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Ball Is In Your Court, Green Bay

The Green Packers frustrating and emotional season ended on Sunday with yet another playoff lost to the San Francisco 49ers thanks to a Phil Dawson game winning field goal as time expired.

As soon as the game ended, Packer fans across the globe went into full offseason mode.

“Fire McCarthy and Capers!”

“The defense is a joke and needs to be rebuilt!”

“The offensive line couldn’t do anything!”

There are a few things fans can point to as being the excuse for an early playoff exit. And as fans, they have a right to be disappointed and upset their team is out of the playoffs after a roller coaster year full of emotions.

But, after a couple days, let’s take a few deep, frozen breaths and realize how this season helped the Packers.  

Yes, I worded that correctly. I’m not trying to just put a positive spin on anything to tell fans to “calm down the world isn’t ending!”  This season’s performance has the ability to help Packers for the next couple of seasons.  And it also reaffirmed one positive aspect this team has that a lot of fans take for granted.

Lets first start with how this season helped the Packers. For the past couple of seasons, the defense was the major question mark on this team. But in the first part of the season, it looked the defense was finally starting to get it. Especially in the rushing defense category when they were even ranked as high as third at one point in the season. But as soon as Rodgers went out, the defense folded. BIG TIME. They couldn’t stop rushing attacks, they had an inconsistent pass rush, the lack of communication in the back end of the secondary was becoming evident, and we finally remembered they had a player named BJ Raji, but it was because he wasn’t making any plays.

We quickly realized that Aaron Rodgers was covering up a lot of weaknesses. Even if those weaknesses were on the other side of the ball.

To me, the Packers are starting to resemble the Peyton Manning lead Colts teams.  Both were teams with a great quarterback and offense, but a defense that couldn’t get off the field even with a couple of high profiled players on the defensive side of the ball. Like Rodgers, Manning masked a lot of the inefficiencies on the team. And when he was gone for the 2011-2012 season, those inefficiencies showed big time.  After that season, the Colts realized their problem and cleaned house.

The Packers now see the problems they have on their team, because of Rodgers being out. They know what they need to improve and they have no excuses anymore. They don’t need to clean house like the Colts did, but they have to make some improvements.

The Packers did have one positive aspect reaffirmed to them though this season. Some Packer fans may not agree with this and it was a hot topic issue after the game, but Mike McCarthy further proved he is a good coach.

Packer fans, you should be happy with the coach you have. In eight seasons, McCarthy has only had one losing season. ONE! Six total playoff appearances in eight seasons, with five of them being consecutive appearances. He also has four division titles, winning the last three in a row. And of course, he has that shiny Super Bowl ring.

This team was DEVISTATED by injuries.  They start out the year by losing their starting left tackle, Clay Matthews was out for some time, and when you lose your star quarterback for a major portion of the season, who happens to be the best player in the league, you won’t win as many games.

The outlook didn’t look good for this team. They had a struggling defense, injuries, and no Rodgers. And after an embarrassing loss on Thanksgiving to a division rival, most teams would have just given up hope.

Yet, McCarthy somehow and some way, kept this team motivated. He kept this team believing.  Even after being down 23 points at the half against Dallas without their best player, McCarthy somehow got this team to believe they could still win. And win they did. He kept the team motivated, driven, and focused. And the Packers, with a lot of luck, won the division.

I know, the Packers owe a lot of thanks to the Bears and Lions for completely blowing it, but McCarthy still deserves a lot of praise for keeping a team motivated enough to keep playing hard and eventually, winning the division.

This offseason will be Ted Thompsons biggest and most important yet. The Packers have 20 free agents and they know where they need to make improvements.  Aaron Rodgers said on his radio show on Tuesday: "I think this is the end of a window and the beginning of a new one. This is the year when we can open up a window that can last for four or five years. It looks really bright."  

Aaron knows there needs to be improvements. The Packers now know where they need to improve.

Ball is in your court, Green Bay.

 

-Dan Kasper

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