I have a theory about the 2016 Green Bay Packers. For better or for worse, they’re only capable of winning games when they truly play as a team. They’re simply not built with enough playmakers who can take over a game. There is no Brady-to-Gronk or Roethlisberger-to-Brown type of connection that can win a game for you in Green Bay. Rodgers-to-Jordy has been a solid connection for years, but even at their best, I don’t think you could honestly put them in the same category of pure dominance.
Rodgers is the best player on the Packers. I don’t think anyone is going to argue with that. He is an elite playmaker, who can cover up a lot of holes on the team. But as we discovered last year, and parts of this year, he is human after all and can only do so much. Other skill position guys on the team just aren’t in the same category as Rodgers. For example, when Jordy went down last year, Cobb could never quite fill the shoes of a true number one option. But when a true number one option like Jordy is healthy, Cobb is able to make big plays. He can run quick, sharp routes, catch the ball in traffic, and has enough agility to make people miss for extra yards. However, he isn’t going to burn anyone with straight line speed when lined up outside. The point is, Cobb is a great example of a player whose maximum performance is contingent upon the guys around him. This is actually how much of the Packers roster is currently built.
Nothing the Packers do scheme-wise is going to surprise anyone. The Packers keep things pretty simple. In fact, the Packers have a long history of taking pride in the fact that opponents know what they’re going to do before they do it, and yet they’re still able to execute with great success (e.g., The Sweep). This hard-nosed football mentality is still part of the team’s culture today. They believe if they just go out and execute their gameplan that they can beat anyone on any given Sunday. And for the most part, they can, so long as guys stay healthy. However, when injuries begin to pile up, especially at the skill positions, there is a tipping point at which we begin to see the scheme break down and become largely ineffective. As mentioned earlier, this is because each player’s performance relies on the performance of the guys around him to maximize production.
So for better or for worse, perhaps the 2016 Packers embody “team” better than any other Packers team since the 2010 season — when they overcame 16 players on IR and won three road games as the sixth seed in the playoffs, en route to a Super Bowl XLV victory. Could history repeat itself?
Three weeks ago, Aaron Rodgers said he was confident the Packers could run the table, which would give them a 10–6 record and possibly get them into the postseason. Three weeks later, they’re halfway there and poised to continue their run toward 10–6 with their final three games against division opponents. If there is a team peaking at the right time and heating up for a Super Bowl run, it’s the 2016 Green Bay Packers. Watch out.