And Aaron Rodgers knows it.
After four games, a team's identity is starting to solidify. On paper, the Green Bay Packers' offensive identity looks like it's just fine, thank you. With 26.5 points per game, Green Bay ranks fifth in the NFL in scoring. However, you've watched the four games and you see the warning flags.
Right now, the Packers' offensive identity is in limbo. Last week, coach Mike McCarthy left the playbook of running plays in his hotel room and threw it all over Soldier Field. It resulted in Rodgers finishing 34-of-45 for 316 yards but the Packers coming up short on the scoreboard.
On Sunday against Detroit, McCarthy was clearly more interested in testing his running game against the NFL's last-ranked run defense. The first three plays were runs and five of their eight snaps in the first quarter were running plays. By game's end, there were 21 passing plays (17 passes, three sacks and two scrambles) and 19 running plays (18 to the running backs and a game-ending kneel-down).
Despite John Kuhn thundering seven times for 34 yards on the final drive as Green Bay's slumbering offense woke up in the nick of time, the Packers' running game simply wasn't good enough.
Just like it wasn't good enough the last three weeks.
Rodgers knows it and he made bold statements during his news conference after the game.
Asked innocently whether the team's performance was good enough, the win notwithstanding, Rodgers said: "It's a win, so we're happy about that. Offensively, we've got to find our identity again. I think we've got to make sure that we've got our best players on the field at all times and find ways to get them the ball. We had some ad-libs today where we were able to hit Donald (Driver) on the big play and stuff. Take that play away and there's really not a whole lot of production. You know, 42 plays, 45 or however many plays we had, that's not going to cut it. How do you get better from that? You've got to stop them, but you've also got to convert third downs. I think we need to find ways to keep our best players on the field and find ways to get them the ball."
Twice, Rodgers mentioned getting the best players on the field.
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
"I think we had great production last week being in the shotgun a lot, spreading them out, and Chicago has a tough scheme," Rodgers said. "I think Detroit runs their scheme well, but I don't think we gave them a chance (by) spreading them out enough to find those mismatches. When we did, I think we were pretty productive."
It's a bold statement by Rodgers, and not just because he's questioning the game plan — though that's a pretty big deal.
So, where do the Packers go from here?
The trade deadline is Oct. 19, so general manager Ted Thompson has two weeks to pull the trigger. Otherwise, McCarthy needs to find an identity for an offense that's sputtered for consecutive games.
To be sure, it's a long, long season and whatever problems might exist today might not exist in November. In 2007, Brett Favre kept the offense afloat until Grant became Grant in the seventh game. Rodgers has the weapons in place to do the same this season. But that's up to McCarthy to decide which offensive identity is best for the team. Is it calling enough running plays and hoping that the offensive line and Brandon Jackson and/or Kuhn become good enough that defenses have to at least pay attention to the guys in the backfield? Or is it unleashing Rodgers and hoping that the quarterback and receivers are so good that they can thrive when every defense knows what's coming and survive whatever Mother Nature throws at it in December?
Or, is it Thompson making the bold move to give his team legitimate running back? By now, you've heard the Marshawn Lynch talk. The Bills are terrible but they're loaded at running back, so they could bolster one position while barely impacting the other. Maybe once the deadline nears, they'll get more serious, but as of now, a source told us the Bills are in no hurry to make a move and that "willing to listen" to trade offers is a far cry from actually shopping Lynch.
With that said, this offense was clearly better with Grant and would be clearly better with Lynch, who rushed for 1,000 yards in 2007 and 2008. Can the Packers win games with Rodgers flying solo? Sure, but why not give this team its best shot at winning the Super Bowl and give the locker room a major shot in the arm? For all of the youth, Donald Driver and Charles Woodson aren't getting any younger. The NFC looks like a wide-open affair. With the Bears getting spanked on Sunday night at the Giants, the Packers are one of five 3-1 teams atop the conference.
It takes two teams to tango in a trade, but if the Bills are willing to make a move, Thompson must pounce, even if he has to overpay a little. A 24-year-old running back with proven production for a championship contender?
After the last two weeks, it's a move that has to be made. Otherwise, let's just drop the pretenses of balance and put the ball — and the fate of this season — in the hands of the team's best offensive player.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.