There is no single accepted way to build a Super Bowl-winning team. Nobody knows how. Not you, not me, not Mike McCarthy, not Bill Belichick, not Jon Gruden, not even Ron Wolf or Vince Lombardi.
There is not one magical way that works for everybody, and every team, and every coach. There just isn’t. If there was, everyone would be doing it.
So when people say that the team needs a certain kind of player… or that we need veteran talent… or need a certain reaction from the coach or the quarterback… these are not bad suggestions. But when making them, understand that they aren’t magic fixes. Talented players who are also great leaders and can help get a team to a Super Bowl just don’t make it to free agency, because the other 31 teams aren’t headed by idiots. They keep those kinds of players. This isn’t the Reggie White era of free agency anymore. You keep your best players or you fail as a GM, and if they are team guys and not ‘diva’ players, they will probably stick with that team until they can no longer play. It’s not as simple as saying “We should go find a leader in free agency!” “Okay, here’s this guy!”. Doesn’t work like that.
On a related topic, past performance is no guarantee of future success. Again, it’s easy to say “Go out and get players with a Super Bowl ring”. And a lot of people try that in this league. Look at the ’08 Cardinals. They’ve been absolutely plundered because everyone wants those guys who’ve been to a Super Bowl. The Seahawks shelled out a first-round pick for Deion Branch because he was a Super Bowl MVP. Desmond Howard got a fat contract from the Raiders because of his own MVP award.
But just because they have the ring doesn’t mean they are anything. And just because a coach has the ring… to all those people agitating for Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy or Bill Cowher to come in here, kick ass, take names and get the Packers to a Super Bowl… no coach has ever won a Super Bowl with two different teams.
Been back to the Super Bowl, sure. Won one, never.
Past performance is no guarantee of future success. And sure, you can turn that on its head and say “Well, Gruden might be the first if he comes here!” He might be; anything can happen in this league. But to look at one of these big names who are currently out of coaching and say “That’s the answer! There’s our magic fix! Fire McCarthy, go get that guy!” is just stupid.
And sure, it’s fun to rant as fans, and cathartic to think that we have all the answers and that, if we could only sit in Thompson’s chair for one day, everything would be turned around. But if I keep seeing one thing in Packer fans’ comments on this season, it is the underlying idea that everything is just this simple. Get a guy who likes to yell at the players, give them motivation, we’ll win games. Or buy up a bunch of free agents, put them in Packer uniforms, let’s go win some games. There are fifty-three men on this roster, ten more on the practice squad and three coming off the physically unable to perform list. It is not that simple to find the pulse of a collection of individual human beings and to do just the right thing to elevate it (the pulse, that is). I think people get a bad impression of McCarthy because the only thing we ever see are bland comments in news stories and flat, dull press conference video. He’s not interesting in public. I’ve never watched the Mike McCarthy show, but I’m guessing it’s much the same.
Well, if you hear what the players are saying, he’s been getting after the team this year. If you hear what the reporters who cover the team are saying, he has been yelling at the team in practice. Yelling is not a magic fix, and I could go into a whole paragraph on how it’s not the days of Vince Lombardi anymore and how people don’t fear their coaches anymore (with the possible exception of the Jets) and so on and so forth, but it would be superfluous. Yelling doesn’t just motivate people any more than candy does. People aren’t that simple when they’re putting their bodies on the line. (See: Fatsis, Stefan. A Few Seconds of Panic.)
We can speculate online about the paths not taken until our fingers fall off our hands, and maybe we’ll even hit on some solutions that would help this team. But just as often, for myself at least, the solutions I come up with are utterly stupid.
Now, we are 3-3. Think about the big picture for a minute: the Vikings are 2-4. The Cowboys are 1-4. The Saints and Falcons are 4-2. The Bears are 4-2 and will probably get worse. The Rams are 3-3, for Chrissake. 11 of the 16 teams in the conference, including the Packers, are 3-3 or 4-2 or 3-2.
We aren’t out of a goddamn thing yet. Do the Packers have problems? Yeah. Big problems? Oh, yeah. And I don’t need to recount them here. But remember that we are six games into the season and this thing can potentially get turned around very quickly. Imagine what an emotional win over Favre and the Vikings, at Lambeau, would do for this team. The return of the PUP players, or Neal or Chillar or any of our other walking wounded, could help tremendously. Perhaps the offense could have another slap-in-the-face, come-to-Jesus meeting to wake itself up.
For myself, I’m as dismayed as anyone at what this great team we thought we had has come to. I think we should have been deeper at OLB, so that Frank Zombo or Brady Poppinga didn’t have to play a major role after one injury. I don’t understand why the offense has been outstanding against preseason opponents and then becomes mortal in the early regular season. I don’t understand why the little things, like penalties or dropped passes or poor play, are allowed to continue under Mike McCarthy. And I believe that this team has not been overmatched in any of the games I’ve seen. In the five games I have seen (couldn’t see Miami), the Packers have not been beaten outright by their opponent. These Packers beat themselves. And why that trend is continuing, I cannot say.
Is it fair to hold Thompson, McCarthy, Rodgers, etc. accountable for this year? Absolutely. But we are 3-3 in a weak NFC, and if we can step up and make a stand in these next few tough games, then there is hope for this season. There are ten games still on the schedule. Let’s wait until after that to hand out awards or demand peoples’ heads. After the Tampa game last year, everyone (including me) thought that this team was dead and gone forever. What happened? We won seven of eight and made the playoffs. Anything can happen in this league, and by damn, the Packers aren’t out of anything yet. This game against the Vikings will show us what the 2010 Packers are made of.
My prediction: Packers win it, 30-17, and get back on the road to the playoffs.
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