After an eight-season run at the NFC playoffs, our Green Bay Packers took this dance off. Clearly, things have been better at 1265 Lombardi Avenue. One positive thing is you can bet these 2018 Packers will be a motivated bunch coming to OTA’s. McCarthy received a one-year extension and, if you do any research, you’ll know that one-year extensions are a lukewarm endorsement at best. McCarthy is well aware of the fact that this particular team must come forward and in a big way. Gone are the offensive coordinators and several other position coaches. The playbook is being redrawn. I expect McCarthy to pull out all the stops this season because he does love Green Bay and wants to remain there for the long haul. With Green Bay, it’s about football. The small town has always appealed to the blue collar nature of Mike McCarthy and he doesn’t want this ride to end. Look for the Packers to come out swinging because the main man’s job is definitely on the line and he is on the proverbial “hot seat.” Why so motivated? The following paragraphs will hopefully clear this up a little bit.
Let’s start with the coordinators and specifically on the defensive side of the ball. Mike Pettine was the head coach for the Cleveland Browns. He finished two seasons with a much better record than the current coach, Hue Jackson. During his time, he also had the media circus known as “Johnny Football.” Coach Pettine got burned in Cleveland and the fire has returned. It’s hard to have sustainable success in a dysfunctional franchise like the Browns but the Packers, on the hand, is a much different ballgame. I look for Pettine to show the football world that he is indeed a football mastermind. Rex Ryan called him easily the best defensive mind in football and, in this one instance, don’t be surprised if Rex is finally not blowing smoke. The defense will play fast and it will play hungry.
On the other side of the ball, Coach Philbin has returned. He helped guide the offense to its most productive seasons with Rodgers at the helm. Some guys are just meant to be coordinators over head coaches (insert Norv Turner and Wade Phillips here). Philbin may easily be one of those guys. He had mediocre seasons as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Rodgers has described a very close relationship with Philbin in the past and I look for that to continue as if he had never left. Philbin’s biggest strength is his ability to game plan to attack a defense. He even described his main job as making McCarthy look good on Sundays. Look for aggressive route concepts, attacking the middle of the field with the tight end, slants coming back along with the screen pass. With Philbin, no one ran the slant or screen play quite like the Packers and I believe that’s coming back.
Another key person coming in motivated is the new general manager Brian Gutekunst. He needs to make a splash right off the bat to lay a foundation for his legacy. What better way to do that than to take a 7 win Packers team and put them in their rightful place in the NFC playoffs? Gutekunst will not make decisions just for popularity but he also knows that he must be more aggressive at the onset than his predecessor. I believe we’ll see a GM who finally will get involved in free agency but will cling to the draft and develop philosophy that has proven to be successful. The Patriots seem to do this better than most. They aren’t scared to add a Brandin Cooks type receiver or Rodney Harrison from back in the day. When the Packers have dabbled in free agency, it typically has turned out in their favor. Not all moves turn to gold but the Packers need to get in the free agency game and Gutenkunst will.
Finally, some of the players will come in with a burning motivation. Do you think Rodgers will come in hot? After sitting out much of the season with a broken collarbone, he saw what transpired with the team. Rodgers is as competitive as they come and he wants to put Green Bay right back in the thick of things. Some players get the “fat cat” syndrome, right BJ Raji? With Rodgers, you won’t see that regardless of his new contract extension that likely gets signed before the season. You can bet that he truly has his sights set on a championship caliber season and another MVP to put on his resume. Like they say, Rodgers is a baaaaaaad man!
Another player that doesn’t lack motivation is Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. As a former Pro Bowler, Ha Ha saw his production drastically slip this season. He played timidly and often 15 yards off the line of scrimmage. Gone were the ball-hawking skills that he so frequently showed from previous seasons. The media paid attention and he was drug through the mud a little bit. I look for Clinton-Dix to rebound this year because if he wants that next fat contract, he needs to know the time is now. Motivation will be at an all-time high for him as he looks to regain his old form.
There are far more players coming in motivated to see the recent Packers misfortune turn around to mention. As a reader and fan, know that this prideful organization has a bitter taste in its collective mouth and a return to glory is on the horizon. Yes, this Green Bay Packers team will come in motivated to silence many keys on the keyboard as well as many pens to paper. The Green Bay Packers will start a new streak this coming season as there will be no lack of motivation in Titletown.
Robert Martin bleeds green and gold despite living in North Dakota, where many cheer for the purple. He is currently a writer for PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter @robertmartinPHD.