Misfits: The Green Bay Packers' backup plan
By: Cian Fahey | Published Wednesday, January 26, 2011, 4:40 PM | Updated Friday, September 9, 2011, 10:03 PM
There was much hype surrounding the Green Bay Packers coming into the season. They were led by one of the best young quarterbacks in the league with a star studded defense and offense. Many people suggested the coaching staff and management may have been their biggest issue but then the plague hit...
|Ryan Grant hasn't been missed lately.|
The team consistently struggled with keeping players healthy and not a week went by seemingly without one player being sent to IR. They had a league leading 18 players on IR and starters missed a combined 91 starts for the team throughout the season.
Before the season even began the team were resigned to being without two important defensive starters for a lengthy period as Johnny Jolly faced a season long suspension, that led to pondering over retirement, while talented cornerback Al Harris was sent to the PUP list(Physicaly Unable to Perform).
The problems didn't stop there as 8 carries into Ryan Grant's season he went down and never got back up because of an ankle injury. This put the offense even more firmly on Aaron Rodgers' shoulders. Which of course meant that Rodgers' favorite target Jermichael Finley would need to have an even bigger season than expected.
Finley was well on his way to that before tearing his ACL in week 5. Finley had racked up 21 receptions and over 300 yards in his first 5 games. While the offense was seemingly in tatters, the defense's health wasn't getting better as the weeks went by.
|Des Bishop has stepped it up.|
Defensive signal caller Nick Barnett was lost for the season after week 4 to be replaced by former 6th round pick Desmond Bishop. This meant that Bishop was teamed with former outside linebacker AJ Hawk in Dom Capers' 3-4 scheme when Brandon Chillar lost his place in week 1 before being placed on IR later in the season.
There was still time for the Packers to lose their promising outside linebacker Brad Jones, who had 4 sacks in 7 starts the previous season, as well as Mark Tauscher, the long time starting right tackle in Green Bay, before the season was even halfway through.
A team that had been so decimated by injuries would barely be able to compete in it's division never mind make the playoffs. Superbowl chances? Don't be foolish. The NFL is such a parity league that more often than not it is the healthiest team that holds the Lombardi trophy aloft in February.
|Thompson reacts to a McCarthy |
joke about his firing.
What were the Packers to do? Who could they turn to?
Enter Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson.
McCarthy is the Packers head coach while Thompson is the team's general manager of football operations. Thompson's outstanding ability to spot raw talent in the later rounds of the draft and even further coupled with McCarthy's ability to work with young players and develop them almost instantly is a winning combination.
It took the pair almost a season to replace Grant as Brandon Jackson struggled to carry the load but a 6th round rookie pick who was held on the roster after missing most of the season reared his head in the playoffs. James Starks went from unknown quantity to the Packers feature back in the playoffs averaging an impressive 3.8 yards per carry.
|Raji announced himself this season.|
McCarthy realized that the talent of Finley could not be replaced by one player so instead turned to two more of Thompson's draft picks Jordy Nelson(2nd round
) and James Jones(3rd round
). Jones and Nelson are young receivers that featured more prominently in the Packers offense, after Finley went down, to great effect. Longtime starter Mark Tauscher's place on the right side of the offensive line was filled effectively by rookie Bryan Bulaga(1st round
Defensively things looked much the same, Johnny Jolly's presence was softened by the impressive performances of former first round pick BJ Raji at Nose Tackle, Des Bishop was outstanding in place of Nick Barnett finishing with over 100 tackles, Al Harris was eventually released because of Tramon Williams'(undrafted, 2006
) Pro Bowl season, Erik Waldon(6th round 2008
) jumped at the opportunity to become the starting outside linebacker in place of Brad Jones late in the season recording 3 sacks in the regular season finale and another 1 in the playoffs.
In the face of adversity Mike McCarthy has not blinked throughout the season. The talent made available to him by Thompson makes the duo potentially the best combination in the league.
Oh and did I mention that Aaron Rodgers was concussed twice this season too?