McGinn Wrap, Part 5: The Green Bay Packers' Team A-minus grades
Bob McGinn continues his look back at his four decades covering the Packers. Here's what his notebook reveals, from that '97 team that came so, so close to a fun '07 crew.
The calling card for the Green Bay Packers over the last three decades has been obvious even to the most casual fan. With Brett Favre under center for 16 seasons and Aaron Rodgers for 14 seasons entering 2022, the franchise has been blessed with remarkable quarterback play for an unparalleled length of time.
It stands to reason, therefore, that of the seven categories of team performance I’ve evaluated since 1991, pass offense was far and away the Packers’ strongest area.
This installment showcases the 13 team categories that merited a grade of A-minus. It follows the previous installment covering the 24 categories with an A grade.
Six of the 37 A/A-minus grades went to the entire team for overall performance. Of the other 31, pass offense was the dominant area with 11.
Favre was the quarterback six times compared to five for Rodgers, but Favre had two more starting seasons. Following, in order, were coaching, six; pass defense and personnel moves, four; run defense, three; run offense, two; and special teams, one.
Mike Holmgren led the coaches to three A/A-minuses in his seven-year tenure, Mike McCarthy had two in his 13-year tenure and Matt LaFleur has one in his three-year tenure. Mike Sherman never reached that level during his six seasons.
The following are the Packers’ 13 grades of A-minus from 1991-’21 and excerpts from my grading comments that first appeared in The Milwaukee Journal, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, BobMcGinnFootball.com, The Athletic and GoLongTD.com.
COACHING: “Holmgren would have been a shoo-in for coach of the year in most other seasons. Made chicken salad from chicken you-know-what with new system and 24 new players … A born leader. Almost always pleasant, but periodic tirades kept players on edge … Coordinators Ray Rhodes and Sherman Lewis exude 49ers’ aura … Bill Walsh won eight games in his first two years. Holmgren won nine in Year One.”
PASS OFFENSE: “Line injuries and the failure of secondary receivers to emerge placed the burden squarely on Brett Favre – where he likes it … Favre wasn’t quite as spectacular as last season but still directed the No. 2-ranked passing attack and was the master of the 2-minute offense … The number of receivers with at least 20 receptions dipped from nine to six, but Antonio Freeman emerged as a star and Robert Brooks was a solid complement … Rank of 18th in interception percentage proved costly as Favre’s 19 picks either scored or set up 70 points for opponents … Despite having just one line starter for all 19 games, the sack yield of 26 was the club’s lowest since 1974.”
PASS DEFENSE: “Led the league again in lowest opponents’ passer rating (59 in ’97, 55.4 in ’96) … Ended the season not having allowed a touchdown pass in 35 quarters, and just one in 46 quarters. This stunning achievement came despite a pass rush that ranked 21st, team’s poorest since ’92 … Decline of Reggie White and injuries to Gilbert Brown and Gabe Wilkins forced Fritz Shurmur to blitz extensively down the stretch … Secondary got outstanding seasons from LeRoy Butler and Doug Evans plus second-half improvement from Tyrone Williams, Eugene Robinson and Darren Sharper.”
OVERALL: “The firsts under Mike Holmgren included the victory over Dallas and the victory at the Metrodome. They won 13 games for the second straight year. And, they eliminated the 49ers and won the NFC Central Division for the third straight year … Just getting back to the Super Bowl was a major feat in itself … Super Bowl XXXII was theirs for the taking but the Packers were ill-prepared, less inspired and beaten by a slightly inferior team (Denver) ... If the Packers’ feeling of deep disappointment lingers, so be it. It hurt then and it should hurt now, and for a long time to come.”
PASS OFFENSE: “The Packers pass-protected better than they have in years, enabling Brett Favre to get the most from a pedestrian corps of receivers … Sideline threat Corey Bradford caught bombs for 47, 51, 56, 45, 54 and 51 yards. Bill Schroeder got deep, too, and Antonio Freeman caught nine passes for 20 yards or more in the last nine games after catching none in the first five … The line was charged with merely 11 of the 25 sacks in 18 games, and the knockdown count was the lowest in the Packers’ decade using the West Coast offense … Favre had his best season since ’97 before a six-interception flop in the playoffs in St. Louis … Ahman Green led the team in receptions (72) for the second straight year while slashing his drop total from 10 to five.”