Are the 2023 Packers Being Disrespected?

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By GilMartin

Are the 2023 Packers Being Disrespected?

The Green Bay Packers start a new era in 2023, the post-Aaron Rodgers Era. Over the last 15 seasons with Rodgers as their starter, the Packers made the playoffs 11 times, reached five NFC Championship Games, and won one Super Bowl. Even in the years the team didn’t do well, the Packers almost always entered the season favored to be a playoff team and a Super Bowl contender.

But now, Rodgers is a New York Jet, and the unproven Jordan Love is the new starting quarterback. The Packers are also coming off a losing season after finishing 8-9 last year and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2018.

Most experts are not expecting much from the 2023 Packers. Throughout the offseason, players have remarked that they feel disrespected by the national media who are mostly picking them to finish near the bottom of the NFC North standings and to miss the playoffs.

“I like it that way. This has been one of the first offseasons where we ain’t really been getting the credit, getting the love,” defensive lineman Kenny Clark said during an interview on CBS radio earlier this week. “Everybody says Aaron determines whether we win or lose, so we love it. We’re going to embrace it. When it comes to Week 1, when the season gets here, we’ll see how everything stacks up. We’re excited about it.”

The feeling runs through the organization. People are questioning whether head coach Matt LaFleur is a good coach, or he only won 13 games in each of his first three seasons with the Packers because he had a Hall of Fame quarterback at the helm who won back-to-back NFL MVPs.

On paper, the Packers still have plenty of talent. On offense, Aaron Jones has been to two Pro Bowls and is coming off a season that saw him set a new career-best in rushing yards.

The left side of the Packers offensive line features former All Pro David Bakhtiari at tackle and former Pro Bowl guard Elgton Jenkins.

The Packers have eight former first-round picks on their roster on defense which stocks every position. There are two along the defensive line, two at edge, one at ILB, two cornerbacks and one at safety.

Clark and cornerback Jaire Alexander have been to the Pro Bowl while inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell earned All-Pro honors in 2021.

But the NFL remains a quarterback driven league in 2023. Unless a team has a truly elite defense, it is difficult to compete for a championship without getting good play from your signal caller.

The last five Super Bowl winning teams have had elite quarterbacks leading them with Tom Brady winning two, Patrick Mahomes two more and Matthew Stafford winning the other. Stafford tied a career-high with 41 touchdown passes the year his team won the Super Bowl.

The bottom line remains that the Packers still don’t know what they have in Love. Management and players have expressed confidence in the fourth-year man out of Utah State, but he still has only one NFL start under his belt. You can talk all you want about how Love has looked in practice or even in the preseason, but he still hasn’t proven he can get the job consistently during actual regular season games.

We may not have the answer right away. Almost all starting quarterbacks need time to learn how to win in the NFL. In his first season as the starter in 2008, Rodgers showed he could be the next great starter for the Packers. He threw for 4,038 yards and 28 touchdowns but he also threw a career-high 13 interceptions, a total he almost matched (with 12) last season.

The Packers put up some great individual numbers, but still went just 6-10 on the season and lost seven games by four points or less. Head coach Mike McCarthy reminded fans that Rodgers still needed time to improve his decision making in the red zone. A year later, the Packers finished 11-5 and made the playoffs and Rodgers earned a Pro Bowl berth for the first time in his career.

Until Love proves he can be a quality NFL starter, having doubts about the 2023 Packers makes sense. There is plenty of talent on the roster, but legitimate questions exist at the most important position on the field.

One thing appears certain: the 2023 Packers should be interesting to watch and feature more “unknowns” than the team has had in recent years.

The team is using the doubts as motivation. That’s what they’re supposed to do. Now, they need to go out and prove the doubters wrong.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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