As fans, we tend to look at players as commodities… Dump him! Buy this one! Trade for that one! As a youth soccer and baseball coach, it strikes me how I look at my players very differently. Rather than looking to buy or sell, I am constantly imagining what a player could be, trying to convince them of that vision of themselves, and working with them to achieve that vision. A perfect example of the difference in the lens is when the Packers drafted Rashan Gary. While many fans saw it as a “bad pick”, the Packers clearly imagined a future where he developed his incredible athleticism and became a dominant edge player (something he never displayed in college!)
Lately, I have been trying to look at the Packers with that coach’s mentality and thinking about what the current roster would need to become in order for the Packers to win the Super Bowl this year. Perhaps this is wishful thinking: last Sunday’s team certainly did not look like a Super Bowl team. But envisioning what could be is a helpful way to assess the team.
Recent Super Bowl Champions
As a baseline for comparison, let’s break down the Packers over the past two years (who weren’t quite good enough to win the Super Bowl) as compared to the last two Super Bowl champions: the 2021 LA Rams and the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
|ELITE (Top 5)||VERY GOOD (Top 10)||ABOVE AVG (Top 15)||BELOW AVG|
|Rank||2021 Rams||2021 Packers||2020 Bucs||2020 Packers|
|Result||SB Champs||Lost NFCC||SB Champs||Lost NFCC|
|#1 RB (DYAR)||15||8||7||4|
|#1 WR (DYAR)||1||2||4||1|
|#1 TE (DYAR)||13||20||13||2|
|Special Teams (DVOA)||4||32||26||25|
As you’ll note in the chart above, the Packers compared quite favorably in many rankings compared to the eventual Super Bowl champions. For example, they were elite in 4 categories last year, which was the same number as the Rams. In 2020, they were elite in 6 categories while the Bucs were only elite in 4 categories. What stands out however is that both Super Bowl champions had only one or no below average categories, while the Packers had quite a few. Put differently, considering the top end talent the Packers have, we should be more concerned about the holes on the team if we want to win the Super Bowl.
Packers as 2022 SB Champs?
So, what would it take for the Packers to win it all this year? What key players must meet a new vision of themselves?
|Offense (DVOA)||VERY GOOD||Key Players: Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur
Rodgers and LaFleur have produced a top 2 offense over the past two years, yet failed to outscheme the eventual Super Bowl champion in the NFC Championship game. LaFleur has the acuity to do it and will need to learn from his past mistakes. Rodgers will need to become a new player this year (as noted below).
|QB (QBR)||ELITE||Key Player: Aaron Rodgers
We all know Rodgers is among the best of all time. The key to a Super Bowl in 2022 is a bit counterintuitive in that the Packers actually need Rodgers to not be the focal point. To win, Rodgers must adjust to becoming an elite game manager and leader (ala Tom Brady). He must be comfortable pulling the strings behind the scenes, taking the young players under his wing, completing the timely pass, and even throwing up 50/50 balls at times to take advantage of the raw skills of his young receivers (even if they don’t run the route to perfection). Perhaps one of the most concerning parts of Sunday’s game was the way Rodgers sulked on the bench versus pulling his young players aside to help them improve.
|O Line||VERY GOOD||Key Players: Elgton Jenkins, Zach Tom, Josh Meyers
On Sunday, the unit was clearly below average. It is also clear that relying on David Bakhtiari at this point is a fool’s errand (i.e., we should be happy if he is able to make any contributions this year and delighted if he makes substantial contributions). Yosh Nijman and John Runyan Jr. have proven themselves to be adequate contributors on the line. The Packers need them to continue their standard of play. To reach the Super Bowl, Jenkins must come back and play at an Elite level and Zach Tom and Josh Meyers must become Very Good starters. They are capable but they aren’t there yet.
|#1 RB (DYAR)||ELITE||Key Player: Aaron Rodgers
AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones must stay healthy and continue to play at the elite level they are capable of. Aaron Rodgers is the key to this as he must check his ego and be happy to ride their coattails.
|#1 WR (DYAR)||VERY GOOD||Key Players: Christian Watson, Allen Lazard, Romeo Doubs
Aaron Rodgers seemingly had no quick options to beat the pass rush on Sunday and no receivers took a step forward. Allen Lazard needs to be the primary option for Rodgers… and there is reason to believe he can be. Christian Watson demonstrated on Sunday what an athletic freak he is and not just on the ball he dropped. Watson was consistently open during the game. To win the Super Bowl, the Packers need him to replace MVS’s backfield clearing ability and production (26 catches and 430 yards). Similarly, the Packers need Doubs to be a major factor with his 4.4 speed and playmaking ability. If the three receivers can take big steps forward, the wide receiver group as a whole can be good enough for the Packers to win the Super Bowl.
|#1 TE (DYAR)||VERY GOOD||Key Player: Robert Tonyan
Robert Tonyan was the #2 tight end in DYAR in 2020 and looks to be capable of producing at a similar level if he can stay healthy.
|Defense (DVOA)||ELITE||Key Player: Joe Barry and Brian Gutekunst
The Packers seemingly have all the pieces to have an elite defense. The difference compared to previous years, is that they need the defense to be Elite if they want to win the Super Bowl. On Sunday, the Packers had no answer for Justin Jefferson. While the defense held the Vikings to 23 points, that is not going to cut it if they want to win it all. Winning against the top teams in the NFL requires strategists who can outthink the opponent and Barry has not demonstrated that yet. The other key this year will be for Brian Gutekunst to again find those diamonds in the rough to replace the front line starters when inevitable injuries arise.
|D Line||VERY GOOD||Key Player: Rashan Gary
The Packers are blessed with one of the best in the game with Kenny Clark. Lowry, Reed, and Preston Smith are quality players as well. In order for the defensive line to truly take a jump and below average to very good, it will require Rashan Gary to reach the Elite level he is capable of. To win the Super Bowl, the Packers need Clark and Gary to dominate both the run and pass.
|Special Teams (DVOA)||ABOVE AVERAGE||Key Player: Rich Bisaccia
The Packers have changed their approach to special teams this year and added the players Bisaccia wanted. Pat O’Donnell was a major upgrade at punter and holder and will make a huge difference. Rudy Ford already made his presence felt on Sunday with his play as a gunner. The key here is whether Bisaccia can find a way to eliminate the technical flaws that have hounded the Packers in big games.