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.