breaks on the bench, Lacy was replaced by another guy that played with a lot of heart, wide receiver Ty Montgomery.

Montgomery not only filled in at running back, he was also the most active receiver on offense. He caught 10 passes for 98 yards after not even having a target the previous four games. A majority of these receptions came from out of the backfield as check downs or screen passes. Montgomery only ran the ball three times for six yards, but fumbled late in the 4th to close the game.

Many have criticized the Packers for having to rely on Montgomery after back-up James Starks was a late scratch from the game. It seems unthinkable that with an already beat up Lacy, they would have no third option at running back. It’s easy to say now, but signing C.J. Spiller when they brought him in a month ago would’ve been helpful.

The Packers defense also cannot be let off the hook.

Early in Sunday’s game, corner Damarious Randall re-injured his groin and was ruled out. This meant with star corner Sam Shields still out with a concussion and Quinten Rollins still nursing a groin injury of his own, LaDarius Gunter was forced to play as the top corner, mostly in man coverage.

Late in the second quarter, with the Cowboys up 10-6, Cowboy receiver Terrance Williams juked Gunter to the point he simply fell down, Williams ran open down the field for a 42-yard gain.

On the next play, rookie quarterback Dak Prescott right back at Gunter, beating him on a fade route for a 20-yard touchdown to Brice Butler. Later in the game, with the Packers trailing by 11 and still in the game, Gunter fell for a play-fake on third and 1 and gave up a 35-yard completion to Lucky Whitehead. To add to his terrible day, he also got lost on Cole Beasley’s touchdown late in the game that essentially iced the game. Prescott threw three touchdowns on the day.

Unlike the Seahawks, the Packers have no one on defense like a Sherman or Earl Thomas willing to pick up Gunter when he was down. No true leadership letting everyone else on the field know that that particular play is over, and it’s on to the next one. On both sides of the ball, in the front office, and within the coaching staff, that is where the most glaring problem lies, their passion.

The Packers NFL leading pass rush also failed to get to Prescott throughout the game. Julius Pepper’s first quarter strip sack provided the only real hit on the young quarterback.

Their rush defense averaging only 43 yards given up per game was also exposed. Rookie Ezekiel Elliot rushed for 157 yards, almost 6 yards per carry, and with his outstanding line completely dominated the game.

Overall, it was a frustrating game for all aspects of the Packers organization. The lack of back-up plans at major skill positions has been a troubling revelation as of late, one that can and should be placed on General Manager Ted Thompson, where the true direction and leadership of the franchise starts.

It seems there has been a bubble growing larger and larger over the past 12 months in regard to the team and their fans. It has grown to the point where it could explode, and the first two casualties would most likely be Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson.

This week’s Thursday night match-up at Lambeau against the rival Chicago Bears could be the most important in McCarthy’s career. Yet another loss to a poor Chicago team in Green Bay may be the final straw that causes the bubble to burst.