This year is critical for the Packers, for the fans and the organization alike.
The team is facing an uphill battle to regain the division from a much improved group of NFC North teams. The fans, two years removed from Favre, strongly support Aaron Rodgers.
Yet the current organization has only one winning record in the past four.
It’s clearly a make-it-or-break-it season for the Green ‘n' Gold. What scenario is most likely to play out? What can we use right now to predict the Packers future?
Below are the best, worst, and most probable outcomes for the 2009 NFL season.
The offensive juggernaut that scored the fifth-most points in the NFL in 2008 continues to develop as a healthy Rodgers settles into his second year as starter. The offensive line, especially the tackle positions, settles in and RB Ryan Grant has a 1,200 yard season.
The Dom Capers-led 3-4 defense overcomes early season setbacks and adjusts to the new scheme. A stronger run presence is felt and late game scoring is contained. This talented unit begins to resemble Pittsburgh and Baltimore as an elite group in the NFL. Bigby and Collins develop into Pro Bowl players.
Packers GM Ted Thompson is validated for his choice of McCarthy, Rodgers, and Capers as terrific strategic moves and the Packers return to the playoffs for the second time in three years.
Green Bay’s record is 11-5, and they secure the NFC North division and a first round playoff home game at Lambeau field.
Entering the 2009 season, doubts remain as to Rodgers' durability. An early season injury to him leaves the team unable to score consistently and the offensive unit struggles to catch up from behind in almost every game.
The defense cannot execute the new scheme in such a short time frame. Out of position players allow for big game-changing plays which seal losses instead of victories. The two rookie starters fail to contribute immediately and are relegated to second string status.
After 2009, Thompson has only one winning season out of five and permanently drops the Packers not only out of the national spotlight but also out of playoff contention. Big contract extensions for him and head coach Mike McCarthy look foolish. Without Favre to deflect criticism, Thompson and McCarthy are left exposed for their own shortcoming.
In January, the executive committee relieves them of their positions for failure to produce as the Packers finish third in the division with a 6-10 season.
Most Probable Case
The offense continues to excel until a few midseason injuries unravel the offensive line. Because of this, Grant takes bigger hits and his average yards per carry falls. The WRs each are voted to the Pro Bowl.
Divisional opponents make no significant defensive upgrades, allowing the offense to score enough points to win late games when necessary. McCarthy calls a trick play against the Bears in November to win the game.
The defense struggles adjusting to new roles, positions, and responsibilities under Caper’s 3-4 schemes. Individual production levels shift, creating displeasure among several team veterans.
Offseason offensive upgrades from divisional foes make them more competitive than the Packers upgrades—new QBs and skilled position players. The defense struggles to contain scoring and will rank in the bottom half of most statistics for the season.
An early 5-3 start by the team is erased when the Packers finish with 1-3 records in both November and December, and miss the playoffs with a 7-9 record. Management explains that injuries and the slow transition of the defense were to blame for the unsuccessful season, but next year will be different.
This buys Thompson and McCarthy one more season to turn around a sinking program. They need a winning record to justify all the changes and turmoil in recent years.
If not, whatever was made in Green Bay before Ted Thompson’s arrival is now officially broken.