The Green Bay Packers came up one game short of the Super Bowl for the fourth time in seven years. The reason why is simple.
Green Bay has not returned to the Super Bowl since 2010-2011. They’ve gotten close a number of times but cannot get over the hump, and a simple organizational philosophy is why. The Packers went 13-3 with Matt LaFleur in his first year in charge and appeared in another NFC Championship last season.
The Packers were far from favorites in that game, and a win would have been considered an upset. But what occurred on the field against the San Francisco 49ers was nothing short of a debacle. The Packers hemorrhaged 186 rushing yards before contact in the game, one of the most embarrassing performances in postseason history.
They were slaughtered by the far superior 49ers 37-20. In the regular season, Green Bay played the 49ers in the latter half of the season off a bye, and fell behind 23-0 at halftime. In the championship game, they fell behind 27-0 at halftime.
In other words, the Packers, no matter how big a game they talk, and no matter how many adjustments they speak of, got every bit as wiped off the field the second time against the same opponent.
This year, the Packers were predictably eaten alive by the Buccaneers in Week 6, again off a bye. Green Bay was pushed all over the field by the substantially more physical and bruising Buccaneers 38-10. Being physically demolished in such a fashion after two weeks to prepare is a perfect encapsulation of what the Packers have and haven’t been for so long: Physically intimidated by their opponents.
Yet somehow the Packers faced the Buccaneers in another rematch and once again got pulverized from start to finish. Fumbles, sacks, and countless missed tackles doomed Green Bay from the opening kickoff. Even though the Packers were betting favorites, you simply can never count out the possibility that the Green Bay defense will simply forget how to tackle and cover in the postseason.
But the real reason the Packers lost to the Buccaneers was because of their almost insultingly awful decision to trade up and draft Jordan Love in the first round of this past year’s draft. With holes all over the roster, namely inside linebacker, cornerback, wide receiver, and defensive line, the Packers gave up a mid-round pick for seemingly no reason whatsoever.
Make no mistake. The pick was completely indefensible. The Packers came close to the Super Bowl and actively chose not to get any better in the draft, and gave up a pick to do so. Had Green Bay actually taken the pick seriously and used it on someone who would suit up for even a down on Sunday, would they have won? Probably not. But it is the mindset the organization used to make the pick that is so undermining.
The Packers proved themselves to be far from interested in competing for Super Bowls. The pick was a complete and not-so-subtle two-hand shove out the door to Aaron Rodgers. Might it have lit a fire under his behind? He did have one of his greatest seasons ever immediately thereafter. But to act like the Packers deserve credit for his success is laughable at best.
The Packers, in back-to-back years in which they desperately needed to, didn’t make a trade at the deadline for run defense help, or a number two receiver. How many times must this team go into an offseason needing a cornerback, receiver, and middle linebacker? Only in Green Bay is an undrafted rookie middle linebacker with one hand covering the best tight end of all time.
Everyone knew Kevin King was a liability. No one knew that better than Green Bay. Did Tampa Bay have anything unique in store for the Packers on Sunday? Not one bit. Rather, they simply said whoever King is covering is getting the ball. They scored on the opening drive and at the end of the half in one of the most embarrassing moments in team history.
The Packers were the worst team in the league on special teams. They were moderately good defensively the second half of the year. Against Tom Brady, Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, their two “stud” pass rushers, combined for two pressures in the game. Shaq Barrett of the Buccaneers had seven.
Drafting Jordan Love is why the Packers don’t win Super Bowls. They aren’t committed to leaving every stone unturned. Rather, it seems to be about winning 10 games a year, sleeping through the trade deadline, and adopting the mindset that everything they touch turns to gold.
The Packers have wasted Aaron Rodgers’ best years and should Jordan Love actually become worth anything at all, they’ll do the same with him.