Last season, longtime Journal-Sentinel writer Bob McGinn wrote a prescient column, calling the Packers an ascending team, and surprisingly picking them to beat out the Super Bowl runner-up bears for the division title. McGinn looked like a legit prophet as the season rolled along, and the Packers cruised to the division title, tying the Cowboys for the best record in the NFC.
Alas, McGinn has recently published another column (Packer Insider subscribers only), one that calls for a severe drop-off this season. The main reason is what attentive Packer fans already knew-- the team's best/most important players (Clifton, Tauscher, Driver, Woodson, Harris, Kampman) are old and getting older. The only truly dynamic young player on the team appears to be Greg Jennings. McGinn claims other possibilities for emergence, like Johnny Jolly and Cullen Jenkins, appear to have plateaued or regressed. As he makes clear, none of the team's recent draft picks appear ready to make big contributions this season. He also notes that the Packers were quite lucky dodging serious injuries the past two seasons, and that the bug is bound to catch up with the team sooner or later. Thus, he predicts a significantly worse season this year-- perhaps below .500.
It's hard to disagree with many of McGinn's points, and his prescience last season makes his view especially worrying. And I know McGinn watches practice, unlike most of us fans, so he has a better sense of the team's development and performanc. But I think he may be a little overly pessimisstic. I have some hope.
My reason for hope is something that McGinn doesn't mention-- the development of players. McCarthy and Thompson appear to be strong believers in player development and drafting for potential. They expect players to grow and blossom as they mature. (Hell, they've even referred to players as "freshmen" and "sophomores.") McGinn doesn't mention any of these rising sophomores or juniors, as it were, that we should perhaps hope will emerge as good to excellent players. I'm thinking of players like James Jones, Jason Spitz, Darryn Colledge, Trammon Williams, Will Blackmon, Atari Bigby, AJ Hawk, Brandon Jackson. Guys that have demonstrable talent, talent that you see in flashes, but are still young and learning. Is it too much to hope that some of these guys will step forward this season, will emerge into very good players? And what about Rodgers? Can't we have some hope that he'll be an improvement over Favre in at least some facets of the game?