Your stats tell me that we are weak up the guts. The biggest problem with this team is that we lose the time of possession battle against good teams because our offensive line and running backs are subpar. Improve the running back position and run blocking - and the defense will automatically get better by being fresher. Oh, and improve the linebacking corp as well.
Weak up the guts. Yes. (IMO the only exception to this is Pickett, and he was hurt against SF.)
Agree that OL is subpar. Been saying this for years. Sitton is stud. Rest are just guys. (I know people like Bulaga, but IMO they've overrated him. He may be good enough with Sitton next to him, but not if Sitton has to cover for the guy on the other side as well.
What I would like to see is have Bulaga and Newhouse battle it out for RT, someone (and I don't mean a 7th rounder) to battle Dietrich Smith for center, and someone to battle Lang for LG (also not a 7th rounder), and someone to battle Sherrod for LT (and, yes, not a 7th rounder here as well). Bank on me to use the "OL OL OL" refrain more than once this offseason!
That said, I don't think the RBs are the problem. I think that Harris/Green/Grant/even Starks all have it in them to be "the guy" on a given Sunday. I would have no problem if the Packers "went with the hot hand" every week, did it by committee, or both. And, much as I think the OL as a whole is subpar, I think you can run regularly over Dietrich-Smith/Sitton. But as macbob and others have pointed out, the coaching staff must truly be committed to run as an option. And not just to running out of the shotgun formation.
It's bad enough when, because the run isn't working early, they abandon it too quick. But it made no sense at all for them to stop giving the rock to Harris in the SF game and run everything out of the option. Harris was running hard, running well, and getting extra yards when blocks weren't there. Why the heck the only "halftime adjustment" the Packers made was to adjust away from
something that was working boggles the mind.
Getting away from problems surrounding running the ball, though, I don't think you can blame time of possession woes on the offense exclusively. At least not in the playoff failures. Because in both last year and this year's losses, the defense showed little ability to get off the field throughout the game. Sure, they were gassed by the end of the game, and McCarthy's play calling on offense and the offense's lack of execution contributed to the gassing. But the main reason they were gassed was they couldn't stop anything and couldn't get themselves off the field. If you let the other team's quarterback rip off 15-20 yard runs again and again, damn straight you're going to get tired. And you have no one to blame for that but yourself.
Each of the Packers' problems are magnified by the others. The running game suffers because the OL is not doing its job. The OL is exposed because Rodgers holds the ball too long AND because whoever calls the plays goes away from the run too easy, uses the shotgun too much, and forgets about the value of slants and other quick passes. Because the OL doesn't do its job, the vertical passing game suffers and Rodgers gets hit far too much. Because the vertical passing game suffers and Rodgers gets sacked so much, the offense spends too little time on the field. Because the offensive spends too little time on the field. Because the offense spends too little time on the field, the defense has even more trouble stopping the other team from scoring. And because the defense has more trouble stopping the other team from scoring, Mike McCarthy and company feel compelled to go away from the run and toward the shotgun and toward the deep passing game more, repeating the cycle of mediocrity all over again.
I'm a big believer that you should always play to your strengths more. But part of that means knowing what your weaknesses are, and not doing the things that give your weaknesses more power over the final outcome. I like McCarthy. But I also think the thing that keeps him from being a great coach -- as opposed to a good/very good one, is that he is sometimes blinded by our strengths (Rodgers and the receiving possibilities) that he puts the weaker parts of the team in positions where they are more likely to fail. He does it with the OL too often, he does it with the run game too often; and because he does it with the run game an the OL too often, he does it with the defense.
And the same is true with Capers. The weaknesses of the Packers defense are (save for Pickett) up the middle and in the linebacking corps, and to a lesser extent, its youth. Yet he too often emphasizes blitzing and coverage schemes that depend on above-average performance up the middle and from the LBs. And that require extra discipline from that youth.
And its even true a bit with Thompson. Where have Thompson's drafts been weakest? The OL. He has one unqualified success (Sitton). He has one semi-success (Bulaga). He has some where it is still too early to tell (Sherrod, Datko). But mostly he's been providing late round draft choices and tier three free agents; and even when he's drafted OL high, he's picked mostly late-round talent (e.g. Colledge, Spitz). Yet he stays with his same approach to talent acquisition (build through the draft and not overpay for others' free agents or our own) for the OL (where it hasn't worked) as well as for the other positions (WR, DB, QB) where it has.
The more I think about it, the more I think that the solution isn't in getting rid of this or that coach. Even if we eliminate Capers' part in "accenting our weaknesses," we still have the problems of McCarthy and Thompson doing the same. The solution for the Packers is much harder, because the Packers as an organization must find a way to recognize these tendencies in themselves and resist them. Capers must recognize more his weakness in trying to finesse too much. And McCarthy must recognize more his weakness in playcalling/gameplanning. Thompson must recognize more his weakness and the scouting department's in identifying OL talent. And recognizing their respective weaknesses more, all of them must take active steps in changing the way they make those particular decisions so that it's harder for them to succumb to them again.
It's tough. They don't want to stop doing what makes them well above average at what they do (e.g., Capers' willingness to try different combinations, McCarthy's passing mind, Thompson's ability to identify collegiate talent and those who identify collegiate talent). But they do need to recognize where those very talents tend to get them in more trouble rather than less.
But that's why they get paid the big bucks. Part of what coordinators and head coaches and general managers are being paid to do that their subordinates are not paid to do, is to minimize the effects of their own shortcomings. Any schmo can point out what their underlings are doing wrong. But the true leaders, the truly successful, are also able to assess themselves and figure out what they are doing wrong.
Greatness lies not in correcting others or
in eliminating the weakness of others. Greatness lies in succeeding despite the errors of others AND in working around your own weaknesses.