We continue to wander through the desert of a locked out offseason. We've had the draft and now we are settling into what would normally be vacation time for many in the NFL. As the news slows to a trickle there are a few stories that
keeps coming back and back when it comes to the Packers....
1. Why oh why are they not practicing? Now I won't talk too much about this cause there are already two or three posts on this from fans. There has also been stories about this from Aaron Rodgers' perspective and Mike McCarthy's perspective. The constant moral of the story? It would be good of them to do, but it's not the end of the world that it hasn't happened yet.
2. What's going to happen with the roster? This is your garden variety questions about Matt Flynn, Cullen Jenkins, and the mess at ILB. It's all a perfectly healthy reaction to the offseason and frankly these conversations are a bit fun.
3. The Packers are going to have a down year because of the Super Bowl hang over. Now this line of thought doesn't come out of the talking heads too much. Typically it sticks in the comment sections and gets played like a trump card that all are supposed to respect as divine truth.
Well I've seen this non sequitur enough. Let's open this up and really see if there is any merit to the statement.First things first...where does the Super Bowl hang over come from? To answer this the best way is to look at some of the past Super Bowl winners and see if a hang over exists, and if it does look at why that hang over happened.
The Pittsburgh Steelers. Now the Steelers had a bit of bad luck and didn't have the greatest of seasons to follow up their Super Bowl wins. They also had their starting QB have major scandals after each Super Bowl season as well. The first time he got into a car crash so bad that he may have died. The second time....well...you know what happened. So from these incidents there bled over into a circus in training camp and dark clouds surrounding the team that can infect and suck the life out of a team.
The Indianapolis Colts. After winning their Super Bowl the Colts put together a 13-3 season where they lost in the Divisional round of the playoffs to the Chargers. As a point of comparison the next year the team when 12-4 and lost in the Wild Card to the Chargers. Yup, not seeing a hang over there.
The NY Giants. After winner their Super Bowl the Giants went 12-4 and lost in the Wild Card round to the Eagles. Keep in mind they haven't been to the playoffs since. Not seeing a major hang over here.
The New Orleans Saints. After winner the Super Bowl last year it was said the Saints partied too much. That they would have a Super Bowl hang over. They went 11-5 and made the playoffs. This was being just about as injury plagued as the Packers were. A combination of those injuries, forgetting how to tackle, and Qwest Field being a madhouse caused them to have an unexpected exit from the playoffs.
Now after looking at these teams I'm doubtful that a Super Bowl hang over exits at all. If it does typically it's the result of key players leaving or retiring, key coaches leaving for promotions on other teams, or the teams getting a late start to the offseason since their season goes so much longer.
Here's why these three things really don't capture what will probably happen with the Packers this year....
1. Key Players Leaving or Retiring. Now the Pack do have a few key vets that are getting up there and may retire soon. Donald Driver, Charles Woodson, and Chad Clifton are the most notable names. The thing is though that none of these guys are retiring. The only Packer I've seen to date that is thinking about retiring is Mark Tauscher. Really this isn't surprising, nor is it a huge hit to the Packers offensive line.
The Packer may lose a couple key players as well. The biggest expected loss is Cullen Jenkins. We've been round and round this, but I don't think Jenkins' departure alone will cause the collapse of the Packers defense, especially with Mike Neal waiting in the wings and looking to prove what he can do. Also on the potentially gone list would be James Jones. Losing Jones would hurt as well, but the recieving corp would still be deep with Driver being able to put in at least one more solid year, Greg Jennings still being awesome, Jordy Nelson being acceptable and Jermichael Finely being back in the mix. Place in just enough Randall Cobb so as not to overwhelm the rookie and things are still looking good on that front.
The Packers aren't going to be losing the key fundamental leaders of the team. The core of Rodgers, Matthews, Raji, and Jennings are still together. The offensive line is still together. The starting defense is all pretty much together as well...plus they are adding many key pieces that were injured last year. Yeah, not seeing the hang over on this point.
2. Losing key assistant coaches. The Packers lost one assistant coach this offseason. It was the wide recievers coach and he was replaced with Edgar Bennett. Now this could hurt us more than we thought, but I think Bennett will be just fine. Coaches need to learn many different parts of the offense. Mike McCarthy is a QB guru but he played TE in college. Honestly I don't see much drop off here either.
3. Being behind the rest of the NFL in the offseason. Here I think the lock out helps most of all. All of the teams will have the same official start. Now I know the nay sayers are going to say that the Packers are behind the rest of the league by not having player work outs. Here are some simple questions to all those who think the Pack are suddenly behind....What are the Patriots doing? How about the Colts? Or the Steelers? How many practices has Jay Cutler gotten the Bears together for?
Yes Drew Brees has gotten plenty of guys together for Saint workouts, but take a look at the big picture with those things. The workouts being held are as much about practice as they are about building the team and getting press as players to use against the owners. Brees also happens to be one of the most vocal players against the owners. Is this a coincidence that he has had the most organized player workouts? I don't think so. I'm sure they are getting some good work done there, but let's not think that it's a full replacement for what has been lost....or that teams who are not doing the same work are now suddenly behind. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning know how to win and know what's needed to win. They are doing just about as much as Aaron Rodgers is right now.
There is one more wild card aspect to what might cause a downturn for the Super Bowl Champion.....being the hunted. Every team wants to beat you that much more. Every team wants to knock you down a peg. Every team wants to say they beat the champ. There is no avoiding this and this is the main reason why a Super Bowl champion has to stay extra hungry throughout a title defense. This one can't really be answered until kick off happens, but for all those fans who are counting on this being the achilles heel of the Packers I say beware. Remember there were 15 guys on this roster who got their rings through IR. They are going to be pushing for their old jobs back and keeping the other 53 healthy. There are also a whole bunch of young guys who just got drafted looking to push all of those guys as well. Then finally you have one of the best coaching staffs in the league, a staff that was able to get guys off the street and build them into a Super Bowl Champion, there to make sure the team stays focused.
So don't buy into the hype of the hangover. When it's really broken down you see that this team is for real for a long time. The repeat may not happen, it's pretty darn tough after all, but the 2011 Packers will come out of the gate as one of the top teams in the league and expected to win a Super Bowl. Just like another team....who was that again? Oh yeah, the 2010 Green Bay Packers who were expected to win it last year.