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The Packers Are Competing During a Rebuild

What does it mean for the Packers to be competitive during a year they were expected to be bad?

Los Angeles Rams v Green Bay Packers Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

The 2023 Green Bay Packers are not good; let’s get that out of the way. They’re also not bad! “Bad” is reserved for teams who put all their eggs into one basket by trading for the oldest quarterback in the league and doing nothing to protect him up front. “Bad” is reserved for teams who trade the 32nd-overall pick for a receiver who would only go on to play 10 games for them before being traded for a sixth-rounder.

The Packers are exactly medium. Every chart, every list of rankings, it seems like they’re exactly in the middle. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve had some bad moments this season. But the medium outweighs the bad here (that’s the saying, right?) Lucky for them, the NFC is underwhelming. There are just a few surefire playoff teams: the Philadelphia Eagles, the Detroit Lions, the San Francisco 49ers, and maybe (probably) the Dallas Cowboys. Unfortunately, a team from the NFC South has to make it, so that leaves two more playoff spots wide open. And buddy, the new-look Green Bay Packers are in the hunt.

Yes, every fan wants their team to win the Super Bowl, every single season. Realistically, though, when the season started, did anyone expect the Packers to be in the playoff hunt during Week 13? The team’s loss in Week 7 to the Denver Broncos seemed to be their low point. They had dropped to 2-4, offensive production was non-existent, and we weren’t getting any answers from HC Matt LaFleur. After the next week’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings, however, things seemed to turn around. They had a much-needed blowout win over the Los Angeles Rams, and though it would go on to be a loss, they played an encouraging game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now, they’ve won two straight games as they prepare to face off against the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football.

With the playoffs in reach, and continued improvement week after week, is this season, dare I say...exciting? I mean, the Packers just went into Detroit on a short week, with a depleted group at WR, RB, and TE, and proceeded to embarrass the division leaders. QB Jordan Love had one of his best games all season, and it seems like he could really be their next long-term guy. If the Packers are finding themselves in the thick of the playoff race with this young, inexperienced roster, you’ve got to feel pretty good about future seasons. I know, I know, DC Joe Barry seems to be trending towards keeping his job another year. And yes, injuries can happen to anyone, at any time. Nothing is guaranteed, especially in the NFL. But it seems like the Packers have skipped over the “excruciatingly awful” phase, or at least minimized that window. For this team to be middle of the pack, during a year when their oldest active player is just 31 (Preston Smith), I’m incredibly impressed, and excited.

For years, we heard fans of other teams say things like “Just wait, when Aaron Rodgers leaves, you’ll be in quarterback purgatory, you’ll be bad”. Well, thanks to GM Brian Gutekunst and the scouting team, the roster is full of promising guys from the 2022 and 2023 drafts (we do not speak of 2021). The team has drafted exactly the type of guys you want to surround your new QB with: playmaking receivers like Christian Watson, Jayden Reed, Romeo Doubs, and Dontayvion Wicks, and a big-bodied tight end like Luke Musgrave. Next year, the team is forced to make a move at RB, and will likely be making some picks to beef up the offensive line as well. Gutekunst can evaluate talent well; can Matt LaFleur continue to retain a coaching staff that brings the best out of these guys? That remains to be seen, but if the answer is yes, then we’ve got a team that can be competitive for years to come.