Entering the 2009 campaign, there was a dark cloud of uncertainty about the present day, and future, Green Bay Packers. Among the most notable questions:
• Who is Mike McCarthy? 13-3 or 6-10 or just average like his first go ‘round?
• Has Ted Thompson tallied more hits or more misses?
• Can Aaron Rodgers win, or is he a mere stat monkey? (For the record, I found this inquiry silly, but…)
• Can this team transition to a 3-4 effectively with the personnel it possesses, or are we in for another season of defensive gaffs and fourth quarter follies?
Sunday’s loss stings, but there are 31 painful endings to every NFL season. I think we’re gonna be OK.
• Mike McCarthy is a good coach. He makes mistakes. He has weaknesses. But he is a good coach, and it’s clear the roster plays hard for him. He, like this team, is learning how to win, and so far, it’s tough to argue with 38-26.
• I wasn’t sure about Ted’s decisions mid-season – even went so far as to say that I didn’t believe this team very talented. I’m pleased to say that I was wrong. There is crazy talent on this team…crazy young talent. And here’s the real upside: that crazy young talent has NFL experience. The ink may barely be dry on their birth certificates, but many are multi-year veterans of the league. Thompson has assembled a team that I believe it’s fair to say is just a couple of players away. He will forever be judged by his ability to find those players, to take the next step, but so far, he’s done a good job.
• And then there’s Aaron. He is a winner. He is a leader. It’s quite possible he was the only one who believed that his team wasn’t sunk at 17-0, 31-10, 38-17. Aaron Rodgers can flat out play, and has done so at a historical level.
o Back to Thompson for a second. It’s only two years into this, but I’ve seen enough to declare (barring injury) that Aaron Rodgers will be outstanding for years to come. Ted Thompson deserves credit for doing something that few have ever accomplished in the history of the NFL: replace a legend at the quarterback position. San Francisco did it. Jay Fielder had some nice years in Miami post-Marino. Help me out with anyone else. Chicago’s still living in the McMahon years. Dallas went through four between Aikman and Romo. Cinci shuffled for a decade after Boomer. The Bills after Kelly. The Broncos after Elway. The Giants after Simms, though they had some spotty success. The guy who replaced Brett Favre is the only QB in league history to bust off consecutive 4,000 yards passing seasons. Nice.
• The transition to the 3-4. I think it went pretty well. Flashes of invincibility…areas of genuine concern. The Pack’s D showed several personalities over 18 weeks, but all-in-all, they delivered on a lot of promises.
There was a plethora of questions coming in. After an 11-5 season and one of the best football games I have ever seen on Sunday, I’m comfortable with the answers heading out.