All players on championship teams have their roles. The stars lead the way. Closely following are big role players who can pick up the slack and make big plays when the occasion warrants it. Then there are the guys who simply have to play a bit role and not royally screw things up. The 2017 Packers have a legitimate chance for a fairy tale ending. In order for that to be a reality, the offensive line cannot see the clock strike midnight.
Ted Thompson is notorious for not being a risk taker in free agency. Perhaps he doesn’t take risks in free agency because he takes risk in other ways. It’s a well known fact that his vision is strictly long term. On one hand, this has made the franchise a perennial contender. His critics, however, vehemently, argue that this approach squanders the second Golden Egg in a row that has been laid upon this franchise at the quarterback position.
“Go all in with your Hall of Fame quarterback now!” The argument against this is that New England has managed to stockpile titles while simultaneously preparing for the future. The Tom Brady/Bill Belichick/Bob Kraft combination has resulted in a near perfect storm of talent, strategy, and luck. One could argue the Packers have had two of the three, but been short on the latter. In reality, it’s fluctuations in all three that have nary produced the most desired outcome. It’s a hell of a task to win it all. The Patriots have proven themselves as the greatest dynasty of the modern era because of this. The majority of football enthusiasts will agree that Aaron Rodgers trumps Tom Brady in talent. Aaron Rodgers will also never come close to five Super Bowl rings. Per the motto of the Chicago Bulls dynasty, “It don’t mean a thing without the ring.”
Anyway, back to the offensive line. Thompson has taken what we pray is a calculated risk with this position group. Few things help a quarterback more than stability on the offensive line. Not even a year ago, the Packers had two Pro Bowl guards. Thompson cut them both loose in what was a frugal yet purely business decision. The dumping of Josh Sitton was forgotten soon enough. His replacement, Lane Taylor, did not bring attention to himself, which is the ultimate goal of an offensive lineman. The Packers line excelled in 2016.
T.J. Lang knew his career in Green Bay was done the moment he was knocked out of the NFC Championship game. He knew someone at his age with his history of injuries was not going to be signed at market value in Green Bay. His heart was with the Green and Gold, but a man must make the best financial decision for himself and his family. Lang is now back in his home state of Michigan playing for more money than he’d ever see in Wisconsin. It’s business.
Outside of the immediate starters, the Packers showed glaring weakness and inexperience on the offensive line in the preseason opener. The fact that it was week one of preseason should dampen any panic for now. It should, however, be a wakeup call that the Packers have taken a gamble with a lack of experience and depth at the wall that’s supposed to protect the best player in the game. If any cracks form on the first layer of the wall, then the season could come crashing down quickly, and another year of an all-time great will be tossed to the wayside yet again.
________________John Piotrowski is a UW-Eau Claire alum, spending most of his life in western WI. He makes the trek east to Lambeau whenever possible. Follow him on twitter at @piosGBP.