If you watch any of the programing on NFL Network or ESPN, listen to any NFL radio or pick up a sports magazine while killing time in a waiting room — you already know what they’re saying about the Green Bay Packers.
The window is closing. But … is another opening?
A couple of weeks ago, Aaron Rodgers expressed this very sentiment in a post-season interview.
“It’s the end of a window and the beginning of a new one. We can open up a [new] window that lasts four, five years.”
Teams like the high-flying Denver Broncos and the defensive-minded Seattle Seahawks are the new “it” teams. Where the Packers once were fixed, hailed to be Super Bowl contenders each year, they are now being replaced by the young, physical teams of the future. Divisions that once produced a 7-9 playoff pretender are now ushering in two NFC Championship Super Bowl contenders. Likewise, dynasties like the New England Patriots, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens are now hearing the faint train whistle blowing and are struggling to get off the tracks.
The league is ever-changing. It preaches parity and the ebb and flow of drafts, salary caps and rulebook renovation make it so.
Rodgers lamented that his now nine years in the league have come and gone quickly. He said that he would love to enjoy nine more. But can Packers Nation really expect another nine from our All-Pro, MVP quarterback? It’s a fair question to ask, as legends like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are still enjoying elite success at 14 and 15 years in the league, respectively. Even Brett Favre (gasp!) enjoyed prolonged success for 18 seasons in the league (forgetting his finale season with the Minnesota Vikings).
We do know one thing for sure — we have Aaron Rodgers for six years. And whenever he is under center, the Green Bay Packers will always be in the conversation.
But he can’t do it alone. Can he? No, that’s silly — of course he can’t. So, if what he said is true: if the Packers are closing the door on one era and cracking open the window to another, what actually needs to take place for that window to lead to another championship?
- We have to protect our assets. Rodgers is a pretty hefty chunk of our salary cap for the next six years. He’s our biggest investment. The Packers have to find ways to protect him. Don’t get me wrong — he isn’t your standard pocket passer. He is better than any quarterback I’ve seen when passing on the run. He scrambles to find open receivers and he nearly always does. But we have to keep him upright. When he has time to go through his reads and throw with confidence, he will carve up ANY defense, that has already been proven. We can’t afford to operate with a makeshift offensive line anymore. It’s time to piece together a “fantastic five.”
- We need a dynamic 1-2 punch at running back; and I think we’ve found it. Eddie Lacy was more productive than even the coaching staff believed he could
be in his first year. With big plans for him and Dujuan Harris falling through in the offseason, James Starks stepped up big time. He has already been involved in one Super Bowl run; he’s a dynamic change of pace back. He needs to be brought back and worked in tandem with Lacy for years to come.
- It’s time to put together a solid defensive line. Matthews can’t be the only pure pass rusher to come from the last four drafts. Nick Perry and Mike Neal are progressing but need to make the leap quickly. First-rounder Datone Jones has had time to adjust to the system and now needs to produce. With a shakeup coming for the D-linemen with free agency looming, we need some solid cornerstones to fall back on. And Johnny Jolly needs to be re-signed, sooner rather than later.
- We need an upheavel in the secondary. Mediocrity won’t cut it at the safety position anymore and we can’t tolerate uneven play at cornerback. We need a defense that has enough pride in themselves to separate from the boys and join the men. We need ball-hawks who want to make plays to give the ball back to our MVP quarterback.
While all of these things may sound daunting — it can be done with one draft and one offseason. We are already in the building phases.
A championship is within our grasp. We just need to stop worrying about things that we cannot control (i.e injuries) and take a firm hold of the things that we can.
Let’s not waste the next six years, Green Bay Packers. Let’s not allow the Aaron Rodgers era to come and go without really unearthing its possibilities.
There is only one thing better than a championship ring — multiple championship rings. The window is open …