The loud dull thud you heard was the sound of the Green Bay Packers promising season coming to an abrupt and disappointing end.
When the Green Bay Packers Players left the locker room this week many of them were still in shock that their season was over and they were headed home. To a man they had expected to be training this week for the Super Bowl; one more game to stake their claim to the World Championship. The sentiment was they were the better team in Seattle but the better team doesn’t always win.
The Packers came within one game of the Super Bowl. Is that enough to declare this season a success? Or does the reality of losing the NFC Conference Championship Game, a game they once had well in hand, mean their season was a failure?
Success Is Relative
To twenty other teams, reaching the post season was an unfulfilled dream. So bad was their season that six of them dumped their coaching staffs including head coach and three more went so far as to jettison their General Manager as well.
One team, the Broncos, determined even that a 12 win season and post season play wasn’t good enough and head coach John Fox and staff were sent packing.
To most of these teams the season was a write off. Next year cannot come soon enough. The future will be brighter now that big changes have been made.
For the other twelve franchises the reward was post season play. In the NFL that is a big deal and it should be. To date ten teams, including the Green Bay Packers, have been sent home. Two remain. Only one will be World Champs and a chance at immortality.
Better to Have Been Blown Out
A day after the gut-wrenching 28-22 overtime loss several Packers players were cleaning out their lockers and shared their thoughts.
To Green Bay Packers Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton close was not nearly good enough. “Anytime you feel like you should have won, it’s tough to get over,” an obviously dejected Sitton said. “And when it’s the last one, it’s very difficult to get over. You feel like it’s a waste of seven, eight months. What’s the point of getting this far? I’d have rather not even made the playoffs.”
“There’s no reason we shouldn’t have won the game,” Sitton went on to say. “Literally one of 10 plays you can pick that if we get it, we win the game. It’s frustrating when you should have won the game, and you’re the better team, and I thought we were the better team all day except for three minutes.”
“I’d rather not even make the playoffs” Sitton continued. “I’d rather have gotten blown out and known in the first quarter it was over.”
Several other players including backup quarterback Scott Tolzein echoed similar thoughts, expressing the obvious; that it is so tough to have all the pieces fall into place to even make it to the NFC Championship Game. It is not a given that the Packers will be back next year. Everything has to break your way and as this year has shown that doesn’t always happen.
A Different Packers Team Next Year
What transpires on the contract front, upcoming college draft and inevitable injures will shape the makeup of this team next season.
A total of sixteen free agents are staring the Packers in the face. Twelve are unrestricted players next year. Three more are restricted free agents and one is an exclusive rights free agent. It will be up to the Packers and the constraints of their league mandated salary cap to decide who they wish to target to return to the team.
Certainly play-maker Randall Cobb will be in their sights as will be right tackle Brian Bulaga, who finally had an outstanding injury-free year.
The team will be faced with decisions on both backup quarterbacks (Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzein), All-Pro fullback John Kuhn and special teams ace Jarrett Bush.
Does the team opt to lock up a still productive 31 year old corner in Tramon Williams or do they go with youth and the 25 year old Davon House? Or both? Or neither?
Will injured NT BJ Raji get another shot, or have they seen enough positives from 27 year old Letroy Guion to allow Raji to walk?
Is A.J. Hawk productive enough to warrant a roster spot?
Time will tell.
Josh Sitton summed up the feeling of the Packers players when he said: “It sucks walking in and seeing everybody packing up their (expletive deleted) – stuff. We’ve been hanging out with each other for a while. There’s going to be a lot of people who aren’t going to be on the team — a lot of people we can’t pay. This team, I don’t think we can be this good for a while. It’s going to be tough, anyway.”
Perhaps time will temper Sitton’s disappointment and his feelings about the future of this team. Or perhaps he will adopt the phrase that former Packers General Manager hung on his heavily favored Packers who ultimately were defeated in Super Bowl XXXII. Asked to characterize his team after that loss, a distraught Wolf called them a “one year wonder, a fart in the wind”.
Let’s hope that is not the case with this Packers team.——————
Jeff Albrecht grew up just north of Green Bay and was lucky enough to attend some of the Lombardi Era classic games, like the 1962 championship and the Ice Bowl. Jeff went on to play HS football in the Green Bay area and College ball at UW - Stevens Point. Jeff is retired but still does some writing for his local paper. Jeff is a writer with AllGreenBayPackers.com and you can follow him on twitter at @pointerjeff .