Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Packers Make Solid Coaching Choices For 2018 Season | Ticket King Inc.

Joe Philbin
Joe Philbin spent most of the 2000’s as a Packers assistant coach, rising to become their offensive coordinator in 2007. About those aforementioned exciting game plans and unstoppable offenses, he put those together, including that immortal 2011 offense. There is more to the story. Along with then quarterbacks coach Tom Clements, Philbin trained Aaron Rodgers. He also trained Matt Flynn. So clearly, he has a track record of training quarterbacks. Following that 2011 season, he left to become the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. That really didn’t work out. Some coaches are great in lower level, or very specific coaching roles. Others just don’t have what it takes to be a head coach. This was the case for Philbin, and he was fired after three seasons in Miami. After Philbin left, the Packers offense became stale and predictable, leaning on Aaron Rodgers to bail them out. So after serving as an assistant coach with the Colts the last two seasons, McCarthy brought Philbin home late last week. I don’t think I could possibly like this decision anymore than I do. Joe Philbin brings out the best in Mike McCarthy, and maybe likewise. When he was in Green Bay, Philbin had the type of relationship with both Thompson and McCarthy that allowed him to be frank, when it came to certain players. As stated at the top of the piece, both Edgar Bennett and Alex Van Pelt were fired. That is mainly because Brett Hundley was their project, and we can all agree that the results were pretty much a disaster. I believe the Brett Hundley story would have gone differently had Philbin been here the whole time. Either Hundley would have been more prepared, and the Packers would have picked up the extra win or two needed to get to the playoffs, or the following would have happened instead.

Prior to the 2015 NFL Draft, the Packers were looking to grab and develop their next “great” backup quarterback. This is a franchise with a long list of solid bench warmers - Ty Detmer, Mark Brunell, Aaron Brooks, Matt Hasselbeck, Doug Pederson, and Matt Flynn. When Brett Hundley fell to into their lap in round five, it looked like a steal, and he was next in line. After all, he looks the part of a great NFL quarterback. 6’3”, 230 pounds, big strong hands perfect for gripping a football, a big arm, and natural athleticism that most people dream about. He definitely has “a five million dollar body, and a million dollar arm,” as I have said in the past. However, he showed us this season that he’s lacking in areas that will probably never change for the better. There are basic concepts that any NFL quarterback needs to understand on day one that he clearly does not. We can forget all about those lucrative trade rumors surrounding Hundley at the start of the season. Those are long gone. He will probably latch on with another team for a stint in training camp after his time in Green Bay, but he will fade out of the league in a couple of years.

Hundley Was Wrong Pick for Packers 

If Philbin were running the offense the entire time, I don’t think Hundley would have ever been a Green Bay Packer. Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy were so excited with the prospect of grabbing what they thought was raw talent, one that had the makings of a great back up to Rodgers, and possible starter for another team. They trusted Bennett and Van Pelt, when the pair gave Thompson the green light to pick him up.  

The general manager and the head coach don’t get to focus on minute details like their assistants do. I firmly believe that Joe Philbin and Tom Clements would have caught those deficiencies in their pre-draft film sessions and interviews, and then told Thompson and McCarthy to pass on Hundley.  So yes, the bringing back of Joe Philbin fixes half the problem. And no, they should not bring back Tom Clements. He doesn’t have the energy or desire to coach anymore, but I trust Philbin to tell McCarthy who he wants as his quarterbacks coach.

Now for the other half of the problem. That defense. Yeah. That defense has been mocked, laughed at, made fun of, and ridiculed by non-Packers fans over the last four seasons. Finally, and mercifully, Mike McCarthy made the change, firing Dom Capers. McCarthy called on Mike Pettine, who comes off the Rex Ryan tree of knowledge. Ryan invented the modern NFL defensive style, and this change needed to happen. Dom Capers runs what is called the 3-4 zone stunt blitz defense. The basic concept is to sit back, play zone coverage, and stunt blitz on the line of scrimmage, to both stop the run game, and pressure the quarterback. When the West Coast Offense was first created by Bill Walsh in the 80’s, defenses had no answer. The original concept of the West Coast offense is run the ball, throw it vertical to the wide receivers, and throw the halfback screen. Dick Lebeau and Dom Capers invented the 3-4 zone stunt blitz in Pittsburgh as the answer. When played right, the 3-4 zone stunt blitz is the ultimate kryptonite to the original West Coast offense. It cuts off the vertical routes, forces a change in the running game, and when the quarterback is forced to hang onto the ball for an extra half a second, it helps provide needed pressure, and throws off timing.

There’s just one problem. Nobody plays the original version of the West Coast offense anymore. Mike McCarthy should know this. When the Packers hired him in January of 2006, he sat in the room with Joe Philbin and he took the original concept of the West Coast offense, and invented the exciting modern offensive football that we all enjoy watching today. In this day and age, quarterbacks are too intelligent, too precise, and too quick with their releases for the zone blitz. Yes, quarterback throwing motions and releases are much quicker these days. They coach young quarterbacks to use as little arm movement as possible, don’t wind up, snap the wrist as much as possible, get the ball out with blazing speed. When the Packers had the great 2010 defense that led them to the Super Bowl, there were still teams running the older version of the West Coast to hide it. However, as teams switched to the modern style invented by McCarthy, Capers’ system was shown to be past its prime. To be honest, Capers should have been fired following that debacle in San Francisco in the divisional playoff round in 2013. But they hung onto him for another five years. Fan could be angry about it, but what’s done is done. Let us instead focus on what’s next.

So what does Mike Pettine bring to the Green Bay Packers? He’s learned that an aggressive defense is the way to go these days. Pettine has never coordinated an NFL defense than finished lower than ninth in the league. This is a great hire. During the early stages of the hunt for new coaches, the Packers scared us. In the end, I think that they made the right choices for their GM, and both of their coordinators. Because of these decisions, we will see a much different Mike McCarthy in 2018, hopefully the “real Mike McCarthy.” 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Riding the Offseason Roller Coaster with the Green Bay Packers | Ticket King

Packers new GM
On October 15th against the Vikings, Packers “All-World” quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone, and would not return until December 17th against the Panthers, losing that game. The Rodgers injury exposed the flaws within this organization, as the Packers finished below .500 for the just the third time since 1991. This injury brought about an off-season of change that was long overdue. Ted Thompson was reassigned to finish out his contract, and will retire at the end of next season. Longtime defensive coordinator Dom Capers, offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett, quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, defensive line coach Mike Trgovac, and inside linebackers coach Scott McCurley were all fired or did not have their contracts renewed. The Packers organization is also hoping that most of the rest of their remaining assistants leave to pursue other opportunities. They have already hired a new GM, Brian Guteknust, and settled on a defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine. To make sense of all of this, we called upon our insightful in-house analyst T.J. Bryce to give us his opinion.  

For some of you that have been lucky enough to have experienced it, you might want to think back at the time when you had ridden on Disney’s Space Mountain, the fast-paced indoor roller coaster attraction at the Magic Kingdom. It is a fast-paced, thrilling fun ride, in the dark, so you don’t see what’s ahead of you. All you feel is the very real sensation of going up and down.

Actually, every Packers fan in the world has been on that ride since week one back in September. We finally got off the ride, two nights ago at about 8:30 p.m. U.S. Central time, when the Packers announced Mike Pettine would be their new defensive coordinator. Before proverbial “ride” started, the first five weeks of the season went as expected. After their thrilling comeback in Dallas, 2017 had the makings of a very special season. But the very next week that broken collarbone changed not only the Packers season, but the landscape for most of the league. In the days following the news Aaron Rodgers would likely miss the remainder of the season, the roller coaster ride took a sharp turn. For about a month, it stayed like that. But then strange things started to happen. The Wild Card contenders in the NFC started to lose. The Packers pulled off minor miracles two weeks in a row, in overtime, against the Buccaneers and the Browns. The Browns overtime win was perhaps less than a miracle, but more a product of quite possibly the dumbest decision an NFL quarterback has made in recent memory. That’s when DeShone Kizer decided to launch the ball straight up in the air on third down, on his team’s one and only overtime possession.

The stage was set, and the roller coaster ride took another sharp exciting turn. Aaron Rodgers “Sat Up,” just as The Undertaker has in many a match over his near 30-year career in the WWE. Rodgers came off injured reserve and started in Carolina. Three interceptions later, the roller coaster ride took a nosedive. The very next night, Buccaneers kicker Patrick Murray’s kick went wide right against Atlanta, and the Packers missed the playoffs for the first time since the second Bush administration. The following day, Rodgers went back onto injured reserve (with a few barks from other teams regarding protocol,) and the hapless Packers lost their last two games, finishing below .500 for just the third time in recent memory. Those last two games were “auto pilot” games for most of the players, and it showed.

After the Packers embarrassed themselves in Detroit in week 17, fans were all geared up for change. It really didn’t happen at first, and the roller coaster ride took another noise dive. Ted Thompson showed no indication of pushing Mike McCarthy make any changes, and McCarthy took “forever” to decide to finally fire Dom Capers. The way they went about it, is what I believe to be the last straw for the “higher ups” in the organization. For a good 36 hours after the Lions game was over, they were acting as if it was no big deal, nothing happened, the ship was not sinking, and everything’s fine. They fired Capers, and then basically said they would replace him when they got around to it, possibly with an assistant.

Packers Make Big Changes for 2018

That is when Mark Murphy said “Enough is enough.” and the roller coaster ride took an exciting turn for the better. Murphy marched into Thompson’s office Monday night and told him he was being relieved of his GM duties, effective immediately. This kicked McCarthy into gear, and in the following days he fired most of his coaching staff, including both coordinators, and many of his assistants. But then the roller coaster ride took another turn for the worse. Murphy seemed determined to name the Packers cap manager and contract negotiator Russ Ball the new general manager, because of their past relationship, and because Thompson told him too. Of course Thompson would want Ball to get the nod. If things took a turn for the better, he could still take the credit. The fan base wanted Eliot Wolf, the prodigal son of Ron Wolf, the man who brought the Packers out of the basement and into prosperity in the 90’s. None of this mattered, because Brian Guteknust “wowed” in his interview, and the Packers chose their best scout as their next GM. Crisis avoided. Having their cap manager as their GM would have been an EPIC mistake. Your GM should be your best scout, not a financial guy. At first, I wanted Wolf, but then I realized, Guteknust is 10 years older than Wolf, and unlike Wolf, he has played and coached football before becoming a scout. From what we understand, he is going to be more aggressive than his predecessor in player acquisition, not just (in my opinion) over-relying on draft choices. That is the change they needed. With that settled, the attention turned back to the coaching staff.

I have been calling for McCarthy to be fired since the middle of the 2015 season. After the decisions he has made this off season, and the way the rest of the coaching market has unfolded, I’m not so sure anymore. My two (realistic) choices to replace him were Jim Harbaugh and Jon Gruden. I thought either one would just jump at the chance to coach the Green Bay Packers and a healthy Aaron Rodgers in 2018. I was wrong. Jim Harbaugh said he was not ready to return to the NFL, and the Raiders threw stupid money at Jon Gruden. The raiders spent 100 million dollars for a coach. Let that sink in. There is no way in their right mind the Packers should even consider trying to match that. Aside from those two, there really aren’t any coaches out there who would be considered to be an upgrade for this upcoming season, especially after the decisions McCarthy made in the hiring department.

As I’ve told a few select people recently, we have the tale of two Mike McCarthy’s. The Mike McCarthy of the last few years has been a lifeless, emotionless, predictable coach. I want the real Mike McCarthy back. The original Mike McCarthy. Mike McCarthy, is a brilliant, innovative, unpredictable genius, with exciting but balanced game plans, running an unstoppable offense, and a man who knows exactly what button to push, at what time, with each player. When the real Mike McCarthy walked the Packers sideline, all of those traits were apparent. You know who made it all go? A man named Joe Philbin. We’ll stop right here, and return to this subject next week.  

Monday, January 8, 2018

Alabama Versus Georgia in National Championship Game | Ticket King Inc.

We have just one game left in the college football season, and it is an all-SEC National Championship between Alabama and Georgia. The Las Vegas books give the edge to Alabama, although that could flip here in the final 24 hours. Right now, they are giving Alabama a four-point edge. Putting the betting side, let’s get into some real analysis.

The Georgia Bulldogs are definitely not supposed to be here. They beat a heavily favored Oklahoma Team on New Year’s Day, led by their Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, in a wild game. The Bulldogs are led by a good defense, and on the other side of the ball with an elite running back. The leader of that backfield is Nick Chubb, who ran for 1,320 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. Behind him is Sony Michel, who ran 1,129 yards and 16 touchdowns. They also have a third running back, a freshman named D’Andre Swift who ran for 603 yards and three touchdowns this season. The real story with this team is their quarterback, Jacob Fromm. Just a true freshman, Fromm is considered a future number one overall draft choice, and was supposed to redshirt this season. Due to injuries, he got the job, and has had a marvelous season. Fromm threw for 2,383 yards, 23 touchdowns, and five interceptions. He took the job, never looked back, and solidified that future number one draft choice even more. The countdown is on to 2020, when he will be draft eligible.

On the flip side, you have the flagship program in college football, the powerhouse Alabama Crimson Tide. Unlike the Bulldogs, they were supposed to be here all season, and until getting taken out to the woodshed and whacked by Auburn on Thanksgiving weekend, they were the number one team all season. Due to a crazy last couple of weeks, The Tide snuck into the playoffs as the fourth team, and beat Clemson last week to advance. As previously stated, they are the favorites heading into tonight. They are led by their elite defense, and sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has lost just twice so far in his career. Damien Harris led the way with 983 yards and 11 touchdowns this season on the ground. Hurts added 808 yards and 8 touchdowns. Final Score: 31-20 Alabama