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By CHRIS HAVEL
As NFL franchises go Green Bay is blessed with great past, bright future
The Fourth of July is a good time to reflect on all that is great in this country. That includes the opportunity to enjoy the uniquely American sport of football, and especially the National Football League.
Clearly, it has been a pursuit of happiness for Packers’ fans.
A quick refresher: The Green Bay Packers are one of only two NFL teams (New England is the other) to qualify for seven straight post-season appearances.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has the highest quarterback rating (107.9), the second-most touchdown passes (170 to Drew Brees’ 193) and the best TD-INT ratio (170 to 33) since 2011. Also, the Packers rank second in the NFL in wins since 2009 with 84, trailing New England with 93 and well ahead of Baltimore, Denver and New Orleans with 74. That’s a remarkable amount of success.
Toss in Brett Favre’s Pro Football Hall of Fame run, which included victory in Super Bowl XXXI, plus all the rich history and tradition such as the Golden Years that came before. It might be overwhelming if it wasn’t so commonplace.
In Green Bay, sustained success sprouts from a continuous, focused effort to proceed a certain way – corny as it may sound – the Packer Way. With success comes expectations, and with expectations comes the potential for disappointment. In the NFL, where one of only 32 teams can be truly happy at season’s end, the potential for disappointment is great.
It is why some fans cry out for a “go for it” mentality – I’m still not sure what exactly that means – because they feel a title is so close but yet so far. They want more without realizing they’re already getting more.
In fact, the Packers’ steady roster building, shrewd draft picks and timely free-agent signings all represent an aggressive mentality and approach.
Some fans need to remember the Packers are close year-in, year-out because they have a high sense of urgency. Common sense suggests a stagnant approach will doom a team. If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. It’s a cliché for a reason. It’s true.
The Packers’ ability to stay on top of situations and to be pro-active is a testament to their sense of urgency. How can it be otherwise in a league where teams will do anything to win? How can it be otherwise with such a supportive, well-informed and yet demanding fan base?
The answer is obvious: It cannot be otherwise.
Many believe the Packers will do great things in 2016. I agree, but I also point out: And how does that differ from 2015, or 2014 … or 2011?
And here’s the point: The same expectations that are quite reasonable going into this season are no different from the expectations going into last year or any previous year.
The difference in Green Bay is that the expectations are valid. Not because GM Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy underwent sweeping changes in this off-season. On the contrary, it’s because they continue with the same steady, firm and proven approach that’s made the Packers winners.
A vast majority of Packers fans understand this. It’s just another reason to support their favorite team. They’re always in contention for something great special.
Furthermore, the new CBA protects the franchise financially. The TV revenue sharing is critical. So is the Packers’ ability to generate new revenue streams while enhancing the fan experience.
The Packers will enter training camp as an NFC favorite. There are many reasons for it. Jordy Nelson’s anticipated return is front and center. So is the likely defensive impact from a draft class that included Kenny Clark, Kyler Fackrell and Blake Martinez.
Throw in the holdovers – Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, etc. – and their stated desire to win a championship says a lot.
As they say, the Packers’ time is now.
I might add to that, but until training camp opens, the Packers’ time is their fans to speculate, ruminate and day-dream about between now and then.
Enjoy the next several weeks. Once the season begins it’s going to be a fast and furious ride.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com).
Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games. Also check out our new Podcast: Between the Lines for more Packers insights. New episodes every Wednesday.