Packers Confident They Aren't Doomed to Repeat Recent NFC History
In an audacious move that would have given such paranoid coaching legends as the late George Allen heart attacks, Green Bay's Mike McCarthy had his players measured for their Super Bowl rings the night before the game.
"I talk a lot to our team about having real confidence," McCarthy said. "I felt it was the right time to do it. I thought it would be special. You just have to trust your preparation. We had an impressive game plan on both sides of the ball. As the players got into (the game plan), you could see they had the confidence and you could see excitement. We felt we were the better team than Pittsburgh, no disrespect to them."
So on the day that they were going to fly back to Titletown with the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in 14 years, the Packers, naturally, weren't intimidated by the history that shows that the last NFC champion to repeat was their own in 1997. Only two of the ensuing 13 conference winners even recorded a playoff victory the following season.
"Success is the hardest part of this business, handling success," McCarthy said. "That's the next challenge. I don't look at it as pressure. I don't feel stressed. Our history and tradition is an asset ... something that we're proud to be a part of ... something our players feed off of, that we celebrate.
"(Trying to repeat) is going to be exciting. I knew (in training camp that) we had an excellent opportunity to win the Super Bowl and you look at our returning roster, next year it's going to be the same type of situation."
And although defensive end Cullen Jenkins (who might be franchised) and two other Super Bowl starters (guard Daryn Colledge and fullback Korey Hall) as well as kicker Mason Crosby are unsigned for 2011 and outside linebacker A.J. Hawk's contract will likely void because of a scheduled $10 million base salary, most of the Packers will be back next season, assuming that a lengthy lockout doesn't derail football this fall. What's more, Green Bay had a whopping 15 players on injured reserve including 2007-09 top rusher Ryan Grant and highly-regarded tight end Jermichael Finley, both of whom were lost during the first five games of 2010.
"We're kinda reloading," said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Super Bowl MVP. "We're going to have the best tight end in the NFL back. We had 15 guys on I.R. and I'm sure a number of those guys will be back. We'll be a different team. Guys come and go every year, but I think, the core, the nucleus of this team is intact to make runs like this for the next four or five years."
Only six of Green Bay's Super Bowl XLV starters will be 30 by the beginning of the 2011 season and the Packers already have ready replacements for cornerback Charles Woodson and receiver Donald Driver -- each of whom the second half on Sunday with injuries -- in Sam Shields and either James Jones or Jordy Nelson. The other aging starters are left tackle Chad Clifton, center Scott Wells, Jenkins and fellow end Ryan Pickett, but only Clifton will be over 31.
Brian Billick, who won a playoff game but not a Super Bowl while trying to repeat as the Baltimore Ravens' coach in 2001, likes the Packers' chances.
"From the minute you step off the podium (after winning the title), it's incessant," Billick said of the pressure to repeat. "From day one, it was, 'They're going to get complacent. How are you going to handle the distractions?' There's a lot of reasons (not repeating) happens: injuries to key players, you lose a coordinator, the transitory nature of free agency, you're an old team. If you're a betting man, you're going to bet against them.
"But I think this team is uniquely positioned to make a good long run because they're young and under contract at key positions (Rodgers, NFC Defensive Player of the Year Clay Matthews). Mike's not going anywhere and his staff is likely going to remain intact (in part because of the lack of openings elsewhere). And in Green Bay, there are fewer distractions for your players. In bigger markets, everybody's got a radio show or (some other outside venture). How many of those can you have in Green Bay?"