The Green Bay Packers are arguably the most historic franchise in NFL History. 13 world championships, 101 seasons, and the Vince Lombardi Trophy set the Packers apart from other franchises such as the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Oakland Raiders. Although, throughout its history, the Packers were not always the most ambitious to watch.
Every educated football fan knows the Packers won the first Super Bowl in NFL History. Most may know that they also won the second. But in between Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren is a vast wasteland of losing seasons and forgotten teams. Sure, there was a shining moment here and there, but in terms of championship-level gameplay, the Packers simply did not produce what everyone had hoped for. Bart Starr was one heck of a football player, especially for his era. His record of 52-76 in the regular season as a head coach does not scream success, and Starr is not defined by what he did as a head coach, he is defined by the player, and more importantly, the person that he was.
To use the words of former Packers HC Mike McCarthy: “Like Anything” in life, the weight of appreciation for success and excellence is felt not necessarily by the consecutive victories, but by the shedding of the burden of defeat. Patriots fans must be ecstatic that their team has been in the Super Bowl for three years in a row. But nobody enjoyed a championship as much as Chicago Cubs fans did in 2016. The weight of defeat and the burden of misery had been lifted from the depths of despair for Cubs fans. It is like no other feeling in sports watching your team win a championship. Cubs fans literally sat radios next to the graves of their loved ones and soaked up the thrills of victory. On the flip side, Patriots fans just got their new Tom Brady jersey for Christmas after tossing their Peyton Manning Jersey the year before.
Point being is that the Packers have not given the fans the thrill of victory in the postseason that the fans were so accustomed to. From 2011-2014 the Packers sat atop the NFC North. They had a team that was unstoppable in the regular season, and it was a sight to see. Fast forward a few years, and the Packers now have missed the playoffs entirely for two straight seasons, something that is foreign to Packers fans while Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers have been on the roster. Those two alone have carried Packers fandom into something special. Two men who have become the faces of the most historic franchise in arguably all of sports, and each is unique.
The Packers front office has done more restructuring this past season than they did for almost a decade. Pro scouts will come and go, same goes for assistant coaches. Last year, Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy changed the hierarchical structure of the team. Now both the Head Coach (Matt LaFleur) and General Manager (Brian Gutekunst) report to him. Since then, Packers have shifted coaches on offense and defense, developed a new offensive and defensive scheme, and shook up the roster, this is a new Green Bay Packers team.
After Packers GM Brian Gutekunst arrived in Green Bay, he shook off 27 of the 53 players on the Packers roster, wiped it clean, and made it his. This is now Brian Gutekunst’s team. All of the personnel decisions are his responsibility. Matt LaFleur, previously with the Tennessee Titans, has brought an offense that will utilize every position on the football field. Packers fans should expect to see more of the Full Back, Tight Ends, and Running Backs used. LaFleur has brought the fullback position back to prominence in Green Bay, something Mike McCarthy did away with during his final seasons with the Packers. The running back was underutilized last season, (especially Aaron Jones) and every fan who has been watching can clearly see that. LaFleur is not going to rely on Aaron Rodgers to get the job done. Instead, he will use the franchise quarterback to boost the scheme that is created to benefit Rodgers. LaFleur knows that he is going to go down a path of preserving one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game because Rodgers is not the 25-year-old Marcus Mariota that LaFleur previously worked with.
The Packers made some significant moves this off-season. Signing LB Za’Darius Smith and LB Preston Smith will give the Packers an edge they have not had in quite some time. The addition of Safety Adrian Amos will also provide much-needed relief that the Packers will take advantage of. Drafting LB Rashan Gary and S Darnell Savage tells Mike Pettine that he has plenty of weapons to work with and that he just has to put the right pieces together. The Packers have notably upgraded on defense this past season. The defense has been the Packers’ Achilles heel in the past. By the looks of it, that will no longer be the case. Going forward, it may be precisely the opposite. The Packers defense may be the best part about this team and for all of the right reasons. The offense is going to look different, given LaFleur’s new scheme and the way he is going to utilize the run game. Different is not always bad, and neither is change. The Packers are not going to find their identity in week one against the Chicago Bears in Soldier Field, and they will not find it by week six either. The Packers will have to learn about themselves as they go along, this is not going to be a quick turnaround.
What this season will be, however, is exciting. Not the kind of exciting that kids feel on Christmas morning, this is the Tramon Williams pick-six against the Atlanta Falcons in 2010 exciting. This will not be an Aaron Rodgers hail-mary season where he has to run for his life to heave the ball 60 yards downfield exciting. This will be an Aaron Jones 55 yards to the house exciting. The Packers will look different this season, but in the best way possible.