17

June

Packers Put a Ring on it – and We Like It

It had the anticipation, nerves and hype of a Green Bay Packer playoff game. There are just two problems with this scenario.

The NFL lockout remains in effect (although hopefully not much longer) and the date is June 16, not January 16.

The excitement was over the unveiling of the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV championship rings.  Tonight was a different kind of night, given that the players and coaches have barely interacted since they got back from Dallas, but it’s a night none of the players or fans who were following along on Twitter will likely ever forget.

Like a great movie, the occasion had it all: Drama, laughter, nervousness and an ultimately very sweet payoff.  Yours truly was even sucked into the drama of the evening thanks to one of my soon to be patented poorly timed and poorly worded jokes. More on that later.

Since the event was private, no media were allowed inside the Lambeau Field Atrium until after the event. This was a night solely for the players in coaches.  We were treated to some “pre –game” coverage on NFL Network but sooner than later the players were inside the stadium, ready for the festivities to begin.

Without any media, the obvious question on Twitter became “Which player would be the first to tweet a picture of the ring?”  The early favorite was tight end and new fan favorite Tom Crabtree with Nick Barnett not far behind.   Another thing that got a chuckle out of me were all the tweets that said Aaron Rodgers had arrived…..solo.

Soon after, players were seated and the ceremony got underway.   Tensions and nervousness began to escalate quickly as time went further and further past 7 PM central.   You’d think there was a game going on given the anxiety I saw on my Twitter timeline.

Offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga broke the tension with a tweet stating “The Ring!” followed by a link to TwitPic. That link ultimately led to a picture of a grinning Bulaga and no ring.  A new meme in Packer fandom may have been born: being BulagaRoll’d. Sorry, Rick Astley.

At this point fans were openly wondering if all the Packer fans retweeting photos of the ring would cause Twitter to malfunction, as has been known to happen during spikes of activity.  Twitter also supposedly has this “Twitter jail” for those users who send too many tweets in too short of time period, thus chewing up precious bandwith. This led me to tweet to fans: “Intentionally trying to take down Twitter will get you banned fyi.”

16

June

Aaron Rodgers’ Road To Canton: Off To A “Super” Start

It seems that like no matter what Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers does in his career, someone has a question about him.

First, there was the question of whether he was athletic enough to succeed as a starter in the NFL. That was answered in 2008.

Then there were the doubts of whether or not he could lead the Packers to the postseason. He checked that one off in 2009.

Next it became whether or not Rodgers could win a playoff game and truly replace Brett Favre in the hearts and minds of Packers fans. He finally sealed the deal on that one with a Super Bowl title in 2010 (although the hearts and minds of many were already won by the start of 2010).

Now there is another question involving Rodgers, but I don’t think he would mind this one being asked around too much especially this early in his career:

“Is Aaron Rodgers on the path to enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?”

Before we can even begin to answer that question, there should be one huge disclaimer attached: Rodgers has played six NFL seasons and has seen enough meaningful action in three of them.  Hall of Fame enshrinement is judged upon a player’s entire career so to prognosticate Rodgers’ chances after three seasons as a starter is a little preposterous.

All that said, we can look at some trends from these past three seasons and try to play the role of Nostradamus in gauging how Rodgers will finish his career.

If you count just 2008-2010, Rodgers is averaging 4,131 yards per season with 29 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions plus four rushing touchdowns.  If Rodgers is somehow able to maintain that average for 11 more years when he turns 38, he would finish his career with 58,164 yards, 406 TD passes, 142 interceptions, and 57 rushing touchdowns.

Those numbers would definitely be Hall of Fame worthy, but it’s likely that pace will drop off a bit.  For one, every quarterback experiences an “off year.” Even Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have down years.  While they’re not horrible, they are lower than what they average each season.   The law of averages is sometimes simply too much to overcome.

14

June

In A World Of Self Service, The World Champion Packers Are Bucking The Trend

Photo from Madison.com

We interrupt this era of egos and selfishness to bring you something completely different.

As any sports fanatic knows, professional athletes in this day and age are more than just athletes. They are marketing machines.  They market not only their name but their brand as well and usually make themselves a nice chunk of money in addition to compensation from their respective teams.

Win a championship in your sport and the marketing goes into overdrive.  Endorsement deals, TV show and movie appearances, their voice on “The Simpsons,” etc.  The end result of this usually helps the players themselves and helps feed their egos.  This is how modern day champions bask in their glory.

Then there’s the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers.

At last check, we don’t see Aaron Rodgers’ face plastered all over TV or Clay Matthews making cameos in movies (although he did get a nice deal with Suave).  We don’t see Mike McCarthy writing his tell all memoirs or making a DVD telling the world how great of a coach he is.

Instead, we see Rodgers making an appearance on behalf of the MACC fund. We see Matthews on TV not as an actor, but as a spokesman advocating a cure for Duchenne. We see McCarthy hosting a charity golf tournament and taking the Lombardi Trophy to Children’s Hospital to help brighten the days of some very sick kids.  Donald Driver’s annual softball game brought out a good chunk and the annual Tailgate Tour around Wisconsin helped some players connect and celebrate on a much more personal level.

Hell, Tom Crabtree even met up with some fans in a bar for a tweetup.

The point is the Packers decided to bask in the glory of winning a Super Bowl by helping others instead of helping themselves.   Cheesehead Nation knows how great of a place to play Green Bay is, but the efforts of the Packers post-Super Bowl XLV have reminded America and the world that Titletown is a unique and special place as well.

The Packers are showing the world how it is done.  While championships are huge accomplishments and deserve to be celebrated, using that accomplishment to inflate one’s own self-worth is completely counterintuitive to what led to that championship in the first place.  The Packers recognize this, given all the injuries suffered during the 2010 campaign, and have taken that message to heart as they celebrated winning Super Bowl XLV.  Accomplishing greatness is never the product of one but rather the effort of many.

4

June

The 10 Biggest Moments of the Packers’ 2010 Super Bowl Season

Nothing could ever tarnish the Green Bay Packers’ 2010 Super Bowl win, but does anyone else get the feeling that the NFL lockout has taken a little of the shine off?

In an offseason where most of the talk should be about the Packers chances of repeating as football champions, the news is littered with talk about a labor dispute that could take away Green Bay’s chance of even attempting it.

So, instead of looking forward in this post, we’re going to take a trip down memory lane to make sure none of the labor talk has hurt your memory of the special season Packers fans had a privilege to share. Here are the 10 biggest moments of 2010, with a few honorable mentions thrown in.

 

Honorable mentions

Rodgers to Jennings Part I: Their first touchdown connection in the Super Bowl was a thing of beauty and gave the Packers a commanding 21-3 lead.

B.J. Raji’s pick-six: His interception return for a touchdown was ultimately the game-winning points in the NFC Championship game.

Stopping a new Mike Vick: The Packers 2010 season got off to a dramatic start as the Packers defense stopped Vick on fourth down to preserve the win.

Rashard Mendenhall’s mistake: This play could almost make the top 10, but the Packers strip and recover of Mendenhall in the Super Bowl turned the tides.

Game-tying strike in Atlanta: Rodgers’ laser beam to Jordy Nelson tied the game at 17 with under two minutes to go.

Old man still has it: Donald Driver’s inspiring run-and-catch vs. the 49ers was one of the individual plays of the year for the Packers.

The 10 Biggest Moments

Collins’ seals the playoff berth

Nick Collins interception of Jay Cutler in Week 17 against the Bears ensured that the Packers would get their chance in the playoffs. Three weeks later, the Bears would regret not eliminating the Packers when they had their first opportunity to do so.

Desean Jackson’s return

Don’t forget—Jackson’s punt return for a touchdown that capped off the Eagles stunning come-from-behind win in New York allowed the Packers to get into the playoffs with two wins in the final two weeks. Without it, the Giants are playing in the postseason and not the Packers.

Sam Shields’ runs to Dallas

11

March

Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Offense — Quinn Johnson

1.)Introduction: He may not be a folk hero like fellow fullback John “Kuuuuuuuuhn” Kuhn, but Quinn Johnson is no small guy.  Drafted in the fifth round by the Green Bay Packers in 2009 out of LSU, Johnson is a beast of a man and has been a key part of bolstering the Packers’ rushing attack.  While he may not be a touchdown machine near the goal line like Kuhn, Johnson took his blocking role seriously even though he was only active for 11 games this season.

2.) Profile:

Quinn Marcus Johnson

Position: RB
Height: 6-0    Weight: 251 lbs.

Born: September 30, 1986 in New Orleans, LA
College: LSU (school history)    (Johnson college stats)
Drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 5th round (145th overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft.

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 0 (14365th overall since 1950)

3.) Expectations entering the 2010 season: For Johnson, there were very few expectations placed on his shoulders.  With the Packers running an offense that does not feature the fullback very often, Johnson and the others played the role of lead blocker for the running back, whether it was Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson or James Starks.

The mission for Johnson in 2010 was simple: make your blocks and help open lanes for the running backs.

4.)Player’s highlights/lowlights: Basically Non -existent.  Johnson only started four games this year and with no rushes and only 3 catches for 26 yards to his credit, it’s hard to find any noticeable ups and downs for a player.

Still, with the Packers lacking a rushing attack for the majority of the 2010 season, some of that can be thrown on Johnson, I suppose.  Holes were not being opened up and all the blockers share some responsibility.  Johnson was definitely part of that group.

On the plus side though, Johnson helped anchor a backfield that allowed James Starks to set a Packers rookie playoff rushing record in the Wild Card game against the Philadelphia Eagles.  That helped serve notice that the Packers were close to achieving offensive balance and put the Falcons on notice for the next week (not that it helped).

5.) Player’s contribution to the team’s overall success: Again, when you are only active 11 games and start four of those,   it’s hard to make a significant on-field impact.    Johnson was inactive for the Super Bowl.

10

March

Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Offense — James Starks

1) Introduction: When the Packers took James Starks in the sixth round of the 2010 draft, there was probably only a handful of fans who knew who he was. Yet after probing into the history of Starks, many fans became enamored with his untapped talent at running back. However, Starks’ inability to stay healthy was also a concern, and he missed his entire senior season at Buffalo with a shoulder injury.

Those injury worries were confirmed when Starks injured his hamstring before the season. He would spend the first six weeks on the PUP list and didn’t see any game action until Week 13.

2) Profile:

James Darell ‘Buck’ Starks

Position: RB
Height:
6-1   Weight: 203 lbs

Born: February 25, 1986 in Niagara Falls, NY
College: Buffalo (school history)
Drafted
by the Green Bay Packers in the 6th round (193rd overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft.

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: Low, but also optimistic. With Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson ahead of him on the depth chart, Starks didn’t figure to see the field much in year one. Those expectations were further lowered when Starks hurt his hamstring in OTA’s and missed nearly all of training camp and the preseason. Before the injury however, many thought Starks could add a home run threat to the running back position and possibly contribute on kickoff returns.

4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: Starks didn’t see the field until the Packers’ Week 13 game against the 49ers, and he had a solid showing in his debut (73 yards on 18 carries). He than disappeared again for most of the regular season, contributing only 28 yards rushing and 15 yards receiving while being active in just two of the final four games.

Once the playoffs began, so did Starks’ breakout campaign. In the Wild Card, he rushed for a Packers rookie playoff record 123 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles. Starks’ 123 yards also marked the Packers highest individual rushing total of the season.

Two weeks later, Starks gave the Packers a 14-0 lead over the Bears with a lunging 4-yard touchdown run. He would finish the NFC Championship game with 74 yards against the NFL’s No. 2 rushing defense.

If there was low mark to Starks’ season however, it’d be his 8-yard rushing performance against the Lions in Week 14.

7

March

Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Offense — Greg Jennings

1.)Introduction: Greg Jennings was the Green Bay Packers second round draft pick in 2006 and almost immediately began delivering results on the field.

Developing an instant rapport with quarterback Brett Favre (and then Aaron Rodgers), Jennings made his presence known early becoming the Packers deep threat.  His physicality and speed turned him into one the league’s best young receivers in only his second season.

Despite not being the tallest of wide receivers, Jennings is not afraid to go up top for a ball and has turned into a touchdown magnet near the goal line.  As could be heard through his microphone during Super Bowl XLV, Jennings also is a very smart football player and isn’t afraid to offer his coaches feedback on the gameplan in-game.

2.) Profile:

Gregory Jennings Jr.

Position: WR
Height: 5-11    Weight: 195 lbs.

Born: September 21, 1983 in Kalamazoo, MI
College: Western Michigan (school history)    (Jennings college stats)
Drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 2nd round (52nd overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft.

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 45 (1774th overall since 1950)
1-time Pro Bowler (fine print)

3.) Expectations entering 2010 season:  Coming of a 2009 season that had Jennings once again over the 1000 yard mark for the season, it was expected that he would duplicate those numbers and increase his touchdown total (he only had four the entire 2009 campaign.)  With Jermichael Finley a budding superstar at the tight end position, Jennings was expected to have a bigger season with so many defenders keying in on Finley.

Another 1,000+ receiving yards and 10+ touchdown passes was about was expected of Jennings during the 2010 season.

4.) Highlights/Lowlights: As it turned out, Jennings once again had to become the offense’s primary playmaker after Finley was lost for the season to a knee injury.  This no doubted suited Jennings just fine as he had begun to publicly show signs of frustration at the lack of balls coming his way with all the attention Finley was getting.

Jennings’ finest hour no doubt was Super Bowl XLV against the Steelers.  His two touchdown passes came at critical time for the Packers.  His first, a 21 yard bullet through the Steelers’ coverage, put the Packers up 21-3 and forced Pittsburgh to play catch-up the rest of the way.  His second, an eight yard catch,  helped stall the Steelers’ momentum that they had built during the third quarter.