The Green Bay Packers aren’t big on changing head coaches.
Since 1992, the Packers have had four coaches. They quickly admitted a mistake on Ray Rhodes and dumped him after one season. The other three coaches – Mike Holmgren, Mike Sherman and Mike McCarthy – combined to lead the Packers for 24 seasons.
Even though it would come as a culture shock in Green Bay, it’s time for a new head coach. When we look back on McCarthy’s 11 Packers seasons, there will be many fond memories, including a Super Bowl. But if this is McCarthy’s final season, we’ll remember Sunday as the day it was clear he’s not the right guy for the Packers job anymore.
The Packers were awful against a good, but not great, Tennessee Titans team. Had the Titans needed to pile up points, they could have dropped 50 on the Packers. Maybe 60. Instead they rode a 21-point first-quarter lead to a very easy 47-25 win. The Packers looked like they weren’t ready to play.
The Packers are now 4-5. It’s the first time the Packers have been under .500 since 2008, Aaron Rodgers’ first season as a starter. And McCarthy is a big part of the problem.
The Packers shouldn’t fire him right now, because that rarely works during a season. And McCarthy could rally and save his job. There are seven games left, and it’s not like the rest of the NFC North is pulling away. But McCarthy looks like a potential lame duck for reasons that go beyond a three-game losing streak.
Starting last Nov. 1, when the Packers were blown out at the Denver Broncos, their offense has been exposed. There’s not much creativity to it. There aren’t many play calls designed to get receivers open. They rely on receivers to win individual routes and/or Rodgers to make a phenomenal play. Rodgers’ body language on Sunday said a lot. He didn’t try to hide his displeasure after every dropped catch or failed route. Whether the Packers are wasting Rodgers’ prime is a complicated issue. But it does not seem like the Packers are fully taking advantage of one of the best quarterbacks ever, either.
There has to be some accountability for how mediocre the Packers have been this season (and really, how mediocre they have been for more than a calendar year) and how awful they were on Sunday. The Packers looked overwhelmed. According to ESPN it was the first time they trailed by 21 points in the first quarter since 1986, when Brett Favre was a senior at Hancock North Central High School. The tackling and coverage were awful. No matter how good Rodgers is, it didn’t matter. The Packers were finished before the first quarter was over. It would be OK if this was just an isolated bad day. But it came a week after getting blown out at home by the Indianapolis Colts. Going back to last Nov. 1, the Packers are 8-11 in the regular season, and one win came on a miracle Hail Mary at Detroit.
It’s also fair to wonder if the Packers need to move on from general manager Ted Thompson, too. Instead of being aggressive in building a roster around an all-time great quarterback – think John Elway building a title team around Peyton Manning with the Denver Broncos – Thompson has been the least aggressive general manager in football. He ignores free agency. His extreme approach to building through the draft has been good, but it also seems like he has created a degree of difficulty that doesn’t need to exist. Maybe the Packers need a fresh approach in the front office as well.
What the Packers are doing now isn’t good enough. They’re 4-5, with a minus-11 point differential. They’ve been dominated by the Colts and Dallas Cowboys at home, and are 1-3 on the road. Even if the Packers bounce back and win the NFC North, they aren’t a championship contender. There’s nothing about the Packers, outside of Rodgers’ individual brilliance (and even that isn’t as consistent as it once was), that should impress anybody.
McCarthy has had a great run. He’s 108-60-1 as Packers head coach. He’ll be remembered forever in Green Bay for leading a win in Super Bowl XLV. But nothing lasts forever in the NFL. The Packers look like they need to make a change. The offense, and maybe his message, has gotten stale. McCarthy has seven games to turn things around. The chances of that happening don’t look good right now.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 10 of the NFL season:
Detroit Lions: Who had a better day than the Lions? They got to sit and rest while taking over first place in the NFC North.
The Packers look bad. The Minnesota Vikings are flailing. They lost their fourth straight after a 5-0 start. The 5-4 Lions relaxed and watched the Vikings, Packers and Chicago Bears lose. Now, because of their head-to-head win over the Vikings, they’re technically in first place.
The Lions haven’t won a division crown since 1993, when they were in the NFC Central. So technically the Lions have never won the NFC North. They have a chance now, because the rest of the division seems to be pretty bad.
Doug Pederson: A week after his fourth-down decisions in a loss were criticized, the Philadelphia Eagles coach deserves some credit for a game plan that led to a huge win.
The Eagles knocked off a very good Atlanta Falcons team, mostly through controlling the game on the ground and keeping the Falcons’ top-ranked offense off the field.
To do that, Pederson changed his running game. He had phased out Ryan Mathews the past couple weeks, in favor of Darren Sproles. On Sunday Mathews was back as the lead back, and he got 109 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. The Eagles controlled the ball for 38:10. They never let MVP candidate Matt Ryan get in a rhythm or Julio Jones ruin their day. Pederson also made sure rookie quarterback Carson Wentz wasn’t asked to do too much.
Peterson coaches in a tough market, and he had his share of criticism when the Eagles lost four of five. There wasn’t anything to criticize on Sunday.
AFC South: Let’s ignore the woebegone Jacksonville Jaguars, whose quarterback Blake Bortles looks like a lost cause.
The rest of the AFC South is actually threatening to make that division race interesting.
The Colts had a bye, but they beat the Packers last week to gain some momentum. This week, the Titans dominated the Packers. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota continues to play very well in his second season, and DeMarco Murray is having a fun revival.
Meanwhile, the Houston Texans just keep winning. The Texans beat the Jaguars despite 99 passing yards from Brock Osweiler. Nobody should believe the Texans are good, but they are 6-3. The Titans are right behind at 5-5, and their offense has been rolling for more than a month. The Colts can’t be ruled out at 4-5.
It’s not the best race in football, but it doesn’t seem like someone will win by default either.
Ryan Tannehill: The Miami Dolphins looked like one of the worst teams in the NFL a month ago, and Tannehill looked lost in yet another offense.
Tannehill didn’t light it up on Sunday, but he was good enough. And the Dolphins won again.
After a 1-4 start (with the win coming at home in overtime against the Cleveland Browns), Miami has won four straight. There are many reasons for the turnaround, and Tannehill is one. After throwing seven interceptions in Miami’s first five games, Tannehill hasn’t thrown an interception in four straight games. On Sunday he had 240 yards and two touchdowns. He took some big hits but stood in and delivered in crucial moments.
Tannehill hasn’t been prolific during the winning streak, and he has teased us before, but credit him for turning things around during what seemed like a lost season. All of a sudden, the Dolphins are in the AFC wild-card race.
New Orleans Saints: It’s really hard to find a more crushing loss than the Saints had on Sunday.
Drew Brees threw an unbelievable pass to Brandin Cooks, who made a great catch in the end zone, and all the Saints needed was the extra point to go ahead with 1:23 left. And then before the celebration over Cooks’ touchdown could even die down, the Broncos were taking a blocked extra point the other way.
The Associated Press said it’s only the third time an extra point has been returned for two points by the defense. That rule went into effect in 2015. It was the first time in NFL history that a returned extra point accounted for the winning points in a game. On top if it all, it looked like Broncos defensive back Will Parks stepped out of bounds on the return, but his white cleats near the white sideline provided enough doubt that the call on the field wasn’t overturned. Ouch.
And keeping with the theme that every amazing finish has a losing side …
Pittsburgh Steelers: The headline from Sunday’s instant classic will be how the Dallas Cowboys pulled out an incredible win on Ezekiel Elliott’s long touchdown run with nine seconds left.
On the other side though, the Steelers fell to 4-5 by allowing a long touchdown run with nine seconds left.
The Steelers are one of the NFL’s most disappointing teams. They were a popular Super Bowl pick, but we’re in the second half of the season and they’re under .500. They aren’t in terrible shape, because the AFC North isn’t very good. The Baltimore Ravens are in first place and they’re just 5-4. But the Steelers aren’t inspiring much confidence. Pittsburgh scored a go-ahead touchdown with 42 seconds left on Sunday and still couldn’t close out the win.
The Steelers still have a lot of big names, and everyone understands how much potential the offense has. But losing like they did on Sunday was a big blow.
Philip Rivers: Rivers is a great quarterback, and should end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday.
But even great quarterbacks have bad games, and Rivers’ game on Sunday was dreadful.
It wasn’t Jay Cutler-level bad, because Rivers at least had some good moments. He had 326 yards and three touchdowns. But that didn’t matter, because his four interceptions sunk the San Diego Chargers in a 31-24 loss.
Rivers made a few unthinkable decisions, like a goal-line toss in the end zone that was picked off by Tony Lippett in the fourth quarter. But his worst play was a pick-six to linebacker Kiko Alonso in the final two minutes of a tie game. Alonso showed blitz before the snap, dropped into coverage, and Rivers never seemed to see Alonso before he broke on a short pass to Tyrell Williams. Alonso went 60 yards for the game-winning score with 1:01 left.
With that, the Chargers’ season is practically over. They’re 4-6 in the most competitive division in football. Over the past few years, when the Chargers have lost it has been because they haven’t played well enough around Rivers. On Sunday, the loss can be pinned on their quarterback.
Anyone who watched that Rams-Jets game: The key for the Los Angeles Rams, apparently, is to not score touchdowns.
In half of the Rams’ wins this season, they didn’t score a touchdown. Los Angeles got three field goals on Sunday and beat the New York Jets in a truly awful 9-6 game. The Rams became the first team since the 1997 Buffalo Bills to win two games with just three field goals in each.
On a fine week for the NFL, it was a shame for anyone who got stuck with Rams-Jets. Jets quarterback Bryce Petty got his first NFL start and he looked overmatched. Rams quarterback Case Keenum wasn’t much better, but because the Rams won that’ll probably set Jared Goff’s debut back to 2018 if Jeff Fisher has his way. There were 15 combined points and 15 combined punts. If you sat through this game, I’m sorry.
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