As the season opener in Detroit rapidly approaches, Cheeseheads have lots of issues to think about this year. Based on the Packers' lackluster performances thus far in the exhibition season, it appears that there are a number of BIG questions and no immediate answers.
The good news is that head coach Mike Sherman recently signed a two-year contract extension. The articulate, bright, and totally committed Sherman has a winning record (55 -31), not that far behind the legendary Vince Lombardi. He is well-deserving of a contract extension and Packer management was wise to not allow the coach to play out a lame duck season. The other good news is that Brett Favre has elected to play at least one more season and has reported to camp in terrific shape.
And now for those pesky questions"¦ Last year's starting guards were lost to free agency. To date, those drafted this past spring or signed to play guard this year have not yet asserted themselves, and, as I write this, starting personnel for both positions have not been named. That does not bode well for the Packer running game, which has been excellent in recent years. Speaking of running backs, both Ahman Green and back-up Najeh Davenport are playing out the last year of their contracts. Green might be wearing down a bit and Davenport has yet to play a full season healthy. Who will stay on after this season?
Two of the team's best performers, Javon Walker and Grady Jackson, are under contract for 2005 but both have hired a trouble-making agent who is advising them on how to become malcontents. Jackson has not played at all this preseason due to injuries, but is badly needed to bolster a defensive line that otherwise lacks talent and experience. New defensive coordinator Jim Bates has a super resume and he will need every bit of his experience being short on talent not only in the line, but also the defensive secondary. The Packers' second-round draft pick this year, Nick Collins, seems to be a solid player and has locked up one safety position, but the other safety is a concern. The holdover from last season is Mark Roman, but he was awful last year. The cornerback position opposite Al Harris is another position without a named starter.
Yet another question mark is the play thus far of # 1 draft pick Aaron Rodgers. Drafted as the heir apparent for quarterback Brett Favre, Rodgers has been inconsistent at best. Being a rookie, Rodgers needs to be cut some slack as he learns the offense. Nonetheless, some of us seasoned Cheeseheads remember well the last first-round quarterback the Packers selected out of the University of California. [Rich Campbell, drafted in 1981, turned out to be a colossal bust.]
So we have open positions, talent concerns, malcontents, a rash of pre-season injuries and I am sure some more issues as well. These are nothing new, just different problems that require solutions. Cheeseheads are an optimistic group and who knows, maybe these issues will resolve quickly and we will be back on a merry path to another Super Bowl. The Green Bay Packers are a mystical franchise and anything can happen. You might want to hold off though on placing your bets on a Super Bowl bid this year"¦ at least until some of these questions are answered.