Saturday, February 5, 2011

See you at the White House: The 2010 Green Bay Packers

The Super Bowl is tomorrow.  Hold on a moment while I let that soak in.  It has been nearly two weeks since the Packers won the NFC championship game and I still don’t think I have comprehended the gravity of the situation.  My Green Bay Packers are in the freaking SUPER BOWL.  It has been quite the experience with it happening while living in Green Bay.  This is something important to this city and its people.

It has been one hell of a season, right?   I have quite a few talking points to go over, but first I must throw out a little shout out to a friend of mine.  My co-worker and friend, Jillian, entered a contest with a local radio station to show that she is Green Bay’s biggest Kenny Chesney Fan.  How does this tie into the Packers?  Because Kenny has a concert here this summer at Lambeau Field that will be the first of its kind at the stadium.   The radio station wants to send a local fan to Tampa to be a correspondence on Kenny’s tour before he brings the show to Lambeau.  Jillian can be that person if we show her some support.

So, what am I getting to?  I’d like you to click the following link.   When you do so, please find the “Like” button at the bottom of the page.  If Jillian tallies up enough votes, she gets to go to Tampa.   It takes a total of 4 seconds to do.  If you are reading this blog, you can spare that time.

A Reflection of Destiny

At the beginning of the NFL season, everyone expected the Packers to go to the Super Bowl.  They were supposed to make it there.  The expectations were high and the Packers nation wasn’t going to be happy unless that result came to light.  By mid season, those expectations were burned to ashes.  The Packers didn’t look like the contenders we expected them to be.  They couldn’t close the deal on many close games.  The special teams looked as nice as a Lindsay Lohan mug shot.  The offense was sporadic.  The defense was the only constant.   And they came through every time we needed them to.  It took 13 games and an ass kicking by the Lions to put things in perspective.  The Packers weren’t meeting expectations and it wasn’t going to be easy.  It took the 14th game of the season and all the odds stacked against them for this team to realize their true destiny.

The Best Game of the Season
The odd thing about this season is that the most important game the Packers played all season was one in which they lost.  Week 15 versus the Patriots is what made this Packers team what they are going into Dallas tomorrow.  That game changed everything.  It may not have been the best game they played, but it was the one they very well may have put the most heart into.  They were just seconds away of upsetting the Patriots .  Hell, they were beating them for most of the game.  That wasn’t supposed to happen with a banged up team and a backup quarterback who had never started a game in his life.

It was in this game where you could see that the Packers really believed that they were something special.  You could see that they were unified on a cause.  It was this game that showed that Mike McCarthy really does have the respect of his players.  He coached the best game of his life and it showed with the play calling and the effort by his team.   They lost this game, but they found themselves.  Their true character showed.

Up until this game, the Packers all but asked everyone to doubt their legitimacy.  However, this game changed all that.  It was a turning point.  Their potential started to shine.   You could start to feel that they were capable of doing great things when all cylinders were firing.  The Packers’ destiny was looming.  Not everyone could see it.  One man did, though.  His name was Lovie Smith.  He wanted nothing to do with the Packers, so he was going to try everything to eliminate them from the playoffs.  The Bears played the Packers hard in week 17 and I have no doubt that Lovie would have went for the dagger with a two point conversion had his team scored on its final drive.
Best Play of the Season
The onside kick at the start of the Patriots game was the best call of the season by Mike McCarthy, if not the best he ever made.  Nobody ever does that.  The Packers had nothing to lose.  They weren’t even supposed to be in the game, so kicking it onside was a risk they could take.  It worked like a charm and set the tone for the intensity they were about to bring.  This kick blew my mind.  I am still awed by it.

Most Important Performance of the Season
Most people might point to Rodgers and his game against the Falcons during the playoffs.  That was an epic performance, but it would not have been possible if this other guy didn’t bring the game of his life.  I am referring to the week 17 performance of Erik Walden.  His stats were a clear indication of his impact.  He had 16 tackles and 3 sacks.  The man was all over the place and the main reason the Bears couldn’t score more than a field goal.  He was chasing around Jay Cutler all day and making his life a living hell before Twitter took a shot at the guy.  This performance by Walden was the indication that the team was finally past all of the injuries.  The players all knew their roles and were following the game plan to near perfection. 

Erik Walden showed that they didn’t need the “elite” players in there to make an impact.  Everyone on that defense had their own part to play.  Any player could make a play at any time.  This was apparent in the playoffs and I expect it to ring true during the Super Bowl.

The Team MVPs

Aaron Rodgers is the easy pick.  So, that is why I won’t be choosing him.  First, I must acknowledge how much better Tim Masthay has been punting the past couple months.  He seems to have found the golden leg.  He managed to keep Devin Hester from making an impact twice in four weeks.  He kept Desean Jackson at bay as well.  He was putting balls inside the twenty like it was his job or something.  Like it or not, he made a big difference down the stretch.  For that, he gets one of my MVP awards.

As for defense, the easy pick is Clay Matthews.  Nope.   He was great, but the guy I am thinking about was consistent all season.  I don’t even think I saw him make a bad play.  Who?  Tramon Williams, that is who.  He brought his game to the next level.  Hell, he was so great that the Packers let Al Harris go.  He played so damn awesome that it freed up Chuck Woodson to run amuck from all angles.  Williams was able to cover anyone.   You could barely throw his way.  Hell, you rarely heard his name because he wasn’t being burned.  Plays weren’t being made his way, so that is the best you could ever ask from a cornerback.  Oh wait, he brought more than that to the table.  Clutch plays in the playoffs?  You are damn right!

My offensive MVP was John Kuhn.  He never was razzle dazzle, but he was tough.  He converted for first downs in short yardage.  He was a threat on the ground and in the air near the goal line.  He took on the burden of being the lead back when Ryan Grant went down.  His stats never would wow people, but he was always managing to make plays.  In the process, he became a cult hero.

You Should Send Brett Favre a Thank You Note
I can feel the disdain you all have pulsating through your veins at the mere mention of the man.  Don’t close the window just yet.  Let me explain myself.  I really do believe that Brett Favre contributed to this year’s Super Bowl run.

Love him or hate him, Brett Favre’s waffling allowed this team to be what it is today.  Had he rode off into the sunset in 2008, the Packers would not be the team they are.  So his wishy washy act actually did some good for the Packers and I am going to tell you why.

Brett Favre’s need to return to football left Ted Thompson with a decision.  Release him or trade him.  They couldn’t release him because he would end up in Chicago or Minnesota faster than a text message travels.  Ted traded Brett. 

The trade was a conditional 4th round pick.   The round increased based on performance.  Brett, because he came back, played every game for the Jets.  This was enough to bump the pick up to a 3rd rounder.   This gave the Packers 4 picks in the first three rounds.  This also gave Ted Thompson something to work with.

Ted had a plan in the 2009 draft and he put it into motion.  He had the freedom to take the best guy on the board when the Packers’ pick came up.  So, he took a little guy by the name of B.J. Raji.  He undoubtedly took Raji as part of a master plan to solidify the 3-4 defense that was being put into place.   This gave him some room to trade around.

Ted decided that he could part ways with the team’s 2nd round pick and his two third round picks for the Patriots late 1st round pick and a 5h round pick.  The trade was put into place and the Packers selected Clay Matthews. 

So, as you can see, that 3rd round pick the Packers got for Favre translated into the Raji/Matthews first round surprise.  In simpler terms:  Favre’s antics turned into Clay Matthews (and to some extent contributed to the pick of BJ Raji). 

I appreciate this weird twist of fate.  As much as Favre is hated, his ugly divorce with the Packers was written into the team’s destiny.  Fate never intended for a clean retirement.  Had Favre rode off into the sunset, the Packers defense would look drastically different.  And yes, I will go as far as saying that they wouldn’t be as good as they are now.

The Favre debacle left a bad taste in my mouth as a fan.  I hated how it all went down.   I spent three seasons trying to make sense of it.  Now I understand.  It was meant to happen that way.  It had to.  This team of destiny was nudged in this direction the moment Brett changed his mind.  As a fan, I am not at peace over the situation.  It had to be this way.  Thank you for, your antics, Brett.  They may have tarnished your legacy, but in the end, they were for the greater good.

My Thoughts on the Big Game

The experts have been beating this to death for two weeks now.  I don’t want to point out all the strengths and weaknesses since it has been done over and over.  We all know what the Packers theoretically need to do.  They are more than capable of winning this thing.  Vegas seems to agree.  How astounding is it that the 6 seed Wild Card team is favored?  That has to be unprecedented.

The Packers earned that respect from the odds makers though.  They are on the hottest of streaks as we have ever seen.  Some would argue that the Patriots were also on a hot streak during their 16-0 season.  Well, this is different.  The law of averages caught up with New England.  The Packers got their ugly shit out of their system.  I expect the best of their performances to come during Super Bowl XLV.

Rodgers will have a good game.  I wouldn’t expect anything else.  Big Ben will avoid a few sacks like they were rape charges.  The announcers will talk a lot about hair.  These things are givens.  But let me give you a few predictions of things I think may go down.

First, I really believe that Raji will get to touch the ball on offense.  That elephant package will come out on short yardage that isn’t near the goal line as well.  When they need a yard, they just need to get Raji in there to show the world who he is.  He will also give those Glee kids a hard act to follow once he gets those dance moves going.

The wide receivers that shine for the Packers will be named Jones and Nelson.  They are going to be the ones with the best matchups and Rodgers likes them.  Look for one of them to get some serious yards after the catch.  Jones seems to be focused now that he got that ugly drop out of his system.  Dare I say that one of these guys could be MVP?

I expect the Packers to run a whole not more than expected.  They may utilize the same game plan that they used against the Patriots.  They were running out of 4 WR sets quite often.   And out of the shotgun formation.   This may be the surprise of the game.

I expect at least one defensive touchdown by one of the teams.

It is a given that I am picking the Packers, right?   Not only because I have to, but because they should win.  So, I am going with a historical score.  35-21 Packers.  Raji as game MVP(because I bet money on this)

See you in the White House.