22

November

Giving Thanks to the Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Packers ThanksgivingHow does the average Green Bay Packers fan spend his/her Thanksgiving Day? My guess would be rooting against the Detroit Lions, eating more than one should in the span of an afternoon, and filling up on beer (Leinenkugel, anyone?). While these are all wonderful ways to spend time with friends and family, Thanksgiving is also the holiday where we examine our lives to focus on the things for which we are most grateful.

With that in mind, I’d like to share some of the things I am thankful for when it comes to the 2012 Green Bay Packers:

Ted Thompson’s Personnel Decisions

It seems like every year we praise the efforts of Ted Thompson and his staff to find and acquire talented football players. This year, we were especially grateful that he seemed to take notice of flailing defense in need of some youthful fire. The defense was the team’s Achilles heel in 2011, especially when it came to the passing game. We were not only missing an effective pass rush, but also a healthy, capable secondary.

In response to this, Thompson drafted Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, Casey Hayward, and a number of other defensive players that have seen some time in action. He also brought in a few undrafted free agent rookies like Dezman Moses to round out the roster and even tested some veteran free agents like Daniel Muir and Anthony Hargrove. While some players have been invisible to us (see: Terrell Manning), others have exceeded our expectations (see: Casey Hayward).

What makes the Green Bay Packers a perennial threat to opposing teams is the ability of Ted Thompson and the front office to keep the roster loaded with talent. They are always looking ahead toward the future, and while the approach might be frustrating at times, it has been a blessing to the franchise.

Mike McCarthy’s Coaching Attitude

Call me dull, but I would take a Mike McCarthy any day of the week over a guys like Rex Ryan, Jim Schwartz, or Jim Harbaugh. His attitude and approach to coaching might seem mild-mannered or lacking in energy, but I think it’s mostly a necessary façade in dealing with the media and fans.

Perhaps it’s the Pittsburgher in me that has a soft spot for McCarthy, but I like his toughness. He is a big proponent of having a solid defense, despite his offensive coaching milieu and the fact that they have the reigning MVP in quarterback Aaron Rodgers. When he brought in Dom Capers to switch over to the 3-4 defense, it was a pivotal moment in recent Packers history. The change has brought some extreme highs and lows, but we can’t forget how much it made the difference in the Packers’ 2010 Super Bowl run.

I also appreciate how humble McCarthy is. He never makes excuses for his own shortcomings, and he is always looking to improve himself in addition to his team. There aren’t many coaches who will stand up at a post-game press conference and take the blame for not being balanced or for calling the wrong play that ended up in an interception. McCarthy will always hold himself to the same standard that he holds the players to.

Aaron Rodgers’ Leadership

This season has, unfortunately, been riddled with questions about Aaron Rodgers’ leadership qualities. From the errant tweet by Jermichael Finley’s agent to Finley’s own words and the blabbering of some ill-respected media members, Rodgers has had a lot of undeserving criticism thrown his way. Of course, as Packers fans, we know it’s all a bunch of nonsense.

When I was in the Army, I learned that one needs to lead by example. It’s not enough to say the right things, you have to do the right things. You have to show the rest of the team that you are going to work just as hard and that you are going to hold yourself to the highest standard. I think Aaron Rodgers does this impeccably. He never shies away from self-criticism, and he is quick to give credit to his coaches and teammates for their efforts.

And the best part? He uses the doubts of his naysayers to fuel his motivation. Rodgers has proven more than once that he is a true leader; after all, he will not only put the team on his back when needed, but also not hesitate to hand the ball to someone else to make the plays.

Randall Cobb’s Breakout Year

We all saw something special in Randall Cobb when he came to Green Bay, but I don’t think we could have predicted this much success in his sophomore year. Cobb has an offensive formation designed specifically for him, is leading the receivers in targets, and boasts more first downs than anyone on the team.

All of this tells me that both Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers have an immense trust in Randall Cobb. And that kind of trust is not earned by being an average or even good player – it is earned by being a great player.

The other positive side-effect of Cobb’s performance is that he has helped the offense weather the injuries of Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. In fact, when both of those players return to complete health, it’s going to be hard to stop the Packers’ passing attack: a dynamic slot receiver in Cobb, a clean route-runner who can play any position in Jennings, and a guy that can stretch the field and work the sidelines in Nelson. Add in the playmaking abilities of James Jones, and let the drooling begin.

The Next Man Up

Packers injured reserve: Bryan Bulaga, D.J. Smith, Brandon Saine, Nick Perry, Cedric Benson*, Desmond Bishop, and perhaps Derek Sherrod soon. Packers players currently dealing with significant injuries: Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Sam Shields, and Greg Jennings. How many teams could handle missing seven or eight of their top-level starters? The Green Bay Packers can.

Giving more thanks to Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, and the coaching staff here, it’s a blessing to know that the Packers have been able to push through the injuries that have hit them. Backups, rookies, and second-year players have all stepped up to the plate in the absences of numerous starters. And they have done so honorably.

I shudder to think what this season might look like if they didn’t have the perseverance to keep pushing forward and winning tough, ugly games. The added bonus is the development of younger players for the future.

Imperfection

Yes, I am thankful for the Packers not being perfect. They’ve had to face a lot of adversity this year (our favorite buzzword), and they’ve been the better for it. After a season where Green Bay was flying along on a false sense of security, it’s kind of nice to know that the team is still working to get better. They’re not too comfortable, and their success isn’t being taken for granted.

From the very first game against the San Francisco 49ers to the games against the Seahawks, Colts, and even the Jaguars and Lions, the Packers have not come by success easily. They’ve had to deal with key injuries, bad officiating, and even poor game management. But these kind of obstacles help to make a team stronger and better able to overcome challenges in the future.

These imperfections, I think, will help drive the team through the playoffs. Even if they don’t make it to their ultimate destination, they will experience more success than they had last year. They will fight hard, and they will be peaking at the right time. Despite the bitterness of defeat and the frustration of watching them play sometimes, I am truly thankful for what it means in the future.

How about you? What are you most thankful for when it comes to the 2012 Green Bay Packers?

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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10 Responses to “Giving Thanks to the Green Bay Packers”

  1. Sven says:

    Thankful for a great article that reflects my veiws of this season so far.

    I am thrilled about this years rookie class. Hopefully Manning will get in a few more plays. I am excited to see how he plays.

    I am thankful for the minor injuries that have gotten starters off the field resting while young players develop, learn, and win.

    What an enjoyable season so. I think it is more fun than 15-1, which seems strange.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. Bearmeat Bearmeat says:

    I will be thankful if and when GB wins the division and manages to avoid SF and NYG in the playoffs.

    #2 seed would be nice. It’ll be tough to get with that Seattle *loss* on the resume.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  3. James david Marsh says:

    Let us not forget the people who work for TT and MM. Find the talent and coach them up to NFL standards. I want GB to play the “best” teams in the playoffs. The measure of your greatness is in who you play and beat.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. Mark gast says:

    Since the Lions don’t appear to be threat to the Packers this year and they aren’t playing the Packers today,I hope they beat Houston toady. The folks in Detroit deserve a win on Thanksgiving for a change.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  5. Dan says:

    It goes without saying, I am really thankful for the Green Bay Packers, but I am also thankful for Jersey Al and wonderful articles, like the one just written.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  6. Mojo says:

    You mentioned MM and his coaching styles. How many head coaches would have restrained themselves as MM did after the horrible call in Seattle? He could have whined and stomped his feet, but instead he mildly expressed his disagreement with the call and moved on.

    His attitude whether it be injuries or horrible calls is to project a steady presence. You can’t change the past, so just look to the next game. And I think the players take notice.

    You might find fault with some of his x’s & o’s, but I think he was one of TT’s best hires.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  7. Mojo says:

    To think the team could lose perhaps their two best players on defense(CM3 for a couple and Bishop for the season) and still improve as the season goes on is a good reason to be thankful. Similarly, on offense to lose it’s best two receivers for a considerable time. I agree with those who believe this years version is better than last years, despite less of a record.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  8. PatMc says:

    I agree with everything but noticed no mention of Driver & Woodson both being Player coaches, motivators, mentors.

    Wonderful read this morning of black friday. May Sunday be GREEN!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Oppy says:

      I do not think that Woodson is quite the player coach, motivator, and mentor that a number of fans envision him to be.

      He commands respect- no doubt about it- but when you really look at the comments his team mates have made about him, and the words Charles uses himself- it sounds as though he’s a player who thinks other players need to just do what they gotta do to be prepared, and play the game.

      I know he doesn’t mind other players doing film study with him, and that has been a huge boon for young players to see Charles working in film study like a pro, but reading between the lines it seems as though the biggest leadership Charles provides is that he keeps his words to himself, just does his job like it’s a job, and expects that others do the same.

      I don’t think he’s pulling guys to the side and helping them with their technique, or talking about life lessons with them, for the most part.

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  9. Beka says:

    Love this. Catching up on a backlog of blogs today, and I’m glad to have read this after the Sunday night debacle in NY. Nice to read realistically positive feedback on the season so far when everyone else is busy jumping off the bandwagon. I’m going to add the memory of the 2010 Packers to this list: we know there’s a potential light at the end of the injury-laden tunnel. Thanks for a great post!

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