It is no secret that the Green Bay Packers has been one of the most well-run operations in the National Football League for the past few seasons. Since Aaron Rodgers took over for Brett Favre in 2008, the Packers have compiled a record of 58-29 (including playoff appearances), two division titles and one Super Bowl championship. Rodgers himself notched his MVP trophy while leading the team as it posted its best regular season in record in franchise history. Without a doubt, it has been a great time in Titletown thus far during the Rodgers era. The skies have been blue and the rays of success have beamed down from the football gods. It seems that the Packers have constructed a breeding ground for generations of pigskin excellence on the soils of Lambeau.
While Rodgers has emerged as the face of the Packers since taking over for Brett Favre, it would be foolish not to acknowledge the guys that helped the Packers continue to bear that golden torch of success over those years. Guys like Donald Driver, Charles Woodson, Greg Jennings and Desmond Bishop, among others, have been nearly, or equally as important in reestablishing the Packers as the class of the NFC. As you may have noticed, however, all of the aforementioned players have played what is likely to be their last season in Green Bay, last season. Meanwhile, teams like the San Francisco 49ers progressively has emerged as some of the best talent in the NFC. All of this while the Packers are without a few of their stars of yesteryear, an 29-year old elite quarterback in his prime and a couple of younger guys looking to take that step forward into the limelight to replace their predecessors.
Recently, Aaron Rodgers sat down with ESPN Wisconsin's Jason Wilde to discuss a plethora of topics. All in all, the conversation went in a number of directions. From talks about the Greg Jennings comments, to the undying yet recently resurrected (OXYMORON) discussion of Brett Favre and his inevitable jersey retirement, to a lot of other Aaron Rodgers-ish stuff. While a lot of topics were touched on, there was once overriding theme that stuck out : The Window of Opportunity. What happens with it? Is it closing on Green Bay? With other teams like Denver, San Francisco and Seattle emerging and the Packers losing some of their once-key contributors, Rodgers says that he feels that younger personnel will step up to fill those voids:
I see the window staying open. I really do. I see some important guys making that jump mentally and physically. Some guys have been here, and I see these guys coming in and pushing guys. I look at a guy like Datone Jones. I mean, he's a man out there and having guys like that and Johnny Jolly, bringing Johnny back, those are two guys who bring an energy to a defensive line that really needs it.
While players like Donald Driver, Charles Woodson, Greg Jennings and Desmond Bishop moving onward from their Packer years, it is up to others like Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, Morgan Burnett and Brad Jones to now step up and emerge as leaders on this young Packer squad. After being placed in a locker room where players like Woodson and Bishop are given pink slip certainty gets across the magnitude of how easily a roster spot can be lost at any time. Rodgers believes that these examples may be all the motivation the young guys need to cherish this opportunity and to stay on their toes, consistently.
When they're cutting guys like Charles Woodson, and not bringing back Greg, who's played a long time here, guys who had big roles for us, it has to be a wake-up call for some of our guys that this is about, "What have you done for me lately?" and "What can you do for me?" That's the type of league we're in.
Rodgers also hinted at some of the guys he liked so far this off-season. Wide Receivers Myles White (Louisiana Tech) and Tyrone Walker (Illinois State) were a couple of guys that drew praise from the 2011 NFL MVP. For an organization that emphasizes on drafting and developing, the Packers may have two guys there that could eventually become favorable targets of their quarterback down the line. As far as his veteran targets, Rodgers spoke highly of them as well. James Jones is coming off of a league-high 14 touchdown receptions in 2012. Opposite of Jones, Jordy Nelson is coming back from nagging hamstring injury and is looking to be ready to go in 2013.
I love our weapons. We have a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things for you. We have two of the top outside receivers in the league in Jordy and James.
For years, the Packers have been known for their offensive onslaughts through their passing attack. This year the Packers have brought in Johnathan Franklin and Eddie Lacy to compete with the incumbents; James Starks, DeJuan Harris and Alex Green.
You bring in a guy like Johnathan Franklin or Eddie Lacy, that raises the running back room. When you continunally add guys to the mix that can compete right away from Day 1, everybody else has to pick up their game because you start worrying about your own job.
While the Packers continue on with their never-ending "circle of life" in player personnel, they are relying more on the younger players who used to take the notes. Now without the comfort of having players like Greg Jennings and Charles Woodson, these guys are the leading voices at the OTAs and in practices. Only time can tell if this group will continue to bear that gleaming, golden, torch of success or if they will be taking a step backwards. Until then, the Packers move forward with their youth and a lot of doubting whispers that can only be silenced by productivity.
(You can read the Wilde interview HERE)