Mark Hoffman/USA TODAY

You’ve Got To Be Kidding

Rather than address the injury-ravaged cornerback corps with a veteran, general manager Ted Thompson, naturally, promoted receiver-turned-cornerback Ed Waters from the practice squad. It was a stubborn yet predictable response by Thompson that threatens to short-circuit a playoff run.

This is not an apples-to-apples comparison, but it does make a point.

On Wednesday, with the Green Bay Packers’ cornerback corps hit by yet another injury, general manager Ted Thompson signed Herb Waters, a receiver-turned-cornerback, from the practice squad.

On Sunday, the New York Giants will be the Packers’ playoff opponent at Lambeau Field. The Giants will start six free agents on defense alone, including starting cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Not coincidentally, the Giants will bring the NFL’s second-ranked scoring defense to town. The Packers’ defense ranks 21st in scoring and 31st against the pass.

If defense wins championships ... well, you know the rest.

The Packers have been desperate for help on defense all season but Thompson has done almost nothing to help, with the lone veteran addition being linebacker Jordan Tripp, who’s on his fourth team in three NFL seasons. Thompson has continually ignored the state of the cornerback group, which has been decimated by injuries. First, it was Sam Shields. Then, it was Damarious Randall. Then, it was Quinten Rollins. Then, it was Demetri Goodson. Then, it was Makinton Dorleant.

Of a possible 48 games, the Packers’ season-opening three-man cornerback group of Shields, Randall and Rollins have played in 24 of them — 13 for Rollins, 10 for Randall and one for Shields.

On Sunday night at Detroit, Randall, Rollins and Dorleant were injured. Randall appears on course to play on Sunday but Rollins (concussion/neck) almost certainly won’t and Dorleant (knee) was placed on injured reserve.

The Packers overcame all of that to make the playoffs. To get back to the postseason was a remarkable feat. But, as coach Mike McCarthy made clear during a lengthy interview at the start of training camp, the Packers don’t hang banners for winning division championships. Winning Super Bowls isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.

And that’s how it should be when you work in Titletown, USA Yet Thompson’s answer to the rash of injuries was to promote Waters?

Seriously?

It’s the playoffs. It’s time to win football games, win championships and build legacies. Maybe Waters will turn into the greatest cornerback that ever lived. But if ever there were a time for the always-conservative Thompson to take a shot on a veteran, this would have been it. Four weeks ago or eight weeks ago would have been even better. His mentor, Ron Wolf, did it with Andre Rison. One of his understudies, Seattle’s John Schneider, just did it with Devin Hester. So why not go find a veteran cornerback capable of playing even 15 or 20 quality snaps per game?

“Bill, that’s kind of a wide-open question,” McCarthy said on Thursday. “Herb is part of our football team. We have 63 players in our locker room. Just to go bring a veteran in, I mean, you’re just kind of throwing something up against a wall. I don’t know who you’re talking about or if you have someone in mind. Are you recommending anybody?”

I could have mentioned Charles Tillman, who tweeted his interest in helping old friends Aaron Rodgers and Julius Peppers. But I have no idea of his health and conditioning after tearing his ACL late last season and retiring this summer. But, really, whatever random name I plucked from my memory wasn’t important. The cornerback group is a disaster — and has been all season — because of Shields’ absence and the disappointing second seasons from Randall and Rollins. As special teams coordinator Ron Zook likes to say, you can’t buy experience. Waters, not quite four months into this grand experiment, certainly doesn’t have it.

“I get what you’re saying,” McCarthy acknowledged. “That’s part of the evaluation but Herb’s been here since Day 1. Really, that’s what our scouts do. They have a board and they’re keeping track of all the other potential candidates. There’s workouts that go on all the time, particularly Tuesdays a big workout day for us, so we have a number of people that roll through here on Tuesdays. Herb has earned this opportunity. We obviously brought him up for a reason. It’s not convenience. This young man’s been working every single day and we feel he’s ready to contribute on the 53-man roster and potentially the 46. You don’t put people on your 53-man roster if they can’t perform on the 46. He’s earned this opportunity and we’re moving forward.”

McCarthy is a staunch believer in Thompson’s draft-and-develop philosophy for building a roster. With eight consecutive playoff appearances, the proof is in the pudding. But I’d love to sit down with McCarthy, replace the recorder and notebook with a few beers, and really know what he’s thinking. Does he truly believe Waters, no matter how hard he’s worked, is worthy of this opportunity at this time? Or would it be, “We’re trying to win a Super Bowl and you can’t do better than Herb Bleeping Waters?”

The formula for winning games in the NFL is easy. You’ve got to throw the football and you’ve got to stop the other team from throwing the football. With Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have half of that equation handled. But can they beat Manning on Sunday? Could they win a rematch against Dallas’ Dak Prescott, who might not be a great quarterback yet but is surrounded by a great supporting cast? Could they win a rematch against Atlanta’s Matt Ryan? Could they beat New England’s Tom Brady in a Super Bowl?

Winning four consecutive games with that cornerback corps seems almost unfathomable. But that’s the daunting challenge thrust upon McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers by Thompson.

Ultimately, it’s possible there’s not a single free-agent cornerback capable of helping this team. But you can’t find out if you don’t try. Thompson at least tried at running back, missing on Knile Davis but hitting on Christine Michael. Thompson didn’t try at cornerback. And, ultimately, another bitter playoff disappointment seems the inevitable byproduct.

Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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