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In Sports Commentary

Green Bay needed quarterback Aaron Rodgers to be heroic in a playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers. (PHOTO: Jim Biever/Green Bay Packers)

Packers needed a hero in playoff loss to 49ers


Sometimes you need a hero.

In life when things aren't going well, sometimes a hero has to step up to stop the nonsense and restore the world to its rightful path.

The concept of the hero is especially vivid in the world of sports. Kirk Gibson, Michael Jordan, Christian Laettner, Bobby Thompson, Joe Namath. Some had great careers but they all had a period of heroism. It could have been a moment of an entire game. But they are heroes, all.

Saturday night the Green Bay Packers needed a hero, and they came up empty. Their season ended for lots of reasons, but one of them is that there was no hero.

They needed someone to say, both by words and by demonstration, "Come on boys, climb on my shoulders and let's get this done."

It's not that the Packers were without hope that a hero would ride into Candlestick Park. There were candidates.

The first candidate in a football game to be the hero is the quarterback. So much of the game revolves around him that the potential always exists for him to show the way through the pass guarded by wolves.

This Saturday night, our quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, came up well short of heroic. He was the MVP last year. He just set an all-time record for quarterback rating. But Saturday night he was just average.

I'm not quite sure what it is about Rodgers that makes him think he doesn't have the stuff of heroes. Perhaps he is just too smart and too analytical and two unwilling to take risks. Football is an emotional game and while you want keep your emotions from getting the best of you, some emotional fire helps more often than it hurts. I just get the impression that Rodgers doesn't exhibit that fire. He almost seems too dispassionate, playing things too close to his vest.

You need to take risks to be a hero. Kirk Gibson gambled that he was going to get a backdoor slider when he hit his heroic World Series home run. Rodgers does not gamble. He has an enviable record for precision passing, but the risk-reward concept seems foreign to him.

Greg Jennings, who probably played his last game as a Packer, seemed to have cement feet, unable to get separation from defenders so Rodgers had a place to throw the ball. A big time receiver could have been hero.

Clay Matthews, the charismatic and disruptive defensive force was rendered toothless by an offensive scheme that was designed to keep him from creating havoc. A major performance from Matthews has the potential to raise the game of the entire defense. Think of Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants. He made an entire team better.

The other thing to consider is that a team often reflects the approach and personality of its coach. The contrast was stark Saturday night.

Jim Harbaugh prowls the sidelines, exhorting and praising, full of hugs and slaps on the back. Mike McCarthy is a technician, stoic and wrapped up in a game plan that doesn't seem to allow for much of an adjustment based on the progress of the game.

This game called for an heroic change in strategy after Colin Kaepernick began to shred the defense. This was the time for the head coach to step forward and say that things aren't working, so let's do something else. It's not like Kaepernick running with the ball came as some big surprise. And when you can't stop him with what you've got, it takes courage and risk to make a change.

There are a lot of reasons the Packers lost the game and nobody can say that a hero might have changed the outcome. But when you have a hero, your chances improve and there were no heroes in sight for Green Bay Saturday night.


Talkbacks

AndrewJ | Jan. 15, 2013 at 10:24 a.m. (report)

Dave, try to keep in mind that the over-thinking, analytic, non risk taking QB has just as many super bowl titles as your gambling, fired up, philandering QB of yore. I'll +1 your criticism of Matthews though. Best defensive player on the team and he was playing against a guy who couldn't move his right arm because it hurt so bad. For some reason he still kept rushing outside to the guys left side. That, and if you put up 30+ points, you should win the game. End of story.

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mp51 | Jan. 15, 2013 at 9:35 a.m. (report)

dave, i think your sports analysis is always different then the same, run of the mill info we can read all over the web. do we really want another article about what the packers should do this offseason??? dave's articles are alway...'hmmm, i never looked at it this way'. keep writing dave!!!!!

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Photodavie | Jan. 15, 2013 at 7:34 a.m. (report)

Dave, stick to writing about you boring uneventful life (or about gauking at the girl on the beach). Your expert sports analysis of "Packers needed a hero" is just idiotic. On Sunday the 49ers simply outplayed the Packers. Ironman himself couldn't have saved them.

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