Jason Wilde for the State Journal
GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers believes the Green Bay Packers’ losing offense could be accelerating what should be a high-reduction.
The question is, can the Packers four-time NFL MVP successfully convince his head coach, Matt LaFleur, that a gas-powered, no-holds-barred approach will revitalize the operation?
That’s what Rodgers has been suggesting for weeks in search of an answer to the offensive woes — which spanned the entire season except for the team’s Nov. 13 win over the Dallas Cowboys — even before the team lost five straight games. Not messing around with pace and dosage helps, as LaFleur’s predecessor, Mike McCarthy, did in years past when he embraced the idea.
Could their home road matchup with the 9-1 Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football be the right time to give him a chance?
“I think any time you go offensively, that’s something Mike and I talk about,” Rodgers said after the team’s 27-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 17. “If there are two. , maybe three series where you don’t move the ball effectively, changing the tempo after the first play of the drive is one way to save the defense for quick calls.
“It’s a good way to get a few plays quick and it can take the urgency a little bit.”
Rodgers pointed to several plays against the Titans where he rushed the offense to the line of scrimmage and hit the ball quickly, including a 28-yard third-quarter completion to Randall Cobb. It wasn’t a game, but the Packers had 17 seconds left on the game clock and Rodgers hit a touchdown pass to center Josh Myers with four seconds left — instead of running the clock down to zero, as he usually does.
“A couple of times we went to a quick count (against the Titans), I hit Kobe up the middle for (about) 30 and we had another nice play in the run game.” Maybe I should mix in some cadences, too,” Rogers continued. “If we go at a high pace, we can stay in that frame. We’ve had success over the years and this season in some challenging (line of scrimmage) situations.”
When the subject was brought back to Rodgers in his locker on Wednesday, he was less and less coy about sharing his thoughts — perhaps an indication that his pitch to LaFleur worked and the Packers will struggle against the Eagles.
“Anything you put in the work and focus will follow,” Rogers said. “I think when you look at some of the sloppiness that we’ve had offensively in the season, that’s what got us out on a high tempo a lot of times. So we’ll see what happens this week.”
The Packers haven’t gone beyond 2-minute drills this season or games that are significantly behind and need to catch up. What Rodgers wants to see is a high tempo during the natural flow of the game, when it has an element of surprise.
“If we feel like it gives us the best chance to win a game, that’s where we’re going to go,” LaFleur said Thursday when asked about the idea. “You have a different plan every week. “If you feel like I can have an advantage, not just offensively, but as a team as a whole, then of course (I’m) willing to do whatever it takes to help us win the game.”
Rodgers isn’t the only player interested in the idea. Veteran wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been a part of a Baltimore Ravens offense that has stepped up often, and while the Kansas City Chiefs didn’t do that often when they played Patrick Mahomes, the 2017 Los Angeles Rams played Watkins. sometimes.
That Rams offensive coordinator? LaFleur.
“I think it’s a very good idea to do that. Because we have the plays, we have the offense to do it. I think it changes the course of the game. I enjoyed it with the Ravens,” Watkins said. “Because I feel like when you’re stuck, it’s like, ‘Let’s try something different.’ And it helped us. Then we moved the ball and we said, ‘They can’t stop us.’ Once they couldn’t stop you, now they all do.
“Whoever’s on the field, they’re going to get better at the game. A defense can only do a few things. You can’t really blitz, you can only run one coverage, the contact is limited. Can this help? I think this will help.
“That wasn’t our strong suit (in Kansas City). With the Crows, we did it a lot and everyone loved it. Did the OC (offensive coordinator) love him? No. He wanted to type plays. That’s just the nature of any offensive coordinator or head coach.»
The upside of upping the tempo is that it limits the defense’s ability to substitute, forcing defenses to simplify their schemes. It can also wear down defensive players, but there’s also a very obvious downside: if your attack hits three times, your defensive players can wind up.
“From my point of view, I think it puts a lot of pressure on the defense. They can’t handle as many calls as quickly as they’d like. I think the D-linemen are tired. So do we, of course, but I think it’s all good,” said Myers, who worked hard in college at Ohio State. “I think it’s easier to think when you’re up to speed like that. It’s easier to get on the ball quickly.
“(But) one of the biggest things I don’t like is if you’re not moving the ball and you’re on pace, you can go three-and-out and take about 25 seconds off the clock. So, of course, it has its pros and cons.”
Under McCarthy, the Packers’ offense was largely based on a lack of consistency during the 2013 and 2014 seasons — halted in 2013 when Rodgers broke his collarbone — but lack of consistency isn’t a panacea.
In fact, after using him widely for so long, McCarthy avoided him during the team’s offensive struggles in the first half of the 2016 season, which led to Rodgers’ projection of eight touchdowns at the end of the year. wins and a trip to the NFC Championship Game.
Earlier in the week, Rodgers acknowledged that the Packers’ wide receiver corps at the time — Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Cobb — was more versatile and experienced than the current group under his command.
At the same time, Rodgers showed how LaFleur combined elements of LaFleur’s system and McCarthy’s system with LaFleur when he first arrived in 2019, allowing them to switch between traditional and no-holds-barred approaches.
“Obviously it was easy because these guys can play any position. But you get what you focus on, and if you focus on certain things, you’re more prepared for it,” Rogers said.
“The beauty of the integration of systems that we did a few years ago, when it comes to terminology, we can call everything on the battle line. We will see. It’s easier at home, sure, but we’ve done it on the road for years. It is not clear whether this will be part of the plan or not.”