Lombardi: Conflicted about the paradox

I sit in my office today disturbed about the Green Bay Packers season. What should have been a season spent competing for a playoff spot has become a race to see who gets the first draft pick next April. What could have been Brett Favre's farewell tour has become for some a countdown to see if he will hopefully hang it up before he disgraces his legacy.

Certain players, like Ahman Green and Javon Walker, were playing for new contracts and ended up on the injured reserve list, facing potentially career-altering injuries. Mike Sherman headed into the season as a lame duck coach, with a new boss, with his future dependent on this year's performance. Luckily, his contract was extended before the season kicked off and he has at least financial security.

What was once a formidable home field advantage with Lambeau Field has become a pleasant trip for opponents. The defense was supposed to be the liability this year, when in fact the offense has let this team down at the halfway point of the season.

Before the year began, the Packers had questions on the offensive line but were deep at running back and had a good trio of wide receivers. They played most of the Steelers game with their fifth-string running back and fourth- and fifth-string wide receivers opposite Donald Driver.

Like most fans, I have been disappointed with the mistakes made by this team. Physical mistakes and shortcomings are understandable. With the injuries and lack of cohesion because of them, mental mistakes are also understandable to a point. I can accept that the Packers may not be able to run the hurry-up offense because they have not practiced it much with the new guys. I can understand that maybe the playbook has to be scaled back, which might be a good thing. What I find hard to stomach is Adrian Klemm and Bubba Franks committing false start penalties back-to-back on the goal line. They are veterans. Illegal shift penalties, false start penalties and running into the kicker penalties are just depressing, especially since they wiped out some excellent opportunities for the Packers to take control of the game. Throw in the turnovers and no matter how hard and well they play for the rest of the game, this team cannot overcome these mistakes. They do not have the talent to overcome.

The players are to blame for these mistakes because they committed them. But my ultimate scorn is reserved for the coaches. Teams that make stupid mistakes are poorly coached. The two teams with the fewest penalties in the NFL? The Colts and Steelers. Need I go on? The top teams in terms of turnover margin? The Bengals and Giants.

But the conflict I have and the paradox I see is that in spite of the dumb mistakes and turnovers I see every week, I do not blame the coaches. There have been some questionable calls and some head-scratching player moves, but overall, I think this team is well coached. The defense is playing well enough to win and the offense shows what it is capable of for about half the game. The three turnovers killed drives and a missed field goal also hurt. Still, the Packers had a nine-play drive, an 18-play drive and a 12-play drive. The offense made plays at times, but it has no consistency and turns the ball over too often. Play-calling and game planning contribute to some of the failure, but where do the successes come from? The solution: Coach Sherman should go out and hire a sharp offensive coordinator and concentrate on coaching the whole team.

It is difficult to defend a 1-7 record, but a poorly coached team would have quit by now. Mike Sherman, his staff and the players have battled on in the face of numerous injuries and have prepared this team to play. And they have played hard. The effort is there. The opportunities to win the game are there. But the execution at critical times is absent and some are eager to blame the Head Football Coach. It is his fault, simply because he is the Head Coach, but he should be given credit for not giving up and not allowing the team to give up. If he can continue to get his team to play with the effort I have seen in the last few weeks, then he has done a good job. Whether it is good enough to save his job, only Ted Thompson knows for sure.

John Lombardi

Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. John resides with his family in Green Bay . His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. He will be contributing columns for PackerReport.com.

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