Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
After Green Bay’s 38-28 loss at Tampa Bay, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:
Disappointing seasons naturally lead to questions about the current leadership structure, so I’m sure a Packers fan or two might be wondering about the future of general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy. It is, of course, way too early to make any predictions. At 4-4, the Packers could still go either way with their season. Ultimately, however, I’ll hold tight with what we discussed in March. McCarthy certainly has responsibility for how the team plays on a weekly basis, but I think it’s fair to hold Thompson accountable for the fate of this season. As we discussed, Thompson stood pat from a personnel perspective after a 6-10 season. Free agency isn’t a cure-all, but to intentionally dismiss any avenue for improving after a losing season is a risky path for any NFL team-builder.
The Packers are headed for another offensive line shakeup after new right tackle Mark Tauscher sprained his knee Sunday. Tauscher has only a “slight” chance of playing this week, coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. His likely replacement isn’t clear -- Allen Barbre? T.J. Lang? -- but it’s now time to start wondering if the Packers will ever get their pass protection issues solved. They have given up 37 sacks through eight games, putting them on pace for 74 over the course of the season. In case you’re wondering, the NFL record for most sacks absorbed by a quarterback in a 16-game season is 76, by Houston’s David Carr in 2002.
McCarthy said Monday that he believes new special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum has done a “good job” in his first season. But considering the rampant breakdowns over the past two weeks, it’s only natural for Slocum to face some scrutiny. In the NFL, you rarely see an interior lineman go unblocked in punt protection, but that’s exactly what happened Sunday to the Bucs’ Geno Hayes. McCarthy said the play resulted from a “mental error” and media reports suggested that upback John Kuhn missed his assignment. The only reason the Packers’ special teams haven’t received more scrutiny is that their offensive line and defensive scheme have caused greater concerns.
And here’s one question I’m still asking:
Is it possible the Packers are poorly conditioned? When your opponent outscores you 21-0 over the final 11:34 of the game, you at least have to wonder. The Packers set up a new personnel rotation to help rest players in the Florida heat, and McCarthy said Sunday and Monday that he might have worked his team too hard in practice during the week. The gametime temperature at Raymond James Stadium was 82 degrees, but no team with playoff aspirations -- and especially one that has the lowest average age of any NFL roster -- should run out of gas in those conditions.