Monday, November 26, 2018

It would be. . .

. . . a hell of a lot easier if I didn't care about football. If you are a fan of Wisconsin-based football teams, and I am, this was as depressing a weekend of football as you can imagine. It's not just that the Badgers and the Packers both lost to Minnesota-based teams, it's the way it happened. Both the Badgers and the Packers looked as though they were lacking in talent, motivation, and coaching.

Understand this -- I'm not begrudging the Gophers and the Vikings their respective victories. Both teams earned them, decisively in the case of the Gophers. But man, it sucked. It was a 1977 weekend all over again.

I'm assuming Mike McCarthy is a dead man walking in Green Bay. Things aren't necessarily dire in Madison; you could chalk the results this year up to inexperience, key injuries, and an abnormally difficult road schedule; well, you could, until the Gophers came into Camp Randall and kicked Bucky Badger in the teeth.

For the last 25 years or so, the standards east of the St. Croix River have been high. Neither team has come close to meeting those expectations. In 1968, the year the Packers began their 25 years in the football wilderness, Bart Starr was 34 years old. Fifty years on, in 2018, Aaron Rodgers is 34 years old. In 1968, a once innovative and aggressive franchise seemed old and tired, lacking leadership and accountability. Packers fans hope that history will not repeat itself, but you have to wonder.

13 comments:

Unknown said...

Rodgers hasn't looked healthy all season, and I can't help but wonder if the knee injury has lingered more than the Packers (or even Rodgers) want to admit. That doesn't explain the team-wide issues, but then again those of us on the western side of the river have said for years that having a Hall of Fame QB papers over a lot of problems. Having been on the opposite side of that equation, we'd know.

It might also simply be age catching up a bit too. We've become accustom to seeing MVP-caliber performances from 40-ish QBs for a while now, but have somewhat forgotten what a statistical anomaly such seasons are historically. I don't really think Rodgers is nearing the end of his career, but a drop-off in quality of play wouldn't be as abnormal as some might make it. If his supporting cast isn't as talented as it once was, it would make sense.

Mr. D said...

It might also simply be age catching up a bit too. We've become accustom to seeing MVP-caliber performances from 40-ish QBs for a while now, but have somewhat forgotten what a statistical anomaly such seasons are historically. I don't really think Rodgers is nearing the end of his career, but a drop-off in quality of play wouldn't be as abnormal as some might make it. If his supporting cast isn't as talented as it once was, it would make sense.

Agree completely. What became (even more) clear on Sunday night was that the Vikings just have more talent overall. The Packers can’t withstand injuries, especially on the offensive line. Once David Bahktiari was unable to go, it was over. The backup lineman was a turnstile.

R.A. Crankbait said...

I caught the second half of the Badgers-Gophers game, and assumed when I tuned in and saw the score that I'd already missed all the "good" stuff, and that Wisconsin would re-establish normality and that the Gopher punter would whiff on a punt in the endzone or some such. Instead it looked as if the Badgers had left their mojo in the trunk with with Paul Bunyan's axe. That long 4th quarter drive was more about will than skill, and the home team had none. Whence comes this?

Similarly, I - and probably most Vikings fans - fully expected the Pack to come out and score in the opening drive of the 2nd half, and that there'd be some late game fireworks to make use grieve two more missed field goals. Instead, there was barely any fire, let alone fireworks. True, the O-line and DBs were decimated, but the team has often been critically deficient in some area and always seemed to have some magic dust (or QB) to mask it. And when you have an insightful sage like Cris Collingsworth questioning how come Mike McCarthy has only won one Super Bowl in the "Rogers era", it's clear that McCarthy will not be part of the rest of that era.

W.B. Picklesworth said...

The Mike McCarthy era should have ended after the championship embarrassment in Seattle four years ago.

R.A. Crankbait said...

The Mike McCarthy era should have ended after the championship embarrassment in Seattle four years ago.

Well, at least you got McCarthy and not Brad Childress.

Brad Carlson said...

The Mike McCarthy era should have ended after the championship embarrassment in Seattle four years ago.

Agree. The Special Teams coach ended up under the bus over that one.

Mr. D said...

Well, at least you got McCarthy and not Brad Childress.

True, but we seem to have a Childressesque "kick ass" offense these days.

Unknown said...

Every franchise eventually runs out of gas for a while.

The 49ers had an amazing dominance spanning two Hall of Fame QBs from the early 80s to the late 90s. The Steelers have been pretty consistently competitive for the past 25 years, despite multiple player and coaching changes. And Green Bay has, with a few seasons worth of exceptions, been a competitive if not contending team since 1992. At some point that'll end too, and we may be witnessing that.

The question is how quickly they recover. Remember, the Packers were 4-12 in 2005 and playing for the NFC Championship two seasons later. There is intriguing youth on the roster, and if Rodgers returns to a form closer to what's expected of him, Green Bay could do it again. Although I think they'll be doing it in a far tougher NFC North than Green Bay saw in a similar period. The Bears were great in '05 & '06 and then fell off the map; the Lions and Vikings were largely average to awful in that specific period. Right now, the Bears have youth and the Vikings have depth. The Lions can look like world beaters one week and scrubs the next.

Mr. D said...

The question is how quickly they recover.

Indeed. My brain registers the quick recovery from 2005 to 2007, but my childhood was in the chasm between 1968 and 1992. And that 25-year span saw only five winning seasons (1969, 1972, 1978, 1982, 1989) and a lot of pain. Any Packers fan of a certain vintage remembers those days with great pain. And if anything, the 31-year stretch between Rose Bowl appearances for the Badgers (1962 to 1993) was even more dire. I would expect no sympathy from a Minnesota sports fan, but it’s where we’re coming from, I guess.

R.A. Crankbait said...

Dynasties are short-lived in the NFL, and any prolonged duration of dominance/excellence is unnatural; it is definitely not the default setting, as much as one might become accustomed to the situation. Just like physical ability, genius has an expiration date. Perhaps ownership, and a generational vision, plays a role - but why does it work for the Rooneys but not the Halas line?

The always excellent Steve Rushin has a darkly humorous poem in the latest SI that documents all the starting QBs the Browns have had from Otto Graham to Baker Mayfield. You will laugh until you weep, or vice-versa. Each era has its own heroes, even in the worst of times. The first organized football team I played on as a boy was called the Packers, and I loved the glory days of John Brockington and MacArthur Lane - and the not-so-glorious days of Scott Hunter that coincided with those. When I was relocated to Minnesota in 1980, neither the Pack or the Vikings were very good and I became somewhat acculturated to the local squad, but never developed any hate for the green the gold. I'll still root for them (when it isn't against the Vikings interests), and I'll still follow them even if they enter a somewhat fallow period.

(When I saw the Cousins handshake with Jaire Alexander last night after the game I imagined that Cousins was saying something to the effect of, "And we'll be watching you, young man!")

Mr. D said...

When I was relocated to Minnesota in 1980, neither the Pack or the Vikings were very good and I became somewhat acculturated to the local squad, but never developed any hate for the green the gold.

A rational way of looking at it. Even though the Vikings tormented me in my youth, I never hated them, but in the many years I’ve lived in Minnesota I’ve noticed a truly disturbing tendency among certain Vikings fans. When Anthony Barr broke Aaron Rodgers’s collarbone last year, the celebratory nature was really pretty gross, especially when some yahoos were selling commemorative prints of the event at a gift shop in Roseville. I don’t know if there are any commemorative prints of Xavier Rhodes’s hamstring injury going on sale in Wisconsin, but I hope the hell not.

Bike Bubba said...

If you're prone to sadness about your team, remember that you could be a Lions fan. No? Or a Cubs fan until 2016, right?

Mr. D said...

If you're prone to sadness about your team, remember that you could be a Lions fan. No? Or a Cubs fan until 2016, right?

Not sure what’s worse, Bubba – dashed expectations (the fate of a Packers fan), or no expectations (the fate of a Lions fan). It’s been almost poignant to watch Matt Stafford become the Archie Manning of his generation. Perhaps if Stafford has sons, they’ll redeem him like Peyton and Eli did for ol’ Archie.