Thursday, November 10, 2011

MMQB: Mid-Season Performance Evaluation

To: The Green Bay Packers
From: The Cheesehead Nation
Re: 2011 Performance Evaluation

We’ve been very pleased with your work so far, Mr. Packer. Our organization takes great pride in providing a nurturing and supportive work environment and your performance over the last year has been exemplary. The numerous award and achievements that you have earned reflects most favorably upon all facets of your work and upon our organization as well. We are, however, required to provide regular feedback to all of our employees and after careful consideration have found some areas that deserve some extra attention on your part as well as some specific areas in which we feel you have excelled.

Quarterback —
Your Mr. Rodgers was very well thought of at the end of last season and we counted ourselves extremely fortunate to have him under contract considering the rather tumultuous and ugly separation problems we had with the previous holder of that position. Many questioned the wisdom of the actions taken at the time and, thankfully, those concerns have proved unfounded and shortsighted. We didn’t think it possible but Rodgers has not only improved upon his work from last year, he has risen to the unquestioned peak of his profession. If we had one comment for Mr. Rodgers it would be that we have noticed, over the last two weeks, an unfortunate tendency to hold the ball too long, a habit from previous years we thought he had gotten past. This can lead to some unfortunate consequences and expose him to possible injury, something that would be disastrous to our goals.

Running back—
This has not been a primary focus of your weekly operations and we realize the wisdom inherit in that course of action: the performance and success of the passing activities precludes the need for a strong rushing game. We also recognize that you try to achieve a balance in the play-calling, necessary to ensure your ultimate success. The return of your Mr. Grant after medical leave has been helpful but we question if he has returned to previous form—at times he seems most tentative in his work. Mr. Starks, who filled in last year and has been working in tandem with Grant this year has lived up to expectations and has largely supplanted Grant as your best back. Mr. Kuhn, a favorite of ours, continues to perform well when needed. We would encourage you to spend some extra time with this facet of your work. We feel that a strong running game can do nothing but enhance our chances for growth and support and protect our number one asset, Aaron Rodgers.

The staff in your receiving department has been nothing short of spectacular this year. The senior member, Mr. Driver, has certainly dropped off his production but his leadership and experience has no doubt enhanced the performance of his less-tenured co-workers and, while he continues to be a valuable asset, we approve of the steps you have taken to ensure no drop-off of production when he eventually decides to retire. The wisdom of retaining Mr. Jones, in danger of being terminated only a few short months ago, has been proven on numerous occasions. Some questioned your faith in him after some issues last year but few do now. Mr. Jennings is and will continue to be your biggest asset (and we encourage you to utilize him even more) but the play of young Mr. Nelson continues to improve and provide timely positive plays when needed most. His work near the end of last year was instrumental in your ultimate success. Your newest acquisition, Mr. Cobb, has proven he can do the job but he needs a bit more seasoning and experience. Getting him into more positions where he can excel would be an important short-term goal for your organization and would cement his role in the eventual post-Driver years. The combined talents and abilities of these five employees are unparalleled in your business segment and provide real challenges to any competing organization.

Tight Ends—
Most of the trade publications were incredulous when you chose to retain five tight ends for this year. Mr. Finely was obviously going to be your lead man and see the majority of the work but to add four more to your employment rolls (at the expense of even one back-up fullback) seemed a bit more out-of-the-box than most would like to see. While we have been pleased with Finley’s performance, the contributions of the other four have been mostly in blocking and special teams, which has been a pleasant surprise. Perhaps a more traditional mix of 3-4 tight ends with at least two fullbacks would be more prudent but it has not been a problem so far this year.

Offensive Line—
With the injury to Mr. Clifton, many of the younger and less-experienced members of your line staff (specifically Mr. Newhouse) have been forced into larger roles that would have been better suited to more veteran personnel. And while Newhouse has played fairly well and this unit has not had the feared precipitous drop in performance, they are young in key areas (notably both tackle positions) and suffer occasional lapses, resulting in challenges for others facets of the operations. They are neither big enough nor skilled enough to dominate the competition, forcing Rodgers and other skill-position players to perform at an even higher level. Injuries and the drop-off in talent behind the thin starting line remains and will continue to remain one of the biggest threats to your continued success. If Mr. Sherrod had come in worthy of his first-round acquisition, (or had been given the opportunity to work at tackle rather than experimented with at guard during the preseason) that would have provided much-needed depth to this unit, but he remains a work-in-progress.

Defensive Line—
It is rare that we find fault lately with the work of your Mr. Thompson but we must point out that the failure to re-sign Mr. Cullen Jenkins (or to even make a serious attempt to do so) must be considered, in hindsight, a major misstep. While you could not have foreseen the continued unavailability of his projected replacement Mr. Neil, we feel that Mr. Jenkins was a better option anyway. The loss of Mr. Jolly to his continuing legal issues has only exacerbated the situation. The lack of “push up the middle” has adversely effected the pass rush, sack and pass coverage facets of the operation. Mr. Jenkins continues to perform well in his new position in Philadelphia and, while we wish him the best in his future endeavors, we also wish he was still with your team. The lack of pass pressure from the three down linemen is of a major concern to us. Their performance on running plays has been adequate and acceptable, bordering on above-expectations on occasion. Until these issues can be corrected (either through scheme, training or personnel moves) it will remain one of our chief concerns.

Considered a major plus during the last year, productivity, especially in the pass rush arena, has severely dropped off. While some of it can be traced to the defensive line issue detailed above, we believe that the continued inability of the company to field a top-flight pass rusher opposite Mr. Matthews is a major factor. Mr. Zombo can’t seem to make it in to work due to injury, Mr. Jones doesn’t seem to be up to the challenge and Mr. Walden’s inconsistency is both puzzling and troubling. Mr. So’oto, while new to the organization, showed in the preseason that he is capable of being a disruptive force and certainly has the size and skills to make an impact larger than the aforementioned trio. I understand there are some concerns over his abilities in pass coverage but he can hardly do worse than has been exhibited in that area already (see below). I would advise you to at least give him an opportunity to prove if he is able. The work of Mr. Hawk and Mr. Bishop in the middle has been solid and consistent, as would be expected of veterans in that position. We are especially pleased with Hawk’s rise as a leader given the departure of Mr. Barnett.

We feel that the loss of Mr. Collins, the early season injuries to Mr. Williams and Mr. Shields and the continuing handicap faced by Mr. Burnett with his hand problem have changed one of your greatest defensive assets last year (your pass coverage) into your greatest liability. Contributing to the lack of production are the factors surrounding the defensive line and the linebacking groups listed previously. You are forced to rely on the likes of Mr. Peprah and Mr. Bush in critical junctures and we do not believe they are up to the task. Another factor has to be the stellar work of Rodgers and his offensive group which forces opponents to rely even more heavily on a pass-centric plan, putting further pressure on this team. Furthermore, the relative youth and injury handicaps of the secondary forces one of your most disruptive and opportunistic employees, Mr. Woodson, to assume a more conventional role, further eliminating the pressure on the opponent’s passing efforts. They are definitely an opportunistic group as seen by their industry-wide lead in hostile acquisition of competitor assets but these opportunities cannot always be counted on to compensate for a lack of execution in coverage. Of all the different units in your firm, the secondary has perhaps the highest proclivity for potentially disastrous actions, leading to an inevitable failure in a key moment. 

Special Teams—
Collectively, your special teams units have performed far above expectations. The work done by Mr. Crosby has been absolutely perfect up to this point. Not long ago, every opportunity for him to make in impact upon outcomes was fraught with trepidation: would he miss the easy opportunity? Could he overcome the elements? Would he let his team down at a critical juncture? He hasn’t been called on to perform under serious pressure yet (thanks to the fine work done by the offense) but there is no reason to suspect that he will buckle. Likewise, Mr. Masthay has been a steady and in some cases a spectacular performer, tilting the playing field in your favor. He has had a decided lack of work this year, but I think we can all agree that that is a good thing. Coverage teams have so far performed well, with only a few lapses in execution, unlike the early performances from 2010 when an excellent offensive performance was usually followed by a special teams collapse. We attribute that mostly to the relatively few injuries endured this year when compared to last. The addition of Mr. Cobb as your return man has also been a plus, although one must question his decision-making at times, based on the depth from which he returns some kicks. His one spectacular success seems to be coloring his judgment perhaps. His obvious physical skills allow him to overcome these lapses and we believe that he can only improve as he gains more experience and hopefully become the asset we envisioned him to be.

Across the board, your coaches, led by Mr. McCarthy, have proven their worth. Even when faced with adversity: your team has fallen behind and come back, gotten out quick and defended a lead and fought off furious late-game challenges. Coming off a previous year at the unassailable peak of your profession tends to make you a target and you get the absolute best effort out of each and every opponent. The continued success this year has only enhanced this factor. Despite (or maybe because of) this challenge, your organization continues to excel, week in and week out. It remains to be seen if this level of excellence can be maintained throughout the rest of this year and the adjustments made by you defensive staff to correct some of the shortcomings in that arena will be key. The level of adversity faced by your organization in the 2010 season made everyone in it stronger. If that tempering still exists and carries over into a year with fewer catastrophic injuries, there is practically no limit to what you can achieve.

While significant challenges remain in the year ahead, we cannot quibble with the results of your efforts, individually, as distinct departments and as a whole. We have not and will not expect perfection of you but are delighted in your potential to deliver it. On a weekly basis, we look forward to watching you compete and grow as a team. The unprecedented success you have achieved is no accident: The seeds were sown in 2010 and in previous years and now all the planning and effort put forth are paying off. Many in the industry media have gone to great lengths to tout your strengths and prowess but we are sure those same sources will be just as quick to diminish you if you would happen to have a setback. While we expect and demand a high level of performance and we tend to let our concerns overshadow our pride at times, please know that we are fully committed to you and have been so for as far as we can remember and will remain so for as long as we are physically able. We look forward to a long and profitable relationship.

The Cheesehead Nation

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