Do the Green Bay Packers need an ego check?
It’s an interesting question and one that bears some discussion after Nick Barnett made his Super Bowl or die proclamation last week.
Certainly, both fans and coaches want their players to believe in themselves. Confidence is important, but overconfidence can be a major obstacle towards achieving success.
It has to be hard for some members of the Packers not to drink the Kool Aid that’s being served up. The Packers have been anointed a Super Bowl team by several national sportswriters. Part of the potential problem is, despite a few notable veteran leaders, the Packers are still a relatively young team.
If half the guys on the team think they’re going to get wins just by showing up on Sunday, the Packers season could go down the tubes pretty quickly.
It’s something Greg Bedard says has been a problem in the past.
For whatever reason, the 2009 Packers got full of themselves, and their performances suffered. Just ask [Charles] Woodson about the mindset going into the Cardinals playoff game. This team plays better with an edge and its backs against the wall. The Packers have to find a way to handle all the Super Bowl hype better. On the flip side, the Packers, starting with general manager Ted Thompson, look like they’re getting a bit tight [due to the Super Bowl hype]. That stance has a tendency to filter down to the players, and negatively affect the on-field product. The Packers need to find a way to strike the right balance.
The Packers were one of the hottest teams in the league going into their wild card playoff game with Arizona last season. They were a trendy media pick, along with the San Diego Chargers and their 11-game win streak, to make substantial noise in the playoffs.
The Packers, of course, made plenty of noise, losing 51-45 to Arizona on a day where their defense was invisible.
There’s certainly no less hype surrounding the Packers right now than there was before last season’s playoffs and result then was an exciting, but embarrassing one-and-done. Similarly, the Packers received a lot of hype during the 2009 preseason and their results weren’t that good once the regular season started.
If you recall, the Packers newly-minted 3-4 defense looked impenetrable in the preseason and the starting offense was unstoppable. That prompted a lot of people to jump on the Green Bay bandwagon — everyone from ESPN experts to NFL beat writers were choosing the Packers to win the NFC North during the preseason.
Hell, even Mike Ditka picked the Packers to win the North.
The result? A mediocre 4-4 record at the midway point of the season that included two losses to the Minnesota Vikings and a defeat at the hands of the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
A player’s only meeting followed (an early Festivus, if you will) and the Packers won seven of their last eight before the embarrassment in the desert.
Considering the current hype machine surround the team, it’s not out of the question for the Packers to come out of the gate this year and crap the bed like they did at the beginning of last season. That is, if nothing’s changed.
I see it like this.
The Packers veterans, along with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, have to be vocal leaders in order to keep the team’s younger players and their egos in line. The coaching staff has to keep the team focused on football and block out the hype. Ted Thompson needs to unclench his asshole.
Now, we know the latter probably hasn’t happened since Thompson set foot in Green Bay, so we’re just going to write it off as an impossibility.
With some exceptions (James Campen and Shawn Slocum, I’m talking about you) the Packers coaching staff seems to be good at preparing their players and keeping them focused on football. Aaron Rodgers is developing into a legitimate leader.
The problem seems to be on defense, where Woodson and Barnett should be taking the reins. The problem is, Woodson, despite all of his talent, has never been a terribly vocal guy and Barnett is more of a rah-rah kind of player.
I think it’s safe to say the Packers defense lacks a real quality leader, and I’m thinking of someone in the mold of Darren Sharper, Reggie White or LeRoy Butler.
Maybe Nick Collins will turn into that guy. Maybe Woodson will become more vocal. Maybe Clay Matthews will step forward.
If it doesn’t happen, the Packers could quickly turn into a big letdown. All the talent in the world isn’t going to make up for a lack of focus.