I hate offseason accolades. As in really hate them. The NFL Top 100 Greatest Players is a great example of that. “Voted on by the Players.” Sure the Packers’ own Aaron Rodgers usually factors somewhere in the top ten, depending on the team’s success the year before. Sure, it’s nice and all, but it has all the warm fuzzies of a participation medal. You know, the Thanks for Playing Even if You Came in Last type of medal that levels the playing field. It’s fine for an 8 year old playing soccer. But come on, do grown men need them? ( By the way, did you know that the Olympics has participation medals? They’ve had one for every single modern Olympic games.)
I get it, there are good players and then there are out of this world great players. Now let me go on the record that I have absolutely no problem with JJ Watt being listed the Greatest Player of the 100. He’s a good Sconnie boy. But there will always be artificial outrage if Rodgers finishes sixth or seventh.
And don’t forget power rankings. Every media outlet seems to have one. The Packers fall anywhere from 2 to 4 depending on who likes Seattle, New England, Indianapolis or Denver more. Every pundit has a different metric to decide who is super awesome ready to win it all.
Then there’s Vegas. We can’t forget Vegas bookies in this mess. Packers are already a 6-1 odds to win it all next February. I mean, if Las Vegas has already called it, why do we even bother to have a season? Packers win, let’s go get the rings fitted today.
All of this exaggerated hype reminds me a lot of the 2011 season. There were so many accolades that the Packers rode in a tsunami of praise following their Super Bowl XLV victory. The Pack could do no wrong. They were the odds-on favorite to take the Vince Lombardi Trophy home in XLVI. As the season progressed, there were even whispers of not only winning it all, but eclipsing the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the most perfect team ever.
Hope turned into hype, and we all know how it ended.
The perfect season was blown with a trap game against the Kansas City Chiefs, and the dreams of a fourteenth world championship evaporated as Packers fans abandoned Lambeau Field in frustration and obnoxious Giants fans took over the bowl.
Wow, Kelly sure is a downer tonight. I thought we were supposed to be entering the season with all the hope and dreams a 0-0 preseason offers.
But this is what I absolutely hate about artificially generated hype that comes out long before the first whistle of the season. It’s a popularity contest created in an artificial world of paper football. Perhaps that is why the loss to the Giants stung so much. Did we all believe the brand of bollocks that was peddled since the preceding spring to the point where we all thought the Green Bay Packers were entitled a Super Bowl victory whether they actually earned it or not?
On the flip side, is it possible that is why many were quicker to come to terms with the heartbreaking loss in Seattle? After all, the Packers weren’t even supposed to be there. Rodgers was hurt, and everything at the end seemed to be held together with little more than some trainer’s tape beneath a grass-stained uniform?
Whether it is really true or not, the Green Bay Packers always seem be a far more dangerous foe when they are flying under the radar. The 2010 season is a prime example of it. They weren’t the NFC North Champions (the Chicago Bears loved to point that out even as they watched the Packers play in Dallas in February.) They slid into the playoffs in a Pluto aligning with Jupiter perfect storm teams winning and losing. And they did it with a bunch of no-name, next man up replacements to cover for losses to injury.
After they won it all, head coach Mike McCarthy understood the difference between being the Anointed Team that the other 31 would be chasing and what it meant to still be hungry for a victory. As the team convened that opening weekend of the 2011 training camp, McCarthy tried to convey the need to remain hungry, to remain the hunter and to ignore the hype. As former Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop reflected at the time, it was a difference McCarthy wanted the team to understand.
“People talk about defending the title and being hunted,” Bishop recalled. “He said we’re not going to fall into the weak mindset of being hunted. We’re going to be the hunter.”
In other words, don’t worry about other teams winning or losing. Play like your season depends on it.
Like the Packers played in 2010.
Training camp starts in a few weeks, and those paper accolades will mean nothing. The greatest, most influential, strongest, whatever player of 2015 will no longer matter. Vegas odds will just be that. Speculation where people put money down, not magic formula for success. No one will care who was the MVP last season, and his trophy will already be gathering dust.
The Seahawks will just be another team that has previously won the Big Show. Let them be the hunted.
The Packers will be in the thick of it just like the other 31 teams chasing the reigning champions. How they finish depends on what the do on the field. Once the 2015 season starts, all the hype and all the paper predictions will mean nothing. Legacies are determined by success. The Packers need to ignore the hype and play as every victory matters.
Because that is the only way a team can stand above the others and hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy over their heads come February.--------------