So you’re saying there’s a chance

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The hazards of firing your coach

Lost between the Brewers’ season and the start for the Bucks is the underwhelming 3–3–1 start for the Packers, a mark likely to drop to 3–4–1 after Sunday’s Patriots game.

So, of course, there are calls to fire coach Mike McCarthy. My opinion in such circumstances is to …


But a Facebook Friend who, unlike 99 percent of football fans, played both college (Badgers) and NFL football, passed on a post in a couple of parts I found at about firing McCarthy if the Packers don’t make the playoffs:

  • I have a suggestion.  Fire Mike McCarthy and then hire Mike McCarthy.  God you guys.  Be careful what you wish for.  We already have a very good HC.  I understand the frustration we had a lost season last year.  This year also not so great.  Last year Aaron was gone.  This year Aaron is playing on a bad leg.  It’s not MM it’s Aaron.  Team is making good progress.  Pettine is turning the Defense around.  On Offense they are OK but not great.   A lot of this is because of Aaron.  Give him major credit for playing through the injury but it is clearly affecting his play.  MM had the team ready to go.  We have had a few bad breaks this year.  Is what it is.  Firing the HC is not the answer IMO.  If they were coming out flat like that first half of the opener  I’d be on board.  The team is playing hard.  MM has not lost them.  Listened to Aaron’s presser see no problems there.  Barring a complete collapse I’d like to give him at least another season to turn this thing around.

(The first sentence sounds stupid, but that actually happened once in the NFL. Los Angeles Rams owner Dan Reeves — unrelated to the Broncos, Giants and Falcons coach — fired coach George Allen Dec. 31, 1968 for what Reeves called a “personality conflict,” despite Allen’s 11–1–2 and 10–3–1 records the previous two seasons. Twelve days later, after several players threatened to retire, Reeves, who had said that “winning with Allen wasn’t fun,” rehired his former coach. Allen was fired two seasons later, then rehired by the Rams’ next owner seven years later, only to be fired during the preseason due to a revolt by the players.)

  • Moving on from MM isn’t the problem – moving on to who is the problem. Do you want a guy like Dan Devine, Bart Starr, Forrest Gregg, Lindy Infante, Ray Rhodes, or Mike Sherman? All of those guys were supposedly solutions to the problem. It’s a fricken crapshoot. LIS elsewhere, loosely speaking, 90% of head coaches fail. For every Sean McVay there are 10 Marc Trestmans. Watch some games from last year and ask yourself if it was coaching or talent. That’s the best argument I can give. I’m glad I don’t have to make the decision. Choose poorly and you burn up the rest of Rodgers’ career. I think I want to see one more year with the revamped receiving corps and a draft with two number picks that doesn’t suck azz like TT’s last few drafts which depleted the roster.
  • 11 of the past 15 years we have drafted above # 20.   Be careful blaming either the GM or the Head coach for the lack of talented difference – makers. Ted made great picks in bad positions in the beginning but then had three bad years in a row. With his philosophy on FA it is no surprise that I believe we have below level talent in a lot of spots. A dearth of talent with respect to ones opponents will begin to weigh heavily. I think we would be in the middle of a long drought without Rodgers. I thin MM has done well with what he has had. I favor keeping him with two # 1s and Gutekunsts new FA philosophy.

From the resignation of Packers general manager/coach Vince Lombardi to the hiring of general manager Ron Wolf is known as the Gory Years for good reason. writer Cliff Christl was asked why the Packers were so bad between Lombardi and Wolf, and Christl gave this answer:

Twenty-four years of mediocrity (1968-91) can’t be explained in black-and-white terms. It’s an all-gray story and the fault lies everywhere.

I recall writing at some point in the 1980s that the Packers had become victims of their own inertia. The point I was trying to make was that no matter what they did, it made no difference. They were stuck in a rut and couldn’t get out of it for more reasons than one could ever address in a forum such as this.

I remember having lunch with Wolf soon after he was hired. He had been a good source of mine for years when he was in Oakland and Tampa Bay. Anyway, at that lunch, he asked me what I thought about having some of the Packers’ former greats serve as honorary captains for games the next season. I didn’t say it, but my initial reaction was: Are you kidding me? For 13 years, while Bart Starr and Forrest Gregg were coaching, one of the most often heard complaints was that the Packers were living in the past and unable to cut ties with the Lombardi era. Now, here was Wolf, with no previous ties to the franchise, primed to make it his cross to bear.

But that’s what it took for change to occur. Wolf went further than Starr or Gregg ever did to promote the Packers’ rich tradition and feed off their glorious past. And he got away with it because he was an outsider. Not only that, it played a huge part in his effort to restore the Packers’ image and credibility across the country.

That’s why I wouldn’t blame the executive committee any more than the coaches or players for how bad things got. At the same time, that’s where I’d start because the committee was 0-for-4 when it came to hiring coaches.

Although Vince Lombardi might have named Phil Bengtson as his coaching successor without consulting anyone, the executive committee gave Bengtson the added title of general manager a year later. That made a bad mistake worse. Hiring Devine and Starr as combination GMs/Head Coaches were terrible mistakes. Stripping Starr of his GM title in 1980 and then not following through on the decision by hiring a credentialed GM only complicated a bad situation.

Four years later, the executive committee signed off on hiring Gregg as coach and all but paved the way for his paranoia to run amok.

Gregg admitted as much to me during an interview in his second to last season as Packers coach. In Cleveland, where he cut his teeth as a head coach, Gregg’s personnel director, Bob Nussbaumer, was caught spying on him at the behest of owner Art Modell. Worse yet, Gregg felt he was undermined by a handful of veteran players there.

Still haunted by those memories almost a decade later, Gregg said it was a factor in some of the most important decisions he made in Green Bay. “You bet your sweet apple pie it was,” he confessed to me in 1986.

More than a year earlier, Gregg had hired Chuck Hutchison, one of his former players and assistant coaches, to be his right-hand man in Green Bay’s front office. What’s more, Gregg insulated himself from some of the competent holdovers from the Devine and Starr regimes, creating schisms in the Packers’ personnel department and other areas of the front office that festered for up to another eight years.

In an interview last fall, Packers radio play-by-play man Wayne Larrivee questioned me about the executive committee’s interference during those dark days in the ‘70s and ‘80s. My answer was something to this effect: I know Bob Harlan has talked about that being a problem, but I don’t buy it. I told Larrivee that Harlan was just being kind. The problem was incompetence, not interference, all the way up the ladder.

Just recently at a meeting, I informed Bob of what I said. He laughed and acknowledged that I was spot on.

The only coach during those two decades who might have suffered from interference was Devine. Bengston, Starr, Gregg and Lindy Infante were victims of their own flaws, not executive committee interference.

Given Devine’s apocalyptically disastrous decision to send five draft picks (including “a-one and-a-two and-a-three”) to the Los Angeles Rams to acquire the recently benched John Hadl (who played for the Rams between Allen and Allen) as quarterback, maybe the Executive Committee should have interfered more with Devine.

Lombardi replaced himself as coach with defensive coordinator Phil Bengtson, who was fired in 1971 because he didn’t have anywhere near Lombardi’s success. (For one thing, GM Lombardi’s players got old and neither he nor Bengston successfully replaced most of them.) Devine, previously the Missouri coach (and chosen after Allen turned down the Packers supposedly because his wife didn’t like cold weather and instead of Penn State coach Joe Paterno), produced one playoff season, then left for Notre Dame perhaps a season before he would have been fired, replaced by former Packer quarterback Bart Starr, for whom it’s a stretch to say he was qualified to be the head coach or GM, particularly given the nonexistent draft picks Devine left him.

As with Devine, Starr had one playoff season, though he had three near-playoff seasons, the last of which resulted in his replacement by his former teammate Forrest Gregg …

… who unlike Starr had head coaching experience (including leading Cincinnati to a Super Bowl), but like Starr had no GM experience. Gregg duplicated Starr’s last season twice, then blew up the roster but failed to improve the roster, then left for his alma mater, Southern Methodist University. Gregg’s replacements were GM Tom Braatz and coach Lindy Infante (Gregg’s offensive coordinator in Cincinnati), who produced one near-playoff season, but that was it.

Wolf waited until the day after the 1991 season ended, then fired Infante. Wolf hired the right coach, Mike Holmgren (Wolf’s second choice when Bill Parcells turned him down, as Lombardi was the second choice after Iowa’s Forest Evashefski turned them down), but had to replace Holmgren when Holmgren decided he wanted to be a GM/coach too. Wolf’s next, Ray Rhodes, lasted one 8–8 season. Hire numb3er three, Mike Sherman, lasted one season as coach, then got promoted to GM/coach (wrongly, but for understandable reasons) when Wolf retired. Sherman’s GM replacement was Ted Thompson, who was Sherman’s boss for one season before firing him and hiring McCarthy.

With a new general manager, Brian Gutekunst, there is historical precedent for McCarthy’s firing if for no other reason than Wolf and Thompson wanting their own coach. But as the first Facebook post says, be careful what you wish for. Gregg was not a better hire than Starr, and the NFL has a long list of coach firings that were not improvements, unless you believe that Ed Biles was a better coach than Bum Phillips, or that Barry Switzer was a better NFL coach than Jimmy Johnson.

There is a school of thought to fire McCarthy and replace him with one of his coordinators, both of whom, Joe Philbin on offense and Mike Pettine on defense, are former NFL head coaches. The head coaching records of Philbin (24–28 in Miami) and Pettine (10–22 in Cleveland) do not suggest them as promising repalcements for McCarthy.

If the Packers intend on firing McCarthy, that’s an obvious sign that the Packers are starting over, which means forget about 2019 and probably 2020. Recall that McCarthy took two seasons to get to the playoffs with Brett Favre, and needed two more seasons with Aaron Rodgers to get to the playoffs. So McCarthy’s firing, if it takes place, would be a sign that Rodgers, arguably the best in the NFL (though the Patriots’ Tom Brady has four more Super Bowl wins), is not long for the franchise. The chances of the Packers’ successfully twice replacing a quarterback who at one time was the best in the league is not good.

A Packer what-if

The three greatest quarterbacks in Packers history in the Super Bowl era are Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, arguably followed by Lynn Dickey.

After Dickey comes, or came, the abyss. Fans who suffered through the Gory Years after Vince Lombardi left and before Ron Wolf got to Green Bay can recite with varying degrees of exasperation the list of starting quarterbacks after Starr and before Favre, including Scott Hunter (who at least won a division title by handing off to John Brockington and MacArthur Lane), Jerry Tagge (a Green Bay native whose skills as Nebraska’s quarterback in more of a passing offense than the Cornhuskers eventually ran didn’t translate into the NFL), Jim Del Gaizo (because the third-string draft pick of the Super Bowl VII champion Miami Dolphins should be worth two second-round draft picks, right?), Jack Concannon (perhaps because he was on the early ’70s Cowboys practicd squad), John Hadl (more about him momentarily), Don Milan, Carlos Brown (later known as actor Alan Autry of “In the Heat of the Night”), Randy Johnson and David Whitehurst produced little success.

That’s the pre-Dickey’s-broken-leg list. After Dickey came Randy Wright (one of UW’s best quarterbacks, but see Tagge), Jim Zorn (previously in Seattle), Don Majkowski (Magik for 1989), Anthony Dilweg (despite being the grandson of a Packer alumnus), Mike Tomczak (who was less effective in Green Bay than he was in Chicago, and he was no Jim McMahon with Da Bears) and Blair Kiel (formerly of Notre Dame, about which more later).

The worst part of this tale of woe is Hadl, the object of possibly the most idiotic trade in NFL history. Somewhere between Del Gaizo and Milan GM/coach Dan Devine realized he had no NFL-level quarterbacks on his roster. And so Devine panicked and sent two first-round draft picks, a second-round pick and two third-round picks to the Rams for Hadl. Starr, who replaced Devine as GM and coach after Devine left for Notre Dame, then had to send two more draft picks and a player to Houston to get Dickey.

That long preamble leads us to Cliff Christl:

Over a span of seven years, from when the newly formed American Football League held its first draft on Nov. 22, 1959 until a merger agreement with the National Football League was reached in June 1966, the two leagues held separate college drafts and engaged in expensive bidding wars to sign their picks.

The Green Bay Packers lost only one of nine No. 1 choices during that period and it proved to be no loss. Wide receiver Larry Elkins, selected with the Packers’ second first-round pick and 10th choice overall in the 1965 draft, signed with the Houston Oilers and turned out to be a bust. He played two years and caught a total of 24 passes.

Still, the Packers lost a quarterback who could have become Bart Starr’s heir apparent and four solid offensive linemen. …

The AFL held its draft on Dec. 1, 1962, two days before the NFL, and the Buffalo Bills announced 13 days later they had signed Lamonica, their 24th round choice. “I’m going with the Bills because they gave me a better one-year offer,” explained Lamonica. “I don’t intend to play pro ball the rest of my young life. I have other things in mind.”

The quarterback who became known as “The Mad Bomber” as a pro struggled as a senior at Notre Dame under Joe Kuharich much like Joe Montana did later under Dan Devine. In fact, Kuharich considered Lamonica a better runner, but thought junior Frank Budka was the better passer because he threw a better deep ball. So he had them split time.

1963 wasn’t one of Notre Dame’s more memorable seasons and Lamonica was the subject of one of the better stories that circulated in South Bend. Apocryphal or not, it went like this. One day a priest encountered him on a golf course and asked why he wasn’t at practice. Lamonica responded, “I don’t have to practice. I know both of Kuharich’s plays.” So the priest, in need of a golf partner the next day, asked Lamonica to join him. “Can’t make it today,” said the quarterback. “I have to find out which play Joe wants to use Saturday.”

Following a 35-6 loss to Northwestern, Notre Dame was scheduled to play Navy next. That week, the Midshipmen’s chief scout Steve Belichick told the Baltimore Sun that Notre Dame’s biggest problem was quarterback because four players were sharing the position. But Belichick added that he liked what he saw of Lamonica, despite the lopsided score, when he got a chance to play in the second half against Northwestern. “He gave them the best passing they’ve had all year,” Belichick said. Sure enough, against Navy, Lamonica outplayed sophomore Roger Staubach and triggered a four-game winning streak for the Irish.

After signing with Buffalo, Lamonica spent four years backing up veteran Jack Kemp, but went 4-0 in his only starts. Traded to Oakland in 1967, Lamonica led the Raiders to a 13-1 regular-season record, the AFL championship and a matchup with Green Bay in Super Bowl II. He also was named the AFL’s Player of the Year.

The week before the Super Bowl, Green Bay native Red Smith, who would win a Pulitzer Prize nine years later, interviewed George Wilson, who had coached Detroit from 1957-64 and also had faced Lamonica three times as coach of the Miami Dolphins. Asked to compare the two teams, Wilson said he thought Lamonica would be the key to the game. “I believe the two hottest quarterbacks in professional football through the season were Sonny Jurgensen with the Redskins and Lamonica in our league,” said Wilson.

Although Starr outplayed Lamonica in the Super Bowl, the latter compiled a 62-16-6 record as Oakland’s starter before being replaced by future Hall of Famer Ken Stabler in 1973.

When the Raiders acquired Lamonica, Ron Wolf was a 29-year-old scout in his fifth year with the team. Wolf has no doubt Lamonica would have eventually played for the Packers.

“He threw 30 touchdown passes his first year, 34 another year,” said Wolf. “The team went 13-1 with him as a quarterback. He had a strong arm. He could make all the throws. Plus, he was agile enough to get out of trouble.”

In Wolf’s eyes, Lamonica might have been the second best quarterback in AFL history. “Of his era, there wasn’t anybody as good as Joe Namath,” said Wolf. “Joe Namath was a cut above everybody else. He’s in the Hall of Fame. But Daryle would be No. 2. (Len) Dawson is in the Hall of Fame, but I think Daryle was better than Dawson. (George) Blanda is in the Hall of Fame. But Daryle could make all the throws.”

No doubt, Lamonica was better than any Packers’ quarterback between Starr and Lynn Dickey, but he would have been 29 years old when Starr’s shoulder problems signaled the end was near in 1969.

Keep in mind as well that most of Lamonica’s career was in the wide-open AFL. (The same applies to Hadl.) Raiders owner Al Davis coached under Sid Gillman, one of the architects of the modern passing game, and Davis loved throwing deep. (Here’s a big what-if: Davis apparently once considered trading Stabler, perhaps the most accurate quarterback of the 1970s, to Pittsburgh for Steeler quarterback Terry Bradshaw.) Even though under Bengtson quarterback Don Horn once threw for 410 yards in a game, no NFL team threw as freely as the Raiders with Lamonica or the Chargers with Hadl.

One big problem every Packer quarterback between Starr and Favre faced (often from their backs) was poor-quality offensive lines. Christl’s piece also discusses four offensive linemen the Packers drafted but lost to AFL teams who arguably would have been better than the offensive linemen the Packers had once the Glory Days offensive line retired or were traded away (Forrest Gregg to Dallas).

And while we’re talking about problems of Packer quarterbacks, we might as well add the quality, or lack thereof, of targets for those quarterbacks. The 1972 NFC Central champion Packers were so ground-bound that Hunter averaged less than 100 passing yards per game. Carroll Dale, nearing the end of his career, led the Packers with 16 catches for 317 yards and one touchdown. Those aren’t even good high school numbers today. (In fact the 1972 Packers were just 11th in offensive points per game, but were fourth in points given up per game.)

Other Packer receivers, if you want to call them that, of this era included 1973 first-round pick Barry Smith, who lasted three seasons because he didn’t like to catch balls over the middle, and a group of guys you’ve never heard of. (Jack Clancy? Jon Staggers? Leland Glass? Ollie Smith?) After Dale’s and Boyd Dowler’s departures, not until the Packers drafted James Lofton first in 1978 did they have a quality receiver on the team. (Dale and Dowler were more like spread-out tight ends than fast receivers, which Lombardi never had.) Meanwhile, Hadl was throwing to a Hall of Fame receiver, Lance Alworth, and Lamonica was throwing to another Hall of Fame receiver, Fred Biletnikoff; two other above-average receivers, Warren Wells and tight end Raymond Chester; and several running backs who could also catch.

The view from the next opponent

The Washington Post’s D.C. Sports Bog:

This probably says nothing about how the Redskins will finish this season, but I think it’s safe to say there’s not one single player on the team’s roster you would pay good money to watch, if you weren’t a committed fan. (And maybe you wouldn’t even pay good money to watch all 53 of them, even if you were a committed fan, based on last week’s crowd.) The player who seemed most likely to achieve that status, almost incredibly, was a rookie running back, but then Derrius Guice got hurt, and so now the team’s most prominent star player is … Josh Norman? I guess? …

But there are still NFL players worth the price of admission by themselves, if you’re into that kind of thing, players you can’t keep your eyes off when they’re on the field. That’s  what Baker Mayfield was last night. That’s what Khalil Mack has been this season. (Here’s a great look at Mack, from Kent Babb.) That’s definitely what Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill are, and what Odell Beckham Jr. is, and it’s what Aaron Rodgers is, on one or two legs, as a Super Bowl contender or with a non-playoff team, playing with a lead or coming from behind.

If I were to pay to go to Sunday’s Redskins game (hahahahaha! Ha!), Rodgers is certainly the player I’d be most eager to watch. (Good seats are still available, by the way.)

And the quotes in Les Carpenter’s story previewing the game definitely didn’t change my mind.

“He has all the tricks in the book,” Mason Foster said.

“Nobody else can make those throws,” London Fletcher said.

“You just see it, it’s a faster ball than anyone else,” D.J. Swearinger said.

“Some guys’ passes are like rocks,” Bruce Arians said. “Some are like marshmallows. He throws marshmallows but with a lot of speed.”

He throws marshmallows! Speedy marshmallows! Who doesn’t like speedy marshmallows! I’d pay to see that. Well, maybe.

The Post’s Les Carpenter elaborates:

The worst part about playing against Aaron Rodgers is the dread. Opponents forever wonder how the Green Bay Packers quarterback is going to beat them this time. Will it be a pass fired on the run? A lob over the linebacker’s head? A Hail Mary heaved high into the sky?

Redskins linebacker Mason Foster has a story. Back in 2011, his Tampa Bay Buccaneers went to Green Bay to play the Packers, who were 10-0 at the time. For three quarters, the Bucs held close, training only 21-19. They thought they might win.

“Then on one drive, [Rodgers] just picked up on something, went up-tempo and just went crazy for the rest of the game,” Foster says. “He just figured it out, was calling out the blitzes, calling out all the looks and just went up and down the field on us.”

Tampa Bay lost, 35-26.

But here’s the thing about that game: Foster remembers the Bucs being up 21-0 at the moment Rodgers tore them apart. In fact, he is certain of it.

But who can blame Foster for thinking Rodgers had led the Packers back from three touchdowns down that day? Rodgers has led so many comebacks and crushed so many dreams they become a part of opponents’ memories, making players believe it has happened to them, too. Two weeks ago, he was knocked from the Packers’ opening game with a knee injury that required him to be carted to the locker room, only to hobble back in the second half with Green Bay down 20-3 and lead the Packers to a 24-23 victory. It was the 13th fourth-quarter comeback of his career.

On Sunday, the Redskins will face Rodgers and the Packers at FedEx Field. For a team that lost last week after giving up three 75-yard touchdown drives to the Colts and quarterback Andrew Luck, the thought of playing Rodgers can’t be a good one.

“He does so many things that are unscripted,” says former Cardinals Coach Bruce Arians, now an analyst for the NFL on CBS.

There is no real way to prepare for Rodgers. Meticulously designed schemes become useless because eventually he figures them out. Before each snap, he stands behind his line, scanning the defense for hints of what might be coming. Those who play against him have learned to reveal nothing about their intent, disguising formations for as long as they can, all in the desperate hope of somehow fooling him.

“If you show at the start that you are coming with the blitz, you are dead,” says former Redskins linebacker London Fletcher, who, like Arians, is an analyst for the NFL on CBS.

Even if Rodgers doesn’t recognize the defense, he can beat it with his voice. Opposing players say his cadence is impossible to judge. He might not wave his arms or shout “Omaha!” like Peyton Manning, but the small jerks of the head and strange vocal inflections are impossible to interpret.

Because most agree the best way to beat Rodgers is to send an aggressive pass rush up the middle, putting big hands in his face, pass rushers and defensive linemen are especially eager to jump at the snap of the ball. Rodgers plays to their impatience, changing the sound of his voice with what seems like each snap. Deciphering his hard count is close to impossible. Sooner or later, someone is going to jump.

“He’ll go, ‘Hut-hut!’ and it’s, ‘Oh, shoot,’ ” Fletcher says with a laugh.

The best thing to do when this happens, Fletcher says, is to keep coming and be absolutely sure to tackle him. There is nothing the Packers quarterback loves to do more than lure defenses offside, drawing a penalty and essentially earning a free play. Almost always, he will throw deep, realizing there is no loss in aiming for the end zone. If he completes the pass, Green Bay can decline the penalty. If it’s incomplete or intercepted, the Packers can take the call and keep moving.

“He has all the tricks in the book,” Foster says.

Once the ball is snapped, there’s no knowing what Rodgers might do. Arians says that even though Rodgers is not a runner, teams have to treat him like one because he is so elusive inside and outside the pocket. Such players are particularly challenging for defenses because they stymie pass rushes, making it harder to get sacks or force quarterbacks into frantic, hurried throws.

There has been a lot of talk this week about Rodgers’s injured knee, leading many commentators and Redskins fans to believe the quarterback who comes to FedEx Field will be somehow diminished, unable to move and vulnerable to Washington’s pass rush. Rodgers himself has fueled some of this speculation by wearing an enormous brace on his knee in last Sunday’s tie with the Minnesota Vikings and openly worrying that playing on the knee might make the injury worse.

Fletcher scoffs at the idea of a hobbled Rodgers, saying: “I’ve played on multiple [medial collateral ligament] sprains; the knee loosens up as the game goes on. He can just play with a wrap on his knee and be fine.”

Given the 281 yards for which Rodgers threw against the Vikings on Sunday, while moving robotically around the field, Fletcher’s sense is probably right. There’s no such thing as a diminished Rodgers. Not as long as he is able to throw.

“A cannon,” is what Washington safety D.J. Swearinger calls Rodgers’s arm.

In the end, teams probably fear Rodgers’s throwing ability more than anything else. Coaches like to talk about quarterbacks “making all the throws,” as in being able to complete passes to all levels of the field. Most NFL quarterbacks can “make all the throws” at some level, usually excelling at a few of those passes.

Rodgers, those who have played against him marvel, can make every throw.

Really. Every throw.

“The big thing is he makes them accurately,” Arians says.

“He squeezes it in there,” says Foster.

“Whether he’s on the run or he’s falling back or he’s throwing it downfield, throwing it short. It doesn’t matter,” Swearinger says, shaking his head. “He’s always accurate.”

Fletcher sighs. “Nobody else can make those throws,” he says.

Yet it’s not just that Rodgers can make all the throws, it’s that he throws his passes hard. Very hard.

“You just see it, it’s a faster ball than anyone else,” Swearinger says.

Fletcher has a Rodgers pass in his mind, one he saw the quarterback make in a game against the Redskins years ago. Evading a rush, Rodgers turned to his left and started running toward the sideline. Then, while still running, he fired a pass into a receiver’s arms at a velocity that still has Fletcher trying to figure out the physics of such a throw.

“Think about that — he’s right-handed, and he’s running to his left,” Fletcher says. “That’s a hard throw to make because you are running and you have to turn your shoulders to make the throw. But he doesn’t turn his shoulders, he just throws it.”

One would think that if Rodgers is throwing harder than any other quarterback in football while running from side-to-side or falling backward that his passes would be difficult to grab. But his 65 percent completion percentage is seventh-best in NFL history, and his 103.9 passer rating is the best ever, according to the statistics website Pro Football Reference.

“Some guys’ passes are like rocks,” Arians says. “Some are like marshmallows. He throws marshmallows but with a lot of speed.”

“It’s a zip, but it’s always a spiral,” Swearinger says.

Then, just in case Rodgers hasn’t already won by deciphering the defense, or drawing pass rushers offside, or throwing speedy marshmallows into his receivers’ hands, he has one last trick: the Hail Mary. Three times in the last three years, Rodgers has won or tied games with long, desperation heaves. Swearinger, who was part of a secondary victimized by the second — thrown at the end of regulation in a 2016 playoff game against Swearinger’s Cardinals, who went on to win the game in overtime — says Rodgers’ ability to make Hail Marys work is because he throws the ball higher than any other quarterback, allowing his wide receivers and tight ends to jump for the ball.

Arians, who was Swearinger’s coach that day, has another explanation.

“Luck,” he says.

“But I’ll tell you what,” Swearinger says, standing in the Redskins’ locker room late Wednesday afternoon, “I’m approaching this like it’s one of the biggest games of my career. You got the best quarterback or one of the best quarterbacks in football, and you got to approach it like a Super Bowl.”

Two of Swearinger’s teammates chuckle as he says this. Swearinger does not laugh back. This is Aaron Rodgers. “No. 12,” as he likes to say.

“There’s definitely only one of him,” Swearinger adds. “No. 12 is a different species.”

Which is enough for anyone to dread playing against.

Another selection for the Hall of Fame application

If you’re on Facebook, look up Kevin Hunt (former WTMJ-TV sportscaster) and watch this video, but make sure you visit the bathroom first:

Postgame schadenfreude, Da Bears Still Suck 2018 edition

Ever since the writer of this blog got this inspired idea, The Presteblog has brought its readers the perspective of big Packer wins from the perspective of the losing side.

I believe the tradition started with the National Football League’s oldest rivalry, meeting number 197 of which occurred Sunday night at Lambeau Field. I recall during the Packers’ Super Bowl XXXI season enjoying reading Chicago media eviscerate Da Bears, even to the point of, in the Chicago Tribune’s case, assigning a sportswriter to cover the Packers the rest of the season.

Before we go on: I freely admit to watching the wrong half of Sunday night’s game. After Khalil Mack’s interception for a touchdown that gave Da Bears a 17–0 lead, I stopped watching given the fact that the season seemed lost not merely because of one half of one game, but because of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ left knee injury.

I was not the only one who thought the game was over. The Tribune’s Colleen Kane reports:

For a split-second, Kyle Fuller had the Bears’ season-opening victory in his hands Sunday night at Lambeau Field, but it bounced out of his grasp.

With the Bears holding a precarious six-point lead against the Packers with 2 minutes, 39 seconds to play, the Bears cornerback was in position to intercept quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He leaned forward to make the catch on a short pass attempt but dropped it.

In frustration, he flung the football and then sat on the field for a few seconds to absorb the missed opportunity.

“I’ve just got to make the play,” Fuller said afterward.

He’s hardly the only Bears defender who can say that.

Many Bears played a part in the massive collapse that allowed the Packers to score 24 second-half points on the way to a 24-23 victory. The 20-point comeback victory was the Packers’ second-largest ever at Lambeau Field, behind only a 21-point comeback against the Saints in 1989.

“The whole team got lazy,” Bears safety Eddie Jackson said. “We got too complacent, especially on the defensive side of the ball. We didn’t finish. We came out the first half swinging. The energy was there. The second half I felt like the energy was low. Everybody got complacent, and we lost focus that we still had a game to finish.”

Jackson was at the center of the Packers’ winning play, two plays after Fuller’s missed opportunity.

He was playing in the middle when Rodgers, with plenty of time to throw, found wide receiver Randall Cobb just behind him. Jackson dived toward the pass but was too far in front to make a tackle. Cobb ran free for the 75-yard, go-ahead touchdown, also leaving outside linebacker Leonard Floyd falling in his wake.

It was the last of three second-half touchdown passes from Rodgers, who left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury that he said afterward was “painful.”

He returned in the third quarter, and he found Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison for a 39-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Allison made a diving catch behind Fuller in the back right corner of the end zone to cut the Bears’ lead to 20-10.

Rodgers zeroed in on wide receiver Davante Adams on the next drive, connecting with him on passes of 51 and 6 yards before a 12-yard touchdown. Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara was in coverage on the first and last plays as the Packers pulled within 20-17.

Afterward, Amukamara took 30 seconds to collect his thoughts when asked about what happened to the defense after a first-half shutout in which the Bears sacked Rodgers and backup quarterback DeShone Kizer twice each and forced two turnovers.

He said he didn’t think the Bears were overly confident at halftime and they weren’t necessarily surprised Rodgers came back in.

“They started going up-tempo and stuff like that,” Amukamara said. “We just couldn’t stop the bleeding. Outside looking in, it looks like we pooped our pants. We just have to finish. Even coming in here, we were saying, ‘We had a good first half; we need to have a better second half.’ We were aware we needed to turn it up in the second half, but for whatever reason, our actions didn’t show up.”

Jackson said coach Matt Nagy’s message after the game was to not point fingers.

“This is on us as a team,” Jackson said. “We have to come back and get better from it. … We have to come out and finish like we’re capable of.”

The Tribune’s Brad Biggs adds:

Matt Nagy’s debut as Bears coach threw him right into the middle of the NFL’s longest-running rivalry.

One game in, suffice to say Nagy has an understanding of how warped this series has been for the Bears for quite some time.

It’s impossible to equate Sunday night’s 24-23 loss to the NFC championship game after the 2010 season, when the Packers thwarted the Bears’ Super Bowl bid. And it’s not quite the gut punch the Bears got in the 2013 regular-season finale, when a loss at home kept them out of the playoffs and propelled the Packers to the postseason.

But this one stings, and Nagy and fans who were worked into a frenzy for the start of a new era will not forget it anytime soon. They shouldn’t, either, after Randall Cobb scored on a 75-yard touchdown catch and run with 2:13 remaining and the Bears found a new and unusual way to lose to Aaron Rodgers.

The Bears had complete control at Lambeau Field in Nagy’s nationally televised debut. They were throttling the Packers even before Rodgers went to the locker room on a cart during the second quarter with a left knee injury that clearly hobbled him after he returned.

The crowd of 78,282 was lustily booing as the Packers headed to the locker room at halftime. That’s because the Bears led 17-0, their largest halftime lead over the Packers in any game — home or away — since Dec. 7, 1980, when the Bears won 61-7 at Soldier Field, the most lopsided game in the rivalry’s history.

Think about that for a moment. As dominant as the Bears were in the mid-’80s when the Packers weren’t particularly good, they never had a better start to a game against their rivals, at least not on the scoreboard. As well as the Bears did under Lovie Smith for a brief period against the Packers, they never controlled a game so thoroughly from the outset.

The Bears haven’t coughed up a lead and choked away a game like this in an awfully long time either. There’s no other way to describe what happened after they went from leading 20-0 late in the third quarter to falling on their face.

Not even second life provided by a boneheaded roughing-the-passer penalty on Clay Matthews could save the Bears, who lost the season opener for the fifth straight year after Nick Perry sacked Mitch Trubisky on fourth down with 58 seconds to play.

Rodgers, even slowed, was deadly as he finished 20 of 29 for 286 yards with three touchdowns. That’s what happens when one side has a future Hall of Famer and the other a young quarterback learning a system. Trubisky looked rattled in the fourth quarter, trying throws back across the field and missing high on a throw to Tarik Cohen in the flat.

The meltdown — and both sides of the ball were to blame — spoiled a magnificent debut by new outside linebacker Khalil Mack. If you watched only the first half, you’d think the only person having a worse night than Rodgers might have been Raiders coach Jon Gruden.

Mack was dominant from the first time he came in the game on the fourth snap, lining up on the left side over Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga. It was Mack’s pressure from the outside that forced Rodgers up in the pocket when he was sacked by Roy Robertson-Harris and injured. Rodgers spent an entire series for the Bears offense in the blue medical tent before being taken by cart to the locker room.

DeShone Kizer relieved him at quarterback on the next series, which Mack ended when he stripped Kizer and had the ball in his lap before landing on the ground. Later, when Robertson-Harris whipped center Corey Linsley to blow up a screen pass, Mack intercepted the attempt and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown. It was also Mack’s pressure that created a sack for first-round draft pick Roquan Smith when he briefly spelled Danny Trevathan.

The Bears added one player who has made an immediate ripple effect on the defense, allowing them to rotate a wave of players on the line. Defensive end Akiem Hicks had a sack and forced fumble as the Bears pummeled Rodgers early. Robertson-Harris led the unit with three quarterback hurries.

The Bears have closed the gap on the Packers. No doubt about that. But the thing the Packers still have going for them is Rodgers, who’s now 17-4 against the Bears and 1-0 versus Nagy — who saw right away what kind of wild and crazy this series contains.

The Chicago Sun–Times’ Rick Morrissey:

Aaron Rodgers was taken off the field on a cart in the second quarter Sunday night. He has always done the improbable, so when he was listed as questionable for the second half, it was reasonable to expect him to toss aside crutches, take a joyride on a gurney back into Lambeau Field and declare himself healed.

No, it was more than that. It was a given.

How did the Bears respond to the sight of Rodgers’ return? By going red-state conservative with a big lead in the second half. So the way the game ended up playing out, while dramatic, was hardly shocking. Rodgers did what he usually does, this time finding a receiver for a 75-yard touchdown play in the closing minutes.

And the Bears’ offense, under new coach Matt Nagy, reverted to the 2017 vintage under stodgy John Fox. The result was a 24-23 Packers’ victory that will stick with the Bears for a long time.

They led 17-0 at halftime and 20-0 in the third quarter. Mitch Trubisky looked good. If you came into Sunday’s game with doubts about the young quarterback, they should have evaporated quickly as he moved his team confidently in the first half.

But that wasn’t the prevailing feeling as the Bears trudged off the field at the end of the game. It was that they let one get away by shying away on offense in the second half. Did Nagy take his foot off the gas? So much so that you suspected the gas pedal came with an electric shock.

“No, not at all,’’ he said. “We were running the ball pretty well. We were getting some good yards. We had a couple third-and-ones where we ended up getting a five-yard gain and a four-yard gain and had a third-and-one and didn’t get it. There would have been some times there where it would have been nice to get that first down.

“… If you stay aggressive, (you’re asked), ‘Why aren’t you running the ball?’ Right?’’

But some of the pass plays Nagy called were maddening. After the Packers had cut the lead to 20-10 early in the fourth quarter, the Bears badly needed to convert on a third-and-one at their own 34. Trubisky threw a pass to tight end Dion Sims that arrived short of the first-down marker. Tackle. Punt.

“If we get the right look, then it’s wide open, we look like geniuses,’’ Trubisky said

“We needed to chew up some yards to get some first downs, which we didn’t do,’’ Nagy said. “And then before you know it, they’re right back in it.’’

That part earlier where Nagy said he didn’t take his foot off the gas? Just to review: He took his foot off the gas.

It wasn’t the greatest debut for a new head coach, but the unfortunate part of it is that it should have been so much more. The Bears looked so good in the first half. Trubisky completed 11 of 14 passes for 109 yards, with a passer rating of 99.1 in the first 30 minutes. The Bears’ first drive was 10 plays and 86 yards, and it ended with a two-yard touchdown run by Trubisky.

But it never got better than that the rest of the night. Trubisky threw for 62 yards in the second half. …

The ending was beyond unfortunate. For a half, Trubisky surely brought a tear to the eye of Chicagoans who have been on a quarterback quest the past 30 years. Is this the one they have been seeking? Perhaps, but we’ll need more than a half to tell.

But there were good signs. Trubisky’s ability as a runner was obvious last season, but he showed a real ability to escape a pass rush Sunday. It’d be silly to compare him to Rodgers, who gets out of more trouble than a principal’s son, but he was Rodgers-esque at times. He had a nice run on third-and-one to keep a drive alive in the fourth quarter.

But by that time, the Packers were doing what the Packers usually do to the Bears.

“When we got the ball back with 2:30 left, I was pretty confident we were going to win the game,’’ Rodgers said.

One 75-yard pass play to Randall Cobb, and that was that. Too bad. It shouldn’t have ended that way.

The Tribune’s Steve Rosenbloom continues the fine Chicago sports media tradition of kicking the local team when it’s down:

Before Matt Nagy ended up looking and sounding bad and stupid at the end of Sunday night, it was all there for the rookie coach and the Bears, and all of it was on national TV for Football Nation to witness and fear.

The Bears walked into Lambeau Field and stuffed Aaron Rodgers on the first drive and then rolled over the bully Packers for a touchdown. Next series, a field goal raised the lead to 10-0.

While Rodgers looked like he was using last year’s Bears offense, Mitch Trubiskylooked like Rodgers back there — accurate, making the right reads, putting the ball where only his target could grab it, chewing up yardage, scoring points. It was a thing.

Meanwhile, there was Khalil Mack, the Bears revelation of an attack unit acquired from the Raiders on Sept. 1, registering a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, an interception and a TD, and that was just in the first half, an NFL first. SEAL Team 52 was reporting for duty, sir.

After the first drive of the third quarter, the Bears were up 20-0 against their evil, dreaded rival with Rodgers hobbled on a bad knee. Yes, it was all there for Nagy and the Bears.

And then they proceeded to choke away every bit of that lead because, imagine, they couldn’t stop a guy who had to be carted off the field in the first half.

Packers, 24-23.

How epic was this gag job? The Packers were 0-111 when entering the fourth quarter trailing by 17 points or more, according to ESPN.

That’s the kind of soul-crushing loss that gets Bears coaches fired.

Nice start, son.

Nagy was outcoached when he wasn’t trying to out-cute himself, and was particularly awful when it came to managing the clock and the ball late in the game.

With the Bears’ 20-point lead down to three in the final three minutes and the Packers out of timeouts, the Bears faced third-and-2 at the Packers’ 14. Jordan Howard had run for 27 yards on his two carries on the drive. On third down, the Bears passed. Incomplete. The clock stopped. What the …?

Instead of running the ball on fourth down to gain a new series that could’ve ended the game, and even if it didn’t, it certainly wouldn’t have left Rodgers so much time, the Bears kicked a field goal that didn’t put them up by a TD.

You have to give the ball to Howard there. You have to be able to get 2 yards. You have to be able to win the line of scrimmage. There was no need to try to get cute. Just play football. Why risk stopping the clock? The Bears didn’t look like a team with 2,000 snaps since organized team activities. They didn’t execute like a team that could afford to skip live game action in the preseason.

Earlier in the second half, Nagy called a pass play after Howard had gained 9 yards on first and second down, and on that critical third down pass across the field, Dion Sims couldn’t figure out he needed to get past the sticks to make any of it work. Was that covered in any of those 2,000 snaps since OTAs?

But wait. This is where stupid meets bad. Nagy’s postgame explanation included the point that Bears starters didn’t get a lot of snaps in the preseason.

Yes, and who’s decision was that, Coach Nagy?

Galling. His team wasn’t fit enough to compete, and he dares to bring up preseason snaps. Embarrassing.

It wasn’t all Nagy. He could’ve used some help. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio never found a way to beat the hobbled Rodgers’ use of the no-huddle offense. Bears defensive linemen were fatigued and weak and unable to get off the field for a sub. Rodgers couldn’t move, but he could carve up supposedly healthy Bears. Maybe they weren’t in game shape because Nagy didn’t let them play tackle football games in the preseason.

Nagy’s players face-planted like Marc Trestman or John Fox was still here. Prince Amukamara got destroyed on one series. Kyle Fuller absolutely gagged what would’ve been a game-deciding interception two plays before Randall Cobb scored on a 75-yard reception that in fact did decide the game. Mack didn’t make the kind of play in the second half that the highest-paid defensive player is expected to make. Trubisky too often looked like his quarterback coach was Tyler Chatwood.

It was all there for Nagy and the Bears. A 20-point lead. A big road win against the biggest of rivals. A piece of first place in the division. A nationally televised coming-out party. Validation of the change of coaches and the new, dynamic plan.

But no. Didn’t happen. New coach, same pantsing.

Dan Bernstein of 670 The Score:

If Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller holds on, we have an entirely different narrative.

If Fuller makes that interception, the Matt Nagy regime is off and rolling, writing its early history with an offense of stretch plays and efficiency, starting us down a road of runaway optimism fueled by weeks of trust that still may not be deserved. We’ll see.

It wasn’t to be for the moment, undone by undoing and not doing and not being what has to be, at least yet. Yet could have been now and should’ve been. And what ended up kinda sucks after all that.

The Bears’ 20-0 lead over the Packers in the third quarter Sunday evening isn’t the memory Nagy wants, anymore. The Bears blew it in an eventual 24-23 loss, even with Khalil Mack living up to absolutely everything possible, setting a record with his single-half sack, touchdown, interception, forced fumble, fumble recovery, home run, power-play goal, Olympic biathlon record and hole-in-one.

This was brutally painful for the Bears fans who might remember Randall Cobb putting his hand up just as Chris Conte bit on the fake that he was coached to expect, now again seeing Cobb carve away again at the flesh of belief.

This hurt.

Aaron Rodgers was down an out until he was up and celebratory, because he and his coaches learned to neutralize Mack by getting the ball out and away, wide and wider, and the Bears failed to tackle in the middle of the field. A long-held NFL lesson is to not give Rodgers extra lives, but the Bears kept pumping quarters into that old arcade game and let him keep hitting the fire button.

Second-year Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky didnt’ rise to the stage. That’s on him and Nagy and all of what we were told was being honed so finely in practice. Get better at getting yards when you have to get them. That was the point of all of this.

Kyle Fuller could’ve caught that ball. He didn’t, and for the Bears, that’s really too bad.

Pro Football Weekly’s Hub Arkush:

I originally wrote this lead to read that it was impossible to tell which side of the ball for the Bears was more impressive Sunday night at Green Bay, the offense or the defense.

But that was at halftime of the Bears 24-23 loss to the Packers and by the end of the game it certainly wasn’t true.

The offense was versatile, explosive, exciting and productive as Matt Nagy took his bag of tricks he’d been hiding throughout the preseason and dumped it out all over Lambeau Field.

But once most of Nagy’s best moves were visible in plain sight, Green Bay’s new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine began to make adjustments and quarterback Mitch Trubisky was forced to focus more on avoiding big mistakes than setting off huge explosions.

After running 19 plays for 146 yards in the first quarter, the Bears managed just 6 yards on 10 plays in the second quarter.

They did come out of the locker room at halftime and open the third period with a 12-play, 60-yard drive that netted 3 points, but their only other third-period possession was three-and-out for eight 8 yards, and they opened the fourth period with a three-and-out for just 9 yards. …

The defense was clearly the better unit for the Bears, dominating the entire first half and sending Aaron Rodgers to the locker room on a cart with 9:05 to play in the first half.

Akiem Hicks appeared to be taking on the Packers all by himself early as Packers guard Justin McCray was helpless in his efforts to stop him while the Packer were using any help they might have otherwise given McCray to try to stop the newest member of that Bears’ defense, Khalil Mack.

But Mack was not to be denied, getting a strip sack and recovery off backup DeShone Kizer.

After the Bears offered one of those three-and-outs following the fumble, Mack left nothing to doubt, intercepting Kizer thanks to a huge rush from Roy Robertson-Harris and taking it to the end zone for a 17-0 lead.

With Mack well on his way to his second NFL Defensive MVP Award before he’d completed his first half as a Bear, Hicks, Robertson-Harris, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan and rookie Roquan Smith all chipped in plays to show how special this Bears defense is eventually going to be.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the after-party.

The Packers came out of the locker room with Rodgers back under center, went to their no-huddle offense and quickly began to wear out the Bears’ pass rush.

Was it Mack’s lack of a preseason that stole a quarter step from him late in the game? Was it the lack of the entire team’s preparation in the exhibition slate that allowed the Packers to dominate the second half, storming back from a 20-0 deficit to lead 24-23 with three minutes to play?

Again, a different conversation for a different time.

The bottom line is after one of the best halves of football the Bears have played in decades, the Packers were able to reduce the offense to nothing but Jordan Howard in the second half, and the defense simply wore out.

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”

Moore for the Packer Hall of Fame

Readers know that Ted Moore was the radio voice of the Glory Days Packers.

Moore’s son, Richard, is now trying to get his father inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame. If Ray Scott, who covered the Glory Years Packers for CBS-TV, belongs in the Packer Hall of Fame (and he does and is a member), and if Jim Irwin, who replaced Moore in the booth (first working with Gary Bender, then as the play-by-play guy), belongs (and he does and is also a member), then Moore absolutely belongs. (Also in the Packer Hall of Fame is Russ Winnie, who was the announcer when WTMJ radio started carrying Packer games in 1929.)

The case for Moore, who is a member of the Wisconsin Broadcasting Hall of Fame

… is, to quote our Founding Fathers, self-evident. Until 1973 the NFL prohibited games from being telecasted in the home team’s TV market, which is the Packers’ case is Green Bay and Milwaukee, due to concerns about not being able to sell out the stadium. (As if that would ever have been a worry with Lambeau Field.)

So if you lived in the eastern third of the state and you didn’t have tickets to the game at Lambeau or Milwaukee County Stadium (where fans probably should have brought a radio thanks to the fact that County Stadium was a rotten place for football due to where the seats were), you had to listen to Moore, who worked every minute of every game, preseason, regular-season and postseason (two more years than Scott did, though that was CBS’ doing by ending the team announcer arrangement, which should be brought back for TV) — and mostly by himself, as you can hear from the Ice Bowl game — including six NFL championship games (the 1962 game for NBC-TV), three other NFL playoff games, the first two Super Bowls and, for what it’s worth, two Playoff Bowls, featuring the runners-up of the NFL’s two conferences, a game infamously called by Vince Lombardi “a game for losers, played by losers.”

I don’t remember Moore doing Packer games. Bob Fox does:

I grew up in that era. It was the golden age for Packer Nation, as Lombardi’s Packers won five NFL titles in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls. The team also won an unprecedented three NFL championships in a row, a feat that has never been duplicated in the playoff era of the NFL going back to 1933. …

Scott was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2001. So were a couple of other legendary Green Bay newspaper reporters who covered the Packers back then, as both Art Daley (1993) and Lee Remmel (1996) have been enshrined as well. So was the team photographer during that time, Vernon Biever (2002).

Basically everyone who covered the Packers during the Lombardi era is in the Packers Hall of Fame. All except Moore.

Ted Moore and Vince Lombardi

Now there have been two Packer radio announcers who have been inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame. They are Russ Winnie (2016) and Jim Irwin (2003).

I expect them to be joined at some point by Moore and current radio play-by-play man, Wayne Larrivee.

I got to know Irwin pretty well at WTMJ in 1980 and 1981 when I worked there, first as an intern and then as a freelance reporter. In fact, I got to know Irwin so well, that he was the No. 1 reference listed on my résumé while I was looking for broadcasting and journalism work out of college.

Now longevity in covering the Packers does play a part in getting into the Hall of Fame for the team. Daley (68 years), Remmel (62 years) and Biever (61 years) each covered the Packers for over six decades.

Scott (10 years), Winnie (17 years) and Irwin (29 years) all covered the team for at least a decade and in Irwin’s case, almost three decades.

Moore spent 12 years broadcasting games for the Packers. And it was he who first hired Irwin.

Like I mentioned in my most recent story, the quarterback sneak by Bart Starr in the 1967 NFL title game between the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys, was one of the most iconic plays in NFL history.

And it has to be the greatest play in the history of the Packers. It was Moore who provided the play-by-play on that legendary moment in Green Bay lore.

“Third down and inches to go to pay dirt. 17-14, Cowboys out in front. Starr begins the count and he takes the quarterback sneak and he’s in for the touchdown and the Packers are out in front. The Green Bay Packers are going to be world champions,” Moore yelled out, as the 50,000-plus frozen faithful in the Lambeau Field stands went delirious.

The thing about Moore that is different from nearly every play-by-play announcer (including myself) today is his voice. In the days when radio voice quality mattered more than it seems to matter today (however you feel about that), Moore had a more modulated, deeper, richer voice than you generally hear today. CBS-TV’s Verne Lundquist and late NBC-TV announcer Charlie Jones don’t and didn’t sound like Moore, but those two are probably as close today voice-wise as you’d find to Moore.

The other thing about Moore is that, like announcers of that day, he came across as perhaps more booster than reporter, which again was common in those days and isn’t necessarily uncommon today. (Though it seems more obnoxious today.) It’s certainly not as if current Packer radio announcer Wayne Larrivee doesn’t want the Packers to win, but Larrivee will be critical if the Packers aren’t playing well. I gather that Moore didn’t go out of his way to be critical, though he announced bad plays if they were bad plays. That’s the way things were in those days.

Moore had the good fortune to get hired to do Baltimore Colts games in time for Super Bowl V, which was one of the worst (11 turnovers), yet closest, Super Bowls in history.

Moore also announced UW football, partnering with former Milwaukee Braves announcer Earl Gillespie, and also for a while announced Badger basketball on TV. That gave him the chance to call Magic Johnson’s last college basketball loss, when UW beat Michigan State on a buzzer-beating half-court shot by Wes Matthews. (I have that on tape somewhere.)

Moore was as much a part of the Glory Days as Scott was, and if for only that reason certainly belongs in the Packer Hall of Fame.

For those wondering about a birthday present for me …

How can one story combine two of my favorite things, the Packers (of which I am an owner) and Corvettes (of which I am not)?

The answer comes from Motor Authority:

On January 15, 1967, Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr completed 16 of 23 passes for 250 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception as the Packers rolled over the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in the first AFL-NFL World Championship game (which would later become known as Super Bowl I). For his efforts, Starr was named the game’s MVP and was awarded a shiny new 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray convertible. That Corvette is now going up for auction.

The car is documented with a tank sticker that says “Courtesy Delivery – B. Starr.” It presents with its original and patinated Goodwood Green paint, which was chosen to match the Packers’ home jerseys and is only slightly touched up. Just 48,000 miles show on the odometer and the listing says they are believed to be original.

According to the listing, Starr owned the car until the 1980s, and eventually it came into the hands of a woman in Wausau, Wisconsin, in a divorce settlement. In 1994, she sold it to Michael Anderson, owner of Thunder Valley Classic Cars of St. Joseph, Minnesota, which specializes in Corvettes. Anderson has several Bloomington Gold restorations under his belt, but instead of restoring the car, which had been in storage for years, he decided to take the body off the frame and clean and recondition the underside.

Anderson replaced the body mounts, rubber suspension components, U-joints, seals, and bearings. He also installed a new Dewitts radiator, though the original is also included with the auction, overhauled the brake system, and upgraded the calipers with stainless-steel piston sleeves.

The rest he left as time had treated it.

Under the hood sits a 300-horsepower, 327-cubic-inch V-8 hooked to a Muncie 4-speed manual transmission. Anderson says the car runs and drives well, and the numbers-matching engine has never been out of the car and retains its original gaskets and paint.

The Corvette rides on bias-ply Redline tires mounted on Rally wheels, and those tires should be able to lay down two black stripes on the pavement thanks to a 3.36:1 positraction differential.

The car also features the original black interior, black soft top, and Soft Ray-tinted windshield. Inside, it has a telescoping steering column and an AM/FM radio.

Head to Indianapolis for the Mecum Auction May 15-20 for your chance to buy this piece of automotive and NFL history.

This is like the Holy Grail for the Packer/Corvette fan. Starr was the MVP of the first two Super Bowls, the last two of his five NFL titles as the Packers’ quarterback. That places him in Joe Montana/Tom Brady territory in the conversation about the best NFL quarterbacks of all time, because of the only metric that actually counts in the NFL — winning.

This Corvette isn’t that powerful, with the base V-8, but it has the correct transmission for any Corvette. I like green Corvettes, and it’s the right color anyway for a Packer player or fan. This doesn’t say whether it has power steering or brakes. I’ve driven both a Corvette and a similar car without power brakes, and I can live with that. I’ve also driven a Corvette without power steering and other vehicles that were supposed to have power steering but didn’t. (They’re easier to drive when moving; turns from a stop or slow speed are the hardest.) Driving this is likely to be easier than driving, say, a Corvette with a big block but without power steering.

In those days the late Sport magazine awarded cars to the Super Bowl MVP. reports that Starr donated his second MVP Corvette …

… to be auctioned off for funds to start Rawhide Boys Ranch near New London.

I was not aware that Starr actually owned a Corvette, which puts him the company of other famous Corvette owners. The story was that Starr had requested a station wagon instead of the Corvette, but that is evidently incorrect. (The wagon substitution request came from Roger Staubach, and the wagon replaced a Dodge Charger, because, he said, “We had three kids. What was I going to do with a Dodge Charger?” The Charger had seating for four, but on the other hand the Corvette had seating for two, two fewer than the number of kids in the Starr household.)

Starr tends to get a bit underrated for his contribution to the Glory Days Packers perhaps because he didn’t throw for a bazillion yards in the days where the game was considerably different from now. But remember that Starr called all the plays in those days, including the improvised quarterback sneak that won the Ice Bowl. Starr was the 1966 NFL MVP. Starr was 9–1 as a starting quarterback in the postseason and had the best postseason passer rating in NFL history. Not even Montana or Brady can say that.

(Aaron Rodgers, by the way, got a Chevy Camaro for being the Super Bowl XLV MVP.)

The Packers’ two Super Bowl teams were the last two Glory Days champions, and the Packers were not as run-dominated as they did in the early Glory Days, because by the Super Bowls running backs Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung were at the end of their careers. No Starr, no Super Bowls.

Starr was also the general manager/coach of the Packers. That didn’t go so well, although he did get them into as many playoff berths as his predecessor, Dan “Lawrence Welk Trade” Devine, and more than his successors, Forrest Gregg and Lindy Infante (zero each). I’ve written before here about the mess he inherited and how he really shouldn’t have been GM/coach because no one should be GM/coach anymore. Packer fans clearly look at Starr more as the great quarterback he was than as the coach he became.

If I somehow got this car, I would do three things with it — (1) replace the bias-ply tires with radials (and find someone who manufactures red-stripe radials), (2) get it to wherever Starr now lives to meet him (I was 2 years old when the Packers won Super Bowl II, so by the time I knew the Packers they were quite bad, which made the Glory Days seem unlikely to have occurred) and show off the car, and then (3) drive it.

Let’s see. Mega Millions is $45 million tonight, and Powerball is $257 million Saturday night …

As Titletown Turns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does this mean? The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total Packers adds:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instead, Florio later reported:

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

They win.

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

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

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

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