You could argue that Sunday’s embarrassing, pathetic defensive effort by the Green Bay Packers was a blessing in disguise. Maybe only a performance that hideous, that mind-numbing, would force Matt LaFleur to do what he should have done last season: move on from Joe Barry’s wretched defensive mind.
The Pack’s first home December loss in five years was emphatic. Barry’s perplexed unit allowed Baker Mayfield to channel the guy who captained the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense the last time they visited Lambeau. He completed 75% of his passes, with four touchdowns, and had a perfect passer rating for the afternoon. Baker Mayfield. You probably saw the stat after the game: PFF gave Green Bay a 29.3 pass coverage grade, the lowest grade of any team in a game in the last five years.
Barry just sat back in zone coverage and let Baker cook, watching him play catch with slot receiver Chris Godwin all afternoon. More often than not, Barry asked De’Vondre Campbell to deal with him, rather than a cornerback. Only two years removed from an All-Pro season, Campbell looked cooked. He allowed 135 passing yards, the most given up by a Packer linebacker in 17 years. Campbell was a nice stop-gap signing and seems to be a great human – he’s Green Bay’s Walter Payton nominee this year – but it’s over.
Maybe I’m nuts, but when a team’s top two weapons are wide receivers, I’d make sure I had corners on them and mix in some man coverage. Maybe I’d occasionally send the blitz to try to mess with their timing and force Mayfield into a mistake or two, which he is known for.
There were some bright notes on the offensive side of the ball. Love had a nice bounce-back performance, and a few of his rookie pass-catchers are growing up before our eyes. Dontayvion Wicks has passed Romeo Doubs on my Packers futures ticket. He had his best performance of the season while playing on a bum ankle. Wicks’ route-running and ability to churn out yards after the catch make him the real deal. Tucker Kraft and Jayden Reed also had solid performances and looked like key pieces of the offense going forward.
It was great to see Aaron Jones back out there, and he looked like his old self on the Pack’s opening drive. But then, in what’s become an all too familiar refrain, LaFleur stopped going to him the rest of the half and then pretty much ignored him late because his team was in catch-up mode.
So after an exhilarating stretch where the Pack won a few games they weren’t expected to, putting them in the driver’s seat for an unexpected invitation to the playoffs, the season has come crashing down. They’d need to win out and get some help to extend their season. But at this rate, next Sunday’s opponent, Bryce Young, must be salivating at the opportunity that awaits when Barry’s boys come to visit.
LaFleur’s stubborn attachment to Barry is an indictment on him. He must realize it’s time to cut ties. Still, he wouldn’t take the bait when asked about it after the game. There’s really no sense making the move with three games left in the season, but that should be his first order of business on Monday, January 8th.
That would be a satisfying start to the offseason, but then we’d have to hold our breaths and hope he doesn’t replace him with his good buddy Brandon Staley. He coaches a similar system and is also known for having a roster full of talent and getting nothing out of them. Come to think of it, he sounds like a perfect fit.