In lieu of massive offensive line problems and an inconsistent running game, a critical question hasn't come up nearly enough in discussing the Green Bay Packer offense.
What happened to head coach Mike McCarthy's West Coast attack?
Under quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the offense has placed an increasing emphasis on down field routes and cashing in on big plays while easing off of the more fundamental West Coast offense McCarthy employed with Brett Favre.
Remember the quick-hitting slants and hot reads that allowed Packer receivers to rack up copious amounts of yards after the catch with Favre at the helm?
I do, and it was beautiful.
It worked to perfection in 2007 and the Packers still have the personnel to excel with a similar attack, but they continue to look down field and expose their greatest weakness.
Namely their alarmingly porous offensive line.
Rodgers is taking a great deal of heat for holding onto the ball, and with good reason. But it's not as if he enjoys getting beat like a pinata.
His receivers are all down field for the most part, and the offense often fails to hit the hot read out of the backfield, or have one at all.
Or you can use a simpler equation. A bad offensive line coupled with slow-developing routes and a turnover-conscious quarterback (usually) equals Aaron Rodgers getting the crap kicked out of him for sixty minutes.
Sound like a winning formula?
The philosophy also helps explain the decline of Greg Jennings this season. Wonder what happened to him?
It's not a matter of the money going to his head or a sign of slippage in his game, he just isn't being utilized properly.
Jennings is an excellent route-runner and has a knack for piling up yards after the catch. However, he is not an elite jump-ball guy like a Larry Fitzgerald or Randy Moss or a blazing speedster.
If the offense remembers its identity and gets back to timing slants and other quick, precise routes that compliment Jennings' abilities, you will see him re-emerge as an elite receiver.
Donald Driver has had an exceptional year catching some of those slants and turning them into big plays, opportunities Jennings hasn't had nearly enough of.
Driver has also made some spectacular down field catches (the one-hander against St. Louis comes to mind), but he too is more of a after-the-catch type of player.
This isn't to say that the offense isn't still putting up points and picking up yards in bunches.
But the philosophy is flawed.
The line is too porous to avoid giving up a critical drive-killing sack or penalty as the Packers repeatedly attempt to hit the big-play jackpot, and Green Bay will continue to struggle maintaining a consistent attack with their current approach.
Instead of consistently trying to hit a home run, the Packers need to get back to hitting some singles and doubles offensively, which is really what the West Coast offense is all about.
McCarthy is getting away from his own proven offensive blueprint and Aaron Rodgers' body is footing the bill.