As I’m writing this, it has been nearly 24 hours since the Packers season came to a crashing and abrupt end at the hands of the 49ers.
A national audience watched the Packers get exposed as more pretenders than contenders. A talented roster that has some serious issues that need to be corrected if this team is ever going to return to Super Bowl glory as it did a mere two seasons ago.
Struggles on offense, a porous defense, and questionable special teams were among some of the issues that everyone who was watching last night saw first hand.
How could this have happened? What went wrong? What needs to take place for this team to return to power in the NFL?
One thing that is known is that the 2013 version of the Packers will be significantly different than the one we saw in 2012.
Mainstays such as Donald Driver and Greg Jennings are most likely not returning next year.
There is serious question whether Jermichael Finley and Charles Woodson have a future in Green Bay as well.
A.J. Hawk will need a contract restructuring if he wants to return.
Several players, including Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, and James Jones are due for contract extensions.
And Mike McCarthy must now answer failing in the playoffs the past two seasons, and four of the the past six seasons, leaving his overall playoff record at 6-4.
These are just a few of the issues facing the Packers. For a team which was built to win now, it sure seems like the Packers have just as many questions, if not more, answers at this point.
This is going to be an interesting off season for them. In many ways, the Packers are at a crossroads.
As long as Aaron Rodgers is under center, and the rest of the offense continues to perform at a high level, the Packers will be competitive. Losses of players such as Jennings and Finley are offset by the emergence of Nelson, Cobb, Crabtree, and the plethora of tight ends currently on the roster. They seem to have found their running back in DuJuan Harris. Marshall Newhouse and Don Barclay quietly improved throughout the season. The ability to remain a high powered offense seems to be there.
The defense is another story. Dom Capers and his staff are going to be held responsible for the playoff collapse the entire off season, their scheme coming into serious question as a result. Are the right players in place? Is it the right scheme? Is it time for a change? These are some of the issues that need to be addressed sooner than later.
The talent on the roster is there to be competitive for years to come right now.
But do the Packers want to become the Packers of the early-mid 00’s, where they were competitive enough to get into the playoffs every year, but not quite to the standard of the top teams in the NFC?
This is the crossroads the Packers now face.
Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy need to take a long, hard look at everything this off season, and determine the best course of action for this team, without regard for anything other than winning NOW. If a change needs to be made, whether it is schematic or roster, it needs to be made while the window for this team to win is still open. Every year that passes without adding another Lombardi Trophy closes the window just a little bit.
Eventually, the window will be closed, and it will be 2005 all over again.