Silverstein: Packers could do clean sweep after blowout loss

Tom Silverstein
Packers News
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Green Bay Packers head coach Joe Philbin walks along the sideline during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on Sunday, December 30, 2018 in Green Bay, Wis.

GREEN BAY – The pathetic performance the Green Bay Packers put forth against the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 2, the one that tipped the scales so far against Mike McCarthy that President/CEO Mark Murphy fired him immediately after the game, should have been the low point of the 2018 season.

Maybe it still is because of the giant ramifications, but if so, the 31-0 home loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday finished what the Cardinals game started.

It just got the entire coaching staff fired.

What other conclusion could you come to after the Packers were outclassed in every single way against a team that was equally devastated by injuries and playing for nothing other than a good feeling going into next season?

According to a source, Murphy probably won’t fire any assistants outright, but rather let the new head coach decide their fate. But given the lack of interest the Packers displayed in facing a division rival that had won three straight against them, the players — whether intended or not — sent a message that a housecleaning was necessary.

If Murphy was willing to fire a head coach who had gone to the playoffs nine straight seasons, appeared in four NFC championships and won a Super Bowl after narrowly losing to the Cardinals 20-17, then why wouldn’t he have the mindset that no one associated with this season should return after the 31-point butt-kicking.

Of course, he can’t fire the 44 players who took part in that debacle, but having already fired the head coach, no one would blame him for clearing the decks completely. Every bit of disease that flowed through this cesspool of a season should be removed. The players, in effect, made that clear.

The score says it all. The fact the Lions outgained the Packers, 402 yards to 175, or converted 7 of 14 third downs or scored a touchdown on a faked field goal are symptoms of the disease, not causes.

The Packers lost quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a concussion, presumably after he got kneed in the back of the head on a sack during the Packers’ second play of the game. Rodgers played two more series before heading to the locker room for good. It’s unclear when the concussion was diagnosed or when he displayed symptoms.

His performance after the second play can’t be criticized given he was playing with a serious head injury, but the team’s play was the kind that made you feel the players had their cars loaded up and running in the parking lot.

The defense was a sieve and despite still having tight end Jimmy Graham, receivers Randall Cobb and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and running back Jamaal Williams on offense, the Packers looked like they were an icebreaker racing against a cigarette boat.

“It was a game that just didn’t seem like it had life in it,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “It didn’t have life or any rhythm. It was kind of hard to gauge, for whatever reason. I thought we were going to come out with a lot of energy and focus.

‘There’s times when you try to put everything into one week and you show up on that day it’s not there.”

It was interim coach Joe Philbin’s job to figure out a way to build off the 44-38 overtime victory over the New York Jets the previous Sunday. It was a long game and a whole slew of players came out of it banged up, including receiver Davante Adams (knee), who didn’t play, and offensive line starters David Bakhtiari (hip) and Lane Taylor (knee bone bruise), who shouldn’t have played.

But the Lions weren’t much better off. They were missing three of their top receivers, their starting running back, two members of their front four, a pair of cornerbacks and a starting guard. They still had quarterback Matthew Stafford, but he didn’t play lights out by any means.

There are some very good assistant coaches on the Packers’ staff, offensive line coach James Campen and defensive passing game coordinator Joe Whitt among them, but it wouldn’t be surprising if this pathetic performance washed them away with everyone else.

“It's just embarrassing,” Williams said. “I feel it's embarrassing. But we've just got to give more. I can't speak for all of my teammates, but for me, this has got my — uh, I can't even say it — it's got my blood boiling.

“There you go. I'm just hot. I'm mad.”

Philbin seemed to have the Packers playing competitively, even if they lost a game they could have won in Chicago and barely eked out a victory against the 4-12 Jets. The offense played an extraordinary number of snaps (91) in New York, but the players had their normal days off and the injured got some rest during the week.

Playing at home, where they were 5-1-1 going into the game, should have accounted for something. Instead, they looked like the dome team playing in 14-degree wind chill.

“One thing we had talked about since Dec. 3 was being a pro and being accountable,” Philbin said of his time as interim coach. “And I said, ‘Hey, they should do the same.’

“It wasn’t one person, it wasn’t one play. They outcoached us, they outplayed us. They caught the ball better, tackled better, blocked better. So that was that.”

A stronger performance might have given Philbin and the assistant coaches a better chance of sticking around or at least getting a solid recommendation from Murphy or general manager Brian Gutekunst.

But after watching that performance, Murphy and Gutekunst will have no choice but to look for a clean break from the McCarthy era. Philbin is not going to be McCarthy’s successor and no one with ties to McCarthy will be, either.

The next coach is going to be expected to assemble his own staff and there shouldn’t be any restrictions on who he wants on it.

The new guy might feel he has to remove all remnants of that stinker so he can move on from the two losing seasons — and four-game losing streak to the Lions — left on his desk. Any thought that Philbin could be kept on as an assistant coach probable flew out the window and a break from defensive coordinator Mike Pettine could be necessary as well.

If the players truly wanted to give Philbin and the rest of the staff a chance to remain in Green Bay, they blew it. The Lions made a huge endorsement of first-year coach Matt Patricia with their dominating performance while the Packers stumbled into the offseason escorted by a stadium full of boos.


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