Plain and simply put: The Green Bay Packers are a mess.
Not only has the team lost three consecutive games and sit at 3-4 after seven weeks, but the Packers have also averaged the fewest points per game – 18.3 – in the Aaron Rodgers era and fewer than 20 points for the first time since 2006.
Harsh, but not wrong. And head coach Matt LaFleur basically agreed, albeit with a more subtle approach.
“We definitely addressed just accountability and how we’re all accountable to one another, and we need everybody, you know, doing everything the right way,” LaFleur said Wednesday. “... We have to be truthful with one another, and sometimes the truth hurts."
Rodgers later clarified that what he said this week was about, like LaFleur said, "accountability." But he also didn't completely shy away from the idea of benching underperforming players.
"There’s accountability for all of us," he told reporters Thursday. "You’re making the plays, you’re in the right spot at the right time – you’re going to get opportunities. If you’re not, there’s consequences. I think we can all agree on that.
"I think people in this society have a hard time hearing the truth sometimes. I’m going to hold guys accountable. Matt’s going to hold guys accountable.”
These comments are a far, far cry from the days of “R-E-L-A-X,” when Rodgers cautioned against reading too much into the Packers’ 1-2 start in 2014. But that was eight years ago and only three weeks into a season. This time, the Packers are quickly falling apart and struggling to find an identity nine months after going 13-4.
Rodgers's patience with the Packers is wearing thin
Rodgers's public admonishment of his team and teammates has quickly devolved from an adversity problem to a schematic problem to a personnel problem.
After losing to the New York Giants in London in Week 5, Rodgers said the team needed to “handle adversity a little bit better.” After the loss to the New York Jets the following week, Rodgers insinuated that the team should simplify its offense to give the quarterback more authority at the line of scrimmage. But when the Packers fell to the Taylor Heinicke-led Washington Commanders, 23-21, in Week 7, Rodgers effectively threw his underperforming teammates under the bus.
“Gotta start cutting some reps,” Rodgers said on the Pat MacAfee Show. “Maybe guys who aren’t playing, give them a chance. We’re gonna see. … Players win. Players lose. We’re out there playing so it’s on us to get this [expletive] fixed.”
For what it's worth, no Packers players seem publically offended by the comments. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins called Rodgers's comments a “wake-up call to everybody” and even agreed that "if I’m not playing well and I’m freaking up and busting plays, get me out of the game because that’s not helping the team.” Cornerback Rasul Douglas also noted that “this is a production-based business. People who make the most plays should play the most.”
But something's got to give with this team, and Rodgers shouldn't be completely blameless, either.
Although Rodgers said Week 7 was his "highest graded game" by Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements, he's still having one of the worst seasons in his career. Rodgers's competition percentage is at its lowest since 2019 and his yards per completion and yards per attempt are at their lowest for the first time in his 15 years as the Packers' full-time starter.
Some of that can be attributed be Rodgers' inexperienced teammates on offense, or coaching, or defensive struggles. Perhaps, even Rodgers is finally feeling his age – he'll be 39 in December – despite coming off two consecutive MVP seasons in the past two years.
Who can fix the Packers?
Regardless of the why, something is clearly wrong with the Packers.
Whether it's Rodgers, LaFleur, the youth or some combination of all three, the current trajectory of a team with Super Bowl aspirations is trending down. Green Bay is already double-digit betting underdogs against the Buffalo Bills in Week 8 – a first for Rodgers.
And it's hard to tell who can fix everything. Rodgers' offensive simplification suggestion two weeks ago was either ignored by the coaching staff or failed miserably. Both Rodgers and LaFleur have preached accountability throughout the team, but at what point is that not enough?
"I just think you have to get to the root of the truth," LaFleur said. "And that gives you an opportunity to learn and grow. And we can’t run away from that, ever. And no different than when we’re in those team meetings. You always call it how it is. And I don’t think anybody’s off limits, starting with myself.”
Whatever that truth is, it'll rear its ugly head soon enough.