The 2017 NFL season was particularly upsetting, even odd, for most Packers fans. Not being able to root for the green and gold as January unfolds is uncharted territory in recent years.
To put it simply, Packers fans have been unbelievably spoiled. Still, that fact doesn’t make you feel any better, does it?
Green Bay’s 7-9 record this season was the worst for the team since 2008, which was Aaron Rodgers’ first season as a starting quarterback. That poor record was the result of Rodgers being knocked out of competition against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 6 with a broken collarbone. You know the story, he didn’t return until 8 weeks later… too little too late. Sadly, this year’s team was not able to overcome Rodgers’ collarbone injury, like the 2013 squad (somehow) did.
Is “Matt Flynn > Brett Hundley” the answer? Perhaps. But that discussion is for another day. Actually, hopefully not. Hopefully we don’t talk about backup quarterbacks in Green Bay for a few years. Just like in the days of Brett Favre, when Green Bay was where backup quarterbacks went to sit the bench for money and little else.
But as we Packers fans look forward to the 2018 season we all have a few wishes we hope come true. They range from “things we would like to see happen” to “things that HAVE TO FREAKING HAPPEN OKAY?!” Thankfully, it finally seems that everyone in the organization sees the urgency of putting a championship-caliber team out on that field with our living-legend of Aaron Rodgers.
Below, you’ll find our wishes for the Packers’ 2018 season, which we can only assume are the wishes of all Packers fans, everywhere. But in case you didn’t know what to wish for regarding your beloved Packers and the upcoming season – we’ve got you covered!
Now if we could only find a genie…
Wish No. 1: Aaron Rodgers Stays Healthy
This one is pretty obvious, but dammit the Packers need him on the field.
This team will be successful no matter who else is on the field as long as Rodgers is healthy. He was on pace for 42 touchdown passes in 2017, if not for his collarbone injury. Russell Wilson led the league with 34 aerial touchdowns this year. Not to mention, Rodgers had the Packers at 4-1 at the time of his injury. Sigh.
Not important in the grand scheme of things, but that snapped bone may have ripped a third AP MVP Award, among other things, away from No. 12.
Rodgers is, in terms of skill, as elite of a quarterback as the league has ever seen. And that is decidedly not hyperbole. I mean, have you seen his TD-INT ratio? Please, can we get 16 (or possibly 19-20) healthy starts from him in 2018? Please?! For the people questioning whether his throwing shoulder area will ever completely heal to its pre-injury strength and if he will still be as good again… well, never mind, it’s just Bears, Vikings, and Lions fans that are helplessly floating that theory around.
If he remains healthy, another AP MVP Award seems likely sooner rather than later.
Wish No. 2: New General Manager Brian Gutekunst Goes ALL OUT
The Packers’ switch at GM came at the absolute perfect time. The team still has about 5 years of Rodgers’ prime left to work with and it signed Brian Gutekunst (44) to a 5-year deal. That is not a coincidence.
Former GM Ted Thompson’s approach of saving money, rarely going after free agents, and ‘draft-and-develop after taking the best player available’ was successful. Don’t forget that. The Packers did win a championship under his watch and went to a franchise record 8-consecutive postseasons. But it isn’t the specific approach that is needed right now in this unique situation the Packers find themselves in.
This team, with this quarterback, needs to win and win now at any cost. That is what is so unique here.
No other organization is facing such pressure. None. Nada.
The Packers need an impactful Free Agent signing on the defensive side of the ball, immediately. A statement needs to be made that the time is now for the Packers. That said, this team needs to bring in multiple guys on the defensive side of the ball (even if it means trading away some future high draft picks to do so). Revamp this defense Gutekunst – go all out!
Future be damned!
You have the best quarterback on earth for a few more seasons. Give him a worthy defense, no matter the future consequences. Packers fans will forgive Gutekunst for a few mediocre seasons after the Rodgers Era if Green Bay wins another Super Bowl soon.
No one wants to see Rodgers’ time in Green Bay end exactly like Favre’s, with just one ring to show for all of the success.
Fortunately one of Gutekunst’s public comments after taking the job, as reported by ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, was, “I’ll lead in my own personality, probably a little bit more aggressive in certain areas.” Adding, “We’re not going to leave any stone unturned in every avenue of player acquisition.”
In regards to free agency specifically, Wes Hodkiewisz of Packers.com reported the new GM said, “We have to be prepared to pull the trigger.”
How can you not love the sound of that?
Wish No. 3: They Use the 14th Overall Pick in the Draft Wisely
This one kind of goes along with wish No. 2.
Remember how we said that Rodgers will make the offense successful no matter who is on the field? We honestly mean that. This relatively high draft pick, for Packers’ standards at least, has to go toward helping the defense. And not just toward the defense, but specifically toward the pass rush. Draft the best pass rusher at the 14th overall spot – not the best player available!
Even if there’s a game-changing wide receiver or a can’t-miss offensive lineman available, Brian Gutekunst has to shed the Ted Thompson-era philosophy and still go with the best pass rusher.
Be wise, please. Or is it be wild? Either way, draft a pass rusher; that is the basis of this wish.
(We drop a few specific names the Packers should target later in this piece: see Wish No. 6).
Wish No 4: Running Back Duo lives up to Their Potential
One of the few surprising bright spots of the Packers’ 2017 season was the emergence of an exciting rookie running back duo in Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones.
The two were both studs in college (in smaller conferences), but they showed burst and big-play ability in the NFL last season. This was despite the Packers’ lack of a threatening passing game more often then not with Hundley under center. Think what they can do with Rodgers at the helm.
If they can develop and advance in their knowledge of the playbook, like second-year players should, the Packers could actually have one of the more lethal one-two running back punches in the NFC. The biggest thing toward them both being capable three-down backs is their growth in pass blocking. Which will go a long way to securing our No. 1 wish comes true.
Protect Rodgers and make defenses respect the run. If they can do that, look out folks.
Last year, Williams and Jones combined for 10 touchdowns and 1,288 yards from scrimmage despite starting in just 11 games between them – as rookies!
Oh yeah, and there’s Ty Montgomery, too. In five starts last year he posted 446 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. Perhaps the best stat of all is that last year the three combined for exactly ZERO fumbles.
Damn, maybe it’s a running back trio? Speaking of Montgomery…
Wish No. 5: Ty Montgomery Becomes Packers’ third-best RB and WR
Think about it for a second.
What if the Packers were able to rely on Montgomery as a true depth running back; a back they can plug-in on third down or bring in if there’s an injury and he ends up being the team’s third best receiver? What if he ascends the depth chart to make a difference on the outside and behind the line of scrimmage? That would be something.
He’s always been a tweener-player in the NFL. And he did nearly have as many receiving yards as he did rushing yards last season.
Who does he pass on the depth chart at wide receiver? Is it Cobb? We don’t know, but we’d love to see his versatility used to its fullest extent in 2018. Keep the opposing defenses guessing, Mike McCarthy – that, more than anything else, is what this wish would accomplish.
This alone would add so much to what defenses would have to prepare for against the Packers.
Mix that with the fact that the Packers brought back (Super Bowl XLV winning) Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin. His offenses teams never finished lower than 9th with the Packers from 2007-2011.
Lots to be excited about, Packers fans.
Wish No. 6: A Consistent Pass Rush
Please, for the love of God. Somehow. Please.
Clay Matthews showed some of his old self toward the end of the 2017 season (5 sacks in a 3-game stretch), but he needs help. A lot of help. In 2018, he needs to be able to save his energy and come in almost exclusively on third down and in obvious passing situations.
To put it simply, we want to see Clay play half as much and have twice as many sacks.
In recent years, Julius Peppers and James Harrison have proved this “quality over quantity” approach can be executed effectively. On top of that, Nick Perry needs to continue his quality play and find a way to stay healthy.
Easier said than done, we know.
But most of all, the Packers need some new blood on the pass rush. Second-year player Vince Biegel may be able to bring some energy to the pass rush, if he stays healthy, but even that won’t be enough. We’re calling it right now: the Packers need to draft either DE Clelin Ferrell from Clemson or DE Sam Hubbard from Ohio State. Or even LB Rashaan Evans from Alabama… just draft someone that can rush the damn passer in 2018.
Ultimately, for this wish to come true, wishes two and three really do need to come to fruition.
Heck, even draft a pass rusher with the second round pick, too. Maybe DE/OLB Harold Landry from Boston College? Seriously, Gutekunst, go all out.
On top of that, free agency has to be used on the defensive side of the ball. Just imagine two or three new playmaking pass rushers coming to Green Bay via the draft and free agency this fall.
And I know people are saying, “The defensive backfield needs help… The Packers need another cornerback… Our pass defense is so bad.” We hear that, but a good pass rush makes the defensive backfield better immediately. In our opinion, if you want your cornerbacks to instantly look better, bring in some fast edge rushers.
Simple as that.
Also, remember that Dom Capers is no longer the Defensive Coordinator so there will be fresh schemes that hopefully don’t leave Packers fans shouting as the TV as often. This leads us to our next wish, considering the new defensive coordinator is known for creating a multitude of blitz and rush packages.
Wish No. 7: The New Defensive Coordinator Brings Energy to the Defense
Lets face it, Dom Capers’ defensive schemes had simply gone stale in Green Bay.
The Packers’ new defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine, will be tasked with creating a new culture on the defensive side of the ball. Obviously he’ll bring a new philosophy with a few new schemes – but we want a brand new energy.
Energy is hard to quantify, but easy to see. Last year’s defense didn’t have it.
How do we get a new, refreshing, energy? Maybe Pettine be on the sidelines for games instead of up in the press box like Capers. Maybe Pettine will implement more specialized roles for certain players that’ll play to their strengths? (See comment on Clay Matthews in Wish No. 6). Maybe he’ll just not be Dom Capers and that alone will get the fans more fired up at the games? Hey, ever since the 2013 south end zone renovations, Lambeau Field can get LOUD.
But more than anything, aren’t we all glad the longwinded #firecapers movement can officially be put to bed?
Pettine, like Capers, runs a 3-4 base defense so the learning curve won’t be too dramatic for the Packers’ veterans. What’s exciting is that his defenses have never finished lower than 10th in his five seasons as a Defensive Coordinator (including three top-5 finishes). Not to mention, he’s a former head coach himself and has shown he isn’t afraid to blitz the opposing quarterback, in any situation.
No matter what, the Packers’ defense just needs more energy and more excitement from the defensive side of the ball. Pettine’s largest responsibility sits there, in his ability to inspire the potentially-jaded defensive leaders (Clay, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Mike Daniels, Blake Martinez, Morgan Burnett and so on).
Those guys, more than anything else, just need a change in perspective; a new Defensive Coordinator may bring just that. His new blitz packages alone should get the guys fired up. If that new perspective, and scheme, brings a new energy – 2018 is poised to be a much better year in Titletown.
An improved pass rush alone should bring more turnovers, so lets pair that with a fresh energy and swagger. And it all starts with the new Defensive Coordinator.
Wish No. 8: Bounce-Back Season from Jordy Nelson
This wish is both a selfish one and one that seems pretty obvious, if Rodgers remains healthy in 2018 we should say.
Selfishly, Jordy is one of our favorite players, so we’d love to see him prove the doubters wrong after a bad 2017 season. He’s the only wide receiver in Packers history to record three seasons with at least 13 receiving touchdowns. He’s also third in team history in total touchdowns scored (69). We think all Packers fans would love to see him put up one more big season before he calls it a career.
Jordy has hinted that as early as 2018 could be his final year in the pros, but how the Packers perform, we’re sure, could influence that one way or another. Last season was Jordy’s worst since his 2010 campaign (when he was still an up-and-coming talent). Just six touchdowns doesn’t cut it for a man of his athleticism, but he was banged-up and will be 33 by the time the 2018 season kicks off, so a drop-off in production is expected.
But we think he can buck the trend and put up one more vintage Jordy season. Remember, is one of this team’s all-time greats.
Davante Adams, on the other hand, proved that he can be a true number one wide receiver even without Rodgers behind center. The dream: an offense that has two true top receivers for defenders to worry about. Oh and throw Randall Cobb and Montgomery into that mix, too. Sheesh.
We at Packershistory.com think there’s a chance Jordy has such a good bounce-back season that he ends up finishing second in the Comeback Player of the Year voting.
Second to Aaron Rodgers, that is.
Ultimately though, we aren’t worried about the Packers’ offense no matter who steps up (as long as wish No. 1 comes true). The offense is going to be fine. It’s all a question of what Brian Gutekunst can do with that defense in a short amount of time.
Wish No. 9: Rodgers Signs a New 7-year contract
This wish is pretty simple.
We want to see Rodgers get locked-up right now, or at least before the 2018 season begins. We want to see him locked-up in a fair, but team-friendly deal that extends past a conceivable playing year. That way he is sure to retire a Packer.
This organization doesn’t need any more end-of-career Hall of Fame caliber quarterback drama. Although that type of drama would be most welcome to the majority of other franchises, we should point out.
With Rodgers under contract, the front office could focus on building all of the necessary pieces around him without having to account for his future (monster) deal. The sooner his contract is on the books, the sooner the work can be done building a championship-caliber roster around him.
Makes sense doesn’t it?
Plus, what free agent wouldn’t want to play along side Rodgers? Especially once he’s locked-up and the team appears to be “all-in” for a championship. And as long as we are talking about championships, lets get a little more specific.
Wish No. 10: Packers Host a Bitter-Cold NFC Championship Game
If this team has the bounce-back year it’s seemingly poised to have, this could be a reality. I know, I know, it sounds like homer-talk as the Packers are coming off a 7-9 season, but truly there is no reason to think 2018 will be anything like 2017. That year was cursed, it seemed. The injuries simply cannot continue at the same rate.
*frantically knocks on wood*
But we don’t just want to see an NFC Championship at Lambeau Field, we want to see three inches of snow on the ground and a -10 degree windchill game.
By playoff time of the 2018 season, hypothetically, the Packers’ offense would be incredibly balanced and the running back duo (or trio?) would have more than double the experience they currently have. The Packers’ offensive line is one of their strengths, so a true “weather game” could really favor Green Bay.
Besides, Lambeau Field is due for another playoff classic and the fans deserve to see a real old-school Packers game for the ages. We can imagine Rodgers barking orders through the snow, the game being won in the trenches, McCarthy’s face turning more red by the second, and the loyal crowd enjoying every second of it en route to the Super Bowl for the second time in Rodgers’ career.
Why the hell not wish for that?
If most of these wishes come true, we would say there’s a possibility that the Packers could win their 14th World Championship in 2018. If all of these wishes come true then we may need to start planning a parade.
Hey, it’s okay to get a little carried away… this is a wish list after all.