In Three Short Years, the Packers Went From Dynasty to Disappointment

aaron rodgers and clay matthews super bowl

If you are a Green Bay Packers fan, you know exactly where you were three years ago today.

The Packers capped off one of the most improbable playoff runs in NFL history by defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV, earning their 13th NFL Championship in the process.

A season which saw more than its share of ups and downs culminated in joy. Fans rejoiced, critics praised the team’s resilience and Mike McCarthy’s ability to keep the team together, and General Manager Ted Thompson was anointed a genius for constructing a team in the purest sense of the word.

No one player was bigger than the sum of its parts. They were a team, in every sense of the word.

It was glorious.

 

 

Many thought the Packers were a dynasty in the making, and for good reason. They had Aaron Rodgers, on his way to becoming the best player in the league. They had Clay Matthews, one of the most disruptive defensive players in the league. A top notch receiving corp, solid offensive line, a turnover producing machine of a defense, solid special teams, an excellent coaching staff, and a genius as a General Manager.

That was the consensus opinion three years ago.

Things are certainly different these days.

Since their Super Bowl winning season, the Packers have been surrounded with question marks. Three consecutive early exits from the playoffs will do that. So will draft classes which have produced average at best results. They have a defense which suddenly cannot stop anything, and now  inexplicably cannot produce turnovers. Offensive play calling has been called into question. A defection of front office personnel to bigger career opportunities has many questioning the “genius” label placed on Thompson.

Everyone should be reminded that they have won three consecutive division titles, but their record has declined each of the past three seasons. From 15-1 to 11-5 to 8-7-1. This dynasty in the making has been surpassed by several teams in the NFC-most notably Seattle and San Francisco-and has some catching up to do if they want to make a return trip to the Super Bowl anytime soon.

This will be a critical off season for the Packers. With 19 free agents set to hit the open market, Thompson will have to make some difficult decisions regarding some of the players who helped the Packers reach the summit of the NFL a mere three years ago. Those who he chooses not to resign will have to be replaced by the newest additions to the team he acquires through the draft or even (wait for it) free agency.

These new additions, along with core players such as Rodgers and Matthews, will be the players who will be expected to form the dynasty many expected after 2010.

Perhaps this is exactly what Rodgers was hinting at during an interview following the season at ESPN Wisconsin:

“I think this is the end of a window and the beginning of a new one. I think this is a year where we can really open up a new window that can last for four or five years. It looks really bright.”

It may look bright, but it cannot be any brighter than we all thought it was going to be just a short three years ago.

Dynasties sure have a short life these days.

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John Rehor is a writer at PackersTalk.com.

He can also be heard as one of the Co-Hosts of Cheesehead Radio.

You can follow John on twitter at jrehor or email him at johnrehor@yahoo.com.

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8 Responses to In Three Short Years, the Packers Went From Dynasty to Disappointment

  1. Philip Patterson says:

    First of all, I’d like to say, a very interesting article indeed. It raises a few good points especially given the current media hype surrounding the emergence of a prospectively young and promising Seahawks team and possible dynasty. I’d like to expand the discussion a bit further into the reasons why the Packers might have dropped off the pace slightly in the last couple of years.

    One of the major losses, I believe, after the Superbowl season was the loss of Cullen Jenkins from the defensive line. At the time, he was an aging player with his best days most probably behind him and a player with no shortage of injury concerns. During his time with the Eagles and subsequently the Giants, he never made as much of an impact compared to his 2010 season, a defense to which he contributed 7 sacks. While his exit was inevitable given the contract he was likely to command on the open market and his ever-increasing age, it was the Packers’ inability to replace his presence in the trenches that immediately took something away from a Championship calibre team and its ability to repeat.

    Secondly, a freak injury robbed us of potentially one of the best and, at the time, most under-rated safeties in the NFL, Nick Collins. In the Superbowl of the preceeding season, he probably could have had a mention in the MVP discussion and a matter of two games into the the next season, his career was in jeoprady. I think it’s understated the impact that this has had on the defense that was once a turnover machine. While Morgan Burnett has come in and played well at times, I’m sure many inside the Packers would have preferred Collins-Burnett to the subsequent hapless combinations of Burnett-Bigby, Burnett-McMillan and Burnett-M.D. Jennings.

    Along with the also inevitable parting of ways with an also aging veteran, Charles Woodson a few other factors, the defense has never reached the heights of that 2010 playoff run. There was leadership in that trio of players that is hard to replace and, in my own estimation, has yet to be replaced.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • John Rehor says:

      Thanks Phillip, appreciate the kind words.

      I think the loss of Nick Collins doomed this team from reaching at least one more Super Bowl. Most of the team is still in place from 2010. Players gone such as Greg Jennings and Cullen Jenkins have been replaced by players such as Randall Cobb and Mike Daniels. But the one player who has not been replaced is Nick Collins. There has been a gaping hole in the middle of the defense, and that has been the most glaring weakness on defense since 2010.

      Until that gets fixed, this team will continue to lag behind the likes of Seattle and San Fran in the NFC. If they can fix this, they are just as capable of making a deep playoff run as anyone.

      Thanks for reading!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      • d-man says:

        Get a better pass rush and the defensive backs will be much improved!

        DB’s play bump and run (get the right people Ted) with the defense.

        RUSH & PRESS coverage = wins. Be aggressive; take chances. I despise the 3 man rush too!!

        Already have the offense. Offensive line needs to protect Rogers from sacks, etc. Anything less then replace the offensive lineman; someone must be willing to play every down as if it were their last. If they can’t, then make it their last down and replace them with a body that is capable and hungry enough to do the job!

        I know, you say it isn’t that easy; well, it is. Watch other teams offensive lines: watch Lombardi teams….learn from history, but live the present.

        GO PACK!!!!!

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. Patrick says:

    Good article and excellent comment by Mr. Patterson. He read my mind.

    I do have a problem with the idea that the decline in record the past three years supports the argument that this team is headed in the wrong direction. How many teams go 15 – 1 at all, much less 2 years in a row. And anyone who uses this year’s record as a measuring stick for the direction this team is headed isn’t seeing the whole picture.

    Also ‘dynasty’ isn’t a word that should be used to describe any modern NFL team. It just doesn’t happen anymore. In fact, the NFL has made every effort to make sure it doesn’t. That’s part of what makes the league so appealing.

    One thing I will say regarding TT, I don’t have a problem with his team building philosophy, but it does concern me that he seems to have a better eye for offensive talent than defensive talent.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

    • John Rehor says:

      Keep in mind that the term “dynasty” is one which was thrown around by many after the Packers won it all in 2010. The young nucleus of talent was there for multiple appearances. And the 15-1 regular season record in 2011 seemed to indicate that the pieces were there for this to happen.

      I was never a fan of the term for multiple reasons (salary cap, schedule, injuries, etc) but the term was there, so that is what I chose to use.

      Dynasties are so difficult to obtain in any sport. Takes a lot of talent, skill, and luck.

      The biggest takeaway I hope people take from this is things have changed from 2010. From a team brimming with confidence to one with a number of question marks surrounding it.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Philip Patterson says:

      @ Patrick and John, appreciate the kind words. I’m a Packer fan from Ireland so at least it’s good to know the overseas fans know a bit of stuff!

      I’ll maybe not use the word ‘dynasty’ but at the very least consistency and competitiveness year in and year out might be a better aspiration given the talent of the roster. Even when the Packers won the Superbowl in 2010, it was the philosophy of ‘next man up’ when injuries decimated the starting corps. The likes of Quarless and Crabtree, Eric Walden and James Starks all stepped in to make an impact that year. The point I’m trying to make is that a team looking for yearly consistency can’t really depend on this for success. Look at this year’s Falcons for example who battled injuries to their star players all season. Not only Julio Jones who was a bit miss but Weatherspoon, Jackson, White, Biermann etc. They dropped from 13-3 to 4-12.

      I’m not really sure if it’s down to bad luck or if it’s a result of the work done in training camp in preparation for the season. I’m not going to speculate because, quite frankly, I wouldn’t really have an insight at all.

      Following on from Steve’s comments, the two OTs this year weren’t the only players that the Packers have drafted with injury question marks above their head. Eddie Lacy as recent as this year had his injury concerns but luckily *and touch wood* he has worked out and hasn’t had any major issues. Nick Perry, Mike Neal and the perennial sick-note, Justin Harrell are some examples where Ted Thompson draft philosophy, at time, hasn’t paid off.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. Steve says:

    Agree with the comments here. Would add Clay Matthews and Aaron Rodgers to the list too. They are the key players on defense and offense and they combined to miss half the season this past year – representing about a third of the salary cap. I don’t care what team you talk about no one has replacement “key” players like that.

    Bad luck would seem to be the best reason for the drop off. Also, who has 4 starting caliber OT’s? The Packers have drafted 2 first round tackles and neither one played this year. That we were competitive with a free agent and a fourth round rookie says a lot!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  4. Bobby D says:

    Can use all the reasons in the world from Collins to Jenkins to injuries we’ve been ravaged with seemingly like no other team in the league. Everyone gets hit, but our situation has been insane. McCarthy is reluctant to play regulars in the pre season in order to protect them. In theory that makes sense. However, maybe just maybe they’re not in football condition in September? Hamstring after hamstring! Aside from excuses, the stark reality is we’ve gone from what was predicted to be a team to be reckoned with for years to come to a one man team. That’s the situation we are in now. Without Rodgers we could have very easily gone 0-8 instead of 2-5-1. If Thompson can’t realize or deal with that, get rid of some overpriced baggage (Burnett, Raji, B Jones etc) and plug some need holes with a few reasonable priced FA’s, we will get only as far as a-Rod can take us……..to the playoffs and go home early again. Frustrating as he*l because we have the nucleous to be great. Can’t be close to great with this confused, unmotivated, telent starved, leader less D. By far his most important off season for Teddy Boy. He’s getting the heat he deserves and has to compromise. I just wish there was someone other than Murphy in charge………….no onions!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

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