Some lessons from the 2009 season.
It’s been an eventful season, to say the least, but now that the Packers have earned a wild card berth and are destined for either an 11-5 or a 10-6 record, we can safely draw some conclusions:
1. Maybe the preseason means something after all.
When the Packers fell to 4-4, a lot of people, myself included, were feeling like chumps for having been excited about the team’s dominant performance in the preseason. But it is now apparent that the raw talent that was on display in the preseason was no mirage. Aaron Rodgers and Charles Woodson have been every bit as impressive as they looked in the preseason, and although it took the rest of the team awhile to get going, during the past seven games they have looked very much like the team that played so well in August. It was mostly a matter of the offensive line getting back in synch after a rough start and the defensive players improving their ability to run Dom Capers’ schemes.
2. Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy are not idiots.
There is still plenty of room for various opinions on the abilities of our GM and coach, but the contention that they are a couple of bumbling fools, which never made much sense to begin with, has now been put to rest. They are at least competent, and considering that they are still relatively new to their jobs, they might still prove to be excellent. Thompson has stocked the roster with playmakers in nearly every position group, and McCarthy is one of the more creative offensive coaches in the league. When the team struggled, a few players made bitter comments to the press, but the situation never got out of hand. Just as the team held together during last year’s 6-10 debacle, it held together through tough times again this year. That’s a sign that the players believe in their coach.
3. Penalties are overrated.
It seems as if the first thing that football announcers learn in broadcasting school is that one should never miss an opportunity to treat your viewers to a lengthy lecture about the devastating effect of penalties. We heard more than our share of these lectures this season, as the Packers have led the league in penalties most of the way. And what do they have to show for it? A 10-5 record, that’s what. It’s almost like your parents lectured you on the evils of going out drinking, but you went out drinking anyway and had yourself a fine time and were none the worse for wear afterwards. Here is what penalties are: They are mistakes. Just like missed blocks, missed tackles, poor throws, poor routes, poor coverage, you name it. A penalty is a bad play. But as annoying as they are, penalties do not have a magical quality that makes them any worse than other kinds of mistakes. Our team is proof of that.
4. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
Several teams that looked great out of the gates this season fell on hard times right around the same time the Packers were beginning to gel. The Broncos, Giants, and Jets were the best examples, while teams like the Steelers and Texans also went downhill. The 49ers’ strong start was already a distant memory by the time they showed up at Lambeau Field for their week 11 thrashing. Even the Saints and Vikings, although still among the best teams in the league, have lost their sparkle. We are lucky that our team is on the right side of this equation.
5. It’s all about counterpunching.
A lot of fans expect nothing less than total domination from their team. But that’s not the way the NFL works. Chances are good that your team is going to look stupid and incompetent on many occasions during the season. Goodness knows, our team sure has. There is a constant ebb and flow in the NFL, not only from week to week, but even within the same game. When a team embarrasses its opponent in some way, it better be careful, or it will be embarrassed right back. Brett Favre was an exception. He embarrassed us twice. But the book has not necessarily closed on that one just yet. Let the playoffs begin!