As Titletown Turns

It turns out that Packer fans didn’t have to wait long to find out who the new general manager is. The Packers announced today:

The Green Bay Packers have named Brian Gutekunst general manager and Russ Ball executive vice president/director of football operations. The promotions were announced Monday by President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Murphy.

“We could not be more excited to elevate Brian to the position of general manager,” said Murphy. “He has earned this opportunity throughout his 19 years with the Packers, proving to not only be a skilled talent evaluator, but a trusted and collaborative leader. His time under the direction of former Packers general managers Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson will undoubtedly serve him well as we work toward our next Super Bowl championship. I am confident that he is the man that will help get us there.”

“First, I’d like to thank my mentor, Ted Thompson, for his friendship, and I am happy that we will continue to have the chance to work together,” Gutekunst said. “I want to thank Ron Wolf for giving me my first opportunity with the Packers, and of course Mark Murphy for the faith and trust he has placed in me moving forward. And finally, I must thank my wife, Jen, and our children for their constant sacrifice and unwavering support despite all of the time I have spent on the road and away from home. I look forward to getting to work with the rest of our talented personnel department and using every avenue available to build the Packers into a championship team again.”

Gutekunst (GOO-tuh-kunst), the 10th person to hold the title of general manager for the Packers, will have complete control over all roster decisions, including the NFL draft and free agency, while leading Green Bay’s scouting department. Ball will continue to manage the Packers’ salary cap and serve as the chief contract negotiator while continuing to oversee several areas in football operations.

“Since joining the Packers in 2008, Russ has proven to be invaluable,” said Murphy. “His salary-cap management and negotiating abilities are well known, but he has also provided tremendous leadership throughout football operations and served as a valuable liaison between the football and business sides of the organization. His diverse skills will remain important to our success moving forward, and I look forward to working with him even more closely in his new role.”

Additionally, Murphy announced a change in the Packers’ organizational structure as Gutekunst, Ball and Head Coach Mike McCarthy will all report directly to Murphy.

“The process of identifying our next general manager gave us the opportunity to analyze our entire football operation,” said Murphy. “While we have enjoyed a lot of success, we need to improve. With that in mind, the head coach, general manager and executive vice president/director of football operations will report to me moving forward. While I understand this is a departure from the Packers’ current structure, it will serve to increase the breadth and frequency of communication and collaboration. Ultimately, it will make the Packers better.”

Gutekunst, who is entering his 20th season with the organization, has spent the past two seasons as the director of player personnel after serving as the director of college scouting for four years. He previously worked 11 seasons as a college scout in the Southeast region. Prior to that, Gutekunst served as a scout for the East Coast region from 1999-2000. Before joining the Packers full-time, he was a scouting assistant for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1998, a scouting intern for Green Bay in the summer of 1997 and assisted the New Orleans Saints’ coaching staff in training camp in 1995.

Gutekunst played football for two years at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and served as an assistant coach during his final two years at the school (1995-96) after a shoulder injury cut short his playing career. In 1995, he coached the linebackers as the Eagles finished 14-0 and won the Division III national championship.

Ball enters his 30th season in the NFL and 11th season in Green Bay. Since joining the Packers in 2008, he has worked in the role of the vice president of football administration/player finance. Prior to coming to Green Bay, Ball spent six seasons (2002-07) with the New Orleans Saints, serving as senior football administrator for four seasons and as vice president of football administration for the final two years. In 2001, he was the director of football administration for the Washington Redskins. From 1999-2000, Ball served as senior football administrator for the Minnesota Vikings. He began working in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he spent 10 seasons (1989-98), the final two in football operations as administrative assistant to then-head coach Marty Schottenheimer. He began his career with the Chiefs as an assistant strength and conditioning coach.

A 1981 graduate of Central Missouri State, Ball was a four-year letterman at center for the Mules. He served as head strength and conditioning coach at the University of Missouri from 1982-89 and earned his master’s degree from Missouri in 1990.

(Side note that will interest only me, but since this is my blog I’m going to tell you about it anyway: It turns out that Ball and I were in the same building once. During his aforementioned term as Missouri’s head strength and conditioning coach, Missouri played Wisconsin twice, my freshman and sophomore years. The first game, the second I ever marched in the UW Marching Band, was won by the Badgers 21–20 thanks to a muffed punt that turned into a touchdown pass from Randy Wright to Al Toooooooooon, and a fumbled kickoff recovered in the end zone for a touchdown by center Dan Turk. One year later, the Badgers, wearing red pants for the first time since the 1950s, came from behind — a comeback started by a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown by Bobby Taylor — to beat the Tigers in Columbia 35–34. Flashback over.)

What does this mean? The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

It deviates from how the Packers have been structured for almost three decades. Since Ron Wolf arrived in Green Bay in 1991, the general manager has directly reported to the team president, which acts as the Packers’ owner. All other employees in the team’s football operation have reported directly to the general manager, not the president. …

A byproduct of the new structure will be removing the GM’s power to fire a head coach. While Gutekunst will be able to recommend coaching changes — and presumably those recommendations will carry much weight, if not being outright followed — the decision will now be Murphy’s to make.

Gutekunst will have final say on all roster matters, the same authority Thompson wielded in personnel decisions. Ball will remain as the Packers’ chief contract negotiator.

Thompson will also remain with the organization as Gutekunst’s senior adviser. …

The Packers are hardly setting an NFL precedent with their new structure. Several teams around the league have the same structure, including perennial contenders Seattle and Pittsburgh.

That is, however, an interesting change given this past weekend’s reported friction between Ball and McCarthy. One could look at this and suggest that Ball is being groomed to replace Murphy as president (which, as I wrote Friday, would make some sense).

Total Packers adds:

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy has known director of player finance Russ Ball since 1993. In years past, McCarthy has praised Ball and talked about what a great general manager he would make.

Things have apparently soured in that relationship. Former Packers beat writer Bob McGinn wrote a lengthy piece on Friday detailing the relationship. In it, he suggests that if Ball is hired as the Packers’ general manager, McCarthy may consider leaving the Packers.

The point of contention seems to be that McCarthy believes Ball has stood in the way — and will continue to do so — of the Packers’ player acquisition efforts. That like Ted Thompson, Ball is adverse to free agency and McCarthy feels he hasn’t been given the right players to succeed.

Yet, everything we hear points toward Ball replacing Ted Thompson as the Packers’ general manager.

Now, we are going to take this with a grain of salt. McGinn is angry at the Packers for not giving him media credentials. Like us, McGinn now operates a strictly online news outlet. And like us, when we asked for media credentials, McGinn was told the Packers do not accredit online outlets. Only TV, radio and newspapers. So like us, McGinn will say whatever the hell he wants about the Packers because he doesn’t have to massage any egos.

(If I had the ability, I’d hire McGinn in a second, by the way. Letting McGinn go was the second stupidest thing Journal Communications did, next to getting rid of Marketplace Magazine.)

The lack of mention of director of football operations Eliot Wolf , arguably the fans’ choice to replace Thompson, in all that might suggest the term “former” is about to be added to that title. And how does Eliot’s father feel about that? NBC Sports reports:

By hiring in-house candidate Brian Gutekunst to replace Ted Thompson, the Packers may have lost another one, as director of football operations Eliot Wolf was passed over for the job.

Wolf’s father, Hall of Fame G.M. Ron Wolf, suggested as much to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.

“At least he had the opportunity to interview for it,” Ron Wolf said. “Obviously the people up there don’t think he’s worthy or they would’ve hired him. End of discussion.”

It leaves a big question hanging out there for the Packers, as they rebuild their front office after a rare change. …

The Packers have already lost another long-time personnel man, as Alonzo Highsmith just left to go to Cleveland with John Dorsey. Demovsky reports that Dorsey has interest in the younger Wolf as well.

Wolf has interviewed for G.M. jobs in the past, but he’s still under contract to the Packers.

Bob McGinn, who covered the Packers for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and who now operates his own media outlet, suggests that the final configuration in the new front office will consist of Russ Ball as General Manager, and Brian Gutekunst as executive V.P. of football operations. Then, per McGinn, McCarthy will have to decide whether he wants to stay.

Putting it a different way (i.e., the way we’ve heard it), Ball and McCarthy don’t have a good relationship. It’s a topic that was addressed on Thursday’s PFT PM podcast, as I tried to digest and understand McCarthy’s remarks.

“It has to fit,” McCarthy said Thursday. “I have the best job in pro football, and no disrespect to the other 31 clubs. I love it here, I want to be here, but it has to fit for me, too. I’ve done this job long enough, I wouldn’t want the G.M. to hire me or partner with me if we don’t fit together. Because you’re on a path for, in the short term and long term, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to get to where you’re going to go. It has to be a partnership.” …

Murphy is smart enough to know the consequences of giving Ball the G.M. job. And the consequences quite likely will include the Packers needing a new head coach, either this year or next year.

One wonders if maybe Murphy changed his mind from what McGinn reported and flipped Ball’s and Gutekunst’s jobs. How many seconds do you think it would have taken the Lions to name McCarthy their head coach?

Instead, Florio later reported:

Packers coach Mike McCarthy didn’t want Russ Ball to be the team’s next G.M. Quarterback Aaron Rodgersalso reportedly wasn’t a fan of the franchise’s V.P. of football administration getting the ultimate in-house promotion.

They win.

With Brian Gutekunst securing the job, only five days after it officially was open, Ball’s candidacy has collapsed. Many believed he was the frontrunner for the job, based in part on a close relationship with CEO Mark Murphy.

The prospect of losing Gutekunst to the Texans apparently provided the nudge to hire him. Some had suggested that, if Ball had gotten the G.M. gig, Gutekunst would have received a title like “executive V.P. of player personnel.” …

Chances are that someone (perhaps Bob McGinn) will have a detailed story regarding things done behind the scenes to help Gutekunst get the job, and things that will happen behind the scenes now that the Packers have a new football boss.

This was more interesting to watch than the selection of the next pope, wasn’t it?

Advertisements

The next Packer era

As expected, the Packers fired defensive coordinator Dom Capers following their season finale loss to Detroit Sunday.

Less expected was Monday’s news from Packers.com:

Green Bay Packers Executive Vice President, General Manager and Director of Football Operations Ted Thompson will transition to a role as senior advisor to football operations, team President/CEO Mark Murphy announced Tuesday.

“I want to thank Ted for his tireless efforts as the general manager of the Green Bay Packers for these past 13 seasons. Under his guidance, the Packers enjoyed a remarkable run of success, one that included our 13th world championship, four NFC Championship appearances and eight consecutive postseason berths,” said Murphy. “The organization, our fans and our community were fortunate to have had one of the NFL’s all-time great general managers leading our football operations. On a personal note, Ted’s work ethic, humility and loyalty are nearly unparalleled, and it has been one of the great honors of my life to work beside him. Fortunately, Ted will remain involved in our personnel department as we work to win another championship. We will begin an immediate search for the next general manager of the Green Bay Packers.” …

Thompson, who just finished his 13th season as the leader of the team’s football operations, built the Packers into one of the NFL’s strongest and most consistent teams. His tenure was highlighted by a victory in Super Bowl XLV and six NFC North titles, including a franchise-record four consecutive division titles from 2011-14. The Packers’ four appearances in the NFC Championship since 2005, including two since 2014, lead the NFC.

Since taking over as general manager in 2005, Green Bay made nine playoff appearances, including a run of eight in a row (2009-16) that set a franchise record. The stretch of eight postseason berths is tied for the fourth-longest streak in NFL history behind three teams with nine (Dallas, 1975-83; Indianapolis, 2002-10; New England, 2009-17). The Packers’ nine appearances in the postseason since ’05 are tied with Seattle for the most in the NFC over that span and with Indianapolis and Pittsburgh for the second most in the NFL behind New England (12).

During Thompson’s tenure, Green Bay finished with a winning record nine times and won at least 10 games eight times. In 2011, the Packers set a franchise record with 15 regular-season wins. Since 2005, Green Bay has a regular-season record of 125-82-1 (.603), ranking No. 1 in the NFC and No. 4 in the NFL in wins and winning percentage over that time span. Of the five best single-season win totals in team history, two came under Thompson’s leadership (13 in 2007).

The Packers are tied with Pittsburgh for the third-most postseason games played (18) since 2005, trailing New England (25) and Seattle (21). Dating back to 2005, Green Bay’s 10 postseason victories are tied with Baltimore for No. 4 in the NFL (New England, 16; Seattle, 13; Pittsburgh, 12).

Thompson was named NFL Executive of the Year two times (2007, 2011) by Sporting News in a vote of his peers. Of the 53 players on Green Bay’s Super Bowl XLV championship roster, 49 were acquired by Thompson. Highlighting Thompson’s acquisitions over the years are two-time NFL Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers, 2009 Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson, six-time Pro Bowler and franchise sack leader Clay Matthews, and Jordy Nelson, who ranks in the top five in franchise history in receptions, receiving yards, touchdown receptions and 100-yard receiving games. Since 2005, the Packers have drafted 14 players who have made at least one Pro Bowl appearance.

The fact is that Thompson is responsible for Capers’ defense, because schemes do not win games; players win or lose games. Thompson is responsible as well for the Packers’ offense, which will have a new offensive coordinator and quarterback coach after the departures of Edgar Bennett (who reportedly may be reassigned) and Alex Van Pelt (whose contract wasn’t renewed).

24/7 Sports adds:

Ted Thompson isn’t the only member of the Green Bay Packers’ front office who is taking a new role. According to Chris Mortensen of ESPN, the Packers will restructure of the entire front office. Team president and CEO Mark Murphy will define the new roles shortly and some of the front office members who could be in line for new roles are Russ Ball (VP of football administration), Brian Gutenkunst (player personnel director) and Eliot Wolf (director of football operations).

Whatever that means, those expecting a radically different approach to getting players are likely to be disappointed. The three obvious choices to replace Thompson all worked for Thompson. It’s not really clear that Murphy believes that the front office needs to be blown up, or that, for that matter, the front office needs to be blown up.

Ball seems to be the front-runner if reports are accurate. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

Ball, 57, is among the most intriguing figures in the Packers organization simply because the general public knows nothing about a man with immense influence. He is lauded as the team’s lead contract negotiator and salary-cap guru, but his responsibilities are said to extend much further. His talents are viewed as indispensable.

He has been described by Murphy as the “unsung hero of our Super Bowl” and by coach Mike McCarthy as “the best I’ve ever been around.” He is devoutly loyal to the organization and the epitome of a company man. He will not discuss business dealings with his family. He cuts off contact with his brother during the draft and free agency each year. (Randy Ball, a former collegiate head coach, is a pro scouting assistant for the Kansas City Chiefs.)

Around the league, Ball’s peers view him as a legitimate candidate for general manager jobs and wonder why he doesn’t have one already. In Green Bay, Ball is the dark horse to take over whenever the 64-year-old Thompson retires.

“He likes what he does now,” said Russ’ oldest brother, Rick Ball, “but he would love the opportunity to be a general manager.”

Obscurity lingers because Ball has been barred from speaking to the media since his arrival from New Orleans in 2008. The Packers declined multiple requests to interview Ball for this article, citing the longstanding team policy. Even Thompson would not discuss the specifics of Ball’s responsibilities during an interview with the Journal Sentinel last week. (The media guide says his daily supervision includes the following departments: athletic training, equipment, video, corporate travel, player development, family programs and public relations.)

Instead, the story of Russ Ball is told through interviews with those around him, and more than 30 agents, team executives, current and former coaches, family members, owners and college teammates offered a window into a man whose talents extend far beyond the nebulous titles he has held. …

Ball graduated from Central Missouri in 1981 and immediately pursued strength and conditioning, the latest fad in sports. He spent eight years as the head strength coach at Missouri while earning a master’s degree in human performance. By 1989, he’d latched on with the Kansas City Chiefs and first-year coach Marty Schottenheimer.

As the assistant strength and conditioning coach, Ball worked alongside Dave Redding, better known as Redman. They were part of a staff that included future head coaches Bruce Arians, Bill Cowher and Tony Dungy. In the next three years, Herm Edwards and Mike McCarthy would arrive as well.

Redding and Ball brought opposite personalities to the weight room. In Redding the Chiefs had their bellowing taskmaster whose ferocity matched the sport itself. In Ball they uncovered a keen thinker and tireless worker whose skills were universal.

As a balancing act, it worked.

“Redman was the energy bunny, and Russ was the calming force,” said Edwards, who coached defensive backs. “Redman knew how to get them to the mountain, but you needed a plan to get them to the (top). Russ would always plan out the strategy.”

Fellow coaches said it was obvious Ball’s ambition stretched beyond the strength and conditioning program. His role expanded as Schottenheimer recognized new applications for his talents.

Schottenheimer trusted Ball with everything from player attitude problems to disputes between assistant coaches, and every successful task led to three or four more. Ball became known as a fixer who never turned down a job. His jack-of-all-trades reputation still applies today.

“That boy had his hands in more pies than anybody I’ve ever seen,” offensive line coach Alex Gibbs said. “ … It didn’t matter to him what it was, how bad it was, what he had to do. He was going to do it and he would do it better than everybody else.

“Guys like Russ save head coaches. I mean, they just save them.”

Ball started his days early and ended his nights late. He arrived at the facility long before practice began to interact with players and learn more about their lives. He spent his evenings holed up watching film. Sometimes he watched alone; sometimes he shadowed scouts or assistant coaches to see how their jobs were done.

“He was always pushing that envelope of trying to learn more to try and develop players,” Edwards said. “ … He gets a lot of respect from the players and agents alone because of what he’s done to get there. He wasn’t given the job (in Green Bay). He actually had to work for it. He ain’t part of the family that owns the team and guess what, ‘Wanna learn how to be a scout? OK, you can go over there and learn.’ No, no, no, no, no. He had to earn it. He was on the back end of it. He was in the weight room.”

Ball stayed in the weight room for eight years before crossing over to the front office in 1997, escaping before his body broke down. He spent two seasons as Schottenheimer’s administrative assistant to lay the groundwork for the remainder of his career: two years as a senior football administrator for the Minnesota Vikings; one year in Washington as director of football administration; six years and multiple job titles with the New Orleans Saints; and the last nine years with the Packers.

The constants of Ball’s administrative path have been salary-cap management and contract negotiations, which are among his chief responsibilities in Green Bay. He honed those skills in Minnesota under-then director of football administration Rob Brezezinski. He was described by former Vikings President Gary Woods as having an IQ “far above that of a strength coach.”

“He’s a mathematician,” Woods said, “and one has to be a mathematician to deal with salary cap. Many teams have PhDs dealing with salary-cap issues.”

In 2002, Ball interviewed with New Orleans on the strength of a recommendation from McCarthy, who had become the offensive coordinator of the Saints. And just as he did everywhere else, Ball made a sterling first impression on owner Tom Benson, general manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Jim Haslett.

The Saints, who declined all interview requests for this story, hired Ball as senior football administrator.

“You fall in love with everything that he did,” said Haslett, now the linebackers coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. “You see the way he works, the way he interacts with people, the way he interacts with players and agents and everybody else in the building. He’s a tireless worker; he’s a great family man; he’s a great person to deal with.”

Ball’s experience with different facets of an organization allowed for a complete understanding of the Saints’ franchise, according to Doug Marrone, who took over as offensive coordinator in 2006 and is now the head coach in Jacksonville. Ball knew the game well enough to hold his own in football discussions with players and coaches. He also flashed the requisite business savvy to run the financial arm of a professional team. …

After nine years in Green Bay and two decades of prior experience, Ball sits at an interesting point in his career. He’s proved himself at every job he’s ever had, and the only positions above him are general manager and team president — Thompson and Murphy.

The idea of Ball as a general manager is one that surfaced repeatedly during the reporting of this story. A number of former coaches believed he has earned the opportunity, and roughly 80% of the agents interviewed by the Journal Sentinel agreed. …

“We’ve talked about it,” Ball’s oldest brother Rick said. “The only thing that’s ever knocked him and he’s been underestimated on is his ability to recognize talent. He’s even concentrated more on talent the last probably five or six years, just so that he does know that (it) isn’t a hindrance to him.”

Ball’s heightened emphasis on talent evaluation has included more time observing practice, more attention to the on-field portion of the NFL scouting combine and more direct contact with players, his brother said, “even though that’s not his job.” He often works until 9 or 10 p.m. regardless of the time of year.

Those efforts align with Thompson’s yearly assertion that Ball is involved in personnel and draft meetings to absorb as much information as he can. But it’s clear Ball is proactively seeking more knowledge on his own, just as he has done throughout his career.

“He doesn’t want to have that as a reason for not being able to assume the position,” Rick Ball said.

If Ball is picked, I’m not sure if Packer fans are going to like that. Putting a financial guy on top of your football operation might give the impression the Packers care about their finances more than anything else. (Maybe Ball should replace not Thompson, but Murphy, though at 62 Murphy is probably not looking at retirement, and given the Packers’ financial performance shouldn’t be shown the door.) Since Ball doesn’t talk to the media we have no idea of how he would deal with the media (which means fans), but he sounds similar to Thompson, who said next to nothing and gave the impression to fans of not doing anything when something appeared to need to be done. That was in stark contrast to Ron Wolf, who was delightfully blunt and could never be accused of sitting on his hands, whether or not he made the right decisions.

TWTYTW 2017

For, let’s see, about the 18th year and the 11th consecutive year, it’s time for That Was the Year That Was 2017, patterned on …

In contrast to the ’60s British TV series “That Was the Week That Was,” rarely has been a year of so many things that defied rational description. Some of them had nothing to do with America’s First Tweeter, either.

Let’s start with the worst trend of 2017, a continuation of the last few years — tribalism and people’s stubborn refusal to judge things on their merits. That includes unthinking praise of everything Donald Trump does, and knee-jerk criticism of anything Donald Trump does.

Worst trend number 1B is also a continuation of the last few years — hypersensitivity and, on the left, unthinking accusations of racism, sexism, misogyny and every other -ism they hate, and on the right, unthinking accusations of disloyalty, particularly when confronted by ideas they don’t agree with but cannot say why or what’s wrong with those ideas.

I saw an example of that Sunday — the latest Star Wars movie, which some conservatives have been complaining about because of what they claim to be too much diversity. As if normal viewers should care one way or another about that.

I’m certainly fine with the self-demolition of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Al Franken, Garrison Keillor, Matt Lauer, U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, etc., whose past bad acts ended their careers this year. Due process was completely ignored, of course, which will make for interesting days depending on which liberal icon is next claimed to be a sexual harasser like Bill Clinton. (Who skated, as did Hillary, because of their positions on abortion rights.)

How did The Donald do? Rob Saker posted this list …

… I expected Jeff Sessions to be beyond horrible. I think I am on the record as saying I believe him to be an authoritarian religious zealot who isn’t very bright. To date, I can’t think of anything he has done that I disagree with (Any suggestions on how to prepare crow would be appreciated).

My list of great accomplishments…

1. Signed an Executive Order demanding that two regulations be killed for every new one creates. He cut 16 regulations for every one created, saving $8.1 billion.

2. Gorsuch on the SCOTUS.

3. Tax cut bill.

4. Jerusalem announcement, ending a game of delaying tactics and signaling our firm support for Israel (after they were attacked by Obama’s administration).

5. Revoking the EPA’s navigable waters interpretation, which was an egregious seizure of property rights.

6. Nominated 73 federal judges. Trump is filling up lower courts with lifetime appointees.

7. Recognized opioids as a national epidemic and putting resources against it. This is possibly Obama’s greatest failure.

8. Removed the gloves on the fight with ISIS. What was believed a year ago to be a war that would last years is now in its last stages.

9. Eliminating the Obamacare individual mandate.

10. Generating such confidence in the economy that a mature market saw record gains (Yes, Obama saw large gains but on an artificially low market thanks to the crash).

11. Respect for law making process. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Department of Justice will cease the practice initiated by President Obama of issuing “guidance memos” to enact new regulations that sometimes have had the effect of changing federal laws.

12. Diversity of opinions. EPA Director Scott Pruitt placed 66 new experts on three different EPA scientific committees who espouse more conservative views than their predecessors.

13. Manufacturing. During Trump’s first six months, the manufacturing index was the highest it had been since 1983 under President Reagan. Michigan’s ISM reported its June barometer of manufacturing rose to 57.8, the fastest pace in three years (50 is flat).

14. Withdrawal from a Paris climate treaty that would have required huge sums on the US with no appreciable beneficial impact on the climate.

15. Rescinded Title IX “dear colleague” letter that led to kangaroo courts and the denial of due process. There are numerous general benefits such as VA reform, reducing waste in government spending, and a healthy uptick in government job attrition.

… to which was added:

Arctic wildlife drilling, keystone pipeline, UN budget cut
Hiring freeze at State.
Placing a Secretary of HUD who has lived in public housing.
With respect to policy toward North Korea, no longer kicking the can down the road.

How did the stock market do?

Based on admittedly a small sample size, Trump could be said to be the most pro-business president in the nation’s history. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained one-third in the 14 months since Trump was elected president.

As someone who did not vote for Trump but has vowed to praise Trump when praise is due and condemn Trump when condemnation is due (see previous comment about tribalism), I find that to be a pretty good list of accomplishments, whether Trump actually accomplished them or regular old Republicans did. Trump’s various idiotic tweets and public statements make some people forget those actual accomplishments, while other question, with some validity, who deserves credit — Trump or “establishment” Republicans — for those accomplishments.

Meanwhile, how was Gov. Scott Walker’s year?

The project at the top made Kevin Binversie comment:

You know who I feel sorry for sometimes? The children of deeply-committed Scott Walker haters who due to their parents’ obsessions will never own either an iPhone, Nintendo Switch or 3DS.

All three products are assembled by Foxconn.

The MacIver Institute assembled its own top 10 list, which included:

#10 – WISDOT Audit

It was a bad sign when Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb resigned just weeks before the Legislative Audit Bureau was set to release a report on the State Highway Program. When the report came out in January, it was in a word – devastating.

The auditors found the DOT regularly breaks state law in budgeting, negotiating, communicating, and managing contracts. Among these statutory violations: the department does not always solicit bids from more than one vendor, it does not spread out solicitations throughout the year, it does not post required information on its website, its cost estimates to the governor are incomplete, and it skips steps in the evaluation process for selecting projects. These practices manifest themselves through an inescapable reality: the cost of major projects tends to double after the DOT gets approval from the governor and Legislature to proceed. The auditors looked at 16 current highway projects and found they are over-budget by $3.1 billion.

Some public officials tried to spin the report, claiming it indicated the state is not spending enough on transportation. That didn’t fly. Instead the audit became an insurmountable obstacle for those seeking to raise the gas tax. It also sparked a series of reforms that aimed to make the DOT more transparent and accountable to the taxpayers of Wisconsin.

#8 – UW Regents Protect Free Speech

As protests and demonstrations gripped campuses across the country, the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents took a stand for free expression this year. In October, the Regents voted to allow any UW campus to expel students who repeatedly disrupt speakers or stifle speech.

The sole dissenting vote was that of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, who is running for governor.

Jose Delgado, a UW Regent who came to America from his native Cuba in 1961 at the age of 13, spoke to MacIver about his yes vote. Delgado’s family fled the oppressive Castro regime, which brutally struck down dissenting speech. Delgado said that back then, the Cuban government would simply arrest and murder anyone who disagreed with it. For that reason, the 70-year-old said, he has always been passionate about his freedom of speech as an American. He’s been deeply troubled by the decline of peaceful dialogue, especially on university campuses.

Summing up his reason for the vote, Delgado said “I cannot make you listen, but I can certainly prevent others from preventing you from listening. You have the right to listen.”

#7 – Gas Tax Battle Heats Up

Predictably, the forces behind a push to increase the state gas tax, vehicle registration fee, or other source of revenue for transportation saddled up in 2017.

Gov. Walker – insistent he would not sign a budget that raised the gas tax or registration fees – made the first move when he appointed Dave Ross to be secretary of the Department of Transportation after the resignation of Mark Gottlieb. Since he took over in January, Ross has been steadfast in insisting the department doesn’t need new revenue, it needs to find savings in the multibillion dollar budget it already has.

Members of the Legislature spent the summer sparring over the issue. A protracted public relations battle raged across the state – possibly manifesting itself in a series of phony letters to the editor that appeared in newspapers from Janesville to Rice Lake begging lawmakers to increase taxes. All along, MacIver was suspicious that more revenue was truly needed – and we found plenty of examples to back us up.

Proponents of an increased gas tax have advocated putting more money into a department with a record of wasting it. We, at MacIver, refuse to just go along with this ‘increase taxes first, ask questions later’ mentality. We’ve suggested instead that Secretary Ross should have the opportunity to scour the department for savings before Madison lawmakers foist a permanent tax increase on Wisconsinites.

#6 – Russia, Russia, Russia!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock with no human contact throughout all of 2017, you’ve likely heard the words “Russia” and “collusion” on a near-daily basis.

Ever since President Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton, liberals – still in shock that they lost – have been charging that the Trump campaign was working with Russian agents behind the scenes to hack the election, propagate fake news, and swing the election. Throughout 2017, a special investigation being run by former FBI Director Robert Mueller has produced nonstop daily headlines that might sound nefarious to the casual observer. But other than nabbing Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI (never do that, by the way) the probe has so far come up mostly empty-handed.

We saw the birth of this story all the way back in December 2016, when members of Wisconsin’s electoral college cast their ballots for Donald Trump at the state Capitol – the first time Wisconsin Republicans did so since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide. While they voted, they were serenaded by protesters screaming about selling out the country to Russia and Putin and ushering in fascism. …

#4 – Foxconn

At the beginning of 2017, it’s likely the vast majority of Wisconsinites had never heard of Foxconn, but most had likely used their products.

Then earlier this year, President Trump hinted that the state would soon get good economic news when visiting a Snap-on plant in Kenosha in April. The mystery soon was lifted, and a months-long saga of negotiations, deal-making, and legislative action ended in a contract signing between the electronics manufacturing giant and the State of Wisconsin.

The deal that was inked is the largest development agreement of its kind in American history, offering Foxconn up to $3 billion in tax incentives if the company invests $10 billion in a massive manufacturing campus and creates 13,000 jobs. Foxconn’s Wisconsin operation — now on track to begin construction in 2018 — won’t just be a plant, it will be a small city unto itself in southern Racine County.

Emerging over the course of a few months in 2017, the Foxconn deal will surely be a transformational project for the entire state of Wisconsin. The company’s leaders have signaled their goal is to establish a high-tech manufacturing hub right here in Wisconsin to rival (and supply hardware to) Silicon Valley.

From groundbreaking ceremonies to other new announcements related to the massive new development, we expect 2018 to bring lots more news about Foxconn.

#3 – Wisconsin State Budget: Entire Taxes Eliminated, No Tax Increase

What would a list of the top stories of the year be without talking about the state budget? It might’ve crossed the finish line months late, but the 2017-19 budget included some historic reforms, including completely eliminating two taxes.

Under the new budget, the state Forestry Mill Tax and Alternative Minimum tax are both deleted from the books. The budget also holds the line on income taxes and continues the push to reduce the property tax burden, while increasing spending in classrooms.

It’s easy to forget the old days when Jim Doyle and the Democrats were raising every tax imaginable and increasing spending by leaps and bounds. It’s also easy to take today’s momentum for reducing taxes for granted.

It’s for exactly that reason that here at MacIver, we work hard to celebrate these conservative wins. It’s certainly not every day that entire taxes are eliminated, and it’s certainly not every state that is determined to walk down a path of lowering taxes and shrinking government. On, Wisconsin.

#2 – John Doe Returns

In last year’s annual roundups, we had hoped that 2017 would bring a new era of toleration for ideas from all sides of the debate, including for the victims of the John Doe probes. With the Supreme Court officially declaring the efforts illegal and ordering that they be shut down immediately, we hoped that those victims would see some justice.

After all, those individuals had their private information illegally seized, their homes searched in pre-dawn raids, their rights to free speech trampled, and their names dragged through the mud, all while an unsympathetic media continued to cover the story with an eye on Gov. Walker.

Unfortunately, in 2017, that new era did not come. Rather, we learned that government employees had continued their unconstitutional search through private records. The very watchdog meant to uphold the government’s standard of ethics seized even more personal records – including private text messages between a Senator and her daughter – and put them in a file labeled “opposition research.”

This all came to light after the state’s Department of Justice looked into leaks, suspecting that private records had been illegally handed off by members of the Ethics Commission – the old Government Accountability Board. In the end, the DOJ declined to press charges in the leak, saying that the wrongdoing was so widespread and the data so mishandled that they couldn’t determine who exactly was the source of the leak.

In many ways, John Doe returned to headlines this year…but in reality, we found out that it never went away at all. In its report, the DOJ itself refers to the new probe as “John Doe 3.” Just before Christmas, the Senate Committee on Organization voted to authorize the DOJ to dig deeper into the wrongdoing. While we hoped that the saga would come to an end, we now know that the last chapter of this story has not yet been written.

Without further adieu, the biggest story of 2017…

#1 – Time to Cut Taxes – the federal government’s first go at significant tax reform since ‘86

The last time they did this, Top Gun was the highest-grossing movie in America, the world met Ferris Bueller, and Whitney Houston’s self-titled album was at the top of the charts. That’s right — it was 1986 the last time the federal government took on tax reform. Boy, has the world changed.

This year, congress made good on its promise to pass a tax reform bill and get it signed into law by Christmas. Among many (many) other things, the bill cuts both individual and corporate rates, cleans the tax code, and nearly doubles the standard deduction. According to the Department of Revenue, the average Wisconsin family will see a tax cut of more than $2,500. That’s more than $200 every month that hard-working families won’t have to turn over to the IRS.

Not only will individuals be able to file their taxes on a form the size of a postcard, our economy will take notice, too. By lowering the tax burden on everyday Americans and unlocking the secret to economic success, the plan is undeniably pro-growth.

Sean Davis has a list of the top 10 undercovered stories, including …

2. The economy roared

The U.S. economy came roaring back in 2017. GDP growth is strong and steady, and the unemployment rate now approaches lows not seen since the early 2000s. The economy has added over 1.9 million payroll jobs this year. Consumer confidence is at a 17-year high. The 2017 economic recovery is nonetheless a major story widely ignored by the political press. …

4. Islamic State was crushed in Raqqah and Mosul

A year ago, the Islamic State wasn’t just on the rise in the Middle East, it was firmly in charge, with wide swaths of the region under its control. But in October, U.S.-backed forces completed the total liberation of Raqqah, the Islamic State’s Syrian capital. That followed the liberation of Mosul, a major Iraqi city captured by the Islamic State in 2014. In less than a year, Trump and his national security team accomplished what the previous administration suggested was impossible.

5. Thanks to James Comey, the FBI’s reputation is in tatters

This year we learned that the FBI’s top ranks were infested with political actors eager to use the agency to settle scores. Not only did former Director James Comey abscond with confidential documents, he leaked them to his friends and the press, then refused to give those documents to Congress. In addition, his top deputies — those responsible for investigating both Hillary Clinton and Trump — were sharing text messages about how important it was to defeat Trump. One of these Comey deputies even mused about deploying a secret “insurance policy” to keep Trump out of the White House. Comey’s biggest accomplishment wasn’t equitable enforcement of the law; it was the corrupt politicization of the agency’s leadership ranks and the destruction of its reputation.

6. We still know nothing about what motivated the Vegas shooter

Months after the deadliest mass shooting in American history, we don’t know why the gunman fired on a crowd of innocent concertgoers. If law enforcement authorities have any leads or theories, they’re not sharing them with citizens eager for answers. Perhaps the feds don’t have a clue, either. Either way, it’s shocking that, months later, the country is still in the dark about what happened.

7. The Iran deal’s facade collapsed

Despite the Obama administration’s assurances that Iran would be a reliable partner for peace, the opposite has proved true. By deliberately funding and fomenting terror against the U.S. and its allies in the region, Iran has shown that it cannot be trusted, and the Obama administration’s claims about the peaceful intentions of the top terror sponsor on Earth had no basis in reality.

8. Persecution of religious minorities continues across the globe

In the U.K., Jews were targeted in record numbers in 2017. Just weeks ago, a synagogue in Sweden was firebombed. Throughout India, Christians continue to be targeted by violent religious extremists. In North Korea and China, totalitarian atheist governments regularly imprison and torture those who openly worship and proselytize. And in the Middle East, Muslims remain the No. 1 target of radical jihadists hell-bent on purging from the Earth anyone who rejects the authority of the Islamic State’s caliphate. …

10. Due process and rule of law were restored to college campuses

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos finally restored the rule of law to college campuses and put an end to disastrous campus courts. Prior to her much-needed rule change, campuses across the country declared that secret proceedings, bereft of due process, were the best way to handle sexual assault allegations. That kangaroo system, justifiably gutted by DeVos, resulted in predators who were allowed to avoid law enforcement, victims who never received justice, and innocent people who were denied basic rights such as jury trials and access to attorneys.

As far as football was concerned, to quote Charles Dickens, it was the best of times, it was the worst of recent times. The Badgers had their best season that didn’t include a Rose Bowl berth, winning a record 13 games and their first Orange Bowl. With a young team, this season might not be the best season of the decade.

The Badgers’ season was particularly good because the Packers’ season was quite bad, thanks to the second broken collarbone of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ career, which served to expose all the holes the Packers have on both offense (including backup quarterback) and defense (for which defensive coordinator Dom Capers will be sacrificed). Every football problem today can be traced back to the players, but the person responsible for getting those players, general manager Ted Thompson, hasn’t shown signs of departure, voluntarily (he could retire) or not.

As always, may your 2018 be better than your 2017. It can’t be stranger … can it?

After the Gory Year

Acme Packing Co.:

It’s been official for just over a week, but it’s still hard to believe.

The Green Bay Packers will miss the postseason for the first time since the 2008 season.

To put that in perspective, the last time the Packers missed the playoffs George W. Bush was at the very end of his presidency, “The Dark Knight” was the top movie of the year and Brett Favre was a New York Jet.

Translation: it was a long time ago.

This means the Packers are in unfamiliar territory, both for them and their fans. The Packers would have tied an NFL record for consecutive seasons qualifying for the playoffs had they made it, yet many fans are demanding major changes from the general manager down to the head coach.

As for the Packers actually making those changes, it’s difficult to imagine much changing save a pending replacement of the defensive coordinator. Team president Mark Murphy will pump up both general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy’s record, citing making the postseason the previous eight seasons plus three NFC North championships and two NFC title game appearances in the past five years as proof the franchise is in good hands.

No matter where you fall in this debate, those are all facts. The Packers have had a tremendous amount of success the past few seasons, but in a city nicknamed “Titletown USA,” anything short of bringing home a Lombardi Trophy is ultimately a disappointment. Still, McCarthy and Thompson have kept the Packers in the upper echelon of the NFL and they are owed much respect and gratitude.

That being said, if you look at specifically the last three seasons of Packers football, the signs are there that it’s time for a change.

“But they just made the NFC championship last year, and they won a playoff game the year before that!” That is what some fans will say, but hear me out.

First, let’s look at 2015. The Packers offense — McCarthy’s baby — was sluggish for a vast majority of the year. In fact, had it not been for a Hail Mary perfectly executed, the Packers likely would have missed the playoffs and the playoff streak would have stopped at six seasons instead of eight. In short, Aaron Rodgers saved the day.

Now look at 2016. The Packers were 4-6 and the calls for McCarthy’s job were intensifying despite McCarthy declaring himself “a highly successful NFL head coach.” Rodgers then uttered the famous “run the table” comment and he went on a tear that led the Packers to within one game of the Super Bowl before they were run out of town by the Atlanta Falcons. Once again, Rodgers bailed the team out.

The 2017 season rolls around, and Rodgers is once again playing like an MVP. The Packers are 4-1 and fans are again dreaming of another postseason run.

Then Rodgers broke his right collarbone.

Everything went downhill from there. Without Rodgers around to consistently bail the team out, the Packers were exposed for what they really are beyond their all-world quarterback: a lousy football team. How lousy are they? They needed rallies to go to overtime in wins over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cleveland Browns.

To repeat: The Packers nearly lost to one of the worst teams in NFL history when they rallied past Cleveland in overtime. The red flag officially went up for many fans after that game.

The bottom line in all this, in my opinion, is that is time for a change in Green Bay. McCarthy is a good coach, one who leads his team through adversity better than any coach in the league outside of Bill Belichick. He’s also by all accounts a great man whose family has given so much to the Green Bay community and Wisconsin as a whole.

Unfortunately, McCarthy in Green Bay has become Andy Reid in Philadelphia and Mike Shanahan in Denver. All were successful, but sometimes you just need a change. Reid never got close to the Super Bowl again after losing Donovan McNabb and Shanahan got to one AFC title game with Jake Plummer after John Elway retired. That’s where McCarthy appears to be in Green Bay. Everyone is now too comfortable, and the message has just gotten stale. He hasn’t lost the locker room, but it’s time to look at other options.

McCarthy’s contract is up after next season, so this will be an interesting situation to watch. Teams often don’t like coaches going into a season as a lame duck entering their final year, but Thompson gave Mike Sherman an extension in 2005 before firing him at the end of that season.

Speaking of Thompson, he deserves praise for being the best steward of the franchise since Ron Wolf. He’s endured more unfair fan criticism than any other GM in the league. Fans bemoan his lack of activity in free agency then he goes out and signs Martellus Bennett. We all know how that ended and some of those same fans yelled at Thompson when Bennett was released. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, folks.

Thompson still clearly enjoys scouting, but it might be time for a change in the front office too. The Packers only made the playoffs the previous two seasons by the sheer will of their franchise quarterback. Take Rodgers out of the equation and you see just how poor of a roster Thompson has built. He clearly did not learn the lessons of Wolf, his mentor and predecessor. “Oh we have Aaron, he’ll keep us relevant,” has held the Packers back much like the same phrase except with Brett Favre’s name held Wolf — and particularly Mike Sherman — back in the early-to-mid-2000s. The Packers should have followed the Patriots and built a strong team around their quarterback and not just surround him with adequate talent.

As someone who has backed Thompson and McCarthy throughout the past several years, this is incredibly tough to write. They brought a lot of success to the storied franchise and joy to the fans. Both men will one day take their place in the Packers Hall of Fame.

Unfortunately, it’s just time for a change.

A better comparison for this season is 2006, before which the Packers relieved GM/coach Mike Sherman of the first half of his title, replacing him with Thompson, who relieved Sherman of further employment following a 4–12 season. In his first three seasons, McCarthy went 8–8, 13–3 (and an overtime loss in the NFC championship) and 6–10 in 2008, Rodgers’ first season as quarterback.

It is interesting to note that, based on social media comments, the order of people Packer fans would like to see replaced starts with defensive coordinator Dom Capers, followed by Thompson, followed quite a distance later by McCarthy. This is despite the fact that the Packers’ rankings in scoring defense (21st) and offense (19th) are similar compared with the rest of the league. The defense did not lose to Baltimore or Minnesota; the offense failed to score, and the defense deserves credit for giving up only nine points to Seattle in the opening 17–9 win. What is worse — giving up more than 30 points five times, or scoring less than 20 points six times?

Only two of the Packers’ eight losses were by one score — Pittsburgh, where quarterback Brett Hundley arguably played his best game (and yes, the defense failed), and Carolina, Rodgers’ aborted comeback attempt. Before the season I predicted the losses at Atlanta, Minnesota and Pittsburgh; I predicted a loss in Dallas, which didn’t happen. What torpedoed this season was the unpardonable sin of losing at home to New Orleans, Detroit and Baltimore, all of which were losses by more than a touchdown.

For what it’s worth, I have read a few predictions of NFL coaches who are about to coach their last games this weekend. None of them list McCarthy.

Regardless of Packer fans’ opinion, Capers is highly regarded in the NFL. The bigger issue with the defense is the players, and that goes past Capers to his boss’ boss, Thompson. The Packers have a long list of defensive draft failures, and if your plan is to develop draft picks and not sign free agents, your draft picks better pan out, but many of the Packers’ draft picks on defense have not.

Unfortunately, the same can be said about Thompson’s acquisitions this year, two in particular — tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks. If you’re stuck with an inexperienced quarterback, the short passing game is essential, but whatever the Packers paid Bennett and Kendricks was wasted money.

I often say on this blog (because it’s true) that doing nothing is better than doing the wrong thing. A lot of Packer fans want to see Thompson replaced by Eliot Wolf, the Packers’ director — football operations, and son of Ron. The young Wolf was a candidate for the Giants’ GM job, and is reported to be a candidate for other positions. Thompson has gotten enormous plaudits in the NFL for his ability to evaluate talent, but evidently that’s no longer working so well in Green Bay. Tom Silverstein notes the Packers have more room to pursue free agents next year due to a larger salary cap, but for every Charles Woodson, the Packers have had a Joe Johnson and then some. (Though it’s not as if the Packers have done very well in the draft, as previously noted.)

As for McCarthy, he would be snapped up nearly immediately if fired. That may be OK to some fans, but Packer fans who remember the franchise’s history should remember that a new coach doesn’t necessarily lead to better on-the-field results (see Bengtson, Phil, and Rhodes, Ray). A new GM and coach would likely mean you could write off the 2018 season, and even if Rodgers returns (which is far from a sure thing), he doesn’t have that many years left.

The real reason for this season’s failure is Thompson’s responsibility — players, or lack thereof. Schemes don’t matter as much as you’d think, and coaching matters, but not as much as player talent does. Blame Capers if you like for poor defensive play, but Capers can only work with what he’s provided, and it’s not as if he forgot how to coach in the past few seasons. I have yet to read anyone with actual NFL expertise claim the Packers are running a bad defensive scheme. It’s always the players, for better and/or worse.

 

Postgame schadenfreude, How ’bout Them Hawkeyes and Da Bears Still Suck edition

Despite what was predicted, and despite the Packers’ recent imitation of their Gory Days, Wisconsin football fans had quite a weekend.

The Badgers, dissed despite their 9–0 record, may have earned some respect with their 38–14 win over Iowa(y), which previous demolished Ohio State. The Badger defense was so stout that the Hawkeyes’ only scores came from UW quarterback Alex Hornibrook’s two pick-sixes.

The Des Moines Register’s Chad Leistikow:

Iowa players and their head coach chalked up Saturday’s 38-14 debacle at Wisconsin to the usual culprits you hear in postgame interviews after Hawkeye losses.

“It’s the same stuff that won the game last week,” offensive lineman Sean Welsh said, noting the stark seven-day contrast in outcomes between drubbing top-five Ohio State and getting embarrassed by top-five Wisconsin. “It’s details and execution. I’m sure you’ve heard that enough.”

Historic euphoria one week.

Historic futility the next.

Iowa’s offense gained 66 yards Saturday. That’s the worst output of the 19-year Kirk Ferentz era, “eclipsing” (if you want to call it that) the 100 yards in the disastrous desert performance in a 44-7 loss to Arizona State in 2004.

The 66 yards is the fewest Wisconsin has ever allowed to a Big Ten Conference opponent and the second-fewest ever.

That’s the third-fewest by any FBS team ranked in the top 25 over the past 20 seasons.
If you’re upset Iowa didn’t throw the ball more, consider this stat: Quarterback Nate Stanley dropped back to pass 28 times Saturday; the Hawkeyes netted four yards on those plays.

He threw for 41, was sacked for 37 and committed three turnovers.
It’s as bad as you can get, a week after rolling up 487 yards and 55 points against the Buckeyes. Two Josh Jackson touchdowns on interception returns saved Iowa from further scoreboard shame.

“You can’t explain it,” Ferentz said, “other than just we played clean football last week.”

That may be the truth. But it’s not the real story of Saturday’s game.

That would be the bronze bull that Wisconsin players happily carried off the field. Not the Heartland Trophy itself, of course, but what it symbolizes.

The Badgers are the bullies of the Big Ten West. They were crowned division champions Saturday after improving to 10-0. They’re heading to Indianapolis for the league title game for the fifth time in seven years since the Big Ten went to divisional play.

They’re what Iowa aspires to be.

“Those guys taking it right in front of us,” linebacker Ben Niemann said, “that’s tough.”

Saturday was a reminder that Wisconsin is the bell-cow program that those inside the Iowa Football Performance Center must figure out how to take down.

The Badgers do everything well that Iowa wants to consistently do well.

They run the football with power. They play great defense. They beat you up.

The Badgers racked up 247 yards on the ground Saturday; Iowa had 25, with its longest carry a 9-yard run on a third-and-long.

They may not look like Alabama or Ohio State or USC. But Wisconsin surgically and schematically attacks you, and exposes your weaknesses.

“They have a big O-line and big running backs,” senior safety Miles Taylor said after his fourth go-round against Wisconsin. “They power, power, power, run the play-action (and) get somebody to the flat. Run, run, run, play-action. That’s their DNA. They try to get you to come up for the run and slip somebody out and, boom, it’s a big play.”

Wisconsin has been hammered by injuries all season, at almost every position. It lost its best linebacker before the season even started. Its best safety didn’t play Saturday; neither did its top two receivers. Its injury report barely fits on a piece of paper.

But it didn’t matter Saturday. It hasn’t mattered all season.

The Badgers kept shuttling in fresh bodies and did whatever they wanted, on both sides of the ball, and Iowa was helpless in stopping it.

“These guys were playing at a real high level,” Ferentz said, “and we weren’t able to match that.

“Usually, good teams in the Big Ten play good defense. That’s what these guys have done.”

Yeah, Iowa got the best of the Badgers here in 2015. It took four turnovers, including a fourth-quarter goal-line fumble when the quarterback tripped, but the Hawkeyes got them — by a 10-6 score.

Iowa won the West that year, and deserved it.

But the Badgers own this rivalry right now — the fake punt and 31-30 win in 2010; 28-9 at Kinnick Stadium in 2013 after a two-year series hiatus; 26-24 in 2014; 17-9 last year. Now this.

I do think the Hawkeyes are positioning themselves for a good run the next two seasons. This will probably be Stanley’s worst day as Iowa’s quarterback — 8-for-24 for 41 yards. The sophomore is going to be a good one. This will motivate him.

The Hawkeyes have young players at a lot of key positions, tackle and tight end among them.
Iowa’s 2018 schedule looks pretty friendly, too.

But the mountain it has to climb, Wisconsin, isn’t going anywhere.

As if they needed a reminder, take a look at the Hawkeyes’ Big Ten opener in 2018.
Wisconsin, on Sept. 22, at Kinnick Stadium.

Then came Sunday’s 23–16 Packers win over Da Bears, which proves that Da Bears can’t even beat the Packers without Aaron Rodgers.

About that, the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs writes:

So much for the idea that the Bears would have the upper hand on the Packers without Aaron Rodgers.

We can dismiss that thought immediately, and this is probably a good point to push back any imaginary timeline for the Bears pulling even with their archrival.

Coach John Fox talked about being close after the Packers finished off the Bears 23-16 at wet and cold Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon. It was a one-score game, but these franchises remain far apart even after so many factors pointed the Bears’ way.

The Bears were coming off an open date and had an extra week to prepare. The Packers had a short week after being throttled at home by the Lions on Monday night when right tackle Bryan Bulaga and safety Morgan Burnett were lost to injuries. Then there was the midweek fallout from the Packers’ sudden release of tight end Martellus Bennett for a reeling club that had lost three straight. And let’s reiterate Rodgers was out with a broken right collarbone, replaced by former fifth-round pick Brett Hundley, who was making his third NFL start, two fewer than Bears first-round pick Mitch Trubisky.

Las Vegas oddsmakers made the Bears favorites for the first time all season, and they were favored over the Packers for the first time since 2008. That’s because there was a belief the Bears were strong on defense, strong enough to carry a fledgling offense lacking wide receivers, strong enough to bottle up Hundley, who looked dreadful in two previous starts.

This is a devastating loss for Fox, who is 1-5 against the Packers since his hiring in 2015. A victory would have put the Bears within a game of .500 and added to a feel-good vibe that has been at Halas Hall with people talking about improved culture and a deeper roster. Now they’re 3-6 and potentially headed for a fourth consecutive last-place finish in the NFC North. Consider that since the NFL/AFL merger, the Bears are the only NFC Central/North team to finish last in the division four straight years, something they did previously from 1997 to 2000. Not even the Buccaneers, who were a train wreck upon their inception, managed four straight seasons in the cellar. These Bears are two games behind the Packers and Lions, who are tied for second place, with seven remaining.

The Packers converted 7 of 16 third downs and also a fourth-and-1 late in the third quarter. A Bears defense that looked good against Drew Brees and great against Cam Newton failed to come up with a big play. The Bears knocked out the Packers’ top two running backs as Aaron Jones (knee) and Ty Montgomery (ribs) didn’t make it to the third quarter. Third-string back Jamaal Williams filled in and rushed for 67 yards rushing as Green Bay piled up 160 on the ground, the most the Bears have surrendered all season. Yes, they were missing linebacker Danny Trevathan, sidelined with a calf injury, but don’t confuse him for a vintage model of Brian Urlacher or Lance Briggs.

Cornerback Prince Amukamara filled the wrong lane on Montgomery’s 37-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, but it was Hundley who did the Bears in late. He tucked it and ran for 17 yards on third-and-2 from the Bears’ 37-yard line midway through the fourth quarter with the Packers clinging to a 16-13 lead. Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee crashed hard inside and Hundley, who was oblivious to pressure at times earlier in the game, deftly escaped around the edge to gain 17.

There wasn’t a more frustrating play for McPhee, who was trying to make something happen for a defense that saw its streak of getting at least two takeaways in three consecutive games end. McPhee didn’t communicate his plan to defensive end Mitch Unrein in time, so there was no stunt, and the result was an escape hatch for Hundley, who finished 18 of 25 for 212 yards. …

Two plays later, Hundley scrambled out of the pocket to his right and zipped a back-shoulder pass right by cornerback Kyle Fuller’s helmet for a 19-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams with 5:29 to play, the decisive score in the game. It’s the kind of play you’re accustomed to seeing Rodgers make.

The Bears were battling to get the ball back before the two-minute warning. They had one timeout remaining and the Packers faced third-and-10 when Hundley dropped a dime over Fuller, who was holding Adams, for a 42-yard gain. Good defenses don’t let Brett Hundley do that to them with the game on the line.

Culture and depth are difficult things to sell when wins don’t come along with them. This was supposed to be the start of an easier second half of the season for the Bears, but when they get beaten at home by Hundley, that should be reassessed.

The win included this bizarre moment chronicled by the Tribune’s Rich Campbell (not the former Packers quarterback):

As coaching decisions go, John Fox’s replay challenge Sunday against the Packers will be talked about long after his tenure is finished, whenever that might be.

Bears fans will never forget that 23-16 defeat on a rainy Sunday at Soldier Field when Fox won a challenge that lost the ball for his team. The details of the backfire are vexing on multiple levels and, ultimately, helped victory escape the Bears on a day they had to have it to sustain meaning in their season.

“Obviously, that’s a play you’d like to have back,” Fox said. “But that’s not how this game works.”

Watch the replay of Benny Cunningham’s 23-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter, and two things become clear.

One, the Bears running back did not score a touchdown.

Two, he screwed up trying to do so.
Let’s review: As Cunningham juked his way to the front right corner of the end zone, he dove and extended the ball while Packers safety Marwin Evans shoved him out of bounds. Cunningham crashed into the pylon as the ball slipped free. Officials ruled Cunningham out at the 2-yard line.

“We’re taught not to do it; unless it’s fourth down, you don’t reach the ball out,” Cunningham said. “But, honestly, at the time, I wasn’t thinking about that. I was trying to score a touchdown for the team.”

Fox, under advice from his assistants who help with video reviews, challenged the ruling that Cunningham stepped out of bounds.

“Every indication we had was he scored,” Fox said. “And, if anything, he would be at the 1 or inside in the 1.”

So rather than have his offense line up with three tries from the 2-yard line, Fox threw the challenge flag with hopes of being awarded a touchdown or, at worst, having the ball advanced a few feet.

But replays showed Cunningham lost possession before he hit the pylon, which, in the context of the video review, had unintended consequences.

And that’s where it got murky.

Replay officials in New York decided Cunningham lost possession before he was out of bounds and before he hit the pylon.

Overturned call. Touchback. Packers ball.

Wow.

“When I watched the review, I felt like they made the right call,” Cunningham said. “Just a bad play on my part, but the refs got it right.”

To Fox, the fumble wasn’t as obvious.

“I think maybe on 50 times, like some people get to look at it, I think maybe you could see that,” he said. “But on our look during the game, that wasn’t really even discussed.”

Here’s the thing, though: Cunningham’s left foot dragged onto the sideline as he dove for the pylon.

Slow down the replay frame-by-frame and it’s still nearly impossible to determine if Cunningham lost possession before his foot touched the sideline. What’s more, as Dean Blandino, the NFL’s former head of officiating, explained on Fox Sports, the determining factor should have been whether Cunningham was in contact with the ball while he was out of bounds and before he hit the pylon.

“Even if he doesn’t have control, and he’s just touching that loose ball with a foot out of bonds, that would make the play dead prior to it hitting the pylon, and it would not be a touchback.”

In that case, the Bears should have retained possession where Cunningham fumbled, the 2.

Referee Tony Corrente explained the ruling to a pool reporter who did not get clarification about Cunningham making contact with the ball after he was out of bounds.

Said Corrente: “Looking at the review, he did not step out of bounds and started lunging toward the goal line (with both hands on the ball). As he was lunging toward the goal line, he lost the ball in his right hand first, probably, I’m going to guess, two feet maybe short of the pylon.

“As he got even closer, the left hand came off. We had to put together two different angles in order to see both hands losing the football. After he lost it the second time, it went right into the pylon. Which creates a touchback.”

In Blandino’s view, there wasn’t sufficient evidence to overturn the call on the field. And that’s what makes the decision so difficult for the Bears to swallow.

For the second time in as many games they were hurt by the result of a call that was overturned by video review.

Fox didn’t openly feel snakebit by the league’s video review process, saying the Bears create their own luck.

The head coach at least tempted fate by asking for the review. And, because officials ruled Cunningham fumbled in bounds, Fox technically won the challenge.

The Bears were not charged a time out.

Time may well be up for Bears coach John Fox, at least according to the Tribune’s David Waugh:

As defenses go, the one Bears coach John Fox offered Sunday at Soldier Field after the Bears’ 23-16 loss was as flimsy as the one he saw flailing all day against the Packers.

“In nine games, two of them we didn’t give ourselves a chance, but in seven games we’ve had the opportunity to win every single one of them,” Fox said. “The reality is, we are 3-6.”

The reality is, coaching makes the difference in close games, and the Bears’ sixth loss threatens to become the one history remembers as the point of no return for faith in Fox. In four futile, frustrating quarters against a beatable opponent at home, the Bears undid eight games’ worth of progress.

It was premature to speculate about Fox’s future around their open date because a respectable start put the Bears in position to realistically approach a .500 season. But those of us who considered the possibility of Fox saving his job with a strong second half now can concede the Bears looking so sloppy and unprepared after a weekend off make that unlikely. Dropping to 1-5 against the Packers will get the McCaskeys’ attention quicker than any other of Fox’s shortcomings. In other words, feel free to start jonesing for Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels or Googling Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich. Dave Toub anyone?

Save any cockeyed optimism about the Bears coming close or rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky making progress for another day, one perhaps when they weren’t outcoached and outplayed by a Packers team playing on short rest with backups at quarterback, running back, tight end and offensive tackle. This is what happens when a 3-5 team gets full of itself, fattened by what-ifs and maybes in a football city starved for success.

Opportunity knocked to see if the Bears wanted to save their season, and Fox left it standing on the front porch of possibility, ignored. So say hello again to Bears hostility, everybody. Any feel-good vibes that surrounded Halas Hall for the last month or so vanished, sometime between Fox’s ill-advised challenge and his defense’s poorly timed surrender. We could build a case for the bright side by examining the relative ease of the rest of the Bears schedule, but that would create the false impression that it matters. It doesn’t, not for a Bears team that committed 11 penalties in the first half (four were declined) and gained zero yards in the third quarter.

Sunday’s most memorable mistake came courtesy of Fox, who challenged a ruling that running back Benny Cunningham was out of bounds at the 2 as he dived for the pylon on a second-quarter run. Had Fox accepted the ruling without challenging, the Bears would have faced first-and-goal at the 2 and, in all likelihood, tied the game at 10. Instead, Fox threw the red flag. Replay officials in New York determined that Cunningham fumbled the ball into the end zone — resulting in a touchback that gave possession to the Packers. Officials should have placed the ball at the 20 wrapped in a bow.

In technically winning the challenge, Fox lost the benefit of the doubt in Chicago, probably for good. Fox took responsibility for the faux pas, the most egregious part being that nobody with the Bears had the presence of mind to consider a potential touchback.

“That wasn’t part of what we thought we would be the result,” Fox said. “Maybe you can see it after looking at it 50 times like some people are able to do.”

The Bears will be replaying this loss in their heads for a long time, especially defensive players who failed to back up so much big talk.

The Brett taking snaps for the Packers was Hundley, not Favre. Yet the quarterback making his third NFL start executed and improvised like a seasoned pro, completing 18 of 25 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown with a passer rating of 110.8. But the play that affected the outcome most — the one that may have signaled the beginning of the end for Fox — came on a 17-yard scramble on third-and-2 with 7:12 left and the Packers protecting a 16-13 lead. Rather than punt the ball back to the Bears, the Packers scored two plays later.

Hundley outplayed Trubisky, who showed improvement again by completing 21 of 35 for 297 yards but contributed to five sacks by holding the ball too long. A pretty 46-yard touchdown pass to Josh Bellamy showed nice touch, but other plays revealed a rookie uncomfortable in the pocket. Fox called it Trubisky’s best of his five starts, but it sounded like faint praise given how little confidence the coaching staff showed in the quarterback at two critical moments.

The first came on Cunningham’s fumble: Fox challenged instead of accepting first-and-goal from the 2, indicative of a coach fearing something bad could happen. The second example happened when the Bears called a quick screen for Kendall Wright for 4 yards on third-and-10 at the Packers’ 35 with 4:06 left, setting up Connor Barth‘s 49-yard field goal. Why not trust Trubisky to make a play downfield that might lead to a touchdown?

Will Fox regret this game most if the Bears change head coaches at the end of this season, an inevitability that apparently won’t affect him?

“I’ve been doing this too long,” Fox said. “I’ve never worried about my job security and I won’t start moving forward.”

After a disappointing Sunday, most fans would agree with Fox: He definitely has been doing this too long.

The Tribune’s Steve Rosenbloom agrees:

The Bears’ final regular-season game will be played Dec. 31, which means John Fox’s “Black Monday’’ should be Jan. 1. So, yeah, an early happy new year, Bears fans.

If the Bears really wanted to do this right, they’d send out “Save the Date’’ date cards.

The Bears should’ve fired Fox before he left the field after Sunday’s awful 23-16 loss to the evil, dreaded Packers, but they won’t fire their coach before the end of the season because they don’t do that. Eventually, however, they always fire their failed coach because that’s the best thing the Bears do. When the Bears whack Fox, we’ll point to this loss to the Packers the way we pointed to a Packers loss that forced the ultimate firing of Marc Trestman, addled in both NFL coaching chops and sound, same as Fox.

Fox’s Bears were favored over the Packers for the first time since 2008. They were supposed to have the best quarterback on the field in this rivalry for the first time in more than a generation. In the first two games with Brett Hundley replacing the injured Aaron Rodgers, the Packers never scored more than 17 points in losses to the Lions and Saintswhile allowing 56 points total. Fox’s Bears, nonetheless, allowed more points and failed to beat up the Packers’ weak defense the way actual teams did.

The Packers were coming off a short week following a division loss. It was all set up for the Bears, who had two weeks off in which to show they were smarter and healthier.

And splat. Face-plant. Piddled down their pant legs.

When Fox’s defense needed a stop, it failed to prevent a fourth-quarter, 75-yard drive, failed to stop obvious runs and then failed to stop Hundley from throwing a soul-killing TD pass, the Packers’ first passing TD since Rodgers went down almost a month ago.

Defense is what Fox’s Bears are supposed to do. Offense is the issue, and it still is. A week off didn’t make Fox’s offense much better. It gained zero — count ’em, zero — yards in the third quarter.

Rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky lofted a beautiful rainbow that produced a 46-yard TD, but he continued to show an inability to recognize a blitz and the subsequent open area. He also failed to realize when he had to throw away a ball to avoid a sack because the offensive line continue to show an inability to read a blitz. And he failed to recognize an open receiver on play-action.

But this was to be expected with a young quarterback. That’s why the decision to start Mike Glennon in September continues to make the Bears coaching look worse. Trubisky’s learning curve should’ve been further along.

Fox, though, can’t use the excuse of a young quarterback without pocket presence because the Packers had the same issue. The Packers found a way to win. Fox found a way to screw up. I mean, he screwed up so badly that he made Trestman look like Bill Belichick.

Benny Cunningham had just taken a screen pass 24 yards to the Packers 2. He was ruled out of bounds as he reached to hit the pylon with the ball. Fox challenged, and was embarrassed even for a guy known for bad game-day decisions in his 12-29 Bears career.

Replay officials ruled Cunningham in-bounds as he reached for the pylon and said he subsequently fumbled the ball out of bounds before he hit the pylon. Touchback, not a touchdown.

If the Bears don’t challenge, they have the ball at the Packers 2 with four chances to tie the score. But Fox apparently didn’t think his offense could get in, and so he pushed it. Oops. Suddenly, the Packers were starting at their own 20 with a seven-point lead in a game that the Bears would lose by seven.

The Bears offense false-started several times and had the center forget the snap count. They looked lost in the last two minutes of the first half. The Bears defense gave up 121 yards to the Packers’ second- and third-string running backs. They allowed Hundley to average a solid 8.48 yards per attempt and failed to intercept him. All of this came after the Bears had time off to practice things. Like football.

Or, worse, if they did practice and this was the result, then Fox shouldn’t be allowed to come back next week.

But he will. Because that’s what the Bears do.

And then he won’t come back in January. Because that’s also what the Bears do. The only thing the Bears do.

The Kittens

Tonight’s Packers opponent is cursed … by the Curse of Bobby Layne, a streak of unbelievable bad luck since the Lions traded away the NFL Hall of Fame quarterback:

The Humiliations

Almost immediately the curse took effect when Lion QB Tobin Rote was injured in practice days after the Bobby Layne trade and the defending champion Lions would finish 4-7 that year. …

If someone or something is truly cursed, no matter what they did, no matter how hard they try, something always keeps them from succeeding. Sometimes this bending of fate leaves behind an almost humorous bi-product that lingers long after the event. We decided to call these “humiliations” (rather than stench). Lets take a look at some of the most memorable ones.

Plum Did Dumb
1962

The Lions had been playing second fiddle to the Packers under Vince Lombardi and vowed to prove that they were superior to the Packers. It appeared that the Lions were on their way to defeating the Packers as they led 7-6 and had the ball at midfield with 1:46 to play. Lion Joe Schmidt instructed QB Milt Plum to continue eating time off the clock by running the ball. However Lion QB Milt Plum would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when he tried passing the ball. The Lion receiver Terry Barr fell down and the pass was intercepted by Packer Herb Adderly who returned the ball to the Lion 22 yard line. As the Lion defense came onto the field, Alex Karras was in a rage screaming obscenities at Plum. Paul Hornung kicked the game winning field goal with 33 seconds left and the Packers would go on to win the NFL Championship, finishing the season with only 1 loss, that being to the Detroit Lions when they had a rematch on Thanksgiving day. The 1962 Green Bay Packers would be remembered as one of the greatest teams of all time, outscoring opponents 415-148, yet had the Lions not passed the ball that fateful day and ran down the clock, it would have been the Lions playing for the Championship in 62. Joe Schmidt would never forget the pass call, calling it “dumbass” and a “blunder that could never be erased” and legend has it that Alex Karras threw his helmet at Plum after the game, calling him a “pipe smoking jerk”. As a further humiliation to the Lions that day, the water did not work in the visitors locker room and the Detroit players had to be ushered into the jubilant Packer locker room to shower down.

Schmidt Fined
1962
The Lions Hall of Famer and eventual coach Joe Schmidt and several Lion players were fined $2000 by Pete Rozelle for betting $50 on the 1962 championship game between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants. How powerful can this curse be to allow the NFL find out about a $50 dollar bet?

Karras Suspended
1963
Lion Pro Bowler Alex Karras and Green Bay Packer halfback Paul Hornung were suspended indefinitely for gambling. Alex Karras was also told to stay away from a bar called the Lindell Athletic Club (AKA Lindell AC) by Pete Rozelle who charged it was a center for illegal sports betting. In outright defiance, Karras bought shares in the bar and became bartender there during his suspension. One day, ex Green Bay tackle Richard Afflis (AKA Dick the Bruiser) wandered into the bar and challenged Karras to a wrestling match. Karras agreed and the two began hamming it up to promote the wrestling match. A patron mistook this as a real fight and broke a pool stick over “The Bruisers” head. A fight broke out seemingly everywhere resulting in one of the largest brawls in Detroit history. “The Bruiser” alledgedly broke some bones in a police officer and got a hefty fine. The fight caused national attention and the wrestling match proceeded with “The Bruiser” defeating Karras after Karras opened up a gash in “The Bruisers” forehead. Karras eventually got out of the bar business, apologized to the NFL, and was reinstated in 1964 after a year suspension.

Snowballed
1966
On the last game of a 4-9-1 season, head coach Harry Gilmer was pummelled by snowballs thrown from irate Detroit fans from the stands at Tiger Stadium. The fans then began chanting “bye bye Harry” as the snowball throwing continued. The Lions would go on to lose the game, 28 – 16 before the homecrowd. After the season, William Clay Ford fired his coach and hired ex Lion linebacker Joe Schmidt as new head coach.

63 Yard Field Goal
1970
The Saints had just replaced their coach and had only one win up to that point in the season. The Saints kicker was an anemic 5-15 up to that point in the season. They were not much more than an expansion team but they had the curse working for them when they lined up for the last play of the game. With the Lions winning by one point, Tom Dempsey kicked a 63 yard field goal, a record that still stands to this day. Tom Dempsey, was handicapped and born with only half a foot but with the help of the curse kicked 4 field goals against the Lions that day.

1st modern playoff game
1970
The first time the Lions returned to the playoffs after the Bobby Layne era was 1970. This ended a 13 year drought! 13 is not a good number especially when you already are cursed so who could have been shocked when the Lions lost to the Cowboys 5-0 in what is still the lowest scoring playoff game of all time.

Draft Fiasco
1974
Is it possible to trade your number 1 draft pick and not know it? The Lions did just that in 1974 when they traded Dave Thompson to the Saints for the Saint number one draft pick. They did not realize the deal was for Dave Thompson and their number one pick till they went to draft 13th overall and found out New Orleans had that position. It does not get much more embarrassing than this.

Bit the Dust
1980
The “Roar was Restored” for the first few games in 1980 when running back Billy Simms joined the club. After winning their first four games the Lions Jimmy “Spiderman” Allen did a musical version of the Queen song “Another one bites the Dust”. As the season progressed, the curse kicked in so strongly that the Lions did not even make the playoffs after their great start. Fans began singing their own lyrics to the song, “Another one beats our Butts” and once again the “Snore was Restored” for the Lions. …

Short Overtime
1980
First the Lions let the Bears score late to send the game into overtime, then they lose the toss and allow a 95 yard kick off return on the first play to end what was then the shortest overtime game ever – 21 seconds (now the record is 14 seconds, Jets over Buffalo in 2002) . Naturally the Lions performed this feat in front of their home crowd, something to tell the grandkids about for all who attended.

25 Year Drought
1982
Thanks to a strike shortened season, the Lions made the playoffs with a 4-5 record. They then lost to Washington 31-7 in the first round of the playoffs which marked the first time in a quarter century the Lions scored a point in a playoff game.

The Prayer
1983
Only a few years back the 49ers and Lions had been battling for the first pick in the draft, now several years later these two teams meet in San Francisco in the first round of the playoffs. With the 49ers holding a 1 point lead, the Lions lined up on the last play to kick a field goal that would win the game. Along the sidelines was the Lion coach Monte Clark praying that he succeed. The usually reliable Murray missed the field goal which would send the Lions and 49ers in different directions for the next 20 years.

Fontes Arraigned
1987
Defensive Coordinator Wayne Fontes is arrested and eventually arraigned in a Rochester Hills Courtroom on cocaine possession and two drunk driving charges. Wayne pleads not guilty and eventually is promoted to Head Coach.

Seeing Red
1987
I am guessing on this date, Coach Demers of the Red Wings was riding high in Detroit and his team was doing well. He did a commercial where a fan asked him for tickets, and he proceeds to give him some, but they are not to the event that fan wanted (such as theatre or ballet tickets). The point of the commercial was you don’t always get what you want or expect (I do not even remember the product he was peddling). Well one of the commercial showed the fan looking at his tickets with a real sour look on his face, exclaiming disappointedly, “The Lions”. After a couple weeks the commercial was pulled at the request of the Lions.

May Day
1988
Chuck Long only quarterbacked here for 23 games but perhaps the funniest example of futility in history happened during his reign as quarterback. Lions were leading 14- 12 with the ball on Detroits 12 yard line and 4th down coming up, the punting team came onto the field. However right before the ball was snapped, one of the Saints defensive players yelled “MayDay” which was the Lions receivers code word that the defense was not covering them and to fake the punt and do a pass play. Needless to say the punter (Jim Arnold) did not punt, but instead threw the ball to his receiver (rookie Carl Painter ) who had no idea it was coming and hit him on the back as he ran down field. The Lions lost the game 22- 14 but created one of the all time funniest moments in history.

Redskins Bitch
1992
The lions best post Bobby Layne era season had to be 1992 when they went 12 – 4 and made it to the NFC Championship game. However the season would end as all other seasons during the cursed years, poorly. Washington (who beat them 45-0 in the opening game of the season) defeated the Lions 41-10 in one of their worst playoff performances ever!

Lomas Guarantee
1995
Lomas Brown guarantee of victory turned ugly in Philadelphia when the Eagles scored 38 points in the first half (second most points scored in one half during a playoff game) and cruised to a 58-37 victory over the Lions in what many call the worst game of all time. Also, just to rub salt in the wound, discarded Lions quarterback Rodney Peete was the Philly QB that day!

Shared MVP
1997
In 1997 Barry Sanders rushed for an all time second best 2,053 yards. He carried the Lions on his back to get them into the playoffs and had 14 straight 100 yard rushing games. However he had to share the MVP with Brett Favre thanks to Curt Sylvester, a sports writer for the Detroit Free Press who decided to vote for Favre then had the nerve to write a column about it. I have not had a Free Press in the house since!

Barry Quits
1999
On the brink of eclipsing Walter Payton’s all-time NFL rushing record (currently held by E. Smith), Barry Sanders retired. His representative, David Ware, stated that Barry would sign a check returning his bonus money immediately of the Lions were to trade him. Sources close to Sanders stated several reasons for the retirement including the teams awful 5-11 performance the previous year. Sanders also did not believe the organization was committed to winning and allowed too many key veteran players (such as offensive linemen Lomas Brown, Kevin Glover and Zefross Moss) to depart as free agents. He also grew weary of Coach Bobby Ross and his “tempermental personality” which was in much contrast to Wayne Fontes, his earlier coach. Imagine how proud Lion fans must have been when one of the greatest talent in history is willing to pay millions not to play for you and would rather retire just 1,457 yards shy of Payton’s rushing mark than play another season as a Lion.

Fontes Sues
1999
The Lions have a history of coaches who never coach again in the NFL after leaving Detroit, however only one, Wayne Fontes actually sued for damages. Wayne set out to prove that due to injuries sustained while he was coaching the Lions that he has been unable to coach anymore. Magistrate John Hurbis was not impressed with Waynes evidence and put forth this statement “Fontes has failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he has a disability, which arose out of, and in the course of, his employment with the Detroit Lions”.

Moeller Contract
2000
A couple games after taking over for a “dejected” Bobby Ross, Coach Moeller was given a 3 year contract, then fired at the end of the season. Moeller had to be laughing all the way to the bank as he got paid for the next two years while his replacement, Mornhinweg, would only win 5 games and lose 27 during this same stretch. Despite the poor performance of the team during those two years, Mornhinweg was given a guarantee that his job was safe after the season. A month after getting his job guarantee, Mornhinweg was fired. Screwed up coaching deals like these would be the norm rather than the exception as Millen’s hiring practice of only interviewing one person would result in league fines and condemnation by minority leaders such as Jesse Jackson.

Belly flop
2001
The Lions were down by 3 and had the ball with 2:12 to play in the game when the Lions 370lb Aaron Gibson decided to do an ugly late hit by belly flopping on a Bengal player. The late hit created a 3rd and 28 situation in which Quarterback Charlie Batch threw an interception and the game was over. Gibson was pulled from the game immediately after the incident then released later on in the week. People to this day discuss which was the biggest flop for the first round draft pick, his career with the Lions or his belly flop on the field.

Kissing Ass
2001
The Lions 0-10 start caught the attention of Jay Leno making for some memorable monologues and skits. Each Monday my wife and I would snuggle by the TV and listen for the joke that we knew was certain to come. Sometimes the Lion fans would get in on the fun, displaying banners such as “This Isn’t Funny” on Thanksgiving to a national audience. Finally the Lions beat the Vikings and while leaving the field, Johnnie Morton exclaimed “Jay Leno can kiss my ass”. That Monday Jay brought in a live donkey and kissed the donkey while Johnnie Morton watched on a split screen in Detroit (He also said the Vikings were on suicide watch after losing to Detroit, the last jab at Detroit at least for that season).

Overtime Toss
2002
Everyone knows the value of winning the toss in a sudden death overtime game. On this November day, Lion coach Marty Mornhinweg won the overtime toss and elected to kick off. Needless to say the Lions never even got a chance to go on offense as the Bears scored on their first possession.

Road Losses
2001-2003
The Lions went 3 entire seasons without winning a road game, shattering the old record and adding another prized piece of tin to their collection. The streak ended at 24 when the Lions beat Chicago at Soldiers Field in 2004. With salary caps creating parity in the league it is very doubtful that another team will ever break this record.

Millen Mouth
2002/2003
Matt Millen released Johnny Morton after the 2001 season (Morton caught 77 passes for 1,154 yards that year). 2 years later (2003), the two reunited when Morton’s new team, the Kansas City Chiefs, beat the Lions in a “close” 45-17 blowout. After the game Morton told Millen to “kiss his ass” to which Millen replied “You faggot, yeah you heard me, you faggot!” Millen later apologized for his outburst. One year earlier (2002), Millen had insulted his own players by referring to one of them as a “devout coward” during a radio interview.

Turkey Days
2004/2005
Thanksgiving day is a tradition in Detroit as the Lions take center stage around the Nation and perform for all to see. The combined scores of the 2004 and 2005 Thanksgiving Day losses by Detroit are 16 -68 (52 point spread) which beats the 1966/67 previous Thanksgiving record also held by the Lions (51 point spread).

A Proud Moment
2005
Lion fans had to be proud of their team when television camera’s captured Lion security chasing an individual with a “fire Millen” sign throughout the stadium. Each time the fan eluded security the crowd would cheer. Occasionally the fan would pass the sign to other fans in a make shift form of keep away that must have really irked Ford Field security. Once the Fan was apprehended, the crowd began chanting “Fire Millen” to the obvious dismay of security. The incident would cause an uproar in the Detroit area and garnish National attention as the chant “Fire Millen” became the fans battle cry. “Fire Millen” chants were heard at Michigan State Basketball Games, Detroit Pistons Games, Detroit Red Wings Games and “Fire Millen Signs” have shown up on ESPN broadcast and Gil Thorp comic strips. Meanwhile “Keep Millen” signs would pop up wherever the Lions played on the road.

Millen Man March
2005
A local radio station organized an “Angry Fan March” at the last Lion home game of the 2005 season. The protesters were well organized and equiped with protest signs and orange shirts (the colors of the opposing team) and peacefully demonstrated and marched outside of Ford Field. One sign read “There are a Millen reasons why the Lions can’t win” and another sign read 20-57 (Millens record with the Lions at that time, in 2007 his record improved to 31 – 81, 50 games under 500).

Phantom Safety
2006
With the score tied mid fourth quarter, Green Bay was backed up at their 1 foot line. On the first play the ref’s called two penalties in the endzone on Green Bay and awarded Detroit a safety. Despite the fact that penalties are not reviewable, Green Bay threw a review flag. The Ref’s never even looked at the film and reversed their call giving Green Bay back the ball at the 1 foot line. The Lions would lose in overtime marking the 15th consecutive lost at Lambeau Field for them.

Billboard
2005
A local radio station (WDFN) held a contest where their listeners could send in their design that would be used on a public billboard. The winning entry was “Not This Millenium” with the words “Rebuilding since 1957” below it. The sign was up in time for Super Bowl 40 and became another proud monument to the curse.

Super Bowl XL
2006
Anyone who doubts the validity of the Curse would become a believer when the only Superbowl ever hosted by the city of Detroit was won by the team who Bobby Layne was traded to. Many might write this off to coincidence but those who know the truth of the curse know better. Many claimed they could hear ghostly laughter from the rafters as the Steelers were handed the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Thanks to Steve who reminded us in the Guestbook of this fact.

Americas Most Wanted
2006
Does it get any worse than when one of your past quarterbacks shows up on Americas Most Wanted? Jeff Komlo, ex Lion quarterback, was featured on the popular television show. Apparently the cops have been chasing him since May of 2005. Komlo tells a reporter that he can’t believe he is being lumped in with the criminals but still refuses to turn himself in at this time. Perhaps he feels his time with the Lions is punishment enough.

World Series
2006
The Tigers should have known better! After defeating the Yankees and sweeping the Athletics, they were heavy favorites to win the 2006 series against whoever came out of the NL. During a week layoff before the series, the Tigers practiced at the Lions Ford Field where the curse was waiting. The heavily favored Tigers would lose in 5 games to a less than stellar Cardinal team. Can an entire magical season be ended because a team practiced on the Lions home field for a couple days? Many say coincidence but anyone watching that series and all the pitcher thowing errors have to admit that something about the Tigers just wasn’t right.

Naked Coach
2006
Which is worse, a Lions assistant coach driving drunk? Or a Lions assistant coach driving naked? How about both! Believe it or not, Coach Joe Cullen pulled into a Wendy’s drive thru naked and ordered a meal. A week later the assistant coach was busted for drunk driving. The last time an active defensive coach got into this much trouble the Lions promoted him to head coach (Wayne Fontes, Cocaine and DUI charges)! Will history repeat?

Joey’s Revenge
2006
Just when we thought the Thanksgiving Day humiliations could not get any worse, Joey Harrington returns to Detroit and leads his new team (Miami Dolphins) to a brilliant 27-10 victory over the hapless Lions. After the game Joey was voted MVP of the game and told interviewers it was the most satisfying win in his career. The Lions traded Joey for a conditional draft pick, most likely a fifth rounder. Believe it or not, the Lions actually led in this game 10-0 in the first quarter, but would be shut out and completely bore the holiday audience for the last 3 quarters.

Kitna Prediction

2007

Before the start of the season John Kitna predicted the Lions would win 10 games. Kitna looked like a genius and many thought the curse was ending early as the Lions jumped out to a 6 win and 2 loss start! However the curse would kick in with a fury in the second half of the season where the Lions would win only 1 more game and not only miss the playoffs but end up under 500 and joined another infamous list (teams who started 6-2 and missed the playoffs). Lion Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz, hailed as an offensive genius, was fired as a result of the collapse, another victim of the curse.

Draft Pick Drafted
2008
Lions draft pick Caleb Campbell’s dream was to play for an NFL team. Unfortunately the curse likes nothing better than to shatter dreams so on the eve of Lion training camp, with helmet in hand and everything, the Army came a calling for this Lion draftpick who will have to serve 2 years in the military before being allowed to play pro sports. …

Lions First 08 Lead
2008
It looked like the curse was ending a couple weeks early as the Lions came roaring back from an early 21 – 0 deficit in their home opener and actually took their first lead of the season (25-24) with only 7:41 left to play. As the Detroit stadium erupted with applause, the curse kicked in so brutally that before the 2 minute warning would sound, the Lions would be down 48 to 25 thanks to 3 consecutive interceptions thrown by Detroit QB John Kitna.

Mike Martz Revenge
2008
After being fired as a scapegoat by the Detroit Lions, Mike Martz and ex Lion backup QB JT O’Sullivan soundly defeated the Lions 31-13 giving the Lions an 0-3 start after going undefeated in the pre-season. Detroits defense started each game going down 21-0, 21-0, and 21-3 respectively to 3 quarterbacks who had never started a game prior to this season. The awful start would lead to the firing of Matt Millen leaving him with an NFL record of 31-84 (10 more losses than any other NFL team over the same time frame). To fully appreciate the humiliation of this moment one has to remember that JT O’Sullivan was Lion QB John Kitna’s backup the prior year.

0 – 16
2008
The steady decline of the Lions over the past 50 years would result in the un-thinkable. In the final year of the curse, the Lions would go winless at 0-16, putting them in a category of their own and officially ending the reign of the Curse of Bobby Layne. It was at this time the Lions attempted their own quirk of fate to stop the curse, by drafting with the first pick of the first round a player from Bobby Laynes own High School-Matthew Stafford. Coincidence?

6 Straight Turkeys
2009
The curse seems to be continuing as the Lions continue to break and create new records. The latest is the longest losing streak during the Thanksgiving Day game. The Lions are currently 0-6 in the last six games, being outscored by double digits each time giving the Lions a total of 213-74 point spread. That means the average score on National TV for the last 6 Thanksgiving Day games has been 36-12. Can their be anything more humiliating than being the turkey on Thanksgiving each year?

The worst sports transaction in world history

The headline may be hyperbole (Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees? The Saints’ trading their entire draft pick collection to get Ricky Williams? The Vikings sending their future to Dallas for Herschel Walker?)

But if you’re making a list of bad pro sports player transactions, you must include the Packers’ infamous “Lawrence Welk” trade, made today in 1974, for quarterback John Hadl. The trade is known as the “Lawrence Welk” trade because, the joke goes, it took “a-one and-a-two and-a-three” in draft picks. The truth, however, is far worse — two first-round draft picks, two second-round picks and a third-round pick to the Rams.

Hadl was a good quarterback in the American Football League for the high-flying San Diego Chargers …

… before being traded to the Los Angeles Rams:

Packer fans who don’t remember this hideous decision (because the unconscious mind often blots out trauma) might well wonder what would possess someone to make that kind of trade. The answer is explained by Pete Jackel:

There was little time left on the morning of Oct. 22, 1974. The heat in Dan Devine’s Lambeau Field office had reached tropical levels and this had nothing to do with where his thermostat was set.

He had to do something before it was too late.

In his mind, he had no choice but to place that long-distance call to Los Angeles.

For more than three years as the Green Bay Packers’ coach, Devine had struggled to find a quarterback of the future. And on that Tuesday morning nearly 30 years ago, Devine’s own future in Green Bay was never more imperiled as this quarterback subplot intensified to new heights.

Devine’s Packers, who had followed up a miraculous 10-4 record in 1972 with a 5-7-2 disappointment in ’73, were in serious trouble. The night before, a Watergate-weary nation had witnessed the listless Packers slump to 3-3 following a 10-9 loss to the Chicago Bears in a Monday night game at Soldier Field.

More distressingly, it had become obvious that Jerry Tagge, Devine’s hand-picked quarterback of the future for the Packers – Tagge was drafted in the first round in 1972 -Ê was never going to succeed. The kid who had led Nebraska to back-to-back national championships in 1970 and ’71 simply could not translate his limited passing skills to the NFL level.

And Devine, who doubled as general manager, no longer could afford to stay with a quarterback who had led the Packers to just three touchdowns in the previous 17 quarters. Not with a 19-22-4 record in Devine’s three-plus seasons in Green Bay.

The heat was on.

“I can’t say I saw him being panicky, but I feel he probably was about that time,” said Packers historian Lee Remmel, who was in his first year as public relations director for the team in 1974. “Things were going badly and they got worse.”

Had circumstances played out differently, the immensely talented Archie Manning, the No. 2 overall selection in the 1971 draft who had fallen out of favor with the pathetic New Orleans Saints, might have been Devine’s savior. Devine had apparently agreed to a tentative trade the previous week to bring the then 25-year-old Manning to Green Bay, but fate intervened.

On the afternoon of Oct. 20, Bobby Scott -Manning’s projected successor with the Saints – had gone down with a knee injury in a game against the Falcons at Atlanta and was lost indefinitely. The Saints had no choice but to go back to Manning, killing the deal with Green Bay and drastically altering history.

“We were playing in Atlanta and Scotty got hurt and that kind of nixed it,” Manning said. “I was in the middle of all that trade stuff. I had heard it was Green Bay. I was being shopped and I remember there were several things going on with the Giants, 49ers, Packers, Saints and Rams.”

Devine also had held discussions with Gil Brandt, then the player personnel director of the Dallas Cowboys, about 31-year-old Craig Morton. But Morton had mostly been a backup to first Don Meredith and then Roger Staubach since entering the league in 1965 and Devine desperately wanted an established starter.

This lingering issue just had to be resolved once and for all.

Scott Hunter hadn’t worked out as the Packers’ quarterback. Neither had Jim Del Gaizo, for whom Devine had been panicked into squandering two No. 2 draft picks to the Miami Dolphins in 1973. And Tagge, who finished 1974 with one touchdown pass and 10 interceptions, was a bust, too.

Enough was enough.

So on the morning of Oct. 22, 1974, a desperate Devine placed that call to Los Angeles.

And then he mortgaged a franchise’s future, paying the staggering price of two No. 1 draft choices, two No. 2 picks and a No. 3 to the Rams for John Hadl.

As great as Hadl had been, he was 34 years old. And regardless of Hadl’s credentials, there’s no way anyone other than Devine could justify paying that price for a quarterback who was clearly in the twilight of his career.

It was a panic-inspired trade that stirred a buzz through the National Football League that persisted for weeks.

“It was one of those things where you couldn’t believe anybody would do that,” said Ron Wolf, then general manager of the Oakland Raiders.

“It was a hard trade for me to understand,” Brandt said. “It was not a good trade for them (the Packers).

“What happens is, people make a trade because they feel that trade can maybe get them into the playoffs or win a championship for them. But I remember there were a lot of people who said, `I can’t believe that Green Bay gave up that much for a 35-year-old quarterback.’ ”

And to this day, the lop-sided nature of that trade lingers in Green Bay.

“It was the worst trade in Packers history, without a doubt, and one of the worst in pro football history,” Remmel said. “That trade deprived us of two No. 1 picks, two No. 2s and a No. 3. It was pretty hard for his successor, Bart Starr, to rebuild the football team without those premium draft choices.”

The trade was made with the Rams, and Jackel provides an interesting detail:

Playing mostly during an era when rules made life so much more difficult for quarterbacks, Hadl passed for 33,503 yards and 244 touchdowns in a career that lasted from 1962-77. His primary receiver during his years with the San Diego Chargers was Lance Alworth, who was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1978.

While with the Chargers from 1962-72, Hadl developed into one of the great quarterbacks of the old American Football League. Five times he played in the Pro Bowl as a member of the Chargers. And a man who was one of the last NFL quarterbacks to wear a number higher than 19 (Hadl wore No. 21) passed for more than 3,000 yards in a season three times and threw for 20 or more touchdowns in a season six times while with San Diego.

Furthermore, the guy was indestructible, never missing a game during his 16-year career because of an injury. …

By 1973, though, Hadl was in need of a change of scenery. At least in part because of his difficult relationship with Chargers offensive coordinator Bob Schnelker – who went on to hold the same position with the Packers under Starr -ÊHadl was traded to the Rams for defensive end Coy Bacon and journeyman running back Bob Thomas prior to the 1973 season.

Bacon and Hadl were both coming off Pro Bowl seasons at the time. It would be the last time a trade involving players who had appeared in the Pro Bowl the previous season was consummated in the NFL until this year, when the Washington Redskins traded cornerback Champ Bailey to the Denver Broncos for running back Clinton Portis.

In what proved to be his only full season with the Rams, Hadl was clearly revitalized. Surrounded by talent that included wide receiver Harold Jackson and running backs Lawrence McCutcheon and Jim Bertelsen, Hadl earned NFC Most Valuable Player honors after passing for 2,008 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Behind Hadl, the Rams improved from 6-7-1 in 1972 to 12-2 in ’73. It appeared the Rams, under first-year coach Chuck Knox, were entering a prosperous new era with Hadl at the controls.

“He meant everything to us that year,” Knox said. “He was the Most Valuable Player offensively in the National Football League that year. The Rams had won very few games the year before and then we went 12-2. We lost two games that year with John Hadl at quarterback. We got beat by Minnesota 10-9 and we lost a tough game in Atlanta 15-13 when (Nick) Mike-Mayer kicked five field goals on us and we had a touchdown for an interception called back.

“John Hadl was an inspiration. He was a great player and he was just everything you could want in a quarterback and a person.”

But the magic didn’t last. Hadl seemed to be missing something in 1974, when the Rams lost two of their first five games. When he completed just six of 16 passes for 59 yards during a 17-6 loss to the Packers on a rain-swept day at Milwaukee County Stadium Oct. 13, Hadl was benched in favor of James Harris.

Nine days later, Hadl would become a Packer.

I remember the trade, though I do not remember Hadl’s playing against the Packers just before he played for the Packers.

The trade gave the Rams three first-round draft picks, which they used to draft three players who were Rams for a long time — defensive tackle Mike Fanning, offensive guard Dennis Harrah and offensive tackle Doug France.

Meanwhile, the late Don Klosterman, the Rams’ general manager, was giddy over his windfall from a desperate coach.

“Green Bay came to us with an offer you can’t refuse,” Klosterman said. “As Carroll Rosenbloom (the Rams owner at the time) has always said, we strive for continuity. The draft choices leave us in excellent shape.”

While Klosterman and Rosenbloom are no longer around to speak of the trade from a historical context, Knox remembers it as one that the Rams simply couldn’t pass up.

“They had a football coach there (Devine) who also had control of personnel,” Knox said. “He could make trades or whatever and he didn’t have to go through a lot of people. So he wanted a quarterback very badly and Carroll Rosenbloom and Don Klosterman decided that we would be able to get along – we had a very good football team. We had James Harris and (Ron) Jaworski and quarterbacks like that.

“So we decided that two ones, two twos and a three, that’s probably one of the greatest trades made in the history of the National Football League. We got some good football players out of that mix and, in five years there, we won 54, lost 15, tied one and won a divisional title five straight years.”

As for the 1974 Packers, well …

With Jack Concannon serving as stopgap quarterback as Hadl learned a new offense with the greatest of urgency, the Packers lost two more games to drop to 3-5, three games behind the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Central Division. When Hadl finally made his first start for the Packers Nov. 10 against the Bears at Milwaukee County Stadium, the division race was all but over.

Under Hadl’s guidance, the Packers surged to three straight victories, but then lost their last three to finish 6-8. There was only so much Hadl could do with pedestrian receivers the likes of Barry Smith and Jon Staggers, with a rapidly fading John Brockington (who averaged just 3.3 yards per carry that season) lining up behind him.

During his abbreviated season with the Packers, Hadl completed 89 of 184 passes for 1,072 yards, with just three touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Devine’s mistake was this: He greatly overestimated the talent that would surround Hadl when he pulled the trigger on the trade. That reality was underscored by the fact the Packers would have just two winning seasons (1978 and ’82) between the time Devine left Green Bay in 1974 and Mike Holmgren arrived in 1992.

As for Hadl and Devine, well …

Devine’s desperation move had failed. This partnership between Devine and Hadl had lasted just 54 days. …

“Let me tell you this one,” Hadl said. “He was getting blown out in Green Bay and we were down in Atlanta for the last game and it was raining about a foot a second. Anyway, the game is over, we go in and I say, `Coach, I’m sorry this thing didn’t work out.’

“He said, `John, don’t worry about me. They’re going to announce me as the head Notre Dame coach tomorrow.’ I couldn’t believe that. He knew that before that game was over!’ “

Then came Bart Starr to replace Devine as coach and general manager:

Going into the 1975 season, there was reason to believe the old Hadl might re-emerge. Starr had been hired to replace Devine and it was a reasonable assumption that two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history would combine to comprise an ultimate braintrust. …

Nothing, though, not the arrival of Starr and not the return of No. 21, could salvage this season. The reality was, the 1975 Packers almost had expansion-team talent with players on offense the likes Pat Matson, Keith Wortman and the over-the-hill Ernie McMillan, Bruce Van Dyke and Brockington.

Gale Gillingham, one of the greatest guards in NFL history, was so disgusted with the team’s offensive direction that he sat out the 1975 season after Starr refused to trade demand. And Hadl, playing behind a makeshift line, was left to run for his life most of the season as he tried to pass to his new receivers, Ken Payne and Steve Odom.

“They were nice guys, but they just weren’t NFL caliber, most of them,” Hadl said. “We had Kenny Payne, who was a real tough kid. He was pretty good. Odom was fast. But there was the time factor throwing the ball. We didn’t have a lot of time, so we had to adjust our routes a little bit and get rid of it a little bit quicker.”

It was an unmitigated disaster. The Packers, losing eight of their first nine games, finished 4-10. And Hadl, playing his only full season in Green Bay, completed 191 of 353 passes for 2,095 yards, but with just six touchdowns and 21 interceptions.

Meanwhile, there was no help on the way. They had not drafted until the 47th pick in 1975. And if Starr had not traded future Hall-of-Fame linebacker Ted Hendricks to the Oakland Raiders for a first-round choice, the Packers wouldn’t have made their first selection in 1976 until the 72nd pick.

Had Devine not panicked into overpaying for Hadl, the Packers would have been in position to draft such quality players as Dennis Harrah, Russ Francis, Louie Wright, Tom “Hollywood” Henderson, Fred Dean and Doug English.

Instead, what Devine left behind was utter chaos.

Ironically, during a time when Starr was trying to build something out of so little, Devine, who never could find a quarterback in Green Bay, found one at Notre Dame.

Maybe you heard of him. His name was Joe Montana.

Starr had to clean up Devine’s mess by trading Hadl, former All-Pro cornerback Ken Ellis and two draft picks to Houston to get quarterback Lynn Dickey, which meant that Hadl cost five draft picks to acquire and a player and two more draft picks to get rid of him. One wonders how often Starr must have asked himself why he agreed to take the job without an available first-round draft pick for his first two seasons, though as with Devine and other Packer GM/coaches, Starr’s draft record wasn’t the greatest.

Dickey joined the Packers in 1976, then missed part of the 1977, all of the 1978, and part of the 1979 seasons after suffering a broken leg. Dickey didn’t play a complete season until 1980, though he was one o the NFL’s better quarterbacks of the early 1980s, once he had some actual talent around him.

If new quarterback Brett Hundley doesn’t play well today, there will be great clamor to pick up a quarterback this week, since the Packers have a bye week. Be careful what you wish for.

 

After Rodgers

One week ago, Packer fans were flying high after the dramatic 35–31 win over Dallas that showed how great a quarterback Aaron Rodgers is.

That point was proven again, inadvertently, by the Packers 23–10 loss to Minnesota Sunday. The far bigger loss was Rodgers’ season-ending injury, the second broken collarbone in his career. This one is far worse, though, because while Rodgers was able to come back before the end of the 2013 season after his left collarbone injury …

… this injury will undoubtedly end Rodgers’ season, and, given that Tony Romo’s collarbone break moved him to the broadcast booth, could end Rodgers’ career.

Readers will be happy to know I stoked the speculation about who would replace Rodgers, such as …

  1. Romo. (He grew up a Packer fan in East Troy.)
  2. Colin Kaepernick. (He also is from Wisconsin, though suing your employer for collusion when no team wants to sign a subpar quarterback who also is more trouble than he’s worth off the field makes him unlikely to wear the green and gold. Besides that, the Dolphins lost their starting quarterback for the season, Ryan Tannehill, and signed Jay Cutler instead of Kaepernick.
  3. Brett Favre. (He’s 48, and while George Blanda played until he was 48, Blanda was a kicker the last few seasons of his career.)
  4. Other former Packer quarterbacks, who are either far too old (Lynn Dickey) or were Quarterbacks in Name Only (Green Bay native Jerry Tagge, Scott Hunter, Jim Del Gaizo, and others from the Gory Years), plus former UW quarterback Joel Stave, who is not currently employed by the NFL.

The only suggestion that had any chance of occurring, at least as of now, was, or is, possibly acquiring Tayvon Hill from the Saints. Hill looked good in training camp, but the Packers weren’t able to cut Hill and then sign him to the practice squad because the Saints (perhaps ironically, Sunday’s opponent) signed him away.

One of this blog’s political maxims is that doing nothing, policy-wise, is better than doing the wrong thing. That is true more often than not with acquiring quarterbacks. The number of pickups that work out (Y.A Tittle to the Giants, Ron Jaworski to Philadelphia, Jim Plunkett to the Raiders, Doug Williams to Washington, Trent Dilfer to the Ravens, Brad Johnson to Tampa Bay, Carson Palmer to Arizona, Peyton Manning to Denver) are dwarfed by those that do not (Bobby Layne to Pittsburgh, Fran Tarkenton to the Giants, Joe Namath to the Rams, Bert Jones to the Rams, Jim McMahon to the Eagles and Vikings, Jay Cutler to Da Bears, Carson Palmer to Oakland, Jeff George to anywhere, and one particularly bad acquisition whose anniversary is Sunday). And every single listed acquisition that worked took place in the offseason, not in the middle of the season.

Backup Brett Hundley, who didn’t look good at all after Rodgers’ injury, will start against New Orleans Sunday. The Saints rank 20th in pass yards given up, but eighth in run yards given up, which is bad news for a team that probably would like to run the ball and take some pressure off their new starter. The Saints are 21st in scoring defense, but given that they appear to be better on run defense than pass defense, the Packers are probably going to have to beat them through the air with their new quarterback.

The upside is that it’s much, much harder for quarterbacks to come into a game and play well. Well, everyone except for …

I could watch this 100 times and still be entertained by (1) Favre’s pass to Sterling Sharpe, which occurred despite Sharpe’s rib injury; (2) Favre’s perfect touchdown pass to Kittrick Taylor, Sharpe’s replacement who the announcers didn’t know; and (3) Chris Jacke’s extra point that occurred despite his holder, Favre, not holding on to the football.

That clip doesn’t show how Favre’s day began, with five quarterback sacks and three lost fumbles. The Packers had more fumbles (seven) than points (three) in the first three quarters, and a comeback seemed so unlikely that radio announcer Jim Irwin was laughing when he pointed out before the Packers’ final drive that the Packers could win with a touchdown and an extra point.

Though this doesn’t help …

… it’s easier to prepare for a game when you have all week to prepare for a game, instead of a minute or so.

So what will the Packers do Sunday? Former Packers defensive back Matt Bowen:

Gone is the security blanket of the league’s best player. I’m talking about that comfort level for not only the Green Bay offense, but also those guys who play defense and cover kicks for a living. And they will also question how, or if, their roles will be impacted moving forward.

Remember, Rodgers could create instant magic. That’s something you can’t replace. And in those first 24 hours after the injury, the emotions of the team ride all over the place. Up, down, sideways. Once the squad gets through that period, however, the coaching staff can start to revive hope. …

The job of McCarthy now is to develop a custom call sheet that fits Hundley, one that will maximize his ability within the core offense and also hide his weaknesses. The staff can’t ask him to play like Rodgers. And it starts by sitting down with the quarterback to identify the concepts that make him comfortable.

What does Hundley like, and what does he want thrown in the trash? And break it down by field position and game situation. Ask him for his favorite red zone routes, the deep ball shots he loves or play-action concepts he can execute. And don’t forget about the quick game. Throw slant-flat, curl-flat. And get the ball out.

From there, it’s about packaging those concepts with the complete game plan. McCarthy doesn’t want his young quarterback to throw the ball 40 times a game, so we should expect a more balanced call sheet. Run the rock with Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones. And commit to it.

But also show more spread looks, sprinkle in the run-pass options to create open windows and call for some QB-designed runs. He brings another dimension to the offense with his athleticism that can generate some stress for opposing defenses. And that includes movement passes.

The Packers can widen the field and get away from those static formations by using shift/motions. Force the defense to declare coverage (zone or man) and give Hundley the exact matchup he wants. With the arm strength to push the ball outside of the numbers and attack the deep middle of the field, Green Bay can mix alignments to create some big-play opportunities.

In a way, the Packers can expand a bit from a play-calling perspective. And they can do that without limiting Hundley. Forget about reducing the call sheet or being conservative with the No. 2 under center. This is an opportunity for McCarthy to be aggressive while massaging that game plan to fit Hundley.

Hundley is the guy for at least the next 10 games and into January, if the Packers extend the season into the playoffs. Yes, McCarthy promoted Joe Callahan from the practice squad, but he is adamant that he’s rolling with Hundley. The former UCLA star is his new No. 1.

Now, the Packers have to help Hundley succeed. Again, he’s not going to be Rodgers. No one is. But with a loaded group of Jordy NelsonDavante Adamsand Randall Cobb at wide receiver, the big body of Martellus Bennett in the middle of the field and a run game that can provide real balance, Hundley is in a pretty good spot. And even with the slight transition period, Hundley can give the Packers a chance to compete in a wide-open division.

Remember: Matthew Stafford is banged up in Detroit. Sam Bradford has taken only 89 total snaps for the Vikings. And the Bears are playing rookie Mitchell Trubisky. Hundley and the Packers are a threat in the NFC North.

I am pretty sure Sunday is going to be Hundley’s audition. If he doesn’t play well, with the bye week coming up next week, there will be intense pressure on the Packers to get another quarterback, or fans will rightly conclude that the Packers are throwing in the towel on the season, despite their already having won more games than I had figured to this point. (I had them losing to Seattle and Dallas on the way to a 11–5 season.)

 

%d bloggers like this: