Pressure on McCarthy and Rodgers as 2016 season gets underway

The Green Bay Packers will open training camp next Tuesday and after the events of the last 19 months, the pressure to get back to the Super Bowl has never been greater. While head coach Mike McCarthy is not exactly on the hot seat, it will definitely get warmer if the Packers don’t do something special this year.

Here’s a recap of why this is. It all starts with what might be the worst loss in franchise history when the Packers blew a 16-point lead in the final five minutes of the NFC Championship Game following the 2014 season. Follow that up with a 10-6 campaign that saw the Packers lose seven of their last 12 games. They were swept at home by the other members of the NFC North, losing the division title in an ugly loss to the Vikings in week 17. Even with a playoff win over the Redskins and tough loss to the Cardinals, the season was a failure on most levels.

Mike+McCarthy+2011+NFC+Championship+Green+foKK-zcQYqOlLast offseason McCarthy made some strange moves to his coaching staff, giving up play calling to Tom Clements and not having a full-time wide receivers coach. Both moves backfired enormously. At least McCarthy saw the error of his ways and hired Luke Getsy as wide receivers coach and announced he will once again, and forever, handle the play calling. He also replaced running backs coach Sam Gash with Ben Sirmans, who had success the last few years in developing running backs in St. Louis. Getsy has already received strong praise from his receivers for his unique style while Sirmans is tasked with rejuvenating Eddie Lacy after a subpar year.

The Packers had a good enough defense last year, the first play of overtime against Arizona notwithstanding, to win a Super Bowl, but for the first time under McCarthy the Packers offense essentially sucked. Yes, they lost Jordy Nelson for the season, but that should not have been the death blow it was, not with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.

This year Rodgers will have Nelson back, a new tight end in Jared Cook, a slimmed down Lacy, and a newfound love of Green Bay. Not sure if Rodgers had an epiphany or something in the offseason but all of sudden he’s happier than hell to be a Packer and wants to end his career in Green Bay. This after what I would call a sour attitude last year, both with the media and on the field.

rodgers-960Last year was the worst of Rodgers’ career as he looked hesitant in the pocket and wouldn’t pull the trigger when he had opportunities. Yes, his receivers, Davante Adams especially, had a major problem with drops. Couple that with a lack of trust in his young receivers and a lack of a running game and you get what we saw in 2015.

I fully expect the Packers’ offense to return to form this year. I am really confident Lacy will have the best year of his career and lock up a big contract extension. I think Nelson will play like he never missed a snap. I believe there is more depth on the offensive line and have to believe they can’t be hit by injury again like they were last year. There will be a huge battle are receiver in training camp and outside of Nelson, Cobb, and Ty Montgomery, I don’t think anybody is guaranteed a roster spot.

The Packers’ defense should be good again with the addition of first round draft pick Kenny Clark and the maturation of last year’s top picks, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. The Packers’ secondary should be awesome. The Packers also addressed the inside linebacker position in the draft with Blake Martinez and will be moving all-world linebacker Clay Matthews back to outside linebacker where he can tee off on quarterbacks again.

122715-NFL-Packers-Clay-Matthews-PI-CH.vresize.1200.675.high.66All the pieces are in place for a return to glory. With back-to-back Hall of Fame quarterbacks but only two Super Bowl wins in their combined 24 years, the natives are getting restless. As Kevin Greene told Matthews in the Super Bowl  – “It is time!” This year is the pure definition of Super Bowl or bust.

I think McCarthy needs at least a NFC Championship Game appearance to keep the heat off. And if Rodgers ever wants to separate himself from Brett Favre, he needs to win another Super Bowl. I love Rodgers to death, but in their primes I would take Favre over Rodgers every day of the week. Rodgers can still do something about that, but time is running out.

The journey begins Tuesday morning at 8:15 AM. Hopefully it ends February 5, 2017 around 11:30 PM in NRG Stadium in Houston.

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