Episode 23 - The Final Chapter of the 2016 Packers
Blue 58, powered by WTMJ Mobile, goes beyond the headlines to help you become a smarter fan of the Green Bay Packers. Hosted by former WTMJ newscaster Jon Meerdink and his friend Gary Zilavy, Blue 58 brings you a unique, upbeat perspective on your favorite NFL team, as long as that team is the Packers.
This week on Blue 58, a hero from the postseason leaves Green Bay for Oakland, two of the most productive running backs in league history are on the Packers’ radar… and neither are named Adrian Peterson. We finish up our season recap series with a look at the playoffs.
Here's the headlines we covered on this week's episode:
Former Packers tight end Jared Cook has signed a free agent contract with the Oakland Raiders. In his one year with the Packers, he caught 30 passes for 377 yards and one touchdown.
Jon: How much will you miss Jared Cook?
Gary: Not a whole lot. Cook was essentially the same player in Green Bay that he was throughout his entire career: a big, athletic, moderately productive tight end. He missed a number of games this season because of injuries, and history will only remember his big catch against the Cowboys. Martellus Bennett is a unique target for Rodgers, but Lance Kendricks is a light version of Cook and a former Badger. What’s not to love?
Ian Rapoport reported on NFL Network that the Packers are considered a potential landing spot for Charles. Whether there’s legitimate interest or not isn’t clear, but at least in theory, Charles has a skill set that could work well for the Packers. Due to injuries, Charles has played just 290 snaps over the last two seasons, including just 27 in 2016.
Jon: Will Jamaal Charles play anywhere in 2017, Green Bay or otherwise?
Gary: Yes, he’ll be on a roster heading into training camp. I’m not sure he’ll make it through the entire season, though. Charles hasn’t played all 16 games in a season since 2012. He does have fewer miles than some of the other available backs. He’s at about 1,300 career carries – about 1,000 fewer than Adrian Peterson and 800 fewer than Marshawn Lynch.
The Oakland Raiders are sniffing around former Seattle Seahawks superstar running back Marshawn Lynch in hopes of luring him out of retirement. According to some NFL insiders, Lynch may be interested. If Lynch is interested in joining the Raiders, it’s easy to connect the dots for the Packers. Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson wanted to draft Lynch in 2007 and tried to trade for him in 2010.
Jon: How much have you wanted Marshawn Lynch as a member of the Packers?
Gary: I don’t want him right now, but I would have loved to see him with Green Bay in 2010. The Bills wanted to trade Lynch to the Packers for A.J. Hawk, and eventually settled for a fourth and fifth round pick from the Seahawks. Now, he’s 10 years into his playing career and sat out all of last year. I think I’d rather roll the dice with the draft and undrafted free agents than try to pry him away from retirement and trade for him from Seattle.
This episode's main topic: The Playoffs
Why go through the games again?
Our mission is to become smarter Packers fans. Because Green Bay plays their sixteen games a year at a frantic pace, it's hard to add context and perspective to the Packers schedule when the season happens so fast.
That’s why this week we’re finishing up our series where we’re taking a quick look at each game of the season.
We’re doing this for two reasons – first, to help tease out the essential story of the season and to use hindsight to help identify patterns for the future.
Wild Card Round: Packers 38, Giants 13
Looking at the final score, it’s easy to forget that this game was completely terrifying for a while. The Packers’ first five drives gained 51 yards total, the Giants led 6-0, and Aaron Rodgers looked completely terrible. Before halftime, Rodgers took the Packers 80 yards in 90 seconds for a 42-yard Hail Mary to Randall Cobb. The Packers ultimately scored on four of their six meaningful second half possessions and cruised to a 38-13 win.
Jon: How terrified were you early on?
Gary: Not necessarily terrified, but resigned to losing once again at home to Eli Manning. Up until the Hail Mary before halftime, I wasn't too excited about making the playoffs because of our opponent. In my head, I remembered every Super Bowl winner since the 2004 Patriots had dropped at least one game in December. The Packers were undefeated in December. Was it a bad omen for the postseason?
Divisional Round: Green Bay 34, Dallas 31
The Packers scored touchdowns on their first three possessions to take a 21-3 lead, but the Cowboys rallied to tie the game 31-31 with 44 seconds left. Green Bay faced 3rd and 20 from their 32 yard line, and Aaron Rodgers found tight end Jared Cook for 36 yards to put the Packers on the very edge of field goal range with seconds left. Mason Crosby kicked a 51-yard field goal as time expired for a thrilling 34-31 win.
Gary: Did the better team win?
Jon: Without a doubt. The Packers handled the things the Cowboys did best and punished the Cowboys for their weaknesses. That’s how you win playoff football, and that’s exactly what the Packers did.
NFC Championship: Falcons 44, Packers 24
When did it feel like this game ended? You could make the case that it’s when the Falcons stepped onto the field, because they scored on their first three possessions and only punted twice all day. Meanwhile, here are how the Packers ended their first five possessions: Missed field goal, fumble, punt, interception and end of half.
Jon: Were you more upset by this game at the time or now that some time has passed?
Gary: I’m more upset by the loss now, but just barely. I say now only because of how the Super Bowl ended. Had the Falcons cruised to a win, you could sit back and go “If you’re going to lose, at least you lost to the champions.” But because of how it ended and how pedestrian both New England and Atlanta looked, the little voice in the back of my head whispers, “What could have been?”
So What’s It All About?
Now that we've covered the entire 2016 season for the Packers, what do Jon and Gary believe is the "essential story" of this team?
Gary: This season was all about how Aaron Rodgers got his mojo back.
We’ll never know what impact Mike McCarthy passing aside playcalling had on the 2015 Packers, but it’s fair to attribute at least part of the slide Aaron Rodgers had to the change in playcalling. After McCarthy returned to calling plays late in 2015, it took a few games in 2016 for the duo to get back to their old form. But it sure felt like by the end of the year Rodgers was back to his old, best-in-the-league self.
Jon: This was the last ride of the 2014 “class”
Julius Peppers, Eddie Lacy, Clay Matthews, Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, Aaron Rodgers, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Sam Shields, Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and a few more big names were all a part of that team that ended up one botched onside kick away from the Super Bowl. Five of those guys are now gone, departing at different points starting with Josh Sitton’s release.