Just relax

Packers fans calling for sweeping changes need to be patient, PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence says. Will Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy be a winning combination? It's far too early to tell. Should Brett Favre be benched? No way.

Before last week's season opener, first-year Packers coach Mike McCarthy acknowledged there weren't many people on Green Bay's bandwagon.

After 99 percent of those fans jumped off it in the aftermath of Sunday's debacle against the Chicago Bears, that bandwagon now probably consists of family members, and even some of them probably want to jump ship, or at least wear a bag over their heads.

Already, many fans want heads to roll. They want Ted Thompson fired. McCarthy fired. Players cut. On the national level, the pundits already are calling for Brett Favre to not only be benched, but hauled off to pasture or turned into glue.

It's nonsense, really.

The savannas in Africa don't become a lush green until wildfires roar through them. In the same way, NFL teams can't be good all the time. They have to be burned to the ground — which is what Thompson has done — before they can win again.

It's one thing to criticize your favorite team. All of us at PackerReport.com have taken our turns kicking this dog while it's down. But it's another thing to criticize if you don't know what you're talking about.

For instance:

Fire Ted Thompson. By the fans' logic, the Packers were a championship contender before Thompson came here and worked his, umm, magic with the roster. Well, truth is, they weren't championship contenders anymore. Green Bay's lack of playoff success in recent years proved that. Mike Sherman made a bunch of moves in a failed attempt to find the missing pieces. What it left was a crumbling roster and a salary-cap headache that Thompson had to clean up through some unpopular moves.

Even I have less confidence in Thompson today than I did at this time a year ago. Thompson intends to rebuild this team through the draft, but only five of last year's 11 picks made this year's roster. Last year's bargain-basement free-agent additions were disasters. It's too early to pass judgment on this year's free-agent class, but it's accurate to wonder if Thompson overpaid for safety Marquand Manuel (exactly 10 professional starts entering this season) and cornerback Charles Woodson (four years removed from being a Pro Bowler). This week's signing of Koren Robinson smacks of a do-something, do-anything kind of move.

With all of that said, Thompson's plan deserves some time. To his credit, the Packers not only are out of salary-cap trouble, but are poised to have salary-cap space for years to come by the way he has structured some contracts.

If the Packers are stinking up the joint at this time two years from now, and his 2005 and 2006 draft picks haven't panned out, and if the Manuel and Woodson signings clearly were mistakes, then we can talk about firing the general manager.

Fire Mike McCarthy. McCarthy has had exactly one game as a regular-season coach. To call for his head is beyond ridiculous.

Didn't like his run-first game plan on Sunday? Well, it's pretty much the same plan Vikings coach Brad Childress used in Minnesota's upset win at Washington. The Vikings stuck with the run even though it was barely effective. That persistence allowed ancient quarterback Brad Johnson to turn back the clock. It also wore down the Redskins' defense and allowed the Vikings to drive to the winning field goal.

Childress has a huge advantage as far as talent, though. While McCarthy is running behind two rookie guards and a first-time starter at center, Childress has a top-10 pick at left tackle and an All-Pro at left guard.

I hate to turn to this again and again, but it's true. Good players make good coaches. Bill Belichick failed in Cleveland but is a surefire Hall of Famer for his work in New England. Childress has a roster filled with proven and high-priced free agents. McCarthy is coaching the NFL's youngest team. Almost certainly, Childress's Vikings will finish this season with a better record than McCarthy's Packers. But that doesn't mean McCarthy was the wrong choice as coach.

Bench Favre. Favre's final numbers against the Bears were downright ugly. The national media is already starting the bench-Favre talk. Those people, however, probably didn't watch the game, or only saw the lowlights.

Here's what I saw when I watched the game for a third time on Tuesday: Favre was 5-for-5 at halftime and completed his first pass of the second half. His next two passes, while not perfect strikes, should have been caught. His ninth pass was a throwaway when struggling Chad Clifton whiffed on a block. He struggled after that. Why? For the same reason Ahman Green ran wild in the second half. The Bears were playing the pass, and Chicago's secondary is so much better than Green Bay's receivers (Donald Driver notwithstanding).

Favre's two interceptions came after the deficit swelled to 26-0. The first of those interceptions came on fourth down.

Obviously, Favre isn't what he used to be. Obviously, if the losses pile up, there will be a time to consider replacing Favre with Aaron Rodgers, regardless of whether Favre is playing horrible or decent. That time is not now.

Nor is it the time for sweeping changes throughout the organization. These Packers aren't good. Deal with it. We've had almost 15 years of winning to enjoy. Be thankful for the past, and be patient now and for the immediate future.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.

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