Another year. Another crushing playoff loss. Every year – it seems like we tell the same story. Super Bowl hopes amongst heavy adversity. A playoff game in our grasp. A devastating defeat. Since 1995, the losses have been painful. I take you back through time: in 1995, the Packers lead Dallas in the NFC Championship. 4th Quarter. The Packers have Dallas pinned deep. Aikman drops to pass. He hits Sean Jones in the hands. Jones can’t hang on. Aikman, Irvin and Smith go HOF on the Packers and dominate the 4th Quarter. We had the game in our grasp. We couldn’t hold on. In 1997, we were heavy Super Bowl favorites. We didn’t show up. In 1998, Jerry Rice clearly fumbled. It should’ve been the Packers ball. The ref blew the call. TO makes a miracle catch in the waning seconds after Steve Young slipped in his drop back. Heart breaking. In 2001, Favre threw 6 interceptions in a playoff defeat. In 2002, the Packers lost at Lambeau for the first time in a playoff game. In 2003, it was 4th & 26. In 2004, Randy Moss mooned the Lambeau Faithful. In 2007, we lost the NFC Championship at home. In 2009, we had the ball and a chance to win, but a missed face mask call lead to a fumble and an Arizona touchdown. Instead of 1st and 10 from beyond the 30, the Packers walked off in an unfair defeat. In 2011, the defending champions lost at home after a 15-1 season. In 2012, Kaepernick danced all over us in convincing fashion. We had to watch Kaep’s performance all off-season. In 2013, the Packers had the game in our hands, but Micah Hyde couldn’t hold onto the ball. In 2014, the Super Bowl was in our sights. It was ours and then Bostick dropped the onside kick. Bring us to 2015, why didn’t we go for 2? It seemed so logical. Still, we had two chances to take down Carson Palmer. We failed to do so. And a short pass to Larry Fitzgerald turned into a 75-yard crushing play. Man, I can’t handle it. These losses are rough.
To recover, I’m thankful that it’s Stout Month. The February beer scene in Denver is phenomenal. Pliny the Younger makes multiple appearances. Comrade releases HopChop. Crooked Stave has multiple onsite rare tappings. And, Mountain Sun has Stout Month. For me, today, it’s the Girl Scout Stout. A growler of it to relieve the Packer pain. It tastes like a Thin Mint Cookie in a glass. YUM! Musically, I’m mellow. It’s John Denver’s greatest hits that wax tracks its way into my ears.
Here are my mental wandering vibes since the season ended:
* Mike McCarthy. An aggressive Mike McCarthy is a good Mike McCarthy. Mike McCarthy had his Packers two yards from victory. He went for the tie instead. On the road. With a beat up roster. Against a team that had destroyed his ball club a couple of weeks earlier. Horrible decision by McCarthy. He should have played for the victory. He went conservative and he got burned. After being given another life line after the back-to-back Hail Mary’s, he should’ve put all of his chips to the middle of the table and placed them in the hands of Aaron Rodgers. He didn’t and because of it, the season ended prematurely. Disappointing.
* The Packers secondary is an encouraging piece in the future of the organization. Sammy Swagga playing at a high level – consistently. A first-class CB. Damarious Randall continued to progress and make plays throughout the season. Quinten Rollins showed great promise. HaHa has shown flashes of Pro Bowl potential. Micah Hyde showed enhanced versatility. Morgan Burnett played well in run support. I also think that Robertson Daniel can play on the perimeter in the NFL. I’d imagine that Casey Hayward has played his last down in GB.
* I’m happy that Letroy Guion and Mike Daniels have already been re-signed. If Guion plays as he did in 2014, his deal will be a bargain for the Packers. I’m expecting Mike Pennel to get more action in 2016 and I’m looking for him to do great things. With Guion coming back and likely playing the same role that Raji took over this year, I don’t anticipate Raji coming back. I see Christian Ringo playing snaps next year.
* TT will have to make sure that he’s managing the finances for next year. Tretter, Sitton, Lang, and Bakhtiari are all going to be FA’s. It seems like it’ll be impossible for TT to lock all of them down. With that, this is an absolutely vital offseason for the Packers. The OL has been our greatest strength outside of Aaron Rodgers. Thus, our window of dominance might be down to one-year unless it’s a fairy tale offseason from TT. TT has to be aggressive this offseason. He has to play for the win. He has JP for one more year, likely. He has his OL in tact. He gets Jordy back. His team is positioned to win a title, but TT has to be aggressive in adding a pass rushing OLB via FA. I’m attracted to Olivier Vernon. I’d PAY HIM to ensure that he’s a book-end OLB opposite Clay, who’ll likely move back to OLB. TT also has to add a TE who can both block and catch. TT has to add speed to the ILB position. TT has to add depth at the DL. TT needs to add a RB that’ll compliment a motivated EDDIE. A RB that can catch the ball. A RB that can spread out wide. A RB that will allow McCarthy to be creative in his offensive decision. These five things will determine TT’s off season. If he misses on any of these additions, the Packers will have a huge hole in the roster.
* On February 13, 2016, I believe that the Packers will win Super Bowl 51. I fully envision TT taking a different approach to the offseason than he’s taken in past years.
* The last three years, Aaron Rodgers has not been healthy during the stretch run. We need to ensure that Rodgers is protected in 2016. I liked seeing Tretter as a back-up OT. I also think that Matt Rotheram is going to make an impact as a back-up OL in 2016.
* I have a hard time imagining Davante Adams being as bad in 2016 as he was in 2015.
* Book it. 2015 was the most frustrating season in my fandom of the Green Bay Packers. But, it was also a healthy reminder. It’s important to keep the faith. As I attended the Broncos Super Bowl parade, I thought about how the Bronco fans reacted when their team was playing but still living at 6-0. And, I reflected on the way Packer nation was complaining about our 6-0 record and the brand of football that we were playing. Keep the faith, G-Force. Imagination creates reality. And, to paraphrase Yoda, "If you don't believe, it's why you fail."
* I really like Mike Neal and Nick Perry. But, if the Packers overpay either of them, I’ll be very disappointed. We need a 10-sack performer at OLB opposite Clay. I don’t see Perry or Neal as ever being able to get there. Additionally, I envision Datone Jones playing enhanced snaps at the same position as Neal and Perry have played.
* I'm really excited to see Ty Montgomery in 2016. Montgomery, Janis, Cobb, Adams, Abby, and Nelson. The possibilities are endless.
* The Packers unrestricted FA’s are Don Barclay, Mason Crosby, Brett Goode, Casey Hayward, James Jones, Mike Neal, Nick Perry, AQ81, Raji, Sean Richardson, James Starks and Scott Tolzien. I’d be aggressive in signing Crosby and I’d bring back Goode. I’d let the rest of the players test the waters to see how the market deems their value. It is possible that the Packers will get four compensatory picks next year and next year, teams will be able to trade those compensatory picks. In addition, I hope that the Packers target a couple of early-to-mid 30 year olds like Mercedes Lewis, Matt Forte and Derrick Johnson. I’d consider giving each of them a 3 year deal in the range of 3 million per year. If they want more than that, I’d pass as the bulk of the FA money that I’d be focused on would be at OLB. Again, I’d target Olivier Vernon.
* Jeff Janis. What a performance. Would have been one for the ages if McCarthy had gone for 2.
* The time is NOW. The core of our roster is back for ONE MORE year. We need to be aggressive in creating a bolstered roster with a couple of more veterans. I fancy that TT is nearing retirement. I’d like to think that he’d like to go out a winner. If not this year, I can't imagine it ever occurring. Ron Wolf has talked about regretting that he didn't surround Favre with better WR's. It's time for TT to not live with regrets. He needs to act aggressively this offseason. If not, you have to wonder if he might be replaced the following year with a more aggressive strategic mind. Hope all these changes happen with you, TT. In Ted, I TrusT.
I’m going to sign off for a bit. I enjoyed writing this year. I’m thankful that you read.
Go Pack Go!