Happy New Year’s Packers fans!
With 2009 upon us, we can immediately cleanse ourselves of the dismal season that was 2008. It’s a new year filled with new opportunity for an underachieving team. However, the new year also ushers in the fact that the team is one year older, which is both a positive and a negative.
The 2008 season was a season filled with hope for the Packers. Coming an errant Brett Favre pass away from the Super Bowl, the team looked to repeat their 13-3 performance and take it a step farther. The offseason was marred by a messy divorce with that Favre guy the led him to be traded to the New York Jets (who did not make the playoffs, I must add), but more significant in the offseason was the absence of Ryan Grant. The running back burst onto the scene during the 2007 season, rushing for over 900 yards in the second half of the season and performing well in the playoffs. But due to his performance, he felt like he deserved more money leading to a holdout.
I am willing to say that Grant’s holdout was more damaging than Favre’s soap opera. On the surface, Favre’s soap opera was an epic battle between the forces of good and evil. Deeper down, it was a complete farce. The man had retired. The team moved on. All preparation for 2008 was being geared towards Aaron Rodgers and it’s hard to turn the entire progression of an offseason in the last two weeks of training camp. But back to Grant. Grant was what made Green Bay’s offense tick in the second half of 2007. Before Grant emerged after a rash of injuries, the Packers offense was a one-trick pony behind Favre and the passing game. Grant’s emergence took pressure off the passing game and forced the defense to guard both the run and the pass.
Many people say Grant was being gracious in the offseason, showing up to the voluntary work-outs, despite the fact he couldn’t actually work out. Things got dicey when training camp got closer. Grant got the deal done a few weeks into training camp, but as soon as he got into camp, he immediately hurt his hamstring. I’d say he never fully hit his stride due to missing offseason time and his hamstring injury. The Packers running game was non-existent for much of the season, putting more pressure on Rodgers.
The Packers season started out promising. Making his first start in front of a national audience on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, Rodgers came out and delivered a 24-19 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, silencing doubters momentarily. The season looked like it held great promise.
A win against the hapless Detroit Lions pushed the Packers to 2-0 and set a good feeling over the Packers camp before the wheels started to come off the wagon. The Packers lost the next three games against the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Atlanta Falcons. The loss against the Bucs was especially painful, as Rodgers hurt his shoulder and was forced to leave the game. Cullen Jenkins was hit with a season-ending chest injury in that game as well. Rodgers, however, did miss any time, playing through the pain.
The Packers went into their Week 8 bye with two consecutive wins over the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts. Coming out of the bye week at 4-3, the Packers hit hard times yet again, losing two consecutive heartbreakers to the Tennessee Titans and the Vikings. At 4-5, the playoff prospects looked doomed, but the Packers rebounded to the .500 mark with a 37-3 trouncing of the Chicago Bears.
Things looked good, but the Packers imploded in the final six weeks of the season, losing five of the last six games to finish at 6-10 for the year. Included in those last five losses were four losses of five points or less, heartbreakers to the Carolina Panthers, Bears, Houston Texans, and Jacksonville Jaguars. Only a 31-21 victory over the Lions to send them to 0-16 infamy helped barely remove some of the tarnish from the season.
Clearly the 2008 Packers weren’t the 2007 Packers, and there were bigger differences than the big #4 that everyone made out to be the biggest. The Packers were able to avoid the injury bug in 2007. Not so much in 2008. The defense was ravaged from all sides and the offensive line failed to find consistency. Rodgers was forced to play with nagging injuries and the team could never really field a consistent lineup. Even if Favre was quarterbacking them, the Packers would be an 8-8 team at best.
Hopefully with the new year I’ll get into more of a rhythm with my posting so please, please bear with me.