Not much has changed so far this year. Guys are getting hurt, Brett Favre is throwing interceptions, and the players and coaches are committing numerous mental errors.
All these errors and mistakes lead to another heartbreaking loss that defies reasoning. How can a team that gets out-gained 358 yards to 188, a team that loses the first down battle 26 to 10, and a team that does not convert on any third downs possibly win a game? Aren't the Bears the team that is supposed to run the ball, grind it out and control the clock and let their defense win the game? Well, the Chicago defense did their part, forcing four turnovers, but the Packers controlled the clock and piled up the yards on the Bears defense. The Packers ran 84 plays to Chicago's 51 and Green Bay only scored once.
Bear fans are in heaven. They finally pulled one out in Soldier Field. They look at this victory as an affirmation of a changing of the guard. They have charged to the top of the NFC North on the strong back of their opportunistic defense and the weak arm of their rookie QB. Thomas Jones is over 1,000 yards for the year on the ground and when the opponent commits a turnover, the Bears go for the kill. The Monsters of the Midway are back. I would caution their fans from getting too carried away though. The Packers are a wounded team that is playing poorly. The Chicago offense is no powerhouse and if the Packers had made one or two fewer mistakes, things might have been different. Once the playoffs roll around, they will face some more complete teams. Heck, I am not sure they do not falter down the stretch and lose out to the Vikings. The Bears are at the Steelers, home versus the Falcons, at Green Bay and at Minnesota. The Vikes are home versus the Rams, home versus the Steelers, at the Ravens and then home against the Bears. With two games between them, the Vikes seem to have an easier road and the season finale may decide it all.
Going into the season, the Bears lost their quarterback; the Vikings still had Mike Tice as their coach; and the Packers were coming back with a virtually intact offense and an improved defense under Jim Bates. Anyone who claims they predicted the standings as they currently sit would either be psychic or a liar. Sports and football in general keep our interest, because no one has any idea what is going to happen. People are talking about the Packers needing to rebuild. There is no rebuilding anymore in the NFL. As Jerry Glanville said, "NFL stands for Not For Long."
The last two games have made me question whether Mike Sherman survives this season. After the Falcons game, I was convinced he would be back, but now I am not so sure. It is getting worse each week. But if he does, there is no opportunity to sit back and build this thing over a few years. He has to win next year. Ted Thompson is new on the job and has a longer leash, but he will be under intense pressure to improve this team dramatically in this off-season.
His philosophy relies on the draft, (and this is why I think that Sherman might be in trouble). While the draft is a better way to build a team, it takes longer. So if Thompson is not going to be active in free agency this spring, the odds of this team improving dramatically through the draft will be steep. Rookies are too unreliable. If the draft is the way he goes, the odds of a coaching change next year increases. Any coaching change will set the team back, especially if Brett Favre retires. So the thinking might be to do it now and get it over with. This year is a disaster and injuries have taken their toll. There is no way to determine if any of the injured guys will be back 100%. So Thompson may bite the bullet, get a new coach and start fresh next year.
Things may be extremely different in Packerland next year. Green Bay could have a new coach like Kirk Ferentz, Jim Schwartz or Brad Childress. They could have Aaron Rodgers or Matt Leinnart at quarterback. They could have a team composed mostly of rookies and first year players. Expectations will be low and any improvement will be cause for celebration. After this year, a new coach would be celebrated for going 8-8; Mike Sherman would be run out of town with a record like that next year. It is unfair, but it is reality.
My grandfather said, "Football is a game for madmen, in football we are all mad." Like most things he knew what he was talking about.
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.