Fri, 18 Sep 2020

Inbox: They all just got an extra card

Packers
04 Aug 2020, 18:12 GMT+10

The knock has gone from loud to deafening

Mike from New Orleans, LA

What would be the NFL equivalent of the MLB's new runner-on-second extra-innings rule? I say we give each coach one automatic play reversal regardless of evidence.

C'mon now, that's absurd. I'd say the equivalent would be each team getting an overtime possession that starts at midfield. And no, I don't want to revisit everyone's ideas about overtime, so please don't send them in.

Dom from Boise, ID

I'm visiting Green Bay (and Wisconsin) for the first time. Checked into my Airbnb after picking up a No. 17 jersey, sat down on the couch, and opened up the 2010 yearbook left on the coffee table to see an article written by Mike titled "Keeping the Faith." Funny how full circle football (and life) can be sometimes.

Ha. I looked back at that story for a refresher, and I remember that interview with McCarthy reviewing the '09 season. When I asked about the disastrous midseason loss at Tampa, which became the turning point that year, he said, "I had a tired team." He felt a second loss in a month's time the previous week to the Favre-led Vikings had sapped his guys, physically and emotionally, and he worked them too hard the next week. The overcompensation produced a fourth-quarter collapse to the winless Bucs, leaving the Packers 4-4 and putting their season on the brink. He had never acknowledged his team being "tired" publicly at the time, but it factored into how he adjusted the training and practice schedule the rest of that season, and the Packers went 7-1 down the stretch. It was a reminder to me that while fans and media and everyone else analyze what goes wrong in any given game, the head coach always knows why. Whether he wants anyone else to know is another matter.

Gus from Woongarrah, Australia

It's a very real possibility that ALL teams don't end up playing all 16 regular-season games with playoff qualification being determined by winning percentage as opposed to total number of games won. Would it therefore make sense to try to play the six divisional games in first six weeks of the season and adding weight to those results in any tiebreaking formula the NFL may need to adopt in deciding which teams go to the playoffs in an incomplete season?

Folks, if the league were interested in modifying its schedule, it would have done so already. It's not happening, so while various suggestions submitted here and there make some sense, the discussions are wasted airtime. Now, does the league have contingency plans if things need to be modified after they get going? Perhaps, but those are not going to be made public. Either way, as I said the other day, preparing to accept some level of unfairness would be wise.

Dan from Grand Rapids, MI

The NFL has a chance to save the season. It can't watch baseball (just over a week in) and realistically think that a contact sport will have better results in a bubble-less set up. I propose four bubble cities, with the geographical divisions (e.g. NFC and AFC North in one city, and so on). You can play your division teams twice and everyone in the other division once for a total of 10 games. I truly believe the NFL pursuing a full season with traveling every week is insanity. I hope I am wrong.

Insanity may be a tad strong, but I've said before I share your skepticism regarding the length and scope of the effort and hope I'm wrong as well. I believe the NFL's thinking is rather than make a wholesale change to the approach in reaction to baseball's early struggles, those difficulties serve as early warnings and cautionary tales as to how quickly things can unravel if protocols aren't followed. Believe me, I'm the last sports fan who wants to see the baseball season torpedoed, but the optimist in me says that the more issues baseball encounters over the next month won't necessarily diminish the NFL's chances for success, but actually enhance them because the dedication required to making it work becomes more and more evident.

Michael from Fort Wayne, IN

Do you see any of the NFL COVID-19 protocols becoming permanent, such as no preseason games?

Not that one, but if the injuries in training camp are kept to a minimum, I could see the players pushing for a more extended ramp-up to full contact again. Changes to the food service, weight-room schedules, sanitization frequency, and the like also could become more the norm, especially when you think about how the stomach flu circulated through the Packers' locker room late last season.

Andy from Golden Valley, AZ

Can you share an optimistic scenario with Aaron Rodgers having another downfield option besides Davante Adams? I hope those that can provide have seen enough to know that Rodgers (needs) only an above-average second receiver to be a true contender for the league's MVP, not to mention how it would make any defense thinner. The Packers made the running game an element that requires attention and respect, something close to actually providing a few smiles and goose bumps. Let's put up the "greatest show on grass"!

I'm not anticipating a bona fide No. 2 receiver walking in off the street at this point. Craig from St. Paul made reference in an unpublished submission last week to the old Careers board game (one of my all-time favorites) and the "opportunity knocks" cards. We've talked all offseason, even with Devin Funchess in the mix, that opportunity has been knocking for Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, and the rest to state their case for a role and a future in this league. They all just got an extra card, and the knock has gone from loud to deafening.

Declan from Houston, TX

Apologies if this has already been addressed, but 1. with the pandemic in near-full swing leading up to the draft, 2. the usual steep learning curve for and delay in WR productivity to Years 2 or 3, and 3. some inkling that practices and/or preseason reps were in jeopardy, do you think the powers that be devalued what would otherwise be high-ranking WRs in an attempt to circumvent the issue of getting a rookie WR game-ready?

No. Gutekunst made it pretty clear the receivers the Packers targeted as possible first-round picks were gone by the mid-20s, and the potential second-round targets were also gone by the time Green Bay was on the clock. After that, he didn't project any receivers in the draft to be significant upgrades over what the Packers already had.

Geoffrey from Rosemount, MN

Adams's 997-yard seasons are close enough to 1,000 to me to be considered a very solid season. Another somewhat strange (couldn't think of a better term) is Alvin Kamara having exactly 81 catches as a running back in all three of his professional seasons.

That's just weird. I looked it up just be sure, and yeah, wow. Interesting how his average yards per reception has steadily dropped, though, from 10.2 as a rookie to 8.8 and then 6.6 last year. Defenses are showing they're more and more prepared for that aspect of the New Orleans offense, not that the Saints don't have plenty of other wells to dip into, even as they keep feeding Kamara the ball.

Kristian from Aarhus, Denmark

It warms my heart to read Mr. Murphy's balanced, calm and nuanced reply to a reader about systemic racism. It just feels very comforting knowing that "my" team is led by an empathetic human being in touch with the world and one who also recognizes his platform from which to promote community. We need that. Have a wonderful day.

Mark Murphy is probably the most unflappable leader I've ever encountered. I suppose calling defensive signals in a Super Bowl, arguing cases at trial as a U.S. attorney, making a top-notch hire for a Big Ten football program after its coach suddenly and tragically dies, and working both sides of contentious NFL labor negotiations over the years, among other things, makes you pretty hard to rattle.

Mike from Carmichael, CA

Regarding painting "End Racism" in the end zones, I believe what was trying to be said was that despite the worthiness of the cause, we watch a game to get away from real life for awhile, not to be reminded what social problem to tackle next? Abortion? Immigration? Candidate X for Prez? We want football, a break. I don't go to concerts anymore when the artist turns it into a socio-political commentary. I paid for the music, the escape. At least I hope that is what was trying to be said.

No one's denying that's the preference of some, but I'll go back to what I said a few months ago. Sports are getting more and more intertwined with society, and especially this year, players are dedicated to using their platform. So if you're looking for a pure escape, you may not find it. The NFL is putting what it believes is right - supporting peaceful protests, inclusive messaging, etc. - at the forefront, having confessed it regrets not making those higher priorities when it previously had the chance. If you're not on board, that's your choice. It's a free country. But you're not going to change the NFL's mind on this, at least not this year.

Matt from Bloomington, IN

After reading MT5, I'm guessing our Inbox heroes will be designated 2M (no access to players, but able to watch practice) and tested daily. Is that correct?

Actually, our department is in Tier 2, because there are only 10 spots available in Tier 2M, and the organization wanted all of those available to outside media.

Larissa from Minnetonka, MN

It could be situational but Le'Veon Bell seems like just a guy now. Gurley appears to be declining, David Johnson is a shadow of himself, and before them guys like Jamaal Charles and Arian Foster went from elite to nothing in two seasons. RB is a brutal position! Outside of Frank Gore and maybe AP, can you think of anyone else who's gotten to extend their career by declining to just an average but very playable starter? Should this reality factor into to how much we invest in a stud like Aaron Jones?

LeSean McCoy and Mark Ingram are still at it as far as elder statesmen at the position who remain productive and effective, but they are the exception, not the rule. The late-career and second-contract stages shouldn't be conflated, though. That said, the stories of Bell, Gurley and Johnson certainly give teams pause when it comes to deciding how much to invest in a feature back, but that didn't stop the Titans (Henry), Cowboys (Elliott) and Panthers (McCaffrey) from going big on their guy. I think it's the toughest position to project what will constitute good value on a second contract.

Nic from London, UK

To avoid jinxes at all costs I'm making this as hypothetical as possible. I can think of a few significant Mason Crosby misses in the regular season but not many in the playoffs. If a parallel universe version of me asked a parallel universe version of you whether Crosby has missed any game-deciding kicks in the playoffs, what might that version of you tell that version of me?

Crosby has missed only three field goals total in the playoffs, no game-deciders. He missed from 54 early in the '09 shootout in Arizona. Then he missed from 50 in the fourth quarter at Atlanta in '10, with the Packers way ahead. From there he made 23 straight postseason field goals, an NFL record, culminating in the two late long ones to beat Dallas in '16. Unfortunately, the streak ended with his next kick, an early miss from 41 the following week in the blowout loss at Atlanta. That was his last postseason field-goal attempt. He's had only PATs in the playoffs since.

Tom from Phoenix, AZ

Friday an II reader asked about defenses eavesdropping on the play calls in the offensive huddle. It would seem to me that it wouldn't take long for a DC to decipher play calls with sub-packages and narrow down the options, at least by the second meeting with division opponents. The huddle is typically 5 -7 yards from the line. In the '60s it was 10 yards back; 15 yards might provide the Cone of Silence needed but it would give Rodgers limited time. Will we see more no-huddle this year?

I can't speak to what LaFleur's plans are in that regard, but I could see more no-huddle cropping up around the league because all the communication will be easier and smoother with limited/no fans in the stands.

Rod from Star Meadow, MT

I read II every morning because it always gets the mental juices going. Arriving at the end is always a bummer. Except for yesterday. To the unnamed editor who wrote "mymistake" at the end, well done. Couldn't stop laughing for minutes. Pearls of humor in the muck of everything else are precious.

Happy Monday.

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