Why Josh Sitton Leaving Isn't As Bad As You Think
I wish, I wish there was an easy solution to the mystifying release of Josh Sitton over the weekend, but having now puzzled over it for several days, I see none. I don’t think we should have ever expected one either, but that’s an entirely different issue.
Before we get to the ins and outs of the move, let’s just get one thing out of the way right away: there truly will be no way of knowing if this was a good move for some time, so if you were looking for a definitive answer on whether this improves the Packers long term or not, I’m sorry.
I do know several things:
- It’s unlikely that Josh Sitton was coming back after this season
- Josh Sitton does not seem like a particularly pleasant person, even without contentious contract talks in the works
- Rumors of Sitton’s dominance may have been exaggerated
- Guard will not be a make or break position for the Packers in this season or any other
- The Packers will be fine
Let’s address these statements point by point.
First, I can virtually guarantee that Josh Sitton’s time in Green Bay was already ticking down. He will be 31 by the start of next season and it’s unlikely that the Packers would have offered him the sort of contract he was looking for.
Just look at the deal he signed with Chicago: three years, $21.5 million, and $10 million in guarantees. Is that the sort of contract you’d offer to a 31-year-old with a balky back who hardly ever practices? That’s a struggle for me, and I imagine it’s even more of a struggle for Thompson, especially when he’s negotiating deals with three other starting linemen.
Second, Sitton’s abrasive and outspoken nature did him no favors in this situation. To his eternal credit, he never was afraid to speak his mind. To his detriment, just because you aren’t afraid to speak your mind doesn’t mean you should.
Sitton has never been shy to share his feelings, even when it comes to the Packers play-calling. That’s fine if you’re a reporter looking for a nice nugget for a story, but if you’re the Packers and you’re looking to negotiate with a player whose 2015 salary already ranked among the highest at his position, it may be a bit galling.
That brings me to my third point: Sitton was good, but so what? We all know that Pro Football Focus ranked him as its sixth best guard last season (T.J. Lang was fourth, for what it’s worth), but what did that get the Packers? An average (at best) rushing attack, the fifth most sacks allowed, and an overall effort that was anemic at best.
Football Outsiders considered the Packers to have the 25th best offensive line in 2015, and if that’s what comes with employing two of the best (and highest paid) guards in the league, what difference does it make if Sitton stays or goes?
The fact is, guard play will not be the salvation or damnation of the Packers in 2016. It wasn’t last year when the Packers featured the best tandem of guards we’ve seen in a long time. It wasn’t in 2005, a season featuring guard play so bad we dubbed it The Great Guard Disaster.
Such luminaries as Adrian Klemm and Will Whittaker lined up for the Packers that year, and the 2015 Packers somehow managed to produce just 498 rushing yards more than that season. That’s just over 31 additional yards per game. Stellar guards, evidently, are worth about a third of a football field per game.
The Packers will be fine without Josh Sitton. Throughout all of training camp, we’ve heard how this year’s offensive line group is among the best and deepest in Green Bay in some time. That doesn’t change with the departure of one player. Good teams overcome their circumstances, even if those circumstances are self-inflicted.
Could the Packers have waited until after the season to part ways with Sitton? Sure, and that may ultimately have been the better course of action, but we have no way of knowing that until the season plays out.
What we do know is that the Packers have plenty of justifiable reasons for this course of action, and disappointing though it may be to see Sitton with the Bears, the Packers will ultimately be just fine.