The Green Bay Packers’ Thursday night loss in Seattle was a somber, but familiar tone for Packers fans. What has happened to this once storied franchised?
Roughing the passer calls in crunch time, missed field goals, a special teams fumble moments before a potential game-winning drive, the red zone fumble in Foxborough, and most recently an under-thrown football on third-and-two with just minutes left in the ballgame.
While these cannot be the sole causes of death in the Packers’ post-loss autopsies, they can be considered the death blows to these increasingly familiar losses.
Which brings up the question of what has happened to the Green Bay Packers?
While seasons of old brought magic to the living rooms of Packers’ fans across America from De Pere, Wisconsin to New York City, this season has done quite the opposite.
Once upon a time, every Sunday Packers fans had hope for magic, whether it was an Ice Bowl miracle, Reggie White sacks, or a Hail Mary, but that magic is missing and has given no indication of a comeback this season.
Every person at 1265 Lombardi Avenue holds some responsibility for the Packers’ lack of success in recent seasons.
While it may seem easy for fans to blame common scapegoats such as Brandon Bostick, Dom Capers, Anthony Barr and others for the Packers’ struggles, the onus ultimately falls on the entire organization. As the old saying goes, “you win as a team, you lose as a team”.
The Packers aren’t the only football team with special teams miscues, defensive coordinator woes, and quarterback injuries. At some point the entire organization needs to take a long hard look in the mirror and wonder why a team that has had nearly three decades of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers has only two Super Bowls during this privileged era to its name.
Having two of the top 10 quarterbacks in the history of the game is not a right (which Packers fans 27-and-under may not realize), it is a privilege, and it is about time the Packers realized this.
Other organizations have won Super Bowls with quarterbacks that cannot even be muttered in the same breath as Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, whether it’s Jeff Hostetler, Trent Dilfer, Jeff Garcia, Joe Flacco or and Nick Foles, why have the Packers not made it to the Super Bowl more than three times during the Favre/Rodgers era?
The answer to this question is long and in some ways unanswerable.
Is it due to losing Mike Holmgren in the late 90s, inept coaching in the era of Ray Rhodes/Mike Sherman, the Packers’ lack of free agency success (or lacking attempts in free agency for that matter)?
Any of these can be considered causes for what many consider to be the team’s underachievement during both the era of Brett Favre and the era of Aaron Rodgers. But the NFL’s gold-standard franchise of the 21st century, the New England Patriots, have also endured similar troubles, but the difference is they have managed to overcome them.
The Patriots have also had reported conflict in Foxborough, questionable coaching decisions, bad transactions, late draft picks on a near yearly basis, occasionally poor defense, lost stars in their prime and let good players go too soon.
Yet they have still managed to become one of the greatest dynasties in the history of sports, while the Packers fall short of their ultimate goal nearly every season despite starting the century with Brett Favre and continuing it with Aaron Rodgers.
While Packers fans had hope going into the season that things would change with a healthy Rodgers, a bright young backfield, talent in the trenches, flashy draft picks, expensive free agent signings, new coordinators, and even a young brand-new general manager, it has become increasingly apparent over the last few weeks that these changes have not been enough to save this team.
The hour glass is emptying and the time for a magical “R-E-L-A-X” or “run the table” run is ticking down for this Packers team.
The NFC North (and the NFC for that matter) is stronger than it was those years. In those magical seasons, the Packers were the evident first class of their division. Chicago and Minnesota were searching for franchise quarterbacks, and Detroit was a dysfunctional mess.
Now, the Bears and Vikings feel they have the answer at the quarterback position with Mitchell Trubisky and Kirk Cousins, and the Lions have greater signs of organizational hope under Belichick disciples Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia.
The NFC is also stronger. Nearly every NFC team has a franchise-caliber quarterback or at least a quarterback that has the potential to be one in the near future (sorry New York and Tampa Bay).
While one could argue having Rodgers gives the Packers an advantage every Sunday, that advantage is not as strong as it was in 2014 and 2016 due to the incredible quarterback talent throughout the NFC.
The Packers roster, despite improved backfield production and a better defense, is simply not strong enough to win a Super Bowl with just Rodgers, and as a result the need for a head coaching change at 1265 Lombardi Avenue may be an inevitable necessary for this organization.
Don’t get me wrong, Mike McCarthy has been one of the most NFL successful coaches of the 21st century, but like the Eagles with Andy Reid, the Bears under Lovie Smith, or the Giants under Tom Coughlin, the timing may be right for a changing of the guard.
Other teams in the 21st century have won a Super Bowl with recent coaching changes. The Eagles with Doug Pederson, the Broncos with Gary Kubiak and the Steelers with Mike Tomlin are perfect examples of this.
What makes someone think an Aaron Rodgers-led Packers would be an exception to this strange commonality?
Names such as John DeFilippo, Josh McDaniels, or even an in-house candidate like Mike Pettine may not just wrap up the career of Rodgers in a happy way, but could also help Brian Gutekunst usher in a new era of Packers football in an increasingly not-so-distant future where No. 12 isn’t under center at Lambeau Field.
Sometimes having a fresh face is necessary, in any faucet of life, but in the National Football League recent trends have shown that fresh faces can radically improve an organization.
Look at how the Colts improved drafting under GM Chris Ballard, and the improved offenses of the Bears and Rams under head coaches Matt Nagy and Sean McVay.
The Packers installed a familiar, but fresh face into the GM office last winter. With that came young talent in the receiving corps, improvements in the secondary, and exciting free agent signings. Installing a fresh face on the sideline could have a similar impact.
Obviously, pushing out or flat out firing a successful coach can have negative consequences, but do the Packers want to end up like the Bengals where they become complacent under a stale coaching regime?
Or do they want to hire an exciting coach to try to get one last ring in the final years of Aaron Rodgers’ prime?
Only time will tell.