It was another disappointing ending for the Green Bay Packers this season. Even though they won a game this postseason unlike last year, the Packers were smacked around by the San Francisco 49ers and will have to watch the NFC Championship at home. There are questions now for Green Bay to answer this offseason. Some players are getting older and there are free agents that could leave this offseason as well. There’s no question that the Packers have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL with Aaron Rodgers and one of the most prolific offenses but giving up 45 points in the playoffs to a quarterback playing on the big stage for the first time is just unacceptable. If the Packers don’t make improvements this offseason, next year’s postseason will end in a similar fashion to the last two for the Pack as teams are starting to pass them by.
Aaron Rodgers joined ESPN Milwaukee with Jason Wilde to talk about the emotions going through him knowing the season is over, what was most frustrating during the game against San Francisco, if there was any frustration with the way the defense played last week, on the zone-read offense making its way into the NFL, whether he is optimistic about the return of Greg Jennings and whether he feels the Packers are at a crossroads.
On the emotions going through him knowing the season is over:
“The most difficult part is just being here. We’re here at the stadium reliving the disappointment. It’s an empty locker room and that’s disappointing. There’s just not the same life as a normal Tuesday would be around the facility. Now Tuesday is our off day but there’s still a lot of guys in, excitement and that’s just disappointing. I said after the game and I say it every year at the end of the season, the toughest part for me besides the losing, I don’t like to lose, but it’s the last time that group of men is going to be together. There’s always changes. No two teams are the same. Every team goes through different stages of adversity and challenges, experiences together in the offseason, training camp, fun memories and then those only last for that year and once we come back in April there will be some new guys added to the mix and some guys not with us anymore and a new direction set, some new catch phrases, probably some new magnets on the wall and some new energy. When you’re nostalgic it’s always difficult to just come to grips that that part, that chapter, season eight for me, is complete. It was fun. A lot of good memories but didn’t end up the way we wanted to and I think the thing you start to realize is that as you get to be an older player in this league and I’m the fifth oldest member of the Packers currently, you just don’t get these same kind of opportunities. I was saying at 4:45 in the morning when we got off the plane, it’s so hard just to get back to this point where you have had an opportunity to move on in the playoffs. You just have to go through so much offseason training, stay healthy, regular season win the games you are supposed to win, win the tough games, bounce back from adversity, get into the playoffs and get to this point, there’s just so much that has to happen. You just realize that you really missed out on a great opportunity.”
On the most frustrating aspect during the game:
“Three and out on the first drive was frustrating. Then the third quarter. We had been a team that scored a good amount of points in the third quarter. We had had success especially on our first drive of the half and if there was ever a time to give our defense some confidence and take the lead there it was that first drive of the third quarter and we gave it up pretty quickly. Thankfully our defense did a better job there in the third and we had a chance, we tied the game up there, we had a chance to take the lead a couple of times and didn’t do it. We knew we were going to have to score some points. There a very good offense, the quarterback is playing really hot, but we definitely left some points out there on the field.”
How frustrating the play of the defense was:
“It’s frustrating because you can only control what you can control but we like to focus on ourselves on the offensive side of the ball. And the missed opportunities we could’ve had. We could’ve made things a little bit easier for our defense and not let them have so many running opportunities had we just made the most of our possessions and in a game like that, I think we had nine possessions and scored on a good amount of them, we just didn’t do a good enough job there.”
On the zone-read making its way into the NFL:
“No. (Host: Is it too dangerous? Are quarterbacks eventually going to come with injury?) I think the league is cyclical and I think it’s going to come back around that we’re being used 20-30 years ago but this too I think will pass. I think some of the pistol/zone read stuff will eventually pass. The athletic quarterback I don’t think is going to pass at all. I think you’ve seen a trend of more and more guys who can make plays when the pocket breaks down and extend plays who are also good passers. I think you’re going to continue to see that. We’ve seen a lot of that the last few years especially and with the year that Robert Griffin had this year, his mobility, Russell Wilson is an athletic guy and Andrew Luck as well is an underrated athlete so you’re going to see more and more of the top picks being big time athletes like Kaepernick is. I think as we saw five years ago with the wildcat stuff it had it’s success and less and less people are doing it. Now it’s more of the zone-read stuff. Reading the end and keeping it or pulling it with a quarterback with athleticism. At some point on some level they are going to figure out how to consistently stop that and then that will make its way up to the NFL or enough of these guys who are going to be franchise guys if they’re not already may take some unnecessary shots or decide they would rather stay in the pocket and throw it than rush the ball 15 times per game and then you’re going to see it gradually go in the other direction I think.”
Are you an optimist or realist about the future of Greg Jennings?
“Can you be both? I think you can be both. To have that optimism and hope I think is important character trait to have in life. You have to be realistic at the same time. We would love to have Greg back. He’s been a great player for the Green Bay Packers for a long time, we had a lot of connections and a lot of big plays, I think about ’09 that post I hit him on for a touchdown to win the game against the Bears and I think about the Super Bowl and two of the best throws I’ve been a part of with the touchdown and the big third down and not to mention the corner route which ended up being the deciding score was to Greg. We have had a lot of memories together and a lot of good times. He has had my back and supported me in tough situations as well and I will be indebted to him for that. We would love to continue playing together but that’s one of those things that you learn as a player is that it’s out of your control. It’s about Greg, what is best for his family and if he’s not here I know we will still be in touch and still be friends.”
Whether he feels the team is at a crossroads:
“I feel like we have a lot of guys signed for the foreseeable future and we have a lot of the pieces in place, I just think we can win with the guys we have. But I think we need to add a couple of pieces, add some depth through the draft like we do every year but we need to just figure some things out within the locker room and then maybe just think hard about what was so special about that 2010 team that won the Super Bowl and try to channel some of those emotions, ideas and thoughts and feelings and incorporate some of that stuff at the beginning of this year meaning when we again reconvene in April and kind of set the vision. It was a disjointed year the first year out of the lockout situation and I know Mike (McCarthy) said the OTA’s didn’t go exactly the way he wanted them to this year so we need to do a better job as leaders of setting the vision early and holding guys accountable to falling in line with what that vision is.”