With NFL Kickoff less than a week away, TGH brings you analysis of one of the most fascinating and competitive divisions in football.
This short series will be evaluating the worst-case scenario for each NFC North team that could keep them out of the playoffs (barring major injuries to key players).
Today, we take a look at the Green Bay Packers.
Worst Case Scenario: LaFleur/Rodgers relationship fails
Background & McCarthy firing
The impetus for the entire season hinges on the coaching change made by Green Bay in the offseason.
Under Mike McCarthy, the Packers won one Super Bowl and made the playoffs eight years in a row with Rodgers as the starting quarterback. The relationship and the play-calling had clearly gotten stale, however. With, arguably, the best QB in the league, Green Bay made the NFC Championship just three times (one of them being their Super Bowl run).
In the 2014-2015 playoffs, the Pack was undone by an overtime collapse in the NFC Championship. In 2016-2017 they were blown out by 23 by the Falcons. Fans were not content with playoff appearances and NFC North championships, however. It was felt as if, with Rodgers, the Pack should be in or near the Super Bowl every year.
It is not hard to see from where the entitlement comes, though. Rodgers is the best statistical quarterback of all time, boasting the best touchdown to interception ratio in NFL history. The defense was always a giant glowing question mark, but it was frankly always overshadowed by Rodgers’ greatness. After missing the playoffs in 2017-2018, and a poor start to 2018-2019, Green Bay parted ways with McCarthy. He became the first Super Bowl-winning coach in history to be fired midseason.
Matt LaFleur era & Conclusion
And so begins the Matt LaFleur era.
The former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator was brought in to energize and bring some new-school tactics to the offense. The only hurdle is his relationship with Aaron Rodgers. It was widely speculated that Rodgers and McCarthy did not get along during their latter years in Green Bay. Reports of McCarthy being predictable to the point of Rodgers calling his own plays flooded in. If that is to be believed, then LaFleur and Rodgers need to buy into each other immediately.
With the defense having the best personnel since the 2010 Super Bowl run, that side of the ball should take care of itself. The offense, most especially the head coaching and quarterback positions, need to gel. If they do, the Packers are potentially looking at a deep playoff run or three before Rodgers truly leaves his prime.
If they do not gel, then Rodgers will most likely regress. That regression could spell the end of the truly historic numbers Aaron puts up on a season-to-season basis. With only three-four years left in his prime, these are his best chance to win another ring. Although Brady keeps winning Super Bowls well past his prime, fans should treat that as an outlier. Not a guarantee; not even for Rodgers.
The defense is there, the offensive weapons are there and Rodgers’ talent certainly has not gone anywhere. But the Packers are in “win now” mode. Anything less than an NFC Championship berth will be painted as a disappointment, and rightfully so. It all rests on the chemistry between LaFleur and Aaron.
If this experiment fails, fans will always remember what could have been for one of the greatest to ever play.
Featured Image courtesy of Morry Gash/AP Photo
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