Lombardi blog: January edition

Thoughts on Packers coaches; tickets; playoffs; Holmgren; Thompson extension; McCarthy and playoffs

January 15, 2007
The Packers are favored in the NFC Championship Game as they should be. They are playing at home. The forecast is for snow and cold and Brett Favre is a better player than Eli Manning. That worries me. Entering last year's playoffs, the Bears and Patriots were my favorites to get to the Super Bowl. Only one did. Two years ago, it was the Seahawks and Colts with the best records in the NFL. The Hawks made it, but not the Colts. It was the wild card Steelers.

In 2004, the Steelers and Eagles had the best records. The Eagles made it and lost to the Patriots. The 2003 season had the Patriots and Rams as proverbial favorites. That was the year the Panthers snuck into the big game.

Going into the playoffs, the Cowboys would have probably been favored to make it out of the NFC, but not necessarily. Dallas was limping in with sub-par games down the stretch and injuries and distractions to key players.

With my prediction record, hope for a Patriots loss, to insure a Packer trip to Arizona.

January 15, 2007
Packer Coaches
I see where Jason Garrett and Tony Sparano of the Dallas Cowboys are hot candidates for the vacant head coaching jobs out there. Seattle Coach Jim Mora will be intereviewed by the Redskins, who have also interviewed their Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams and Titans D Coordinator Jim Schwartz. Apparently Colts assistant coach Jim Caldwell may replace Tony Dungy and has been intereviewed already. Jacksonville D Coordinator Mike Smith has also interviewed for a jog or two. Pats offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has declined to interview.

Besides being candidates, what do all these guys have in common? They are all coaches on playoff teams. Usually, good teams produce head coaches. It is how it works. Not always of course (see Mike McCarthy), but when a team is successful, owners look to their assistant coaches to find a new head coach.

So why are none of the Packers assistant coaches being eyed as possible replacements for Joe Gibbs, Brian Billick or Cam Cameron? Is there a lack of respect for their accomplishments? Is the love for the job Mike McCarthy has done overshadowed the job that the others have done? I doubt that any of them really care, but last year, after going 8-8, Jeff Jagodzinski got the Boston College job.

I would be surprised if Joe Philbin and Winston Moss did not get consideration for some openings at some time in the future. The improvement in the running game over the past 10 weeks is phenomonal and the defense, which last year was chaotic and inconsistent has been anything but. All of this assumes that the team replcates their success next year. And if Brett Favre comes back next year, why shouldn't it.

January 14, 2007
Tickets to the game on Sunday are going for a lot of money. I looked online and the brokers are selling them for up to six times their face value.

I gave our family tickets to a friend a while ago. I also have Giants season tickets, which my brother-in-law uses, which makes me wonder if I am the only person with Season Tickets for both teams.

If you are planning on going to the game, I hope you can get tickets for a fair price.

January 14, 2007
So the impossible has happened. No one, and I mean no one, could have predicted this. The Packers are hosting a home playoff game with the winner going to the Super Bowl. Not only have the Packers exceeded everyone's expectations, they benefited from the Cowboys meltdown to stay home for the biggest game in Green Bay in over 10 years. The Giants come to town in a rematch of the 1961 NFL Championship. (The two teams also played in 1962 for the Championship, but that game was in New York).

In the '61 game, Paul Hornung got a leave from the Army and scored 19 points in a 37-0 blowout. He had a touchdown on the ground, three field goals and four extra points. Will that kind of performance ever happen again in the NFL? Turnovers (four picks and one fumble recovery) keyed the win as the Packer beat the Giants, who had the league's best defense that year.

You can never trust the forecast, but I have seen where it could be below zero or single digits on Sunday with a chance of snow. The weather really helped the Packers on Saturday. Will it also help them next Sunday? The slick field kept the Seahawks' front seven at bay, allowing the Packer offense to dictate the game. Ryan Grant overcame those two costly fumbles to have a career game. Question is, is he Timmy Smith, or will he do it for the long haul, I mean years? Look up Timmy Smith if that does not ring a bell.

After the Seahawks got up 14-0, Favre took them down the field to keep the Packers in it and the flood gates opened. A lot of teams could have folded at that point, but not this team. They are too young to know any better and they have Favre to lead them.

Because of injury, Seattle did not have any receivers and their running game is pitiful. Has a NFL MVP ever fallen off the face of the earth faster than Shaun Alexander? I hope his decline is not the result of him getting a big payday.

Defensively, Seattle had no answers for Favre or the running game. The Pack scored on six straight drives. Marcus Pollard could have kept it close, but he had a bad game with a fumble and a couple of drops, one in the end zone. It is sad to see a good player struggle.

The Giants' secondary is wounded, but they can rush the passer, so the front five of Green Bay will be tested. If the field is rough, that will be in the Packers' favor. The Giants can run the ball, so they have a chance. They seem to play better on the road, but nothing will compare to a cold, snowy game in Green Bay.

I just do not think that Eli Manning can out-duel Brett Favre, so book your trip to Arizona. The only thing that can stop the Packers is themselves. If they lose to the Giants, it would be a big shock and a big disapointment. They have everything in their favor this week.

I wonder if Mike Holmgren will mind much losing his last game (if it is his last game) to Brett Favre?

January 9, 2008
Holmgren Returns
With the return of Mike Holmgren, I was wondering what would have happened if Vince Lombardi had lived longer and returned to Green Bay with his Washington Redskins. Lombardi only coached one year, 1969, in Washington. He died in September of 1970 at the age of 57. Assuming he coached until he was 65, that would have been approximately eight more years. The Redskins visited Green bay in 1974 and beat the Pack 17-6. The Packers traveled to Washington in 1977 and lost 10-9. So it is possible that the Packers and Vince Lombardi would have met on the field as opponents twice before he would get Social Security. Dan Devine was the coach in 1974, but Bart Starr lead the Pack in '77.

The Holmgren-Favre dynamic might have been eclipsed by the Lombardi-Starr face off.

Gale Gillingham was the only Lombardi Era Packer who was a regular starter in 1974. In fact, from looking at some rosters on-line, he might be the only guy on the 1974 roster who played for Lombardi. I did not recognize any of the other names as having been on the 1967 team, Lombardi's last year as coach. He drafted some guys on the '74 team, like linebacker Fred Carr and tackle Dick Himes who both were drafted in 1968.

Holmgren was the Packers' head coach for seven years, Lombardi for nine. This is Holmgren's ninth year in Seattle. Lombardi only made it one year in Washington. By comparison, Curly Lambeau coached the Pack for 31 years (29 of them as a member of the NFL), the Chicago Cardinals for two years and in Washington for two more. It is amazing that a person could coach so long. I think it is next to impossible for someone to even approach half of that time. Titans coach Jeff Fisher is in his 13th season as is Broncos Coach Mike Shanahan.

January 8, 2008
Roster Turnover
Ted Thompson has been credited with rebuilding the Packer roster. That is one of the reasons given for his new contract. Thompson has been credited with acquiring 40 of the 53 players on the teams roster since his arrival. That is a big number, but how does it compare to the rest of the league? What better way to judge than go back to the last time the Packers and Seahawks met in the playoffs in January of 2004. Thompson was hired away from the Seahawks the following January.

There are 12 players who were in the play-by-play on Jan. 4, 2004 still on the Seahawks roster:

OT Walter Jones
OG Floyd Womak
WR Bobby Engram
QB Matt Hasselbeck
RB Shaun Alexander
CB Marcus Trufant
K Josh Brown
RB Maurice Morris
FB Mack Strong - on Injured Reserve this year
QB Senaca Wallace
OG Chris Gray
DT Rocky Benard

There are 11 players who were in the play by play on Jan. 4, 2004 still on the Packer roster:

OT Chad Clifton
OT Mark Tauscher
TE Bubba Franks
QB Brett Favre
DE Aaron Kampman
DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila
LB Nick Barnett
CB Al Harris
LS Rob Davis
WR Donald Driver
QB Craig Nall

Looks pretty close to me. The Seahawks only have one defensive starter left from that game, Trufant. This is the way the NFL is. In the span of four seasons (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007), most everyone on both rosters has moved on. The average NFL career last around 4-5 years. Turnover is a fact of life. You could probably do this for every team in the league.

The Seahawks have been a perennial playoff team and went to the Super Bowl a few years ago, so they are a good barometer for the Packers. I do not want to downplay what this team has accomplished, but let us not make it more than it is. I would say that he deserves more credit for the Seahawks roster than the Packers. If you compare the guys he drafted and signed for Seattle versus the guys he has acquired here, he comes out well ahead with the Seattle players. The guys he inherited here are the core of this team, much like his guys are the core of the Seahawks team.

January 7, 2008
The Packers have announced that they have signed Ted Thompson to a new contract through 2012. I just got done reading the press release. I have made my feelings clear on this earlier in this blog, but what I found interesting is that it was announced by Bob Harlan. Where is Mark Murphy? Is this not something he should be spearheading? Did he not start working the first of the year.

I think it would make sense for the organization to put him forward to the public. Regardless of how this decision was made, does it make sense to have him involved in the announcement. How long will it be before Murphy begins to make his presence known?

I see that Atary Bigby missed practice the other day because he could not get back in town in time. This kind of thing happens, but this guy does not seem to get it. He does not play very smart as demonstrated by all the personal fouls he committed this season. Wonder if this kind of behavior is behind his being cut by two other teams?

McCarthy and the playoffs
Mike Sherman was criticized for not winning enough playoff games. This is a valid criticism. How will Mike McCarthy be judged? If the Packers lose to the Seahawks, will it be a downer or will folks just be happy to get this far? Will losing at home affect the way he is viewed? What if they beat Seattle, but lose the week after?

January 4, 2008
I hate to give predictions because anything can happen, but I figure it might be fun to guess who might win this weekend.

Giants at Tampa - My money is on Jeff Garcia and the Bucs defense. I do not have faith in Eli Manning. He is too up and down. If he is up, the Giants could run away with it, but there is just as much of a chance that he will be down. Also, without Jeremy Shockey, the Giants will have trouble with passing the ball. The Giants can run the ball, so this one could go either way, but I like Garcia. He wins.

Jags at Pittsburgh - Another toss up. The Jags can run the ball and the Steelers are without Willie Parker. David Garrard makes no mistakes but Big Ben has the ability to win the game on his own. I will take the Jags because I figure they will win the turnover battle.

Titans at San Diego - The Titans are injured and even if healthy, they struggle on offense. Their defense is pretty good when Albert Haynesworth plays, but he is nicked up. I have no faith in Norv Turner and little faith is Phillip Rivers, but LT can win it on his own. Tennessee probably has more of a chance with Kerry Collins than Vince Young. I will side with the better running game so it is the Chargers.

Washington at Seattle - This could be Mike Holmgren's last game as Seahawks coach. The Seahawks have the advantage at QB, but Todd Collins has been playing well, so it is a narrow advantage. The Skins have the edge rushing the ball and on defense, so I think they are better than Seattle. They have the momentum which I think is enough.

So the Skins go to Dallas and the Bucs come to Green Bay. The Pats host Jacksonville and the Colts play home against the Chargers. Doubt it will work out that way, but it is fun to guess.

January 2, 2007
Sorry to have taken so long to add to the blog, but I was out of town and did not have access to a computer. Also, the Packers game versus the Lions was not on the TV where I was so I only saw highlights.

Regardless, the Pack finished the season 13-3. They are off till Jan. 12 and play either the Giants, Seahawks or Bucs. Obviously, the Bucs would be the best matchup. I doubt they have ever won a game in cold temperatures. Jeff Garcia scares me. He is a winner. The Bucs are playing good defense but they are from Florida.

The Seahawks, led by Mike Holmgren, will not be worried to play here, but are struggling to run the ball. The Giants are so up and down, I could see them kicking the heck out of the Packers and I could also see the Packers blowing them out big time.

Personnel Changes
It looks like Packer personnel guys Reggie McKenzie and John Schneider are candidates the Falcons GM position. Wonder why John Dorsey got passed by? Not sure I would want to take that job.

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

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