I’m not going to write much about the Pack’s win at Soldier Field. Rodgers was brilliant, the defense was more than solid and Mitch was Mitch. Today I want to write about a special season during unprecedented times and what the next month might bring.
Think about where this organization is today, and then think back to two years ago, when the season was finally, mercifully over, the Pack was 6-9-1 and on the hunt for a new head coach who could resuscitate the organization and flip the script on Rodgers’ waning years.
The decision to hire Matt LaFleur was met with derision by some, scorn by others and a non-ending yawn by most. This is the guy to revive Rodgers and the Pack’s offense? A 30-something unknown with one year of play calling under his belt, one that primarily consisted of ‘hand the ball off to Derrick Henry and get out of his way?’
Then just eight months ago, the Packers draft was met by derision, scorn and, well definitely not a yawn. Everyone had an opinion about the Packers draft, including me. And yet here the Packers sit, the top seed in the NFC and just two home wins away from a trip to the Super Bowl. That unknown coach has led the Pack to back to back 13 win seasons, something Green Bay accomplished a grand total of four times under Holmgren and McCarthy in 20 years. And his system has breathed new life into Rodgers and will result in his third MVP award on Super Bowl eve.
There is no more talk about the weak roster around Rodgers. There is no more talk about the lack of weapons around Rodgers. Brian Gutekunst and his staff (along with Ted Thompson) have put together a roster that includes the best offensive line in the NFL, the game’s best wide reveiver, a deep backfield led by a top ten back, a vastly improved defense with a stud in the middle of line, three strong pass rushers, some youth and athleticism (finally) at inside linebacker, a shutdown corner and a pair of safeties that were the best in football over the second half of the season.
It adds up to opportunity. Opportunity right now for this Packers team to grab hold of this impressive season and bring home the Lombardi trophy, to give Rodgers a second ring that will finally and forever elevate him into the select group of best quarterbacks ever. A second ring would put him on most peoples’ QB Mount Rushmore and maybe more importantly to us Packer fans, will silence Vikings and Bears fans who delight in reminding us that Green Bay has ‘just’ two Super Bowl victories during the Favre-Rodgers eras. Yes, there have been playoff disappointments, none bigger than the ’14 and ’07 NFC title games.
Opportunity right now because in a year when home field advantage was completely neutralized, Green Bay is one of just two playoff teams (Buffalo is the other) where the weather conditions can be more important than a stadium full of fans.
Opportunity because you never know what next year might bring. Yes, the Packers will bring back a very talented roster, but injuries are an unknown, David Bakhtiari may not return till ’22, other NFC teams will bounce back (SF worries me if they locate a quarterback) and then there’s the schedule, which will feature road games in San Francisco, New Orleans and Baltimore and home games against the Steelers, Seahawks Rams and Browns. If a 17th game is added, it will likely mean a date with the Chiefs. 13 wins seems like a stretch in 2021.
So this is the Packers’ time. The stars have aligned. There isn’t a big, bad NFC playoff team in the field. Yes, there are three other hall of fame QBs, Brees, Brady and Wilson, but those teams are all flawed to varying degrees. If the favorites win this weekend, the Pack will open the playoffs with a date with Brady and the Bucs, a rematch of the Packers’ worst game of the season–this time at Lambeau in January.
The Packers are poised to do special things over the next few weeks. They’ve already delivered 16 weeks of spine-tingling diversion during a time in our lives when there’s not that much to get excited about. To see Rodgers return to MVP brilliance and silence his critics, to see Davante Adams evolve into an elite wide receiver, to see a defense improve week by week with stars on all three levels. This is what we’ve been waiting for.
The Packers are two home wins from a trip to Tampa. If they don’t get there it will be a major disappointment. But in the grand scheme of things, this Packers season has been precisely what we needed and exactly what we hoped for. Now we have nearly two weeks till the playoff journey begins. Two weeks to wait, to hope, to dream.