The biggest question coming out of the Green Bay Packers’ loss in Philly was whether Jordan Love should take over to lead the team over the final five games of a lost season. The easiest answer coming out of the game was that Joe Barry should no longer lead the team’s defense over the final five games of a lost season.
What a complete embarrassment. Yes, we all know the unit is short-handed, missing Rashan Gary, De’Vondre Campbell, and Eric Stokes. Most teams are dealing with a spate of crippling injuries. I mean, how do you allow a quarterback not named Michael Vick to rush for 102 yards? In the first quarter. How do you give up 363 yards on the ground and more than seven yards per carry? 157 for Jalen Hurts and 143 for Miles Sanders. Not Barry Sanders — Miles Sanders.
The piece de resistance was the Eagles’ final drive, as they looked to run out the clock nursing a seven-point lead. In an almost unprecedented circumstance, the Packers were still in possession of all three of their timeouts and were in a position to give Jordan Love and the offense one more (improbable) chance to score. But the defense could not prevent a first down on three obvious Sanders carries, and that was that.
I believe defensive coordinator Joe Barry was allowed to fly home with the team. I’d like to think it’s the last time that will happen. Dismissing him now would be more of a decorative move as far as impacting 2022. But a message needs to be sent, and this team absolutely must move on from Barry, whether they turn to Jim Leonhard or someone else in 2023. There will also be other changes on that side of the ball — it feels like the team may need a new pair of safeties and reinforcements at linebacker.
The first half was all a football fan could ask for. The Pack fell into an instant 13-0 hole, and it looked like they were going to get run off the field. Just a few minutes later, they led 14-13, and the first half track meet was on. The game really turned in the closing seconds of the first half when Hurts delivered a 30-yard laser to Quez Watkins to put the Eagles on top 27-20 — a play Rasul Douglas mismanaged badly.
That gave Philly momentum heading into the break, and the Pack responded with a quick three-and-out to start the third quarter. The Eagles responded with another touchdown, going up 14 again, and that was pretty much that. That was also about the time Aaron Rodgers got pummeled by a pair of Eagles defenders, causing a rib injury that knocked him out of the game.
After listening to Rodgers and Matt LaFleur afterward, it sounds like Rodgers will start in Chicago if his rib injury is not deemed serious and he can deal with the pain. I don’t have an issue with that decision, despite the team’s three percent chance to reach the playoffs. Rodgers deserves to lead this team as long as there is a mathematical chance, and I always enjoy watching him play against the team he owns.
But once the Packers are inevitably eliminated, Jordan Love absolutely needs to be the guy under center. Rodgers pretty much admitted that he understands that’s the likely scenario, even if he would give anything to finish out the season. I’ve said since last summer that I believe that he will retire after this season, despite his new three-year deal. And with the way this year has gone down and now the physical toll it’s taking, makes me even more sure that’s the way things will play out.
It’s been an amazing run, endlessly entertaining to watch one of the most gifted guys ever to do it dazzle us week after week — even if the playoff results have mostly been heart-wrenching. But now it’s time to see what Jordan Love can do to start to establish chemistry with his promising young rookie receivers. The Packers must make a big financial decision regarding his fifth-year option after the season. Seeing him play in the last three or four games would give them much more data to process.
And Love appears to be more than ready for the opportunity. It was a small sample size, but it looks like the light bulb has gone on. The game has slowed down for him, and he looks nothing like the deer in headlights we saw at Arrowhead last season. It’s been a while since we’ve watched meaningless Packer games in December, but if Love is under center, the games will be compelling — giving us a glimpse of what the future may hold.
But the future better not include the continued employment of Barry. That performance on Sunday night was indefensible.