Early Season Score-Card

Six games in and we are dead even, tied for first place against those knuckle-heads in Chicago and Minnesota. With one game against the Colts to go before the week eight bye, I present to you, dear readers, my early-season score-card. Mostly I will break down the Packers season so far, but I will also throw a few wild-cat categories in there to keep you on your toes. And of course, I will leave you with a few bold psychic premonitions I have drawn from my wise and all-knowing fresh-water well. Ha cha cha!

Few people could have foreseen Mike McCarthy leading the Packers to a 13-3 mark last year after a tough first season, which only meant that the expectations for 2008 would be even higher. Let’s get real, folks. This is the NFL. And everything can’t go your way two seasons in a row. All you can really do is instill a sense of strong fundamentals and build young depth and put your best game-plan on the field against each and every opponent. I think that McCarthy understands this. He’s a level-headed fellow. He’s not too soft and not too tough. McCarthy is just right. Like a good stew.
So far we have lost a few games we should have won, however. I think we could have realistically been 5-1 at this point. Sloppy play and a lack of fundamentals were key factors in our losses to Tampa Bay and Atlanta, and that goes right on the coaches. The running game is still an issue, as is our defense. Our special teams have been – what’s the right word, dear readers? – Almost Terrible. I think these are all fair statements.
While there have been struggles this season, McCarthy has shown a knack for finding the team’s strength and using that strength to finish well. I think they will. When you look around the NFL, and the NFC North in particular, McCarthy stands out as a winner and a keeper, but he must continue to polish the stone and take this team deeper in the playoffs.
B Minus.

Ronnie Rodgers
Few players have so gracefully accepted such a difficult position and done so well with new responsibilities. You can see how much work this kid has put in during the off-season, which is proof that the organized team workouts do matter. Number 12 has put in the time and he certainly does have all the tools for success. His raptor-like mobility and accuracy have been a welcome addition to this year’s offensive attack, no doubt. And he’s a classy guy.
On the other hand, he has taken too many sacks by holding the ball too long, and that needs to improve. And he should bring back the moustache.
B Plus.

Teddy Thompson
As you probably know, I backed Thompson during the Favre debacle this off-season, although to be fair, I did call out management for handling the issue poorly (as well). It is more difficult to judge the general manager in the short term than the coaches or the players. There are too many unknowns. Even though he brought in good coaches and – for the most part – great draft picks, and even though he over-saw a dramatic rise that ended in heart-break at the NFC Championship, many Packers fans have turned on him due to the Favre issue. They feel betrayed. So Thompson is on a bit of a hot seat in Green Bay, and will likely remain there until the Packers win the Super Bowl. Again, you can’t judge these sorts of long-term issues with short-term analysis.
While The Trade will forever muddy Thompson’s public approval numbers in Wisconsin, his frugality and ability to load the roster with amazing young talent are assets that will take the team far. You’ve got to give him that.
On the other hand, decisions like hiring punter Frosty the Shank-man and keeping two rookie quarter-backs as back-ups are not helping the team.
B Minus.

Lambeau Field
You are still the finest stadium in all of the NFL. No doubt. Keep up the good work.
A Plus.

Let’s see more of the Sea-hawks and Minnesota defense, and less of the three-game losing streak defense, OK? Al Harris coming back from injury should help, but the health of our defensive line will be the main concern going forward. If we can’t win that battle, we’ll be in for a long season. Improvements are needed, but there are many areas of promise as well. Like my garage. It’s kind of a mess right now.
C Plus.

The Brewers
Now I don’t like to stray from the topic too often, but I haven’t mentioned the Crew all year yet, and I must say it was quite a treat to have playoff baseball in Wisconsin once again (although I watched the Packers any-ways). At least they won a game, unlike those Cubs. Overall, a very good season.
A Minus.

Special Teams
I touched on this earlier, and for the most part I have been unimpressed. The return game started hot but has since stumbled. And the punting game has been awful, probably costing us the Tampa Bay game. Mason Crosby is a winner, though. Improvements are needed. Maybe we get a moose and dress him in number 98 and have him try punting. I dunno, dear readers. We’ve gotta try something else.
C Minus.

Muskie Fishing
So far this has been a lousy season for yours truly. But I have a few big fall trips planned in the coming weeks. Like Bill Gardner says in one of my favorite books ever – “Time on the Water” – you’ve just got to keep at ‘em, especially in autumn. As I will probably get one next time out, I’ve got to remain optimistic. And if that doesn’t work, I’m just another 500 casts closer to The Big One.
Even B.

OK, folks, that’s all I’ve got for now. After thinking about things for a while I think we actually can win all our remaining games, and I predict the Packers will finish 13-3 again this season. But it won’t stop there. Heck, I think we’re going to win it all! Tune in for my Colts preview column later this week, and then enjoy the bye week. Until then.