Truth is often stranger than fiction. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, April Fool’s Day pranks certainly feel like an unwelcome diversion, and we at Acme Packing Company will not be running any phony posts or the like this year.
Instead, we think it is far more interesting to look back at the unbelievable but true events that have recently taken place. Today, we scrolled back through our archives to find some of the most shocking, surprising, and unbelievable headlines over the past 12 months. That includes things that were unexpected at the time as well as items that, looking back, are amazing or silly in hindsight.
Yes, the Green Bay Packers’ free agency spending spree in 2019 would be up there, but that was in March and we’re looking at only April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020. That means that Matt LaFleur’s hiring is ineligible as well, though we do get to cover a big surprise in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Here’s a look at what surprised us over the past year.
Cole Madison returns to Packers & has been reinstated to active roster
This was a great unexpected turn in early April of last year, as Madison came back to the team after a year away to work on his mental health. He made the team in September, and though he tore his ACL in practice, he should be in the mix again in 2020 and beyond.
The Takeaway, Packers vs. Bears: Green Bay delivers most dominant road defensive performance in 4 years
The Packers’ first game with a new-look defense and a new offensive-minded head coach was shocking to many — but probably most to their opponents, who found it nearly impossible to move the ball against Mike Pettine’s unit.
Under-recruited, undrafted, and unbowed: How Allen Lazard became a key part of the Packers’ offense
Lazard, who spent one game with the team in 2018, became the Packers’ WR2 over the course of 2019 after not even making the initial 53-man roster.
New Packer Tyler Ervin single-handedly saved team from historic punt return ineptitude
A shrewd waiver-wire claim, Ervin indeed dragged the Packers up from historic depths of failure on punt returns and provided a major spark to the special teams overall down the stretch.
Unexpected roster transactions
Packers draft EDGE Rashan Gary with 12th overall pick in 2019 NFL Draft / Packers’ GM Brian Gutekunst was ‘locked in’ on Rashan Gary for months
These two go together. The Packers had shown no interest in Gary leading up to the draft, seemingly focusing on every other first-round pass rusher instead. But once the pick was in, Gutey revealed that he and his staff had been quietly hoping to land the Michigan product for a long, long time.
Packers release veteran DL Mike Daniels, per reports
On one of the first days of training camp, the Packers suddenly and with little warning cut bait with one of their longest-tenured defensive players, shocking the fan base.
Packers claim OT Jared Veldheer on waivers after un-retirement
Another clever late-season addition by Gutekunst, Veldheer ended up helping save the Packers’ hopes for a first-round bye in week 17, then made an emergency spot start in the team’s Divisional Playoff win over Seattle when Bryan Bulaga was down with the sickness.
Shocking news from around the league
Packers’ Matt LaFleur tears Achilles playing basketball, will coach from cart
The initial reaction to this news from last May was “he did what?” And not in the fun, Antonio Freeman-on-Monday night way.
Packers-Raiders preseason game finalized, will be held in Winnipeg
And in that game, several players were lost for the season — including Equanimeous St. Brown and promising rookie linebacker Curtis Bolton.
Dallas Cowboys hire Mike McCarthy as head coach, per reports
This one came in January, following Jason Garrett’s departure. McCarthy couldn’t have made a bigger change in terms of organizational structure than going from the Packers to the Cowboys.
NFLPA approves new CBA, bringing labor peace to NFL through 2030
A full year ahead of schedule, a CBA is finalized that will leave the league without any labor issues for another decade. Who saw this coming a year ago?
Roger Goodell instructs NFL teams to close down facilities until at least April 8
COVID-19 had to make an appearance here somewhere, as the shocking news that keeps coming out over the past few weeks — and will continue to do so moving forward — is starting to have big impacts on the one major North American sports league that is in its offseason.
“What were we thinking?” takes
Worries about the Packers finding a new slot receiver are overblown
Looking back, I feel pretty silly about this one. When I wrote this piece, I was expecting big things from Geronimo Allison and St. Brown. One lost his entire 2019 season to injury while the other stunk up the joint and just signed with the Lions for 2020.
Packers’ improvement on defense likely to come from secondary, not revamped pass rush
The Packers’ secondary did improve last year, particularly at the safety position, but it was most definitely the Smith Bros. who were the most integral reason for the defense’s improvement. 25.5 sacks sure did the trick.