Gray: What a nightmare

Former Packers safety Johnnie Gray was involved in a number of ugly games like the one on Sunday against the Jets. Gray explains the similarites and how the Packers can get back on the winning track.

I wish I could explain to you what happened on Sunday, but I can't. I'd love to rant and rave about what the Packers should be doing, but I'm not. I've been there and done that.

I was unfortunate enough to play in that 61 or whatever loss to the Bears in Chicago in 1980, and Sunday's game brought back some bad memories. Not only watching the game, but the worst was the feeling in the locker room afterward. I looked around and watched as guys stared into space, trying to figure out what had just happened. There were players trying to answer questions about the continued mistakes when the team looked so promising just a couple of weeks ago.

Players' tempers were being enraged as questions were being asked with more persistence as a reporter presses for an answer. It so hard after a loss like that, to come up with an answer. "I don't know what happened out there today" or "we came out flat" just doesn't seem to fill the void.

It's so easy to explain a loss when there are one or two reasons, but Sunday was a loss for everyone. A good play was rewarded with two bad plays, a technique breakdown or a blown assignment. In our 61-7 loss to Chicago on Dec. 7, 1980, no matter what we did, the Bears had a better play, and it was like that again against the Jets. The Pack was out of rhythm and to make matters worse, they looked out-classed. When that happens, especially this late in the season, jobs are on the line. Opportunities will be given to players that busted their tail in practice, but for some reason have not been given playing time. Schemes will be altered with different personnel packages.

On the defensive side, don't be surprised to see more man-to-man coverage if Charles Woodson and Al Harris can cut the mustard. I have mentioned in the past of my days with top-notch cover men in Willie Buchanon and Ken Ellis. Both were All-Pro. Harris is known around the league as a solid cover man and Woodson was brought in to solidify the opposite corner.

Jets receiver Laveranues Coles said, "They don't play as much man as you think they would with the guys that they have. Again, with two of the better corners in the league, teams are going to do things and game plan against them because they are pretty much man corners. So, I think if they play more man, they'd be more successful, but they're not giving them opportunities to play as much man." Knowing that you have good cover men on the outside allows you to put more people in the box to stop the run and put pressure on the quarterback.

The guys are not getting the different zone schemes, so a basic three deep zone coverage and man coverage across the board with a free safety should be simple enough. It seemed to work with former defensive coordinator Jim Bates, who just wanted to keep it simple and aggressive. I'm looking forward to this Sunday and changes, if any were made. As we know, the Packers seem to play much better on the road anyway.

Johnnie Gray

Editor's note: Former safety Johnnie Gray played for the Packers from 1975-84. He was inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame in 1994. E-mail him at

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