Sports Talk Radio has been ablaze this week with discussion about what the Green Bay Packers need to do to "get over the hump" and make it to the Super Bowl next season. Talking heads and callers alike seem to think the team is just a player or two on both sides of the ball away from winning a title. But those of us not wearing Green and Gold to work every day from September to January realize that the Packers continued success is really a mirage created by the exceptional talent of just one player.
In Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay is as close to a one-man team as you will find in the NFL. When Rodgers struggled with accuracy and reads mid-season, the team struggled to a 4-6 record. When his throws were more on target and on time, the team won 8 games in a row and made it to the NFC Championship game. Did the receivers suddenly become better after week 10? Did the defense improve dramatically down the stretch? No. Number 12 got ridiculously hot--and single-handedly carried the team to a division title and the playoffs.
Outside of quarterback, the Packers have absolutely no playmakers at any skill positions. None of their receivers are going to the Pro Bowl--and everyone goes to the Pro Bowl. They had a receiver playing running back for the second half of the season--not that anyone before that was a serious threat out of backfield. The offensive line was solid--but you'll notice that most of Rodgers big plays come as he is scrambling around avoiding numerous defenders that are getting pressure in the pocket.
The defensive side is an even bigger disaster. The Packers have no pass rushers. Their linebackers are painfully slow, don't read plays very well, can't cover in space and are sub-par tacklers. And the secondary? I'll cut them a bit of slack due to the extent of the injuries suffered at cornerback and the lack of pressure put on opposing QB's to force bad throws that could be picked off.
While Ted Thompson would never consider paying big bucks to bring in offensive playmakers or defensive difference makers, it probably doesn't matter--because those guys wouldn't want to come to Green Bay anyway. In the "modern game"--with passing every down--who wants to have half of your games at cold, windy and snowy Lambeau Field? There are dome teams that haven't seen a flake of snow in three seasons. Go there, pile up your stats and never run the risk of losing feeling in your fingers.
Aaron Rodgers will someday be seen as the "next John Elway" with huge stats but not as much team success as one might expect--except Rodgers got his Super Bowl title early in his career--instead of at the end. And as far as the Packers being "one player away"? You must mean being one player away from returning to the middle or the bottom of the pack every season.