Category: Packers

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

For the second consecutive season the Packers play in the NFC Championship, this time at home against Tampa Bay.

The weather may cooperate …

… but whether or not it does, getting to the most pressure packed game of the season for the second consecutive season is quite an accomplishment for coach Matt LaFleur.

Matt Wadleigh:

When the Green Bay Packers decided to part ways with longtime head coach Mike McCarthy, they knew the next hire had to be huge. After all, McCarthy brought a Lombardi Trophy back to Green Bay and had the Packers competitive year in and year out.

The Packers hired Matt LaFleur to replace McCarthy, and he has taken this team to new heights in just his second season after spending time as the offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams and Tennessee Titans. He has the most wins in franchise history through the first two seasons and has led the Packers to back-to-back NFC North titles.

Yes, LaFleur has more wins in his first two seasons than Packers legends Vince Lombardi, Mike McCarthy, and Mike Holmgren, just to name a few.

Lambeau Field is now home to the NFC Championship Game, and Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams have been playing at an all-time high level, with Rodgers the favorite to win MVP. The Packers’ defense has been solid, and Aaron Jones rushed for more than 1,000 yards for the second straight season. Green Bay’s offense is in the top five in both total offense as well as points scored, and the relationship between LaFleur and Rodgers has been incredible.

Questions initially swirled regarding the offense when LaFleur was brought in as head coach, but Rodgers insisted he wasn’t going to change his grasp of changing the offense on the go like he did year after year under McCarthy. As it turns out, LaFleur and Rodgers have worked together without blemish, even more so this season after the Packers selected quarterback Jordan Love in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Aaron Rodgers responded to the Love selection with arguably the best season of his careerand he deserves MVP. LaFleur commended Rodgers’ ability to change the play on the fly earlier in the season:

“He definitely has free rein,” LaFleur said. “So, if he sees something and can get us out of a bad play, yeah, he will get us out of a bad play. And he’s done a great job of it,” per Michael Silver of NFL.com.

It’s no secret that LaFleur has turned around this Packers team in his short time in Green Bay, and putting full trust in a Hall of Fame quarterback has a lot to do with it.

LaFleur’s team is preparing for their second consecutive conference title game, and with the home-field advantage this time around and a few thousand fans in the stands, it’s theirs for the taking. While Tom Brady is never an easy opponent, the Packers are still sour about their 38-10 embarrassment to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in October.

However, LaFleur and the Packers aren’t thinking about that game in October:

“I think our team has come a long way from that day, but everything’s just words at this point,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Monday. “You’ve got to go out there and you’ve got to have a great week of preparation and you’ve got to go earn it on the field. So that’ll be our mindset and that’s how we’ll approach it,” per FOX Sports.

The Packers got off to a 10-0 start in that game against Tampa Bay, but the Buccaneers shut down Rodgers and company for the remainder of the game. Don’t expect that to happen this time around.

The stakes are at an all-time high for both teams, and Green Bay will have the benefit of home field on Sunday. Will the Packers reach the Super Bowl in just their second season with LaFleur, or will Brady reach yet another Super Bowl?

Whatever happens, LaFleur needs to be commended for getting the most out of Aaron Rodgers even at his advanced age. It was clear the Rodgers-McCarthy relationship had run its course, and the future Hall of Famer is rejuvenated under Matt LaFleur.

This seems not entirely accurate. McCarthy’s last days were more a case of players no longer listening to him, possibly including Rodgers, than the specific coach–quarterback relationship. It also was analogous to when the Packers hired Ron Wolf while Lindy Infante was still the head coach and Ted Thompson (who died Wednesday) when Mike Sherman was still the head coach. McCarthy had to know the writing was likely on the wall when Brian Gutekunst, who did not hire McCarthy, took over as general manager. And as happened to Infante and Sherman, McCarthy became the victim to some extent of the subpar work of his previous general manager. (Which, you’ll remember, in Sherman’s case was Sherman.)

On the other hand, McCarthy has not been a roaring success in Big D, but LaFleur has been so far. (McCarthy might be able to blame some of that on his current general manager, who mistakenly doubles as his team’s owner.) To paraphrase Bill Parcells, you are what your record says you are.

An interesting take comes from Nick Angstadt:

The Green Bay Packers have been the NFL’s best team for a large part of the season. They showed just that this weekend against the Los Angeles Rams by staying true to their offensive plan.

On the daily Locked On Packers podcast, Peter Bukowski shared why the Packers were able to operate so successfully on offense. In his opinion, it’s the same reason Daniel Day-Lewis is such a good actor.

Bukowski: What I absolutely loved is everything that they (the Packers) did, they did in character. They did not say that the Rams do X, Y, and Z, so we are going to counter with this. They just played their game. They stuck with the RPOs. Devonte Adams said after the game that most of the runs were called runs. They felt like they had an advantage.

Aaron Jones said during the week that they felt like they could run on these guys and guess what, not only did they run on them, but they also dominated on the ground. Every third and short, it felt like Green Bay could pick it up because they could get two yards. They could get two yards on the ground, or three yards or four yards, at will. That is what they did. That is why Green Bay finished the game eight of 12 on third down because they were in so many advantageous third-down situations. You get something going a little bit on first down, you run, and you get four yards. Okay, now it is second and six and the whole playbook is open to you. You could throw it, you could run it and if you do run it, you are going to get four or five yards and now it is third and short and the whole playbook is open to you. The Packers stayed in-phase the entire game.

What other coach was famous for sticking to his game plan and not worrying about what the opposition would do? Vince Lombardi.

Andrew Beaton reveals something unusual:

In the tensest moment of the Green Bay Packers’ season, they had a three-point lead against the New Orleans Saints with two minutes left and the ball just inches away from the end zone. Then Aaron Rodgers did something that separates him from every other quarterback in the NFL.

Rodgers threw a 1-yard touchdown pass.

It sounds so simple. It’s also unusual. Rodgers’s aggressiveness passing the ball when he’s so close to the end zone, as opposed to handing it off, is unlike any other quarterback in football. It’s one of the critical reasons why the Packers are the No. 1 seed in the NFC and Rodgers’s career has undergone a resurgence at age 37.

The Packers went 13-3 this season, led the league in points and earned the right to watch the first week of the playoffs from the couch. They play the Rams in the divisional round in a matchup between the NFL’s top offense (Green Bay) and top defense (Los Angeles). The Packers are led by Rodgers, a heavy favorite to win MVP who commands an offense, cooked up by second-year coach Matt LaFleur, that behaves differently than every other one in the NFL.

Their extreme pass heaviness near the end zone—and Rodgers’s unmatched ability to do it successfully—explains how he threw for a league-high 48 touchdowns. His extraordinary production in these spots is the key reason why Green Bay scored on 80% of its red zone drives inside the 20—the highest rate for any team in at least three decades, according to Stats LLC.

“There’s been a lot of schematic touchdowns this year where I didn’t really have to do a whole lot except make sure I don’t screw up the throw,” Rodgers said last week.

Analytics experts have for years grown hoarse pleading with teams to throw the ball more often. It doesn’t take fancy metrics to understand that the average passing play gains more yards than the average running play or that modern offenses are throwing the ball more efficiently than ever. But the question teams have to philosophically answer isn’t as binary as run or pass. It’s also when and where.

The where makes Rodgers an extreme outlier.

There’s only one place in the NFL where offensive philosophies approach near uniformity: the parcels of grass closest to the end zone. Teams ran 441 plays from the 1-yard line this season. There were seven field goals, and of the 434 other plays 74.9% were runs. All but one team called more running plays than passing plays in these situations. The lone exception: the Packers.

Even Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, one of the most pass-heavy teams in the league in normal situations, ran the ball more than they passed it from the 1-yard line. Four teams never passed the ball from there all season. Those four teams—the Eagles, Jaguars, Panthers and Jets—also happen to all be picking in the top eight of the draft.

Green Bay placed the ball in Rodgers’s hands in the exact situation when every other team usually takes it away from its quarterback. He threw eight touchdowns from this spot on the field—twice as many as any other quarterback in the NFL. Thirteen of the 20 offensive plays the Packers ran from the 1-yard line, or 65%, were passes. They threw the ball almost as much as the rest of the league ran it.

Even as you inch farther out, Rodgers’s play is unlike his peers. Inside the 10-yard-line, he completed 39 passes. That is eight more than the next closest quarterback, Tom Brady, even though Brady actually attempted two more throws.

Rodgers’s success in these situations isn’t just a matter of play calling. It’s execution, too. He completed 81.3% of his passes inside the 10. The only two other starting quarterbacks above 70%, Drew Brees and Carson Wentz, attempted fewer of these passes, combined, than Rodgers.

It’s a remarkable blend of volume and efficiency for one other reason. Quarterbacks are supposed to be less accurate on this part of the field. Their receivers have less space to run, and they have to fit the ball in tighter windows. While passers completed 65.2% of their throws this season—the highest rate ever—they only connected 55.7% inside the 10. Rodgers, who completed a league-high 70.7% of the time in 2020, completed 81.3% of his passes inside the 10. He was even more accurate than he usually is on this area of the field, while other quarterbacks are less so.

LaFleur says it starts with the plan the team has for this part of the field, adding that it’s made possible when “you have a quarterback, that without a doubt in my mind is the MVP, directing you down there and being able to make quick decisions.”

That decision making is paramount in an offense like Green Bay’s that so often deploys run-pass option plays. Those calls mean Rodgers has to make a near-instantaneous choice after the snap on whether to throw or hand it off—and he has thrived by throwing more than anyone else when he’s so near the end zone.

It also helped that he has the NFL’s premier receiving threat, especially in these situations. Davante Adams led the NFL with 18 touchdown catches. Three of those were one-yard hauls. Thirteen of them came inside the 10. Adams’s 20 targets inside the 10 were the most since Randy Moss in 2002.

It produced a stunning transformation because Rodgers, who was previously MVP in 2011 and 2014, had stopped playing like one in recent years. From 2017 to 2019, Green Bay’s offense ranked no higher than 14th in the NFL in points per game. Even when the team made the NFC Championship game a year ago, it ranked 15th. His 48 touchdown passes this year were just three fewer than the prior two years combined.

The combination of his age and diminishing play were enough of a red flag that the Packers used their first round pick in the last NFL draft on a quarterback, Jordan Love.

Rodgers responded by tightening his grip on his job instead of loosening it—and again making Green Bay the place no other team wants to play in January.

Must-read for Saturday

Packers tight end Robert Tonyan:

Let me just say right off the bat: This isn’t a typical thing for me.

I’m not ordinarily someone who does a ton of talking or opens up about himself for the whole world to read. But this season has been special — and meaningful to me. I felt it was the perfect time to share a little bit of myself and give our amazing fans an inside look into this incredible team and organization.

Before I dig in and talk about what makes us tick, and the playoff journey we’re about to undertake, I’ve got a little story for you.

Flash back to three years ago. First week of December, 2017.

I’d just signed on with the Pack’s practice squad after having gone undrafted as a receiver out of Indiana State and being cut by the Lions in preseason. It’s my first day on the job, new guy in Green Bay, low man on the totem pole.

So I get to the facility early, check in, and immediately — like as soon as I get there — the quarterback comes right up to me and shakes my hand.

“Hey, I’m Aaron. Welcome!”

For a split-second it was like, Whoa! But I hold it together and manage to get out something basic like: “Hi, I’m Robert. Really excited to be here.”

And Aaron, he’s just being totally on-point and welcoming, but the funny thing is, for whatever reason, right off the bat.…

I notice that he’s calling me “Bobby.”

It’s like he’s known me for years and that’s just what he calls me. Like we were buds from middle school and that’s what he knows me as.

Which is cool, obviously. But at the same time, it’s kinda throwing me for a loop because … no one has called me Bobby since, I don’t know … kindergarten? First grade? Next thing I know he’s introducing me to people as Bobby.

And, I mean … I’m just rolling with it. Right? Like of course. Lettin’ it ride. Just sitting there smiling and nodding away like, I’ll be Bobby … why not.

So anyway we get out onto the practice field and, like clockwork, as soon as things ramp up and we get ready to go, it starts snowing.

And it’s one of those perfect winter snowfall deals, too. It’s like something out of a movie. Lambeau in the background, snow coming down, a crisp chill in the air. It’s just perfect. I look around and take it all in and just kind of think to myself: Well, it couldn’t get much better than this.

But then … it does.

I’m on the scout team, and we’re getting set to do red zone stuff, and it turns out on that particular day, get this … first set of downs, guess who comes jogging into the huddle?

“What’s up, Bobby? Let’s go score some points, what d’ya think?”

Unreal.

Aaron was in the process of rehabbing the collarbone injury he’d suffered against the Vikings earlier that season, and he was working his way back when I came to Green Bay. So now … that’s my scout team QB.

Aaron frickin’ Rodgers.

Not too shabby, right?

And, to top it off, dude ended up throwing me three touchdown passes that day, too. Perfect passes. Textbook throws.

It was definitely one of the coolest days of my life.

But then, at the same time, it was also like … I guess Bobby it is!

Looking back on it, it really does seem to me like maybe Aaron saw something in me that day because from then on he’s held me to an extremely high standard. He wouldn’t let even the tiniest mistakes slide. He’d explain things to me and coach me up, but he’d also get legit mad when I screwed up.

And to me, I always took that as such a compliment. It was like, Hey man, this guy really cares about you and wants you to reach your full potential.

Every single day I’ve been a Packer, Aaron has pushed me and helped me get better. And as a result a good friendship has developed that I think is paying dividends on the field. You go the extra mile for the people you truly care about, and that’s what it’s become with Aaron and me, for sure.

And, honestly, the more I think about it, it’s like that with literally everyone on this team right now. The support and trust and love we show for one another really is off the charts. We’re all on the same page. And that’s one of the things that I believe makes this team truly special and ready for these playoffs.

Because of how focused we are on winning, we all push each other constantly. As a tight end, from Day One, I was so fortunate to be able to learn from true pros like Jimmy Graham and Lance Kendricks and Marcedes Lewis.

And man, let me just say, Marcedes….

That’s my guy right there. He’s like my big brother, and he truly embodies everything I hope to be. Year 15, healthy, still doing it at a high level, still loving the game, so wise, and just the best, nicest dude you’ll ever meet. When we’re on the field together, it’s almost like we feel this extra, I don’t know what to call it … almost invincibility. When you have a best friend on the team — someone you look up to and respect — and you’re lined up right next to him ready to make something special happen, there’s no better feeling in the world.

And I’m pretty proud to say that, thanks in large part to Davante, I’ve now gotten to a place in my career where I have total confidence in myself during those big moments. That guy, he’s just always drilled into me that you need to believe in yourself and that you should never set any limits on what you can do. He’s taught me to develop and harness that … I guess you would call it raw confidence, or inner belief that all great athletes possess.

The week in Atlanta when Davante was out and I had that big game on Monday night, the first thing he did afterward was pull me aside in the weight room and tell me, in no uncertain terms, that when he got back on the field he wanted to see me acting exactly like I did that night against the Falcons.

Not playing like I did … acting like I did.

I didn’t really get it at first, so I asked him what he meant.

“Acting like you were unstoppable,” he said. “Like no one on the planet could stick with you. Knowing that you had reached another level.”

Coming from a guy of that caliber? I mean, It was one of the coolest moments of my career to have him say that to me.

“I need you to be like that,” he said. “We all do. This team needs you to be like that every single game.”

That type of honesty, that directness, is one of the things I love most about being a Packer. We’re a player-led team, so we’re all just completely real with one another. There’s no bulls*** when you come into the Packers’ locker room. And everyone knows it.

Hell, even outside the locker room we’re like that with each other.

I’ll never forget Thanksgiving in 2019 at Aaron’s place, when David Bakhtiari leaned over to me at the dinner table for a word. (Literally at the dinner table. And, keep in mind, this is two Thanksgivings ago … before I was anything at all. Before I was really even playing.)

“Listen,” he says, “I don’t know what’s up with you in the passing game, or how you do things when the ball’s in the air … but when we’re running the ball, in the run game, what you’re doing … it’s not good enough. You need to be better.”

He wasn’t smiling as he said this. Trust me.

He was … mad. Like mad mad. Here I am thinking dude was gonna ask me to pass the gravy or something and David, he’s pissed off … and leaning in to talk to the fourth-string tight end about his run-blocking skills.

Dude was not messing around.

To this day, David’s fiancée, when she sees us together she’s still like: “Man, you were sooooo mean to Bobby that one Thanksgiving.” (Of course, I’m “Bobby” to everyone now. Thanks, 12.) But I actually really loved the talking-to he gave me that afternoon.

When he came at me like that, I remember there was this pure emotion that rose up inside me. It wasn’t anger. It was desire.

It was inspiration.

I looked him dead in the eye, and I was like: “I cannot wait until practice tomorrow.”

A few years later, David’s one of my very best friends on the team. We joke about that conversation all the time, and how stern he was. But the really cool thing about it is that when we talk about it now, do you know what he says?

“Dude, you went and made me look like a damn fool after that.”

David helped me more than he’ll ever know. And you damn sure better believe that we’re gonna do everything in our power to help bring that guy a Lombardi Trophy this year. We’re all heartbroken for David, obviously, but I’m truly hopeful that we’re about to do something special for him over the next few weeks.

For me, these playoffs are going to be the most fun thing imaginable. And running onto that field for these games is definitely going to take me back to when I was a little kid.

I grew up in Northern Illinois, not too far from Wisconsin, and the first football game I ever went to was at Lambeau. It was us against the Bears. And I was really little, maybe five or six. So I only remember blips and flashes. But, I gotta say: They’re some pretty damn good blips and flashes.

I remember our angle to the field, and the scoreboard, and then I remember the bright yellow railings and steps, just all that yellow paint, and the light reflecting off that yellow. I mean, what an image. What a memory.

And to this day it still takes my breath away when I look around Lambeau. When it’s noon on Sunday in October, and there’s dew on the ground and the sun hits all that yellow and reflects off the bleachers at the same time? It’s just … wow. There’s this golden tint to the field. And it just looks like football, man. It’s just beautiful. There’s really no other way to put it.

So to me, getting the chance to play in these playoffs on that field now, that hallowed ground … I just feel extremely fortunate.

It’s a dream come true.

Ever since I was young — and I’m talking really, really young, like two or three years old — I feel like what I’ve been put on this Earth to do is to play football and compete. That’s just how I’m wired. That’s what I was put here to do. And at this point, thanks to this team and this incredible community….

I know the exact place where I was meant to do it.

That big G, and everything it stands for? It’s unlike anything in all of sports. And that’s not me being disrespectful in any way to any other team. It’s just that Lambeau Field and the Green Bay Packers … that’s NFL royalty right there. The frozen tundra, all those historic games, that yellow and green. It speaks for itself at this point.

We all know what this is about. We all get it.

This is what we all live for. It’s what we’re all here to do. Players, coaches, fans … all of us.

This is what it’s all about.

And it all starts right now. It’s gonna be one hell of a ride!

Go, Pack, Go!

The Badger/Packer basketball/football tripleheader

Saturday is going to be an historic sports day in Wisconsin. Thanks to the vagaries of the coronavirus and TV scheduling, it will be the first time the Badger basketball and football teams and Packers will play on the same day.

The day will start at the Kohl Center at 11 p.m. for Louisville at Wisconsin …

… before shifting to Camp Randall Stadium for the 3 p.m. kickoff of Minnesota and Wisconsin for Paul Bunyan’s Axe.

To the northeast, the Packers, presently with the number one NFC seed, host Carolina at 7:25 p.m.

This is the first time the Badgers are playing regular-season football in December, so there have been no home football/basketball doubleheaders I’m aware of. There have been football/hockey doubleheaders back when the hockey Badgers played at the Dane County Coliseum, and, yes, I played at them.

Adapting the schedule of my band days, we would have had a very early Camp Randall practice (when hardly anyone was really awake), then gotten out the band sweaters and headed to the Kohl Center by 10:30 a.m. to start playing when the basketball team hit the floor a few minutes later. After the game, we would have gotten into our band uniforms and headed to Union South for the 2 p.m. concert, headed from Union South to Camp Randall, and hit the field at 2:40 p.m. for pregame. After the Fifth Quarter, off to watch the Packer game, followed by the mandatory post-Badger-game party.

Other than the party or parties, none of that is happening tomorrow, since the band has not been able to play at any Badger football or basketball game this season due to COVID.

 

Postgame schadenfreude, edition number 100 (wins)

As long-time readers know, big wins over rivals get the postgame schadenfreude (defined as gaining pleasure from others’ misfortune) treatment.

It’s particularly fun to watch Chicago media eviscerate Da Bears when they disappoint, even if the Packers’ 41–25 (and it wasn’t that close) throttling Sunday, the Packers’ 100th win over Da Bears, wasn’t really a surprise.

The Chicago Sun-Times begins with a very pointed headline and subhead:

Hot seat heats up for Bears coach Matt Nagy after humiliating 41-25 loss to Packers

The Bears have been absolutely awful on offense the last two seasons, and it’s hard to see an alleged offensive guru keeping his job when they start cleaning up this mess at the end of the season.

As losses accumulate and the Bears drift further from being a contender, the thrill of coach Matt Nagy’s debut season fades into forgetfulness. The team has plunged since then, plodding along with one of the NFL’s worst offenses and minimal cause for optimism.

Their latest humiliation came in the most painful way possible: A thoroughly devastating and decisive 41-25 defeat by the Packers at Lambeau Field. It’s their fifth consecutive loss, and they’ll go into December sitting outside the playoff field for the second season in a row.

The Packers have been snuffing out Bears coaches for years now, and Nagy must wonder if he’s next after this one. He’ll certainly get the rest of the season, but the case is stacking up against him lasting beyond that. A game like this should make him very concerned about his job.

“No, I’m not,” he said.

A lot of people are, though.

When asked to defend where the Bears are right now, Nagy went back to a well-worn soliloquy about sticking together. He’s right to think that way, but it doesn’t change anything about how far the Bears have fallen.

“We understand where we’re at, and when you have games like this, you’ve gotta soul search,” he said. “You’ve gotta be able to stop the bleeding. There’s a couple directions you can go.

“But my job as a leader is to make sure that they understand that. Obviously the last five weeks have been extremely difficult. It’s not fun. We all want to win. But the one reason why I’m here is to fight and to lead, and that’s what I think is most important during these times. When you go through these times, how do you respond? I think that’s the test of true character.”

This felt like the most desperate game of Nagy’s time with the Bears as he tried to fight off the longest losing streak of his career and keep them above .500. The Bears actually would’ve overtaken the Cardinals for the seventh playoff spot with a win.

He went back to Mitch Trubisky, his original choice as starting quarterback this season, and the offensive came to life with a 57-yard run by David Montgomery on its first possession.

For a fleeting moment, the Bears were an exciting offense — the very thing the organization hired Nagy to create. They quickly spiraled into the same bad habits — no run game, mindless penalties, disastrous turnovers by Trubisky — and the game was out of reach late in the second quarter with the Packers ahead 27-3.

They ran it to 41-10 by the end of the third, and that was it. Anything the Bears did after that was of no consequence. They get no award for technically making it a two-score game putting up their third-highest point total of the season. By the way, the league average this season is 25 points per team per game.

“They got after us the entire game, from the first quarter to the very end,” Nagy said. “That’s basically where we’re at right now.”

The only good thing about Sunday was that it was the last time America had to sit through a Bears game on a national broadcast this season.

Nagy’s offense, with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor calling plays for the second game, fell flat, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. It was a complete meltdown for the Bears as their defense, which had been the only thing keeping them afloat, withered against Aaron Rodgers. The Packers scored on their first three full possessions and added another touchdown when Trubisky fumbled at his own 11-yard line.

If Nagy doesn’t have the safety net of an elite defense, he’s got no shot.

Over the last two seasons, cumulatively, the Bears had the second-fewest points and total yardage in the NFL going into Sunday. They’ve averaged the third-fewest yards per carry and put up the sixth-worst passer rating. Only two teams have been worse on third downs.

Nagy has great leadership qualities, but how does any offensive guru keep his job with those numbers?

The number in Nagy’s favor has always been his record, which has gotten considerably dimmer since going 12-4 and winning the NFC North in 2018. The thumping by the Packers dropped him to 25-18.

That includes a 5-0 mark against the Lions team that can’t beat anybody, plus seven wins when his team scored fewer than 20 points. Marc Trestman would’ve won if he’d been supplied this defense.

There’s been a lot more Club Flub than Club Dub lately. It takes a minute to even remember the last time the Bears won a game. It was their most lopsided victory of the season, an error-riddled 23-16 escape against the Panthers 42 days ago.

This mess isn’t entirely Nagy’s fault as he works with a completely mismanaged roster from general manager Ryan Pace. He was holding his breath hoping this would be just a Nagy column.

He’s got his coach trying to rebuild an engine with spare parts from a bicycle.

There’s no offensive line and no quarterback. And, worst of all, no plan to fix it. Nick Foles is under contract for two more seasons, salary-cap concerns will prevent them from fully overhauling the o-line and they’ll be light on playmakers if wide receiver Allen Robinson walks in free agency.

Pace bears more of the blame than Nagy. He did exceptional work crafting one of the NFL’s best defenses, but totally undercut that with his poor judgment on offense. There’s no way the Bears can rationalize letting him try to rebuild the offense again, and firing Pace likely means the end for Nagy as well.

Pace has had it coming ever since he whiffed on Trubisky in the draft and allowed Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes to land elsewhere.

Remember when the Bears went 8-8 last season and the whole city was furious about it? That was their second-best record of Pace’s six-year span as general manager.

During his tenure, the Bears are 39-52 — worse than the Dolphins and Raiders; barely ahead of Washington and the Lions.

That kind of mess requires a deep cleaning, and it’ll be difficult for Nagy to avoid getting swept out.

The Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs has 10 thoughts, including …

  1. At the midpoint of the 2014 season, the Bears made their trip to Lambeau Field after their bye week and were absolutely humiliated, pummeled by the Packers 55-14 in a stunning beatdown before a Sunday prime time audience.
    Green Bay bolted out to a 42-0 lead at halftime that year and the Bears became the first team since the Rochester Jeffersons in 1923 to allow 50-plus points in consecutive games, as they had melted down two weeks prior in a 51-23 loss at New England.The Bears had an extra week before the 2020 game as well, although that extra time is hardly normal amidst the COVID-19 pandemic as the NFL ratchets up protocols and policies on what seems like a weekly basis now. And wouldn’t you know it, the Bears got kicked around once again, falling behind 27-3 in the second quarter and then trailing 41-10 after three quarters. Aaron Rodgers did pretty much whatever he wanted to, the Bears struggled to do so much as lay a hand on him and the defense showed minimal interest in playing run defense. The offense? Well, it looked a little bit better than it had while flatlining with Nick Foles at the controls, but it’s going to be tough to beat any opponent at minus-three on turnovers — and damn near impossible to beat Rodgers.I reference the 2014 loss at Lambeau Field as I really think that was the beginning of the end for the Marc Trestman era. He was fired after only two seasons — a move that came at the end of the season — and with each frustrating week that passes, the chatter will only become louder about the future of those currently in charge at Halas Hall.

    General manager Ryan Pace is the architect of the Bears roster and in his sixth season. He’s had one winning season to date and the Bears have not won a playoff game since Jerry Angelo occupied that office. Matt Nagy is the coach, the guy hired because of his acumen on offense and brought in to turn things around after the dreary and non-imaginative John Fox. Neither is excelling and will come under scrutiny as this season unravels. The Bears were paper tigers when they were 5-1 early in the season and now they’re battling injuries and the pandemic, and they’re going to be exposed just about every time they face an opponent with a high-powered offense. They can’t keep up. It’s that simple.

    I don’t necessarily buy the idea that the horrid loss to the Packers got Trestman fired. Not on its own. That season was spiraling out of control and while the team managed wins over the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the following weeks, it went on to lose the final five games. In all, Trestman lost eight of the final 10 games, and he and GM Phil Emery were fired the day after the 2014 season ended.

    Sunday’s loss was ugly, but not nearly as gruesome as the 2014 debacle. What’s really interesting is that there are now four teams with GM openings around the league. Jacksonville fired Dave Caldwell on Sunday, a day after the Detroit Lions blew out GM Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia. There are numerous coaching vacancies annually. Usually, there are five or six teams pressing the reset button with a head coach. GM jobs don’t turn over quite as often and of the three front office folks I reached out to Sunday night, none could ever recall four spots being open during a season before. The Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans will also be hiring a GM and coach after the season.

    What’s that mean for Pace and Nagy? I don’t know just yet, but I get the distinct impression things are trending badly for both. A longtime agent who represents coaches said he wasn’t too surprised about the four openings around the league right now and said he doesn’t think there will be too many more.

    The pandemic has cost countless millions of people around the world employment or earning potential. It’s had a stunning impact. You get the feeling that while COVID-19 has cost so many people their jobs, it could wind up saving a few coaching staffs around the league. That’s the economic part of the equation that few want to acknowledge, especially when they’re frothing mad at the team they follow. Will this come into play for the Bears? I don’t know that, but I do know is the NFL is a business for the McCaskeys. They haven’t sold a single ticket at Soldier Field this season and it certainly doesn’t look like they will. It’s anyone’s best guess what stadium attendance will look like in September 2021, meaning the bottom line could still be taking a hit at the start of next season. I can say with relative confidence that the financial impact of the pandemic is going to be a major factor for football coaches at the NCAA level and I suspect it will also come into play at least somewhat in the NFL.

    1. Matt Nagy said he’s not worried about losing his job — and he shouldn’t be right now.

    The Bears are 5-6, which isn’t good enough, and they’re a franchise that has never previously fired a coach during the season. But Matt Nagy is in a heck of a battle right now and I’m not sure how much he has in his background to help navigate his way out of it. The last time Nagy was part of a five-game losing streak was in 2015 when he was the quarterback coach in Kansas City. The Chiefs won the season opener, then dropped their next five games before winning 11 straight, including one in the wild-card round of the playoffs before being eliminated. Before that, Nagy was a quality control assistant in Philadelphia in 2012 when the Andy Reid era came to a crashing end.

    Nagy is a positive guy and sometimes he can lean on some corny sayings. Fortunately, he didn’t do this after the Week 12 loss. It still can come across as word salad though, but at some point, however it’s framed really doesn’t matter, right?

    “It’s about fighting adversity, it’s about building cultures and staying together,” Nagy said. “That’s where we’re at. So that’s what I do, that’s what our coaches do, that’s what our players do. We stay together and we understand where we’re at and that when you have games like this, you’ve got to figure out, you’ve got to soul search and you’ve got to be able to stop the bleeding. There’s a couple directions you can go. But my job as a leader is to make sure that they understand that.

    “Obviously, the last five weeks has been extremely difficult. It’s not fun because we all want to win and we know that. The one reason why I’m here is to fight and to lead, and that’s what I think is most important during these times. And when you go through these times, how do you respond and I think that’s the test of true character.”

    He loses me when he launches into a discussion of culture. Yes, I’ve covered Bears teams with worse cultures in the locker room. No question about it. But this team’s culture, no matter how much better it might be, isn’t making much difference when it comes to on-field performance.

You know what improves a locker room culture? Winning.

The contrast has been made numerous times between the Packers and their two starting quarterbacks over the past quarter-century and Da Bears’ 252 quarterbacks over that time. When you lack a capable quarterback (and there are more NFL quarterbacks than there are capable NFL QBs), you do dumb things like sign a quarterback with part of one good season to a stupidly large free-agent contract (see Glennon, Mike) and then trade draft picks to move up to get a quarterback (see Trubisky, Mitch) the same offseason.

(Yes, the Packers have the ignominy of the John Hadl trade. Of course, it’s not as if Da Bears had better QB play during the ’70s either.)

For Bears fans unfamiliar with stability under center, the Tribune’s Dan Wiederer writes what it’s like:

Third-and-long. Against the NFL’s stingiest red-zone defense.

Aaron Rodgers knew a play was needed on the opening drive Sunday night at Lambeau Field, and he dialed in accordingly. With the Green Bay Packers at the Chicago Bears 12-yard line and trying to finish off a tone-setting march that already had covered 63 yards in 13 plays, the quarterback whom Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano likened this week to Picasso and Michelangelo went to his palette, whipped out his brush and gracefully painted his newest masterpiece.

The play that ended with Rodgers pinpointing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams took 9 seconds from snap to score. It was another dazzling off-script magic trick and a definitive closing argument — if there is such a thing less than 8 minutes into a game — that the Packers remain the class of the NFC North.

Still, Rodgers’ comprehensive postgame description of that touchdown pass proved even more striking to anyone in Chicago who might have been listening, just one more reminder of the master class on quarterbacking he has been teaching for the last 13 seasons as the Packers starter, so often at the Bears’ expense.

So, Aaron, about that TD …

“I saw that they dropped eight at the snap,” Rodgers began. “So I knew I’d have a little bit of time. We ran a two-man concept to that side with Davante and Robert (Tonyan). And I was about 50-50 as to whether ‘Te was going to stop his route and break it off at the top of the stem, which actually wasn’t in the plan. But I thought he might make that reaction. He didn’t. So I went to (Tonyan). And right when I was about to throw it, he slipped.

“So I reset back in the pocket because we had done a nice job on the right side and doubled Khalil (Mack) over there. And as I reset back in the pocket, I saw Davante kind of roll behind (Danny) Trevathan. And I knew based on the presnap, they probably wouldn’t have anybody on the left side who would disrupt a throw in that area. So I just tried to put it high knowing Davante has such great leaping ability. Obviously he came down with it.”

The Packers were ahead to stay.

Be honest, Bears fans. When’s the last time you heard your starting quarterback describing surgery with that level of detail? Heck, when’s the last time you had a quarterback do what Rodgers did Sunday night, drilling touchdown passes on his first three possessions, adding a fourth in the third quarter and carving out the Bears’ heart in a 41-25 gutting?

Think about it. The Packers scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions to open Sunday’s bright-lights, big-stage game. During the Bears’ current five-game skid/collapse/free fall, the offense has scored only two touchdowns before the fourth quarter. The Bears offense remains consistently unreliable in the first half and downright awful in the third quarter.

That’s what made Sunday’s biannual check-in on the Packers so jarring and distressing and, if you can bring yourself to appreciate the brilliance of a rival, sort of refreshing.

“So that’s what an NFL offense is supposed to look like.”

As the Bears season accelerates down the garbage chute with a fan base screaming for heads to roll ASAP at Halas Hall, the Packers are coasting to another division title and eyeing another run deep into January and possibly beyond.

While Rodgers and his offense consistently creating iconic artwork, the Bears seem to be stuck in a first-grade project gone bad, covered from head to toe in acrylic and sheepishly apologizing for the mess.

“This is the stuff through the season that you go through,” coach Matt Nagy said. “It’s about fighting adversity.”

Rodgers, by contrast, was cheerful but characteristically low-key in the afterglow of his team’s win, relishing what he called “a fun day of milestones.” Follow along for some of the most prestigious.

  • Adams recorded his 500th career reception on that first-quarter touchdown, becoming the fifth Packer in that fraternity. (For perspective, the Bears’ all-time leader in catches is Walter Payton with 492.)
  • Rodgers became the 11th quarterback in league history to surpass 50,000 passing yards, doing so in style in the third quarter with a well-designed and all-too-easy 39-yard play-action touchdown pass to tight end Tonyan. (Again, for perspective, Rodgers’ passing yards total is greater than that of Jay Cutler, Sid Luckman and Jim Harbaugh — the Bears’ three career leaders — combined.)
  • And — oh, yeah — Rodgers was sure to point out that Sunday’s victory was the Packers’ 100th over the Bears in the historic rivalry, giving them a five-game lead in a series that was once tilted heavily in the Bears’ favor. Before Brett Favre and Rodgers, of course.

“I’m proud to be just another one of the guys in the lineage of Green Bay quarterbacks who have had the opportunity to lace them up against Chicago,” Rodgers said, “and we’ve obviously won a good deal of my starts.”

When the Bears offense faces gritty, nasty defenses, we tend to hear about it for a month afterward with explanations for why the running game can’t get going or why the third-down failures were so extreme or how an untimely turnover or red-zone stall-out led to another maddening loss.

The Packers, meanwhile, sized up a normally rugged Bears defense, decided they had the right combination of playmaking ability and schematic wrinkles and then went out and dominated the night.

Rodgers’ four touchdown passes were certainly headline-worthy. But Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams also combined to run for 163 yards on 34 carries.

So while the Bears spent their latest postgame therapy session with Nagy calling for teamwide “soul searching” and an urgent quest to “stop the bleeding” and another wave of appreciation for his team’s fight, the Packers suddenly believe they’re light years ahead of where they were at this time last year. Remember? When they went 12-4 and fell one victory short of the Super Bowl?

When the 2019 season began, there was leaguewide curiosity about how Rodgers and Packers coach Matt LaFleur would coexist, whether a 15th-year veteran on his way to the Hall of Fame would jell with a green head coach barely four years older than him.

On Sunday night, Rodgers was in a full gush about how LaFleur has worked to refine and improve this high-powered offense, praising “the subtleties of simplicity” that the Packers coach implemented over this past offseason.

“That’s really allowed me to feel super comfortable with the plan every week, with my responsibilities and my checks,” Rodgers said. “And I think that’s why I’ve been playing well.”

Simplicity. Comfort.

The Packers offense had a near-perfect first half. Touchdowns on three of their possessions. Zero penalties. None of their 37 plays lost yardage. Eighteen of them produced first downs.

Rodgers believes LaFleur has “settled into his role as head coach.”

“Him and I have really been on the same page all season,” Rodger said. “There’s just a beautiful trust that has blossomed even more this year between him and I.”

LaFleur, meanwhile, paid the praise forward to the effort of an offensive line that has been sturdy all year and helped jump-start Sunday night’s beatdown. (The Bears not only never sacked Rodgers or forced a turnover, but they also weren’t credited in the final game book with a single quarterback hit.)

“It makes it a lot easier, no doubt about it, when you have your whole playbook open and you can call plays that are complementary,” LaFleur said.

None of this sounds at all familiar to Bears fans, who are left to continue envying the Packers’ success as they try to unsee interceptions forced into double and triple coverage. Bottom line: Week after week, the Bears make it clear they have few if any answers on offense.

As so many feared, Nagy’s midweek praise of Mitch Trubisky’s “different focus” and his impressive week of practice and the offense’s oh-so-encouraging “huddle mechanics” didn’t mean much on game night.

The Bears stalled in the red zone on their opening drive, settled for a field goal and never led. Trubisky threw two picks and fumbled twice, losing one that Preston Smith scooped up for a 14-yard touchdown return.

Trubisky short-hopped throws to open receivers on multiple occasions. He also threw high and away at times.

The Bears’ fifth straight loss — and the franchise’s third winless November in the last five seasons — brings amplified questions about Nagy and the quarterback situation and general manager Ryan Pace and a genuine curiosity about how many current players, coaches and front-office members still will be here the next time the Bears win a playoff game.

“Right now, this is a very, very difficult time that we’re going through,” Nagy said.

Meanwhile, the Packers rolled on, satisfied but hardly surprised by Sunday’s blowout.

“It says a lot about who we are as a team,” Adams said.

Added Rodgers: “I like where we’re at. … I said before the game and I believe it: If you want to be a great team, these are the kind of games you have to win.”

In this series, the Packers usually do.

Who would have thought Bears fans would pine for Dick Jauron and Jay Cutler?

ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson continues the theme of future firings:

The Chicago Bears (5-6) seem like a team headed toward massive offseason change.

Sure, the Bears technically remain in the hunt for one of three NFC wild-card spots — the NFC North Division race effectively ended with Green Bay’s 41-25 victory on Sunday night — but coach Matt Nagy’s team is so much worse than its record indicates.

With an extra week to prepare, the Bears played their most egregious and lethargic opening half of football of the year and fell behind 27-3 in front of a prime-time audience.

In an epic reversal, the Bears’ defense — considered the bedrock of the team — pulled a complete no-show against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who carved up Chicago. The Bears’ defense — minus lineman Akiem Hicks — failed to stop the run, pressure Rodgers (zero sacks, zero hits) or cover open Green Bay receivers downfield. At one point in the second quarter, the Packers’ offense had 15 first downs and were 5-of-5 on third down. The lone time the Bears stopped Green Bay on third down, the Packers went for it on fourth down — and converted. Go figure.

Speaking of the Bears’ offense, not much has improved there, either, as the team’s losing streak reached five games.

Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s return produced the results most expected — average-to-slightly-below-average play and nowhere close to special.

Trubisky appeared to establish a rhythm within the offense at times but committed three costly turnovers, including a fumble that Green Bay scooped up and returned for a touchdown.

What cannot be ignored is on another day when Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes dazzled the nation (462 passing yards, three touchdowns), Trubisky cruelly reminded everyone the Bears have no long-term solution at quarterback. What happened in the 2017 NFL draft (trading up for Trubisky over Mahomes and Deshaun Watson) cannot be undone.

Because of that singular blunder, there is no clear path to unseat the Packers. There is no obvious plan of attack to a playoff berth in 2021. Who’s the quarterback? Who’s the head coach? Who’s the general manager? Who’s the playcaller?

The entire organization needs to be reexamined when the season comes to a close.

We know who the owner is. That may be the problem, but that’s up to the McCaskeys to fix.

 

The number 12 personality

Sam Borden:

IT IS 2010. Aaron Rodgers is going into his third season as the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. He is a Pro Bowler, a superstar on the rise. Graham Harrell is new to the Packers, signed to be the third-stringer. Harrell is a friendly, fast-talking Texan from Brownwood, and he develops a real rapport with Rodgers. The banter between the two starts right away and never stops.

One day, Rodgers tells Harrell he thinks they are basically fraternity brothers. This becomes a running joke. The pair bro-talk constantly, and very quickly Harrell becomes amazed at the depth of Rodgers’ investment in this (completely imaginary) universe. The Packers’ other quarterback, Matt Flynn, is now in an “enemy fraternity,” Rodgers tells Harrell, and whenever Harrell does well in a drill, Rodgers compliments him by saying, “It’s about time you did something for the brothers.” Likewise, if Flynn is better than Harrell on a particular day, Rodgers laughs and tell Harrell, “Bro, you’re getting paddled when we get back to the house.”

Rodgers even names their fraternity: Tau Kappa Epsilon, or TKE.

All of this is going along fine until one afternoon at Packers training camp, which is held on the campus of nearby St. Norbert College. During drills, one of the ball boys overhears the banter between Harrell and Rodgers. “Hey, what fraternity are you guys in?” the ball boy asks Harrell after practice ends. After weighing whether to come clean about how he and the Packers’ franchise player have created an elaborate fictitious scenario involving two 20-something men being in a fraternity, Harrell simply says, “Oh, uh … we’re TKEs?” He hopes that will end the conversation.

It does not end the conversation.

“No way, I’m a TKE!” the ball boy erupts. Harrell is stunned. “Yeah, uh … TKEs, man,” he says weakly, looking around helplessly. Rodgers is giddy. The ball boy’s smile is ripping his own face apart.

The ball boy invites Harrell and Rodgers to a mixer that the St. Norbert chapter of TKE is hosting that fall. The mixer is known as the “Carnation Crush,” because it also involves the women of Delta Phi Epsilon, one of the college’s sororities. Harrell is certain this is where they will draw the line and explain that they’re not, you know, actually TKEs, but Rodgers is defiant. “There is no way in the world we’re missing this,” he tells Harrell.

They go to the mixer. It is like most college parties. Rodgers and Harrell sit with the fraternity’s president, Stephen Schumacher, and some of the brothers. Schumacher asks everyone at the party to respect that Rodgers and Harrell just want to hang out and not to take cellphone photos or videos. Somehow, everyone listens. Inside, Rodgers asks lots of questions about the fraternity and is very interested in all the small details. Schumacher, who is a Packers fan, tries to keep his heart from exploding out of his chest. As they talk, Schumacher notices that Rodgers and Harrell are eyeing a table where flip cup is being played. He asks if they want to play. Rodgers and Harrell jump up.

Flip cup involves two teams of multiple players flipping plastic cups in order. Rodgers and Harrell are on a team with Schumacher and some other brothers. They play against a team of women from one of the school’s social clubs. Schumacher and the brothers are very skilled. The women are even better. Rodgers isn’t very good, but he finally gets his cup over. Harrell is a complete disaster. He is struggling to find the sweet spot between weakly knocking his cup down and overflipping it four times in the air. The TKE team loses. Rodgers is frustrated. He tells Harrell he needs to “be better,” but then he brightens when a ceremony begins during which one of the sorority sisters will be crowned as a queen.

As part of the ritual, all of the brothers in attendance get down on a knee and sing a song while holding up one hand, as if offering the queen a flower. Harrell has no idea what is going on. He spins around and realizes he is suddenly surrounded by a bunch of teenage boys kneeling and shouting verses to a teenage girl who is up on a stage, and he assumes that now, surely now, is the moment when he and Rodgers — two professional football players who are, again, grown men — will finally make their exit.

Except then he looks to his right and sees Rodgers down on one knee with his hand up.

“This isn’t even real life, bro,” Harrell says to Rodgers, who gestures wildly for Harrell to get down beside him. Harrell sighs and kneels next to Rodgers. They raise their hands. They mouth words to a song they do not know. The queen is crowned.

Shouts and cheers ring out from all corners of the room. The queen beams. Rodgers giggles uncontrollably.

Harrell has never seen him happier.

IF HARRELL’S STORY about Rodgers and their (pretend) fraternity seems weird, well, fair enough — it definitely is. But the truth is that it is also squarely in character for Rodgers, whose athletic prowess has always been rooted in an equally intense desire to push and prod and challenge and question. To take things to such a degree as to be, at times, uncomfortable.

For Rodgers, nothing is irrelevant and everything is subject to review. He wants to know about people and places and things. He wants to understand motivations. While almost every high-level athlete is ambitious and determined to kick down doors, Rodgers is among the few who also want to know why the door was closed in the first place and, while they’re at it, where the hinges came from.

Now, it should be said: Plenty of that unconventionality is channeled toward Rodgers’ actual job. His ability to scramble out of plays, to see throwing lanes that aren’t there, is fabled. He has passed for nearly 50,000 yards and 377 touchdowns (including 13 so far this season). There are scads of highlights showcasing his ingenuity — the miracle Hail Mary against the Lions in 2015, the roll-left-throw-back 48-yarder to win the game against the Bears in 2013, among many others — and the magic is absolutely an everyday thing.

Joe Callahan, who was a rookie quarterback in 2016, recalls an otherwise nondescript drill from early that year that has always stuck with him. It was a quick drop drill, Callahan says, and Rodgers backpedaled. He saw two defenders blanketing the tight end from both sides. Instead of chucking the ball away, Rodgers simply dropped his elbow and unleashed a wicked 15-yard pass that curved in the air like a golfer hitting an intentional slice around a tree. The ball bent at an angle, then dived sharply into the tight end’s belly.

Callahan was slack-jawed by the play and even now shakes his head as he describes it. “Coach [Mike] McCarthy turns to us and he’s like, ‘You need multiple MVPs to be able to make that throw,'” Callahan says. “I’m still not sure how he was able to pull it off.”

Extrapolate that out — a seemingly obvious conclusion to throw the ball away, completely unpacked and turned on its head. That is what it’s like being around Rodgers, Callahan says. Often this would happen on subjects unrelated to football: Rodgers is unabashed about his belief in the existence of UFOs, for example, and frequently engages with teammates in long, drawn-out discussions about who actually built the Egyptian pyramids. (“We can’t reveal what we know,” Callahan says when I inquire about any conclusions.)

Brett Hundley, who was a Packers backup from 2015 to 2018, also had discussions about UFOs with Rodgers, as well as the existence of aliens. “His brain is just always processing so much information,” Hundley says. And then there was the time in 2013 when Rodgers stopped in the middle of practice, pulled aside then-backup Seneca Wallace and pointed to an airplane that was flying overhead.

“‘What do you think all that stuff is flying behind that jet stream?'” Wallace recalls Rodgers asking. “‘Do you think that has anything to do with maybe why everybody’s getting cancer?'”

Wallace snorts. Rodgers “marches to the beat of his own drum,” he says, “always looking for loopholes” or things that “set people apart.”

Bizarrely, many of these potpourri discussions actually originate from a football staple: the weekly quarterback scouting tests. Each week, as happens on many clubs, one of the backups is responsible for putting together a 45-minute exam for the starter and the other backup to take.

Naturally, Rodgers’ instructions about the exam are pointed: There should be questions that cover strategy related to Green Bay’s upcoming opponent (Sample: What is the correct audible if the Bears come with an all-out blitz?), but there must also be a lengthy section devoted to pretty much anything else (Who really assassinated President Kennedy?).

Rodgers has high standards for the tests, and Hundley conceded that his exams “went from a B-minus to an A-plus” when he began focusing his off-field questions around conspiracy theories. Rodgers is also a trivia freak, and he appreciates a quarterback who can hew to a strong theme. Geographic questions about the team’s next road trip can be fertile ground for the test composer, as can pop culture.

“He’s good at history, good at music, good at movies,” Harrell says. But it’s possible to stump him by leaning into extremely niche subject areas. Rodgers — despite his famous championship-belt celebration — is actually weak on professional wrestling knowledge, for instance, so Harrell, who is a die-hard WWE fan, would enrage Rodgers by constantly peppering his tests with questions about, say, WrestleMania V.

As an alternative for those who prefer to avoid challenging Rodgers’ general knowledge acumen, Rodgers allows the second part of the quiz to also feature tongue-in-cheek “questions” about top opposing players, as long as there is some component to the question that Rodgers might be able to use on the field. Like everything else, Rodgers wants to challenge the traditional notion of trash-talking — give me something different I can use, he tells the test makers. Find me something new.

That can be difficult too, though, particularly because Rodgers has played for so long. There are only so many embarrassing photos of Matt Stafford to be found, Callahan says, meaning that often “you had to go deep back into the mid-2000s to find some old MySpace picture that they still have floating around.”

Callahan shrugs. With Rodgers, originality is prized above almost all else, so the pressure to learn the offensive scheme in any given week is frequently overshadowed by the pressure to dig up a new, entertaining nugget about Kirk Cousins. “We got pretty good at searching the internet for funny pictures of opposing teams,” Callahan says.

EARLIER THIS YEAR, the Packers used their first-round draft pick on Jordan Love, a quarterback seen as a strong contender to be Rodgers’ eventual successor. Many wondered whether Rodgers would be offended — Wallace suggested Rodgers might have been “a little butt-hurt about it” — and speculated that the selection could have led Rodgers to become overly competitive.

For those who have been in the position of backing up Rodgers before, the notion that the selection would change anything about the way Rodgers approaches his job is absurd. It isn’t about competitiveness (after all, Rodgers is already plenty competitive) — it is, once again, pushing back on the idea that has been accepted. Putting in work on something that seems decided. Rodgers is not simply going to cede his place because it seems that the Packers might have decided the time is coming.

So there will still be tests. There will still be trivia. There will still be moments of extreme social discomfort, like when Callahan was a rookie and Rodgers invited him and the other quarterbacks over for a friendly hang and then brought out his own personal karaoke machine, which tracked and rated each participant. Suddenly, Callahan found himself being forced to try to hit the high notes of Adam Levine on Maroon Five’s “She Will Be Loved” (it didn’t go well), while Rodgers cackled and then selected a song for himself with a much more reasonable range.

“You could definitely tell that he practiced,” Callahan says. “I would also definitely double-check the calibration on that microphone because his score seemed a little too high that day.”

Not all quarterbacks would assert their superiority through karaoke contests or authoritatively answering questions about the population density of the greater Houston area (Harrell learned all about that before a Texans game once). But what Love will find, the former backups say, is that those experiences are intensely valuable, if only because they put on display a critical part of what makes Rodgers the star that he is. Thinking counterintuitively is a skill that can be honed just like a seven-step drop, and so whether or not you personally believe that airplanes cause cancer or that there are residents of Mars who are longtime Packers fans, the simple act of pondering — even for a second — the possibility that those things might be true uses roughly the same muscle that Rodgers uses when he looks at a disintegrated offensive line and still sees a way to make a play.

Making our brains more elastic, more open to things that are not exactly the way we assume them to be, is the most basic path to creativity. And for Rodgers, creativity is his light.

“He loves seeing guys get outside their comfort zone,” Wallace says, “and pushing them to a point where it’s, ‘Oh, man, I don’t do this so well.’ Then he wants to see what happens.”

That is definitely what took place with Wallace and Hundley in the testing room and Callahan at the karaoke party and Harrell at the Carnation Crush. It is what will happen, over and over, with Love. Rodgers might be deeply cerebral (if not deeply weird), but he is also deeply talented, and there is no doubt those things are connected.

Will being around that help Love’s development? Will it change the way he sees the quarterback position? Will it affect his perspective on how to run an offense?

It is difficult to see how it won’t. And, knowing Rodgers, it is also difficult to imagine Rodgers not pushing to make Love’s learning period last for as long as possible.

“He’ll learn,” Hundley says. “But I’ll tell you what: Jordan is going to be sitting for a while.”

Hundley laughs. “Aaron’s not going to give up that position, that’s for sure.”

The Packers after McCarthy

Jason Whitlock:

Never forget that in 13 years coaching in Green Bay, with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers playing quarterback, Mike McCarthy led the Packers to one Super Bowl appearance.

One. That’s 1. He and Rodgers won it all in 2010. 

McCarthy is now coaching Dak Prescott, a solid NFL quarterback. Favre and Rodgers were transcendent and at different points in their careers were candidates to be the best QBs of all time.

Should we be surprised the Cowboys are off to a pathetic 1-3 start? Jerry Jones made a very bad hire this offseason. 

In a Week 1 loss to the Rams, McCarthy turned down a chip-shot field goal that would have tied the game with 11 minutes to play in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys instead went for it on fourth-and-3 and failed. 

On Sunday, trailing the Browns by three points with nearly four minutes on the clock and two timeouts in his pocket, McCarthy attempted an onside kick rather than kicking it deep. 

It’s the dumbest decision I’ve seen this year. I could be talked into believing it’s one of the dumbest decisions in recent NFL history. Hell, it might be the dumbest decision in football history. Please tell me a dumber one. 

Cleveland’s offense was sputtering. Baker Mayfield was leaking oil. Cleveland had blown a 41-14 advantage. On its previous possession, Mayfield overthrew Odell Beckham Jr., who was wide open. 

Since the safety rule changes, no one recovers onside kicks anymore. McCarthy bizarrely set the Browns up at midfield. Cleveland smartly turned aggressive, giving OBJ the ball on a reverse. OBJ ran 50 yards into the end zone, icing the game. 

What McCarthy did is fireable and unforgivable. His decision-making the first four weeks has been baffling. He’s trying way too hard to prove he’s a great coach. 

The Mike McCarthy-Aaron Rodgers divorce is the opposite of the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady divorce. The coach moved on. Rodgers is winning the divorce in a landslide. So far, Belichick and Brady both seem to be happy with their new lives.

The Packers’ bye week is this week. But as always the Packers can still make news, here reported by Ryan Glasspiegel:

Every once in a while, you come across the perfect headline, and Aaron Rodgers delivered just such a one for me today in his description of the media. On his weekly spot on the Pat McAfee Show, Rodgers was asked by McAfee about a snippet last week that was taken wildly out of context. Rodgers answered:

“Is anybody surprised? All the fucking media does is write stories to get clicks. So it didn’t matter. I can give a long answer about something, they can take a blip of it, and write a story about it that has nothing to do with what I was saying. Nobody’s gonna take the time — unless you’re watching this live — to listen to the entire interview. They’re gonna take pieces of it. If I’m not doing this in person, you can’t see facial expressions. Or if you’re not listening to it, you’re just reading a transcript. You can’t hear voice inflection and tone and inference. So, that’s just the way it is. That’s why I love doing this. Because I have a platform with you guys and the boys to say whatever I want, to speak the truth. Shit like that’s gonna happen. It doesn’t matter. I don’t spend any extra time [thinking] about it. I find it comical because then we can bring it up and be like ‘this is what we were talking about. Here it is.’”

AJ Hawk, Rodgers’ former teammate, followed up by asking him how he determines what to believe when reading stories online.

“I don’t know. You just have to be skeptical in general. I think that’s having an open mind, is being skeptical and not just believing everything at face value or believing everything that your Twitter or social media tells you. I think people need to remember there’s a lot of interesting documentaries about this stuff. Cambridge Analytica, if you watched that documentary about the 2016 election, and you understand how many data points there are out there about us. We are being constantly fed things that confirm our own bias already. It’s called confirmation bias. It’s when they feed information to you that hits you in the areas that you like and just continues to further the things you believe. And you think that you’re learning, but you’re actually being fed information that keeps you on one side. And that’s the division that’s created. And I’m not a fan of it. I think you should read both sides of stories, read books, you know, that tackle both sides of issues. You should be very skeptical of the things that you read and do your own research, and not just listen because somebody told you — some blue checkmark on Twitter told you to believe something. You should have an open mind and do your own research. And feel into what you think is the truth.”

Postgame schadenfreude, Viqueens edition

As weird a year as this is, pro sports is still taking place.

That means it’s time for one of the most cherished Presteblog traditions, making fun of Packers’ vanquished opponents through their own media.

The Packers unexpectedly (at least to me) opened their season Sunday by overwhelming the Viking kitties …

… 43–34.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune begins with Packers–Vikings history:

Since the Vikings thumped a 23-year-old Brett Favre and denied the upstart Packers a playoff berth with a 27-7 win in the 1992 season finale, the buildings on the corner of Chicago Ave. and 4th Street have been the site of more harrowing experiences than two Green Bay MVP quarterbacks would care to count.

Favre won four of his last five games against the Vikings in the Metrodome, breaking Dan Marino’s all-time passing TD record in 2007, but went 6-10 in the building while he was the Packers QB, losing nine of his first 11 in its tympanum-ratting environment.

Aaron Rodgers feasted on feeble Vikings defenses during the Metrodome’s final years, and won twice in the Vikings’ two years at TCF Bank Stadium. But his first three trips to U.S. Bank Stadium included three losses — none of which saw the Packers QB throw for more than 216 yards — and one broken collarbone.

The Packers left the building to chants of “Go Pack Go” last December, though, after beating the Vikings to claim their first NFC North title since U.S. Bank Stadium’s opening year. And on a surreal Sunday afternoon, in a building where the Vikings were once able to construct their home-field advantage with the help of sensory overload, Rodgers enjoyed something Favre could have only wished for during all those years: near-total serenity in a 43-34 Packers win.

The 36-year-old quarterback operated his offense in front of only the two teams and just under 500 cardboard cutouts that fans had purchased in the west end zone, with the stadium closed to spectators for at least the first two games of the season.

Rodgers didn’t have to worry about the Vikings’ pass rush, either, with Danielle Hunter on injured reserve for at least three weeks. He wasn’t sacked, was pressured infrequently and had plenty of time overall to test a remade Vikings secondary that was trying to coalesce without the benefit of a preseason.

Sunday’s end result doesn’t figure to define a Vikings team that will be a work in progress this season. But it does represent a jarring opening to the season for a defense that had enjoyed six years of battling Rodgers to a virtual stalemate.

Green Bay hadn’t gained more than 383 yards in a single game against the Vikings; it posted 524 on Sunday, more than any team had gained against a Zimmer-led Vikings team other than the Rams’ 556-yard day in 2018.

The Packers held the ball for more than 40 minutes. Rodgers became just the fifth QB to surpass 350 passing yards against a Zimmer-led defense, with 364 and four touchdowns. And Green Bay’s 43 points (with the help of a safety on a Jaire Alexander sack) were the most the Vikings had allowed since Zimmer took over in 2014.

After the game, Zimmer lamented mistakes, lack of pressure from the defensive line and a handful of false-start penalties on third and short.

“We didn’t cover them very good,” he said.

Rodgers spent much of the day looking for Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams, who caught 14 passes for 156 yards and two scores, but tested the Vikings’ young corners with deep shots to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who caught four passes for 96 yards and dropped another deep ball from Rodgers.

“It’s frustrating,” safety Harrison Smith said. “It’s not what we’re used to here.”

After Kirk Cousins threw behind Adam Thielen for an interception in the final minute of the first half, Valdes-Scantling got a step on rookie cornerback Cameron Dantzler hauling in a 45-yard touchdown from Rodgers to give Green Bay a 22-7 lead.

The lead grew to 29-10 entering the fourth quarter, when Cousins connected with Thielen for a 37-yard touchdown with 13:53 left in the game. The Vikings scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns, but could not keep the Packers out of the end zone to complete a comeback.

The fourth-quarter surge helped Cousins amass 259 yards on 19 of 25 passing, but in the first half had only five passing attempts, completing three.

The Vikings had the ball for only 7 minutes 15 seconds in the first half, and the Packers dominated time of possession overall, 41:16-18:44.

“We didn’t have the ball. We didn’t control the ball,” Zimmer said.

A day after signing a lucrative contract extension, Dalvin Cook rushed for 50 yards and two touchdowns in 12 carries.

Let’s see, $63 million divided by five years divided by 16 games equals $787,500 per regular-season game. That is $15,750 per yard Sunday.

The Strib’s Chip Scoggins:

The Vikings approached their 2020 season with a palpable sense of optimism about their offense and their rebuilt defense.

Yeah, good talk.

Green Bay 43, Vikings 34.

It was a lot worse than the final score might suggest.

Mike Zimmer’s defense had a disastrous debut, and the offense didn’t do much of anything until garbage time before 70,000 empty seats at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Zimmer boasted in training camp that “I’ve never had a bad defense.”

Based on first impressions, Zimmer has a lot of work on his hands to make that statement hold up. His defense’s performance was beyond bad Sunday. The Vikings had no chance against Aaron Rodgers who made it look easy in dissecting Zimmer’s young secondary.

The Vikings gave up big pass plays. They had trouble containing the run. They got zero pressure on Rodgers without injured Danielle Hunter. And they had two offsides penalties on third down that gave the Packets a fresh set of downs.

The whole thing was a mess.

Here are three things that caught my eye …

  1. Sloppy tackling

The Vikings missed two tackles on the Packers opening drive and more after that, which highlighted the lack of preseason games. Teams rarely tackle in training camp so that area figured to be a little sloppy early in the season.

  1. Offense sleepy until late

Kirk Cousins and the offense made some plays in the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late. The offense couldn’t sustain anything in the first half, causing the time of possession to become lopsided in favor of Green Bay.

  1. Weird play call

Vikings offense coordinator Gary Kubiak had a strange play call at a key moment in the second half. Trailing 22-10 late in the third quarter, the Vikings faced fourth-and-3 at the Packers’ 39. After a timeout, Cousins threw a deep pass down the sideline to Tajae Sharpe, their No. 4 wide receiver.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press:

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told the NFL Network last month that he’s “never had a bad defense.” Well, he’s got some work to do now.

In Sunday’s season opener at U.S. Bank Stadium, Green Bay shredded the Vikings’ once-vaunted defense to win 43-34. It was the most points ever scored against a Zimmer team in his seven seasons as Vikings’ head coach. The previous most came in the Packers’ 42-10 rout in 2014 at Lambeau Field.

With no fans allowed inside the stadium because of the coronavirus pandemic, it made for an eerie atmosphere. The Vikings did have one very impressive defensive showing on a goal-line stand early in the second quarter, when they led 7-3, but there were no fans to urge them on and perhaps shift momentum.

A few plays later, after the Vikings took possession of the ball at their own 1-yard line, Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander tackled quarterback Kirk Cousins in the end zone for a safety and they reeled off 19 straight points for a 22-7. The Vikings did get within 22-10 at halftime, but the second half provided few worries for the Packers.

Judd Zulgad of Skor North:

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer likely did not recognize his team as the normally strong defense looked absolutely atrocious. Nobody expected this defense to be great from Day 1, considering all the changes it has undergone, but the Vikings were a mess on that side of the ball. Some thoughts and observations from the Vikings’ 43-34 loss to the Packers.

  • The 43 points against were the most a Zimmer-coached defense has given up since he took the job in 2014. The Packers had the previous high of 42 against the Vikings on Oct. 2, 2014 at Lambeau Field. That was Zimmer’s first season, this is his seventh and these were all of his guys.
  • The Vikings gave up 522 yards (364 passing, 158 rushing), the second-most by a Zimmer-coached defense in Minnesota behind the 556 yards (456 passing, 100 rushing) the Rams accumulated in a 38-31 victory on Sept. 27, 2018 in Los Angeles.
  • Jeff Gladney, the Vikings’ second first-round pick in April, was not part of the cornerback rotation that had Mike Hughes and Holton Hill starting and Cameron Dantzler outside, with Hughes going inside, in the nickel. Either Gladney really disappointed Zimmer in training camp or the Vikings still have concerns about the meniscus surgery he had in the spring.
  • That rotation of corners all got picked on by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at different times and looked awful. Rodgers looked like the Rodgers of old — in part because the Vikings defense looked like it did before Zimmer arrived — and completed 32 of 44 passes for 364 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Davante Adams had 14 receptions, on 17 targets, for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
  • It should come as no surprise that the Vikings had issues protecting quarterback Kirk Cousins and in the third quarter the veteran decided to do something about it. On back-to-back plays, he ran for 16 and 14 yard gains. Cousins talked about using his feet more often this season and on those two plays he did exactly that.
  • Cousins threw his first pick of the season late in the second quarter on a poorly thrown ball behind Adam Thielen that cornerback Jaire Alexander picked off at the Vikings 45-yard line. That led to this …
  • The Packers took a 22-7 lead with 21 seconds left in the quarter on a 45-yard TD  pass from Rodgers to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Dantzler was running stride-for-stride with Valdes-Scantling but Rodgers made a perfect throw to the front corner of the end zone and Dantzler is, well, a rookie.
  • Valdes-Scantling also caught a 39-yard pass from Rodgers on a third-quarter play in which Hughes was beaten. That put the ball at the 1-yard line and Rodgers threw a touchdown pass to Adams to give Green Bay a 29-10 lead.
  • The key point in this game might have come in the second quarter when the Vikings defense stopped the Packers on fourth-and-goal from the Minnesota 1. The Vikings led 7-3 and had a chance to grab any momentum that might have existed. But that didn’t last long as Cousins was sacked on a corner blitz by Alexander for a safety. The Packers got a 43-yard field goal from Mason Crosby on the ensuing drive to take a one-point lead.
  • The Vikings scored three meaningless touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Cousins found Thielen for a 37-yard touchdown to make it 29-18, Cook scored on a 3-yard run to make it 36-26 and Thielen caught another scoring pass, this one from 19 yards, to make it 43-34. All three Vikings touchdowns followed Packers scores.
  • Wide receiver Justin Jefferson, the Vikings’ first pick in the first round in April, caught his first NFL pass in the third quarter, gaining 9 yards on third-and-16. Jefferson finished with two catches for 26 yards.
  • The Vikings had an issue with missed tackles, beginning early with Dantzler and linebacker Eric Wilson both failing to wrap up Packers. You would expect an NFL player to be able to tackle, but even during an ordinary season tackling can be suspect early on. In this case, with no preseason games and limited practice time, the tackling was worse than usual. Zimmer won’t be happy but it couldn’t be considered a complete surprise.
  • It was a given the Vikings would lose a significant home-field advantage with no fans in U.S. Bank Stadium. The question was how much? It turned out to be huge. One of the NFL’s best rivalries had the feeling that it was a youth football game being played on a Saturday morning and at least those games have parents in attendance. The piped in noise was barely noticeable, and the Packers’ offense had zero issues operating.

Ask the Milwaukee Bucks what not playing at home and in the “bubble” instead meant.

Presty the DJ for Aug. 11

We begin with a non-musical anniversary, though we can certainly add music:

On Aug. 11, 1919, Green Bay Press–Gazette sports editor George Calhoun and Indian Packing Co. employee Earl “Curly” Lambeau, a former Notre Dame football player, organized a pro football team that would be called the Green Bay Packers:

(Clearly the photo was not taken on this day in 1919. Measurable snow has never fallen in Wisconsin in August … so far.)

Today in 1964, the Beatles movie “A Hard Day’s Night” opened in New York:

Two years later, the Beatles opened their last American concert tour on the same day that John Lennon apologized for saying that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus. … Look, I wasn’t saying The Beatles are better than God or Jesus, I said ‘Beatles’ because it’s easy for me to talk about The Beatles. I could have said ‘TV’ or ‘Cinema’, ‘Motorcars’ or anything popular and would have got away with it…”

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Aug. 11”

The next Packer quarterback

Chris Crouse:

There have been mixed signals out of Green Bay since the team surprisingly drafted Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The Packers appear to still be committed to Aaron Rodgers, for now. After examining his contract, it’s clear that Green Bay will have a window to potentially split with him after the 2021 season.

As Spotrac details, Rodgers’ contract would leave teams a (somewhat) easier out in terms of dead cap space. The 2020 season has a cap hit that’s north of $21.6 million with a dead cap number of more than $51.1 million. That dead cap number drops to slightly more than $31.5 million in 2021, then $17.204 million and $2.852 million in 2022 and 2023.

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio tossed out the idea that the club may actually want Rodgers to possibly “ask for a divorce” at some point in the future. He cited the front office potentially seeing themselves in a similar situation that the Packers were in with Brett Favre, writing:

Again, that’s possibly precisely what the Packers want. They knew how to get Brett Favre to retire in 2008 (i.e., ask him for a firm decision in February, when they knew he’d be inclined to walk away), and they know (or at least believe they know) how to get Rodgers to be the one to ask for a divorce.

If that happens, which team would Rodgers angle for as a next destination? Perhaps no team is more equipped to thrive with Rodgers than the Denver Broncos – assuming they have an interest in making a deal down the line.

John Elway once convinced Peyton Manning to play the second-leg of his career in Denver and it worked out. Peyton won his second Super Bowl, becoming the only quarterback in NFL history to win a ring with two separate franchises.

Denver will be set up to make a similar pitch whenever Rodgers’ tenure in Green Bay is over. One big factor at the time will obviously be money and the salary cap situation, but a lot can happen over the coming seasons.

Denver added several playmakers this offseason, which makes them an appealing option for any signal-caller (including second-year quarterback Drew Lock). Melvin Gordon was brought in to join Phillip Lindsay in the backfield, for starters. They drafted tight end Noah Fant last year, and this year, in addition to wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, the Broncos drafted K.J. Hamler as another explosive wideout to go with Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton.

“We’re going to have to score points to win in our division,” Elway said (via NBC Sports’ Peter King). “Obviously at 15 we were thrilled that Jeudy still was there. And going into round two, we were focused on Hamler. He’s explosive and really tough. It’s hard to go 80 yards in this league, and we feel like we drafted two guys who can. Kansas City has those guys, and the quarterback [Patrick Mahomes] is obviously going to be great for a long time.”

As King wrote, NFL teams didn’t have a reliable 40-yard dash time for Hamler, though once they looked at the tape, it was clear that he was impressively fast.

“He had a 100-yard kick return against Michigan,” Elway said, “and so we just figured we’d time him [in a 40-yard interval] on that play. We timed him at 3.93 in the 40, but of course he had a running start. He just has a different speed than anyone else. This has become such a speed game. Watch Kansas City. We love Courtland, we love Jeudy. Get Hamler in the slot against quarters coverage, releasing upfield at 4.3 or 4.32 speed, and that’s going to put a lot of pressure on the safeties, I know that.”

As nice as the situation in Denver is, the New England Patriots can’t be counted out as a hypothetical future suitor.

The Patriots do not have a clear-cut long-term answer at quarterback on the roster. Former fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham could do his best Tom Brady impression on the field, but that’s a big TBD at this moment.

It appears the Pats will enter the 2021 offseason with a need at quarterback. They could target the NFL draft if Stidham is unable to emerge from the pack. Perhaps 68-year-old Bill Belichick would like to groom someone he can coach into his late 70s. However, bringing in a quarterback who can offer three to five years of above-average play is undoubtedly the best option for the franchise.

Will Rodgers shift over to the AFC? While there is strong competition for the conference title with teams like the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs, there isn’t a long list of AFC teams that appear to be perennial locks to make the playoffs. It may be an easier path than in the crowded NFC, though. Wherever Rodgers lands, he’d certainly target a home where obtaining his second Super Bowl ring is a realistic outcome from the moment he hypothetically signs.

Bob McGinn, formerly of the Green Bay Press–Gazette and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The mere law of averages says that Love won’t have nearly the same career that Favre had and Rodgers is having. The other thing is that, in contrast to what fans of the old-style smash-mouth NFL think, running the ball first doesn’t make you an elite team anymore, in large part because running back are one of the least durable positions as far as length of NFL career.

This certainly has reverberated throughout the sports world, in part because nothing else is going on. On the one hand Rodgers is going to retire at some point. He may want to play as long as Favre did, but given his lack of durability compared with Favre that seems unrealistic. On the other hand, if this story is legitimate, the apparent arrogance of LaFleur in thinking he can replace a Hall of Fame quarterback with no problem is pretty astonishing. One season does not make LaFleur a good coach, and questions are increasing about Gutekunst after a draft where most draft experts (such a “draft expert is”) are giving the Packers F grades.

If Love can’t get the job done, well, there are plenty of candidates for GM and coach positions, and I’m sure some other team will hire Gutekunst and LaFleur for something.

 

Some things never change, NFL QB edition

Pro Football Rumors:

The Jaguars have agreed to trade Nick Foles to the Bears, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). In exchange, the Bears will send a compensatory fourth-round pick to the Jags. The former Super Bowl MVP will restructure his hefty contract as part of the trade, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network tweets.

It’ll be new surroundings for Foles, but he’ll have plenty of familiar faces to help him adjust. Head coach Matt Nagy is among the staffers that have worked with him in the past, which will help with the learning curve.

The Bears have been exploring alternatives to former first-round pick Mitchell Trubisky this offseason, though they’re not necessarily out to replace him. Instead, Foles figures to serve as competition for the soon-to-be 26-year-old.

Trubisky showed plenty of promise in 2018 as he led the Bears to an 11-3 mark in 14 starts, a campaign that resulted in his first ever Pro Bowl nod. However, things got really rocky last year – Trubisky had just 17 touchdowns against ten interceptions and the Bears’ D couldn’t make up for the shortcomings. The Bears went 8-7 in Trubisky’s 15 starts and finished .500 on the season, leaving them short of the playoffs.

Chicago initially insisted after the year that they’d roll with Trubisky in 2020, but reports soon emerged that they were going to look for a veteran to push Trubisky. They’ve been connected to a number of signal-callers including Foles, Andy Dalton, and Teddy Bridgewater, and we heard Monday that they were focused on trading for either Foles or Dalton.

The Bears will take on the last three years of Foles’ contract, which pays a base value of $50M before the restructure. The Jaguars will be left with a substantial dead money hit of $18.75MM in 2020 and a mid-round pick. Jacksonville seems prepared to turn things over to Gardner Minshew, the sixth-rounder who went 6-6 last year as a rookie and finished the season with a top-10 interception rate.

Foles has had plenty of success at Soldier Field, as his last win as a starting quarterback was in Chicago in the wild card round of the playoffs two seasons ago in the infamous ‘double-doink’ game. While the Bears have insisted they aren’t giving up on Trubisky, it would be highly unusual to pay a backup quarterback as much money as Foles is getting, and it would be surprising if he doesn’t take over at some point.

Chicago now has even less draft capital, as they’ve already shipped out a bunch of picks in previous deals. They now have the 43rd and 50th overall selections in next month’s draft, but no other picks in the first four-rounds, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune notes in a tweet breaking down all of their picks.

Keith Olbermann said this in the late 2000s, and now this needs updating:

So the Bears have a quarterback problem. Thus has it been for the length of the era of Rex Grossman — and the eras of Kyle Orton, Brian Griese and Jeff Blake; Chad Hutchinson, Jonathan Quinn, and Craig Krenzel; Kordell Stewart, Chris Chandler, Jim Miller, Cade McNown, Shane Matthews and happy Hank Burris. Well, that takes us all the way back to 2000.

Following Orton’s return three years after the first of his two benchings came the era of Jay Cutler … and Todd Collins, Caleb Hanie, Josh McCown, Jason Campbell, Jimmy Clausen, Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer. That takes us from 2009 to 2017, when the Bears let Cutler leave, signed Mike Glennon and drafted Trubisky.

Bears fans wring their hands when after two games, Rex Grossman’s quarterback rating matches the speed limit. But this is one of the NFL’s great unrecognized traditions. With brief interruptions of stability from the likes of Jim McMahon and Billy Wade, the job has been unsettled since Sid Luckman retired.

Wade was the quarterback when Da Bears won the 1963 NFL title. The next season, Wade was replaced by Rudy Bukich, only to replace Bukich one season later, only to be replaced by Bukich one season after that. Bukich was out by 1967, when Jack Concannon arrived, only to be replaced by Rakestraw for two games. Bobby Douglass and Virgil Carter arrived the next season when the Bears inexplicably cut Rakestraw.

This is how Da Bears could have two Hall of Fame players — running back Gale Sayers and linebacker Dick Butkus — and end up with two winning seasons (their first, 1965, and 1967, the first and last of the Packers’ threepeat NFL titles) and zero playoff berths. (Sayers’ career ended in 1971, two years before Butkus retired.)

There has always been a Rex Grossman, he has always underperformed, and they have always been about to replace him. The Bears have had 13 starting quarterbacks in the last eight seasons and 40 in the last 47. They’ve started Moses Moreno, and Larry Rakestraw, and Doug Flutie for two games in 1986, and Peter Tom Willis — all three of him.

As compared to 13 starting quarterbacks in eight seasons a decade ago, Da Bears have done much better in the past eight seasons — nine starting QBs. Dating back to the 2010 season, when Da Bears teased their fans with an attempt at a Super Bowl run (and needed three quarterbacks to lose the 2010 NFC championship to the Packers), the count is 11 starting QBs in 10 seasons.

Moreover, once the Bears told George Blanda he was too old to do anything but kick any more. This was in 1958; he would quarterback the Raiders in the AFC Championship Game in 1970.

They drafted Bobby Layne and traded him, and they drafted Don Meredith and traded him, because who would need Don Meredith when you already had Ed Brown and Zeke Bratkowski?

So there’s no explaining this revolving door at quarterback for the Chicago Bears. But if history is any indicator, it is sending this message to Chris Leak, the Florida quarterback whom the Bears cut last month: stay in touch, your era may be next.”

A decade later, there still is no explaining this revolving door at quarterback for the Chicago Bears, which indeed remains one of the NFL’s great unrecognized traditions.