I think the injury issue is greatly significant for a team like Green Bay. Fact is, to make a run like we made last year, we need our guys healthy. We don't have the system -- or, to call a spade a spade, we don't have the coaching -- to be able to make up for injuries to the likes of Barnett and Cullen Jenkins and Bigby and Grant and Tauscher and Wells. To win 11-13 games, we need our best people on the field, and we need them playing well. We can't plug-n-play like the Patriots can; we're not a machine that can run on spare parts.
Now, when I say that injuries are a major factor in this debacle, I don't mean that this fact exonerates McCarthy and Thompson in any way, shape, or form. We need to have a system, top to bottom, where the loss of a guy or two doesn't condemn the season to failure. But, fact is, we don't have that kind of system. With this GM and this coaching staff, we have to cross our fingers that guys don't get hurt, and two or three of them have career years, or our ceiling is 7-9.
As for my second point -- catching every break last year -- let's review the season game by game:
- vs. Eagles: Pack wins on a last-second field goal following this sequence of events: Favre fumbles at midfield with four minutes left, but Eagles can't move the ball, and punt. Packers offense goes nowhere again, and GB punts -- but Eagles return man muffs it (that's what she said), and Pack gets the ball at the Eagles 30 with less than a minute left. Two runs, field goal, ball game.
- @ Giants: The week after giving up 45 points to Dallas, the Giants defense -- the one that will later dominate the Patriots in the Super Bowl -- cedes another 35 to the Pack. Elisha Manning plays despite a separated shoulder. Also, DeShawn Fucking Wynn (!) runs for two touchdowns.
- vs. Chargers: Trailing by four in the fourth quarter, the Packers are stopped on fourth-and-one at the San Diego one. The defense eventually forces a punt, and, on the very next play, the Chargers blow a coverage and Jennings turns a simple slant route into a 57-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Barnett picks off Phil Rivers on the next series to seal the deal.
- @ Minnesota: Thank God for Brad Childress. The only man on the field who could stop Adrian Peterson was the Chiller, and he did just that, giving Peterson a mere twelve carries (and even then, Peterson manages to rush for 112 yards, not to mention that he averaged 32 yards per kickoff return).
- vs. Bears: Loss.
- vs. Redskins: On a day where the offense could do nothing, the Packers get a 57-yard fumble return from Charles Woodson for the game-winning score.
- @ Broncos: After playing brilliantly for most of the game, the defense allows Denver to drive inside the Green Bay 10 with less than 30 seconds left. The Broncos call for a quick out to Brandon Marshall, but Jay Cutler fires a worm burner and one-hops his wide receiver, who had beaten Al Harris like a rented mule on the play. Overtime. Eighty-yard, game-winning touchdown to Jennings on one of the best balls Brett Favre has thrown in his life.
- @ Chiefs: After the Chiefs take a 22-16 lead with 5 minutes to go, Favre finds Jennings on -- what else? -- a busted coverage, as Donnie Edwards fails to get deep enough to prevent a throw down the seam. Woodson returns a pick for a garbage-time TD in the final minute of the game.
- vs. Vikings: A dominating 34-0 thrashing of the Mudducks. Not much else to say about this one.
- vs. Carolina: The Panthers, having lost Jake Delhomme for the season, are forced to summon Vinnie Testaverde out of his AARP meeting. And then Steve Smith doesn't play either -- not that it would matter with a geriatric throwing you the ball.
- @ Lions: Favre plays out of his mind, completing 20 passes in a row. The Lions continue to fall apart, dropping to 6-5 after starting the year 6-2.
- @ Cowboys: Loss.
- vs. Raiders: Bye week.
- @ Rams: The Rams, by this point, had packed up the family truckster and were on the road to Wally World. Reports indicate that there may have been 500 people inside the Edward Jones Dome. (Is it still called the Edward Jones Dome?) Anyway, the Rams continue to mail it in, and the Packers win by 19.
- @ Bears: Loss.
- vs. Lions: The Lions complete their collapse, and the Packers enjoy Bye Week #2.
So, no, I don't think I'm going out on much of a limb when I say that we got every bounce last year. A lot of things went right, a lot of Packers -- not just Favre -- made huge plays at critical moments, and a lot of players on the other teams had colossal brain farts at the worst possible moments.
This year, it's a different story. Again, I'm not saying this to exonerate McCarthy or Thompson. All I'm saying is that to go 13-3 in THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE with a team that isn't extraordinarily well coached and isn't loaded with talent, you need guys to stay healthy, and you need the ball to bounce your way. If you don't get those things, you worry about losing to an 0-15 team in Week 17.