The following is the third in a four-part series breaking down why the other teams in the NFC North won’t be contenders this season. (The Packers get two parts.)
If the Packers are blaming all of their struggles in 2015 on Jordy Nelson’s injured knee, they’re going to be in for a long 2016.
Something was broken with the Packers. Specifically, something was broken with Aaron Rodgers. If the argument is that it was entirely because Nelson was out, the only conclusion is that Rodgers is horrifically overrated. I don’t think he’s horrifically overrated, but I think there’s more to what ailed the team last year.
The Packers are built on three pillars:
But the quarterback doesn’t like the coach. The coach has publicly criticized the GM. And the GM looks like a bowl of oatmeal. Oh, and has anybody talked about who the quarterback’s own family doesn’t like him?
All of that drama could be why the on-field product is broken. Yes they missed Nelson last year, but Nelson’s absence alone shouldn’t have caused an elite offense to become a mediocre one. If it did, we should be talking about Nelson being the star of the offense, not Rodgers.
The supporting cast matters. And in 2015, Green Bay’s was still pretty good. Their offensive line was good for most of the season barring a couple late games in which they were down a couple starters. Eddie Lacy may have been fat, but they still had one of the 15 best rushing offenses in the league. Their failures on offense boiled down to their quarterback and their receivers.
What used to be a simple game of pitch-and-catch looked like dodgeball.
Rodgers just looked out of sync. He’s the all-time leader in career passer rating, but was 15th last year, about 12 points below his career average. The Packers were 25th in passing yardage and Rodgers was 30th in yards per attempt. That just doesn’t happen to great quarterbacks in their prime, regardless of their supporting cast.
The Packers need to fix their offense because their defense has a fatal flaw that comes back to kill them year after year: inability to stop the run. The Packers haven’t had a really good run defense since 2011. Last year, they were 21st in yardage and 29th in yards per attempt. They added a couple of rookies, but banking on them to fix a broken run defense doesn’t seem wise.
They can get after the quarterback, so Green Bay’s defense is usually better than it gets credit for, but they can’t carry them. They need Rodgers to do that.
Maybe it was just a bad year and he rounds back into shape this year. Maybe their problems can be easily fixed. But maybe this is the beginning of the end for them as the NFC North’s dominant team.