Nothing is certain in the NFL.
Except, apparently, Green Bay starting a top-10 quarterback.
There were roughly two months when Packers fans were part of the mainstream. They had question marks about their team, which seemed mired in mediocrity. The annual ups and downs that most fans experience haven’t been commonplace for the green and gold, and if the end of the 2023 season was any indication, they still won’t be.
Green Bay has its quarterback of the future in Jordan Love, who finished with the second-most touchdowns of any qualified passer in 2023. He finished seventh in yards. Love also outperformed his predecessor, a future Hall of Famer, in his first year as a starter — and his most recent season, too.
Man, it’s good to be a Packer fan.
If there is a drawback to Green Bay’s process, it’s that it requires patience. Both Love and Aaron Rodgers sat for the first three years of their NFL careers — valuable team-controlled years. Heck, even Brett Favre sat during his first season. It allows young players to develop without the weight of the world (or at least, their fan base) on their shoulders. We’ve seen it work time and time again; it works. But it isn’t necessarily realistic for every organization.
It has to be an all-encompassing strategy — one that isn’t usually employable with most ownership and front-office structures across the league. Ownership means pressure, one that general managers know all too well. Immediate return on investment is the goal more often than not. Fail to get it, and it could mean your job.
Green Bay is unique in that it doesn’t have an owner. Sure, there are pressures and politics but the team belongs to the fans; the community. It affords patience for a strategy that requires it and the result has been sustained success. There’s no point in messing with that now.
But it does also mean that the Packers have to be patient with their own players. By sitting for multiple years of his rookie contract, Love will be very expensive, very soon. He signed a two-year contract this past offseason rather than having Green Bay opt into his fifth-year option. However, after what Love showed this year, the Packers should get a long-term deal done with him sooner rather than later.
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Thank goodness the rest of the team comes cheap.
Green Bay has the NFL’s youngest roster and they reached the divisional round of the playoffs. That suggests their “championship window” will be open for a very long time. And it will, even with the biggest and most important contract still looming. The Packers don’t have to pay their top receiver, Jayden Reed, until 2026. The bills on Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson wouldn’t come due until the end of the 2025 season.
The next step is on the other side of the ball.
The Packers announced Wednesday they have parted ways with defensive coordinator Joe Barry. It followed another season of failing to meet expectations, considering the amount of talent on that side of the ball. Schemes and gameplans were often unimaginative this year, though did improve later in the season. Early on, the defense failed to hold leads and be a reliable unit for their young quarterback and offense. Twice, Love led the Packers to a come-from-behind lead only to see it squandered by the defense. It didn’t help that this happened against the Desmond Ridder-led Falcons and Tommy DeVito-led Giants.
The team just invested in edge rusher Rashan Gary with a four-year, $96 million contract. Green Bay’s biggest cap hit other than left tackle David Bakhtiari is defensive tackle Kenny Clark. Jaire Alexander is the league’s highest-paid cornerback. This unit has to perform. Whoever Green Bay ends up hiring as their new defensive coordinator will have that weight of expectation.
But the good news is that the offense no longer needs to heavily rely on the defense. Love and Co. blossomed this season. If Green Bay does indeed improve on the defensive side of the ball, this Packers team will return to its former glory of, well, two seasons ago — and decades before that.
Packers fans remain blessed.
Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.