3

June

How Aaron Rodgers Can Become Green Bay’s “Lord of the Rings”

Can Rodgers surpass the two Super Bowl rings won by Bart Starr?

Every time quarterback Aaron Rodgers sits down for an interview, Green Bay Packers fans move forward in their seats to see or hear what the face of their beloved franchise has to say.

Rodgers recently sat down with Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and talked about a wide variety of subjects, ranging from what he was doing with his $35 million signing bonus to revisiting his plummet in the draft in 2005.

However, there was one thing that Rodgers told Dunne that sticks out.  When Dunne asked Rodgers if winning multiple rings drives him, he replied with the following:

“For sure. Bart has two Super Bowl rings. Brett (Favre) has one. And I have one. I’d like, when I’m done, to have the most rings. I don’t know if it’s possible to get as many championships as Bart has, but maybe I can equal him in rings.”

Rodgers is right about Starr.  Starr won five championships including two Super Bowls and it will be tough in this day and age for any quarterback to win five Super Bowls.  However, equaling or surpassing Starr in Super Bowl titles is a feasible goal for Rodgers.

The big question is will he be able to do it? Rodgers is 29 years old and won’t turn 30 until late in the 2013 regular season.  He’s currently in the prime of his career and is still in fantastic physical condition.  Rodgers is considered by many to be the best quarterback in the NFL right now and the Packers won’t want to waste the opportunity before them.

So how can the organization help make Rodgers the true “Lord of the Rings” in Titletown? 

Well, the first thing would be for GM Ted Thompson to avoid making the same mistakes Mike Sherman (as both head coach and general manager) did with Brett Favre, Rodgers’ predecessor.  Sherman coached Favre when the quarterback was turning 31 and still had plenty of good football in front of him. As the results show, Favre played very well under Sherman though he never won his fourth league MVP award.

31

December

2012 Green Bay Packers: Which History Will Repeat?

Lambeau Field

The Packers need to regain the unforgiving home-field edge that Lambeau Field once presented in the postseason

Unfortunately, the Packers didn’t get the job done in Minnesota last week and the Vikings prevailed, eeking their way into the postseason.  Still, the Packers are division winners and will host a playoff game this coming Saturday evening.  As fate would have it, those same Vikings will be Green Bay’s opponent.

At first glance, any opponent coming to Lambeau in January should seemingly have their reservations.  It’s cold and there is a rich history of the Packers winning in those types of games.  But recent history suggests that the Vikings may not have as much to worry about as teams historically have in the past.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a big believer that history is bound to repeat itself.  I’m sure you can all think of other examples, but the biggest one that I always point to is the assassination of President John F. Kennedy almost exactly 100 years after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

Under head coach Mike McCarthy, Green Bay has won just one time in three games at Lambeau Field in the postseason.  Those two losses did come to the New York Giants and both times, the Giants went on to win a Super Bowl.  But both times, the Packers were also favored to win, as they should have been.  McCarthy’s most successful postseason was one in which his team had to play and win three road games before getting to and winning Super Bowl XLV, another virtual road game.

Lately, the theory of a historical repeat doesn’t bode well for the Packers.  Now before anyone gets bent out of shape, this history does go two ways.

One Way: Packers in 2002

It was exactly a decade ago during the 2002 season that the Packers, under head coach Mike Sherman, were heading into the last week of the season with a chance to improve their playoff seeding.  They had clinched the NFC North in early December and were 12-3.  A win would have put them in place to secure the number one or number two seed.  I can’t recall which off the top of my head.

7

June

The Irreplaceable Charles Woodson

Charles Woodson

The Irreplaceable Charles Woodson

A lot of talk has been centered lately on Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson. Just yesterday, the NFL’s Top 100 Players of 2012 revealed that he had been voted as the 36th best player in the league. But the big question on the minds of fans and pundits alike is: how much longer can he keep it up?

Entering into his seventh season with the team, Woodson is a 15-year veteran who will be turning 36 in October. He has just about seen and done it all, and is likely on the path towards becoming an NFL Hall of Fame member after retirement. One more Super Bowl win might just secure a spot for Woodson among that legendary group.

Charles Woodson currently ties for 20th among the NFL’s all-time career interception leaders with 54, and he is just one interception return for a touchdown away from tying the record held by former Pittsburgh Steeler Rod Woodson.

The story of Woodson’s arrival in Green Bay has been recounted numerous times. In 2006, he left his 8-year stint with Oakland for free agency after the Raiders made no attempt to re-sign him. Picking him up, however, was considered by many to be a risky proposition due to his injury history, coming off a broken leg in 2005.

But along came Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers, who were feeling some pressure after their worst season record since 1991. A slew of injuries to key offensive players, the release of Darren Sharper, and the allowance for Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle to walk in free agency would lead to a dismal 4-12 season. It was the first season as General Manager for Thompson, and it would become the last season as Head Coach for Mike Sherman.

It almost seemed like fate brought the two together.

Brett Favre, whose retirement was starting to become a question mark, was reportedly urging the Packers’ brass to make some “high-profile additions” to the roster. After signing veteran defensive lineman Ryan Pickett just a month earlier, Ted Thompson made a 7-year, $52 million deal to secure Woodson. It has since become his most notable free agency signing across his 8-year tenure as GM.

Of course, as Charles Woodson has admitted freely, he “did not want to come to Green Bay,” but was forced to when they became the only team to offer him a contract.

6

March

Playing Devil’s Advocate: Quality vs. Quantity in the NFL Draft

Clay Matthews NFL Combine

Clay Matthews at the NFL Combine

Let’s play devil’s advocate for a second and argue that Ted Thompson should trade up in the draft.  Now I’m not going to be crazy and say that Thompson should trade away every pick the team has in order to pull off a “Ricky Williams”, but moving some of the picks to get better position in the draft does have its benefits

My reasoning is that having too many draft picks can actually be detrimental to the team.  When Thompson took over operations from head coach/general manager Mike Sherman, the team was in a salary cap nightmare and as a result Thompson needed every draft pick badly in order to restock the roster with low-cost, high-reward players.  Also, since the team was stocked with players from the old regime, Thompson had no qualms getting rid of player in lieu of his own guys (all new GMs do this subconsciously if not very consciously) and the easiest way to do that was through the draft.

As a result from 2005, the first year Ted Thompson started drafting for the Packers, to 2010 only 6 out of 57 drafted players  (about 10%) have failed to make the 53 man roster; 2005 6th round pick Craig Bragg, 2006 4th round pick Cory Rodgers, 2006 7th round pick Dave Tollefson, 2007 5th round pick David Clowney, 2007 7th round pick Clark Harris and finally 2009 5th round pick Jamon Meredith.  So far this system has worked pretty well for Thompson; he’s drafted the vast majority of the current team and the Packers have won the Super Bowl and posted a 15-1 season under Thompson’s regime.

However last year in the NFL draft, Thompson was forced to get rid nearly 30% of the players he drafted, triple the average; 6th round Ricky Elmore had a terrible time converting from a 4-3 DE to a 3-4 OLB and didn’t show much in special teams and was probably one of the first players to be cut.  Fellow 6th round pick Caleb Schlauderaff was also slated to be cut as well if Thompson hadn’t been able to trade him off to the New York Jets first for a undisclosed draft pick (most likely a 7th rounder).  Finally 7th rounder Lawrence Guy was also likely to be cut, but instead ended up on the IR list all season.  This is in essence squandered resources as these picks could have been used as bargaining chips to put the Packers in a better position to select better players, or in other words trade up.

29

June

Why the Fall of Brett Favre Started Much Sooner Than You Think

It may be like trying to piece together a train wreck you’d much rather not watch again, but given the Packers’ run to Super Bowl XLV, I think we fans can revisit this without cringing too much.

It’s time once again to look at the disgraceful downfall of one Brett Lorenzo Favre. Yes, everyone has beaten the topic to death the past few years but one thing that has not truly been discussed was the exact moment when Favre’s downfall began.  Some say it was in 2005 with the hiring of Ted Thompson.  Others argue it happened with the firing of Mike Sherman in 2006.

I’d have to partially agree with those who mention Sherman, except they have it backwards. I’d argue Favre’s meltdown began when Sherman was HIRED in 2000.

Wind the clock back to that year if you will: Ray Rhodes had just been fired and Favre was coming off a 22 TD pass to 23 interceptions season after battling a bad thumb all season.  Keep in mind this was two years removed from the Packers trip to Super Bowl XXXII against the Broncos.  Favre experienced his first non-winning season of his career as well.

More than that, players and coaches from the Super Bowl teams had begun to move on. Mike Holmgren was in Seattle, Reggie White was in Carolina for one last season and best bud former tight end Mark Chmura was on trial for sexual assault.   Favre’s mentors and best friend were all gone.

Enter Mike Sherman.  He came in talking about the great history and tradition of the Packers and wanted to make sure his teams were established in the same mold. This was a theme Sherman constantly revisited during his time in Green Bay.

He also talked about Favre as one of the greatest ever and a true legend despite the quarterback barely being over the age of 30.  The overstuffing of Favre’s ego had begun.  Instead of saying that yes, he is great but he still needs to be smart like Mike McCarthy later did, Sherman only praised his quarterback and when question about Favre’s faults (like those interceptions), he just basically shrugged them off as “That’s just Brett.”

The seeds were planted.

The first few years of the Sherman era were productive with the Packers making the playoffs in 2001 after a two year absence and they won the NFC North in 2002.