The 2016 season has been a rollercoaster so far for the Green Bay Packers. They opened the year with an uncomfortably close win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, only to drop an important division game against the Minnesota Vikings. Two wins after that, they looked lost at home against the Dallas Cowboys. After six weeks, fans are still wondering, “Are the Packers good?”
A 3-2 record is hardly a death sentence, but the Packers are reeling from injuries on both sides of the ball with the bye week already behind them. Drops and uncharacteristic turnovers have led pundits to speculate “what’s wrong with the Green Bay offense.” Perhaps most concerning, all three wins have been by seven points or less and none of the teams they beat have a winning record.
I hope the Packers can turn it around and go on a hot streak like the one that carried them all the way to the Super Bowl in 2010. But if they don’t, I also think it could be to their benefit.
Pack fans, if we’re being very honest with ourselves, we’ve known the team’s struggles for a while. In 2011, going 15-1 did very little to stop an embarrassing loss to the New York Giants in the playoffs. In 2012 and 2013, the defense couldn’t figure out how to contain Colin Kaepernick. Then last year, the Jordy Nelson-less squad limped to a 10-6 record and relinquished the NFC North to the Vikings.
Relative success has been like rose-colored glasses that stopped major changes from being made. How bad can the team really be if they continue to make the playoffs every year? Sure, the defense gave up almost 27 points per game in 2013, but the offense frequently bailed them out.
With Nelson back this year, the excuses are gone and the illusion that the Packers are still as good as they once were may be shattering.
Every year, players left for retirement or free agency, but Green Bay has struggled to replace them. Donald Driver lost a step as he neared the end of his career, but he was almost always on the field and Aaron Rodgers could trust him.
So far in 2016, Packers not named Nelson or Cobb are only averaging 20.93 receiving yards per game. In comparison, 36-year-old Driver averaged 27.81 receiving yards per game and was out-produced by four Packers in 2011. Finishing lower in the standings this year may be brutal to watch, but higher draft picks are needed.
I’m not going to advocate for the dismissal of any specific coach or player because I respect that Ted Thompson and company know much more than I do. But if missing the playoffs is the wake-up call that leads to a return to Super Bowl form in Green Bay, consider me relaxed.