The guys at PackersNews.com give their predictions for Saturday night's game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers. USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
GREEN BAY – There still are two games left in their season, but that hasn’t kept Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy from weighing big-picture decisions entering a critical offseason for his team.
With playoff contention off the table, McCarthy said Thursday he already is plotting how to lead the Packers back to the postseason in 2018.
“I think you have to make sure you look at everything,” McCarthy said, “and be direct and honest and keep the emotion out of it. I think having two weeks to think about it will take the emotion out of it. We have to get better through the adversity that we’ve been through this year. We have to be honest about the patterns of negativity and positivity.
“What comes from that, how do you learn from that, how do you improve? To win championships, you have to go through adverse moments. We’ve had plenty this year. Not hitting our goal, not playing to the standard of the Green Bay Packers, is definitely an adverse situation we need to learn from.”
It doesn’t take much effort to recognize “patterns of negativity” with the Packers.
One could be the franchise’s reluctance to maximize the potential benefit of free agency. Yes, general manager Ted Thompson signed seven free agents during the offseason, the most ever since he was hired in 2005. But none were the kind of potential difference-making additions competitors routinely consider.
In fact, tight end Martellus Bennett was the lone unrestricted free agent. Bennett’s deal was structured to give the Packers a two-year option after his first season. Turned out, he didn’t even last that long.
McCarthy has no authority over how Thompson builds the roster. But there is an area where McCarthy has the power to enforce change.
The Packers' defense remains among the league’s worst, a place it often has resided during quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ prime. At the helm is eighth-year defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Ask Packers fans and they probably will tell you Capers wore out his welcome long ago.
McCarthy didn’t specifically mention Capers when referencing “patterns of negativity,” but the defense’s annual inability to be anything above average hasn’t helped the Packers return to a Super Bowl.
When asked Wednesday how much longer he’d like to coach, the 67-year-old Capers did not sound like someone ready to call it a career.
“As long as I enjoy it,” Capers said. “I enjoy the competitiveness of it, and the relationship with the players. So as long as I enjoy it.”
Capers then was asked when would he know it was time to retire.
“If I ever feel like I can’t come in and give as much as I’ve got,” Capers said, “and do the kind of job that you want to do.”
It’s unclear how Capers feels about the job he has done, or McCarthy’s own evaluation of Capers. But, among other deficiencies, the Packers rank 21st in points allowed (23.8 per game) and 26th in yards allowed (356.4 per game). The defense ranked 21st in points (24.3) and 22nd in yards (363.9) last season.
Clearly, there hasn’t been improvement in the most important areas. Now, McCarthy has a chance to consider what must change.
“I can do that right now,” McCarthy said. “That’s the unfortunate part of where we are as a team.”