Big Picture Thoughts on the State of the Team Ahead of Carolina
Packers chatter this week was dominated by the employment status of defensive coordinator Joe Barry, and with good reason. This is year three of Barry's term as DC. The problems that have previously and consistently plagued his defenses remain problems; poor run defense, inconsistent pass rush, bad pass rush lane discipline, communication issues in the second level and secondary, getting gashed on what should be favorable down and distance scenarios.
In addition, they've been burned by playing soft coverage on short down and distance scenarios, and perhaps most importantly, not maximizing the skills and abilities of the players he's supposed to be putting in the best position to succeed. Adding to all that, in the last two games his defenses have made Tommy DeVito look like peak Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield look like peak Drew Brees.
The arguments for retaining him are a hodge-podge of logical fallacies. "His contract expires at the end of the season, might as well hold him..." is the definition of sunk cost fallacy. "No one else on the defensive staff has called plays before...". Barry's currently calling plays and is actively bad at it. He's the devil you know.
Matt LaFleur suggested he's keeping Barry, quote, "Because I’ve seen us execute this stuff before ... I’ve seen us execute it earlier in the year, or in previous games." Well, I would hope so, Matt. Taking this quote literally, if the players hadn't executed the defensive game plan at all by now, there would be no reason to have this discussion. Barry wouldn't have a job.
At this point, keeping Barry is the equivalent of kicking a field goal late in the 4th quarter of a game when you're being shut out. You're living in fear of a hypothetical embarrassment that is no worse than your actual reality.
I'm officially concerned about the development of Quay Walker. As referenced above, I don't think Joe Barry's deployment is doing him any favors, but it is exposing the holes in his game. He can't wear the green dot. He can't be the center that holds the defense. He needs to be put in positions where he can use his athleticism to attack opposing offenses.
Now, I understand the absurdity of the thought of a player "attacking" an opposing offense considering we're talking about a Joe Barry defense (at least for the next three games). The first question that needs to be asked in interviews for the next DC is "How would you deploy Quay Walker?"
Dontayvion Wicks is a better, more versatile version of Romeo Doubs. Considering he had even less draft capital than Doubs, he was a home run for Brian Gutekunst's 2023 draft class. The receiver room going forward looks good one through five but they need to add someone who can replicate Christian Watson's speed. The offense gets too condensed without him in the lineup and there's no guarantee he'll ever rise above his availability issues. This hurts me grievously to write.
If they do add a receiver in the offseason, Doubs is the one whose snaps they need to be taking when (if) everyone is available. He's a fine player, and a win considering his 4th-round draft cost, but is a liability against man coverage and has limited upside even against zone. He shouldn't be looked at as a foundational piece of Jordan Love's future.
Speaking of Jordan Love, he's becoming increasingly frustrating. His arm talent is undeniable but his mechanics are so scattershot. If you watch his feet and trunk rotation when he throws you can tell if the pass has a chance before he even lets it go. If the mechanics got sloppy when he was being pressured or rushing to get the throw into a tight window before it closes you could understand, but there's just no predictor of his sloppiness.
It's almost like he's expecting pressure that isn't there. That would be understandable earlier in the season when the offensive line was consistently failing but the pass protection has been better of late. The game needs to slow down for him.
The frustration is we can see how good he can be when his mechanics are sound. The things we were concerned about going into the season have turned out to be strengths. He reads defenses well. He understands the offense and where to go with the ball. He generally makes sound decisions and takes care of the ball. He's won games against elite teams. His remaining wounds are self-inflicted. If LaFleur had been asked why he thought Jordan Love could be an elite quarterback, that would be the place to say, "Because I've seen him execute this stuff before...".
Looking Forward to Carolina
Whatever playoff odds your favorite simulator/model suggests the Packers have don't matter. This is Week One of the playoffs. Carolina won't see it that way but the Packers have to. If you lose this game, the next two games won't matter. You'll be playing out the string. Real development doesn't happen in games that don't matter.
To everyone who says having a higher draft pick is preferable to making the playoffs, I say you're wrong. You have to learn how to get to the playoffs. You have to learn how to win in the playoffs. This team now has multiple productive draft classes that have never experienced the playoffs. It's been three years since this team won a playoff game. Not reaching the playoffs this year will be a drag on next year's team, a team that could be very good. Imagine how good this team would be if Jordan Love was more consistent and there was a different defensive coordinator. That's the baseline expectation for next year.
I expected the team to bounce back from the Monday Night Meadowlands debacle in a big way last week. That didn't happen. The offense was better, but the defense was somehow even worse. The offense will have to take another step this week. Carolina's defense under Ejiro Evero can muck things up and keep their offense in the game.
That offense is the reason the Panthers are the worst team in the league, at least by record. If the Packers' defense continues its streak of making bad quarterbacks look like superstars, there will be no reason to worry about firing Joe Barry. At least until Black Monday.
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