Thus far, coordinator Bob Sanders has had 12 games to lead Green Bay's defense, and all he has proven that he's not the right guy for the job. The Packers have hit rock bottom as the worst scoring defense in the league, giving up an average of 27 points per game. They continue to toy with a return to the cellar for passing yards allowed, ranking 30th with an average of 235.2 yards. Thanks in part to two consecutive shoddy performances against the run, they have plummeted to 29th for total yards allowed with an average of 352.7 per game.
These lowly rankings would be understandable if the Packers had a number of rookies, or first-year players in starting positions. The fact is, they don't. The Packers have veterans in nearly every position, and the unit's only rookie starter - A.J. Hawk - has performed at a level that makes him a strong candidate for NFL Rookie of the Year, and perhaps a trip to the Pro Bowl.
Sanders has four games remaining to salvage what has been a dismal performance by the team's defense this year, but the Packers would have to practically do an about-face for him to save his job. Does this appear likely? About as likely as Jim Bates returning next season to lead the defense. For now, Sanders is on thin ice that is cracking all around him.
Sanders says his job security is "not an issue," but what is he supposed to tell the media? Of course, he's not going to throw in the towel. He'll try to right the ship. However, it appears that he is a better fit to be a position coach rather than coordinator. Thus far, his track record says the same.
Sanders was promoted from defensive ends coach to coordinator on ex-coordinator Bates' recommendation last January. Mike McCarthy was hoping that by promoting Sanders, the defense would continue on from a solid season in 2005, where it ranked seventh overall in the league and first in pass defense. General manager Ted Thompson tried to reinforce the defense by signing unrestricted free agents Ryan Pickett, Marquand Manuel and Charles Woodson to deals that totaled about $65 million. Pickett and Woodson have played well, but Manuel has been a flop, though, would he perform better under a different coordinator? We can only speculate.
Sanders says his scheme can be successful. "It's a great scheme," he says "I think the guys believe in the scheme. We just have to work the scheme, and the scheme will work for us."
That statement has credence if it is training camp, or even in the first couple weeks of the season. But Week 13? If the players haven't gotten it down by now, they never will. Or maybe they've tuned Sanders out altogether.
Sanders has proven over his career that he is a good coach, good enough to make it to the NFL. But in today's NFL, it's either boom or bust, and Sanders' stock is plummeting. In 2007, the Packers should give someone else a shot at leading the defense.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at email@example.com.