Silverstein: Rodgers, McCarthy can’t seem to fix whatever is broken with Packers' offense
SEATTLE - Unless you were dozing in and out of consciousness during the Green Bay Packers’ 27-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks Thursday night, you saw what has become clear to everybody.
Something is broken on offense and coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers can’t seem to get on the same page long enough to fix it.
During a three-point second half, Rodgers’ body language often looked terrible and given his occasional backhanded swipes at McCarthy over the years, one could reason he’s fed up with everything on offense. Only he keeps insisting that he has considerable input in the weekly game plan and he’s not fed up.
“I think there's an agreement with what we're doing,” said Rodgers, who completed 21 of 30 passes for 332 yards and two touchdowns, but converted just 3 of 11 third downs. “Obviously, we meet multiple times a week on what we're trying to do. The frustration is in the execution. The execution hasn't been great, especially in situational offense.
“When you compare it to years past, we've always been really good on third down and really good in the red zone, and we're just not this year.”
It is understandable for Rodgers to slam his fist into the turf because he was off a tick with his favorite receiver and instead of throwing a likely game-clinching touchdown he was sacked.
But it is mystifying to see him miss open receivers, fire easy completions past his target or into the dirt, scold young receivers for not executing plays correctly and then having the body language of someone resigned to his fate of being part of a mediocre offense.
None of it was a good look on Rodgers, McCarthy or the ability of the two of them to win games. And it was there not only for the public to see but for players on the sideline.
“If you can see it . . .,” one player said stopping in mid-sentence.
If Rodgers has a problem with McCarthy’s offense or the game-planning, it’s time for him to say so out loud. If there’s something bothering him about the way he’s being coached or the number of cooks in the kitchen, then it’s time for him to say something.
Openly showing frustration with young receivers and the precision with which some are handling an offense that has all kinds of bells and whistles meant to help Rodgers be great, isn’t a good way to rally a team, especially when your own performance is so uneven.
And here’s the thing about it.
There were moments when the Packers looked brilliant on offense, scheming runs and passes for running back Aaron Jones that allowed him to score a pair of touchdowns in the first half. And then there were moments when it looked like no one could get open and there was nothing anybody could do about it.
One minute, Jones Is running sweeps and catching wheel routes for touchdowns. The next, Rodgers can’t find him open even when he’s standing near the first-down marker ready to keep a drive going or McCarthy refuses to call his number in the run game.
One minute, Rodgers is barking out orders to make sure everyone is picked up on a blitz so he can hit receiver Davante Adams for a 57-yard gain. The next he’s forgoing easy completions for first downs and throwing the ball where he expects his young receivers to be instead of where they are.
One minute, McCarthy is calling shovel passes to Jones and putting Adams in the backfield to try to get him free and the next he’s punting on fourth and 2 with 4 minutes, 20 seconds left.
Publicly, only cornerback Tramon Williams came close to questioning McCarthy’s decision to punt the ball away down 3 at his own 33-yard line knowing his defense was depleted due to injury. This stadium has caused McCarthy to shy away from the aggressive approach he purports to hold close to his heart.
And every time he has done that, the Seahawks have accepted the gift.
“I was a little relieved,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “I really did like that they punted the ball to us right there because we knew we had a shot to kill the game if we could, and kill the clock, and we did it.
“It was like, ‘Oh, here we go, this is our time.”
Carroll said that it was the mentality of his players upfront and in the backfield that they could finish off the game.
McCarthy did not have that same mentality and part of it was that his quarterback had just thrown a ball into the dirt on what should have been an easy first down. But it shouldn’t have mattered that much because if he was going to throw it in the dirt again on fourth and 2, then he probably would have done it again if the Packers got the ball back.
There are all kinds of excuses available for why the offense isn’t functioning at a high enough level to beat good teams like the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots, but it shouldn’t have mattered that Geronimo Allison or Randall Cobb weren’t available or Jimmy Graham left with a thumb injury because the Seahawks are no better off from a talent standpoint than the Packers.
The Packers are a team whose offensive identity is that they can’t get on the same page no matter how much they practice, no matter how many coaches they have brewing game plans and no matter how much input Rodgers gets each week in what they’re doing.
“Aaron is very involved in the offense,” McCarthy said. “Aaron has the opportunity and ability to be involved in all three aspects of it. He always has.”
If that’s truly the case, then it’s becoming clear McCarthy and Rodgers can’t make the magic they once did. They are headed for a separation if the Packers limp through the final six games of the season and finish with a losing record for the second year in a row.
If that’s not what they want, then somehow, they must figure out how to win games like this one. They are not devoid of talent. They have a triumvirate – Rodgers, Adams and Jones -- that most teams would kill for and an offensive line that can allow them to function freely.
They shouldn’t lose games like this one. But that is who they are right now.