Packers fall slightly out favor for Super Bowl LV
Green Bay Packers are flush off a stellar 2019-2020 season, which marked the first year with head coach Matt LaFleur in charge. To go 13-3 SU in the regular season and capture the NFC North crown and then to put together a playoff run that culminated in an NFC Championship appearance is by all accounts a smashing start for a new head coach. One that few coaches can boast on debut.
Saying it was all down to the genius mind of LaFleur however, would be overstating his coaching knowhow to ethereal heights. What knowhow though? LaFleur was young and unproven and a novice head coach.
By taking the Wisconsin job, LaFleur banked on the luxury that comes with inheriting a team that was well put together and – drumroll please – that was led by a starlet signal-caller in Aaron Rodgers. A quarterback undoubtedly Hall of Fame-bound after he decides to hang up his cleats, according to the NFL cognoscenti.
Not every new or first-time coach is afforded an opportunity to work with a complete team that is led by a Super Bowl-winning, veteran quarterback. Rodgers has been there and done that and that experience is of immeasurable value to a fresh-faced boss.
Eight new head coaches made their debuts last season and none had a winning record when all was said and done, save for LaFleur. The best record achieved within the collective was 7-9 SU, which was accomplished by Kliff Kingsbury with Arizona Cardinals, Bruce Arians with Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Adam Gase with New York Jets. The worst record fell to Zac Taylor and the Cincinnati Bengals, after finishing on a woeful 2-14 SU mark.
It’s fair to say, LaFleur was in an enviable position and capitalized on a situational advantage and an elite quarterback, which his counterparts in a similar spot simply didn’t have. By extension, it would also be fair to say that the success of the previous season – coming to within a game of Super Bowl LIV – is tied in as heavily to Rodgers as ever.
So, why did the Packers use their first-round pick in the NFL draft just a few months later on their quarterback of the future?
Picking Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, LaFleur and General Manager Brian Gutekunst couldn’t have shocked all and sundry more had they – oh, dunno….mooned the virtual audience that had tuned into the online, 2020 NFL Draft. Moving up from pick No.30 to pick No.26 to do it, no less, just sent further seismic shockwaves through NFL circles. Speculation was rife: what were they on about?
By all accounts, the absence of a one-two punch on offense is one of the main reasons behind Packers’ failure to get over the last hurdle last season. Rodgers simply didn’t have enough weapons. Thus, addressing especially that issue during the draft process should have been paramount. Alas, they didn’t address it, leaving NFL pundits and, Rodgers himself probably scratching their heads. NBC Sports insider Peter King reported that Rodgers was “pissed off” about both the Love pick and not drafting immediate offensive help.
Picking Love would have meant far less in the broad spectrum of the upcoming season had LaFleur and Gutekunst demonstrated with the ensuing eight draft picks an intention to give Rodgers what he so desperately needs: a wide receiver. Doing so, would have implied a clear “win now” philosophy combined with prudent forward-thinking drafting.
That this wasn’t the case is widely held now by markets to hurt Green Bay’s chances of winning a Super Bowl next season. Ignoring the sum total of what the Packers accomplished – clinching the No.2 seed in the NFC and reaching the NFC Championship game (l. to San Francisco) – as an indication of a championship window that shouldn’t be allowed to go begging, while Rodgers is in his prime at 36 years of age, is inexplicable. Not to mention, impossible to reconcile with the intangible promise of the future.
Indeed, Green Bay’s odds took a tumble after the questionable draft and it also cost them a win on their projected season total with many reputable sportsbooks (falling from10 to 9 wins). Obviously, the Super Bowl favorites are the Kansas City Chiefs, who will go into next season as the defending champions. However, the Packers may well have been in the thick of it all, tipped amongst the top favorites to contend for Lombardy.
As it is, the Packers are priced just on the cusp of the top ten best bets, with a couple of teams (Tampa Bay and Dallas) that didn’t even make the playoffs last season priced shorter on the odds board. If that’s not telling of just how much they’ve fallen out of favor, what is?