The Packers' journey: Where they've been, & why thoughts of mediocrity are 'hogwash'
Dec 29, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (27) takes the field before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Photo: Image by Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
With another early playoff exit in the books for the Green Bay Packers, many members of Packers Nation seem to be getting on edge. If you read the comments on many articles online or listen to Wisconsin sports talk radio, the wedge of cheddar many fans wear on top of their heads seems to slowly be evolving into limburger.
It’s understandable, really. Three short years removed from a Super Bowl title and two years after a 15-1 regular season, expectations amongst the Packers’ passionate fan base are through the roof. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. When your team has an all-world quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, as a fan you expect to be in contention for a Super Bowl every year.
After the Packers lost to the San Francisco 49ers two weeks ago in the wild card round in a classic battle, many fans lamented the team’s second “one and done” finish in the playoffs in three years and even some beat writers like the Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn seemed to think the Packers were sliding back towards mediocrity.
To that, I say hogwash.
The Green Bay Packers are in much better shape than many realize and should continue to be amongst the NFL elite for the next several years.
While the loss in 2011 was as bitter a defeat as you get in the NFL, this season’s conclusion should not have had the same effect. It almost seems at times people forgot all the issues Green Bay dealt with and overcame throughout the 2013 season.
After the incredible final couple weeks to the regular season that saw the Packers miraculously claim their third straight NFC North title alongside the return of Rodgers from a collarbone injury, expectations suddenly went through the roof after being in the basement for a good chunk of the season.
The loss to the 49ers is by no means an indicator the team is in trouble. The Packers once again dealt with a ludicrous number of injuries, the most critical being the broken collarbone that had Rodgers miss roughly half the season. Green Bay also lost their best tackle in Bryan Bulaga during training camp and linebacker Clay Matthews missed a good amount of time with a broken thumb.
Throw in the broken leg suffered by wide receiver Randall Cobb and the foot injury that hobbled linebacker Nick Perry and the Packers were even more beat up than the 2010 team thanks to so many critical playmakers being out.
Green Bay will arguably be getting more talent back via healthy returning players than they could through any free agency signing. This is the main reason why any declaration of the Packers’ demise is gravely mistaken. Rodgers didn’t even fully look like himself in the first two games back from his injury. He made plays when he had to but he was not quite the lethal quarterback he was before he got hurt. A full offseason to heal and rehab will fix that.
A return to health for all these players is just one reason to be hopeful for the Packers’ future. Another reason is the “Bama Bowling Ball”: running back Eddie Lacy. Since Rodgers took over as starter in 2008, he has not had true workhorse running back behind him. He got one good year out of Ryan Grant but that was about it. DuJuan Harris showed promise late in 2012 but he missed all of 2013 thanks to a knee injury he suffered in the preseason.
It's hard to believe the Packers have once again had to turn Lambeau Field into an infirmary. McCarthy legitimately was at a loss for words at his final press conference of the season as to what has caused Green Bay to repeatedly be struck by the injury bug.
If the Packers can solve that, then they're going to be in fine shape but it may be nothing more than horrible luck. That remains to be seen in 2014 season.
That's where the Packers were this year. Where are they headed? Stay tuned.