Sports Outside the Beltway

Wisconsin On Suicide Watch

Following a(nother) head-scratching home loss as New Orleans took control of yesterday’s game, Packer Nation is pointing fingers and gazing at its navel this morning. Bob Wolfley of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel sums up the harsh realities nicely:

After the way the Green Bay Packers played in the first week of the season, you thought National Football League observers would have consigned them to Irrelevant Squad status.

If a team receives that designation, it sort of disappears from polite football society. No one talks about you. No one sees you much; your games go to 2% of the nation.

The Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns are examples of teams that are reliably irrelevant year after year after year.

The Packers seemed to have played their way into that company in Week 1, but curiosity about Brett Favre’s status and fascination with the hard fall of a once-elite team managed to sustain national attention through at least Week 2.

Wolfley goes on to point out how at least one football analyst is starting to feast on Favre’s carcass:

“Actually, last season I thought Brett Favre would come back because I thought he had the physical skills to throw the football as well as anyone,” [Ron] Jaworski said on ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown.” “But watching him through the pre-season and the regular season opener last week, it’s obvious his physical skills have diminished. I watched the game on TV. I watched coaching tape. He’s had some opportunities to make plays with his arm. He did not, which is unusual for Brett Favre.”

Jaworski made his comment before Favre’s performance against the Saints, an outing that was more dynamic than the one he had against the Chicago Bears last week.

Wolfley goes on in his article to describe several ridiculous proclamations made by announcers and analysts regarding Packers players; the whole article is wortth a read.

The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison) takes a look at yesterday’s game through the eyes of one of the few Packers who is really playing well right now, defensive end Aaron Kampman:

Aaron Kampman was having a flashback. And considering how rare the good vibes are becoming for the Green Bay Packers these days, he was thoroughly enjoying it.

There the Packers veteran defensive end was Sunday afternoon, parked on an aluminum bench, looking up at a Lambeau Field scoreboard that was clearly in the home team’s favor, and smiling. He knew there was still work to be done, but 11 months after the fact, he was in serious deja vu mode.

Last year, his downtrodden Packers got their first victory of the season with a 49-point blowout of the visiting New Orleans Saints. And Sunday, they were well on their way again, staked to a 13-point first-quarter lead after the defense took the ball away on New Orleans’ first three possessions.

“It was great,” Kampman said. “I was sitting on the sidelines, and I was like, ‘OK, great. This is going to be just like it was when we got after them last year.’ And …”

Or maybe it’s just all the fault of the receivers, argues State Journal columnist Jason Wilde:

With the way the folks at ESPN seem determined to find a corporate sponsor for just about every SportsCenter segment, we humbly suggest the perfect one for any so-called highlights they show from the Green Bay Packers’ 34-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints Sunday afternoon.

Butterfinger candy bars.

Even the Packers’ hometown newspaper, the Green Bay Press-Gazette, is turning on the team. As writes columnist Chris Havel:

Rookie mistakes are costly, especially when veterans are making them.

The popular notion is the Packers are a young team suffering through a rebuilding phase. The perception is far from reality. The fact is, veterans such as Brett Favre, Ahman Green, Robert Ferguson, Nick Barnett, Ahmad Carroll, Marquand Manuel and Franks weren’t at their best.

As a result, neither were the winless Packers.

Ahmad Carroll in particular has been a whipping boy during his entire tenure in Titletown. Fans love his exuberance, but that same exuberance leads to overcommitment and frustrating penalties. Carroll actually played well within himself yesterday, but still, it wasn’t a great effort by the Pack. Jaworski is wrong about Favre’s physical skills; Favre still puts plenty of grease on the ball, as evidenced by the fact that the mostly-green Packer receiving corps can’t hold on to the ball. But perhaps the best word on Favre in 2006 comes from Fox analyst Terry Bradshaw, as quoted in Wolfley’s column:

Bradshaw said Favre mentally had retired, but he will be starting for Green Bay at the end of the season, even if it’s a lost season.

“I believe Brett should have retired last year,” Bradshaw said. “I was disappointed when he didn’t. If you are talking about retirement, my friend, you have retired. Yes, he can still play physically. But mentally, I think he checked out three years ago.”

“fire mikemccarthy” as yet doesn’t yield any useful Google results. I suspect that may change before the day runs out. But apparently, Packers general manager Ted Thompson isn’t quite so lucky.

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