With the grievances aired, it is now time to conclude our Packers Festivus celebration with the feats of strength.
This will be done a little differently than a traditional Festivus as the celebration isn’t over until the head of the household is pinned and well, I don’t want to wrestle Matt LaFleur and risk re-injuring his Achilles’ tendon.
We’ll start again with the offense. Aaron Jones, take a bow. Who would have thought we would reach a point where you can legitimately argue the Packers’ offense is better when it goes through an Aaron other than the one with the last name Rodgers? For 12 seasons, Rodgers has been the player that has made the offense go and it’s for good reason.
Now, as the quarterback’s play has ‘slipped’ (quotes added because his numbers are down but he’s still really good), Jones has become the central figure of the Green Bay offense. Some of this is scheme as Matt LaFleur is much more committed to the run as Mike McCarthy was in his final years, but a lot of it is how gifted Jones is. He’s phenomenal as a runner and also as a receiver. Jones has developed a nose for the end zone and is tied with Christian McCaffery for the league in total touchdowns with 17.
Of course as with any good running back must come with praise for the offensive line. Under a new zone blocking scheme, the Packers offensive line looks much improved. Rookie Elgton Jenkins has been a revelation at guard and Bryan Bulaga has experienced a strong season despite being banged up from time to time. David Bakhtiari has of course been his usual self aside from an uptick in holding penalties and Corey Linsley has been solid at center. This is the best the Packers have been in the trenches in quite some time and it’s big reason why Jones has had a breakout season.
On defense, you have to start with the Smith Bros. General manager Brian Gutekunst opened up the wallet to bring both Za’Darius and Preston Smith to Green Bay and even one year in they have more than earned their paychecks. The two are an absolute force on the field with the Packers having two linebackers with double digit sacks for the first time in forever. Off the field they’ve been even more endearing as they both do interviews in the locker room together and if you haven’t seen a photo of the two of them looking at each other, find someone in your life to look at you like that. It’s been love at first sight.
On the back half of the defense, you have to love Jaire Alexander. The second-year cornerback has continued to grow to the point now where opposing quarterbacks refuse to throw his direction. He’s missed on some interception opportunities, but Alexander overall has been everything the Packers have hoped he would be when they selected him in the first round of the 2018 draft. Alexander has also endeared himself to fans with his swagger and given the spitfire of energy that he is, he figures to be popular in Titletown for years to come.
For special teams, while the punt return situation was a grievance most of the year (praise be to Tyler Ervin), other parts have been a major strength. Mason Crosby is having a career year having missed only one field goal and no extra points. Given he was forced to fight for his job in training camp, Crosby’s performance has been nothing short of extraordinary especially considering what he’s been dealing with off the field with his sister-in-law passing away and his wife battling lung cancer.
Punter JK Scott earned the nickname “The Weapon” early in the season as his leg routinely pinned opponents deep in their own territory essentially flipping the field for the defense. The JK-47 has misfired from time to time, but the Packers don’t get off to the fast start that they did without some spectacular punting from Scott.
Finally in true Festivus tradition we come to the head of the household. LaFleur was a diamond in the rough find for Packers president Mark Murphy. LaFleur is the only rookie head coach that will be in the postseason and he wasn’t even a name on many other teams’ radars last January. Yes, the offense hasn’t developed as everyone had hoped, but as head coach LaFleur is responsible for much more than the offense. He’s in charge of developing an entire program and culture and he’s been a smashing success in that regard. The Packers have a different energy about them this year and it’s a group not afraid to have fun. That’s a big reason why the Packers haven’t lost more than one game in a row all year.
The Packers are also as healthy as they have been in December in a long time. Poor player health really doomed a lot of McCarthy’s teams (2010 aside of course) and LaFleur along with a shuffled conditioning staff deserve a lot of credit for this. No matter how the Packers’ season ends, injuries won’t be a major storyline and that’s a welcome change.
Thus concludes the 2019 Packers Festivus celebration. There were a decent amount of grievances but also a lot of strengths. The Packers are 11-3 and are in prime position to win the NFC North for the first time since 2016.
May you all enjoy your feasts tonight and after the Packers beat the Vikings, don’t forget to air your grievances with the nearest Vikings fans. Just refrain from real feats of strength.