Remember the good old days?
It was only two seasons ago that the Packers were in turmoil and Aaron Rodgers was unhappy with the direction of the team. Green Bay still had four games left on its 2018 regular season slate when the ax fell hard on head coach, Mike McCarthy, the first time in more than 60 years that the Packers changed coaches during the season, not after.
It was glorious.
McCarthy was great, for Vikings fans, as he and “No Free Agents, EVER!” general manager Ted Thompson kept Rodgers and the Packers from reaching their full potential. Sure, that led the Packers to nine playoff appearances over McCarthy’s 12-year tenure in Green Bay (but that track record was not enough to spare him from team president Mark Murphy’s blade).
Many suspect it was a backroom deal promulgated by a disgruntled Rodgers to get his longtime coach out the door. The relationship had soured and it was time for a change. But pink-slipping the man responsible for more wins in franchise history than anyone else, except the venerated Curley Lambeau, before the season was finished, was more humiliating than it was necessary.
But that’s ancient history now and the young Matt Lafleur has taken the reins and connected with Rodgers in a way that the patriarchal McCarthy never could (despite the 2020 Draft). Rodgers has enjoyed perhaps the best season of his career and is a mortal lock to cop his third MVP trophy.
This year was the first in which Rodgers has ended with a 70 percent completion rate and his 48 touchdown passes are the most in his illustrious career.
I mean, we’re fair. We have to give credit where it’s due.
After a late November destruction of divisional rival, Chicago, Packers head coach, Matt Lafleur, stated, “This is as good as I’ve ever seen anybody play. Just his ability to go out there and get us in the right looks and, shoot, even when I make a bad call, he definitely makes us look good. So that’s a credit to him. In my eyes, he’s an MVP player. No doubt about it. And I wouldn’t want any other quarterback on our football team.”
What’s on Tap for the Pack?
The Packers nabbed the No. 1 seed in the NFC and were allowed to lick their wounds, kick back, and relax after the long, brutal grind that is the NFL regular season.
Meanwhile, their conference rivals were busy butting heads and desperately trying to advance to the next round. When the dust settled, the lowest seed left standing after last weekend’s wildcard round was the Los Angeles Rams.
There isn’t a bigger quarterback mismatch in the four games you will watch this weekend than that between Aaron Rodgers and Jared Goff. The only chance the Rams have is if their vaunted defense can derail Rodgers and his embarrassment of offensive weapons. That’s highly unlikely but that’s why they play the games on the field and not on paper.
The NFL lines have been released on all four games this weekend and the Packers are seven-point favorites against the LA Rams. Assuming the Packers move on to the NFC Championship Game, they will feature a team led by one of two future Hall-of-Famers in New Orleans’ Drew Brees or Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady.
Either team would be a tough out for Rodgers and the Packers, but the NFC championship game against either would be played at Lambeau Field (which gives Green Bay the coveted home-field advantage).
Green Bay’s likely Super Bowl opponent, if they get that far, would be the reigning champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, led by the stellar Patrick Mahomes. That game would be played at the Ray-Jay in Tampa Bay, a neutral site, and would be one in which the home team participates if the Bucs knock off the Saints and then, ostensibly, the Packers.
A Super Bowl title is within Green Bay’s grasp and if the chips fall their way, it would be the second such championship for Rodgers and likely a third MVP Trophy. Peyton Manning (5), Tom Brady (3), Johnny Unitas (3), Jim Brown (3), and Rodgers’ former mentor, Brett Favre (3), are the only players in history with three or more.
Aaron Rodgers would walk into that rarified air and join that elite club if he wins the award this season. It’s a virtual certainty that he will but what is not nearly as certain is if his team can win their next three games. But if indeed it does happen, somewhere Mike McCarthy will be watching but we’re not so sure if he will be smiling.