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Veteran Packers Reporter Reflects On Career Change And Pack's Chances

Bob McGinn's Regular Packers Column Returns

(WPR)---Bob McGinn had big plans for retirement. The longtime Green Bay Packers beat reporter for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Green Bay Press-Gazette was going to move to Michigan with his wife, golf a few times a week and take a much deserved break.

But then, he hurt his shoulder. That ended his dreams of regular trips to the golf course.

So what else was a "stir crazy" newspaper veteran going to do with his time? Go back to what he knows best: write about the Packers.

With the help and encouragement of his son, McGinn launched a subscription-based website, Bob McGinn Football. It’s the game day analysis, NFL Draft Series and grading players with footballs that readers fell for (and clashed with) years ago.

WPR's Maureen McCollum recently talked with McGinn on his career move and to get a sense of how the Packers are doing so far this season.

Maureen McCollum: I’m sorry your plan to retire and golf hit a road bump, but selfishly, it’s great to see you writing again. Congrats on the new site!

Bob McGinn: Thanks a lot, Maureen. I mean after the draft, I'm always kind of exhausted and I was. So, I really wasn't going to write much at all, at least wait three, four months to see what happened.

Then, my son started talking to me and that was the key. He said, "You can't let your draft series die, dad." From there, the discussions went to doing some Packers stuff to where we are today and to forming our own website. You know, 97 percent of this, really, is the chance to work with one of my three children, Charlie McGinn, who lives in Milwaukee. He's in national sales.

MM: And he's been helping with social media, too?

BM: He's done it all! All the business end. He said, "Dad, you just worry about the writing and I'll do the rest." He was true to his word.

MM: It's still early on, but as you've transitioned from newspapers to running your own website where you can do almost whatever you want. Do you feel like your writing style has changed? Do you feel like you're analyzing the game differently?

BM: No, I don't. (Laughs) You know, I'm still trying to operate as a journalist and not a blogger. No, after 42 years in the business, I'm still a newspaper guy at heart. It is extremely motivating and exciting to be an entrepreneur and to be my own boss for my first time in my life and to be working with my son. It is.

MM: When you were working with the Journal Sentinel and elsewhere, you never seemed to shy away from calling out the Packers organization. Do you approach your stories the same way?

BM: Maybe I do? But whatever I write then or now, I have to be true to myself. You know, I was at the Journal Sentinel for 26 years and the Journal before that...Marty Kaiser, George Stanley, Mike Davis, Garry Howard, Chuck Salituro, all my superiors ... they never tried to tone anything down or tell me what to write. They knew I had enough of a track record that I was never going to hurt the paper. So no, I don't feel like I have any more liberty now than then.

MM: So let's dive into the Packers. We're coming off of the first few games. One aspect of the Packers' playing that has stuck out this season is the defense. How are you assessing the team’s defense so far this year?

BM: Well, they haven't played great offenses. Seattle had a terrible offensive line and that's held true. The Bengals ... they have some talent but when they came to Lambeau Field on Sept. 24th, they hadn't scored a touchdown in two games. And the Bears’ offense has a bad quarterback. So, the one-time (the Packers) faced a good offense, Atlanta, they got blown out.

It's hard to judge right now. This has been the easiest two weeks of their schedule, the Bengals and Bears pair of games.

So, I don't know about the defense right now. You know, (defensive end) Mike Daniels has been hurt for almost all four games. We haven't see (cornerback) Davon House, so I just don't know how good they're going to be on defense. It's really a mystery.

MM: Your colleague, Rob Reischel, wrote on Bob McGinn Football that “The 'Fire Dom Capers' crowd has been silenced the first month of the season.” Do you agree with that? Will Packers fans trust in defensive coordinator Dom Capers once and for all?

BM: You know, one thing about Capers, if he got fired here and it was January, he would have his pick of defensive coordinator jobs. I'm quite confident he could have three or four jobs. People really respect what he does and how multiple he is. He's very hard to get a read on. He may lack some respect among fans here, but among football people around the league, he is highly respected. I've talked with enough GMs and personnel people to know that. 

So, I don't know, do they have enough pass rush? We don't know. Can they cover? (Cornerback) Damarious Randall and (cornerback Quinten) Rollins have been disappointments again this year. It all relies on Kevin King. Now, he can come through at cornerback. They're good at safety and inside linebacker, there's been some pleasant development by Blake Martinez, but the whole unit, I'm just not sure.

MM: So what does it take for the Packers to be confident in their defense and for the fans to trust in the defense?

BM: Alright, now this week, they play at Dallas. If they can stop that offense, that's a very high-powered group. That would be a huge signature moment. When they play New Orleans here (on Oct. 22nd), New Orleans gains a lot of yards with (quarterback) Drew Brees. That's one.

Detroit (on Nov. 6th) with (quarterback) Matthew Stafford has weapons. Plus, Pittsburgh coming up here (on Nov. 26th). So those are all litmus test games and we'll know more about the defense then.

MM: You talked about how a number of injuries has caused the defense to experience a number of setbacks. The Packers have seen offensive injuries, too. What's going on with all the injuries? Is it because players are getting bigger and hitting harder?

BM: One thing, Maureen, this is the team we see every Sunday. We all dote on this team. But Green Bay has not lost one player for the season because of injury that's of any significance. The team they just played, the Bears, they have four starters out for the year, whether it's (injuries to the) ACLs or Achilles or something like that.

So right now, Green Bay has not been hit hard. Yeah, they've had problems at one position tackle, which has been in the headlines a lot, but in the grand scheme of things and you look at the way injuries have hit teams and Green Bay over the last 20-25 years, this has not been a bad year.

But around the league, why injuries do occur, hmmm. Yeah, guys are bigger. They're running faster. Thankfully, artificial turf is gone, which was a terrible problem for players and injuries. But you have field turf which is only a bit better. Teams are getting away from grass, even high schools are. I think there's more injuries on that stuff. More cutting, non-contact injuries. Grass is still the best surface, I'm quite sure of that. So, it's just a real problem in this game of football.

MM: What do you see as some of the Packers’ strengths this season? Anything in particular that's sticking out to you?

BM: Depth at wide receiver. All summer when I was at practice, Davante Adams was playing at a higher level that I had ever seen him. I still think that's going to carry over.

(Wide receiver Geronimo) Allison is a really good three in a lot of places and he's the fourth wide receiver here. (Randall) Cobb's off to a good start. Jordy Nelson seems to be the same guy. They have a lot of depth there. They have three tight ends. So, most of the pluses are on offense.

You know, we want to see more of Aaron Jones, the running back, who really looked good against the Bears. And some of the offensive line depth has been a surprise for the Packers. You know, (guard) Justin McCray and (guard) Lucas Patrick, both those players looked good in spot starts.

MM: With NFL players making headlines these last couple weeks on whether to kneel, or not to kneel, or link arms during the national anthem, has there been a similar situation comparable to this in the NFL?

BM: Well there were a couple strikes I covered in 1982 and 1987. I remember dealing with players in off-field areas and the revenue situation in the league. But nothing else comes to mind as strong as this.

MM: I want to ask you about an article you wrote a couple weeks ago, “Lesson learned: Packers will not go to the Super Bowl.” In it, you talk about how fans have gotten used to the Packers being so successful. You noticed how management and coaches seem to be lacking that fire in their bellies. Why does this matter?

BM:So during training camp, (general manger) Ted Thompson is attending every practice and (head coach) Mike McCarthy is running every practice. I do think the rank and file look at their superiors in any line of work you're in and I think they study them and look at them all the time. It's human nature.

I'm not certain when you look at McCarthy right now and when you look at Ted Thompson and you notice their body language and the way they appear, I don't know if that denotes a feeling of energy, enthusiasm, and an organization's vibrancy. I mean, it's a small point in that long column.

MM: Do you have any thoughts on how to bring that enthusiasm and energy back?

BM: It's hard. They've won for 25 years here. You know, when they won that Super Bowl in '96, it was all so fresh and new again because the last Super Bowl had been 29 years before. You can't replicate that. That was all genuine, real and authentic. The whole state was on fire at that point.

Since '96, they won another Super Bowl. They lost one. They won all these divisions and they've been very good with their two great quarterbacks.

No, you can't bring that feeling back. (Laughs) That would take another 20 years of losing and then a rebirth again and I don't think anyone wants to experience that.

MM: This weekend, the Packers (3-1) are facing the Dallas Cowboys (2-2). Is there anything in particular you'll be watching in this game?

BM: Yeah, how their run defense stacks up against the Cowboys' great offensive line and the (Cowboys) running back Ezekiel Elliot. Cowboys have a lot of weapons. How will the secondary look there? You know, the Cowboys have had a lot of defensive problems, they were just upset by the St. Louis Rams on their home field last Sunday. The Cowboys are 2-2 and they're not going to be in a really happy mood right now. Can the offense put up a lot of points against a vulnerable defense?

Note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.