Paul from Brooklyn, IA

We have our answer. This team is just not a title contender the way they are playing right now. There are no positives to take from yesterday’s game. It’s time to move on to the Vikings game and lock up the NFC North title, but I just don’t see this as a team that can beat the Panthers or Cardinals.

I think your analysis is calm and sensible. We have no choice at this point but to form our opinion based on the present, not on what we hope will happen in the future. We’re at that late point in the season when the future is the present. If something is going to change, it has to be significant and immediate.

Mario from Montevideo, Uruguay

Vic, I love your column. It has helped me put football and the Packers in a new perspective. Do we have our answer? Are these the Packers we will see the next two games, or is there some improvement in the future?

Mike McCarthy referred to “recurring things” being the problem. When problems recur over a long period of time, they become chronic. The Packers’ problems would seem to have begun in October. The Packers were able to continue winning for a while, but the problems worsened and persisted. Aaron Rodgers’ passer rating dipped to 82.8 against the Rams. That was the first alert. Since then, his passer rating has trended lower than at any period of time in the five years I’ve covered this team. Hey, if we’re going to use passer rating as a tool to define victory, and we had been doing that since the 2010 Super Bowl run, then we have to also use it as a tool to explain defeat. What we’ve come to understand is that a quarterback’s passer rating isn’t just about the quarterback, it’s also about the support he gets from his teammates on offense. Rodgers hasn’t lost his skills. I watched him closely yesterday. He blamed himself for the fumbles and for the interception in the end zone, but he was savaged by the Cardinals’ pass rush and a beautifully thrown fade-type pass that was put right where it had to be put sailed between the receiver’s hands in the end zone. He’s forcing his passes because he has no choice but to force them. The quarterback’s passer rating is symptomatic of this team’s most grave problem, and the quarterback needs time to throw and open receivers who catch the ball for the quarterback to improve his passer rating.

Jason from Menominee Falls, WI

Aaron once again referenced an inability in our receivers to get open. I saw quite a few receivers who thought they were open. I believe in Aaron’s leadership, but hasn’t his play this year and more specifically his reaction to our problems in the passing game both contributed to the group’s ineptitude and detracted from the cohesion of this unit?

I don’t see it that way. The quarterback gets too much credit in victory, so it only makes sense for him to get too much blame in defeat. Do as Mike McCarthy said: Put on the tape and take out the emotion. Where’s the pass protection? Where are the open receivers? Coach McCarthy said it best in his postgame press conference: This team has got to begin beating man-to-man coverage.

Nate from Daufuskie Island, SC

I know the Packers have done a remarkable job of building great teams with their draft-and-develop program, but we’ve mainly been drafting lower on the board. Last year, the bottom of the first round was really like not having a first-round pick. Has 24 years of having “The Man” made it difficult to have the best athletes in the league deeper in our roster?

Winning comes at a price. Patrick Peterson was a No. 5 pick. When was the last time the Packers picked that high? Cam Newton was a No. 1 overall pick. Luke Kuechly was a No. 9. Packers fans want to believe the brand will find players other teams missed, but the bottom line is the longer you draft near the bottom, the more likely it is you’ll move toward the top of the draft. Quarterbacks such as Rodgers and Tom Brady keep their teams lower in the draft order than they otherwise should be.

Mike from Stillwater, MN

Vic, I can’t help but think back to the last few minutes of the NFC championship game from last year. It seems as if this team has never recovered from that game. I’ll always be a loyal Packers fan but it’s hard to watch a team that’s been so good for so long struggle like this. You said the Arizona game would tell us where this team is at. I don’t want to be negative but this team looks pretty lost right now.

Don’t blame this on last year. This team was 6-0 and was in the top two spots of nearly everybody’s power rankings. If you’re looking for a game, go back to the St. Louis game. That game and the one that followed, against the Chargers, are probably the two game films the Broncos used to create a defensive game plan that nearly every team since then has made their game plan. Opponents are challenging the Packers to win on the perimeter.

Dan from Waupun, WI

Should the flex schedule be re-thought? Why buy a ticket?

Flex scheduling isn’t something new, it’s just a new name. Once upon a time, it was simply called change; the league would announce a time change for an upcoming game. That was a different era. Teams didn’t have the kind of national and regional followings they do today. Fans didn’t fly to games, and even if they did, the airlines didn’t charge penalties for changing reservations. Yes, flex scheduling should be re-thought. It’s insensitive to changes in the game and lifestyles. My first recommendation is that when the schedule is announced, don’t include game times. My second recommendation is to give fans a reasonable amount of time to adjust to game-time assignments.

Pete from Green Bay, WI

I’m perfectly happy with McCarthy as coach, but I’m puzzled with one aspect. This season, McCarthy seems wedded to the idea the personnel group starting a drive must remain on the field the entire drive. On certain passing downs the past few weeks, Kuhn and Lacy have been split out wide on third downs. No one, Aaron Rodgers included, takes seriously the threat of Kuhn or Lacy split wide. Why not get wide receivers on the field in those situations? Why line up nine against 11? Players, not plays, right? Get the correct players out there.

I completely reject your complaint. Coach McCarthy pencil-whipped the Raiders with the Cobb-in-the-backfield formation. He created a matchup that helped move the ball 92 yards. Please, don’t take us back to that play-calling baloney. If you watched yesterday’s game, you have to know play-calling wasn’t the problem. “We have to get open quicker. We have to beat man-to-man. We have to quit worrying about plays and worry about execution.” Those were comments Coach McCarthy made following the game. There it is. That’s all the analysis necessary.

Steven from Lilburn, GA

Did you notice how the Cardinals went for the extra score at the end of the first half? That’s the killer instinct the Packers have been missing. McCarthy would have called a run play and then knelt down to run out the clock. Seen it too many times.

You have not seen it too many times. I’m struggling to remember having seen it once. Last week, in Oakland, :14 to play in the first half and the ball at the Packers 35-yard line, the Packers threw a deep pass intended for James Jones, followed by a short pass to Davante Adams to end the half. Come on, let’s not tell fibs. How about 1:16 to play against the Seahawks, ball at the Packers 20? The Packers drove all the way to the Seattle 1-yard line, where the Packers settled for a field goal on the last play of the half. I can remember times when aggressiveness has left time on the clock for the opponent to score. Mike McCarthy is the boldest coach I’ve ever covered. How about his fake-punt play call yesterday? Please, get off the play-calling. When you get beat 38-8, play-calling isn’t the problem.

Tony from Shanghai, China

For weeks, Aaron has been visibly frustrated with his receivers and himself during the games. On Sunday, I noticed one of the offensive linemen get frustrated with the pass that went through Davante’s hands. Do you sense any division between the players on offense? Does Aaron have a responsibility to stay positive on the field as well as in the press conference?

He was very upbeat in his postgame press conference yesterday. We’ll see what that does. I don’t sense division among the players. I don’t sense any kind of soap-opera-like problem that would explain why Rodgers was sacked eight times – Scott Tolzien was nearly sacked for a safety – and the only pass the Packers could complete with any regularity was the back-shoulder throw. It has been my experience over the 44 years I’ve covered football, that when a team’s problems persist over a long period of time, the likely cause is a talent deficiency. Jordy Nelson was a big loss. Ty Montgomery was helping ease the sting of Nelson’s loss, and then Montgomery was lost; hasn’t played since Week 6. Where would the Packers be if they hadn’t lost those two players? How much better would everybody else be as a result of the matchups those two players would help create? Those are my thoughts. I don’t propose them as fact, only as my opinion.

Kyle from Black Earth, WI

At this point in the season, is it too late to fix what is wrong?

It’s never too late, but something dramatic has to happen.

Parthesh from Marlboro, NJ

Do you think McCarthy needs to restart the offense and do something new? Do they need to find a new way or scheme to move the ball on offense?

Aaron Rodgers said: “We didn’t have a ton of guys open. We have to find a way to get guys open schematically with motion and formations.” Whatever it takes. I’m all for it.

Jered from Baton Rouge, LA

Vic, getting pretty tired of the regular coachspeak of how the Packers need to adjust, change and emphasize. Tired of excuses and coverups for what really ails this team. I think we’ve come to be able to distinguish this team’s true identity. Simply put, we don’t have the necessary receiving corps to take us all the way. When will we stop trying to fool ourselves by thinking that going back to the basics and trying to refocus every week will cure our offensive woes?

What’s your point? Coach McCarthy isn’t going to say: I’d like to announce we don’t have the necessary receiving corps to take us all the way. He’s not going to say: We’re going to stop trying to fool ourselves by thinking that going back to the basics and trying to refocus every week will cure our offensive woes. If you’re telling us you lack the resolve to continue, then OK, quit, but the Packers aren’t going to do that.


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