Every Thursday, Patrick Kotnik provides two observations, one question and a prediction on the Green Bay Packers.
Another year, another playoff disappointment — Eleven years since winning Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Green Bay Packers have yet to return to the promised land.
Saturday’s divisional round loss was added to the long-running list of playoff disappointments/heartbreakers for the organization since capturing its 13th NFL title at the end of the 2010-11 season.
In the nine trips to the postseason since winning Super Bowl XLV, five of those losses were by single digits. Of those five, four were decided on the game’s final play, whether that was at the end of regulation or overtime.
To me, Saturday’s defeat felt similar to the divisional round loss to the Giants at the end of the 2011-12 season. Like that Packers team, this year’s squad had the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage but glaring weaknesses that you just knew were going to be exploited at the worst possible time.
For the 2011 team, that weakness was defense, which was disappointing considering the Super Bowl team the year before had one of the league’s best defenses. This year it was special teams and the offense putting the defense in tight spots at the end of games by failing to move the ball, score, take time off the clock, etc.
Credit the 49ers, their defense played tough all game and the team took advantage of Green Bay’s special teams debacles, bringing a sour end to a season that many thought would finally be the year Aaron Rodgers and the Packers brought home another Lombardi Trophy after years of coming up short.
To simply put it, the Packers are no longer a team you can trust in the postseason. With loads of talent that includes one of the best players to ever play the quarterback position for years, to not even return to the Super Bowl since 2011 is a massive disappointment that falls on everyone’s shoulders — the front office, players (including Rodgers himself), coaches, etc.
Yes, getting to a Super Bowl, in general, is a tough feat to accomplish in itself. But the Packers have simply blown numerous chances over the years and this season was no different.
It was a Super Bowl or bust season that resulted in the latter and another one that will be added to an already long list of missed opportunities that people will look back at and ask “what if?”
LaFleur says the organization won’t rebuild — A big question remains where the Packers will go from here.
This was the season they were officially “all in” with numerous questions regarding players’ contracts, Rodgers’ future and the tough cap situation lurking right in front of them.
A rebuild looked to be on the horizon after the loss to the 49ers, but that won’t be happening according to head coach Matt LaFleur.
I wasn’t and still am not against a rebuild, which is why I found LaFleur’s comment a little surprising. Did I expect him to say they’re going to commit to a rebuild? No, but I guess part of me just doesn’t know how they’re going to be able to navigate their cap situation, keep most of their key players and remain competitive. But another part of me feels confident that the front office will get it figured out so that the team can still have the personnel to play at a high level. The front office led by Brian Gutekunst has done a solid job with roster management and player evaluation — which has led to both draft picks (such as A.J. Dillon, Rashan Gary and Jaire Alexander) and free agents (like De’Vondre Campbell, the Smiths and Rasul Douglas) having success in Green Bay under his tenure.
The Green Bay Packers are $40 million over the salary cap, meaning they’re going to have to make numerous moves and get creative to get back under it. Luckily, there are numerous routes the organization can take. They can restructure contracts, sign players to extensions and void years on contracts.
.@RapSheet suggests the Packers are in a good spot. Mentions he believes Adams will be back on tag or a new deal, one of the Smith Brothers will be back (presumably on a reworked deal) and Cobb will probably not be back. pic.twitter.com/C1SFTCUcV2
— Peter Bukowski (@Peter_Bukowski) January 25, 2022
However, that doesn’t mean difficult decisions won’t have to be made. There will be beloved players such as Randall Cobb and Za’Darius Smith who’ll likely be released to clear cap space.
Plus, a lot of how they’ll proceed with this situation will depend on whether they extend Davante Adams or franchise tag him as well as what Rodgers decides to do.
Aaron Rodgers expects to make decision on future well before free agency. He points to #Packers window for franchise tagging Davante Adams in February as timeline. “To stretch it out past free agency would be disrespectful to the organization … and that 100% will not happen.”
— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) January 25, 2022
We’ll see how things play out, but a tough road lies ahead in this department.
1 Question: Who will be under center for the Packers in 2022?
This is the million-dollar question, isn’t it?
We’ll know sooner as opposed to later with Rodgers saying he’ll decide his future before free agency begins in March and maybe sooner depending on what the Packers decide to do with Adams. Rodgers also said free agency doesn’t look to be an option nor is retiring and then returning, which means he can either return to the Packers, be traded or retire.
Does Rodgers give the Packers the best chance to win next season? Absolutely. He had another stellar season and will likely win back-to-back MVPs. Will I be mad if he’s not with the franchise next season? No.
Rodgers’ performance left a sour taste in the mouths of many, many Packers fans. Yes, special teams helped cost the Packers the game. Yes, the 49ers were a tough defensive matchup for this offense. But if you’re the reigning MVP and considered the most talented quarterback ever to play the game, your offense needs to score more than 10 points in a playoff game.
As great as Rodgers has been in the regular season, he hasn’t lived up to the high expectations in the postseason like he has supposed to aside from the 2010 Super Bowl season.
Yes, you can argue that Rodgers came through when he needed to in certain postseason games and that the defense and other facets of the game didn’t give him any help. That might be true for some of those postseason exits, but he didn’t exactly play lights out in most of those losses. There have been no excuses the past couple of seasons, especially this year. Rodgers had home-field advantage, a tough defense and offensive weapons, including his longtime friend Randall Cobb and arguably the best receiver in the league in Adams.
"If the MVP Quarterback played a C or a B- football game, they're still playing." –@MarkTauscher65
— Wilde & Tausch (@WildeAndTausch) January 24, 2022
He needs to be held accountable. His 19.4 quarterback rating and passing up open receivers cost the Green Bay Packers just as much as special teams did. Rodgers and the offense had plenty of opportunities to build a lead and both cover up and respond to the special teams miscues.
After years of playoff heartbreak and falling short of high expectations, I thought it may be beneficial for the Packers to move on from Rodgers and rebuild. Again, he does give the Packers the best chance to win now, but if the franchise can’t get over the hump with him under center, then at what point is moving on best for both parties?
In meaningful snaps this season, Jordan Love has done both good and bad things, but it looks like he’s showing signs of progress which is always good.
If he underperforms when given his chance as a starter (whenever that may be), the Packers can either draft another quarterback, sign one in free agency or trade for one. As we’ve seen the past couple of seasons, franchises (such as the Buccaneers and Rams) can upgrade their quarterback spot relatively fast.
1 Prediction: Rashan Gary and Jaire Alexander sign extensions this offseason
Signing players to extensions can help improve the franchise’s cap situation.
If I had to guess, Rashan Gary and/or Jaire Alexander will be among the players who’ll sign an extension with the Green Bay Packers this offseason.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF BANE GARY
From questionable first round pick to borderline superstar, Rashan Gary has shown us his true potential to be a star for the Green Bay #Packers. Check out what @mertins_andrew has to say about 52 here.https://t.co/VG25LritKu
— Game On Wisconsin (@gameonwi) January 26, 2022
It wasn’t all that long ago when many considered the 12th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft out of Michigan a bust, but Gary had a breakout season and led the team in sacks with 9.5. Alexander, an All-Pro and one of the best cornerbacks in the league, was having another strong campaign until he missed the rest of the regular season with a shoulder injury.
Both players have proven their worth, which is why the franchise MUST lock them down for the long-term and in turn, the extensions can help Green Bay’s salary cap situation.