S Sean Richardson: Overcame career-threatening neck injury that ended his 2012 season to play 174 snaps on defense after being activated from the PUP list. Impressive physical specimen who came back from spinal fusion surgery and could challenge for starting job next season. Team was high on him as an undrafted free agent from Vanderbilt in 2012, when he made the roster coming out of camp.
S Chris Banjo: Signed a week into training camp, proved to be a solid special teams contributor. Played 192 snaps on defense and contributed 15 tackles and one pass breakup.
K Mason Crosby: Much-maligned kicker responded in a big way to a horrendous 2012 season and the training-camp competition that followed. Made a career-best 33 of 37 kicks to earn back all $1.6 million he gave up in salary when he took a pay cut to $800,000 before the season. Seems to be in a great place mentally and will aim for a 90 percent conversion rate next year.
P Tim Masthay: Set the franchise record for net punting yet again with a 39.0-yard net. Landed 22 of his 64 punts inside the 20-yard line and only had five touchbacks, as he’s mastered the Aussie-style pooch punt. Weather and an inconsistent coverage unit didn’t do him many favors but he’s rapidly growing into one of the league’s top punters. Started the year kicking off in Crosby’s place but eventually ceded that job to Crosby as the weather turned and the team wanted more directional kickoffs.
LS Brett Goode: Well-liked, easy-going long-snapper whose biggest highlight of the season was being featured on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The consummate pro who shows up for work every day, does his job, doesn’t draw attention to himself by his behavior or by on-field mistakes, and is beloved among his teammates, including Rodgers.
Head coach Mike McCarthy: Was unwilling to give a self-evaluation when asked Wednesday about how he’d done this season, saying, “I don’t know, that’s probably a question for Ted. I’m not really ready to … What did I do? I didn’t win the last game, so I didn’t do a good enough job.” The team’s struggles in the immediate aftermath of Rodgers’ injury, going 0-4-1 in the five games including the loss to the Bears, made one wonder what role the head coach played in not overcoming the obviously huge loss. Still got a young team missing its star player to the playoffs, which cannot be pooh-poohed. Took exception when a reporter asked in a roundabout way about his first-and-goal call for a handoff to Cobb on what turned out to be the Packers’ final possession of the season. Didn’t intentionally get Lacy hurt by his decision not to kneel out the final 15 seconds of the first half against Atlanta on Dec. 8 and insisted he did not err in that situation. As the offensive playcaller, those types of second-guesses come with the territory. Called it the most challenging season of his career – more so than his rookie season of 2006 or the 2008 season where his team went 6-10 after the acrimonious departure of Brett Favre – which is really saying something. Now eight years in, only Curly Lambeau coached more regular-season and playoff games in Green Bay than McCarthy. His challenge going forward will be to keep his message fresh and replenish a coaching staff that, after years of continuity, could lose a few key cogs. He has control over staff hires, so those will be on him to fill. Must continue to work on his relationship with Rodgers, who angrily argued with him on the sideline in Cincinnati in September and can be challenging and headstrong.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers: Appears to have survived the angry Packers fans who were calling for his head again this season. Certainly had his ups-and-downs but cannot be held solely responsible for the defense’s inconsistencies. Weathered the storm without Matthews, Jolly and Hayward, all of whom were missed. His unit finished tied for 24th in scoring defense (26.8 points per game), 25th in yards allowed (372.3), 25th in rushing yards allowed (125.0), 24th in passing yards allowed (247.3), tied for eighth in sacks (44) and tied for 20th in takeaways (22). Does what he can with young, inexperienced players in his complex system, but might be better served to dumb down some of its more challenging aspects as simplifying may allow some younger players to play faster and more decisively. Will never have a unit that will be comprised of solely veteran players, not with Thompson as the GM, but getting some impact players would help ease the pain of playing youngsters.
Offensive coordinator Tom Clements: Even without Rodgers for essentially eight games, coordinated an offense that finished No. 3 in yards (400.3 per game), tied for eighth in scoring (26.1 points per game), seventh in rushing (133.5 yards per game, and tied for fourth with 4.7 yards per attempt) and sixth in passing (266.8 yards per game). With a head coach who calls the plays, it’s hard to gauge just what Clements’ strengths and weaknesses are, but the team’s red-zone failings (a 50.8 percent touchdown rate, compared to 68.0 percent a year ago) has to be one of his offseason priorities.
Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum: As is always the case, the injury epidemic took its toll on special teams, where 39 different players saw action. Slocum made sure Crosby got his act together after last year’s train wreck of a season, watched Masthay evolve into one of the league’s better punters and worked diligently on a return game that struggled, especially on kickoffs. He was among those who decided to jettison returner Jeremy Ross, who was made an example of after his muff against Cincinnati in Week 3. Ross went on to be very productive for the Detroit Lions, perhaps simply benefitting from a change of scenery. Goal for next season – aside from better health – has to be to get the return game going, as the Packers were 30th in the 32-team NFL with a 20.3-yard average on kickoff returns. Hyde, who took over for Ross, did have a 93-yard punt return that helped the Packers finish seventh in return average (11.3).
The FRONT OFFICE
General manager Ted Thompson: While the architect of the 2010 Super Bowl XLV title team still remains a top talent evaluator, his recent drafts have had their stinkers. The 2011 draft, at this point, is Cobb and a bunch of players who either haven’t been healthy (including the first-round pick, Sherrod) or guys that are no longer on the roster. Thanks in part to untimely injuries, the 2012 draft class, which had six straight defensive players taken to start, did little to contribute this season beyond Daniels. Perry, Worthy, Hayward, McMillian and inside linebacker Terrell Manning, who was cut at the end of training camp, were either inconsistent or injured or both and did little to excite. The team’s ability to add quality undrafted free agents is also under a bit of scrutiny, as some wonder if too many overachievers might be a bad idea. Thompson is facing a key offseason with 17 unrestricted free agents and some interesting players to prioritize. It will also be fascinating to see if Thompson, who hasn’t added a free agent of significance since 2006, finally makes a move on the market. It will also be a very important draft, as the Packers will pick 21st in the first round, and another year where Thompson doesn’t have three trusted advisors and friends – Seattle GM John Schneider, Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie and Kansas City GM John Dorsey – to help him. While the executives who remain are solid football men (college scouting director Brian Gutekunst, pro personnel director Eliot Wolf and senior personnel advisor Alonzo Highsmith), it’s difficult to not at least wonder how much Schneider, McKenzie and Dorsey, who are all good enough to now be running their own personnel departments, are missed.
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.