It's Hard To Criticize These Moves Now
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Chris Havel

The Green Bay Packers' every move is open to criticism, second-guessing and debate. It goes with the territory. It is what media and fans do. It is fun.

Occasionally, it is instructive to step back, consider past decisions and re-evaluate the merits good or bad of those moves.

Here are five of the Packers' most widely criticized decisions:

  • Aaron Kampman signed a four-year, $21 million contract extension the day before the start of free agency. The move brought critics out in full force. They felt Ted Thompson, the Packers' general manager, overpaid for mediocrity.

    Think again.

    Kampman has exceeded everyone's expectations, save his own. If he had signed with Minnesota in free agency, I suspect there is a likelihood the Vikings defeat the Packers on Sunday. Minnesota's defense played the run superbly, but without a top-flight defensive end to pressure Brett Favre, the Packers' offense stole the show.

    Meantime, Kampman anchored a defensive line that pressured Brad Johnson, played the run and snuffed eight of the Vikings' final nine drives.

  • When the Packers made little effort to re-sign kicker Ryan Longwell, fans and yours truly felt they were being penny wise and dollar foolish. A strong kicker can win multiple games in the parity-laden NFL.

    Enter Dave Rayner. The Packers' scouts found him, and the coaches gave him a quick vote of confidence by releasing Billy Cundiff. Rayner responded like a pro. He has a stronger leg on kickoffs than Longwell, and he has been above average on field goals. He hasn't won a game in the clutch, but does anyone doubt he couldn't?

  • Thompson's decision to allow starting guards Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera to sign elsewhere in free agency drew heated criticism. Signing Matt O'Dwyer and Adrian Klemm fueled the fire.

    Today, the Packers' zone-blocking scheme is making strides, and rookie guards Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz are improving with every snap. Thompson's decision to free up salary-cap space, and to draft the guards of the future, is difficult to argue with. They are young, and can grow together in the new scheme and provide the future foundation.

  • When Ahman Green sustained a potentially career-ending injury, many thought the Packers were foolish to re-sign him. Sure, the incentive-laden contract offered protection, but did anyone think Green could complete the comeback? Apparently, Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy felt he could.

  • Many fans wanted Nick Barnett moved to outside linebacker and Brady Poppinga benched after two weeks, because he was a liability in pass coverage.

    Today, Barnett is playing his best football, and Poppinga continues to improve in coverage and excel against the run while playing a key part in the blitz package. Add rookie A.J. Hawk, whom many felt wasn't worthy of the fifth overall pick (including yours truly), and the Packers have an exceptional trio of linebackers.

    It is perfectly acceptable to second-guess the Packers' moves, and it is true they make their share of mistakes. But it is only fair to acknowledge the good moves, too.

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