“What was the Packers Secret Weapon that made the 2023 season so successful?”

This is the question on the minds of Packer fans everywhere.  This team far surpassed the highest expectations of even the most delusional diehards. The common, lazy analysis around the sports-world in the pre-season looked something like bad algebra:

(Packers with hall of fame QB missed playoffs)


(Packers old  QB > Packers new QB)


Packers will be terrible.

This was an uncontested fact no matter where you looked. The long list of talking heads beclowning themselves stretched from Richard Sherman to Colin Cowherd. Even those who believed in the team could only offer lukewarm hope for the year. But the question remains… what did they miss?

Before we answer that question, let’s remember what the Packers were facing as the season kicked off.

This season was a pivotal one in the careers of GM Brian Gutekunst and Coach Matt LaFleur. Both had been prepping for the end of the Rodgers era for years. But preparing and performing are two different things. For the first time in their time with the Packers, the team would be 100% “their guys”, no more hanging on to Superman’s cape. The product they put on the field would be their judge, jury, and if things went poorly, their executioner.

Then the season starts and the Packers felt… cursed. Just before the first game, their most explosive wide receiver, Christian Watson, pulls a hammy after making it successfully through his first camp. The most experienced players on offense, left tackle David Bakhtiari and running back Aaron Jones, go down in the week 1 win. So game planning immediately centered around Romeo Doubs, AJ Dillon and a bunch of skill players with zero experience… and it showed. For weeks the team couldn’t get out of its own way. Signs of progress were quickly followed by frustrating miscues. Just when it seemed like they’d found a rhythm, a new guy would go down. Musgrave’s record-smashing pace was knee-capped by a freak kidney injury, Watson returns and starts to hit his stride only to pull the same hammy again, Jones returns only to hurt his knee. This was the rhythm of the entire season.

Each week I was struck how much longer the Packers injury report was each week than their opponents. I charted them all and the findings are notable:

Not including players on IR, these are the number of Packer players each week who received an injury tag (probable, questionable, doubtful, out):

Average per week: 7

High: 13 (Week 16 @ CAR)

Low: 2 (Week 1 @CHI, Week 9 Vs. LAR)

Average final 4 games: 10.5

The team was, on average, very injured this year. During the final month when they needed to win every game, the list grew laughably long. But my theory is this:

It made them better.

Coach LaFleur never got comfortable all year. He had to continuously innovate and find ways to win. The Baby Packers were in the lab each week experimenting with new chemicals and potions to find the magic formula to save their season. Guys like Tucker Kraft, who looked like busts in the first half of the year, turned into world-beaters when given more opportunity. And as the months turned cold and the Packers hit their stride, they now found themselves with an embarrassment of riches. It turns out that lots of guys on this team can play. Who knew?

Like Mary Poppins floats away once the family no longer needs her, so, too, did the injury bug. The Packers tagged a paltry 3 people heading into Dallas, their lowest in two months. Was it any surprise the Packers went on to play their best game of the season? Had the rain not doused their hot streak in Santa Clara, we know this Packers team had everything it needed to reach the Super Bowl. Not bad for year 1 of the Love Era.

The injuries frustrated the club and its fans all season, but maybe it was a blessing in disguise. Complacency kills growth. The 2023 Packers defied the odds because they were fighting from day 1 to survive. The resilience they were forced to develop was the Packers Secret Weapon in 2023. The result was a magical season no fan will soon forget.