Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Packers shareholders meet, players arrive for camp

Some of the more than 300,000+ shareholders of the Green Bay Packers gathered together in the lovefest at Lambeau today otherwise known as the Annual Shareholders Meeting. No, not all of them. Just some of them. Still, Packers President Mark Murphy opined that it might well have been the largest corporate meeting ever held in the U.S.

Shareholders heard about Board and staff personnel changes, the financial report (noted in an earlier post here), and some generalities from GM Ted Thompson about the team of last year and what to look forward to this year...without going into much detail, of course...don't want to tip your hand, after all. But that's OK. Thompson's earned the right to play it as he sees it. One of the things he did say, however, was that the Packers would not be the youngest team in the league for the first time in what seems like forever. There are enough veterans, now even including the second-year players, who have made and will continue to make contributions; any impact by rookies will be gravy, so to speak.

Of course, players arrive tomorrow for check-in and check-ups as training camp resumes. Yay. Oh yay, indeed. Don't need to say anything other than that at the moment.

A unique remembrance of Lombardi
St. Norbert College in De Pere, just south of Green Bay, has hosted the Packers' training camp since the time of Lombardi. It has released a unique remembrance of St. Vince himself, focusing on the man as well as the coach, as told by one of the priests at the college who knew him well. Check it out here.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Holmgren now part of Packers Hall of Fame

Last night in Green Bay, Packers alumni and fans turned out for the annual Packers Hall of Fame dinner and induction ceremony. This was the 42nd such event, as a matter of fact. And the person being inducted was none other than former Packers head coach, Mike Holmgren, now President of the Cleveland Browns. (Our sympathies to you, Mike.)

Many fans, including this one, weren't too happy when Holmgren left Green Bay for Seattle. We didn't begrudge him the chance to be both head coach and general manager. We just felt that perhaps that was a bit more on his mind than it should have been as he led his team to its second consecutive Super Bowl after the 1997 season, where the Packers were the prohibitive favorites. Some even felt, in some convoluted way, that might have helped contribute to the loss against the Denver Broncos. Whatever.

All is forgiven now. We have perspective.

Who better to help give us some of that perspective than the person who hired the relatively unknown Holmgren in 1992 to his first head coaching position, then-GM Ron Wolf. "I mean, for 24 years after Lombardi left," Wolf told reporters, "there were four winning seasons here. And one of those seasons shouldn't even count; it was the strike year. So just think about that, 24 years, they had three winning seasons. He comes here and never has a losing season." And as Wolf also pointed out in his interviews with media, a lot of the players on those teams weren't exactly blue chippers, so to speak. Great coaching can take a so-so team and make them a winner. That's what Holmgren did. Not just once, but every year he was the coach. Remarkable. He deserves his place in the Packers Hall of Fame. For what he did as coach, and the legacy he left which still resounds and is at work nearly 20 years later.

I could write more here about this occasion and Holmgren but Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has done an excellent job doing just that. Why reinvent the wheel? Read her story here. The Packers official website also has its take on things here, plus photos from the ceremony itself.

Say it with me: it's great to be a Packers fan!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Packers training camp restores balance to the universe

Does that headline seem a little over the top? If you are a true Green 'n' Gold fan of the Green Bay Packers...nah, nothing but the truth in that statement.

During the offseason, Packer fans find themselves doing anything to distract themselves from the reality that things are just not right. How could they be? There's no Packers football for Pete's sake! Or anyone else's sake for that matter. We have to "entertain" ourselves with (shudder) basketball, baseball (well, OK, I guess), golf (fine to play and also a good way to get a nap in if watching on TV), soccor (don't dare call it football or futball...I don't care if you are European!), tennis (c'mon, who cares really?), or who knows what else?

Yes, it really is a cultural wasteland, isn't it?

But that's about to change this week, Packers fans! After new Packers' shareholders get to attend their first meeting inside Lambeau Field, the players will return to St. Norbert College and the Packers' training facilities for the start of camp. Yay! (By the way, if you are curious about St. Norbert College's connection with the Pack, check out this brief article for more.)

What's the outlook?
We are well aware of the fact that the Packers are, at least according to the early line in Vegas, favorites to not only win the NFC North and NFC Championship, but to also win the 2013 Super Bowl. It's good to be favored. But as we also know, even going 15-1, as the Packers did last season, is no guarantee of bringing another Lombardi Trophy back to where it rightfully belongs: Green Bay -- TitleTown USA.

There are some question marks, of course. First among them: things haven't started yet so who the heck knows what will happen? An injury in training camp or early in the season to a key player and the outlook changes dramatically. Beyond that, the sieve that was the defense last season has got to be improved. It was the team's Achilles Heal last season and prevented them from going to the big game. A couple of the new draft picks will be expected to step in and perform almost from the get-go. With Nick Collins now gone in the secondary, someone else will have to pick up the slack. There are a number of candidates, but all are unproven at this point. Getting a pass rush will do a great deal to help the secondary.

On offense, the line will have to gel after some key departures. Again, the Pack seems to have a number of players that can fill the gaps. The question is: how well? There are no questions at QB where we have the best player in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers. We also have the best receiving corps in the league, loaded at wide receiver and tight end. The question mark is at running back. Ryan Grant is unsigned and may or may not see another snap as a Packer. James Starks is slotted as the starter, with second-year player Alex Green coming off injury as his primary back up. Another second-year player, Brandon Saine, also stands to get a chance at showing what he can do. It will likely be running back by committee especially in this pass-happy offense. Fullback John Kuhn will likely resume his steady roll, although he might not be ready for training camp even after six months of rehab from his MCL injury...so that slot may wind up being a bit more wide open than expected, too.

Bottom line?
What all this translates into is apparently what the oddsmakers see: a talented and well-coached team that, despite some issues, looks like the best bet to go all the way. Granted, there's a long way to go especially when things haven't started yet. But, really, who would you rather put your money on right now?

Yes, with training camp almost here, balance to the universe is once again restored.

Say it with me: it's great to be a Packers fan!!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Packers in the green 'n' gold 'n' green

Yes, Packers fans, our favorite team raked in record revenues and profits during their last fiscal year, according to the financial report the team released yesterday.

The Packers reported more than $300 million in total revenue for the first time in the year following their Super Bowl win. The record profit of $43 million was the result of revenue increasing $19 million while expenses fell $12 million compared to the previous year. Considering that the entire operating profit from the prior year was just $12 million, well, it was a very good year indeed.

If you want more of the money details, and especially if you are a shareholder you certainly will (although there is no financial gain or return win or lose on the financial front for shareholders), check out the Packers own story here, or a more comprehensive look via the online Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

As the Packers prepare for the start of training camp in a few short weeks, it's great to know the team is in such great shape going forward. Great management, great coaching, a great stadium, and great players make for the greatest franchise in the NFL...aw heck, all of sports!

C'mon, say it with me: it's great to be a Packers fan!

(Were there too many "greats" in that last paragraph or so? Naaaaaaaahhhhh.)