11 Oct 2018 - Daniel F
Many people think the games of American football and soccer (also known as football) are two completely different sports where lessons cannot be learned from each other. However, the games often have very important similarities in their players, coaching, and teams. Two of the most well known teams in each respective sport, the Packers and the Argentinian national team, seem to find themselves in similar and unfortunate situation of low-morale and underperformance.
The Green Bay Packers are coming out of a disappointing 2017-2018 season in which they had 9 losses and only 7 wins, failing to qualify for a playoff spot. While much of this can be attributed to their star quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, being injured with a broken collar bone for much of the season, the Packers have not had a stellar start to the 2018-2019 season even with a relatively health Rodgers. They have won 2, lost 2, and tied 1, with one of their wins being a against a mediocre Buffalo Bills team and the other being a very tight (yet impressive) win against the Bears with almost all of the credit going to Rodgers. In their tied game against the Vikings, the kicker for the Vikings missed a very close field goal that would have given them the win, meaning if they were to play against a team with a decent kicker, the Packers would have lost. This poor performance shows that the Packers are not in Super Bowl, or even playoff contending shape. Needless to say, many fans of the Packers are having a hard time trying to R-E-L-A-X.
The Argentinian soccer team is not in a much better situation, themselves. In a tight World Cup qualifying race in the CONMEBOL region, Argentina was only able to clinch qualification in the last game of qualifiers against Ecuador, winning 3 to 1 thanks to a hat trick by Lionel Messi. However, they were only able to score 19 total goals in 18 matches played. Compare that to a team like Peru, who lacks world class players unlike Argentina, yet who managed to score 27 goals, and the Argentinian national team starts to look less threatening. The poor qualification stage performance would only be a dark foreshadowing of what was to come. In the actual World Cup, Argentina was only barely able to advance from group stage with 4 points after tying Iceland, losing 3-0 to Croatia, and only barely beating Nigeria after a last-minute goal. In the knockout stage, Argentina fell in the first round to France, 4-3. Including the back to back Copa America finals losses to Chile between 2014 and 2018, it seems that after a heartbreaking loss in the final of the 2014 World Cup to Germany, Argentina has been in a steady decline.
While there is much debate on the best players in each sport, common consensus is that Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in the NFL and that Messi is the best player in the entire soccer world, maybe even ever. However, while age has not yet seemed to be a factor, it should be noted that both players are in the second half their career. Messi is 31 years old, and in soccer this is already considered old for the average player. But because Messi is much better than the average player, he has at least one or two more years of dominating the pitch. However, if Argentina can qualify for the 2022 World Cup, even if Messi is wanting to play for the national team, his prime will be over and he will no longer be the force he once was. Aaron Rodgers is 34 years old and turning 35 this december. Only a few great quarterbacks like Brett Favre, Tom Brady, or Drew Brees have been able to make it to their late 30’s or early 40’s and still have success. While I have no doubt Aaron can make it to this age, the Packers must realize that they are running out of time having with having the best quarterback in the league.
Low-morale has been shown through the body language of each team's stars. Before the World Cup, Messi himself stated that Argentina were not serious contenders for the finals. During the national anthem ceremony before the 3-0 loss to Croatia, Messi could be seen rubbing his forehead with his eyes closed, definitely not a confident sign for the team. Meanwhile in the NFL, Rodgers has been seen the past few games throwing up his arms, rolling his eyes, and complaining after the offense would fail to advance. While players have every right to disagree with play calls or strategies, constantly complaining and openly showing it does nothing to help the team.
Much of the team’s problems can be traced back to coaching. The 2018 World Cup was a disaster for Argentina and especially for their coach, Jorge Sampaoli. The coach clearly had no idea what he was doing during the world cup, evident by Argentina’s poor performance and poor leadership on Sampaoli’s part. After the loss to Croatia, players began planning out a mutiny against him. Towards the end of Argentina’s experience at the tournament, Sampaoli almost fully relied on Messi to coach the team, asking him who he should start and bench and other strategies. With a team as talented as Argentina’s, the only thing that would make them perform poorly is not even a mediocre coach, but a flat-out terrible coach. Argentina is yet to find a permanent replacement after the coach’s exit from the team. The Packers also find themselves with a coaching issue. Coach Mike McCarthy is beginning to show his frustrations with the team. Aaron Rodgers has recently publicly said he disagrees with many of the play calls and offensive targets being emphasized, while McCarthy has said that Aaron has the whole week before the game to critique the strategy, yet he doesn’t. There can be no doubt that if a team possesses the best quarterback in the league and many other offensive weapons such as wide receivers Randall Cobb or Davante Adams, getting more than 17 points against a team like the Redskins shouldn’t be a major challenge. For both teams, the the power of their talent has long been suppressed by poor coaching.
The Green Bay Packers and Argentinian national team seem to find themselves in a similar situation, and unless coaching and morale changes are made, there doesn’t appear to be a bright future for either team.