Mon, 30 Jan 2023

Inbox: The NFL needs to make that happen in 2023

Packers
20 Jan 2023, 17:12 GMT+10

Christian Watson had as good a second half as any rookie in the leagueWes Hodkiewicz

Kate from Green Bay, WI

Good day Insiders, I hope Mark from Missoula has messed-up feelings about the Packers playing in Detroit for next year's opener. Pack has been away for eight of the last 10 openers. What determines where a team plays opening game? Is the schedule computer generated? Seems as if it should have a 50/50 chance of playing at home.

I'm not sure whose call that is, but Green Bay needs a Week 1 home opener next year. If not for the football team, then the community. It's been four years since the Packers last opened the regular season at Lambeau Field - and that was upon request to kick off the franchise's 100th season. It's past due for the Packers to be at home in Week 1. The NFL needs to make that happen in 2023, especially after the unforgiving schedule Green Bay was saddled with this past year.

Jim from Colorado Springs, CO

Insiders: Occam's Razor states, "The simplest solution is almost always the best." You are William of Ockham. What is the simplest solution to the Packers' problems?

Get back to winning situational football. That was the common thread for the Packers under Matt LaFleur the past three years. Regardless of the moves Green Bay makes this offseason, it needs to get that piece straightened back out on offense and defense.

Mike from San Diego, CA

Do you think the Packers preferred to reload these last few years with Aaron Rodgers, instead of rebuild with Jordan Love in part because of the sheer nature of winning the Super Bowl (e.g. make the playoffs, good QB play, be solid in all three phases or dominant in a few, and have a little bit of luck)? I know some fans are tired of running it back with the same results, but it seems the front office's preferred strategy is to make playoffs and hope everything has come together at the right time. Thoughts?

The strategy had everything to do with how close the Packers were to the Super Bowl the past three years. When you've climbed that high, I don't think anybody is interested in going back to the bottom floor and restarting an uncertain journey upward. Coming off an 8-9 season, this situation is a little different. I'm not sure what's the best path forward, but I know that decision won't be made hastily, by anyone involved.

Bob from Bella Vista, AR

Does Christian Watson still have a legit chance (top three) to be ROY? Do voters just consider the numbers? You mentioned in your story on how he changed the Packers' offense and the opposing team's defensive approach, so do voters take that into consideration as well as the numbers?

I doubt they think that hard about it. My guess is either Garrett Wilson (1,103 receiving yards) or Kenneth Walker (1,050 rushing yards, nine TDs) gets NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, but I believe Watson had as good a second half as any rookie in the league.

Aaron from Phoenix, AZ

We all know the first two rules of II. The third is, "We don't entertain talking heads and hot takes." We deal in reality and facts. However, I just want to take a moment to vent on a new hot take. "Aaron Rodgers would rather win an MVP than a Super Bowl." Holy wow, could this have been taken any more blatantly out of context?! I'm so grateful to you, Mike and Wes (and many fellow IIers), for the sanity you provide during the course of the week. Thank you for helping us all stay grounded! GPG!

I figured this would become "a thing" after listening to Rodgers' interview with Pat McAfee on Tuesday. When Rodgers says he believes he can be MVP again, I took that to mean he still can be the very best in the game. Of course, he wants to mount another Super Bowl run and such a prestigious achievement would require his best play.

Nathan from Philadelphia, PA

Kenny Clark's evaluation of "too much inconsistency" could cover the entire season. Which Packers player(s) played the most consistently good football this year?

Preston Smith, Allen Lazard and Marcedes Lewis were the first three names to come to mind. Their highs might not have been as high as Jaire Alexander, Aaron Jones and Christian Watson but they were steady contributors all year long at positions that needed them.

Megan from Noblesville, IN

Sounds like Rodgers wants Big Dog and Tonyan back. If that happens, and if they can pull it off, I can't think of anyone else on the team that deserves a Super Bowl more than Big Dog. Win it for him. And now that it's not too early for draft talk, can you image how awesome it would be if the Packers landed Mike Mayer (Baby Gronk) in the first round. He is projected to go middle of the first round and the Packers are smack dab at pick 15. Write it down, that's my pick (hoping). What about you?

You guys know my feelings on drafting tight ends that early, but it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to bring in a large, athletic tight end and give him time under Lewis' learning tree. I'm rooting for one more year from Lewis. He may not be a Hall of Famer like Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten but surpassing those two and playing the most NFL seasons by a tight end would underscore Lewis' ability to evolve and adapt throughout an 18-year NFL career.

Fredrick from Bluffton, SC

I have a hard time understanding why players or teams feel someone should get a big contract when they have a monster year. I'll use Nixon as an example. Is he truly a diamond in the rough that was overlooked or did the stars align to give him great opportunities this last season (i.e. great blocking etc.)? So how do GMs evaluate a player to determine whether they warrant that big contract or they just had a lucky year.

Players are paid on three key factors - past production, perceived potential, and age. Last year, I was asking the same question about Rasul Douglas that you're asking now about Keisean Nixon. How do you place a dollar amount on a street free agent who came out of nowhere? In Nixon's case, I look at his age (25) and the difference he made at a position (returner) he'd never really played in the NFL before. The Packers have looked far and wide for a returner since Randall Cobb graduated to a starting role in 2012. Nixon seems to be that guy, but can the Packers retain him?

Nate from New Lisbon, WI

Just noting that I want to see this at some point next season: Watson and Nixon split out wide, Watson motions and gets the jet sweep, Nixon runs the reverse and Watson pitches it to Nixon/keeps it. Or it's all a fake and Love goes deep to Doubs.

If Nixon is back next season, I just want to see him on the field for one offensive snap. The Packers ran a red-zone play for Julius Peppers in 2014. You can't tell me it's not possible.

Ed from Windsor, CO

Every offseason brings lots of changes for every team and every team loses players they want to keep. Teams juggle youth, experience, positions of need, value, depth, upside, draft picks, cap space, etc., et al to determine upcoming camp rosters. It is a lot to process. Inbox is a voice of reason and I appreciate that you do not speculate, but I am having problems not speculating. Is the salary cap the Packers' biggest hinderance to a productive offseason?

Yes. Because it's extremely difficult to sign unrestricted free agents, while re-signing core players and still saving enough cash for the incoming draft class. It's a high-wire act for Brian Gutekunst and Russ Ball.

Tom from New Berlin, WI

Do you feel the Packers' first-round draft choice will be on defense or offense?

I wouldn't argue with using No. 15 on offense.

Gary from Tompkinsville, KY

I sure hope GB re-signs Mason Crosby. He has been one of the most consistent cold-weather kickers in the league. Look what happened to Chicago when they didn't re-sign Robbie Gould.

I don't know what the Packers will do this offseason, but when the day comes that Crosby isn't the kicker here, they need a better plan than the Bears had for replacing Gould. Maybe it was time in 2015 for Gould to move to a warmer climate, but Chicago didn't compute how difficult it is for kickers to succeed in the Midwest. You can't just trot anyone out there. Crosby mastered what it takes to kick in December and January in Wisconsin. You need a strong mind as much as a strong leg to tackle that frigid beast.

Scott from Sauk City, WI

I agree with you, Spoff, that sticking with Brett Maher in the do-or-die world of the NFL playoffs is a different story than sticking with Crosby after one bad early-season game. But I'm curious how a move like that sits in an NFL locker room. Does that faith in Maher resonate with the players, to the point where they think, "My HC has my back, no matter what"? Or do these guys just want to win at all costs, so "cut him now"? At this level, does "being a players' coach" even matter?

Again, you also gotta see the forest for the trees in this situation. Maher has been the Cowboys' kicker for three of the last five seasons. If they cut Maher now, the Cowboys are going into a divisional playoff game in Santa Clara with a kicker who possesses little NFL experience. Dallas made the right move by signing Tristan Vizcaino to the practice squad Wednesday. He has some talent and has kicked in 10 regular-season games. Maybe he'd be a better option or maybe he wouldn't be, but the Cowboys would be going into Sunday's game blind. I'd give Maher another shot before venturing down that road. If you really have questions, then activate both Sunday.

Isaac from Columbia, TN

Thanks for highlighting Pat O'Donnell. I can see why Crosby wanted him to be his holder on kicks. Do you think that part of the punting job is now just as valuable as punting itself?

Yes...that and the ability to crush tall boys while ice fishing.

Duff from LeRoy, WI

Wasn't Desmond Howard's return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl from a punt? Wes mentioned no touchdown returns from "kickoffs." Am I splitting hairs here?

Everyone is right about Howard's 99-yard kickoff returned for a TD in Super Bowl XXXI (and a punt return for a TD against San Francisco in the NFC Divisional playoffs). I should've stated that was his only kickoff TD. Either way, I was just trying to illustrate Howard was a more prolific punt returner (11.9-yard per return career average) than kickoff returner (22.2 ypr).

Joe from Pittsburgh, PA

Isn't it amazing that the average age of the remaining playoff QBs is just 27 and just a few years back we had seniors like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan every year in the hunt? The transition sure bodes well for the future of the league.

I'm with ya. There's a bevy of exciting young QBs in the NFL right now and only one who ultimately can hoist that trophy.

Shaun from Bayside, WI

Why is it that Mike McCarthy and Sean Payton are viewed so much differently? They both won a Super Bowl with a HOF QB and were perennial playoff teams, yet McCarthy seems to be judged more harshly than Payton for his success as a head coach.

I think Payton gets the benefit of the doubt for winning with a franchise that hadn't enjoyed much sustained success. The New Orleans Saints have been around since 1967 and yet seven of their nine division titles came under him. Maybe the rich history of both the Packers and Cowboys works against McCarthy, but it continues to be my position that he doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves for the job he's done as an NFL head coach.

Doug from Neenah, WI

Good morning, Wes. Now that their seasons are over, how do you view the Dolphins' acquisition of Tyreek Hill and the Raiders getting Davante Adams? One year is a small sample size of course, but it is a results-based league.

I respect the ability of both receivers, but neither Miami nor Las Vegas is playing right now. At the end of the day, that's really the only metric that matters when you move future capital for established NFL stars.

Joel from Paris, KY

Based on a tweet from No. 69, why would league owners be so willing to improve their field surfaces for FIFA and not for their own investment of players that play the game of football?

I have no idea. Maybe because it's a profitable one-off? NFL players (a.k.a. employees) have been very outspoken about artificial turf. It's time owners (a.k.a. employers) start listening. It's a crying shame we didn't get to watch either Rashan Gary or Von Miller during the second half of the year.

John from Belleview, FL

Watching the playoffs, I noticed everything seems to move faster. QBs would get to the line and still have 15 seconds on the play clock. One of my frustrations watching GB play is that the play clock is ALWAYS running to zero before the snap the ball. Why can't they get the play in faster, and maybe catch the defense a little less prepared or out of position? It certainly helped the teams on third- and fourth-down plays this last weekend.

Obviously, you didn't catch the end of the Miami-Buffalo game.

Johnny from Salt Lake City, UT

Wes, you have the first pick in the draft and can pick either Aaron Donald or J.J. Watt as rookies. Who do you choose?

Donald. In my opinion, Donald is the best interior defensive lineman to ever play the game.

Terry from Hayward, WI

Up here by Hayward, we have the Twin Cities of Loretta and Draper but what are the Quad Cities of Wisconsin?

It's a few blocks over from Tri-Cities, WI.

Chad from Chippewa Falls, WI

Mike/Wes, I was fortunate enough to join a stadium tour on Tuesday. Rob was our tour guide and did a great job. So much history that I hadn't taken time to learn earlier in life. I asked Rob if you guys sit in the Lee Remmel press box or if you'd be in the media box to the north. Rob thought you guys would be in the north box. Is that correct? Also, everyone I asked about Mike and Wes knew who I was taking about. So, you guys are kind of a big deal.

I'm glad you enjoyed your tour. We're right in the middle of the Lee Remmel press box.

Bil from Stateline, NV

Time off, Mike? No rest for the weary. When is the combine?

It's all gas, no breaks in the NFL. Have a great Thursday, folks.

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