Born as a Bears and Cubs fan. There have been a few high moments, lots of low moments. As of Friday night, now the biggest rivals of both of my teams are reigning champions. There are 58 other teams in MLB and the NFL that aren’t the Cubs, Bears, Cardinals or Packers. Why does this have to be, that both of the biggest rivals of my teams have to be resilient and do things I’ve never seen my teams do (on a consistent basis) in my lifetime?
The Cardinals clawed back from being the least likely team to make the 2011 MLB postseason in September. Despite losing key players and being one strike away from elimination on Thursday night, they had a performance for the ages in any sport and made their fans proud.
The Packers lost many key players in 2010, and were one game away from elimination from the playoffs that year, and could have been dismissed by the Bears themselves. But they weren’t, and the Bears ended up getting embarrassed by the Packers in the NFC Championship game. Just as bad, we had to watch Green Bay win the Super Bowl.
Before moving on to the rest of this post, I just have to say that first of all, I have too much good stuff going on in my life to dwell on the frustration caused by the professional sports teams I watch. While I’d like to have the exhilaration of watching my teams win championships (or even just win consistently), it’s not going to define me. Especially with the Packers, I need to learn to just let the people of Wisconsin enjoy their run while they have it and simply take my hat off to their organization for doing it right, even when my team seemingly can never do it right. (I mention the people of Wisconsin, don’t know that I have as much respect for people of Chicago that choose to be bandwagon Packer fans). I’m working on this.
I’ve mentioned it several times this year, the frustration that comes from watching the Packers retool over and over into a championship team while the Bears organization bumbles along in mediocrity. The Packers were an aging 4-12 team in 2005. They used their high first-round pick in 2006 on a mediocre player in A.J. Hawk and completely blew it in 2007 on Justin Harrell. But they STILL rebuilt their team into a potential dynasty from 2008-2010. Not even mentioning that they made the NFC Championship and were a stupid Brett Favre interception away from the Super Bowl in ’07.
And again, I just can’t imagine the statistical improbability of Green Bay drafting a Hall of Fame quarterback to replace a Hall of Fame quarterback, especially after watching the Bears bumble through dozens of attempts to find a servicable quarterback for 60 years or so. Certainly the Packer scouts did a great job identifying Rodgers as the guy to target to replace Favre. But given the number of first-round busts at the position (at least three of which the Bears have accounted for just in the last 15 years), there had to be some degree of luck involved for 23 teams to pass on Rodgers before he fell into the Packers’ laps.
I have to say that Rodgers just looks absolutely unstoppable-and that brings me to my next point. For every offensive or defensive system in NFL history, innovative minds have found a way to stop them. Buddy Ryan’s Chicago Bear 46 defense in the 1980′s was an innovation that was hard to stop at first. The west coast offense was the response to the blitz-heavy 46: get the ball out with short passes down the field to counter the pressure. To the best of my knowledge, the cover two defense was in large part the answer to the west coast offense. Allow the offense to throw as many short passes as they want, force them to run a lot of plays to go down the field, and with a great pass rush from four linemen, more often than not the offense will make a mistake.
SOME great mind out there must find a way to stop Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. His and their greatness baffle me somewhat, given that the Packer offensive line and running game are pedestrian. If Green Bay’s success is honestly due simply to the greatness of Rodgers, I don’t know what to say. But the NFL needs to find the next answer to stopping the reigning champions.
And the Bears quite simply have to build their team to stop Green Bay above all else.
I am convinced that somehow, some team will eventually deal the Packers one loss this season, as much as it seems like they can’t possibly lose. Time will tell.
The Bears sit at 4-3 at the midway point in the 2011 season. There are some positive vibes happening following a couple of tough losses. But the next game at Philadelphia doesn’t look as clear as it might have when the Eagles were reeling earlier this year. I certainly hope the rest of 2011 will mirror 2010 and not 1992.