If someone were to say the National Football league has had a bad past couple of weeks, they would be making the understatement of the century.
Multiple domestic abuse indictments and/or accusations along with Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson being charged with child abuse has stained the NFL. The league has gone into a tailspin from a public relations standpoint from which it will take a long time to recover.
The NFL is going through an unprecedented rough patch right now and it has deserved every ounce of bad press it has received in the last couple of weeks. The handling of the Ray Rice incident and initial two-game suspension before backpedaling is one of the most embarrassing moments the league has ever had to endure.
That said, it is also important not to lose sight of the fact that the NFL has a lot of good people (both executives and players) in it who always strive to do the right thing. The same goes for the organizations as a whole. Not every team is the Baltimore Ravens or the Minnesota Vikings. There are teams who stand up for what’s right and place character above all, including winning at times.
Enter the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers have been fortunate to avoid all the off-the-field issues that have plagued many NFL franchises. Aside from Johnny Jolly (who had an addiction and wasn’t a violent person and has since beat that addiction) and Brandon Underwood (who was later released outright), Green Bay has featured a roster mainly consisted of upstanding citizens and just overall good guys.
This did not happen by accident, either. Since he was hired as head coach of the Packers in 2006, Mike McCarthy has made it a point to emphasize the need for “Packer people” within the organization, both in the front office and coaching staff as well as the players on the roster. He was mocked for it at the time, as it seemed like nothing but a bunch of coach-speak and hyperbole.
Fast forward to 2014 as McCarthy is now underway in his ninth season at the helm of the Packers and the “Packer people” mantra still has served the team well. Green Bay has been one of the most successful teams since McCarthy arrived in 2006 and that’s in large part due to his strong emphasis on character when it comes to selecting a roster.
The coach does more than talk the talk. He also walks the walk. McCarthy and his wife Jessica are very active with the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and host an annual golf outing to benefit it. The coach also takes time, sans cameras and media, to visit with the kids whenever he can.
“Packer people” also extends beyond the coach. Look at the current makeup of the Packers’ locker room. At the front of it all is quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The quarterback is most often the face of the franchise and it’s clear that it’s a role that Rodgers takes very seriously.
Rodgers was honored this past season with the Bart Starr Award for community service. Rodgers’ affiliation with the Midwest Athletes against Childhood Cancer (MACC) fund has brightened the lives of hundreds if not thousands of children throughout the Midwest. Rodgers’ selfless leadership in the locker room also has had an impact on the entire roster. Despite being an all-pro and well on the way to a hall of fame career, Rodgers remains “one of the guys” and is very aware of what he wants his legacy to be when he walks away from the game.
Many players have their own causes that they’re passionate about. A very relevant example is wide receiver Jordy Nelson who has been at the forefront of a domestic violence awareness campaign that has helped provide cell phones to those who are facing abuse.
There are many other causes that are too numerous to name here, but since the Packers are a community owned franchise they feel it is mandatory that they give back to the community who supports them. It’s as much a tradition in Green Bay as winning titles.
The NFL could take a lesson in how the Packers have built a roster but they could also take note in Green Bay’s on-field conduct. In a league where excessive touchdown celebrations have gotten so out of hand the NFL now has to hand out flags to help curb them, the Packers are remarkably low-key. The Lambeau Leap is about as crazy as things get and that’s a celebration of the union between player and fan. It’s not a “hey look at how good I am!” type of moment that has become all the rage around the NFL.
Even on the road, when the Packers score a touchdown there might be a spike or a hug between teammates but that is it. No theatrics. No Sharpies. Just a short high five basically and then it’s back to business. That’s about as blue collar as you can get and it’s a lesson the NFL could afford to learn.
McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson have had to take their fair share of lumps when it comes to criticism from the fans. Packers fans are a passionate bunch and they’re never afraid to share their opinions.
Fans may be upset with McCarthy right now over his decision making that nearly cost the Packers a win against the Jets or they might be angry with Thompson and his inability to fix the defense. Those are all good debates to have.
However, before anyone starts crowing about firing either man, isn’t it great that we are upset with them over the handling of a football game instead of their handling (or lack thereof) of a player who beat the daylights out of either his kid or his wife? It sure is.
So as you watch the NFL continue to attempt to wade through this nightmare of its own making, keep this in mind the next time you want to fire McCarthy.
As bad as you think things may be, they could always be much worse. McCarthy and Thompson deserve massive praise in the wake of these past couple of weeks for the caliber of men they have on their roster.
The NFL needs more teams like the Packers. Now more than ever.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke