In January of 1984, the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders were undergoing final preparations for their Super Bowl XVIII match-up. The media coverage, albeit not as all-encompassing as it is in 2013, was still very much a big part of the event, too.
Redskins' tackle Joe Jacoby told one of those reporters (tongue-in-cheek) that he would run over his own mother to win the Super Bowl. News of his quote made it to Raiders linebacker Matt Millen. He replied to the reporter that told him what Jacoby had said, "To win the Super Bowl, I'd run over Joe's mom, too."
While this statement is more humorous than it is informative, it got me thinking about the last time the Packers had a charismatic leader on its defense that would say (or play) something like that. And when the last player I could think of was Reggie White, I thought that my memory had to be failing me.
Upon further review, I don't think it has.
Perhaps the biggest flaw in Green Bay's defense since winning Super Bowl XLV has been the lack of a mean streak. I don't think I'm being too careless in this assessment either when you consider the image that some of the current defenders project to fans.
Take for instance the face of the defense--linebacker Clay Matthews. He's probably more known for his flowing blonde hair being the centerpiece of shampoo commercials than his pass-rushing prowess being the centerpiece of the Packers' D. Fellow 2009 first round pick B.J. Raji looks more like a big panda bear than a nasty nose tackle in the line of Tony Siragusa, Casey Hampton or Haloti Ngata, too.
Certainly I don't want to equate facial appearance with dominant trench play. But does Raji sneer into the camera lens in commercials for rugged pick-up trucks? Or is he wiggling his hips in a hula dance in an insurance ad? I'm not judging, but I certainly don't see Vince Wilfork or Ndamuking Suh shaking it in any similar endorsement deals.
The examples don't end there. Ryan Pickett, Nick Perry and A.J. Hawk are about as soft-spoken as defenders get in the NFL. Yes, they've made their share of plays. Hawk still is a solid linebacker; Perry should take a step forward in his development this year; and Big Grease has been doing dirty work in the trenches since his arrival in Green Bay.
Full disclosure, I don't know any of these players personally. I am merely drawing conclusions from what is available to me. And if you're flipping your hair, dancing a hula or being timid during interviews, I can't help but think there is a little shred of reality there when it comes to playing football.
I don't want to make it seem like I am questioning toughness here. I'm not. But when I look around the NFL and see the style of play that Jared Allen, LaRon Landry, Patrick Willis and Ed Reed exhibit, it's clear that there is a philosophical difference in Green Bay on how to keep teams from scoring.
Because of former safety--and NFL Defensive Player of the Year--Charles Woodson's innate ability to create turnovers, many of his fellow defenders adapted the same style of play. Go for the pick. Eschew the tackle in favor of trying to strip the ball. Let them get the yardage, just not the score.
Those tactics certainly worked...until they didn't. (579 yards given up to the Niners, anyone?) With Woodson's departure, maybe Packers GM Ted Thompson senses a shift may be in order as well.
Thompson selected UCLA defensive end Datone Jones with his first pick of the 2013 NFL Draft. Jones not only plays angry football, he said he was inspired by--you guessed it--Reggie White.
Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy also bring back inside linebacker Desmond Bishop who is coming off a major knee injury. Bishop, who was known for his vicious style of play before his injury, should be able to instill a punishing style of defending among his teammates in 2013 as well.
When you consider blossoming, cocky, confident cornerbacks Casey Hayward and Sam Shields--who has always played with a chip on his shoulder since he went undrafted in 2010--and a paradigm shift could be occurring in Lambeau.
Matthews and Raji will still obviously be the leaders of this defense. But until the Packers defenders start showing some ferocity and causing pain with each hit, every team in the NFC North will be able to sense weakness.
I don't expect any of these players to ever come out and say that they'd run over their own mothers to win a Super Bowl. But I certainly hope that this unit's play in 2013 would suggest that none of their family members would be safe from being trampled.