Expectations are a fickle thing.
For over 20 years, Packers have been in the crosshairs of Super Bowl expectations. And the reason is simple: stellar quarterback play.
Either Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers made people believe that the Packers could play above their talent level and win the NFC.
Now with head coach Mike McCarthy giving a “scrub-brush approach” is it fair to have those same expectations? McCarthy is playing with a new No. 1 wide receiver, a new No. 1 tight end and perhaps even a new offensive philosophy with running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams looking like capable threats to carry what has always been a pass-heavy offense.
And that’s just the offense. Then you’ve got a new defensive coordinator and more question marks in the secondary.
This Packers team has plenty of promise, that’s for sure. And obviously, with a healthy Rodgers under center all bets are off. But is it still fair to expect Rodgers to pull a rabbit out of his hat at age 34? Rodgers is still one of the most cerebral quarterbacks to ever play the position, but I’m concerned about everything else. Does he still have the legs to turn the corner and pick up a first down on third-and-7?
Let’s also not forget that the Packers aren’t even the best team on paper in the NFC North. That honor falls to the Vikings who have spent plenty of money and drafted very well and have built quite a fortress in Minneapolis.
It looks like this team will resemble the 2009 Packers squad that went 11-5 before losing an overtime heartbreaker to Arizona in the NFC Wild Card Game. Rodgers had the lowest interception percentage that year (1.3) and Ryan Grant had 37 percent of the team’s offensive touchdowns.
Ironically enough, the Vikings also claimed the NFC North that year.
It’s obvious that the Packers need Rodgers to play well. But they also need him upright. With the right side of the offensive line still a question mark with the return of Bryan Bulaga, the running game must shoulder the load.
The Packers usually pass it at least 60 percent of the time. Of course, we will never know if those were called plays from McCarthy or if Rodgers checked those at the line of scrimmage. But that number must go down if 1. The Packers are going to be successful and 2. If Rodgers is going to remain healthy for an entire season.
So all I’m saying is the only way the Packers can realistically be labeled with Super Bowl expectations is if they make a firm commitment to the run. And I know that McCarthy has talked about that for years, but it never materializes. He says that he wants to stress the running game more, but in the end, the Packers return to their passing routes.
Rodgers needs help. I still think he’s the best passer in the league, only because he has proven that he can complete a pass in the smallest of windows.
But this season will be defined by everybody else. Can the secondary hold up? Can the front seven get enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks? And can the running game keep Rodgers’ jersey clean?
There’s nothing wrong with expectations. Just don’t expect the Super Bowl from a team that will look like its playing under a rookie coach, not one entering his 13thseason.