Give Manuel benefit of the doubt

PackerReport.com's Matt Tevsh was among the reporters who interviewed safety Marquand Manuel in the locker room after Green Bay's loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday. A frustrated Manuel said that the Packers were "out-coached," among other things. Tevsh puts the situation into perspective in his column today:

When taken literally, comments made by Packers safety Marquand Manuel after Sunday's loss to the Patriots could be perceived negatively or perhaps even damaging to his team. Really, though, they just need to be understood.

After a tough game for Manuel and the Packers, it was clear the last thing Manuel wanted to do was talk to the media. Shortly after he got dressed, about a dozen reporters surrounded his locker. He immediately said he did not want to answer questions about any one play, but then answered a question regarding how the game went by saying, "We got out-coached and out-played today. That's all that happened. That's all that happened, man. It was just an embarrassment all the way around…"

A player using the word "out-coached" is always a red flag that assumes a poor reflection on the head coach, in this case Mike McCarthy. Though Manuel used the word, he probably did not mean it like it sounded. Realize that Manuel's response was only some 45 minutes to an hour after the game, thus he was still very frustrated. That frustration at least shows that he cares.

Several local published accounts on Tuesday said that Manuel was none too pleased with the way his words were reported, but just because his comments were said hastily does not excuse them from coming out of his mouth. If a lesson was learned, he will probably approach any similar situation differently in the future. It he does that, then Sunday becomes a positive.

Football is a game of emotion and in the world of the NFL, with so many different media outlets and so much scrutiny, the political and clichéd answer from players is often the norm. It may be boring for reporters, but it has to be that way to field a successful team.

Because NFL players are continually in the limelight and make so much money, they are open to criticism. They need to understand that and hone up to their mistakes. Linebacker Brady Poppinga is a good example. He has had some pass coverage problems this season, like one that went for a 36-yard gain to tight end Ben Watson on Sunday, but has admitted his mistakes publicly and become a better player for it. Manuel could take the same route.

McCarthy addressed Manuel's comments on Monday saying, "That's probably something him and I need to talk about. There's nothing positive that can come from coming in here and talking about other people's comments. If that's the way he feels, then we need to have a conversation. I don't converse through the media."

Manuel was at least partly at fault for a 54-yard touchdown allowed to Reche Caldwell in the second quarter. It was the type of play that looked as bad as several others this year that have drawn attention to the Packers deep secondary coverage. Said McCarthy of the play, "It's all based on leverage. One guy has inside leverage, one guy has outside leverage. You go through every coverage scheme when you talk about zones, and you get into man-to-man schemes, you're playing with inside leverage because you're factoring the pressure. Then you have fire zones. This is a game of leverage, being in position, recognizing route combinations, and we just have to continue to work on it and get better at it."

Coming in as one of the Packers top free agents this off-season, Manuel has not played up to expectations. It is not time to throw him overboard quite yet, but a temporary benching may help. Being more accountable for his mistakes when cameras are on him and recorders are around him would serve him better, too.

After being beat by 35 points at home, the Packers have more problems than just Manuel. Still, he must play better, if he remains the starter, for the Packers defense to have a chance against a team like the Patriots. One slip-up against a top-flight team can mean a loss.

"He's been put in some tough spots," said McCarthy. "But on the positive side of it, he's a very knowledgeable player. I think he's clearly the best communicator back there. It has been an adjustment coming from the scheme he came from to here. But there are some plays we need to get fixed. It's not just always one guy. If it's always one thing, I think we would have fixed it by now. Just in reference, everyone wants to talk about that play. We don't have cover schemes in our coverage design that put guys on an island where the two-way goes. There's other factors involved in that. We just have to keep coaching it, recognizing it, and we have to play it better. And we'll continue to get it fixed. And we're going to continue to see it. You look at the game (Sunday), they had 17 attempts in their passing game at us vertically, and they hit on two or three of them. So we have to make sure we're 17-for-17, not 14-for-17, and that's kind of where we are right now, and it's going to keep coming. It will come in bunches until we fix it. That's the way this league works."

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick masters game plans against nearly every one he faces, so it should come as no surprise that he had the Packers number this past week. There was some truth to Manuel's comments, they just came at the wrong time in the wrong manner.


Matt Tevsh

Matt Tevsh is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com.


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