Packers fans are hurting and round about now, just before the Super Bowl, is usually the point at which it hurts the most. How many years now has the season ended in anticlimax with an unexpected or avoidable defeat and the hopes, or rather expectations, of fans tossed aside like empty beer cans in a Lambeau Field parking lot.
The Packers may be one of the most famous franchises in the NFL with four Super Bowl wins and 13 championships overall to their name, but in recent seasons they have almost made a point of letting their fans down, much to the amusement of rival – less famous – teams. In fact, if it wasn’t for the presence of the never-not-hilarious Dallas Cowboys, the Packers might be prime contenders for the franchise everyone loves to mock.
Prior to this season, the Packers’ last three playoff campaigns had ended at the NFC Championship stage. In 2022, for a little variety, they brought the disappointment earlier, losing out – again – to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round. This time around, Packers fans couldn’t even indulge in the annual game of Does Aaron Rodgers Deserve Better, mainly because he’s drained a lot of his short-term credit through his bizarre Covid-related behavior.
Certainly, there will be few NFL fans shedding a tear that Rodgers once again failed to get his team over the line in a game that was definitely winnable, against a team that subsequently flopped against the Rams in the NFC Championship game.
It wasn’t just that Rodgers failed to rise to the occasion after testing the world’s patience for weeks with his vaccine conspiracy shenanigans. This was likely the last time that the Packers squad as it is currently configured will take the field. With the cap situation unsustainable, it is highly probable that the roster will be stripped down and sold, with Rodgers possibly the biggest mover.
Rodgers’ behavior last year, hinting at retirement, suggesting that he was being let down by the team, hinting that he might be considering moving to another franchise, was divisive at the time, but looks even less impressive with the benefit of hindsight. The Packers organization may not be willing to forgive and forget that performance, or their quarterback’s reckless and distracting behavior over the summer and deep into the season. To be fair to Rodgers, it doesn’t seem likely that the man has the energy to give it yet another try with the same franchise at this stage of his career.
Either way, neither Rodgers nor the rest of the roster can argue that such a dismantling would be unfair. There were no, or relatively few, excuses this time. They gave it everything and they came up short. Quite a long way short, in fact.
Next season, Packers fans will be watching a much-altered team and most likely a new quarterback. They may even go into the season as big underdogs with the sportsbooks according to WSN.com.
That probably wouldn’t be a bad thing, because just as Rodgers and the franchise have had yet another unwelcome reality check, so have Packers fans. There is nothing wrong with a full-hearted and committed fandom, but sometimes, it can pay to mix a little reality in with the optimism if only for the sake of our blood pressure and our overall wellbeing come January time.
Taking a lead from the sportsbooks might not be a bad idea for Packers fans. After all, the bookmakers don’t care which team wins. Their job is to get the probabilities right and they can’t do that if they’re rooting for one team to win or if they allow emotion to become involved at all.
Take Rodgers himself. He’s a great quarterback, no question, but much of that greatness has come in the regular season. Post-season he has an 11-10 record. There is a tendency to focus on the 11 and overlook the 10. Only seven quarterbacks in NFL history have more playoff wins. But of those seven, only Peyton Manning (14-13) has a poorer win-loss ratio. Tom Brady’s record is 32-11.
So going into what seems sure to be a new era for the Packers, maybe it’s time to take a cue from the bookmakers and be a little more hard-headed about supporting this frustrating franchise. Expecting to win doesn’t seem to be working out, so maybe lowering expectations might be good for the franchise for a season or two? Either way, the next few months promise to be another bumpy off-season experience, so strap yourself in for the final act of the Aaron Rodgers show.