Mon, 06 Feb 2023

Inbox: It's been part of a timeless revival

Packers
02 Dec 2022, 17:12 GMT+10

Character is the first word that comes to mind when describing Matt LaFleurWes Hodkiewicz

Mark from Burnt Hill, NB, Canada

Good morning, Wes. Listen, I know it's your day but please, PLEASE present your lunch to SPOFF on my behalf. Then thank him for the single greatest answer in II history, when responding to Brent from Delano, MN. I'd let Mike have my lunch, but alas, all I can do is declare it a meritorious illustration of equanimity under pressure, whilst utilizing the best of written words. Indubitably, added to my personal II HOF collection.

Consider it done. A tip of the cap to Michael. It was a lunch-worthy retort.

Noel from Norwalk, CA

Greetings! Some say a team takes the personality of the head coach and plays with that identity. What would you say is the identity of this team's head coach? Thanks for all you do!

Character is the first word that comes to mind when describing Matt LaFleur. He is the same guy, win or lose. He's raw, honest, and accountable. When victory is attained, he's also quick to distribute praise instead of keeping any for himself. I believe his teams have taken on those virtues. This season has been a disappointment for everyone involved. There's no questioning that. But you haven't seen LaFleur pop off at the media or take out his frustrations on-camera. He's stayed balanced and focused on winning. It's that blueprint that made LaFleur the winningest head coach in NFL history through his first three seasons...and I believe it's what will eventually extract Green Bay from these doldrums.

Christian from Fontana, CA

For years, they say the running back position is falling off, but as of now, you need the running games to set up games. This year proves that. I feel there's a lot more running this year. Is the NFL going back in time?

The NFL is everchanging but inherently cyclical in nature. It always has been and always will be. So, I don't know if I'd call what's happening so much a throwback to bygone eras as much as it's been part of a timeless revival. There was a time not so long ago when every team was looking to hurry it up more and throw more passes, but defenses evolved with those changes. More recently, the ground game has reemerged with some tweaks. That trend will continue until inevitably the wheel turns.

Jeff from Dorr, MI

Aaron Rodgers is the reigning MVP and is not at 100 percent. Reasons to play or not play. Let's not forget this is a business. How different might the viewership for this game be with Rodgers playing vs. not playing? First game in Chicago after his self-proclaimed ownership.

Sure, but I'm gonna make this even simpler for you. It's a lot easier to explain why the two-time reigning and defending NFL MVP is playing than why he'd be sat down. Everyone loves (no pun intended) the backup quarterback until the backup becomes the starter. But timing is everything - for both Rodgers and Jordan Love. If the Packers' playoff chances should drop to zero, then we can have the conversation about what to do next. But for now, as long as Rodgers is medically cleared to play, the Packers are rolling with the future Hall of Famer. I would, too.

Jeffrey from Taylors, SC

Was it me or did the Eagles never blitz Jordan Love? Did they think he could not find the open receiver dropping 7 or 8?

That was nothing out of the ordinary for Philly, especially late in a game while protecting a two-score lead. Regardless, blitzing isn't really in the Eagles' defensive DNA.

Mark from Verona, WI

I think to contain mobile QBs the defense needs to rush four, maintain their lanes, be disciplined. I didn't see that with Philly, and honestly was very surprised the Pack used two lineman and two OLBs most of the game, sure rushing four, but they didn't maintain lanes. I hope the Pack doesn't use the same scheme against da Bears. Thoughts?

If Justin Fields plays, that's the No. 1 decision Joe Barry and his staff must make. Because this young man is not the same quarterback the Packers faced in Week 2. Fields is growing up in front of the NFL's eyes right now. Green Bay majored in nickel and five-DB base against Chicago in Week 2. I'll be curious if we see more five-man fronts this time around, especially after the problems the Packers had last week against Jalen Hurts.

Riley from Waukesha, WI

Wes, in Tuesday's inbox, you referred to Justin Fields as the Bears' QB of the future. Do you really believe he can be "the guy" or is he just bridging a gap for a few years until they find their true franchise signal-caller?

No, I believe Fields is the guy if he stays healthy. It took a little feeling out between Fields and the coaches, but they got his arrow pointing up again. I've been impressed by what I've seen from him this season.

Craig from Appleton, WI

When facing running QBs, is it better to play a zone coverage? At least that way the defenders are able to keep more of an eye on the QB instead of just watching the man they are covering?

When facing a running QB, it's better to tackle. I'm not trying to be trite, but it doesn't matter whether you play man, zone, or Parcheesi if you're not tackling the ball carrier. Zone probably limits openings for a homerun scramble, but Hurts still did plenty of damage with intermediate runs in key situations.

Craig from Bonduel, WI

Have the Packers at least found a long-term kickoff returner?

I'm starting to understand more and more why the Packers rushed to sign Keisean Nixon after the Raiders non-tendered him last March. I haven't thought much about 2023 yet but I think it would be wise to keep Nixon in the fold. I see a lot of parallels to the versatility Jarrett Bush brought to Green Bay's defense and special teams for many years, but the dimension Nixon adds as a possible returner is the cherry atop all of it. The kid has ice water in his veins when he's on the field. Again, how on earth did the Raiders allow Nixon out of the building?

Rob from Lennox, SD

II, it appears to me that we just need to get one win this week and move on to next week and get one win...my point here is...have you noticed the remaining schedule for Washington, NYG and Seattle...things could get interesting. Thanks guys.

I have...but the only games that matter right now are the five left on the Packers' schedule. In order for the rest of the NFL slate to matter, Green Bay needs to win more games over the next six weeks than it has all season.

David from Romeoville, IL

Just a comment. For everyone, including me, who wanted more man-to-man coverage, we need to remember. Man to man means defenders' heads are totally on receivers. When the QB breaks contain, few defenders are in position to react. With zone, many more secondary eyes on QB. There are plusses and minuses for both.

Hence, the need for mixture. It's a complex game defensive play-callers have to play. Personally, it's the NFL job I'd want the least.

Chuck from Saint Augustine, FL

Still waiting on an answer to my question I have asked several times. I realize it means a little work, but can you please compare the initial 53-man roster to the 53-man roster that exists as of today? How many players that were on the initial 53 are no longer on it. Thanks.

Forty-six are still on it. Seven are not. Rashan Gary, Eric Stokes, Jake Hanson, Tipa Galeai, and Sean Rhyan are on reserve lists, Micah Abernathy is on the practice squad and Amari Rodgers was released.

Eric from Springfield, VA

What is defined as a missed tackle? Does the defender have to touch the offensive player? Does it include a defender who received a juke but never touched the "offender"? I think Justin Fields, like Hurts, needs gang tackling, not a spy. I never liked the spy. I like defenders holding their point and then swarming to the tackle and contributing. That is one of my clearest memories from the '96 Super Bowl team, gang tackling at its finest.

It's definitely layered and somewhat subjective, but I'll parrot Pro Football Focus' terminology to define a missed tackle: avoiding contact altogether, breaking an arm tackle, or bowling over a defender.

Keith from Wallace, ID

I completely understand that good teams make the plays when they count, and they also overcome "bad calls." But it seems to me that if every game is getting so tight that a few plays can make the difference between a win and a loss every "bad call" has a lot more significance. It's getting to the point, parity-wise, that games may actually be decided by the officials. Thoughts?

It's still so random, though. Take that Minnesota-New England game for example. C.J. Ham is clearly holding the wing on Kene Nwangwu's touchdown return but the player can't expect the referee to catch that foul. Hence, why we've been saying how Bill Belichick will likely point out that "you got yourself blocked." Penalties can alter the complexion of a contest but only if you let them. That's why "good" teams master the objective aspects of the game to minimize the calls that don't go your way. It's like leaving a fight to the judge's scorecards. If you don't like the end result, then you should've done more.

James from Appleton, WI

It's time to get out the all-time highlights reel and whip up a healthy respect for the Bears. The last thing we want is the Packers going into a winnable game thinking they already have it won.

You can't take anything, or anyone, for granted at this point.

Rick from New Richmond, WI

Mike and Wes, I know you two were never a fan of three-team wildcard saying the third team clearly does not belong. If Green Bay were to become the seventh seed, would you still feel that way?

Like I said back then, there was no stopping that train. The NFL wanted the seventh seed. It's here. That's how the game is played. There's no point debating it now.

Steve from Colorado Springs, CO

Tim Boyle to 'da Bears? I am torn in half. So glad for Tim, but...the Bears? Really?

That leaves only one team left to be punched on Boyle's NFC North bingo card. I wish Tim well. He's one of my all-time favorites. TBLS for life.

Joel from Green Lake, WI

On the third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 stops, I watched the ball and didn't see what the D-line did. I can assume they won by being lower. On one short Philly TD, we originally had them stopped, but they won the shoving match, because ALL our D-linemen were standing up, no one was low. Basically, the same situation, but dramatically different play and obvious bad result. Quite puzzling?

It just reinforces football's oldest law: Low man wins.

Anthony from Southington, CT

Imagine how good Christian Watson would be if he was drafted in the first round! LOL

He's a four-tool player and that's the only thing missing.

Mark from Sussex, WI

We could really twist up a defense if there was a play designed with AR and Love in the backfield. Is there a difference between extreme creativity and a trick play?

To me, it's personnel. I think what you describe would fall under trick play. In my humble opinion, extreme creativity is using traditional scheme to catch the opposition off-guard for a big play. Maybe I'm splitting hairs.

Kent from Lewiston, ID

Happy Thursday. Is the NFC North the weakest division in the NFL this year?

The NFC South would like a word or two with you, Kent.

Bob from Bella Vista, AR

Don't look now but the Bucs are leading their division with a losing record. Do you think that the league will do something to prevent below-.500 teams from getting in the playoffs? When was the last time that a team like that got in? How did they do?

It's still good publicity for the league. A division champion with a losing record stirs a lot of conversation, creating buzz and attention. Surprisingly, these teams have fared quite well over the past 12 years. Two of the last three division champions with losing records won their first playoff game: 2014 Carolina (7-8-1) and 2010 Seattle (7-9). Too bad 2020 Washington (7-9) couldn't complete the trifecta.

Doug from Neenah, WI

Good morning, Wes. Have there been any updates on the status of rookie OL Caleb Jones? Does his "non-football illness" designation last for the whole season or is he eligible to return at some point? Thanks.

Jones returned to practice two weeks ago. He told the Journal-Sentinel's Tom Silverstein that he was on NFI after a bout with mononucleosis.

Chuck from Richfield, WI

Just a shout out (not letter) to say how much fun both of you bring to mornings! I'll read some to my dad tonight by a fire. From Przybybyelski, to "fun watching ST film hasn't been common in recent years," to "playing games always beats the offseason" and no math. Just great original writing and a smile a minute! Thanks Mike and Wes!

We thank you for making us part of your campfire. Also, a quick note of thanks and praise to Gretchen from Dousman. She sent me, Spoff and Cliff the loveliest of emails on Tuesday night. It was a personal highlight during a tough season. Thank you, Gretchen.

Jeffrey from Eveleth, MN

Wes laid into Jim from Freedom pretty hard. I think this season is taking its toll on all of us about now.

You're not wrong...and I am sorry if I was too harsh. I didn't get much sleep Sunday night. I just struggle with the "these guys make millions" narrative anymore. These are the elite of the elite, and yes, they're all paid accordingly. But at the end of the day, there still must be a winner and a loser. Unfortunately for the Packers, they've been on the losing end too many times this season.

Rob from Wilmington, NC

In response to Jim from Freedom... I too learned how to tackle back in high school (up in Michigan). I was pretty good at it too. Until I played a team with a running back named T.J. Duckett. I'm sure he made me look pretty silly trying to bring him down.

On the bright side, it's often better to avoid the train instead of stepping in front of it. I'll gladly take the missed tackle in that scenario.

Dave from Glenview, IL

Mike, you are the best sportswriter I have ever had the pleasure of reading. This applies not only to your content, but your incredible command of the English language. Much kudos to you! Wes, you are excellent as well and I love your sense of humor. Keep learning from the master. I hope Packers fans realize how fortunate we are to have this top-notch content, and writers, to entertain us, especially during such a difficult season.

December is upon us. Wishing you all a wonderful Thursday and holiday season.

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