Extra Points: Teflon Ted is stumbling in Green Bay
Philadelphia, Pa – Football is truly a bottom line business and winning can mask all kinds of deficiencies.
In fact when you're on the right side of the scoreboard, questions often go unasked, especially in a media market like Green Bay where there is little competition for the back page and beat writers aren't selling their first born for the next scoop.
Packers general manager Ted Thompson has enjoyed a cozy existence in the Badger State, cobbling together a sterling reputation which may not be all that it's cracked up to be when you put it under the microscope.
Thompson has never been a big fan of free agency and prefers to build through the draft, hardly an out of the box-type philosophy these days but one which has given him a pass over the years because it generally works when you're making the right decisions.
Thompson was certainly on the right track back in 2005 when he selected Aaron Rodgers with the 24th overall pick out of Cal.
Since then there have been far too many misses, however, and the 2013 version of the Packers is showing more than a few holes, ones that are often covered up by arguably the best player in football.
Unless you're sipping the Green and Gold Kool-aid, it's really not all that hard to argue Thompson has failed Rodgers on many levels since the former MVP took over for Brett Favre in Titletown during the 2008 season.
Sure, Rodgers has amassed a gaudy 46-16 regular season record as a starter and earned a Super Bowl ring over the past four seasons but who's to say that wouldn't have been two or even three championships if the Pack had at least a passable running game and a more accomplished offensive line?
A stunning exit to the New York Giants after a 15-1 regular season in 2011 coupled with a drubbing at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers in last year's divisional round finally awoke the Teflon Thompson, who at least attempted to address both issues during the offseason in an effort to alleviate some of the pressure Rodgers faces on a weekly basis.
The offensive line was revamped with the flip-flopping of the woefully overmatched Marshall Newhouse and former first-round pick Bryan Bulaga, with Bulaga shifting over to the all-important left tackle position on Rodgers' blindside. Meanwhile, Green Bay, which seemingly hasn't had a legitimate running threat since John Brockington called Lambeau Field home, finally addressed that position by bringing in both Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin in the draft.
Part of that plan imploded on Saturday night when Bulaga suffered a torn ACL during the club's intra-squad scrimmage, leaving few options for coach Mike McCarthy.
Of course I must have missed the part where Bulaga developed into an All-Pro. Sure, he was an adequate right tackle but he missed seven games last season after fracturing his hip and let's be honest Bulaga wasn't the type of athlete who projected well on the left side when he came out of Iowa in 2010.
That said, the Illinois native was expected to be an upgrade in a division which features elite weakside pass rushers like Jared Allen, Julius Peppers and potentially Ziggy Ansah.
Now McCarthy is back at square one, He could move Newhouse back to left tackle where he allowed nine sacks and a team-high 33 hurries in 2012 or he could leave Rodgers' future health in the hands of rookie David Bakhtiari, a fourth- round draft choice in 2013 who lacks quickness and is best-suited for the right side.
Don Barclay, who makes Bakhtiari look like Jonathan Ogden as far as athleticism goes, and former first-round bust Derek Sherrod, who has not played since breaking his leg during the 2011 season, are less likelier stop- gaps but anything is possible at this point.
Apologists for the Packers' offensive line say it's really not all that bad and point to the fact that Rodgers is prone to hang onto the ball as long as possible in an effort to extend things for his receivers, the kind of mentality that can result in a ton of big plays down the field but also means the Pro Bowler gets sacked more than most, a league-high 51 times last season.
Detractors point to the fact Thompson accumulated four right tackles and missed on the one guy who had the feet to play on the left side, Sherrod.
It's more than conceivable Rodgers could win 10 games with the University of Wisconsin's offensive line so Bulaga's injury isn't going to send the people of Green Bay into a panic but at some point you have to believe all the hits A-Rod has taken over the past few seasons will begin to accumulate.
Thompson's failure to address long-term problems with the Packers has already knocked the team from the ranks of serious Super Bowl contenders down to a potential playoff club. The wrong hit on Rodgers would send then spiraling even further.
Nothing has changed. Thompson's only "plan" is the same as it has been for the past five years -- ride Rodgers until he drops.