And a game like Sunday's stinker — a 38-28 loss against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers outfit that had lost 11 consecutive games — should have Packers President Mark Murphy taking a long, hard look at the direction of the franchise.
The Packers came into Sunday with four victories over teams with a combined record of 7-25 and three losses over teams with a combined record of 20-4. In other words, the Packers were good enough to beat the really bad teams but not good enough to beat the really good teams. The Packers were somewhere in the middle of the NFL teeter-totter. But teeter-totters are incapable of equilibrium. They either are going up or going down, and now we know which way the Packers' butts are heading.
"Low point?," McCarthy said, repeating the question after Sunday's loss. "It doesn't feel good so... It never feels good when you lose. This one definitely hurts. It will definitely rank up in there but it's still one loss. I'm not trying to downplay it. I'm disappointed in the way we played today. I'm disappointed in the way we didn't sustain momentum in the game because that's something we've done now two weeks in a row, so that's something we need to look at. We have some reoccurring problems that we have not cleaned up yet."
The Packers, with their ever-growing list of mistakes that haven't been cleaned up, are 4-4 at the season's midpoint. Dallas (6-2) is coming to town on Sunday, with San Francisco (3-4) visiting Lambeau Field the following Sunday. With only seven teams over .500 in the NFC, mediocrity rules. That makes it a two-game season.
Not only is it a two-game season, but the tenures of general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy should be on the line these next two weeks.
Somehow win them both, and maybe something can be salvaged from a season that has careened horribly off the tracks the last two weeks. Lose them both in the same undisciplined, unimpressive, uninspired fashion, and a repeat of last year's 6-10 clunker — or, gulp, worse — appears in the cards.
After what happened on Sunday, anyone in Packers Nation with a pair of functional eyes has a pretty good hunch about the fate of this season. And they have strong ideas about what should happen — immediately, if not sooner.
Kellen Winslow scores in front of Charles Woodson.
Chris O'Meara/AP Images
— "I am fed up with McCarthy and Gang. Eighth game of the season and they are still confused on blocking and on defense! If this doesn't wake Packer Management up to the fact that this coaching staff has to go!"
— "Fire Ted Thompson, and Mike McCarthy. They need to know how bad they've screwed up this team."
— "I think that it is completely clear now that unfortunately both Ted and Mike need to be released this year. This was a pathetic showing on all fronts."
That's just four of the dozens of e-mails in my inbox, many of which have language too colorful to repeat here. Fans posting in the forums are just as upset.
Outside of the incomparable Donald Driver and a few other veterans, this is Thompson's roster. Offensive success is predicated on the offensive line. Thompson's roster, aside from second-year guard Josh Sitton, doesn't have anyone who blocks consistently well. Defensive success is predicated on front-seven players who can beat blocks and make tackles and hit quarterbacks. Thompson's roster has a bunch of good front-seven players but no difference-makers. Special-teams success is predicated on having above-average depth. The special teams have helped lose the last two games.
While it's Thompson's roster, it's McCarthy's coaching staff. This is his group that's charged with creating game plans and teaching the fundamentals. McCarthy's play-calling and inflexible schemes have his quarterback playing the role of a crash-test dummy. McCarthy is on his second offensive line coach, James Campen, and that group's young players haven't improved. McCarthy is on his second special-teams coordinator, Shawn Slocum, and that unit has allowed four game-changing plays the last two games and can't return a kick. McCarthy is on his second defensive coordinator, Dom Capers, and for some reason, his history of first-year success hasn't followed him to Green Bay. McCarthy is on his second strength-and-conditioning coach, and yet almost one-fourth of the roster was listed on the injury report and seven players are on injured reserve.
At this point in the season, problems should be fixed — or close to it. Instead, the old holes aren't being plugged and new ones are forming at an alarming rate. After Week 1 against Chicago, it was dreadful pass blocking. After Week 8 against Tampa Bay, it was dreadful pass blocking, horrendous special teams and almost a complete inability to rush the passer.
A dozen years ago, the defending Super Bowl champion Packers lost to the 0-10 Indianapolis Colts. Those Packers rebounded the next week to beat, coincidentally, the Dallas Cowboys as part of a seven-game winning streak that ended in Super Bowl XXXII.
Then again, that team was plus-15 in sacks. This team is minus-24. With Mike Holmgren as coach, that team generally fixed what was wrong. With Mike McCarthy, this team just talks about it.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.