The Green Bay Packers gave me a bad childhood. I grew up in the days of Steve Young and playoff game after playoff game of being knocked out by the hands of He Who Must Not Be Named.
So imagine my joy when the shoe was on the other foot and they got dominated by an ostrich for a couple of seasons.
The times are different now. After Jim Harbaugh left the 49ers, the Packers got an easy win over the Jim Tomsula-led 49ers. This would be the last game that Colin Kaepernick (considered the Packers’ kryptonite) would play against the team he once dominated. Now the Packers are entering a quasi-rebuilding stage, overhauling the coaching staff, putting new pieces in place in the front office, and releasing some long-time wide receiver Jordy Nelson. I say quasi, because while it feels like a rebuild, the Packer’s aren’t exactly calling it that, and you’d be wrong to assume anything as long as they have Aaron Rodgers under center as quarterback.
The big change is the firing of long-time defensive coordinator Dom Capers and hiring Mike Pettine to take his place. Offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett III also was removed, making way for Joe Philbin to reclaim the role he had before he left to coach the Miami Dolphins. Along with all the coaching changes, Ted Thompson stepped down as GM and Brian Gutekunst (a candidate in 49ers’ own 2017 general manager search) has taken over. Eliot Wolf, a person many thought was being groomed for the job, is no longer with the organization.
Normally, I wouldn’t go into all these coaching/front office changes when previewing an opponent, but all this turnover can lead to a different product on the field. Without firing head coach Mike McCarthy, the Packers have overhauled the coaching staff enough that it seems like a new hire. Add in the aforementioned Nelson release and it certainly feels like a rebuild. While not a lengthy one, the Packers may need a season with all their new pieces, especially when Minnesota is poised to win it all.
Round 1: Jaire Alexander (CB)
Round 2: Joshua Jackson (CB)
Round 3: Oren Burks (ILB)
Round 4: J’Mon Moore (WR)
Round 5: Cole Madison (G)
Round 5: JK Scott (P)
Round 5: Marquez Valdes-Scantling (WR)
Round 6: Equanimeaous St. Brown (WR)
Round 7: James Looney (DE)
Round 7: Hunter Bradley (LS)
Round 7: Kendall Donnerson (OLB)
Notable free agents
Muhammad Wilkerson (DE)
Jimmy Graham (TE)
Tramon Williams (CB)
Marcedes Lewis (TE)
As may be becoming tradition, the Packers went for the secondary with their draft pick in the first round for the fourth time in five years. They had four compensatory picks to round things out. The largely defensive-based draft was probably a favor for new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine so he can get some looks and new faces for the defense he wants to run.
On offense, the Packers acquired Jimmy Graham in free agency, who hasn’t had a quarterback like this since playing with Drew Brees in New Orleans years ago. This is also good since Philbin will be needing some weapons to scheme with. Nelson being released, the Packers grabbed two wide receivers late in the draft to try and round out the wide receiver group. Barring his age slowing him down, Graham could have a monster year in Green Bay’s offense with Rodgers throwing to him.
Way too early gambling line
With all the coaching and front office changes, as well as their approach in the draft/free agency, it seems like the Packers are trying to avoid a rebuilding year, but still begin rebuilding. They have said they are redoing the offense from the ground-up with Philbin’s hire and the defense is finally getting a breath of fresh air with Capers’ firing in favor of Pettine. I would say, the 49ers have already been through this period the Packers are going through. On paper, the 49ers may be a better team.
Except one problem: Aaron Rodgers, and he doesn’t care if the team is rebuilding or what that piece of paper says. Rodgers, like Drew Brees, Tom Brady, or yes, Jimmy Garoppolo, can elevate any team and can make a post season run any year.
This game is a coinflip and very well could be a contender for regular season game of the year. I see a shootout happening and it coming down to the wire. It’s all going to come down to both team’s defenses. If the 49ers defense is as upgraded as it seems to be, I think they can slow down Aaron Rodgers.
But this game is probably going to come down to who has the ball with 1:00 to go.