Green Bay — The Green Bay Packers have an eight-year résumé that most teams would go crazy for.
The Packers have reached the postseason eight straight years and won at least one playoff game in five of those seasons. Green Bay has reached three NFC Championship Games in that time, including two of the past three.
The Packers have won the NFC North division five of the last six years. And Green Bay is 87-40-1 in the regular season in that time and has posted a .684 winning percentage, a mark second only to New England (99-29, .773).
At the end of the day, though, the Packers have just one Super Bowl championship to show for all of that winning. And for Packer Nation — and many of Green Bay’s players — those results simply haven’t been good enough.
“I understand people getting upset when we don’t make it to the final game,” Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. “Believe me, there’s no one more upset about that than us. Fans live and die with this, especially in this state. I understand that.
“Yeah, you’re happy getting into the playoffs, winning divisions and winning playoff games and advancing. But the end goal is the same for us every year. Failure is a big word and it’s a tough word. But if we don’t get there, that’s kind of the way we look at it.”
It would be tough to ever label this eight-year stretch a failure. Aside from perhaps 2013, when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was coming back from a broken collarbone, the Packers have entered each postseason with a realistic chance of capturing a Lombardi Trophy.
What has left a sour taste with so many is that aside from 2010, Green Bay has come up short of greatness time and time again.
In fact, Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy recently said: “I hear from a lot of fans that they’re disappointed that I’ve accepted mediocrity and I’m just happy to be in the playoffs and that I should fire (GM) Ted (Thompson) and (coach) Mike (McCarthy) and then after I do that, retire.”
Green Bay’s players admit they’re not exactly sure how to view the past eight years.
On one hand, the Packers believe they should have more than one title. On the flip side, Green Bay’s fan base has it better than most and many would argue they’re a remarkably spoiled bunch.
So while the playoff losses have been tough to swallow, perennial doormats like Buffalo and Jacksonville would give anything to walk a mile in the Packers’ cleats.
“I’d tell people to go to Cleveland and see how things have gone in my hometown,” Packers center Corey Linsley said. “But there’s no doubt, we’re not satisfied either. We feel like those goals are reachable and everybody that watches us knows that we’re capable of greatness. We’ve just got to go out there and do it.”
Rodgers agreed with his center.
“We’ve been to the playoffs eight straight years, which is an accomplishment,” Rodgers said. “But you want more titles. I don’t really agree with the fans’ letters and calls. I think us players got to take ownership of it and play better and finish this thing off. We have nobody to blame but ourselves for some of the postseason losses, and a lot of that is out of our control.
“We're in here, we have a job to do. That’s to prepare and perform. The personnel department’s is to bring in players. Coaches is to teach and demand. We've got to do our part, everybody does their part and that's how you put yourself in that position to win a championship, and we've got to do it again this year.”
As Green Bay began training camp last week, expectations were again sky high. And most Packers players agreed anything short of a Super Bowl championship would be a disappointment.
Green Bay’s offense, which ranked fourth in scoring last season (27.0), appears to be even better. The additions of tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks could give the Packers their best duo at the position since Keith Jackson and Mark Chmura in the mid-1990s. Veteran guard Jahri Evans has also shown signs of being able to adequately replace Pro Bowler T.J. Lang, which would answer perhaps the No. 1 question on offense.
“They were always scary and they just got scarier,” Packers defensive end Mike Daniels said of the offense. “That’s the best way to put it.”
Green Bay’s defense has been anything but scary for years now. But the Packers, who ranked 22nd last year in total defense, could be improved.
Injuries decimated Green Bay’s secondary last season as the Packers’ top three cornerbacks — Sam Shields, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins — missed either most or major portions of the season. In a passing league, there’s virtually no way to overcome that many blows.
“I don’t care who you are,” Daniels said. “If you’re playing your No. 4 and 5 and 6 corners, you’re going to be in some trouble. I mean, those guys we had in there really battled and I give them a ton of credit. But we were really beat up.”
Green Bay’s secondary is healthy now, though, and should be substantially improved. The Packers have used three high draft picks on defensive linemen in the last two years. And outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry are Green Bay’s No. 2 and No. 9-paid players this season.
Add it up, and expectations should be as high as ever.
“Obviously, (the Super Bowl) is what we strive for each and every year,” Matthews said. “We're obviously disappointed when we come up short, no doubt about it. But … I think we do a good job of not letting outside influences try and tear the locker room apart, whether it's talk of certain players or schemes or coaches or whatnot. We know we're right on the precipice of being in a Super Bowl each and every year.
“It's just about winning those games, which is frustrating at times, but I don't think it creeps into this locker room. I think we just regroup at the end of the year and then focus on the new year, which is 2017. We know we’ve got a good team and now it's about putting it together in hopes of getting back to the NFC championship and winning.”
The process of getting to a Super Bowl is laborious and seems light years away during the dog days of training camp. But the Packers understand better than most what is takes to play into January and February.
“You don’t want to come in here saying, ‘Super Bowl!’ and then forget you have to play Week 1, forget you have to practice,” Daniels said. “One day at a time. That’s really it.”
That — and having a greater finishing kick than the Green Bay has had in past seasons.
Green Bay lost overtime games in the postseason in 2009, 2014 and 2015. The Packers were 15-1 and the No. 1 seed in the NFC in 2011, but were whipped by the New York Giants in the NFC divisional playoffs.
Green Bay lost to San Francisco in both 2012 and ’13. And Atlanta routed the Packers, 44-21, in the 2016 NFC Championship Game.
The Packers seemingly have plenty of talent and experience to make a run at a title. And that’s probably the only thing that would make Green Bay — and its passionate fan base — happy.
“I think there’s probably only one other team (New England) that’s had more success than this team over the last couple years, as far as the overall team,” Packers tight end Martellus Bennett said. “So there’s a couple teams in the league that you look at that you feel are really good contenders every single year, and the Packers have always been one of those.”
Now, the question is can they become champions once again?
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