Packers 2007 Regular Season Review

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Surprising is probably the word that would best sum up the Packers 2007 season. Even though I shouldn’t be surprised because I picked them to be 10-6 this year, I am surprised anyway (which may be an indication that when I made my 10-6 prediction before the season I actually didn’t have much faith that it would happen and I was just being a homer).

I’ve learned that I like the staff that McCarthy has put together. Despite our doubts re Bob Sanders, he has proven this year, that once the players adapted to his system, it can be quite effective. There is still room for improvement, but this defense has kept the Packers in several games this year. And, if you think about the last time Favre was at his best, it wasn’t when his offensive line made the offense a machine (during the Sherman years), but it was when his defense could help keep the team in games (1995-1998). I also think Mike Stock deserves credit for bringing excitement back to our return game and ensuring solid coverage – as well as bringing along 2 young kickers. And, though we can’t be sure exactly how he’s contributing, I suspect Joe Philbin has been a solid assistant for McCarthy, if for no other reason than that he and McCarthy are on the same page when it comes to calling things as they are.

And then, of course, we have Mike McCarthy, possible Coach of the Year. TT took a chance on McCarthy and now it’s obvious to the rest of us why he did. McCarthy has a lively offensive mind, a refreshingly aggressive approach and he’s not afraid to say what he’s thinking. One of the best characteristics Mike McCarthy has is his honesty. He doesn’t play the Belichick game of dodging questions and being evasive. When asked before the Dallas/GB game last month why the game was important, he didn’t launch into the “one game at a time, we’re not looking beyond this game” crap most coaches and players bore us with daily. He said that the game was important because it had possible implications for home-field advantage in the playoffs, something most coaches would never say when there are still 4 games left on the schedule. He was being honest, but he was also being confident. And, McCarthy’s confidence in his team is one of the biggest factors behind the Packers’ success this year. Going for it on 4th down, trying onside kicks, throwing 70 yard bombs on the first play of overtime, etc – aggressive coaches necessarily have more confidence in their teams and this is a welcome contrast to the previous Packer regime.

I continue to be impressed by the team that Ted Thompson (mostly) has put on the field. There are many high quality players who are young, hungry and talented. Packer fans have reason to be excited not just about this year, but for years to come. That said, the time is now to win a Super Bowl. We’re not sure how much longer Favre will be playing and given his experience in the playoffs, we are in the best position we’ve been in for a long time to win the whole thing. After the Dallas game, some speculated that the Packers tried lots of long passes and trick plays because they felt they were an inferior team going into the game. I disagree, I think this coach and this team are just confident and they had good reason to believe that any play they tried could work out. I expect to see more of this exciting brand of football in the playoffs too, as McCarthy just isn’t the kind of guy who will fall back on conventional, boring football to be safe.

While it would be easier to be pessimistic about the playoffs so that I can head off some of my own potential disappointment if things don’t go well, I’m having a hard time being genuinely pessimistic right now. I have bought into McCarthy’s plan and I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised if the Packers get to the Super Bowl. The biggest hurdle in the playoffs will be the first game, but if the Packers handle that, then the pressure will largely be off them and I think there is a good chance they’d get to the Super Bowl. If they get there and win, I’d be a bit surprised, but not shocked because if I’ve learned one thing about the team this year, it’s to expect the unexpected.

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2 Responses to “Packers 2007 Regular Season Review”

  1. RayMidge Says:

    I think the biggest surprise for me was how the young Packers handled what seemed to me at the time an extremely unfavorable early schedule. While the ending to last season provided real evidence that we could expect improvement of the 10-6 variety, it was easy to envision some tough early losses to the likes of veteran teams like Philly (always seems to be a tough matchup no matter the talent balance), San Deigo and the Giants putting this team in a hole that would make the season once again about moral victories and “improvement” rather than actual competative advancement.

    The credit certainly goes to McCarthy and Thompson for finding and cultivating the types of players who possess the natural confidence and football instincts to never focus on their limitations and who are not afraid to succeed. The last two drafts have been full of guys described by most of the scouts as real football players (cliche alert!!!- but I don’t know how else to say it) rather than combine/stats types and the overall depth of the team reflects this. Guys like Hall, Rouse, Jolly, Jennings, Jones and acquisitions like D. Lee, Grant, Bigby, K. Robinson have shown that TT and MM have a great idea about what type of person and player they want to build the team around, and the record speaks for itself. the early season sqeakers seemed to me at the time to be fortuitious, the NFL often hinges on one or two breaks in any given close game, and my reasoning was that we had gotten few of them the last few years and this was the payback from the football gods. But as the season wore on and unlikely guys continued to show they were consistent and able to produce in big, pressure situations, each game became less a matter of hoping they could somehow rack up enough wins to sqeak in to the playoffs, and more a matter of enjoying the tough and precise game of football played the way it ought to be played by a group of guys who genuinely seemed to like each other and who only cared about winning. The season was a joy, and the future looks bright.

    The Cotton Bowl is on as I write this, and I would love to see Arkansas’ Felix Jones added to this mix. He seems like a perfect fit; a guy who has been a backup to a superstar but always been productive when given the ball. This type of player can often be had in the late first round, the type of guy the Pats or Steelers always seem to find.

  2. awhayes Says:

    Great comment. A while back, I addressed the character of this team as well. The word I used was “coachable”. TT just seems to find guys who are able to be coached, no matter their intelligence level. This is no more evident than when the team comes out in the second half having made adjustments of some kind and then levels the opponent. A team capable of making quality adjustments is 1) coached well and 2) full of coachable players.

    I really like your thought on Felix Jones. I’ve watched Arkansas play several games over the past few years (not sure why) and while McFadden is certainly talented, I’ve always been impressed by Jones. He seems like a workhorse who has serious talent too. He’d be a great draft pick.

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