Analyzing the Green Bay Packers Offensive Line Headaches

Brandon RaderContributor IOctober 7, 2009

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 15:  Offensive guard Allen Barbre #78 of the Green Bay Packers fixes his hair against the Cleveland Browns during the preseason game at Lambeau Field on August 15, 2009 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

I hear a lot of talk about how Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy should be fired for what they have "done" to the Packers offensive line.  So, lets review some history here regarding the offensive line.  

Yes, the day that Ted Thompson came in as the general manager the Green Bay Packers had one of the best offensive lines in football.  Anchored by Chad Clifton, Marco Rivera, Mike Wahle, Mark Tauscher, and center Grey Ruegamer.  In 2004 that offensive line set a single-season record for fewest sacks allowed at 14.  A far cry from the 20 Aaron Rodgers received in four games this year already.

However, what are the chances that line would be the same today if Ted Thompson had "his head on straight" as some people suggest?

Both of the guards in that lineup (Rivera and Wahle) were unrestricted free agents at the end of 2004.  Ted Thompson's first major decision was to keep the guards (who by the way both wanted FAT contracts) or let them go and rebuild the line.  Thompson chose to rebuild the line.  Bad decision?  Let's see...

Mike Wahl spent 3 years (2005-2007 left the team officially in Feb. '08) as a fixture on the Carolina Panthers offensive line, even making the Pro Bowl in 2005.  During that stretch they made a run deep into the playoffs and were one of the best running teams in football.  In 2008, he signed a new contract with the Seattle Seahawks and was placed on injured reserve Dec. 5.  On July 31 of 2009 he officially retired from football.  

So Mike Wahl had 3 good years of football left in him when he left Green Bay.  Our situation would be about the same because he would not be currently on the team.  

Marco Rivera was a three-time Pro Bowl guard for the Green Bay Packers, and commanded a huge salary from the Dallas Cowboys when he signed after the 2004 season.  Rivera played 14 games for the Cowboys in 2005, missing the last two games for a neck injury.  He spent the '06 season injured and in 2007 was released from the Cowboys for serious back problems.  

Once again, Ted Thompson saved money by not signing a high-priced player near the end of their careers.  

Now, Grey Ruegamer seems like the perennial journeyman NFL player.  Drafted in 1999 by the Miami Dolphins, he also played for the Steelers, Giants, Patriots, and the Seahawks.  Grey is currently not in football.  

So it seems like regardless of what the offensive line looked like in 2004, it's clear that offensive line would not be in place Monday night to protect Aaron Rodgers. 

Now the cardinal rule in letting high-priced players go is you replace talent with talent.  This is where you can criticize Ted Thompson.  For the most part, he has made some sound football decisions regarding the 53-man roster.  But when it comes to the offensive line, we keep coming up short. 

Injuries are part of the game, so he can hardly be blamed for Chad Clifton missing Monday night.  Mark Tauscher the Pro Bowl right tackle is finally healthy again (injured in December of last year) and in Green Bay. 

One can hope he signs with the Packers and helps to establish the line again.  As is quite evident, the game is won or lost along the lines.  It's clear the Green Bay Packers need help along theirs.  Getting a Healthy Clifton and Tauscher back and moving, Colledge and Spitz back to their starting positions of left guard and center, respectively could go a very long way to fixing that which is clearly broken. 

It looks bad, and it is.  The Vikings put on display the problem on the Monday night stage, but all is not lost.  The bye week is here, it's a chance for players to get healthy and get better.  They won't be the 2004 starting offensive line, but given time they could be the 2009 starting offensive line, and we can all hope that will have positive connotations come next year.