Every time I think about the upcoming Green Bay Packers season, one question constantly invades my thoughts.
Is this the best Packers team of all-time?
I know that there is a certain risk associated with saying such things out loud (or in this case, writing them), but I hope you’ll grant me reprieve to indulge my inner thoughts for a moment.
Packers fans are spoiled by history. We are lucky to cheer for the most storied franchise in NFL history. It’s difficult to imagine I know, but most NFL fans are happy if their team makes the playoffs once every few years.
We get to watch games at Lambeau Field. We get to look up at a ring of honor that displays the names of football giants like Curly Lambeau, Ray Nitschke, Bart Starr, Reggie White and Vince Lombardi. To be a Packers fan is to be a part of something bigger than just a sports team.
Going back through history, there have been many great Packers teams:
1962: Jim Taylor literally ran over the entire league en route to an NFL Championship.
1966: Bart Starr’s MVP season capped off by winning Super Bowl I.
1996: Brett Favre, Reggie White, Desmond Howard and the Packers return to glory.
2010: Aaron Rodgers leads an injury-riddled team to an improbable Super Bowl victory.
The 2011 Packers may just be better than all of them.
Looking at the Packers roster, there can be no appropriate reaction other than excitement.
On offense, Aaron Rodgers will lead the most potent attack in the NFL. His receiving corps, led by wide receivers Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones (maybe), Randall Cobb and tight end Jermichael Finley is one of the deepest in NFL history. Opposing defenses will have their hands full simply trying to slow down Green Bay’s air attack. Stopping it will be all but impossible.
On the ground there are admittedly some questions, but the Packers have two running backs capable of rushing for 1,000 yards in Ryan Grant and James Starks, and another with the potential to be just as good in rookie Alex Green.
Defensively, Green Bay might be even better.
Anchored by the best secondary in football, featuring three Pro Bowl-caliber cornerbacks in Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, the Packers’ defense is designed to torment opposing offenses.
Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers is the best in the business at designing effective blitz schemes, and has one of the best pass rushers in the league to help execute it in Clay Matthews.
Against the run, the Packers have space eaters in B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Howard Green and (maybe, but probably not) Cullen Jenkins.
This is a team without significant weakness. This is a team poised to win a lot of games.
This team, on paper at least, is the best in Green Bay Packers history.
Being the best, however, will mean nothing if they can’t also be great.
Sports history is littered with unbelievably talented teams that never reached their potential. Last season the Packers showed the heart of a champion in overcoming a slew of injuries and long odds to win Super Bowl XLV. This season, the will not fly under anyone’s radar. This season greatness is expected.
Expectations can be a dangerous thing to get wrapped up in. By calling this team the best in the history of the Green Bay Packers, I mean to distinguish the excitement surrounding their talent with the heart and determination it takes to once again become great.
Being the best is a product of talent. Being the greatest is a product of character.
When the lockout ends, the hard work begins. Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, but the 2011 Green Bay Packers have all the necessary ingredients to end the season not only as the best in Packers history, but also the greatest.