GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers' 24-17 loss Sunday at Chicago knocked them out of the NFC playoff race and clinched a second consecutive losing season, the first time for that since the 1990 and '91 teams went 6-10 and 4-12.
They are 0-7 on the road as they prepare to head east to take on the New York Jets, and no Packers team has ever gone winless on the road since the league introduced a 16-game schedule in 1978.
Players are hurting. Some are soon-to-be-free agents. Assistant coaches are wondering about their futures.
GRADES: Packers report card vs. Chicago
Interim head coach Joe Philbin was charged by team president and CEO Mark Murphy with guiding the Packers through the final four weeks of the regular season when he fired Mike McCarthy on Dec. 2. With postseason hopes eliminated, Philbin is now tasked with steering a losing program through the final weeks of the year.
There isn’t much to it, at least from Philbin’s vantage point. It’s something he preached to them when he was moved into his interim role.
“We should be respectful of everybody in this building and one another, and we should be punctual,” Philbin said Monday of his message.
“And if we do those four things, I believe that the outcomes of the games will kind of take care of themselves. I think the word ‘professional’ is kind of a global term but it’s, you know, it’s about … in life, there’s a right way to do things and a wrong way.
"And I told the team, I get the part where sometimes a team completes a pass. And sometimes we go three-and-out on offense. And every once in a while, they get a good return. Now, I’ve been around the game long enough to understand that when I watch it. What I don’t understand is if you’re not finishing things properly, being selfish, thinking of yourself in front of the team. those are things that I struggle with. I think we have a very good locker room, I think they’re good men, and I’m excited to see how we respond.”
To hold up his end of that message, Philbin said Monday he won’t coach any differently, either. Which means he won’t sit quarterback Aaron Rodgers, or any healthy player. Rodgers' situation is murky because he has been playing all season with a knee injury and said he pulled a groin during Sunday's loss to the Bears. Rodgers said he wants to play in the final two games.
“It’s as simple as this: We get paid to play football,” said sixth-year left tackle David Bakhtiari, who has played through knee injuries this season. “We’re only guaranteed 16 games in the regular season. When I signed the contract it didn’t say ‘play till you’re out of the playoffs and then after that, it’s 12, 14 games.’ I get paid to play 16 and the playoffs are a bonus. So I intend on playing all 16 games and that’s how everyone else should represent not only ourselves and the organization. For me, personally, I plan on putting out a good product for myself and for the organization.”
Along with that, Philbin said he won’t reduce the snaps of veterans to push younger players into more action unless it’s part of the game plan he and his staff devise to beat the New York Jets and Detroit Lions in the season finale at Lambeau Field on Dec. 30.
Neither Philbin nor the players who were asked about the potential mindset of the team this week are worried that individuals will take it upon themselves to slack in their responsibilities.
“It’s the type of men that you assemble in the locker room that can make it either not an issue or it becomes an issue,” Philbin said. “I think we have a great locker room with high-character, high-quality men. I just reinforce those four things.
"Honestly, at this stage, I told the team this, every January I kind of figure out, OK, am I all in for the 2018 season? Is this what we’re going to do? Are we all in this as a family? Are we ready for this? When you sign up for that, that’s what you sign up for. Finishing is important. Doing things the right way is important.”