Green Bay Packers

The Packers Gave Themselves No Margin For Error

Photo credit: Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Just for a minute, it really did look like Christian Watson was going to save Brian Gutekunst, at least in the eyes of frustrated fans. But after his storyline of five touchdowns in five days was abruptly outdone by another atrocious Green Bay Packers performance, this team has no margin for error, as Matt LaFleur declared postgame. But they never really have, because, at the macro level, they didn’t give themselves one coming into the season.

It’s not that they haven’t had opportunities.

  • They scored zero points in the second half in a very winnable London game
  • Gave the ball back to the Washington Commanders with more than three minutes left and never got it back
  • Had first-and-10 from the Detroit Lions’ 17 and couldn’t complete a pass with the game on the line
  • And, most recently, failed to capitalize on repeated chances to make a late push Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans.

They’ve been in a position to win most of these games despite an underperforming defense and an anemic offense.

Their in-game margin for error was pretty substantial in every loss except to the Buffalo Bills. They haven’t played many good teams, which is really the most pathetic aspect of the collapse. But their margin for error in terms of who they needed their players to become – new top target Allen Lazard and rookie wideouts Watson, Romeo Doubs, and Samori Toure in particular – was razor-thin.

If Watson caught that perfectly placed deep ball on the first play of the season, we’re looking at an entirely different sequence of events that I highly doubt would lead us back to this conversation. But by gambling all your chips on two rookie receivers — one of whom was drafted in the fourth round — stepping seamlessly into the roles of Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, you’re inviting the possibility of a 4-7 start by giving yourselves no room for mistakes or setbacks in the development of those players.

That wasn’t really the story of Thursday night, though. It was a tale of two halves: one where Joe Barry and his third-and-three soft zones got diced up by Ryan Tannehill and Treylon Burks , and another where Rodgers and the offense repeatedly trotted out with perfect opportunities to get back in the game but simply could not push the ball downfield. Rodgers had both Watkins and Lazard on wide-open crossers on separate, crucial downs and missed them both. It was bizarre, honestly, truly something you don’t see every week. But those throws were necessary to win this game, and this game was necessary to make something of this season.

As Tom Oates of the Wisconsin State Journal pointed out, Amari Rodgers got fired for not doing his job, and coaches should be held to that standard as well. It’s difficult to imagine how Barry makes it through this season, following the precedent of Amari and former special teams coach Maurice Drayton. Repeated demonstrations of incompetence eventually do you in. Peter Bukowski of Locked On Packers added that, while Mike Pettine was fired for his soft zones and ostensible lack of understanding of Green Bay’s defensive personnel, LaFleur brought in Barry to do the same thing. If I’m Mark Murphy, it’s hard to trust LaFleur to hire the next defensive coordinator. It’s also hard to trust him to call the next crucial drive, and it’s hard to be comfortable going into the off-season with Gutekunst at the controls.

Watson and Doubs could absolutely be an above-average duo next season. But by leaving no margin for error in their development, Green Bay risked having a 2022 season that did nothing more than set the table for future failures. It’s a reflection of the same lack of urgency that has held them back from Rodgers’ elusive second Super Bowl appearance for over a decade.

Earlier this week, Watson brought the excitement and the energy that this Packers team has desperately been missing. Unfortunately, his arrival comes at a time when Green Bay is likely forced to both win out and pray for a Geno Smith collapse to sneak into the playoffs.

When the Kansas Chiefs traded Tyreek Hill, they brought in JuJu Smith-Schuster, Skyy Moore, Valdes-Scantling, and, most recently, Kadarius Toney to maintain and potentially build upon their formidable offense, which was already anchored by Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce. The Packers, after losing Adams, bumped Lazard into the No. 1 role and plugged outstanding holes with rookies, despite striking out in the draft’s first round. What has resulted was foreseeable. That’s a claim that doesn’t reek of the same hindsight bias put forth by Lil Wayne a couple of weeks ago; it’s been said all along. And it will continue to be said until it is either heard on high or these Packers valiantly mow down Philadelphia, Miami, and Minnesota en route to a 6-0 finish.

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