Skip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
Open Jim: Should the Packers press the panic button and start unloading Aaron Rodgers and other key players?
0 Comments
topical alert

Open Jim: Should the Packers press the panic button and start unloading Aaron Rodgers and other key players?

  • 0
Rodgers Packers

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was 15 of 28 for 133 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in the Green Bay Packers' 38-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in Jacksonville, Fla.

The University of Wisconsin football team is in the midst of a bye week and the Green Bay Packers are set to start the regular season after getting dismantled by the New Orleans Saints in their preseason finale.

Yuk, yuk, yuk for that joke and yuck, yuck, yuck for the Packers, who apparently didn’t get the memo that the regular season was underway.

Follow along as State Journal cartoonist draws a cartoon about the Green Bay Packers' wretched first football game.

That 38-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints in steamy Jacksonville last Sunday has led to a lot of anxiety in the fan base, as you’re about to see while scrolling through this week’s Open Jim.

There’s a lot of Graham Mertz and UW offense talk for the second consecutive week after the Badgers failed to dazzle in the passing game against Eastern Michigan.

So let’s begin the show. If you haven’t already, please click this link to become a print and/or digital member. I’d also encourage you to follow me on Twitter and Facebook, where you also can join our Wisconsin Badgers fan group.

You can submit questions for this weekly feature on Twitter or via email at jpolzin@madison.com. As always, thank you for reading.


This is going to disappoint you, but the answer is … none.

People, it’s one loss. And while there wasn’t a single positive to grasp onto after that performance in Jacksonville, it’s way too early to start talking about unloading key players. Plus, there’s a reason you don’t see many blockbuster in-season trades in the NFL — it’s a complicated endeavor.

Peter Schrager of the NFL Network caused a stir Tuesday with a hypothetical trade proposal that had the Packers sending Rodgers to the Denver Broncos in exchange for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, defensive end Bradley Chubb, wide receiver K.J. Hamler and first-round picks in 2022, 2023 and 2024.

That’s good fodder for talk shows but it’s pure silliness to take any trade talk seriously after Week 1. Yes, the Packers are 0-1 and it’s an ugly 0-1. But in the words of Aaron Rodgers: R-E-L-A-X.

I expect Rodgers, Davante Adams, Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith to be around past the Nov. 2 deadline. And I still expect the Packers to be in the playoffs — have you looked at the rest of the NFC North?


The biggest concern has to be the defense, specifically the Packers’ inability to stop the run. As mentioned above, it’s not like this is a new issue.

I’m not concerned at all about Rodgers at this point. Did he play poorly? Yes. But Rodgers has a great track record and one stinker isn’t enough to get me worried.


I wondered the same thing and asked my friend Jason Wilde, who does the heavy lifting in our Packers coverage.

Welcome to Open Jason. Here’s his answer:

“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, either — and I’m not sure Matt LaFleur is a fan of that approach, just as you aren’t, Dan. My guess is that they are guarding against the big play — that is the hallmark of this style of defense, to keep everything in front of you — and that they expect the defensive back to react and drive on the ball to close that space. But this was an issue in Mike Pettine’s defense, and it was noticeable again last Sunday. LaFleur was asked about it on Monday, and his answer about it being situational made me wonder if that was a subtle way of saying that they’re doing it in situations that they shouldn’t be.”

Thanks, Jason. We now return to Open Jim, already in progress.


Well, let’s see. The Milwaukee Bucks won an NBA title last season and the Milwaukee Brewers are on pace for nearly 100 wins and will be in the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season despite being a small-market team in a league without a salary cap.

So the answer is yes, almost by default.

Like I said above, it’s way too early to panic. Take a deep breath and let’s see how the next month or two plays out before starting the shouts for Packers president Mark Murphy and general manager Brian Gutekunst to get fired.


There was one big similarity, Kevin: The games were decided so early that I could figure out what I was writing by early in the second half.

Let’s start with the Badgers. My biggest takeaway from that game is that UW has a pretty solid 1-2-3 punch at tailback with Chez Mellusi, Jalen Berger and Isaac Guerendo. Granted, UW will see much better defenses the rest of the way. But I really like what I’ve seen from Mellusi and Guerendo through two weeks, and it was good that Berger finally got on the field after watching the opener from the sidelines. UW coach Paul Chryst and running backs coach Gary Brown have options.

My biggest takeaway from the Packers’ loss is that their run defense was atrocious and it’s really hard to imagine this team winning a Super Bowl if that issue doesn’t get fixed in a hurry. But will it? The team made no significant personnel upgrades on defense in the front seven during the offseason. The only major change on defense was replacing Pettine with Joe Barry as coordinator, and we saw the impact that made in the first game.


My column leading into the UW-Eastern Michigan game outlined how the Badgers’ offensive struggles in the opener against Penn State have been an ongoing issue. I stand by what I wrote: I’d like to see Paul Chryst add some wrinkles to a scheme that lacked creativity in the loss to the Nittany Lions.

But did I expect Chryst to throw the kitchen sink at Eastern Michigan? No. It wasn’t necessary against an overmatched opponent.

We’d all feel better about UW’s passing game if Graham Mertz had completed something downfield against the Eagles. Even one big play through the air would have offered a glimmer of hope.

But like I said a week ago, there always are deep shots built into a game plan and sometimes they don’t materialize. A buddy pointed out a play from late in the first half against Eastern Michigan in which three UW receivers ran fly routes and Mertz locked in on Jack Dunn, who was lined up as the inside receiver on the right side. The pass should have been intercepted but was dropped and it wasn’t totally clear if it was poorly thrown or if Mertz expected Dunn to adjust his route to the middle of the field. Either way, UW dodged a turnover.

That was a case of Mertz forcing a pass downfield, and you don’t want that, either.

The point of the column was that UW needs to expand its offense if it’s going to beat the best opponents on its schedule, something it’s failed to do over the past 11 games dating to late in the 2019 season. The Badgers are 0-6 against ranked opponents during that span. Coming off a loss to Penn State, I thought the timing was right to say what I did about the UW offense even if a lesser opponent was next on the schedule.


You nailed it, Chris.

I think UW will be stout against the run and its pass rush appears to be improved. But we saw the Badgers get burned a few times in the opener by shots downfield, with blown assignments and some communication issues leading to those big hits.

It should be pointed out that the Badgers probably won’t face a receiver as good as Penn State’s Jahan Dotson the rest of the regular season.

The Notre Dame game will be a good test for UW’s defense. The Fighting Irish have some decent receivers and their biggest threat in the passing game is tight end Michael Mayer, who has 16 catches for 201 yards and three touchdowns through two games.


I think a good starting point here is John Stocco, whose second season as a starter (2005) just happened to be the first year of Paul Chryst’s second stint as an assistant coach on Barry Alvarez’s staff. Chryst served as co-offensive coordinator that season and wasn’t the quarterbacks coach — Jeff Horton was — but Chryst was calling the plays.

We also need to acknowledge a couple things: Mertz’s first season as a starter was unique because of the COVID-19 pandemic that limited the Badgers to seven games. He’s also the only one of these six quarterbacks to start season No. 2 as a starter against a ranked opponent. Everybody else had a pretty easy two-game slate to start the season.

So here we go:

Stocco was 20 of 29 for 296 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in wins over Bowling Green and Temple. Passer rating: 193.3.

Scott Tolzien was 30 of 42 for 388 yards with one touchdown and one interception in wins over UNLV and San Jose State to start the 2010 season. Passer rating: 152.1.

Joel Stave was 33 of 46 for 416 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions in wins over Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech to start the 2013 season. Passer rating: 174.9. (Reminder: Chryst wasn’t around for Stave’s first three seasons as a starter).

Alex Hornibrook was 31 of 51 for 445 with four touchdowns and an interception in wins over Utah State and Florida Atlantic to start the 2017 season. Passer rating: 156.0.

Jack Coan was 45 of 59 for 564 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in wins over South Florida and Central Michigan to open the 2019 season. Passer rating: 184.5. (Note: Coan only had started four games as a sophomore the previous season).

Mertz is 36 of 54 for 326 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions as UW opened the season with a loss to Penn State and win over Eastern Michigan. Passer rating: 110.0.


I hate labeling players as disappointments. Always have, always will. Was the fact that Okey’s career at UW fizzled out after 2½ seasons disappointing? Yes. Do I consider Okey a disappointment? No. Maybe that’s just me.

As for Mertz, I think it’s important to keep in mind that he’s a sophomore with nine career starts. That’s a significant body of work, but it’s not even a full season. I expected Mertz to be further along and I was critical of his poor play in the opener against Penn State, particularly the type of silly mistakes he made. But I think there’s a lot of time for growth and it’s way too early to give up on him.

The Mertz-Okey comparison is interesting from this standpoint: Both arrived at UW with gigantic expectations and I always wonder how difficult it is to live up to that type of hype. Some players are able to do it, some aren’t.


This seems like more of a rhetorical question than an actual question, Eric, so I’m just going to let you vent in front of the hundreds of thousands Open Jim readers.

UW athletic director Chris McIntosh apologized for the issues in the opener, but it doesn’t sound like the situation got much better in Week 2.

One thing that surprises me from your statement is that campus bars and restaurants aren’t having staffing issues on game day. It seems like everywhere I go, places are having trouble with staffing and it’s leading to slower service.

I suppose one possible explanation is that the UW bars and restaurants employ college students who want to make some cash and take advantage of good tips on busy game days.

I’ll toss down a press-box hot dog if the situation really gets bad.


This one is easy. There’s no better venue to watch a game than the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. I’ve said it before, but it’s hard to stay focused on the game because the San Gabriel Mountains serve as such a breathtaking backdrop.

The BYU trip in 2018 was great for the same reason. As for Big Ten venues, I like Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium. Good crowd and usually a big game that is competitive. Plus, an easy drive.


This seems like a mismatch on paper — but we know better, don’t we?

The United States team captained by Madison resident Steve Stricker has 10 of the top 11 players in the Official World Golf Ranking. But three of the players on that list — Collin Morikawa (3), Patrick Cantlay (4) and Xander Schauffele (5) — are playing in the Ryder Cup for the first time. Plus, there are three other rookies on the team.

Dustin Johnson (four Ryder Cups) and Jordan Spieth (three) have the most experience on the U.S. roster. Team Europe has two players with 10 Ryder Cup appearances in Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, plus three others with at least four appearances in Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey.

So yeah, Stricker’s side is at a big disadvantage in terms of experience.

The other thing that bothers me about the United States side is that two of the best players, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, hate each other. How Stricker manages that dynamic and whether the bad blood leaves a dark cloud hanging over the team will go a long way in deciding this thing.

I hate to do it, but I’m picking Team Europe, which has won seven of the previous nine competitions. It will build a lead the first two days and do just well enough in singles play Sunday to hold on, 14½-13½.

Programming alert: I’ll be in Haven next week and will cover the Friday and Sunday rounds, sandwiched around a trip to Soldier Field for the UW-Notre Dame game.

Contact Jim Polzin at jpolzin@madison.com.

0 Comments

Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Badger Sports

Breaking News

Crime

Politics