In their 23-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings this past Sunday the Green Bay Packers just didn’t lose the game, but they also lost their best player in quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone, and with that they lost their deodorant. Besides being arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, Rodgers hid most, if not all, of the Packers shortcomings.
Rodgers remarkable playmaking ability doesn’t just hide the mounting injuries on the offensive line or at times a lack of running game. It also bails out the Packers defense that has once again has struggled, especially on third downs. The Packers now find themselves without their leader, their best player, and the person who they relied on the most of to lead their team to victory. The Packers now need to rely on the person who is in charge of this team, the person who needs to make sure their season doesn’t go off the rails. Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy needs to step up.
Green Bay Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy Needs to Step Up
Mike McCarthy has been blessed to have a Hall of Fame quarterback, Brett Favre, and a future Hall of Fame quarterback, Rodgers, in charge of his offense throughout his head coaching tenure with the Packers. But with Rodgers possibly out for the remainder of the season, it is up to McCarthy, who many critics have dubbed an offensive genius, to get third year quarterback Brett Hundley up to speed to lead the Packers offense, now and possibly for the remainder of the season. The task won’t be easy, but if the experts are right about McCarthy, it shouldn’t be impossible.
The speculation that the Packers might possibly look at retired quarterback Tony Romo or San Francisco 49ers castoff Colin Kaepernick to replace Rodgers was running rampant on social media after Rodgers injury. But McCarthy quickly put a stop to that speculation at his press conference on Monday when he stated that Hundley is his quarterback and really, that is the way it should be. Packers fans have heard for years how great of a quarterback guru McCarthy is, the proof being that he had a major hand in Rodgers development as a signal caller.
Hundley isn’t just a rookie or a quarterback that is being thrown into the fire, like was the case when Rodgers broke his collarbone in 2013 when the Packers were forced to play Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien, and Matt Flynn at quarterback. This is Hundley’s third season in the Packers program after being drafted in the fifth round by the Packers in 2015. Hundley has been through McCarthy’s off-season quarterbacks school and has sat behind Rodgers and learned from one of the best in the game. To expect Hundley to step in and be just as effective as Rodgers, a former two-time league MVP, would be just foolish. But if McCarthy is as good as many believe he is in developing quarterbacks, expecting Hundley to be effective as the Packers starting quarterback isn’t that farfetched. But Hundley can’t do it on his own. He must get help from his offensive teammates.
Veteran Offensive Teammates Must Also Step Up
Although a difficult situation, Hundley will have the necessary offensive weapons to get acclimated as the Packers starting quarterback. The Packers have two veteran wide receivers, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, and an emerging pass catcher, Davante Adams that will help out the inexperienced Hundley. All three players have been around the block and have proven they are capable of making plays.
For Hundley, he will need to lean on all three of them and allow them to do what they do best and that’s make plays. Not only will Hundley have the benefit of working with three of the best wide receivers in the NFL, but he will also have great depth at the tight end position. Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks, and Richard Rodgers will provide a safety net for Hundley in the passing game. The tight end position is crucial for a young quarterback. When things breakdown in the pocket for Hundley, there is no doubt he will look for help from his tight ends. Hundley isn’t walking into a situation where he doesn’t have any weapons, as the Packers are blessed with many in the passing game.
The Running Game Will be Key
To take pressure off of Hundley and the passing game, the Packers must establish a running game. Rookie running back Aaron Jones showed in the Packers win over the Dallas Cowboys that he is capable of carrying the load when he rushed for 125 yards. Jones will be joined by fellow running back Ty Montgomery who came back from broken ribs last week against the Vikings. Montgomery will be another weapon for Hundley to rely on, especially with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. If McCarthy wants to take pressure off of Hundley, he will need to stick with the running game early and often. But one thing that might hinder that is the play of the offensive line.
Once again, the Packers found themselves without the services of their starting two offensive tackles last week. Bryan Bulaga was lost in the second half with a concussion and David Bakhtiari re-injured his hamstring, an injury that kept him out for four previous games. Bulaga and Bakhtiari weren’t the only offensive linemen lost last week. Starting guard Lane Taylor, who filled in heroically at left tackle the previous two games for Bakhtiari, was lost to injury as well. The only normal starters left healthy were right guard Jahri Evans and center Corey Linsley, both of whom struggled at times in the Packers loss to the Vikings. For Hundley to have any type of success, the Packers must protect him and give him time when he is called on to pass the ball. It will be up to offensive line coach James Campen and McCarthy to come up with a game plan to make sure Hundley has time. If not, all of the weapons Hundley has will be worthless.
Capers Needs to Earn His Check
Dom Capers has been a target of Packers fans throughout his tenure as defensive coordinator and a lot of it has been deserved. Under Capers, the Packers defense has been the constant weak link of the Packers. Their constant struggles in third down situations have caused Packers fans to scream at their televisions and for some, lose their minds. Although the defense has had to deal with injuries, it hasn’t been nearly as bad as what the offense has had to deal with.
For those fans who claim that general manager Ted Thompson hasn’t given Capers enough playmakers, they couldn’t be more wrong. The Packers have very good talent on the defensive side of the ball, with outside linebackers Nick Perry and Clay Matthews, defensive lineman Mike Daniels, emerging linebacker Blake Martinez, and Pro Bowl safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix all lining up for the Packers. Without Rodgers, Capers and the defense must step up, cause turnovers, and make sure that they don’t put Hundley and the rest of the Packers offense in a hole. Capers is in charge of the defense, but McCarthy is the one that keeps bringing Capers back, so he too must make sure the defense is up for the task.
Put Up or Shut Up
McCarthy is the third longest tenured coach in the NFL, behind the New England Patriots Bill Belichick and the Cincinnati Bengals Marvin Lewis. McCarthy has been successful but if he is going to be listed as one of the best, he is going to have to guide his team through this tumultuous time for the Packers. Many believe that without Rodgers, the Packers season is over. It will be up to McCarthy to quiet those naysayers wrong and prove that he truly is one of the elite head coaches in the NFL. The Packers barely got by the last time Rodgers broke his collarbone, but the difference this time is that the Packers have a quarterback that has spent multiple seasons in their program, one that many believe is one of the best in the NFL. It is time for McCarthy to show that he is truly the coach many believe he is. If not, it will be another long winter in Green Bay.