Every year since Corey and I started this website I have offered up a prediction from the heart and a prediction from the head for the upcoming Packers season. And as both the national and local pundits have made their picks, I guess its time for me to make mine.
Heart: 13-3 - Super Bowl Champs
Head: 11-5 - Super Bowl Champs
Get on board people. The train to Dynastyville is leaving the station tomorrow night.
Last year I thought only two things would keep the Packers from reaching and winning the Super Bowl. One was what I considered to be Aaron Rodgers' inability to step up in a big moment when his team needed him and win games on his own. Not only did he shatter those preconceptions, he went on one of the finest stretches I have ever seen a quarterback have after coming back from his second concussion to lead the Packers not only into the playoffs but through them, completely on the road, into the Super Bowl - where he had an exceptional performance to win the games Most Valuable Player award.
The other area I thought would hold the Packers back was what seemed to be Ted Thompson's unwillingness to bring in "veteran talent" to augment his roster. My exact words this time last year were:
...the Packers lack the other element the Saints possesed heading into 2009: A personnel head who is not afraid to bring in one or two veteran players, even midway through the season, to fortify holes on the roster that have cropped up either through injury or misjudged talent.
It's no coincidence that when the Saints and the Packers suffered injuries in their secondaries last year, the team that went out and re-fortified the position with the likes of Mike McKenzie (who played a huge role in the Saints regular season win over the Patriots) went on to win the Super Bowl while the team that re-fortified the position by promoting Jarrett Bush and signing Josh Bell was one-and-done in the playoffs after giving up a playoff record number of points and yardage.
Now, goodness knows not too many Packers fans knew who Erik Walden or Howard Green were when they were brought on board last year. But were they really any different than bringing in Josh Bell, who had actually started more than a few games for the Broncos? Walden was sitting on the street after bouncing around from team to team, having never been a starter, while Green had just recently been cut by the Jets after wearing out his welcome in New Orleans. Both are seen now, in retrospect, as good free agent pickups and integral to the Packers Super Bowl run while Bell is considered a misfire and a bad signing, mostly because fans remember him only for the last play of the Steelers game in 2009. But if you take the moves in the context of when and why they were made, they are pretty similar.
The fact of the matter is, Thompson's way worked. I didn't think it would, at least not in the "Getting the team to the Super Bowl" way - but it did.
Thompson is never going to bring in the free agents you see listed when major outlets like ESPN or SI do their lists of "Top 50 Free Agents." What he will bring in are guys that have toiled in relative anonymity but who have put decent work on film, guys who are hungry and who are willing to do anything asked of them to help a team win. That's what Thompson got in Walden and Green and it helped his team win a Super Bowl.
Now its time for his team to win another won.
We've covered why I think the lockout actually helps the Packers in their quest to repeat as Super Bowl champions. We've covered the lack of organized workouts and explored whether or not it will effect the Packers in 2011. (It won't) We've talked about other teams in the NFL who are making all the offseason noise, none of which will mean anything whatsoever once the ball is teed up on Thursday night.
That's where it all begins - tomorrow night against New Orleans. The defense of the title. The general manager has shaped the roster. Now, the head coach and his staff take over and ready those 53 men to battle through what will be a long and arduous season, filled with twists and turns that no one can know right now, but that will eventually tell the tale of how the Green Bay Packers made it to Indianapolis as representatives of the National Football Conference in Super Bowl XLVI, and how they left victorious.
Yes, for once the heart and the head are in concert. Champions once again. The dynasty begins now.