Packer Nation taking things for granted?
By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider senior editor
~It was almost 15 years ago, the Packers were on top of the world, and Packer Nation was basking in the glory, confident their time at the top had only just begun.
With the three-time reigning MVP at quarterback, only just-turned 27, still early in his prime, this team had “dynasty” written all over it.
Forget the recent Cowboys, led by Aikman, Emmitt, and Irvin. This team was going to challenge the Steelers of the late 70’s as the greatest dynasty in Super Bowl history.
The 1996 offense had led the NFL in scoring, with a Packer record of 456 points scored during the year, an average of 28.5 per game.
The receivers were still young with Antonio Freeman and Robert Brooks, who was coming off a missed season due to injury. They also had veterans Andre Rison and Don Beebe, along with a pair of good tight ends in Keith Jackson and Mark Chmura. The runningbacks were solid, if not spectacular, in Dorsey Levens and Edgar Bennett.
The 1996 defense was number one in the league, allowing only 210 points during the season, just 13.1 per game. It was led by the minister of defense, veteran Reggie White.
It was anchored by safety LeRoy Butler, #36 and just in the middle of his prime.
And running the show on defense was coordinator Fritz Shurmur, the wylie veteran coach.
That next season, things went according to plan as the Packers were the talk of the league and country, again going 13-3 and seemingly easily marching right back to the Super Bowl.
The 1997 Packers didn’t lead the league in scoring, or defense however, and looking back, those are indications that the team wasn’t as good as the year before, even though the record and the spotlight on the team made it seem as such.
The offense was still great, racking up 422 points, still 2nd in the league.
But the defense slipped. They allowed almost 18 points per game, almost five more than the championship team. Still, the team had the MVP at QB and would continue to outscore everyone, and rack up a few more Lombardi Trophies.
The oddsmakers agreed as they made the Packers an overwhelming 12-point favorite in the Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos. Everyone loved the Packers and they were the best team in football, the defending champions.
The Packers defense allowed Broncos runningback Terrell Davis to gash them like a hot knife through butter, and the gunslinger made just enough mistakes to lose the game, as did the head coach Mike Holmgren, who refused to feed runningback Dorsey Levens, even though the Broncos defense never stopped him.
Worse yet, three months after that Super Bowl loss, the Packers passed on adding a special playmaker talent on offense in the draft, a gift who had slid down from a lock of being a top-five pick.
A few picks after the Packer whiffed on that gift-of-pick, the Vikings didn’t pass on the guy. They added Randy Moss in that 1998 Draft, and immediately, the Packers reign in the NFC, and division, was over. Randy Moss, love him or hate him, changed the balance of powers in the NFC.
There was no dynasty. As Ron Wolf would say, all they were was a “fart in the wind”. A one-year wonder, certainly no dynasty. But that whole 1997 season, it seemed like it was a surefire dynasty. Even though there were clear, tell-tale signs that the defense was slipping.
Enough of the walk down bitter memory lane: every Packer fan over 30 knows what happened then, and after, as the gunslinger would let them down time and time again in the post-season games.
Now, back to the today.
The Packers again are at the top of the world. Packer nation is basking in the glory. Once again, they are confident that this is only the beginning, and a dynasty is on the way. Our leader, the QB, is only 27.
The season to repeat has everyone locally and many nationally assuming that the Packers are going to make it back to the Super Bowl and repeat. Although there are obvious holes, and a decline on defense, Rodgers and company will simply outscore everyone, even if it’s in the cold and wind of Lambeau Field, January playoff weather. This team is undefeated after seven games. Some experts, nationally even, think there’s a chance this team might go the whole season undefeated, because their QB is that good. He’s playing much better than the last QB, even though he was in the midst of three-straight MVP seasons.
Might the Packers repeat, and win the Super Bowl in three months? Sure they might. Like 14 years ago, they are favored to do so. Could they put together a better run, similar to the early 90’s Cowboys who won three in a four year span? Yes, that’s possible.
As with the 1997 team, there are some ominous warning sides on this team on the defensive side of the ball that are being covered up by the offense.
Remember, the 2010 Packers barely beat the Steelers despite getting three turnovers from Pittsburgh. Without those, it would have been a loss. This dependence on turnovers is a very dangerous and risky way to play. Sometimes, those turnovers won’t come and a defense will have to stiffen up, stop bending.
Anyway, the lesson here is this: don’t assume anything down the road. Rather, cherish and appreciate every step along the journey. Nobody knows what the next three months has in store, much less the next four or five years.
If you get a chance to go to a game next week, or next month, do so.
If you get a chance to buy a new Rodgers or Jennings or Matthews, or even Pickett, Wells, TJ Lang jersey, do it.
Do not take next February for granted. Enjoy this team today.