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.
John Rehor is a writer at PackersTalk.com.
He can also be heard as one of the Co-Hosts of Cheesehead Radio. ---------------------
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.