Stills: Attitude critical down the stretch

The Green Bay Packers are on the verge of being eliminated from the playoffs, but former Packers safety Ken Stills explains the many reasons why the coaches and players should put forth their best effort in the final six games of the season.

Monday marked another close football game between two division rivals. It came down to the foot of Vikings place-kicker Paul Edinger and again Edinger came through for the victory. This was deja vu all over again. It was a good first half by the Packers but a more productive second half by the Vikings.

I was visiting with Jim McMahon at the game on Monday, the great quarterback from the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl team. We were reminiscing about how this particular Green Bay Packers/Minnesota Vikings game was like the type of games we played back in the 1980's. I still remember Mike Butler, the place-kicker for the Bears kicking game-winning field goals in the final seconds of at least two different games against us in the '80's. I know the pain the Packers feel! As our Packer Report readers are avid fans, I know they feel that same pain!

With that thought in mind I wanted to give our readers something different to ponder this week. I won't talk about who turned the ball over or who had the better time of possession or more sacks or why we only rushed for 21 yards. I'd like to talk about the TEAM and what I think the state of mind is for this team and coaching staff, and what the state of mind should be considering all that is going on.

It's too bad because I've been involved with situations like this, both as a player and coach. Since I've been there, I feel I can write about it and help you understand where I'm coming from. As a player you have to say to yourself, "Hey, people are still watching me." Those people are the front office, my family, and the fans of the NFL. Am I willing to let these people down because of the situation our team is in? As a player that's what you have to be thinking. If each player would think this way and if that player is any kind of competitor he'll step up and continue to be a professional, which the management, his family members, and fans expect him to be.

If each player does that, takes care of what is required of him, then the team will work itself out of this situation. As players or coaches we always use the analogy of how the game of football is a lot like life. It's very true. In this situation everyone must take care of the little things within the family/team so that they can all come back together and function as one. As long as there are little interruptions with the family/team the ultimate goal can not be reached - to become a strong cohesive unit, a family.

Right now the major focus needs to be on and about the team. No in-house bickering, no finger pointing, none of that. It should be all about what the Green Bay Packers can do to make this situation better. What is each player and coach willing to do while they are backed against the wall? This is the time to find out about the character of each player and coach.

From a coaches and front office perspective, this is a true test of the kind of player and person you want in your organization. Will each coach and player come to work and perform like the organization is in first place or in last place? Will the game plan reflect a great week of preparation? Will the attitude of the players cause any disruption? This will be what the organization is about to find out. I have no doubt that the Packers will come out and do what it takes to turn things around.

There hasn't been this much turmoil involving the Packers since my playing days in the early 80's when we went 4-12. Of course Coach Forrest Gregg didn't call it turmoil, he called it rebuilding. When we talk about players skipping press conferences, heck, we didn't even have press rooms back then! We took a shower, someone put a microphone in your mug, and you answered several questions. Times have changed!

The salary cap wasn't in effect until after the strike in 1987 and since then it has created a monster! Now, this monster must play itself out in the next six weeks for the Packers. You've probably heard it said before," the NFL stands for Not For Long"! With the salary cap issue, players under-achieving, and teams trying to make a profit, some of the Packers players need to decide what's important in their careers!

This was the first week that I've had an opportunity to be in town for a game. It was great being back at Lambeau Field! I had an opportunity to wake up the next day and see the local news and read the local newspaper and get a feeling of how Green Bay feels about their team. I was amazed by what I read! Like I said, I usually don't get to read the Wisconsin paper after every game, so maybe this is something that goes on every week?

I don't think I ever remember seeing the General Manger being quoted in the paper about the play of the defense or how a Vikings defender looked more comfortable running the route of the offensive receiver then the receiver himself did! I truly respect Ted Thompson, the Packers GM, and his knowledge of football, so when the General Manger is interviewing with the press after a game, or the next day, and he's letting the press know about the team's deficiencies, as a coach I'd be somewhat concerned! Every coach and player must look into the mirror and evaluate their performance these next few weeks and make a decision about their future. Otherwise, Mr. Thompson won't just be talking about X's and O's with the press!

Eagles up next
The Packers must focus on the Packers. The Eagles are dealing with their own team issues. This will be a great week to see which team can focus on the football game for 60 minutes and forget about all the off-field issues.

Both teams have injuries at key positions just like last week's game. It won't matter who is at quarterback for the visiting team. The Packers need to get back to playing Packers football. On offense they must stay with the running game until they develop some consistency. They cannot get sucked into depending on the arm of Brett Favre to win every game.

Philadelphia has a pretty solid defense and Green Bay must come in with a game plan to slow down the pass rush of Jevon Kearse. When the Eagles load the box with eight players, the Packers must be able to throw the ball down the field. It is a must that they eliminate all the turnovers and play a penalty free football game. As we have seen each week, the winner of the turnover battle has won every game.

On defense the Packers need to put continuous pressure on Mike McMahon, Philadelphia's back-up quarterback. They must cause havoc and create turnovers by Philly's offense. The Eagles have lost their starting QB and one of the best receivers in football, big mouth or not! The Packers must take advantage of this by forcing Philadelphia to become one-dimensional. The Packers must take away their running game and force Mike McMahon to beat them with his arm.

I expect a solid game from the Packers. I know Coach Sherman is saying the exact same things I'm saying to you in this article. Green Bay shouldn't stop playing football at it's highest level just because an NFC Conference Championship or Super Bowl Championship isn't a possibility. What is in the future is the careers of the players. If that isn't enough of a reason to play hard, I don't know what is?

Former safety Ken Stills played for the Green Bay Packers from 1985-89. He is currently an assistant coach with the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe.

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