Packer Musings One Month into the OffseasonPosted:Feb 22nd, 2015 2:42 pm
Greetings fellow Packer backers, thanks for hanging in there and checking back in to the blog. As some of you may know, I generally take a month off after the season, in part to go through the seven stages of acceptance when a season ends; in part because my day job has me on the road for much of January and February.
So let's catch up on what has happened since the epic meltdown in Seattle. The headlines: McCarthy gives up play calling duties, Slocum fired; Zook replaces him, Bostick banished to Vikings, Brad Jones mercifully released (and presumably headed to the Vikings) and most importantly, Pack looks to hang on to free agents.
Let's take them in that order. McCarthy's (or Thompson's or Murphy's) surprising decision can be seen as a great next step in the development of a championship-caliber team, or a tremendous gamble. With McCarthy calling the plays, the Packers have always been near the top of the league offensively, finishing #1 last season. He and Aaron Rodgers are mostly always in sync and McCarthy generally has known the right buttons to push: when to be aggressive and when to back off. His uncharacteristically conservative approach in Seattle was stunning and likely signaled this change.
I think it's a positive move for the Pack. McCarthy has generally been lousy with the challenge flag and with other seat-of-his-pants in-game decisions. Handing the play calling to Tom Clements will allow him to be on top of all aspects of the game and should make for better-informed decisions. Clements has done it before and has been around long enough that I think the offense will continue to hum next season.
The change at special teams was a no brainer. Once again, the unit finished at the bottom of the league standings and its two key meltdowns against the Seahawks (fake field goal and on side kick) cost the team a ticket to Super Bowl XLIX. Slocum is the fall guy and replacement-in-waiting Ron Zook takes over. I don't understand why your assistant special teams coach, who had as much to do with the unit's meltdown as his boss did, gets promoted while Slocum is out of work. But clearly McCarthy and Zook go way back and he wants to give him a shot to run things his way. First rumblings we're hearing is to expect more starters on the unit, a big-time gamble if I've ever heard one.
The release of Brandon Bostick was also not a surprise. The athletic, talented, yet oft-injured tight end wore the goat horns after the Seattle game, but that in and of itself didn't get him cut. He was injured early and was unable to crack the game day lineup most weeks. With young Richard Rodgers and Andrew Quarless ahead of him and the team likely looking to add another in the draft, it was time to move on. Not to mention, it would have been tough to regain the trust of his teammates and coaches.
Which brings us to the free agents. I will write a more detailed look at free agency later in the week, but here are the highlights: Thompson must and will resign the #1 priority: Randall Cobb. Thompson rarely loses out on signing his draftees to their second contract. It's been reported Cobb is seeking a deal that averages $9 million a year, or the same deal Greg Jennings got form the Vikings a few years back. Cobb's unique talents make him virtually irreplaceable in the offense and his healthy 2014 campaign has earned hum the big bucks. I'll be shocked if the two sides don't agree on a new deal.
I think it's likely Bryan Bulaga is re-signed as well. The Pack's offensive line was a revelation last season and keeping them together is hugely important. Bulge's injury history is obviously a concern, but unless you believe Don Barclay is ready to step in, there isn't an obvious replacement on the roster or in free agency.
The interesting decisions will be which corner to try to hang onto and which QB to bring back (likely Tolzien over Flynn). What about BJ Raji or Leroy Guion (who may have cost himself millions). And what about all pro and fan favorite John Kuhn?
After hitting a home run with the Julius Peppers signing, will Thompson again look outside the organization for some help. I've seen a report that has Cowboy linebacker Bruce Carter in the Packers' sights to replace the soon-to-be-cut AJ Hawk--that seems like a stretch, based on Thompson's history. But we all know this team as built right now is equipped to compete for a Super Bowl title. A key tweak here and there could make a huge difference.
And the decisions Thompson makes in the next 75 days will shape their chances in earning a ticket to Levi's Stadium next February.