How does the average Green Bay Packers fan spend his/her Thanksgiving Day? My guess would be rooting against the Detroit Lions, eating more than one should in the span of an afternoon, and filling up on beer (Leinenkugel, anyone?). While these are all wonderful ways to spend time with friends and family, Thanksgiving is also the holiday where we examine our lives to focus on the things for which we are most grateful.
With that in mind, I’d like to share some of the things I am thankful for when it comes to the 2012 Green Bay Packers:
Ted Thompson’s Personnel Decisions
It seems like every year we praise the efforts of Ted Thompson and his staff to find and acquire talented football players. This year, we were especially grateful that he seemed to take notice of flailing defense in need of some youthful fire. The defense was the team’s Achilles heel in 2011, especially when it came to the passing game. We were not only missing an effective pass rush, but also a healthy, capable secondary.
In response to this, Thompson drafted Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, Casey Hayward, and a number of other defensive players that have seen some time in action. He also brought in a few undrafted free agent rookies like Dezman Moses to round out the roster and even tested some veteran free agents like Daniel Muir and Anthony Hargrove. While some players have been invisible to us (see: Terrell Manning), others have exceeded our expectations (see: Casey Hayward).
What makes the Green Bay Packers a perennial threat to opposing teams is the ability of Ted Thompson and the front office to keep the roster loaded with talent. They are always looking ahead toward the future, and while the approach might be frustrating at times, it has been a blessing to the franchise.
Mike McCarthy’s Coaching Attitude
Call me dull, but I would take a Mike McCarthy any day of the week over a guys like Rex Ryan, Jim Schwartz, or Jim Harbaugh. His attitude and approach to coaching might seem mild-mannered or lacking in energy, but I think it’s mostly a necessary façade in dealing with the media and fans.
Perhaps it’s the Pittsburgher in me that has a soft spot for McCarthy, but I like his toughness. He is a big proponent of having a solid defense, despite his offensive coaching milieu and the fact that they have the reigning MVP in quarterback Aaron Rodgers. When he brought in Dom Capers to switch over to the 3-4 defense, it was a pivotal moment in recent Packers history. The change has brought some extreme highs and lows, but we can’t forget how much it made the difference in the Packers’ 2010 Super Bowl run.
I also appreciate how humble McCarthy is. He never makes excuses for his own shortcomings, and he is always looking to improve himself in addition to his team. There aren’t many coaches who will stand up at a post-game press conference and take the blame for not being balanced or for calling the wrong play that ended up in an interception. McCarthy will always hold himself to the same standard that he holds the players to.
Aaron Rodgers’ Leadership
This season has, unfortunately, been riddled with questions about Aaron Rodgers’ leadership qualities. From the errant tweet by Jermichael Finley’s agent to Finley’s own words and the blabbering of some ill-respected media members, Rodgers has had a lot of undeserving criticism thrown his way. Of course, as Packers fans, we know it’s all a bunch of nonsense.
When I was in the Army, I learned that one needs to lead by example. It’s not enough to say the right things, you have to do the right things. You have to show the rest of the team that you are going to work just as hard and that you are going to hold yourself to the highest standard. I think Aaron Rodgers does this impeccably. He never shies away from self-criticism, and he is quick to give credit to his coaches and teammates for their efforts.
And the best part? He uses the doubts of his naysayers to fuel his motivation. Rodgers has proven more than once that he is a true leader; after all, he will not only put the team on his back when needed, but also not hesitate to hand the ball to someone else to make the plays.
Randall Cobb’s Breakout Year
We all saw something special in Randall Cobb when he came to Green Bay, but I don’t think we could have predicted this much success in his sophomore year. Cobb has an offensive formation designed specifically for him, is leading the receivers in targets, and boasts more first downs than anyone on the team.
All of this tells me that both Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers have an immense trust in Randall Cobb. And that kind of trust is not earned by being an average or even good player – it is earned by being a great player.
The other positive side-effect of Cobb’s performance is that he has helped the offense weather the injuries of Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. In fact, when both of those players return to complete health, it’s going to be hard to stop the Packers’ passing attack: a dynamic slot receiver in Cobb, a clean route-runner who can play any position in Jennings, and a guy that can stretch the field and work the sidelines in Nelson. Add in the playmaking abilities of James Jones, and let the drooling begin.
The Next Man Up
Packers injured reserve: Bryan Bulaga, D.J. Smith, Brandon Saine, Nick Perry, Cedric Benson*, Desmond Bishop, and perhaps Derek Sherrod soon. Packers players currently dealing with significant injuries: Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Sam Shields, and Greg Jennings. How many teams could handle missing seven or eight of their top-level starters? The Green Bay Packers can.
Giving more thanks to Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, and the coaching staff here, it’s a blessing to know that the Packers have been able to push through the injuries that have hit them. Backups, rookies, and second-year players have all stepped up to the plate in the absences of numerous starters. And they have done so honorably.
I shudder to think what this season might look like if they didn’t have the perseverance to keep pushing forward and winning tough, ugly games. The added bonus is the development of younger players for the future.
Yes, I am thankful for the Packers not being perfect. They’ve had to face a lot of adversity this year (our favorite buzzword), and they’ve been the better for it. After a season where Green Bay was flying along on a false sense of security, it’s kind of nice to know that the team is still working to get better. They’re not too comfortable, and their success isn’t being taken for granted.
From the very first game against the San Francisco 49ers to the games against the Seahawks, Colts, and even the Jaguars and Lions, the Packers have not come by success easily. They’ve had to deal with key injuries, bad officiating, and even poor game management. But these kind of obstacles help to make a team stronger and better able to overcome challenges in the future.
These imperfections, I think, will help drive the team through the playoffs. Even if they don’t make it to their ultimate destination, they will experience more success than they had last year. They will fight hard, and they will be peaking at the right time. Despite the bitterness of defeat and the frustration of watching them play sometimes, I am truly thankful for what it means in the future.
How about you? What are you most thankful for when it comes to the 2012 Green Bay Packers?——————Follow @ChadToporski