The NFL kicks of its centennial year in September and it’s been revealed that the tradition of Super Bowl winners getting the season off and running has been deviated from this year; instead, the opening game on the evening of September 5th will see the NFL’s longest standing rivals go head-to-head, as the Green Bay Packers travel to face the Chicago Bears.
It’s a huge honor for both sides who have taken to the same field 198 times – Green Bay narrowly holds the historic bragging rights with 97 wins to the Bears’ 95 – and the 199th encounter will undoubtedly be an eagerly anticipated affair by Packers fans with a mostly new coaching staff in place under Matt LaFleur. The match-up is still a way off though and the Packers have some serious work to do before their attention turns to any specific fixture – even if it’s an enthralling one.
Last season, the Packers played the Bears in week one when they roared back from 20-0 down to win 24-23 in no small part thanks to an incredible showing from quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Unfortunately, that proved to be a high point for both the team and Rodgers as the season unravelled in disastrous fashion resulting in the sacking of long serving coach Mike McCarthy in early December.
A loss at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals proving to be the final nail in his coffin as his team was left with the playoffs looking like somewhat of a long shot. The problems at Green Bay, though, were bigger than McCarthy and, whilst some felt he was let down by his coach, it’s fair to say Rodgers wasn’t hitting the standards expected of him – leading to some questions over his attitude.
Getting Rodgers, who has just lost his title of the top paid player in the NFL to Seattle Seahawk Russell Wilson, back in top form must be one of the priorities for McCarthy’s replacement Matt LaFleur after a season in which the quarterback turned in one of the poorest set of statistics his career has seen.
The early signs are promising though; LaFleur has spoken several times about the coach-quarterback ‘relationship’ being key and Rodgers has supported that view – again stressing the word ‘relationship’, which was evidently missing in 2018 – whilst also acknowledging that LaFleur is ‘the boss’.
In addition to ironing out issues in the current squad, there is the small matter of the upcoming draft to contend with. Despite missing out on the playoffs last season the consensus is that Green Bay are only a few players away from challenging at the top again so it’s imperative that they make their drafts count.
There have been whispers made that the Packers might move to bring in a quarterback, but current speculation on the draft is just that: speculation. LaFleur should focus on making Green Bay competitive again with minimal distractions and could look towards a slightly longer-term plan.
It would be unfair to suggest there are horses waiting to be put down in the ranks, but there are contracts winding towards their end in the squad and don’t be surprised to see changes in those positions. Offensive tackle is perhaps the main area where Green Bay will focus with Jason Spriggs and Bryan Bulaga both edging towards the end of their contracts.
It’s also possible that an understudy for the ageing Tramon Williams arrives with an eye on succession planning; finally, LaFleur could also look for some continuity at tight end with question marks over the long-term future of Marcedes Lewis and Jimmy Graham.
The draft is often unpredictable, and this year perhaps even more. So, given the upheaval that’s occurred, one thing is guaranteed: Green Bay will be well-drilled come the opener against the Bears and changes will be evident both on and off the field. Will that see Green Bay conquer again? Possibly, but the 2019 season will be an uphill battle.
Keeping Tramon Williams and Jimmy Graham is a mistake
If the Packers are serious about “winning now” like they say they are, why would they spend a 1st round pick on a QB to sit the bench? They just traded a former first round pick for a back up quarterback.
As for an understudy to Tramon, how many cornerbacks does this team need to draft in the first few rounds before one of them turns into a reliable NFL starter?
Tramon is basically getting paid $5mil a year to be a position coach. Graham is the highest paid TE in the league because of his name while he has the stats of a back up.
Off topic, I don’t know anything about the Cardinals or Josh Rosen but I find it strange that they drafted him in the first round just last year and they’re already looking to move on from him and draft another QB this year. Is he that terrible? Is he the new Martellus Bennett in the locker room?
Cheese…the people suggesting the Packers take a QB in 1, is almost too stupid to even talk about. As a matter of fact, i feel dirty for even responding to them.
Your other comments are spot on as usual. “how many cornerbacks does this team need to draft in the first few rounds before one of them turns into a reliable NFL starter?” Or as i put it, how many years to fix a problem position?
This team spent years trying to build an O line for Rodgers, then after about 4 or 5 years, they had a highly regarded passing O line. Then…..they quickly dismantled it.
How many years have we been looking for a tight end? Now we have Graham….Paying a roster bonus of 5 million, keeping someone who didn’t work out, simply for the illusion that it’s one less need area.
This team is a smoking MESS.
I don’t see the articles authors name, regardless…………
“Despite missing out on the playoffs last season the consensus is that Green Bay are only a few players away from challenging at the top again……..”
Once again….lets see if we can get back to .500 first, maybe get in the playoffs, win a wildcard game. Then,…lets talk about what this team needs to be Championship Caliber.
The author is Ashley Munson. I was looking also. The name is on the picture at the top of the article.
I agree about getting to .500 as a first step. I would also like to see the team win games back to back something they did not do last year, or win games back to back against playoff caliber teams, something the Packers have not done in the last 2 years.