Monday, December 22, 2008

It's Not So Bad

(AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

There are few joys more delicious than beating the hated Chicago Bears...except maybe beating them at home and crushing their playoff hopes.

The Green Bay Packers were an outstretched arm from accomplishing this feat. Having played some good football with magnificent interceptions and great catches, the Packers hopes of ruining the Bears season and sweeping their 2008 series against each other was blocked by the Chicago field goal defense on an apparent chip-shot for Packers kicker Mason Crosby.

With the Bears dazed by two second-half interceptions by Charles Woodson and Nick Collins, the Packers appeared to be in the drivers seat late in the game. But then the Bears running game found some of the blatant holes in the Packers defense that everyone else has found late in the games this year. They exploited it to tie the game.

Then Green Bay got a big break with a stupid Bears horse-collaring penalty on the kick return and drove down to the Bears 38-yard line where once again the Packers ended coming up short - this time by getting Crosby's field goal blocked.

The Bears took very little time in the Overtime period to kick their own field goal and became another team to steal a game from the Packers in the 2008 season.

So close, but yet so far away has turned out to be the theme of this year. This has manifested itself in many ways, but the inability to score late in the fourth quarter while at the same time being unable to stop the opponent in that time frame summarizes a hopeful and disappointing season. The only way it could get worse would be to lose to the win-less and hapless Detroit Lions next weekend.

It is one thing to have a terrible team and a 5-10 record; it is another thing to have a thrilling offense, loads of talent and more promise than payoff.

However, despite the record, this year's team leaves Packer fans with an arm-load of hope instead of the empty futility from teams from the 1980's; this team is different. Disappointed? Yes. Bitter? Unbelievably, no.

This year's team put out an exciting product. Aaron Rodgers stayed healthy and proved himself to be a worthy successor to Brett Favre, Ryan Grant put out some great efforts, the Packers receivers showed that they are the best revceiving corps in the NFL, and Charles Woodson played about as well as a defensive back can play and might have had as fine of a season as any DB has had - ever.

And though this author has slammed general manager Ted Thompson repeatedly this season, the likelihood of his departure from his role with the Packers is small. And if he concentrates his resources on getting a solid defensive line, the Packers have every reason to expect to be fierce contenders next year.

So though this season did not go where the Cheesehead nation thought it would, the Packers are only a few short steps away from being a great team. Only this time we won't have to wait 29 years, but only about 6 meaningless months.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Jags Smackdown Pack; Thompson's Pudding is Cooked

The proof is in the pudding. And the pudding that Packers General Manager Ted Thompson has concocted with his own, personal choices of ingredients is fully cooked and ready to taste. The only problem is that it tastes so bad everybody keeps spitting it out of their mouth, leaving only one question: is Thompson's devastation, castration and dismantling of this team finished yet or do we all get to sink even lower, perhaps back to 1980's status?

The Packers showed signs of having a potent scoring attack against the Jaguars, but several critical Aaron Rodgers overthrows put the fork in the offense's ability to extend their second-half lead. So instead of applying the death-blow to an average Jacksonville team, the Packers once again let them hang around long enough for the Green Bay defense to fall apart on two late, quick Jacksonville scoring drives.

Has this not been the story all season long? Aside from a few one-sided affairs, the Packers could have won another five or six games. But nothing ever got fixed so that they could compete at a playoff-team level. Instead they are struggling to end the season as a mediocre team. Perhaps if Thompson had given coach Mike McCarthy enough tools to compete in the NFL some things could have been fixed, but McCarty really has a bad defense to work with, aside from a few bright spots.

As it is now, this team is a few moves from obscurity, but also a few moves from contention with a lot of talent on offense. Ted Thompson has had his time in the kitchen and what he has produced is lousy by any standard. It is bland, disappointing and forgettable.

Unless Packer management wants to return to the tasteless 1980's-form, they had better push Thompson down the road before he can do any more damage to what could be a good team. His own decisions have sealed his own fate and his future cannot include the Green Bay Packers.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

New Lambeau Mistique...How Can Packers Win at Home?

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Aaron Rodgers is exciting; Donald Driver is exhilarating; Greg Jennings is fantastic; Charles Woodson is nearly immortal; Green Bay plays thrilling games and the fans have fun. It's all good...except they can't win.

With many successful displays of certain aspects of the game and an incredible turnover-forcing ratio, what the Packers lack, besides a pass rush, or the ability to stop the run, is consistency. Indeed, they have the ability to make the big play and made many of them against the visiting Houston Texans, but you can't establish dominance against another mediocre team if you can't convert on third down, which the Packers struggled to do all day.

With a decent running game, lethal receivers and episodes of brilliance by Aaron Rodgers, the problem has to come down to game plan and/or execution, which could be a reflection on Rodgers' own inconsistency. What else could it be?

I mean, the Packers played good football at times, which was, once again, almost good enough to win. But in what is becoming a habit for the green and gold, they cannot find a way to put an opponent away. And in the process, the new Lambeau Mistique for them is how the Green Bay Packers can win at home; or anywhere else.

This season is now a wash; Green Bay will not be playing post-season football. They will likely put up decent numbers in the remaining games, but somebody will need to start coming up with some answers. In fact, Coach Mike McCarthy's very job could be in question, for, at best, the Packers could finish an unacceptable 8-8. Not so long ago a Packers coach was fired for that posting that very record.

It looks like the wisdom of Ted Thompson and McCarthy's gamble to deal away a prodigal Brett Favre is becoming painfully apparent, but even with Favre, the defensive line incompetencies are not answered. So maybe a fuller examination of Thompson and McCarthy's overall competence as leaders finally needs to be evaluated. Something has to give, because the Green Bay Packers can't even beat a mediocre, warm-weather team on a 6 degree day at Lambeau Field.

The old Lambeau Mistique is gone.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

So Close, But Yet So Favre Away

Photo AP/MikeRoemer

It is fourth down and a million for the Green Bay Packers.

Today's loss to the Panthers puts the Pack's record at a 'playing for the future' 5-7, and the playoffs about as likely as a Barack Obama birth certificate.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was generous in spreading the passing wealth on offense as he and the receivers put up big numbers on big plays in something of a banner performance.

Unfortunately, the defense once again did not hold its own and allowed four rushing touchdowns. Evidently Aaron Kampman has some others who play on the defensive line with him, but none of them can stop the run or put pressure on the quarterback. So who's decision was it to let KGB go? Who the heck let Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila go???

It is still possible for the Packers to win the division. It is also still possible for Rosie to get another television series. But it is not likely at this point.

So, it might as well be time to begin the season's reckoning. Leaders understand accountability; so I am sure that the Green Bay Packers leaders also welcome accountability. So let's look at who is responsible for the mess we're in.

Responsibility for the sub-par season falls solely on the man who wanted to put his own personal stamp on the Packers; and indeed has. Not all of his decisions were as widely seen as one, but perhaps his most public one was the one that says the most about the man, Ted Thompson. For when he sent Brett Favre away to the New York Jets, he was saying that he had a better plan than keeping with the team that went to the NFC Championship earlier this year. His dealing Favre away perhaps summarizes the level of football intelligence this man and encapsulates the whole of his theories and ideas.

Well, is 5-7 an idea that appeals to you? Nope, me neither. What's next, 5-8? 5-9? 5-10?

Who the heck let Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila go, anyway???

This season is a wash and it is time to start planning for next year, and what better place to start than with someone finally showing general manager Ted Thompson the dang door. It doesn't matter if the door is open or not, but the man needs to go through it. Now.

He wanted all the accolades for being another Ron Wolf, so he gets to, instead, accept the responsibility for being a failure, for being a sheep in Wolf's clothing. He needs to get moving down the road immediately, so that we can 'prepare for the future.'

Game Ball: Aaron Rodgers & Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Don't Blame Aaron

Photo by Reuters

I don't know how bad the Saints beat the Packers; I turned the game off after the third interception. I am guessing that it never got close again. Not with the formula that the Packers were held up to most of the second half, which was pass, pass, pass. Oh, and don't play defense.

This basically meant that a successful running game and Ryan Grant got to sit next to the water boy for most of the final 30 minutes. It also put an unrealistic load on quarterback Aaron Rodgers who was left to produce large gains on every play. That wasn't football; it was being on the wrong side of a rout.

Broken down, it was karma and Drew Brees's night. With little or no defensive pressure on the Saints quarterback, he was safer than an al-Sadr insurgent in a mosque. Brees is far too dangerous of a quarterback, having an epic year, to allow him time in the pocket to pick apart the normally-solid Packers defensive backfield.

So before you knew it, with the Packers playing solid, balanced football and successive, methodical drives, like you are supposed to do, in a few blurry flashes New Orleans took a lead into halftime. And when they came out Ryan Grant and a solid offensive football team had precious few opportunities to establish themselves before the Saints were nearly out of sight.

Yes, Aaron Rodgers missed a few open receivers; but a balanced offensive attack that can push the ball down field allows some room for error. But when your team is forced to score on every drive to keep pace, unless your name is in or sure to be in the Hall of Fame, other interceptions are likely to follow because you have had to completely abandon your running game and everybody is playing the pass.

And even some other certain future Hall of Famers have had their share of three-interception games, haven't they?

The Green Bay Packers played very good, punishing offensive football in the first half. Aaron Rodgers had a solid first half. Who knew the sky was going to fall in on them in the third quarter?

And in the larger picture, watching good things happen to the folks in New Orleans in flood-like proportions like happened tonight, it's hard to have many bad feelings about karma. Don't blame Aaron.

Besides, we're still five games up on the Lions...

Game Ball: karma

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Packers Prove That The Bears Suck


In a show of complete and total domination in all aspects of the football game, the Green Bay Packers demonstrated to the world, once again, that the Chicago Bears suck. The Bears running game sucked; their passing game sucked; their defense of the run sucked; their defense of the pass sucked and they made the Packers look like the best team in the world. The only thing the Bears are good at is sucking...and, of course, their quarterback's sissy-tripping after he throws an interception.

Ryan Grant looked unstoppable, as did his backup, Brandon Jackson. Aaron Rodgers looked like he drank a can of perfection prior to the game and his receivers were all sharp. Gone was the Packer Flag Day, as the absence of penalty after penalty on the Packers was a welcome reprieve. The offensive line actually lived up to their potential and with the running game in high gear, it opened up a healthy passing game.

The only Packer it seems who didn't have a good game was the Packer punter, who was used so little that nobody but statisticians know if he played at all. When Green Bay needed a first down, they generally got it. When they needed to stop the sucking Bear offense from getting a first down, they usually did it. And in the end, the Packers put up their best effort of the year and blasted the hated Chicago Bears 37-3 for an elated crowd at Lambeau Field.

Game Ball: Ryan Grant

Monday, November 10, 2008

Vikings Choke Packers


The Minnesota defensive line had Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers running around like the John McCain campaign the day before election day. When they weren't smashing him to the turf of the HomerDome, they were chasing him into the sidelines, making him rush his throws, or putting up safeties.

Furthermore, Viking running back Adrienne Peterson did whatever he wanted and got his big yards.

But with all the Minnesota dominance on the field, they still choked enough to give Green Bay a final shot at winning a game that the Packers had no business winning but Packer kicker Mason Crosby's game-ending field goal attempt was unfortunately inches wide of the goal post.

Much of the Vikings obligatory choke had to do with Green Bay's extremely stingy defensive backfield that picked almost as many Gus Frerotte passes as President-elect Barack Obama picked terrorists and radicals for friends. It was the defensive backfield and Will Blackmon who kept the Packers in the game. Charles Woodson should be put not only into the Pro Bowl, but also into the Hall of Fame immediately. Green Bay's pass defense is as good as it has ever been even with Al Harris.

But where is the pass blocking? Sure Minnesota has perhaps the best pass rush in the NFL, and has the talent to win the Super Bowl, but Green Bay has to find a way to protect Aaron Rodgers. Of course the Vikings will not win the Super Bowl, although they could beat any team in the league, because they will always choke, but if the Packers, who also could almost beat any other NFL team, want to be the best, they have to find a way to beat the best. Despite two losses to two very good teams, and games the Packers could have won, Green Bay is very close to being a dominant team. And getting the pass blocking down is a mandatory step for the Packers to find themselves among the parity-elite, so to speak.

There is a good chance that Green Bay could win the rest of their regular season games. There is also the chance that they could continue to play .500 ball. But there is no chance that any opponent will put up big passing yards against the NFL's finest defensive back cadre.

Game Ball to: Charles Woodson and Friends.

p.s. Obama the socialist still sucks. And packeraaron over at cheeseheadtv.com, a rabid, kool-aid-drinking Obama supporter, who cheerleads for all of the Messiah's socialist policies, will be more than willing to write each of you a nice, healthy personal check (to 'spread the wealth around' and 'redistribute the wealth') so that his actions (money) are consistent with his mouth. Otherwise he would be a typical liberal hypocrite.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Packers Lose, But Obama Sucks

OK, the Packers lost a tight one that they could have won. But since there is a very important election this week, a plea to all Cheeseheads to come to reason is not out of order here. Give me a moment, please and let me speak Wisconsinite to Wisconsinite...

You do know that the Republican Party was started in Wisconsin, don't you? Yup, in Antigo, I believe. Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican President. So it is not like Republican ideas are foreign to the state.

Now listen, the main media outlets, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS are grossly biased in their campaign coverage. This is not just an opinion, it has been analyzed and proven. This is because the media has an agenda, and Obama is their agenda. So all I'm saying is that what you have heard is probably slanted news.

The bottom line is that Obama's policies are radical, un-Wisconsin, SOCIALIST policies. You don't want socialism. If you do, then why don't you go to work this week and when you get your check on Friday cash it and send half of it to some lazy Bears fans who don't want to work.

Socialism's motto is "To each according to his need from each according to his ability." This is what Obama is talking about with his "redistribution of wealth" ideas. The ideas, that is, that saying I just quoted, was originally made by Karl Marx, the founder of communism/socialism. Obama is intentionally trying to turn this country upside down so that people who do not have money start getting some from those who do, as mandated by Obama's government.

If you can not see how dangerous this is, you are not paying attention.

As for his buddy, Bill Ayers, whom Obama has lied about, and was much closer to than he admits, well do you know that he planned on taking over the US government, giving some to China, some to North Vietnam, some to Russia and he estimated that he would have to set up 'reducation camps' but that about 25 million US citizens would not be swayed and so these 25 million Amreicans would have to be killed. Think about that for a moment...

And Bill Ayers still thinks this way. And Obama is his buddy.

Can you not see that this is a radical, black-liberation theologist-inspired, socialistic effort to completely change the United States of America? This is NOT the kind of change you or I want. It is Chicago-welfare on a national scale.

Do you know that Obama wants to spread the welfare to the world, where we would be mandated to give almost a billion dollars a year to low-economic countries in Africa?

Obama is trying to make his radical, personal pet projects all of ours so that he can use our money to do it with.

Vince Lombardi would see right through this pretender and would kick Obama's can. Nitcshke would tear his head off. And Bart Starr, just think how he will be voting this year.

The media and the liberals have slammed George W. Bush because they hate him. But he has kept us safe for 8 years hasn't he?

Please do now swallow Obama's "Change" motto because you might not like Bush. I personally do like him and am grateful for his service. But the type of 'change' Obama wants to bring is NOT the kind of change that would serve us Cheeseheads well. I say this in all sincerity.

Please do not vote for Obama. I know he talks smooth, but do not risk the general well-being of this country to this proven radical.

Please think about it before you vote.

Thanks.

By the way, that no-call on the long pass to Greg Jennings was blatant and cost us the game.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Packers Soar, Make Horse Meat out of Colts

The Green Bay Packers finally found their running game. Whether it was running back Ryan Grant finding his game legs or the offensive line finding their testosterone, one thing is for sure, Grant and the Packer line pounded the Indianapolis Colts in a convincing 34-14 win at Lambeau Field.

Furthermore, Grant's steady real-estate grab did for Aaron Rodgers what a running game always does - it opened up the passing game. So when the Packers were not shoving the ball down the Colts' throats, they were tossing it over their heads. This effective combination created the balanced offense that has been missing thus far in the 2008 season, and also allowed Green Bay to drive down the field almost at will. With mostly short passes, guys like Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and Donald Lee found holes in the Colt's defense time after time.

On defense, it was Charles Woodson and friends making Peyton Manning look like Charlie Brown. Playing as good of pass defense as seems possible against a lethal passing game, when Green Bay's corners and safeties weren't knocking the ball down, they were picking it off and sometimes returning it for TD's. Seldom was Manning allowed to get comfortable in the pocket, seldom did he get a good pass off, and often were few of his receivers open enough to be able to get thrown a pass.

Green Bay looked like the veteran team today and Manning and his Colts looked like strugglers. Credit all of this to what the Green Bay Packers brought to the table, which was everything.

This was by far the Packers most impressive outing. And for the first time since Brett Favre uttered, 'maybe,' Green Bay played like contenders and find themselves tied for first in the NFC North division. Which is not a bad place to be if the growing pains are now over and if the ugly part of the season has passed.

Game Ball: Offensive Line

Monday, October 13, 2008

Packers Win Despite No Running Game

Despite the lack of open holes for running back Ryan Grant, the Green Bay Packers were effective in the other aspects of the game and left Seattle with a win. Of course the fact that Seattle was without their starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and is now a weak 1-4 might lend one to keep the win in perspective, Green Bay nonetheless played pretty solid football.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, playing with a continued shoulder injury, showed images of Favre-like toughness. His short-yardage throws throughout the first half, as well as some selfless plays where he subjected his body to the Seahawks' defenders, were enough to keep the Packers in the game.

But the game-changing play happened in the third quarter when Rodgers hit a streaking Greg Jennings in a rare down field attempt. Rodger's sore-shoulder pass hit Jennings on the numbers and the Packers grabbed the lead.

From there it was mostly down hill for the Packers except for Grant who couldn't buy a hole and had to smash his way for any gain. Most of the fourth quarter was spent with Grant getting two or three yards, Rodgers throwing for a first down, and back to the clock-killing running game. Grant played as courageously as Rodgers but does not have the blocking he needs to open things up.

On defense, Aaron Kampman had several sacks on Seattle's backup quarterback, Charlie Frye, who was under pressure all day by the Green Bay pass rush. The Pack also shut down Seattle's running game and played good defense.

Charles Woodson, looking once again like a Heisman Trophy winner, out-smarted Frye and came up with an obligatory pick. Woodson should be put into this year's Pro Bowl right now. He stalks and strikes like a cat, and his seasoned experience makes him look like a man among Seattle's receiving boys; this guy is good (and he's doing all of this on a broken toe.)

So it appears that Green Bay found a way to win when they really had to to pull into a tie for first place in the NFC North division with the hated Bears. But they will be tested severely next week as they will have to face the underachieving Indianapolis Colts.

Game Ball: Aaron Rodgers.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pack Can't Win By Hook or Crook; OJ Guilty

The Green Bay Packers are a lot like OJ Simpson these days. They both just showed up to try to retrieve a little football glory. The only thing is is that miscues, penalties, bad decisions and mistakes brought them both down.

Though Simpson faces the stiffer consequence, a possible fifteen years to life in the slammer, the Packers it seems, like Simpson, will also have bigger, badder men dictating terms and conditions to them for a while to come in a harsh environment unless Coach McCarthy and Warden Ted Thompson can come up with some answers.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers played a decent game considering that he came back like a mini-me Iron Man, and Ryan Grant got some yards for a change, but once again the line was inconsistent and made lethal penalties. Donald Driver played like a rock star and proved that he is among the NFL's elite receivers in terms of concentration, skill and getting yards after the catch.

Defensively, the Packers played inspired football at times, but never found consistent answers to be able to stop the Atlanta Falcons running game or their passing game. A slippery field was to blame for some early Falcon big passing gains, but, of course, the turf was slippery for both teams as well. But the Packers secondary did have some nice plays including a key interception in Atlanta's end zone that made a momentum shift until a later Rodgers interception.

In the punting department, the wisdom of Ted Thompson is on display for the entire league to see. He cut a decent punter, John Ryan, for a guy who is not that good, Frost. Yet after several poor outings, Thompson continues to put Frost on the field. What could be more clear evidence that Thompson thinks he is always right and will let the ship go down to prove it. Frost again did not have a good day and now would be a good time to get rid of both Frost and Thompson. Nothing personal against Frost, he did his best, but it is Thompson's DUTY to put the best punter he can on the field. Thompson, therefore, is just as guilty as OJ.

So the NFL season does not get any easier. The Packers are getting punked week after week. Like OJ, there doesn't seem to be any way out of it this time. And also like OJ, the Packers better make sure that they don't drop the bar of soap in the shower.

Game Ball goes to: Donald Driver

Monday, September 29, 2008

Packers Achieve Mediocrity; Vikings Lose


The Green Bay Packers, boasting an offensive line that plays like a Troop of Girl Scouts, settled comfortably into the zone of mediocrity in Tampa on Sunday angainst the Tampa Bay Bucaneers. Using alternate sparks of brilliance and episodes of ineptitude, the Packers proved they can strike in a heart beat or fall flat on their face just as quickly.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who spent much of the day running away from Tampa's pass rush, and also left the game with what may be a separated shoulder, saw enough passes slip through the hands of Green Bay's receivers to make a Blooper episode on You Tube. And did Donald Driver even get the ball thrown at him at all?

The left side of the Packer's offensive line is weaker than a French defense. Neither Rodgers or running back Ryan Grant can count on anything from that direction except a steady stream of hurricanes. When Chad Clifton isn't penalized for holding, his man is either sacking the quarterback, forcing an early throw, or eating Ryan Grant for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Until the Packers find an answer to this problem, nobody should expect anything better than an 8-8 season.

Yes, the Green Bay defense is pretty good. Charles Woodson is playing like an mvp and the rest of the secondary is also sharp. Our linebackers are strong, as is our d-line. But when an offense goes three and out repeatedly, all day long, it places an unfair and disproportionate burden on our pretty good defense.

And if Rodgers will be missing some time, this will mean that rookie Matt Flynn will be starting at quarterback for the Green Bay Packers (I told ya so). Flynn will have to spend some obligatory adjustment time which often relies on the run game. Only problem is that we don't have one because our Girl Scouts can't block.

Good luck to Flynn. Hopefully he can pick things up quickly. He should be able to as he is used to high-pressure, important games and has proved himself to be a leader as he led his LSU team to the NCAA National Championship last year.

But until we learn how to block, it is going to me a mediocre year for everyone...except for Jets fans who saw Brett Favre toss 6 touchdown passes yesterday. Thanks again, Ted.

By the way, the Vikings lost too, and so did the Cowboys.

Game ball goes to: Charles Woodson

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Packers Shut T.O.'s Mouth; Bears Lose

Two good things happened today: Charles Woodson and the Green Bay Packers shut down the Dallas Cowboy's Terell Owens, thus closing his loud mouth, and the Chicago Bears lost.

Yeah, sure the Packers took one on the chin at Lambeau from the versatile Cowboys, but at least Terell's bag of celebratory popcorn went untouched.

The Cowboys, ranking high in the 'Hated' category along with the Patriots and the lowly Bears, were able to get to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers far too often for the Packers to complete many sustained drives. Though the Packers own defensive line played well, their front four did not have equivalent success attacking Tony Romo. With the mysterious absence of an accompanying Packers blitz Romo found all the time he needed to dish the ball nearly at will, with the exception of being unable to connect often with T.O.

The bruising running of the Cowboys' Marion Barber hurt the Packers some, but Green Bay played a respectable defensive game considering the potent Dallas offense, and the fact that the Packers own offense was seldom on the field for long in the second half.

Field position played an important role in the game. Frequent Green Bay return penalties succeeded in making sure the Packers started out deep in the hole, while the Packers anemic punting game seldom pinned Dallas behind its own twenty.

So if this was a test to see where the Packers are at, it appears that we are a good team, but not an elite team. Our offensive line is shakier than Wall Street, and we get penalties like Bill Clinton at Hooters. We will be able to play with most teams, and will contend in our division, but to make another appearance in the NFC Championship with a porous offensive line is as unrealistic as a community organizer being suitable for the Presidency.

But at least there are some solid aspects to our team, at least T.O. will be silent for a week, and at least Chicago has both Obama and the Bears, both of whom are filled with a lot of hot air, but have no plan on how to win a game or a war.

Game ball to: Charles Woodson.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Air/Run Rodgers Walks the Line


Showing deftness, sharp senses, keen eyes, dangerous feet, a killer arm and an ability to tight-rope the sideline, Air/Run Rodgers proved to all-comers that he is a dangerous weapon through the air or on his feet as the Green Bay Packers brought home a win from Detriot.

But Rodgers only got help from the defense in the second half, as all of his primary receivers were collectively guilty of dropping the ball on him. In all but a few cases, Rodgers' arm delivered the football exactly where it needed to be, but the primary Packer receivers seemed to have taken catching instructions from the Packer punter, who let a second-half snap slip right through his fingers and out of the end zone for an embarrassing safety.

It took heroic efforts by both Charles Woodson and Detroit Lions' quarterback John Kitna for the Packers to overcome a late one-point deficit. In two successive series, Kitna's pass went right into Woodson's hands, and Woodson ran one of them in. On the next series Kitna gave himself the hat-trick, giving up another interception for a touchdown to the Packers defense.

So in PackSmack's opinion, there is a three-way tie for Green Bay's MVP of this game: Rodgers deserves it for his excellent game, Woodson deserves it for his game-saving plays, and Detroit's Kitna deserves it because without him, we probably would not have won.

Like Johnny Cash's song, I Walk the Line, where Cash confesses his focus on guarding his heart from harmful influence, Rodgers seems to be guarding the integrity of the offense with his careful pass-throwing, awareness of pass pressure and ability to quickly buy some extra time with his speedy feet. Surely he got out of places that Brett Favre would not have today. And Rodger's dainty tip-toe almost on top of the white sideline paint, which gained a valuable first down, or several of his laser-accurate throws while on the run indicates that this man is not only dangerous in the air or on the ground, but also that the Green Bay Packer offense's leader can strike in any direction at any time.

The man is serious.

And he's looking good.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Vikings Choke, Packers Win!

In a game of big penalties and bigger plays, the Green Bay Packers put things together long enough to pull out a win on Monday Night Football's opening night.

The Vikings, filled to the gills with talent, somehow could not execute well enough to notch a victory in the season's opener at Lambeau Field. With a dominating defensive line and a dauntless running game, plus a quarterback who was competent in his own right, it is a sheer wonder how the Packers were able to escape an upset.

Did Aaron Roders use mirrors? Was Ryan Grant juicing? Did the Packers punt return team sneak 13 or 14 men on the field to get a punt returned for a touchdown? Either they did all that, or the Green Bay Packers played a pretty good game, generally speaking.

It had to be the play calling and Rodgers impressive decision-making that kept the game from being all Minnesota. Certainly the Packers were outmatched against a Viking defensive line that will force a lot of punts this year. Certainly Viking running back Adrian Pederson was unstoppable. Certainly Viking quarterback Tarvaris Jackson threw for some big yards. But for some intangible reasons, the Packers made the plays when they had to.

Credit coach McCarthy for some brilliant strategy. Credit the offensive line for deciding to stop getting penalties every play after the first quarter. Credit Aaron Rodgers for showing us that yes, indeed he can. And credit the likes of AJ Hawk and Nick Barnett for playing with reckless abandon.

I have no idea how Green Bay beat the Minnesota Vikings, but the team pulled together and showed some rugged, impressive character. Maybe these young guys are growing up. Or maybe the Vikings choked - again.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

So Which Direction are the Packers Going?

Dr. Jekyl shows up in San Francisco, while it is Mr. Hyde who played in Denver. So just who are the Green Bay Packers this year?

Although the embarrassment of the second pre-season game was about as bad as a date with a woman from Chicago bear country, and just as ugly, perhaps some conciliation can be gained in the fact that coach Mike McCarthy was able to overcome it and have his team put together a respectable showing in the third pre-season outing.

But one good game does not a pattern of consistency establish. Yes, it was a step in the right direction; but with the missteps in San Francisco still fresh in the mind, although not hauntingly so, like the date with that Bear fan would be, a nice game in Denver is not enough to justify confidence. Optimisim, yes; satisfaction, perhaps; confidence, not so much.

Because the imminently-important running game remains non-existent. There is no way to contemplate being an NFC-North contender without bringing a running game to the table. Somebody has to find some immediate answers to solve that problem. It ranks as urgent at this moment, as important and as high of a priority as it would be that none of your friends see you while you are out on that date with the Chicago gal.

Yes, quarterback Aaron Rodgers played like he is capable of, and there were certainly other bright spots to Green Bay's performance. One could say that in many respects Green Bay accomplished much of what they set out to do by being able to march down the field like they need to. But we need a running game like a man tricked into a date with that Bear fan needs a case of amnesia.

For if we can get a running game, we will be heading one way. If we cannot, we will be going the other way. And like that date, it would be wrong in so many ways.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Why Matt Flynn Will Be The Packers Starting QB

Several Packer bloggers (CheeseheadTV, Packer Geeks) beat me to writing about Matt Flynn, but only because they had similar thoughts and got it written down quicker.

My thoughts were just suspicions when I saw the first pre-season game against the Bengals on tv. But when I watched the 49er game in person from the stands at Candlestick Park, I saw things in 3rd string quarterback, Matt Flynn, that the television camera does not show. And I am convinced that Matt Flynn will be the starting quarterback of the Green Bay Packers.

Now I am not saying that he will start ahead of Aaron Rodgers; I am saying that he will start after Rodgers goes down with the obligatory season-ending injury. I have confidence in Rodgers, I think he is a quality quarterback and I do not wish him ill, but like many other Packers fans, I see the trend that has started with his injuries, though none of them were his fault.

So in a season where Rodgers' getting injured is a given, albeit a presumptuous conjecture, the question of who is number two quarterback is important because in such a scenario that I believe is inevitable, number two will be number one. And I believe Matt Flynn is the person who will replace Aaron Rodgers for some very strong reasons. Here they are:

1. Matt Flynn is a leader; pure and simple. You can see it in how he encourages his team to come together and to follow him. You do not see it on television coverage because cameras do not focus on what happens after the play. But when you watch Flynn while at the game, you will see him drawing the players into a group into a new huddle. He isn't waiting for them to eventually gather about twelve yards behind the line of scrimmage, he gets to where they should gather, he reaches out with his hands with several, "Come here," gestures drawing them together in a certain place in a prompt, timely manner. The third-string responds. Flynn is LEADING them; and it works.

Either you have that or you don't. Either you compel and invite men to join you or you don't. Yelling at them would not serve any team purpose, so to get them all on the same page, Matt Flynn encourages them. Once nearing a huddle formation, Flynn claps his hands and speaks confidence, unity and optimism to his teammates. It is an art to watch. It is leadership in a pure and compelling form.

And you can tell that it works from how the team bounces together out of the huddle toward the line of scrimmage. They are motivated, focussed and unified. Granted, they might perhaps be outmatched in the talent department, as was evidenced by the numerous sacks and resulting turnovers, but they went to execute the snap as a sharply unified group, and that comes from Matt Flynn.

Contrast that with the same between-plays characteristics of Brian Brohm and there is no comparison. Guys kind of end up back in the huddle and then sort of stand around until a play is called. Brohm, despite being two inches taller at 6'4'' (Flynn is 6'2"), is a much smaller man in the leadership department, and, frankly, not even on the same roster as Flynn in this category. It is a noticeable and vivid contrast to see how these two quarterbacks differ in their game management styles. And their respective units reflect each quarterback's lead. The second team looks slothful and dull; the third string looks energetic and peppy.

2. Rhythm. Because of the unity, encouragement, focus and promptness that Flynn's leadership creates, his team sparks with rhythm. Almost like a drilling, marching army, they play as if they are on the same page and on a mission together. Again, though their talent might not be as great as their team unity, Flynn's leadership affects the team in that they get into a quick, smart, bouncy pattern with which a football team can move itself down field if they brought equal talent to the hike.

But the powerful point here is that if third-string players will follow a leader into a rhythm, so will first-stringers. If Matt Flynn stepped into the huddle with the Packer starters, he would eventually have the same effect on those players. Think Doug Flutie. Though Flynn is far from a 5'9" Flutie, Doug Flutie was an effective football leader and Matt Flynn is a chip off of that block. His teams will flow and fire like a driving machine when he is matched with top NFL teammates.

3. Experience. You don't win a national championship with ineffective means; in any sport, at any level. You win because some (and hopefully all) of your players have some of the qualities that work for success. Watching Matt Flynn march his team toward a first down at Candlestick, it is hard not to think of him marching LSU down the field in that final game last year.

And you can see that he brings the same enthusiasm, the same encouragement, the same infectious optimism to the gathering of NFL players into an offensive mindset that he did with NCAA players earlier this year. You cannot buy that kind of intangible with any amount of bonus-signing money. Either men follow you or they don't.

I saw it with my own eyes, and you can quote me on this: Men Follow Matt Flynn.

After Aaron Rodgers gets hurt this year, Matt Flynn the leader will be the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cheeseheads Invade Candlestick Park

Everybody knows that the Packers travel well. What that means, of course, is that no matter what stadium the Green Bay team shows up in, the faithful Cheesehead Nation is in the stands.

This last Saturday as the Packers were preparing to play the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park, there was strong Cheesehead representation in the parking lot enjoying the time-honored tradition of tailgating.

One fan was overheard calling the healthy presence of Packer fans in the parking lot, "Packer main street," due to the many, many cheeseheads, Packer jerseys and general green and yellow presence.

Several Cheeseheads of note were some of the Lake Tahoe, California contingency of Cheeseheads pictured here in two appropriate poses.

One fan, originally from Texas, used to watch Vince Lombardi and his World Champions practiced at Southern Methodist University in the early 1960's in an intimate, casual setting much like what current Packer fans enjoy now at Clark Hinkle Field in Green Bay. He was hooked then and has remained a faithful follower ever since. He wears the rare #66 jersey that honors the great Packer legend, Ray Nitcshke. Nice to see that jersey.

Another one of the Lake Tahoe fans is a gem in that he is originally from Illinois (pictured above as #4). He came up to Lambeau field many years ago to watch a Packer game and saw how the Packers and their fans was a love affair, that it was all family, and he converted on the spot. He has special memories from that first Packer game and has carried his Packer loyalty through the many years since.

Further representation from the Packer family in Candlestick's parking lot was evident by the obligatory green and yellow painted body which a senior Cheesehead applied to an up-and-coming Packer fanatic. The finished product waltzed into the stadium and to his seat in body paint and donning a cheesehead. San Franciscans stared and Packer fans cheered.

A new wrinkle on the actual Cheesehead itself was displayed by one Packer fan as he sported a Cheesehead adapted as a sombrero to reflect some of the California cultural influence. You gotta love that Cheesehead sombrero!

Also included are several other pictures of various Packer fans who gathered outside Candlestick and enjoyed a memorable pre-game celebration amidst the warm community of loyal Green Bay Packer fans.

Not pictured is the Packer fan who was passing around the bottle of whiskey. It was clear from his personal navigational difficulties that he had consumed much of the bottle's contents himself, and he was well on his way to a forgettable experience.


If he ever did find his way into the stadium, hopefully he did nothing to tarnish the reputation of the rest of the amiable Cheesehads to the just-as-amiable San Francisco 49er fans who were wonderful hosts.

Of course, it is always easy to be congenial when your team is up twenty-something to six, isn't it?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Horse Spotted on Lambeau Field

In an unusual development at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, a horse was seen grazing near the 40 yard line early this morning.

Nobody seems to know what it is doing there or how it got in, and it looks like it has caused an unusual amount of damage.

Rumors are that the horse's name is not Mr. Ed, but something very similar.

Since nobody seems to want it, the parties who dispatched former Packer coach Dan Devine's dog, after his own damage to the team, are being sought. However, they have proven hard to find since they have apparently been out driving around every evening, purportedly looking for another certain dog. No news on whose dog they might currently be hunting.

If you have any idea as to the identity of the horse, or think you might know what to do with it, perhaps the Green Bay Packer administration offices would like to hear from you.




Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rodgers Smooth as Silk

Alright, so be it. Brett Favre is not a Green Bay Packer at the moment. I can't change that.

I guess the old saying, "TT Happens" is true, and indeed it has laid a pile on all of us. It's not a perfect world.

Nonetheless the Favre-less Green Bay Packers opened the pre-season last night with a respectable showing against the Cincinnati Bengals last night. And despite the distractions regarding the Favre issue, the team looked pretty sharp for a first outing.

Let's face it, none of this was Aaron Rodgers fault. All he has done so far for the Packers is everything he has been asked to do. Not only has he shown some unusual patience and restraint in the midst of the media storm, but perhaps his composure has tipped his hand a little as to what kind of a man and football player he is. Monday night's game shows that it has.

Studio camera lights on? Microphones jammed into your face? "Aaron, what do your think of Brett Favre's decision to return to the NFL?" "What does this mean for your role with the Packers?" etc. etc. and Rodgers answers calmly. Linebackers are blitzing, offensive line does not pick them up, defense playing the receivers in a man-to-man, Rodgers drifts the ball out to the safety-valve receiver calmly.

If what we have seen under media pressure is also who we are going to see under football pressure, this could be an exciting year for the Pack. If this composed, patient, and rock-solid guy can also handle the pressure of the shadow of Brett Favre, which he did seamlessly and impressively last night, we might be contenders.

If last night was any indication, Aaron Rodgers is a composed guy, smooth as silk, and this is going to be a great season.

p.s. I guess my old Lynn Dickey jersey is going to get a second life; or was that the Zeke Bratkowski jersey?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Thursday, August 7, 2008

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Brett Favre traded to the New York whatevers.

Shame on you, Ted. Shame on you!

Ted Turner had best hide his dog.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Most Hated Man in Wisconsin






Jeffrey Dahmer was a beast; Ed Gein was a monster. And if Green Bay Packers General Manager Ted Thompson does not pull his head out of the frozen sand and keep Brett Favre from getting dished up to another team, he, too, is going to be on the state's very short Infamous List.

Ask Dan Devine about what life is like on that list. Or his dog.

There simply are no excuses, reasons or justifications that would have Brett Favre wearing a jersey other than a Packers jersey. None. Whatsoever.

I am not sure where Ted Turner, or Thompson, or whatever his name is, comes from, but for him to let Brett Favre go to another team is like lifting his leg on the entire Cheesehead Nation and taking a whizz.

And that is not acceptable in Wisconsin. Not when a player like Favre gave everything he had for 16 years in Green Bay and is the very embodiment of the Packers to an entire state.

If Thompson deals Brett Favre to another NFL team, he is going to earn the top spot as The Most Hated Man in Wisconsin, hands down. No Chicago Bear will even have to run for election.

It would be the biggest stab in the back to every citizen of the state since Lew Alcindor changed his name to Kareem Abdul Jabbar and went to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Or maybe since President Clinton's Secretary of Defense, Wisconsin's own Les Aspin, refused to authorize the use of tanks in support of a mission in Somalia because we 'might alienate the United Nations.' Of course, the result was that he got 18 soldiers killed in Mogadishu in the Blackhawk Down incident.

Perhaps Ted Thompson could take a few lessons from the inglorious pasts of other shameful Wisconsonites. Remember the 'Mogadisgu Mile,' that unprotected one-mile long run that US soldiers had to take down the streets of the hostile city while being shot at from every direction continuously the whole way?

Well, suppose we offer Thompson the 'Green Bay Gauntlet' instead? Sure, he could start running at Lambeau field and then try to make it to any state line where he can cross into freedom. Of course Cheeseheads unhappy with Thompson's treachery in dealing Favre away would be free to practice their marksmanship in this event Perhaps Thompson could do as nice of a job dodging bullets as the US soldiers did who were put in a terrible position by farLESs ASPIN.

And if he gets running along and begins to think the heat is getting too much, the bullets too close, he can always choose to go 'another direction;' he seems to think that is a good idea nowadays, and all.

I mean, so Aaron Rodgers, Ted's brainchild who Thompson hopes will prove him to be a genius, suppose he gets hurt. THEN WHAT??? Then we switch the channel and watch Brett Favre play for the Buccaneers or something? NEGATIVE, Mr. Thompson. FAVRE IS A PACKER. Forever. Unlike you.

Don't make them find your head in Jeffrey Dahmer's freezer or your skin around Ed Gein's lamp. Do the right thing. Or get your running shoes on, and grab a bottle of water...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Day I Launched Brett Favre's Career

A pivotal Green Bay Packers game is on the NFL Network channel right now. It is the game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept 20, 1992. It is the game where Green Bay Packers quarterback Don Majikowski got hurt and Brett Favre came in to relieve him...and won it, of course. What is significant about this game is that I realized something that I never knew...that I had a significant role in launching Brett Favre's football career.

You see, there was this kid that we played high school football against named Tim Krumrie from Mondovi, Wisconsin. He was a sophomore when we were juniors. Mondovi came to my high school that year to take on our mighty Chieftains. Of course we beat the crap out of them and they went on to make the playoffs while we went undefeated and we did not make the playoffs. Plus they were in a higher division that we were...go figure.

Well I remember Tim Krumrie. I was the backup kicker that year for kickoffs. Terry Kindschy was the first-string kicker. (Of course Mark Rogness kicked extra-points and field goals.) Anyway, Kindschy got banged up during the game at one point and was out for awhile. We scored and then were going to kickoff. Coach Duane Matye ('The Duke') came and found me comfortably asleep, probably, on the bench, under the bleachers, or maybe chatting with the opposing team's cheerleaders....who knows. I know that I had not expected to play unless quarterback Jeff Olson was going to get himself hurt, which was unlikely, or the guy who kicked off got hurt which also was unlikely, but now was a reality.

So Duke tells me to get in there and do the kickoff. Alright, I will. What he failed to mention, however, and which should have been included in the interests of fair disclosure, and out of respect for humanity, was that on Mondovi's kickoff return team, the responsibility of blocking the kicker fell on one large beast of a human being named Tim Krumrie, who out-weighed me by an easy 60, well, more like 100 lbs.

So I get out there on to the field and set the ball up just like I had countless times on Saturday mornings after football games while I was growing up. During those times, however, it had always played out much differently. I would imagine the crowds, the intensity of the game and all that was at stake; all, of course, just in the mind of a 4th grade boy, or whatever. I never saw it playing out like it actually did.

So where was I? Oh, yes, the kickoff against Mondovi (you will understand my memory lapse in a moment...) Ya, I get out there, hear the ref's whistle and get ready for my first kickoff in a varsity game. I take off toward the ball, sync up my steps and plant my foot into the ball. It was a decent enough kick; less than a Mark Rogness or Greg Laufenberg might have done, but a respectable high school kickoff, nonetheless. So I figured my job was about done. Surely Hugh Leasum, Brian Matye or someone else would chase down the ball carrier and my role was almost done. So I hustle down the field, a few steps behind everybody else.

It never crossed my mind that there would be one person who was designated to take out the kicker; I never thought about that. But then it began to dawn on me, as I slowly started to realize that there was a person in front of me who seemed to be adjusting his body position and movement to track exactly where I was headed. I began to get a hint that he was targeting me. Oh, alright, someone is trying to get a bead on me. No problem, I'll just angle away from him a little and let him try to pick someone else up. My plans did not work. The more I adjusted, the more the blocker adjusted. And then before you know it, I was getting very close to this person.

The final seconds are a bit of a blur...or is a better description the term, 'nightmare'? By the time I realized that there was going to be a collision, it was too late to do anything about it. The last thing I remember there was this hulk of a mountain positioned there in a textbook squared-up blocking position. I can still see Tim Krumrie's head , intense eyes, mouth and mouth-guard behind that bird-cage facemask as his forearms with clenched fists drew in and up and his body came forward towards me. What happened next can only be described as pure violence. There was crushing physical contact. I felt like I had ran headlong into an oncoming car. I am sure that my feet left the earth.

Forearms and elbows and shoulders met my facemask and began to push it back into my face. Of course once it all made contact with my face in a twisting, backward movement, my two-bar facemask and rotating helmet then came in contact with my nice black athletic glasses. The frames on those glasses, though durable, are not nearly as soft and rubbery as they might have been hailed to be back in the day. No. In fact, they were very, very hard. I did not know at the time that they were digging into my eyebrow, or that the blood would be starting to flow from the measure of flesh that Tim Krumrie was extracting from my body for violating his personal personal space by attempting to pass through it.

You can understand my surprise, though. Because for all those years when I had been a kid and had gone to the hallowed high school football field on crisp, fall Saturday mornings after the glorious gladiator matches the night before (you see, I lived right across the street from said field) and set up kickoffs in imaginary football games, I had mistakenly believed that this field was mine; ours, the mighty Chieftains'. But no, this part of the field actually belonged to the human wall, Tim Krumrie from Mondovi. Who'd have thought that? Who could have known?

So where was I again...? Oh, yes, I was in mid-air, my head and body having been violently launched due west when I was supposed to be going east. When I landed on my back, a considerable distance behind the place where Krumrie had initiated his assault on the kicker, I do not remember if I was actually looking out the ear-hole of my helmet or not, though it was probable, because my glasses were twisted somewhere up between the top of my head and the upper-inside of my helmet and blood was running into my eyes and I could not see a thing. I also don't remember if I called for my mommy, but that is likely as well.

What I do remember is that Tim Krumrie's wrath had not been yet appeased and I caught a tiny glimpse of him as he stood there above me, waiting for me to get back up; he was probably foaming at the mouth and uttering gutteral, in-human noises. Neither do I remember if his fangs were protruding through his mouthguard, but I am pretty sure that they were. At the moment, though, I was not particularly interested in getting back up. No, my only interest was in simply staying alive. It never crossed my mind to stand back up and go make a tackle; Tim Krumrie had removed that, and most everything else, from my consciousness.

Well, I don't know who made the tackle on that play, all I remember was who had made one particular block on one particular kicker. After the play was over, I somehow found my way over to the sideline, though it was not by sight. Eventually I retrieved my safety glasses from inside my helmet and got a towel on my bleeding cut. Nobody knew what happened because I was just an insignificant back-up kicker and backup quarterback in an intense battle where I played no role. Tim Krumrie has no idea what happened to me except that his man had not made the tackle.

But I am certain that that play solidified in Krumrie's mind just exactly what it took to execute the perfect contact football collision. I am certain that that play was for Tim Krumrie the defining moment when all the pieces came together. That play brought to him the pure clarity of what it took physically and mentally to achieve perfection on the football field. I had been the instrument that was used for him to understand and realize football perfection. Of course we beat the Mondovi Buffaloes and went undefeated that year. As far as the playoffs went, though, as mentioned, they made the playoffs and we did not. It would take us another undefeated season to actually make the playoffs and win the Wisconsin State Football Championship in our division where I did not have to play an insignificant role; and where I did not have to teach Tim Krumrie any more about football perfection.

As for Krumrie, who went on to play for the Wisconsin Badgers and the Cincinnati Bengals, he had two more significant plays to make, himself. The first was when he snapped his own leg on national television against the 49ers in the Super Bowl. And the second, which I just became aware of today, was when he snapped the Green Bay Packer's Don Majikowski's ankle in a game in Green Bay on September 20, 1992 which brought Brett Favre into the game in relief and ushered in the Brett Favre era.

I won't take all the credit for launching the career of Brett Favre by helping to perfect the football abilities of the defender who injured the one thing standing in Favre's way, Don Majikowski. No, that would be unrealistic. But imagine how things might have turned out had I kicked the ball and then laid the lumber on Tim Krumrie on that fall day in 1976; laid him out, laid him up, destroyed his confidence, ruined his career and kept him out of the fateful game at Lambeau which allowed Favre to come in and begin his heroics. Instead of landing in the Hall of Fame, Favre's greatest claim to glory might have been squeezing out the best under-arm fart of anybody on the sidelines.

No, it is clearly my humility, my nice-guy attitude, and my love for the Green Bay Packers that carried the day. Yeah, I could have laid the lumber onto Krumrie...uh-huh, I sure could have...and the scar still visible on my eyebrow bears witness to the fact that I didn't. Yup, I took one for my team, the Osseo-Fairchild Chieftains, for my Green Bay Packers, and for Brett Flavious Favre. Yes sir, that was the day that I got launched by Tim Krumrie which helped launch Brett Favre's football career. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Not a Dilemma At All

With Brett Favre's announced desire to come out of retirement and return to the NFL, the Green Bay Packers seem to be in a bit of a dilemma. Some are saying the Packers should release Favre. Others are saying trade Favre. The Packers have said that they honored Favre's wishes to retire and have already moved on. It seems like the Packers have themselves a quandary.

But this is not a dilemma at all. If you look at the characters involved, this is a no-brainer.

Who are the players with something at stake? They are: 1.) The Green Bay Packers organization 2.) Brett Favre 3.) Aaron Rodgers and 4.) The greater Cheesehead Nation, who are the Green Bay Packers organization's paying customers.

Next you look and wonder which of the characters from this list has any flexibility. The Packers are bound to the promises they made to Aaron Rodgers. But the Packers are also tied in with Brett Favre in that he is pretty-much the embodiment of the team in the last decade. The organization also would risk disaster should they trade Favre or cut him loose only to face him in charge of a divisional team. Furthermore, the team needs to consider how many troops from the Wisconsin National Guard would need to be called in to quell the riots at Lambeau Field should word ever leak out that Brett Favre would be going to the Chicago Bears.

To the Packer fan, to those who labored over Favre's decision to call it quits just a few months ago, there are no options. Every Cheesehead knows that Brett Favre is a Green Bay Packer. Consider for a moment what happened to Joe Montana. Joe Cool was an aging quarterback who had fellow Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young waiting in the wings as Montana's backup. The 49ers, after vacillating for a number of years, finally decided to cut Montana loose by sending him to the Kansas City Chiefs so that Steve Young could be their guy.

But everyone outside of Kansas City who saw number 12 in a uniform that was not a San Francisco 49ers uniform knew that it was just wrong on so many levels. It just didn't seem fitting for someone who had done as much as Montana, or done so much so well, should be taking snaps for a foreign football team. Can anyone imagine Terry Bradshaw in something other than a Steelers uniform? Marino other than a Doplhins? Elway other than a Broncos?

No, there are no options. Brett Favre must and will wear the Packers jersey if he comes back because it is wrong that he would wear any other.

So here is the final solution: have both Favre and Rodgers come to camp and compete for an open starting QB position; that is only fair to all parties concerned. That would keep Packer fans happy, secure a successful season for the organization, allow Favre to come back, and give Rodgers a genuine opportunity at earning a starting job in the NFL.

And frankly, if Rodgers does not like it, he has the least to lose; let him go play for Kansas City. You just don't deal-away a Brett Favre. Joe Montana taught us that.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Sacrifice: Favre's Last Ball Given to Army Amputee

Giving of yourself for higher goals and purposes is always the high road. Brett Favre proved that for 270-some straight games for the Green Bay Packers. Playing through pain, broken bones, cracked things, sprained things, coughing up blood, he put himself out there for a higher purpose, for the benefit of his team, not himself.

Granted, football is not the ultimate purpose in life, but the character one develops during the process can certainly be related to the disciplines, attitudes, commitment, desire and teamwork that one experiences while practicing, preparing for and playing the game. And solid character is one of the purposes of life.

Favre continually sacrificed his body to relentless defensive assaults, and did whatever else he could, to help his team win. We understand that type of commitment and probably all share the same kind of admiration, appreciation and respect for him for such faithfulness.

Lt. Col. Greg Gadson also knows what sacrifice is. The U. S. Army officer lost both legs to a roadside bomb in Iraq last May. He put himself out there for his country, and it cost him more than most NFL players or any of us ever have to pay.

Gadson, who went to West Point, played football there with New York Giants' receivers coach Mike Sullivan. Sullivan and head coach Tom Coughlin, brought the courageous Army officer in to address the team before the Washington Redskins game. Having already lost their first two games, both coaches were hoping that Gadson would be able to give the struggling Giants some needed perspective and inspiration. It worked. New York went out and beat the Redskins and turned their season around.

So what did the Lt. Col say to them to spark such a turn around? He told them to: 1.) concentrate on the mission, 2.) never give up and 3.) always believe in each other. We cannot know what it was like to be in the Giants locker room that morning, looking upon a soldier who's own sacrifice makes anything one can do on a football field seem insignificant, but we can see what such perspective and inspiration does for a group of men who have had that experience.

The night before the Super Bowl, Lt. Col. Gadson once again addressed the team. This time he spoke of, "pride, poise, team and belief in each other." Of course we now know that the Giants listened once again, and went out and won it all.

So things like mission, never giving up, belief in one another, team, pride, poise not only work for a war-zone Army unit, but they work for the guys in a huddle as well. (Is it any surprise that Vince Lombardi himself learned much of his football coaching philosophy while coaching at West Point?) They make you indomitable. And once committed to these common noble values, the sacrifice of your own things, or yourself, for the benefit of the team is part of the personal price you pay for success in a mutual effort.

Favre proved that. Gadson proved it more. And now the New York Giants' Corey Webster has proven it once again.

Webster, who intercepted now-retired Favre's final pass in the NFC Championship game, which then led to a Giants win, has demonstrated sacrifice like Favre and like Gadson.

In a moving display of respect, honor and appreciation for what Gadson gave for all of us Americans, Webster has given that iconic ball, legendary quarterback Brett Favre's very last, to double-amputee, Lt. Col. Greg Gadson.

Sacrifice is not only impressive, honorable and heroic; it's contagious.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Thank You, Brett Favre



Thank you, Brett, 4 everything!





It's been one heck of a ride.

Happy trails, partner.

-PackSmack

(in case you missed it, here is the tribute we wrote to you in December called Ride to Glory, perhaps our best post, which was picked up by ESPN, and also featured as one of the best articles of the year in Bleacher Report.)


Friday, February 29, 2008

The King of the NFL

He didn't look like a king. He was usually scrambling for his life from salivating, hungry defensive linemen who always knew it was feast day. Though they tried hard, his offensive linemen were always outmatched, like boys playing against men. They couldn't help him, they couldn't keep his safe.

All the land he really asked for was a three-foot square chunk of turf in the pocket to pass from, but he rarely found it; and never could he stay there for long. He was sacked more times than Carthage.

When he came out of college, he was the Matt Leinart or Vince Young of his day. He was The Franchise. Trouble was, he played on a franchise team just a few years out of the gate in the NFL and the learning curve for a new team was steep. Impossibly steep.

Instead of shining like the star everyone knew he was, on a weekly basis he was battered and beat up like he lived in a cage with Mike Tyson. Hardly able to put his team in the playoffs alone, it took everything he had to put his feet on the floor on Monday mornings.

It was troubling to watch. Here was this hero with so much potential but week after miserable week he was always at the bottom of an avalanche. It was sad. Many people said, "Poor fella. What a waste."

And such was his career. No opportunities to showcase his real talent because his teams could never contend. Every year ended with disappointment; certainly discouragement and disillusion also must have raised their voices. Though the man plodded on, there never was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; in fact, there was never even a rainbow, just a hurricane every Sunday for many torturous years. And then the man limped away.

Sometimes life offers you surprises in ways you didn't expect them. You put your efforts and energies into a purpose but the by-product of your work ends up being more rewarding. I mean, when you are digging a hole, aren't you also building a hill?

Well, the king was building a hill, though he did not know it. He knew his three skinny boys liked to play in the dirt, but he didn't recognize it as a hill that his efforts had created. Those boys, the princes, loved the things their dad loved. They emulated him. They looked up to him. Though he was everybody else's punching bag, and nobody knew he was a king, he was always a hero to the princes. He patiently taught them his craft. He worked with them, encouraged them.

When they got knocked down, he told them to get back up; after all, wasn't that really his own true specialty? Perhaps no one had been knocked down more.

And up they got. And up, and up. It wasn't long and the king was starting to forget about some of the disappointment of the NFL, the success of his boys was easing some pain. As the boys got older and the game got more intense, the king realized that it was not about him any more, it was about them; his heart was renewed.

All three princes were spectacular. They had the king's genes. He lived through them at their games in other ways as well. The victories were sweeter than ones he could remember from when he played high school and college ball, they were somehow more fulfilling.

Of course, any father can tell you that the success of his son is a richer drink than success himself. Perhaps that is because the success of the son says that not only was the son successful, but the son was able to be successful because the father was successful at enabling the son. So, it's doubled; or something.

But in the king's case, it was doubled, and doubled again, and doubled a third time. The boys were great, just like their dad. Then one went down with an injury, he would not play again. But the trend was already established, he, too was a chip off the old block.

The second prince carried on and would eventually be named the greatest player in the greatest game. That game was vindication for the king. It was sweeter than all the bitterness from all the years of his own career. It washed away every collision, every bruise, every loss, every failure. He was clean again, rejuvenated, and he finally realized that he had totally misinterpreted his life's purpose. He wasn't meant to find success in the NFL, he was meant to find success as a dad.

So this past month, the New York Giants fans were happy for their team, and rightly so, for the Giants played with lion-hearts. But for the king, this was deja-vu all over again; it was abundant, bountiful joy; doubled, and then doubled once more.

In fact, not only did his third son follow the second to the greatest of heights, but it was the king's coronation as well. It revealed and announced that indeed he was a king because his boys were the princes. The hill of dirt had become a mountain and they were all standing on its top, three boys and a king.

Giants fans were proud that day.

But nobody, nobody on this planet was more proud or more deserving than the King of the NFL, Archie Manning.

Archie Manning with his sons, Cooper, Eli and Peyton.
(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

NFL Withdrawals: Golf is NOT a Sport!

It tries to sneak up on you in the off-season - when you aren't paying attention. You are deep into the February blues, trying to find a reason to go on after your NFL team failed to win the Super Bowl, again. Nothing much matters, the weather is lousy. You know that it will be a long six months until a new football season. You wonder if you can hang on that long. Your defenses are down and though you don't know it, you are vulnerable.

The first strike is when you are scrolling through the channels on Sunday afternoon during what is, by all rights, football game time. But, of course, the season is over. Even the Pro Bowl is in the books, though for the life of you, you can't remember who won. There are no football games on. But as you cruise to one of your familiar football channels, out of habit, mostly, you realize that there appears to be some excitement happening. So you stop for a moment to see what it is. Which is your first mistake.

You see the green, green inviting grass of Pebble Beach or some lush golf course in Arizona or Hawaii. People seem to be having a good time, you think, and they are acting like there is some drama going on. Perhaps this is something that is significant and that matters, you wonder. Your curiosity is piqued and then come the Rubicon of temptations: you are tempted to actually care about golf.

But I am here to save you from the cruel fate that awaits you should you render your heart to its green seductions and false promises. If you can just get the clarity of mind to quickly move on to the next channel immediately, you will have spared yourself from shame and humiliation. For if you stay, if you give in, if you let your heart be lulled into the sweet delusion that golf is actually a sport, you will be lost.

And when you are lost, it will take you to places, you will do things that even your friends didn't think you would sink to doing. You will only begin to recover when training camp starts again in July, and your awakening will only come through the embarrassing admission that you stooped so far as to enjoy something that was not real. Your friends will turn their backs to you and go talk to their real football friends instead, leaving you standing there alone, and in your shame.

For you have violated sacred sports territory, you have called a sport that which is not a sport. You have betrayed true sports fans everywhere. And you have forgotten the obvious truths about golf that reveal that it is not a sport at all.


Golf's Disqualifiers


So if you have already crossed that subtle, tempting, Rubicon line, let me review for you why golf is not a sport:

1. First of all, you know those fans that you see on tv? They all look like they are having a good time and that golf matters to them? Fake. They're all fake fans. They are all paid actors and actresses. All of them. Why do you think that they have some of the golf tournaments in the winter out in California? Duh! It's where all the actors are! The PGA, Nike, Buick and the like all pitch in to fit the bill to bring in these actors and tell them to look like they're having a good time.

Of course, they're not, you know. In fact it is so boring to them that they can hardly keep the corners turned on their smiles for more than a few moments. Directors learned this long ago, which is why a broadcast will move from green 12 to green 15 to green 7 to a tee-off on 3, all within a few moments. It's because the actors are having such a rotten time that they can only hide it for a camera shot every once in awhile. Yup.

2. Still not convinced? Well, let me ask you this, have you ever seen someone hit a golf ball? You have? Good. Now have you ever seen a professional hit a golf ball? You have? OK. Now, exactly how fast was that ball moving when he hit it? What's that, it wasn't moving at all? Which is exactly my point! How can golf be a sport when the ball they are trying to hit is sitting still on a tee?!

Does Barry Bonds get to hit a baseball from a tee? Heavens no, he has to try to hit one that is traveling 100 mph, and moving up, down, left or right as well! So where is the challenge in hitting a STILL ball? Oooh, pretty challenging!

3. And then there's this, "Shhh, quiet now, he's about to putt for a birdie." Everybody is supposed to BE QUIET as this fellow is trying to sink a putt and beat the guys he is golfing with. What the heck is up with that? Is that how things are in the real world? Absolutely not! When the Green Bay Packers' Brett Favre is calling signals in Chicago do Bears fans say, "Shhh, quiet now, he's starting to call signals?" You got to be kidding me, right? No way does that ever happen. Not in anything that is actually a sport.

Do you remember back in the day when Larry Bird went up to the free-throw line one time in some other city? When he brought the ball up an looked at the basket, the entire fan section behind the basket that Bird was looking at pulled out full-length posters of some model in a swimsuit. Each fan had a poster. There were hundreds of them all waving around trying to distract Larry Bird. He even laughed. I don't remember if he made the shot or not, he probably did because he always stabbed you in the heart when you challenged him. But the point is that prohibiting spectators from expressing themselves is, well, it's just un-American.

In fact the best part of the first Jackass movie was when the guys took a blow-horn to the golf course, hid in the nearby bushes and shrieked it every time some golf monkey was trying to tee off! It was hilarious! One hero even went to far as to hit a golf ball at the hecklers. Over a little bit of noise. Imagine if real professional athletes responded that way in real sports!

4. Besides the ridiculousness of hitting a stopped ball, the other side of the golf shot is this: NOBODY'S trying to STOP them! They don't have a defender trying to take their head off, they don't have a pitcher trying to take their head off, they don't have a defenseman trying to take their head off. They are standing there at their leisure, waiting for who knows what to take their shot whenever they dang well feel like it. No pressure, no defense, no inhibitors. So where's the sport? It can't be called a sport, it's just simple narcissism.

5. The names are just wrong! You have a guy named Tiger, don't you expect him to line up right next to Urlacher on defense? Or maybe he could slash his way down the ice and hammer defensemen on his way to scoring a goal? Perhaps he's a boxer going the full-15 with Lennox Lewis?

Sorry, wrong dimension. This Tiger is skinny and he hits a little white ball further down the grass. No claws, no teeth, no blood-curling roar. Just 'plink.' That's all.

And the Shark? Nope, no bite, just a nice hat.


Suggested (Mandatory) Changes

Although the list could go on and on, rather than make it exhaustive, perhaps we could suggest some changes to this pastime that, if applied, would then make it a real, actual sport.

a. Institute Tackle Golf. Yes, that is right. You heard it here first. Can't you just see it, 'Bobcat Forrest is about to tee off. He looks down range, pulls back, ooohh, he's smeared from the blindside by the foursome coming up from hole 5! That's gotta hurt 'ol Bobcat. Looks like he'll need the stretcher to take him away again today."

Don't tell me that you wouldn't like that. Guys from other holes sneaking back to wipe you out, guys from your own foursome turning on you. Heck, you could have some roaming marauders sent out by the clubhouse striking from the bushes or hiding in trees. Maybe as long as you're off your golf cart you are open game.

I'll bet hitting that ball wouldn't be so easy then would it? And if you need to pad up, that's alright. You might even have the other guys in your party block for you while you are trying to hit it.

b. Bumping Up. Here's an idea that is long overdue. How about instead of waiting around forever for the party in front of you to mozy down the course before you hit the ball, you hit your ball and try to hit them. If you hit a guy in the party in front of you, you get to bump up and go ahead of that party! It's the perfect idea. That way Mr. StupidPants won't just be taking his dear, sweet old time while he's playing the course, he'll be hurrying and watching over his shoulder as well. With enough good shots, you can be out in front of everybody.

A corollary to this rule is that golf course maintenance workers, mowers and the like are objects that you get rewarded for hitting. Hit the tractor, get a free drink. Hit the guy driving the tractor, take a stroke off your score on that hole.

c. Mulligan-Mulligan-Oh, Crap. How many strikes do you get in baseball? Three. How many downs do you get in football? Four. So let's apply that to golf and go a conservative three balls from every lay. Hit the original ball; don't like it, hit another. Still don't like it hit one more. Seems only fair. Then you gotta decide there and then which one you are going to play.

But there is, a catch. Any other player can hit your mulligans. Like the guy coming the opposite way down another fairway, he can step over and smack your mulligan anywhere he wants to and you still have to play it. We'll use yellow, green or orange balls for mulligans, so that other golfers know which balls are fair game.

d. Here is a picture of my nephews. They are in a pasture called Pebble Beach Golf Course. Both nephews are from Wisconsin, one from the western part of the state and one from Green Bay (Wrightstown, actually.) These fellas, like all cheeseheads, were raised to know that you can find three things in a pasture, cows, cowpies, and occasionally, deer.

What you don't see in this particular picture of the pasture, er, golf course, is that there are often more deer on this course than people. Lots of them. Herds. And nobody bothers them at all.

Now there are some things about California that cheeseheads can tolerate; well some things. But letting deer roam freely and leisurely around a golf course is not one of them. Most certainly not! While taking this picture my nephews had half a mind to busting out their rifles right there and then. It would be worth the trip to jail to spot a deer in that far wood line, take him down with an .06, walk over and drag him into the fairway and gut him out right there on Pebble Beach Golf Course. (People take themselves farrr to seriously at Pebble Beach.)

So here's the final new golf rule, hunting on golf courses is mandatory. You must carry firearms in your golf cart and you must at least chase deer down the fairway with high-caliber bullets.



If the golf world would be willing to accept these rule suggestions, it could then possibly attain the status of actually being a sport. But do not be deceived, it still remains only something that sashays by until football gets here again!!!

(Is it the end July yet?)