2011 Green Bay Packers: Seven Signs of Our Apocalypse
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
They say hindsight is 20/20. Looking back, there were many tell-tale signs of the pitfalls of the Green Bay Packers title defense.
We got caught up in the 15 wins. We were enamoured of the firepower. We were healthier than the team that won it all last season.
But in the end, the team lacked too many of the elements of a champion. Here were the signs in chronological order...
Letting Cullen Jenkins Go
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Cullen Jenkins was a lot of things for the Green Bay Packers, yet the team decided not to re-sign him after the lockout ended. Why?
General Manager Ted Thompson is not in the habit of getting into details about the whys and wherefors of his decisions. He is right so much more often than he is wrong, but whatever the reasons, the results prove he was wrong this time.
Reasons given by fans and media to support the decision probably include his reasons and then some.
1. He wanted too much money. At most, Thompson may have assumed this based on conversations before the 2010 season ended. However, we now know better: Jenkins signed for just $5 million per year with just $4 million guaranteed—$1.87 per year and $2.5 more guaranteed than James Jones, who had 38 catches for 635 yards during the regular season and one for 16 Sunday vs. New York.
2. He is injured too much. Except he missed only 12 games in seven years (none for the Eagles in 2011). And Mike Neal, slated to replace him, missed more than that last year alone and has been inactive more in each of the last three seasons (including his senior season at Purdue) than he has been on the field.
3. He is declining. Jenkins had 5.5 sacks and 40 tackles, while no Packers lineman had more than 26 tackles or three sacks. Granted, a 3-4 lineman will not accumulate more stats than a 4-3 lineman, but Jenkins had 18 and seven, respectively, in 11 games last season.
No Offseason Workouts
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
In the offseason, every team had player-led workouts because the lockout prevented them from being led by coaches. Every team except the Green Bay Packers, that is.
At the time, Aaron Rodgers bristled from the criticism of the Packers failure to do that. His numbers in the very first game led to him making sarcastic references to it, "Could we have started any better?"
But we never considered what effect the lost time would have on the defense. As much as the team missed Cullen Jenkins and Nick Collins, it does not fully explain a drop from giving up the fifth-fewest to the most yards in the league, especially given the team had been without Jenkins for five games in 2010.
Defensive players need to have a feel for one another even more than offensive players. How many times did we see players have communication problems leading to giving up the most plays of 20-plus yards in the NFL?
Defense Wins Championships
Matt Ludtke/Getty Images
We have heard that offense sells tickets and defense wins championships.
It is not entirely true. Of the last 14 teams to win their conference, 10 have had quarterbacks who finished in the top-six in passer rating. Two of the other quarterbacks were Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.
But eight of the teams in the Super Bowl also were top-six in total defense. The others either played great defensively in the playoffs (like the 2006 Indianapolis Colts) or were still in the top half of the NFL.
Green Bay gave up more yards than any defense ever. True, it was a record-setting offensive season, but that also is part of what made the Packers offense look unstoppable.
Games Are Won in the Trenches
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Football has been won or lost in the trenches from the inception of the game. The Green Bay Packers struggled in this area on both sides of the equation.
Only two teams mustered fewer than the 29 sacks by the Packers defense in 2011. Worse, since no team faced as many pass plays, their sack percentage of 4.4 percent finished dead last in the NFL. They were also in the bottom quarter of the league in yards allowed per carry.
Last season, the Packers defense was tied for second in sacks and were third in sack percentage. (In the interest of full disclosure, they were just as bad in yards per carry both years.)
On offense, 10 teams gave up more sacks than the Packers' 41. But because of the efficiency and explosiveness of the Packers offense, only six teams attempted fewer passes and only six had worse sack percentages.
True, some of that is the pass rushes of the NFC North—all four teams were in the bottom quarter of the league in sack percentage. But the Packers line also benefits from having one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league eluding sacks.
Opponents Had 666 Pass Plays Against Packers Defense
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
The Anti-Christ must return for Armageddon to take place: "His number is six hundred three score and six." (Revelation 13:18). Green Bay faced 666 pass plays (637 attempts plus 29 sacks) in the 2011 season.
Yes, I am a person of great faith. A head porter and a deacon in my church who is a columnist on Christianity in the Bay Area.
No, I am not crazy. (Yes, there are many who will dispute this.) I do not really think this is one of the signs. But it is an interesting anomaly that is funny and at least worth noting.
Talk Is Cheap
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The Green Bay Packers have always been a lunch pail team that shows up and focuses on the task at hand. In 2011, several players started talking.
There was the aforementioned focus by Aaron Rodgers on what people had said about the team's lack of offseason workouts. He also took shots at Skip Bayless that only added fuel to the debate about his status, proved what other people said bothered him and possibly even magnified the pressure.
You mean the line that held you to two assists and held the defense to one sack? Maybe you should look at yourself and take care of business.
And of course there was the endless talk of going undefeated that the team tried to avoid, but finally got caught up in right before being beaten by the 5-8 Kansas City Chiefs.
Let your play do the talking.
Odds Are Against Winning Once, Much Less Repeating
Predicting you are going to win the Super Bowl is foolish enough. Only one team in 32 does that in any given year, giving each team just over a three percent chance.
That means winning twice is under one chance in 1000. Expecting to win those kinds of odds is what makes bookies rich and anyone who places those bets are suckers.
True, the reality is there are only about a dozen teams each year with a reasonable chance of winning it all. The last team that was not considered a contender to win the Super Bowl was the 1999 St. Louis Rams, and one could argue they were the only such team in Super Bowl history.
But the best odds offered for any team at the beginning of the season were still just 7:1. Green Bay was considered about a one in 10 shot in each of the last two seasons, making the chance of a repeat about one percent.
Only seven teams have won back-to-back Super Bowls. The only one to do it a couple years after the salary cap had been in effect (in other words, without holdover roster advantages based on being able to keep better players) has been the New England Patriots in 2003 and 2004.
You might recall that they were caught taping opponent walk-throughs for an illegal advantage. Since they won each game by just three points, it is quite possible that the action was enough to make the difference, leaving no repeat champions in the full free agency era.