There should be a new saying NFL head coaches need to start living by:?“Too much rest can lead to too much rest.”

There should be a new saying NFL head coaches need to start living by:?“Too much rest can lead to too much rest.”

The Green Bay Packers took too much rest and are now headed for a much longer vacation than they wanted. By having most of his starters take Week 17 off, head coach Mike McCarthy made his players rusty, and it showed in Sunday’s stunning Divisional playoff loss to the New York Giants.

Four of the last five No. 1 seeds in the NFC have been eliminated in the Divisional round, while four of the previous six AFC?top seeds have been knocked out in the Divisional round.

Over the past seven seasons, the top two seeds in each conference are a combined 15-13 in the Divisional round of the playoffs — hardly an admirable showing by the supposed best teams in the league.

Teams work very hard to get that first-round bye, but those are typically locked up by Week 15 or 16. That leaves the final week or two free to rest injuries and prepare for the playoffs.

The problem is, those teams are getting another full week off in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, giving some teams two or three weeks — sometimes more — of too much rest. With football being a sport of rhythm and timing, it is very easy to get out of synch with more than a week off.

McCarthy messed up by having Aaron Rodgers and so many of his starters sit during the Week 17 game against the Detroit Lions. It may not have meant anything for the Packers, but McCarthy would have been better served playing his starters for at least the first half to prevent rust.

It was obvious something wasn’t right about Rodgers — usually so pinpoint accurate — from the start. Missing high on a wide-open Greg Jennings on the Packers’ opening possession on what should have been an easy touchdown set the tone for a long day at Lambeau.

Not to mention Green Bay receivers dropping six balls and the team’s four turnovers. All in all, the Packers simply looked ever bit a team that hadn’t played a real game since Christmas.

Also, it can’t be forgotten that the entire team attended the funeral of Michael Philbin, the son of offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, 48 hours earlier. Emotions play a major part in football and that kind of loss has to affect teams in some way.

The biggest factor still is the extra rest. McCarthy couldn’t do anything about the bye week, but he could have done something about giving his key players virtually a second by week and given them some playing time against the Lions.

There is too much parity in the NFL right now and the difference between the elite teams in the league compared to the mediocre ones is not nearly as great as it used to be.

That is why we are seeing so many Wild Card teams make long playoff runs and winning just like last year’s Packers. Super Bowls —
Green Bay was 8-6 in 2010, desperately needing to win its final two games in order to sneak into the playoffs. After winning those games, the Packers got on a roll and looked like the best team in the league when they reached Dallas for the Super Bowl. The Giants needed to win games at the end of the 2007 season and by playing hard right until the end, that helped them get hot at the right time and win the Super Bowl.

Tony Dungy was a great head coach, but his biggest flaw was not having his team go hard until the end of the regular season. Too often the Colts — perhaps the greatest example of a team that relies so heavily on timing — looked out of synch and they paid for it with early playoff exits.

The one year Dungy won the Super Bowl with the Colts was a year they did not have the bye and needed to play hard right until Week 17.
The parity factor is big here too, as 15-1 and 14-2 is not as daunting as it may have been in the past. The Packers were good, but not an all-time great team. The closest the NFL has had to an all-time great team were the 18-1 Patriots, who didn’t even win a Super Bowl.

None of these teams can rival the Steelers of the 1970s, the 49ers of the 1980, or the Cowboys of the 1990s — not even close. Those teams had Hall of Famers all over the field.

Too many coaches are taking the playoffs for granted, that their teams can just flip the switch back on after doing nothing but practice for three weeks.

It doesn’t work that way and the best teams in the league are paying the price.

Follow Paul Jannace on twitter @pjscribe.