I was doing an online poker charity game while watching the Green Bay Packers play the Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night Football. During the pandemic, around 12 to 15 friends and friends of friends decided to play poker every Thursday. We re-united during the game to help raise money for a New Jersey toy charity. (You can still donate here.) There were Packers fans, Chicago Bears fans, and even a Titans fan.
The Titans fan didn’t say a whole lot.
The Bears fans, however, were having the time of their life. This season is like a year-long Super Bowl for them, even though the Packers already beat them and they will, at best, be tied for worst in the NFC North after this weekend. They have a young QB emerging, and Packers fans have mostly been miserable this season. The Bears fans are in heaven.
While I watched the game with Chicago fans laughing around me, I came to a realization: There are so many issues with this Green Bay team, but from top to bottom, there is a leadership problem. I don’t mean there isn’t any leadership, just not the type of leadership needed to win a Super Bowl. And it isn’t just one person causing these problems. It’s basically everyone.
General Manager and Front Office
I have mixed feelings on general manager Brian Gutekunst’s draft resumé. Obviously, the third round has been the worst for a long time, even under the previous GM. Christian Watson is starting to be an impact player, which is great. But it’s too little, too late for this season.
This team didn’t address their needs after losing Davante Adams. How much of Aaron Rodgers’ success in the last few seasons is attributable to Adams? You have to admit, at least a little bit. Rodgers definitely isn’t throwing as well this year, but receivers are also just straight-up dropping easy passes. You need a true No. 1 wide receiver, which the Packers don’t have.
The front office thought they could draft some defensive depth and somehow have it all work out. If the strategy was to have a top-five defense and run the ball, that should have worked. But they didn’t do that. Whether it was the quarterback audibling plays or the offensive coaches calling the wrong ones, nothing has worked this year. The tight ends have basically been invisible. The offensive line has disappointed. They are getting better, but again it’s probably too late. And after not making any deals at the trade deadline once more, it shows they were never serious about helping out this team and its quarterback.
The problem with Matt LeFleur and this coaching staff is they still can’t make adjustments when they need to. If their gameplan crumbles, so do they. Everyone thought Thursday’s game was over when the team was down by two touchdowns. That’s not a good feeling to give your fans.
Yes, they finally released Amari Rodgers. They also released Kylin Hill for not being a good teammate. Again, too late. Amari Rodgers should have never been returning kicks or punts. If you want a good special teams unit, you need good special teams players. They are still chasing the dream of drafting someone like Randall Cobb and having them immediately contribute. Keisean Nixon has been filling in nicely, but once again, it’s probably too late. And they need him out in the secondary as well — that same secondary that allowed one of the worst passing offenses in the NFL to carve them up.
I’m not going to spend much time on this because it’s been covered to death already. Aaron Rodgers’ on-field behavior is not acceptable. The yelling, the complaining, the whining. Yes, it probably looks worse on TV, and much of it is showing passion and frustration. But Tom Brady is the only other person I see doing that right now. Sure, you want his rings and success, but not to have the same reputation.
I’m not thrilled with No. 12’s post-game pressers, either. It’s not true leadership. I understand he is frustrated. But it is also coming off as being over it all. He says he wants to play into his 40s, but this season is starting to show he might not make it another. I do love a good Rodgers sarcastic joke, though:
I hope things can be fixed, but he needs to start being a leader for this team. That’s part of his job. When you win back-to-back MVPs and get the contract to match, you need to set an example. It comes with the territory. And right now, it feels like this team doesn’t have a leader. He’s a seasoned veteran who knows how to handle things on the field. He’s better than this.
roster and Locker Room Leaders
When you watch games and look around the clubhouse, are there any true leaders on this roster?
I don’t think we have come to terms with how badly losing players like Davante Adams and Za’Darius Smith hurt this team. There’s a leadership vacuum. Was releasing Smith the right call? Probably. He also went to a rival just to stick it to us — and so far, he has. Smith has been healthy, and the Vikings are tops in the NFC right now. The Packers aren’t. Adams was always a quiet leader but still a valuable presence. When you are one of the top receivers in the NFL, your play alone can help show the way forward. Right now, that doesn’t exist in Green Bay.
When is the last time this team won a Super Bowl? With a younger and hungry Aaron Rodgers leading the offense. Charles Woodson leading the defense. A team isn’t always going to have a Hall of Fame player on both sides of the ball at the same time. But if you want to win a Super Bowl, you need something extra to put you over the top.
As legendary pop singer JoJo once said, “Too little, too late.” This team could technically still make the playoffs. I hope they do. But they need some leaders to step up, and they don’t appear to have them right now. There needs to be changes from top to bottom.