Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers usually has his finger on the pulse of the team, but he sounded like a player in denial this week.
While discussing the San Francisco 49ers’ 45-31 thrashing of the Packers, Rodgers seemed to suggest complacency was a factor in last Saturday’s playoff exit.
One of the differences between the 2010 Packers championship team and this year’s squad was hunger, Rodgers said on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show.
“We hadn’t done it before,” Rodgers said of the 2010 season. “There were a lot of doubters out there. It’s hard, I think, when you have success to be able to have that same amount of hunger that you had when you haven’t had that kind of success before. We need to figure out how to get back to that place.”
Rodgers suggested that perhaps what the Packers need more than anything is an attitude adjustment.
“We need to just figure some things out within the locker room, I think,” said Rodgers, “and maybe just think hard about what was so special about that 2010 team that won the Super Bowl, and try to channel some of those emotions and ideas and thoughts and feelings and incorporate some of that stuff at the beginning of this year when we reconvene in April and kind of set the vision then.”
With all due respect to Rodgers, I am not buying his theory.
Sure, channeling emotions and feelings and hunger can play a factor in a team’s success, but it’s going to take more than that for the Packers to return to the Super Bowl.
The 49ers ran roughshod over the Packers not once, but twice this season. They aren’t just a little more talented than the Packers; they are significantly better.
The Packers lost by two touchdowns in a playoff game that wasn’t that close. Yes, the score was tied in the third quarter but the Packers were struggling mightily to keep pace.
Each team scored a touchdown on a turnover and the Packers collected a garbage touchdown late in the game. Take away those plays and the 49ers smacked the Packers around to the tune of 38-17.
“We did not play our best football in that game, and that’s something I obviously as the head coach have to take a very, very close look at, because I thought we were ready mentally,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy in his season-ending press conference this week.
The Packers’ problems weren’t mental, and the reason they didn’t play their best football was because they got beat up by a buzzsaw of a team that has nine first- and second-team All-Pro players on its roster.
The excuse-makers want to point to Dom Capers’ inadequate defensive schemes or the Packers’ turnovers or their state of mind. Some even cling to the notion that had the Packers not been robbed of a victory in Seattle during the regular season they would have hosted the 49ers in the postseason and things could have been different.
Sorry to burst that bubble, but the 49ers would have come to Green Bay and spanked the Packers in the playoffs just like they did in the regular season.
The focus on those periphery issues loses sight of the primary problem facing the Packers, and that is a talent gap separating them from the NFL’s elite teams.
No one should consider the Packers’ 12-victory season a failure. They won a second consecutive NFC North title and were victorious in one playoff game. Many teams around the league would kill for that kind of success.
But this is Green Bay, where the Packers are held to a higher standard.
“The goal around here is not just to win 12 games, not just to win the division championship,” said McCarthy. “Our goal will always be the same here.”
How long it takes the Packers to reach that goal of winning another Super Bowl depends largely on how quickly their younger players develop and how effectively general manager Ted Thompson upgrades the roster.
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