My credo as a Wisconsin sports fan is generally to hope for the best and expect the worst.  I would guess that this is one part a product of my personality and one part a product of my generation.  I’m old enough to vaguely remember the “glory years” of the Vince Lombardi-led Green Bay Packers, but just a shade too young to have any vivid memories of them.  And, unlike the younger fans who came of age during the Wolf/Holmgren era resurgence, I’ve never become accustomed to seeing the Packers in the playoffs.

No, my formulative years as a spectator were spent following the exploits of Marty Pattin and Johnny Briggs of the Milwaukee Brewers and the likes of Jim Del Gaizo and Jon Staggers with the Pack, when we’d get so disgusted with them  by the 4th quarter of most games that we’d go play in the yard by ourselves and pretend to be Archie Manning.   That’s not exactly a history that conditions one to expect success on the playing fields.

That background probably explains why I can’t completely buy into the lofty predictions for the Packers in this upcoming season.  While there is a widely disparate range of opinion regarding the Pack’s fortunes this year, many national publications are forecasting a Super Bowl run for the team.  I understand that every team has flaws, but where others see opportunities I tend to focus on the potential pitfalls.  Yes, there are many pieces in place to get the Packers to where they want to go yet every area seems to have a corresponding flaw.

The offense should once again be dynamic.  Last year’s Packers were the first team in NFL history to feature a 4,000 yard passer in quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a 1,000 yard rusher in running back Ryan Grant (who, for some reason continues to be maligned in many quarters), and two 1,000 yard receivers in wideouts Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.  Throw in emerging tight end Jermichael Finley and the Packers boast a set of “skill position” players that few teams can match.  However, the continuation of such prolific numbers depends on the performance of an offensive line that needs to be better than it was last year.  And any O-line that relies on the presence of guard Daryn Colledge and the health of left tackle Chad Clifton has to be considered suspect.

Likewise, on paper at least, the defense was one of the tops in the league last year.  Safety Charles Woodson returns as the reigning Defensive Player of the Year (no matter what Jets coach Rex Ryan thinks) and linebacker Clay Matthews should be better with a year of experience.  But having Jarrett Bush anywhere near being your 4th cornerback doesn’t bode well for the secondary depth and, with the departure of erstwhile linebacker Aaron Kampman, defensive coordinator Dom Capers will have to develop another pass rushing threat to keep opponents from sliding their protection toward Matthews’ side.

Then there are the  special teams, which could end up being the anchor that keeps the team from fulfilling its potential.  The special teams were mediocre at best under former coach Mike Stock and have shown little sign of improving under current leader Shawn Slocum.  Kicker Mason Crosby has a strong leg but has yet to show any consistency and the punting game has been atrocious since GM Ted Thompson inexplicably released Jon Ryan.  Will Blackmon has provided glimpses of being an effective return man but still has to prove he can remain free of injury.  The special teams have to rise to a level of competency if the Packers are to make a deep playoff drive.

I want to believe; I really do.  If the Packers can shore up their shortcomings this should be an exciting season.  It just seems to me that assuming a Super Bowl appearance for this team is setting yourself up for disappointment.  Virtually everything would have to go right for that to happen.  Personally, I’d rather enjoy the journey than automatically lock in on the ultimate prize.  It’s a long season and there are simply too many things than can go wrong along the way.  And I bet Jon Staggers would agree with me.

****************************************************************************************************

If any fans still harbored any illusions about the Milwaukee Brewers competing for a playoff spot this year, the Brewers did their best to burst their bubble this week.  After an opening game victory in the series against Cincinnati that raised some false hope, the Brewers removed any doubt by being dominated the final two games, especially since they lost to what amounted to the Reds “B team” on Wednesday.

The major league baseball trading deadline has come and gone.  As I anticipated, the Brewers emerged from the process with their team intact for better and worse.  I’m sure it wasn’t for lack of trying but the odds were stacked against the Brewers making a move.  The Brewers still control bargaining chips Prince Fielder and Corey Hart for next year though their long term prospects for being on the team remain in doubt.  That, and owner Mark Attanasio’s desire to avoid the appearance of throwing in the towel on the season removed any urgency in making a move.  Hart’s wrist injury just prior to the deadline also surely factored into his trade value.  The only way GM Doug Melvin was going to make a trade involving these players was if he received some top flight pitching in return.  Unfortunately, at this time of year most other teams are also looking to add pitching and are loathe to give it up.  This all but assured that the Brewers most marketable players would stay in Milwaukee for the rest of the season.

Somewhat lost in the disappointment of this Brewers season is the fine year being had by one Rickie Weeks.  Weeks is finally beginning to realize the potential that made him the second pick overall in the 2003 draft.  At the time he was brought up to the big club, I believed that Weeks could be the best of the group that included Fielder, Hart, Ryan Braun and J.J. Hardy.  It’s nice to see that belief finally being validated.  Weeks has had his career derailed by injury but finally seems to be healthy and coming into his prime.  He has the quickest bat in a Milwaukee uniform since Paul Molitor and his toughness is a quality to build a team around.  Weeks should be the next player Melvin signs to a long term contract.

***************************************************************************************************

I have a friend named Chad who, despite being a St. Louis Cardinals fan, is pretty knowledgable about baseball.  All season long he has touted the Cincinnati Reds as a NL Central division contender with their young pitching and hitting while I cautioned him to wait for what I believed was their inevitable second half swoon.  Now, on the cusp of August, I have to admit that it appears the Reds are going to be in it ’til the end.  Of course, that’s partly because the Cardinals have underachieved (sorry, Chad).

And while I’m on the subject of mea culpas……..

About a year and a half ago in this space, I made an argument that the Packers should make a run at (then) free agent defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.  In my defense, this was prior to the move to the 3-4 defense and I was focused mostly on Haynesworth’s multi-million dollar ability and not his 10 cent brain.  Now the Washington Redskins, with whom he signed, are switching to the same defense under head coach Mike Shanahan and Haynesworth is out of shape and complaining about playing nose tackle.  Consider this Exhibit A why Packers GM Ted Thompson shouldn’t listen to idiots like me when it comes to NFL free agency.

***************************************************************************************************   

RANDOM SAMPLINGS:  Dallas Cowboys heralded rookie wide receiver Dez Bryant injured his ankle in training camp and is reportedly out for 6-8 weeks.  Presumably, he’ll spend the interim staying in shape by carrying teammate Roy Williams pads to and from practice………..Props to Roy Oswalt for putting his money where his mouth is.  The Houston Astro ace pitcher who wanted to be traded finally relented to allow a deal with Philadelphia (Amazingly, the Astros are still picking up most of his tab)………..Brewers fans may be disappointed with their team right now, but they can still revel in the trials and tribulations of their neighbors to the south.  The Chicago Cubs reinstated excitable pitcher Carlos Zambrano from his suspension after team imposed anger management counseling, so things should get interesting in Wrigleyville now that he’s on his umpteenth new leaf.

I’d like to finish this morning with a couple of “shout-outs”.  First, to Aaron and Corey of Cheesehead TV.  It’s nice to be able to voices and personalities to the things I read on your site.  Your passion for the Packers is obvious and we also appreciated the CHTV ‘swag’.  Safe travels, guys.

Last, but certainly not least, I would like to publicly wish a belated 40th birthday to my nephew and Pocket Doppler guru Wally.  Maybe on your 50th, you’ll once again be able to beat me at golf.  Better start pacing yourself “old man”.

Thanks for reading.  Enjoy the rest of your opening of Packer training camp weekend.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Jon

    Preseason excitement for the NFL is a beautiful thing. With only one game a week,it is too easy to think your team is better or worse than they really are. It isn’t who you play, it is when you play them (a Big Ten Keady-ism), and at the end of the day injuries,and when you have them, often tell the tale between 6-10 and 10-6.

  • Chris

    Your comments on the Packers prospects for the upcoming season were perfectly stated. Of course, having grown up in the same era as you it is hard not to see the team’s fortunes through the same lens.