Lombardi blog: December edition

Thoughts on Green Bay's win over Rams; extensions for Thompson, McCarthy

December 17, 2007
Rams Game
The Rams remind me a bit of the Packers from last year. There are many similarities and a few differences. They have an offensive minded Head Coach and a young roster. Injuries and that young roster have depleted the roster and made their special teams struggle. Last year, the Packers struggled on special teams and the Rams definitely did yesterday. It was primarily the difference in the game.

Offensively, the Rams have some big names, but did not put it together very much. For the first 12 games of the 2006 season, that could have been the description of the Packers. The Rams defense has a good scheme and some players, but was consistently put in a bad position by the defense and the special teams kind of like the 2006 Packers. Greg Jennings' long TD catch where the Rams had a coverage breakdown looked remarkably like the 2006 Packers.

One big difference is at quarterback and another is at running back. Brett Favre is so much better than Marc Bulger, even when he is healthy. And Steven Jackson is an upgrade over Ahman Green from last year and even Ryan Grant. Put him on a better team and he would be unstoppable.

The Packers played an average game and still won it pretty easily. The return game made the field short and Favre was once again good enough to win it. The defense played well enough to shut the Rams down in the second half and the Pack clinched a first round bye which will help get everyone healthy.

One question I have been contemplating is how will Coach McCarthy handle the roster now that they have a first round bye? If the Cowboys win next week at Carolina, does McCarthy rest some of his starters on the last week of the season, or does he play all out hoping the Cowboys lose the finale and the Packers can steal home field throughout? Dallas finishes with the Redskins who could be fighting for a playoff berth and playing hard that last week. Pray for the Skins to keep winning. That should not be too hard, they play the Vikings this weekend.

December 14, 2007
Lambeau Field
If you want to read a good story about Lambeau Field, head over to this link and take a look:


December 10, 2007
There are multiple reports that both Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson will be getting raises and extensions before the end of the year. Thompson will be going from a mill a year to 2.5 if you believe some of the websites. I understand why they are doing it. I do not agree with it though.

Primarily I disagree with it because they just hired a guy to run the team and he takes over in less than three weeks. If Mark Murphy is the man in charge, then he should be the guy to make that call once he takes over. Ted Thompson gave Mike Sherman an extension and to say it was premature is being kind. They are still paying him off. The team did tank the season after Sherman got his new deal, but that parting was as much about compatibility as anything else. Who is to say that McCarthy and/or Thompson will get along with Murphy or be able to work with him? John Jones was shown the door for a variety of reasons, as much as for his health as his ability to get along with people.

Regardless of their record this season, this team is not on the same level as the Pats and Colts. They do not have the track record of the Steelers. Once Brett Favre retires, there is no guarantee that the Packers will be a playoff team. What if Favre retires in February and the team has a bad season in 2008? What if Murphy and Thompson can not get along at all?

Why rush this through? Are Thompson and/or McCarthy going to test the waters and leave for another team? I think that McCarthy has a year on his deal and Thompson has two years. The Packers are having a historic year and these guys should get rewarded. Give them bonuses or raises, but why add years to the deal? If Harlan or Jones were going to be the President ongoing, it makes more sense, but with a new sheriff in town, they should wait.

Also, this can come back to bite them when a player like Javon Walker decides to hold out for more money. It is not as if the team does not renegotiate contracts with two years on them. I seem to think that was what they told Walker.

And if things collapse, the team will be on the hook for some buyouts once again. But hey, it is only money.

December 10, 2007
Quick Hits from the Raiders game
Will Blackmon scoring two special teams touchdowns. Blackmon stepped out of bounds on the punt return but it is still quite a performance for the young man.

Ryan Grant rushing for over 150 yards in the cold. It looks like the Packers finally have a running back. He ran with power and purpose. His TD run was a thing of beauty. He made contact around the 2 and forced his way into the endzone. Unfortunately, the Raiders are second worst in the NFL against the run, allowing an average of 150 yards rushing per game. Only the Dolphins are worse. Some of the games in which Grant has excelled have been by and large against teams that are bad against the run. Oakland, (second worst) Denver (fourth worst), KC (sixth worst), and Carolina (13th). Dallas on the other hand is fourth best against the run. He should continue to excel as the Rams are 12th against the run, the Bears are 8th and the Lions are 17th. In a league of 32 teams, all but the Lions are in the bottom half of the league.

Brett Favre winning again in the cold. Coming off the beating he took in Dallas made is sweater I am sure. Josh McCown never in his career, playing a game when the temperature is below 34 degrees. The Raiders did not want to have anything to do with the weather. The tackling on Oakland's part was pitiful and got worse as the margin increased.

Favre's 80-yard pass to Greg Jennings was nice, but how the cornerback (Stanford Routt) misplayed it surprised me. He had position, he just mis-timed his jump.

The Packers forcing three turnovers - two picks and a fumble. The Raiders committing nine penalties. Mistakes killed Oakland. Brett Favre threw an interception and the Packers committed nine penalties too. There was a stat flashed across the television screen that the Packers lead the league in personal fouls committed. That is a bad stat. Favre's potential to throw picks and the penalties are two things that may derail this dream season. Not much else can.

The offensive line played better than last week, but still struggled at times against the interior line of the Raiders. Favre took some shots and the hated Warren Saap had a few big plays in the backfield.

Super Bowl
I was driving around this morning running some errands and the talk on the local sports talks station is Super Bowl. Fans who are motivated enough to call in are all convinced that the Packers are going to the Super Bowl. The Packers have as much a chance as anyone of making it to the Big Game, but let us take a breather here. With the Cowboys and Seahawks already in and the Giants and Bucs likely participants, things will toughen up.

All four of those teams have decent to very good quarterbacks. All of them can play defense, especially against the run. Like I said, Dallas is fourth against the run, New York is seventh, Seattle is 13th and Tampa is 15th. Minnesota is also a likely contender for a Wild Card Spot. They do not have a proven QB, but are first defensively against the run.

The Packers will have a home game for at least the first contest and maybe the second. That helps, but I do not think the Giants, Vikings or even Seahawks will be bothered by Lambeau. Tampa might pack it in if they have to come North.

If by some miracle, the Packers get home field throughout the playoffs, it could be good for Green Bay. Dallas will have lost two games down the stretch, will have to come north to the cold and relive the Ice Bowl memories and questions. Doubt combined with the media distraction could turn things in the Packers favor. So for three weeks, Packer fans will be rooting for Green Bay and whomever the Cowboys play.

The cool thing about the playoffs is that anything can happen and when you have a player like Favre, you have a chance even against the Patriots and Colts.

The Super Bowl is not out of the question, but it brings up an interesting question. If the Packers do not make it out of the first round, how will this season be remembered? Mike Sherman got a lot of grief for not winning playoff games. Will the new Coach Mike have similar problems?

December 5, 2007
Local Ties
Let me play devil's advocate for a moment.

Much was made of the fact that Mark Murphy, the Packer President Elect, does not have local ties. The implication is that the man who leads the organization needs to "understand" the Packer experience and history to do his job properly. The Packers are unique and therefore only a person with ties to the organization can run the team.

The argument, as I understand it, is that only a native of this area can truly get it. The man at the top of the Packer organization has always been a local person or, in Bob Harlan's case, a person with long ties to the team. Harlan, who was born in Iowa, attended Marquette and had worked in baseball before joining the team at least has worked for the team since the 1971. Dominic Olejniczak, Judge Parins, Lee Joannes, Andrew Trumbell and the rest were all apparently local guys.

But Vince Lombardi, Mike Holmgren, Ron Wolf, Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy are not from here. Thompson and McCarthy worked here in the past, but these guys all have led the team to successful seasons without being from Green Bay.

I understand that there is a difference between the President and the coaches and general managers. The President hires the coach and GM. The coach and GM are tasked with winning football games and the President is tasked with that too, but also with preserving the Packers and all the things that make the organization great. But why do they need to have local ties to do that.

Two other candidates mentioned for the job were Jason Wied and Andrew Brandt. Weid is from here, but Brandt is not. Based upon that alone, would Wied be better suited for the job than Brandt? How long does a person need to work for the Packers, or live in Green Bay, before they are acceptable?

Again, do not take from this rant that I dismiss the whole issue of local ties outright. I do not, but it is so ambiguous and vague that I do not know what to make of it. I have lived here for 4-and-a-half years. Am I eligible? Harlan was an employee in various capacities for approximately 17 years before he ascended to the top post. Is that the cutoff?

I once lived in Savannah, Ga. and they used to say that you needed to be fourth generation to be considered a native. Anyone else was a visitor. Every now and then people make a big deal about my grandfather and tell me how great it is and so on. My standard response is that it is all an accident of birth. I was born into it. I did not have anything to do with it. I am glad to see that the Packer presidency no longer has such requirements.

All in all, my guess is that this is less about local ties and more about having an outsider in charge. Mark Murphy is an outsider, but his goals and aspirations should be the same as everyone else's. He, Thompson, Weid, Harlan, McCarthy, Brandt and every board member and fan should want the Packers to win football games. Anyone who is not interested in that should step aside. As long as the team wins football games, the rest will take care of itself. And if Mark Murphy fails, it will not be because he was born in upstate New York.

John Lombardi is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at johnlombardi22@yahoo.com.

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