Fresh in the minds of all fans of the Green Bay Packers is their inexcusable home loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round, ending what looked like their best shot at winning it all. Having found a new way to lose (this time via special teams blunders), ending the season on an all-time low seems to hurt more than the usual postseason disappointment.
With the amount of all-in moves that were made to make this year ‘the one,’ it’s safe to say that the amount of letdown and disappointment attached to this loss is going to leave a lasting impact on both this team and fan base for many years to come.
Especially if this defeat causes a major ripple in the team’s championship window.
Comments made by both head coach Matt LaFleur and QB Aaron Rodgers accurately depicted the future for this team, even though their comments were non-committal to what is next for the franchise.
From LaFleur, his mantra of taking the majority of the blame for the team’s shortcomings is what makes him not only a great coach but a great leader of people, something that this team has certainly been thankful for during rough patches, especially during this season. But the sheer level of disappointment and regret seen in his facial expressions (especially in his eyes) and in his word choices during the post-game press conference effectively shows just how much this team believed in itself.
This team takes its first big step forward by having LaFleur do accountability checks in the building, for both his coaching staff and his players. Taking the blame for the special teams’ blunders are nice and play into who he is as a person more so than as a coach, but putting heat under ST coordinator Maurice Drayton (who shouldn’t have been hired in the first place) can show just how much he understands needs to change and show what he is willing to do to make that happen.
Rodgers was able to convey many of the same thoughts from his perspective, but his comments on the future of both him and the team consistently revolved around assessing what is next, decisions that will be made before free agency opens, according to Rodgers. While he directly stated that if the team enters into a rebuild, he made it clear that he is not interested in being a part of that, something that is not surprising to hear.
Having consistently pined for a better defensive unit during his time in Green Bay, Rodgers failing to meet them halfway during the year that they finally boast one of the league’s best – an utterly awful time to not be able to back up what has consistently been attached to his reputation throughout his career. Not showing up when the lights were the brightest is, unfortunately, now the most common attached characteristic of who Rodgers is as a player, taking a few rungs out of his reputation ladder.
Entertaining the idea that the Packers could decide to go the route of tearing it all down to start fresh is a very interesting one, especially with this team being a consistent postseason entrant. Not having reached the Super Bowl since their championship back in 2010 shows that while regular-season success can be seen as short-sighted wins, not conveying that success into postseason victories ultimately shows the shortcomings of this franchise – and ones that are somehow covered up during the regular season.
GM Brian Gutekunst is going to have his most important offseason as this team’s personnel manager, with decisions including Rodgers’ future, resigning Davante Adams, managing high-priced veteran contracts, Jaire Alexander’s extension, and how to get under the salary cap (currently Green Bay sits around $50M over the cap for the ‘22 season). The path that the front office takes will shape this franchise for decades to come, sending ripples through the fan base in the process and potentially ruffling the feathers of some players hoping to remain competitive.
Falling just short of the finish line on many occasions due to many different reasons is how the Packers teams of this decade will be remembered. And with the likelihood of Rodgers and company heading out of town seemingly rising after their early playoff exit, the end of an era could be slowly setting in for the Packers – it’s gonna be a long offseason in Titletown.뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23