Rodgers’ return a moot point for teetering Packers

Aaron Rodgers can’t stand watching the Green Bay Packers on television. Packer fans are beginning to relate.

Rodgers’ aversion to the Pack on the tube is more benign than that of his admirers, some of whom today are considering the merits of snow tubing or ice fishing as an alternative to watching their team get thrashed on a weekly basis.

The Packers’ quarterback was referring to his frustration as an injured player, and the difficulty of watching the offense sputter while he’s unable to do anything about it.

The question of Rodgers coming back this season from the broken collarbone he suffered in Minnesota may have been answered Monday night – indirectly, but assuredly – in the disappointing 30-17 loss to Detroit.

“If (I’m) healthy and it makes sense to come back,” Rodgers said of his possible return in Week 15, “I’m going to come back.”

In other words, if Rodgers is healed by Dec. 17 and the Packers are in the playoff hunt, he’ll be back in the lineup for the final three games against Carolina, Minnesota and Detroit.

The team still being alive for a postseason run is the only scenario that “makes sense” for his return. It’s a possibility embraced today by only the fiercely loyal and the mildly deluded of fans. Without Rodgers, the Packers are being exposed as very ordinary, and hopes for them to even stay at their current .500 level five weeks from now are fading.

Of Rodgers’ replacement, Packers coach Mike McCarthy insisted, “Brett Hundley isn’t our issue.”

More accurately, Hundley isn’t their only issue. Replacing an injured future Hall of Fame quarterback is a constant issue, and Hundley is a work in progress. His value as a runner, for example, is mitigated by a tendency to dawdle in the pocket.

McCarthy was more likely alluding to the Packers’ anemic pass rush, which still appears to be doing a 3-Mississippi count before wandering in.

Cornerback Damarious Randall had a fumble recovery – the fourth straight game where he has come up with a turnover – safety Morgan Burnett made some impressive sticks, and the run defense, which held the Lions to less than 2 yards per carry, stopped Detroit three times with first-and-goal on the 1, forcing a field goal attempt.

But the Packers can’t get to the quarterback.

The lack of a pass rush was only an irritation when Rodgers was under center and the Packers could outscore an opponent in a shootout. Now it’s a liability on full display. In today’s NFL, no team will be involved in many 13-10 games when the opposing QB has all day to throw.

“We have to play better than we did (against the Lions),” defensive tackle Mike Daniels said. “We can’t give them an inch, ‘cause they’ll take a mile.”

Stafford’s 361 yards passing actually amounted to only about one-fifth of a mile, but the Lions’ night included too many ridiculously easy conversions on third-and-12, or second-and-18. They didn’t punt once. On the one series that the Packers appeared to force a three-and-out, Daniels was called for unnecessary roughness – a ticky-tacky call, but a stupid penalty nonetheless.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, the Packers lost one of their offensive tackles. Bryan Bulaga tore his ACL against the Lions and is out for the season.

The depth of the Packers’ tumble to mediocrity is demonstrated in their being listed as three-point underdogs in Chicago this Sunday. You’d have to go back to 2008 to find a game where the Bears were favored over the Packers.

With Rodgers sidelined and a pass rush missing for so long it belongs on a milk carton, the prospects for January are bleak.

“We’re not pushing the panic button,” wide receiver Davante Adams said. “We’re halfway through the season. We press the accelerator.”

They can press all the way to the floor. But if it’s not in gear, they aren’t going anywhere.

Veteran sportswriter Gary Seymour’s column appears weekly in the Leader. He can be contacted at sports@wolfrivermedia.com.