It doesn’t quite feel real yet.
I think it’s because I was so convinced that This Was The Year. This season felt much like the 1996 season, that the Green Bay Packers were playing the best football of any team in the league and that there was a coronation coming.
So much for that.
I don’t want to spend too much time on the NFC Championship, because at this point it’s been covered ad nauseum and, frankly, I’ve already exhausted my emotional bandwidth on the issue. It was a heartbreaking defeat, made even worse with the knowledge that this may have been Aaron Rodgers’ last, best chance to truly contend for a title.
I’ve spent less time on Twitter than usual this week because I can barely tolerate the hilariously stupid “WILL AARON RODGERS BE BACK IN 2021?!” takes.
Instead, I’d like to spend the entirety of today’s column reflecting on the year that was, and why once the pain has fully subsided, I’ll be able to be fully grateful for it.
Call it a Requiem for a Season, if you will.
We had football. Great football. In a pandemic.
I don’t think I can overstate just how grateful I am for this fact. As late as August, I really didn’t think the season would happen at all, or at least not fully. If you’d have told me the NFL would make it through the entire season without having to truncate its season, I’d have thought you were nuts.
But it happened, and holy shit did we need football more than ever this year.
I mean, going beyond the Packers and how memorable their season was, fall just isn’t the same without the Fox NFL Sunday theme song, Al Michaels joking about his gambling habits, Tony Romo making indecipherable noises during replays, the Bears sucking, or everyone complaining about the Monday Night Football announcers.
What a gift after a summer without sports.
Baseball doesn’t count.
We got to see peak Aaron Rodgers again.
Who knows how much longer Rodgers will be a Packer. He might be gone after this next season, based on the structure of his contract.
No matter how much longer he stays, I didn’t take for granted for one second the fact that we saw Aaron Rodgers playing at peak Hall of Fame level once again. The man turns 38 during the next season; you never know when a player’s quality of play will suddenly fall off.
Yes, Drew Brees and Tom Brady both played successfully into their 40s, and Brett Favre had a great age 40 season, but these are very much the exceptions to the rule. Father Time is undefeated, and sooner or later, he’ll come for Aaron Rodgers.
So we’ll always have this third MVP season of Rodgers’ to cherish. How fortunate we are to have been able to see him work his magic in a new offense, this late into his career.
The Packers swept the Bears. Again.
Jimmy Graham must be feeling pretty pretty good about how seriously the Bears take winning the Super Bowl, right?
New stars are rising
There’s going to be a lot of attention paid this offseason to which stars the Green Bay Packers will not be able to bring back due to cap reasons. Guys like Corey Linsley, Aaron Jones or Jamaal Williams, all of whom are without contracts. Guys like Preston Smith, who will likely be cap casualties due to underperforming.
But we also got a glimpse of some new stars in the making.
Rashan Gary looks like a veritable stud. Darnell Savage really began to put it together in the second half of the season, and if he takes another leap of the same size into next year he could be a Pro Bowl player. Elgton Jenkins is already one of the finest offensive linemen in the game. Robert Tonyan is the legitimate all-around tight end the Packers have been searching for for over a decade. Krys Barnes brings tenacity and reliability to the defense for the price of a ham sandwich.
This team will look different next year, but there are young players on the rise, which is what you need if you’re going to keep moving forward.
Mike Pettine might finally be gone! And Shawn Mennenga too!
I mean, they better be, right?
At least we’re not the Lions.
I mean seriously, did you see their new head coach’s debut press conference?! Good lord, no wonder Matthew Stafford pressed the “eject” button so quickly.
Next week will be my final Thursday Morning Ramblings column for a little bit. I’ll be taking off for a few months during draft season, because frankly I don’t have a whole lot to contribute; I simply don’t have the time to follow college football and its biggest pro prospects, so I’ll leave that content up to the experts.
Thanks for the support this season, and I’ll look forward to one last edition of this feature before a bit of a break.