The Green Bay Packers entered this season with Super Bowl aspirations. After a disappointing year saw them finish 10-6 and exit in the divisional round of the playoffs, the Packers entered 2016 reloaded and focused on making a run at their fifth Lombardi trophy.
They had all the pieces to do so. They have a two-time MVP quarterback with weapons at his disposal. They had a defense that they felt would be vastly improved from the previous season.
After the way last season ended, all eyes were on the offense. The Packers started the season 6-0 but stumbled to 4-6 down the stretch of the season. Their offense, at times, was absolutely inept. You could not recognize Aaron Rodgers in the offense. You would never have believed that most of this group was part of an offense that led the league in scoring in 2014.
Instead of making adjustments, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy continued to bang his head against the wall. He was overly stubborn last season. It cost his team a division title that they should have won running away. Ultimately, it may have cost his team a chance to make a run at the Super Bowl.
This season has been much of the same for the Packers. The offense stumbled out of the gate with two below average performances in the teamâ€™s first two games. Itâ€™s as if McCarthy expected the return of Jordy Nelson to allow the offense to pick up where it left off.
The offense did show some signs of life through a half against the Lions but did not score in the second half of the game. They went back to struggling to move the ball until the second half of a game against the Chicago Bears.
Through six quarters McCarthy showed his ability to be innovative, creative, and get his struggling offense back on track. Without a consistent running back to rely on, the Packers went to a spread passing attack. Ty Montgomery, a wide receiver, was the teamâ€™s primary focus in the backfield.
The running game became an afterthought in the playbook. In that time, the Packers offense scored points. They moved the ball. They looked like an offense that was one of the best in the league.
The only time they were slowed down was when they tried to use heavy formations and run the ball in a traditional way with Don Jackson. The Packers simply do not currently have the personnel to run the ball in the way they wanted to when the season began.
Eddie Lacy is not coming back. James Starks is not around. Due to an inexplicable decision to keep only two running backs on the roster, Montgomery is the guy. Because of that, McCarthy had to adapt.
Once the Packers lost to the Falcons last week, McCarthy said he expected to see more man coverage.
He got just that when the Packers faced off against the Indianapolis Colts. The offense sputtered through the first half as McCarthy tried to play a more traditional game plan. Richard Rodgers was on the field for 71 percent of the teamâ€™s snaps. Justin Perillo and Aaron Ripkowski were on the field for 32 percent of the teamâ€™s snaps.
McCarthy said his team had to beat man coverage. He responded by putting his slowest players on the field. He went away from what had been working in the previous two games.
Jeff Janis also played more snaps than Ty Montgomery, Randall Cobb, and Trevor Davis. All three receivers have been more effective than Janis has this season. McCarthyâ€™s game plan against the Colts was horrendous.
More importantly, it appeared to be disorganized. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, McCarthy continues to believe his receivers can win one-on-one battles running isolation routes. That has not been the case since 2014.
At this point, itâ€™s fair to question what makes McCarthy believe that the offense he clearly wants to run is going to be successful. Yesterday, he was clearly valuing scheme over winning on the field. He likes tight ends, so he ran two tight end sets. He ignored the fact that his tight ends are not good at beating man coverage. He ignored that his offense was humming along the last two weeks by playing unconventional. They were spreading the defense out and throwing the ball.
Instead, he went back to trying to play more conventional, and the offense suffered dramatically because of it.
After the game, Aaron Rodgers questioned whether the team had enough energy. Bryan Bulaga also said the same thing. Two key players on the team said they lacked energy for a game at home as a seven-point favorite. That is embarrassing and an indictment on the head coach. That says heâ€™s unable to motivate his team for a game they had to win at home.
His stubborn nature and apparent inability to motivate makes it easy to question Mike McCarthyâ€™s job status.
At this point, he should be placed firmly on the hot seat. If McCarthy fails to adapt and the trend over the last 20 games continues, the Packers should be considering a head coaching change for 2017.