INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The Packers might be playing in Aaron Rodgers Field next season. Exaggeration, of course, but the two-time NFL MVP is up for a contract and it’s going to be a small country’s gross national product.
Rodgers played just seven games last season before suffering a broken collarbone. Before collarbone, the Packers were 4-1. They finished 7-9.
Green Bay simply was dreadful without its two-time NFL MVP.
And now, the longer the Packers wait, the more expensive Rodgers is going to be. Free agent QB Kirk Cousins likely will become the highest-paid player in league history. Then the Packers will have to sit across Rodgers and his agent.
They’ll be the ones smiling.
“I don’t know if there’s pressure, but we’d like to get it done sooner rather than later,” first-year Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said Wednesday at the NFL combine. “When you have the best player in the NFL, it’s not going to be inexpensive, you know what I mean? Obviously, Aaron is a high priority. He’s a great player. That should take care of itself at some point.”
Let’s say the Rodgers’ deal gets done. Next on Green Bay’s list on the road back to contender is the defense.
In the offseason, Green Bay dismissed longtime defensive coordinator Dom Capers and hired Mike Pettine, former head coach for the Cleveland Browns. The Packers finished 22nd in total defense, allowing 348.9 yards a game. They finished 31st in opposing quarterback passer rating and 26th in scoring defense with 24.0 points a game.
As with everyone NFL who spoke Wednesday, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy didn’t commit to a scheme on defense. No one committed to anything, because this is the day and age of scheme flexibility. First-year Lions coach Matt Patricia, who helped the Patriots reach the Super Bowl this year as defensive coordinator, said 90 percent of what the Patriots did came out of substitute packages. All the rules are being bent by these different packages that are designed to take advantage of that particular team’s strengths. So, Green Bay is now a 3-4 and a 4-3 and whatever works defense.
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“That’s the reality of what a good defensive system is, the ability to use your players,” McCarthy said. “We’ve never had the luxury of saying we need this specific kind of player. When you’re picking where we’ve picked (in the draft) for as many years as we have and with our prior focus on veteran free agency, we have to acquire good players and we have to play to their strengths.
“... We’re not scorching the earth or throwing out the baby with the bath water with our defense. There’s some history with our defense that Mike (Pettine) will be able to carry over with his scheme.”
By the way, since the Packers drafted ninth in 2009, their first round picks have gone 23rd, 32nd, 28th, 26th, 21st, 30th, 27th and then trading out of the first round in 2017.
Does the defense need a culture change? Former Hawkeye and sixth-year Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels called for that very thing.
“I know that’s one thing Pettine is big on is the accountability. He’s not afraid to hurt anybody’s feelings. I’m really looking forward to that. It should make for some interesting meetings,” Daniels told the NFL Network. “It’ll be a culture change. We need a culture change.”
McCarthy toned it down.
“That’s a big statement, culture change,” McCarthy said. “I think you have to look at the definition of it. From my perspective, you have an evaluation every year. You have your filters for the data. You have conversations and input from inside and maybe outside of the organization. With that, you assess.”
The Packers last won the Super Bowl in 2010 when Rodgers was 27. He’s 34 now. He and the Packers are still stuck on that one Super Bowl.
Last season and Rodgers’ broken collarbone aside — by the way, McCarthy said Rodgers’ rehab is on schedule — the Packers have been one of the top teams in the NFL, but they’ve been frozen out of the Super Bowl.
How does this team get unstuck?
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“We have a really good team, some really good players,” Gutekunst said. “There’s been a lot of change, the coaching side and obviously the personnel side and stuff like that, but I don’t think we’re very far off.”
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