The Packers and the Art of Self Inflicted Wounds

Last night, NFL fans all around the globe rejoiced as the 2014 NFL season officially kicked off in Seattle, Washington. Unfortunately for most fans of the game, what was expected to be a close hard fought match turned into a bit of a sleeper by the 3rd quarter, as the Seahawks absolutely manhandled the Packers.

Or did they?

First let’s look at the national headlines to understand the consensus across major media:

ESPN: "Seahawks pound Packers in opener." "Seahawks offense leads way in victory over Packers."

CBS Sports: "Seahawks thrash Packers to open NFL season."

So by observation alone, it appears the Seahawks offense dismantled the Packers defense in a rout. Looking at raw numbers, one can draw this conclusion easily: Marshawn Lynch ran for over 100 yards with 2 TD’s, Russell Wilson threw a pair of touchdown passes, and the offense of the Seahawks drummed up 398 yards of total offense. Not too shabby. But taking a closer look at this game, it appears the biggest factor was the Green Bay Packers administering the Plaxico Burress treatment, better known as shooting themselves in the foot (rim shot!).


PENALTIES. Let’s state the obvious first- every team will have penalties in nearly ever NFL game. This game is no different from the rest, seeing both teams pile up penalty yards (SEA-69 yards, GB- 65 yards). What needs to be pointed out however, is both the timing and results of the Green Bay penalties. Of their 7 total penalties, 3 of them allowed the Seahawks to prolong otherwise short drives, and instead of punting, resulted in a combined 17 points. Here’s a quick breakdown of those 3 penalties:

*1st Quarter- SEA 4th and 2 back to punt. GB penalty- Running into the Kicker. Automatic 1st down. RESULT OF DRIVE: Hauschka 35 yard FG.

*2nd Quarter- SEA 2nd and 10 at GB 46. Percy Harvin dropped for a loss at midfield. GB penalty- Offsides (Peppers). 3rd and 12 becomes 2nd and 5. RESULT OF DRIVE: Lynch 9 yard TD run.

*4th Quarter- SEA 3rd and 6. Wilson pass incomplete. GB penalty- Defensive holding (B. Jones). Automatic 1st down. RESULT OF DRIVE: Wilson to Coleman for 15 yard TD.

2 of these 3 penalties directly effected a drive. Running into the kicker turned an ensuing Packers possession into 3 points, and the 4th quarter ‘3 and out’ turned into 7 points. I realize the penalty in the 2nd is a bit of a stretch, but putting a team at 3rd and 12 carries a much lower success rate than 2nd and 5 and provided an extra down, not to mention the fact that anything shy of that 1st down on 3rd and 12 still resulted in a punt as Seattle was too far out to attempt to put any points on the board. 3 penalties resulting in 17 Seattle points.

OFFENSIVE MISCUES. Just like penalties, every NFL team will have offensive miscues, whether it be holding penalties, fumbles, interceptions, so on and so forth. In this particular game, Aaron Rodgers is the culprit (or Jordy Nelson and Derrick Sherrod if you want to be a Rodgers apologist). 2 key miscues by Rodgers directly resulted in 5 Seattle points. Here’s the break down:

*3rd Quarter- GB 1st and 10 at GB 14. Aaron Rodgers INT (Maxwell) returned to GB 8. RESULT OF DRIVE: Hauschka 20 yard FG.

*3rd Quarter- GB 1st and 10 at GB 10. Aaron Rodgers sacked/fumbled at GB 3. Recovered in end zone by GB. RESULT OF DRIVE: SAFETY

I know the drill here: Aaron Rodgers apologists will say Jordy Nelson should have caught that ball and that his deflection put the ball in Maxwell’s hands, or that backup RT Derrick Sherrod (replacing the injured Brian Bulaga) got easily wiped out by Michael Bennett. And that’s fine if you want to take that route. But in my eyes, Rodgers led Jordy too much and Rodgers should have had better vision of a DT coming off his right side, as well as better protection of the football on that fumble. But that’s just my opinion. 2 miscues resulting in 5 Seattle points.

 So let’s tally this up here: 3 penalties that continued drives resulting in 17 points, and another 5 points due to offensive miscues. There’s 22 points that Seattle generated due to Green Bay shooting themselves in the foot. And if you truly want to take it a step further, after the safety, Green Bay got flagged with Unsportsmanlike Conduct, which forced the ensuing free kick back to the 10 yard line. Seattle started their next drive at the 50, and was able to drive it home for a touchdown on a short field. 

While attributing miscues of the Packers to the final score of this game, let’s not take anything away from the Seahawks. They were able to turn the Packers’ ineptitude into points on a consistent basis, and their defense was able to keep Rodgers & Company in check the entire night. And let’s not forget that Seattle had a major miscue of their own: In the 1st quarter Earl Thomas muffed a punt, which was recovered by Clinton-Dix at the SEA 34, resulting in a Packers touchdown, and keeping the game close (at least for the first half).

At the end of they day, I still think this Seattle Seahawks team will be the one to beat in the West. Easily. But if Green Bay wants another shot at knocking out the defending champs, they will need to play much more disciplined than they did in their first shot this season. And bench LB Brad Jones. Please. Wow is he awful in coverage.



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Substance abuse doesn’t get you a season long suspension- Idiocy does.

“Oh so Ray Rice can knock his wife out cold and only gets 2 games, but Josh Gordon smokes pot and gets suspended for an entire season? Real fair.”

“Dwayne Bowe is in a car with a guy with pot and he gets suspended 1 game. Guess it’s only half as bad as beating your wife for 2 games.”

It’s statements like those that absolutely make me cringe. Baltimore fan, Ray Rice advocate, and all of my personal views on that situation aside, I absolutely cannot stand when people like to make these idiotic comparisons without actually being fully aware of the facts. Let’s do the cliff notes version of this, shall we? 

There are 3 major policies at play when it comes to NFL suspensions- substance abuse policy, performance-enhancing drugs (PED) policy, and personal conduct policy. 2 of these policies- the substance abuse policy and the PED policy- have been collectively bargained through the CBA between the NFL owners and the NFL Players Association. Through the CBA, the owners and players agreed to a specific outlined policy, detailing the exact ramifications of a players actions if they were to violate either of these policies. 

Let’s start with the PED policy. Here’s the suspension breakdown for the PED policy: 1st offense is a 4 game minimum, 2nd offense is an 8 game minimum, 3rd offense is a 12 month suspension with commissioner approval for reinstatement once the term is up. The reason for the ‘minimum?’ If a player is caught trying to dilute or tamper with a test, the policy allows the commissioner to increase the penalty. Also note- all suspensions are without pay. As for the testing, the league mandates the testing can be done up to 6 times during the offseason and during the pre-, post- and regular season, 10 players in the league are randomly tested each week. Doing some basic math here and understanding no player gets tested twice (unless he has previously violated the PED policy)- we are looking at 240 tests per league year. Given the regular season roster of 53 men per team, and 32 teams in the NFL, we are looking at a total of 1,696 players. Let’s just call it a nice even 1700. So in terms of percentages, only 15% of NFL players are tested during the regular season for PED’s. Sort of alarming, wouldn’t you say?

On to the substance abuse policy. Here’s the suspension breakdown: 1st offense puts a player into “the program” (which I’ll explain further) and does not warrant suspension but does carry a fine- 3/17 of a players salary (yes, that’s seriously the percentage used). A 2nd offense bumps the players fine to 4/17 of their salary and carries a suspension up to 4 games (typically only get 1 or 2 games). A 3rd offense can get a player up to six games and the 4th offense is a year banishment from the league with commissioner approval for reinstatement. Same principle applies here with minimum’s- the league will go harder on those who are caught tampering. And rightfully so. As for frequency of testing, each player will be tested once between April 20th and August 9th, unless you’ve failed once already and are in “The Program,” which is nothing more than the league telling a player “Fool me once? Shame on you. Fool me twice? Take a seat.” Essentially the league gives players a get of jail free card. The only real ramifications with the program? The frequency of testing increases, and they can surprise you at any point in time, no matter where you are. You get 2 years in the program and if you can survive it clean? You’re back to the once a year testing. And honestly, when players get suspended under this policy, I can’t help but laugh. Look at it this way- you get popped for pot once (knowing all along when you will be tested mind you) and suddenly the frequency of your testing increases. So you stop smoking pot, right? NOPE! Popped again. But seriously, you learned your lesson and you’ll stop now, right?! (facepalm)

These are the rules folks. Etched in stone. Agreed upon by the league and the NFL Players Association. No way around it (unless your name is Richard Sherman apparently).

As for the personal conduct policy… that’s a bit of a grey area. Under this policy you can see anything from domestic violence (Rice) to DUI’s to weapons charges and so on. The best way to summarize this policy is to say if you 1) have criminal charges filed against you, or 2) make the league look bad, OR 3) some combination of the two? You’re about to feel the wrath of Goodell. This policy is the one that catches the most flack, and while I sometimes agree that the penalties are inconsistent? I think the complaints are completely unjust. Let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the room: Ray Rice. Rice, the ownership in Baltimore, and the commissioner are all getting crucified over Rice’s recent suspension. The biggest gripe is that it’s “not enough” and “out of line.” The truth? It’s actually not that out of line (I, for one, do agree 4 games would’ve been justifiable, although he would’ve had it reduced to 2 anyway). If you look at the last 7 players to be charged with domestic violence in the NFL- 2 had no suspension, 2 had a 1 game suspensions, 2 had a 2 game suspensions, and the last of them… he was a special case. Vikings CB Chris Cook had felony domestic violence charges against him in 2011, and was suspended by the team (not the league) for 10 games. And truth be told, some of the players with a lesser suspension than Rice had much worse cases against them- Merriman choking out internet “star” (whatever that means) Tila Tequila, James Harrison breaking down his girlfriends door, snapping her phone in half when she tried to dial 911 and slapping her to the ground… both received a whopping zero game suspension. But I digress… (my apologies, the purple koolaid got to me). The point with Rice is that the commissioner is the judge, jury and executioner when it comes to the personal conduct policy, and does his best to implement a fair punishment in-line with similar cases. Don’t get me wrong, you will see suspensions all over the place- Plaxico Burress got a year suspension for shooting himself in the leg. I’ll repeat- shooting himself in the leg. Michael Vick got 2 years (actually an indefinite suspension followed by a 19 month sentence, then reinstated the next season) for his implication in the dog fighting ring. Big Ben got 6 games for being accused- never charged- of rape by 2 women. Then there’s the whole Bounty Gate thing, and suspensions to coaches, players and owners, but let’s just chalk that up to a hot mess. What I’m driving at in a round about ADD driven way here- the personal conduct policy is all over the board, but is has to be. Unlike the PED and substance abuse policies which are cut and dry (you either took it or you didn’t), the personal conduct policy covers every possible criminal charge you can think of. It’s a catch all for any player who gets to ride in the backseat of a police cruiser. 

Let’s bring it back home now- what’s the major difference between the PED and substance abuse policy versus the personal conduct policy? The predetermined discipline. Within the CBA, players agreed to the testing, policies and punishments that go with the PED and substance abuse policies. However, the personal conduct policy? They essentially handed commissioner Goodell the keys and said ‘have fun.’ This was not a decision made by Goodell. He did not go into those meetings and say “sorry guys, but I am handling this policy and I’ll do whatever I want.” Instead, the league suggested it, and the players caved and signed off on it. Why you ask? Yea, me too. The resounding consensus has to do with the HGH testing and that the league wanted to implement it immediately, players said no (wonder why?) and the league caved on that in order to pick up the personal conduct punishments. Essentially, the players were more concerned about getting busted for HGH needles than punishments being doled out at the discretion of the commissioner. And while the players eventually agreed to implement HGH testing to some degree? It’s been a few years and we still haven’t seen a lick of progress made on this. And honestly? That’s okay. That’s their prerogative. But by no means do they have any ground to complain about punishments for drug related offenses if it’s what they signed off on. That’s like a player complaining to their franchise that they don’t make enough money when they signed their contract for x dollars to begin with. And we all know that never happens, right? RIGHT?

So let’s correct these comments shall we? 

“Oh so Ray Rice can knock his wife out cold and only gets 2 games, but Josh Gordon smokes pot and gets suspended for an entire season? Real fair.” Considering this is Rice’s 1st offense ever under a policy controlled by the commissioner and falls in line with similar punishments, as opposed to Gordon’s 4th failed drug test under a policy with set punishments? Yes, it is fair.

“Dwayne Bowe is in a car with a guy with pot and he gets suspended 1 game. Guess it’s only half as bad as beating your wife for 2 games.” These are 2 completely different policies and the players agreed to the punishments. Go gripe to the players, not the league.

So there you have it- a little NFL policy knowledge bomb for your Friday afternoon. 




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