In the modern NFL, a team can only have a good offense with a good passing game. The Green Bay Packers don’t have one, and that cost them a trip to the playoffs, even after recovering briefly to win four of their last five games. The 20-16 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday rounded out a year full of offensive failures and miscues, which extend from the roster-building philosophy to the execution on the field.
The most important aspect of the equation is Aaron Rodgers. After getting a three-year, $150 million extension last offseason, the Packers’ starting quarterback had the worst individual season of his career. Rodgers didn’t have a single 300-yard game this year, finished with a career-low 91.1 passer rating, and had fewer than 28 passing touchdowns for the third time in his career in seasons where he played at least 15 games. Coincidence or not, the two worst seasons of Rodgers’s career (2015 and 2022) were exactly when Green Bay lacked offensive weaponry.
That’s Part 2 of the problem.
Even though Christian Watson developed well during the season and shows great promise, the Packers entered the year with running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon as their best offensive playmakers. And that says more about the Packers’ offense than about Jones and Dillon. They are good players, for sure, but a team can’t rely so heavily on running backs in 2022 and still expect to be successful. Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Sammy Watkins started the season as the best veteran receiver options. Lazard had a career year, but that was much more based on volume than that he stepped up to the WR1 role. Rookie Romeo Doubs exceeded expectations for a fourth-round rookie, but he has a limited ceiling. Tight ends Robert Tonyan and Josiah Deguara did nice things during the season, but they aren’t good enough to elevate a unit.
The philosophical error to build the roster starts because the general manager has prioritized the defense since taking over in 2018. He hadn’t invested high capital in the wide receivers until the Packers traded Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders. Why wouldn’t a team want to reinforce the receiver group while Adams was still in town?
That happened because general manager Brian Gutekunst doesn’t believe a team absolutely needs weapons to be good. He has demonstrated, time and again, that he believes a solid offensive line and a talented defense are enough to put a team in position to succeed. However, that’s not what the recent history of the NFL has shown.
This season is another indication of that. The best teams of the season have star weapons (Travis Kelce, Stefon Diggs, Ja’Marr Chase, A.J. Brown/DeVonta Smith, George Kittle/Christian McCaffrey, Justin Jefferson). An explosive offense mitigates a bad defense, but the reciprocal is not necessarily true.
The Packers finished the season as the 16th-best team in dropback EPA. It isn’t a coincidence that Green Bay ended up as the 18th team in the league standings. Even in the final six weeks of the season, when the Packers had five wins in six games, they were 11th in dropback EPA.
“A lot of times when you have success, certain things are covered up by winning games,” head coach Matt LaFleur said after the Detroit Lions game. “But everything is pretty much exposed right now. It’s evident that whatever we did this year was not good enough.”
The 2022 season showed that the Green Bay Packers are not in position to keep their old ways of doing things. The future is still uncertain because the Aaron Rodgers decision — and Green Bay’s decision regarding Aaron Rodgers — will determine several factors of the roster-building approach. Ultimately, though, the front office must do a better job of adding top-end talent to the offense. Be it with Rodgers or Jordan Love, the starting quarterback needs personnel support to play at a high level, and the Packers failed to accomplish that in 2022.
Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs’ development will undoubtedly help, but there is no reason to stop investing, especially because Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Robert Tonyan will be free agents. In October, the Packers reportedly offered the Pittsburgh Steelers a second-round pick for wide receiver Chase Claypool, who they ended up trading to the Chicago Bears. If they were willing to make this deal, they should also be willing to spend this pick on weapons during the offseason — a time when price tags tend to be lower. For example, the Dallas Cowboys traded Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns for a fifth-round pick because they didn’t want to pay him anymore.
Not having the courage to trade for A.J. Brown was one mistake. But they probably wouldn’t have drafted Watson after a trade for Brown. And that shows a philosophical mistake. A front office can’t be afraid of piling up receiving options, and that’s the only path to building a stronger offense.