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Inbox: It might never be appreciated more than the next time it happens

There are going to be needs on both sides of the ball

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Lambeau Field

Jon from Lynchburg, VA

How's that shot at immorality workin' for you, Wes?

That one's on his editor as much as the writer. But yes, it gave us all a good laugh.

Craig from Milwaukee, WI

Is Aaron Rodgers trying to help and stay with the Packers or trying to force his way out? This is getting messy now.

Everyone's getting way too worked up over this, especially when the initial comments were delivered right after such an emotional loss. I thought he explained himself pretty well on Pat McAfee's show Tuesday. He didn't say anything he hasn't said before, he was acknowledging there are no absolutes in this business, he doesn't see any reason he wouldn't be back, and he expects the annual conversations he always has to take place soon. All true.

Jon from La Paz, Mexico

Much needed entertainment from this season. Thank you NFL for pulling this off. Great game on Sunday. After watching again last night I had a few observations. After watching Coach LaFleur all season there was no way, in my mind, that he kicks a field goal in that situation. He has been aggressive all season on calls like this. Do you think his decision is different if Rodgers scrambles on that third down and comes up short? He would have the entire two-minute timeout to come up with call.

I do, and I asked that question myself on Monday. If Rodgers gets to the 3- or 2-yard line, he could give him a run-pass option call to make at the line. I think his biggest oversight in the on-the-spot calculation was feeling the two-minute warning would be a fourth timeout for the defense. After the field goal, the kickoff was at 2:05. Mickens, the Bucs' returner, could have killed those five seconds just by running sideways between the 10 and 15. He gave himself up and slid at the 17 at 2:02. The defense got the extra timeout but easily could have lost it.

Rod from Chugiak, AK

Mike and Wes, I'm searching for what I can find to be thankful for. I have to say that, as misery so loves company, you two revealing your emotional letdown shows how warmly one-of-us you are. Man, I loved Vic, and learned so much from him, but could not quite ever bridge the gap to identify with his professional "I (just) like to watch" detachment/objectivity. Your baring of crushed souls is appreciated, somehow.

We do our jobs as professionally as we know how, but we're also just being honest with you. Sunday was the worst feeling I've had after covering a game in six years. I can't, and won't, ever let personal feelings affect my work, and my analysis and opinions aren't based on emotion. But I'm not going to pretend I'm fully detached. Vic was being honest with you, too. He was a transplant, with zero connection to this team or fan base before he arrived. When he was here, he wanted the Packers to win, but not in the same way. It would have been phony of him to act otherwise.

Tim from Greensboro, NC

Hi Mike. If I recall, after the game in Tampa, ML lamented getting away from the running game too early. He said they would learn from it and get better. Disappointing to hear the same after Sunday. Also, regarding legacy, it's unfortunate if Rodgers is remembered for losing four championship games. However, if his playoff record, other than the Super year, remains under .500, I'm afraid it's more of a possibility. Favre's saving grace may have been getting to a second one.

Rodgers' legacy is not yet established, so it's not fair to make grand claims. There was so much about the other three championship losses that had nothing to do with him. The opportunities he had with the ball in his hands down the stretch this time might make this one the hardest for him to take, personally. But I'll also say that for only three of 10 playoff appearances (and none of the last five) to be one-and-done is worth a lot. And two of those three quick exits were last-play-of-the-game, walk-off defeats. You're right about Favre, whose overall postseason play wasn't as good as Rodgers'.

Kristen from Folsom, CA

Mike, I think what saddens me the most about the loss is how we got so far away from what we did well all year. Where did the run-pass balance go? Red-zone efficiency? Rodgers' chemistry with his receivers, especially Adams? Capitalizing on turnovers? Not to mention, ML made some inexplicable decisions that seemed out of character. It just seemed like everyone was off their game...a tough pill to swallow after such an amazing season. Any words of wisdom?

Not really. You have many of the same thoughts I have. I'll add the defense had done really well stopping third-and-longs and not allowing explosive gains, especially late in the season. But the Bucs converted four times on third-and-7-plus, went 72 yards in two plays for a score, and hit a 39-yard TD. As I said on "Unscripted," the Packers got away from or didn't do what they'd done best, and it's everyone's failure to own.

Keith from Columbia, SC

On which areas should Brian Gutekunst focus his efforts to improve the team? Usually, Packers fans turn their attention to the defense, imagining how to repair what's deemed as the cause for our playoff exits. This year we had a team loss to Tampa. The defense disappointed early, but it was pretty solid in the second half, giving our offense the ball back several times with chances to tie or take the lead for the first time. Couldn't Gutekunst focus on making the offense truly unstoppable?

I think the Packers first have to figure out who's staying and who's going, manage the same difficult cap situation everyone else is, and then look at everything. I can't tell you how it's going to shake out, but there are going to be needs on both sides of the ball.

Ryan from Noblesville, IN

Now that the season is over, what do you think are the Packers' top priorities?

This is my own speculation, but I think the first is re-signing Aaron Jones. If that doesn't work out, then the rest of the picture changes significantly.

Hans from Tulsa, OK

With a dash of optimism, I think this will be the offseason that epitomizes Green Bay's intelligent draft-and-develop approach. While I understand there seems to be a laundry list of free agents, Corey Linsley and Jones are the cream of the crop and shouldn't require excessive money to re-sign due to their positions. I would highly suggest everyone take a look at Tampa's list. I think you will see how kindly next season stands for the Packers. Your thoughts on the situation?

I think Linsley and Jones are going to cost more than you currently believe, but we'll see. We are headed into an offseason like no other since I've been involved with this game. I'm never one for predictions, but even less so now.

Matt from Minneapolis, MN

I deal with Packers losses by diving deep into the offseason. Although the cap isn't set for 2021, the floor is $175M and the highest I've heard it might be is $195M. We are starting at $208M so we need to make some moves. I did the math and if we restructure Rodgers, both Smiths, Adrian Amos, Billy Turner, Dean Lowry, and Mason Crosby, it saves us about $35M. That gets us just under the cap floor. Another big option is we could extend Davante and push cap into the future. This may allow us to avoid cutting veterans.

It sounds like you've got it all figured out. I'm sure every veteran who's asked to restructure will just agree to it, too.

John from Yakima, WA

Do you know when the official 2021 salary cap is announced?

Probably late February or early March, with a few weeks' lag time before the start of the new league year on March 17.

Venny from Montgomery, AL

As we all know, Jaire Alexander got the nod for All-Pro second team, but his playoff performance was worthy of Defensive Player of the Year. How can you not be excited about the future for this guy? If I'm not mistaken he allowed one catch for minus-3 yards, four PDs and two INTs. The few who didn't know him by name certainly know now.

There are two guys I enjoyed watching on the defensive film this year more than any others – Kenny Clark and Alexander. They're linchpins you can build a defense around.

Keith from Portland, OR

Is there a chance Tom Brady has a hand in helping the Chiefs become the next Patriots?

It should be a great QB rematch. They faced off for the AFC title two years ago, and it finished 37-31 in overtime. Now that it's come to pass, who wouldn't want to see another showdown like that?

Brandon from Middletown, CT

Has there ever been a questioner who has appeared in consecutive weeks? I've been trying all year to no avail, still trying to figure out the type of question that will catch your eyes. There's always next year.

Don't give up, Brandon. The volume in the Inbox since the game has been overwhelming, so the simple fact is not all can be read and considered right now. In writing Monday morning's column, I would estimate I went through at least a few hundred before wrapping up and heading home Sunday night. When I came back to it yesterday afternoon to start on today's column, there were nearly 1,000 unread submissions waiting for me.

Ken from Oceanport, NJ

Is our goal to win a Super Bowl or just to compete for NFC championships every year? Assuming it's the latter, it sure causes a lot of heartbreak. We need to go for the prize once.

I'm sorry, but this is the type of attitude that really frosts me, and I see it way too often, both in the Inbox and in the media (so I'm not picking on Ken specifically). It's bull. The Packers are trying to win it every year, people, and the playoffs are a crapshoot. If 2007 in the freezing cold, or 2009 in Arizona, or 2010 in Philly, or 2014 in Seattle, or 2015 in Arizona again, or 2016 in Dallas, or last Sunday didn't convince you of that, what will? Did the Buccaneers win Sunday because their attitude was "to go for the prize"? That same Buccaneers team that in all likelihood loses the prior week if Jared Cook doesn't fumble the ball in Tampa Bay territory late in the third quarter with the Saints leading by seven, poised to go up two scores? Or if a New Orleans player is there to recover Cook's fumble? It's a crazy game, crazy (stuff) happens, and Sunday was no different. The Falcons were the better team four years ago and played like it. The 49ers were the better team last year and played like it. I believe the Packers were the better team this year and simply didn't play like it. You can disagree with decisions or draft picks (I have, in this space), but there aren't any moves that guarantee a Super Bowl, or guarantee you're going to play like the better team when that Super Bowl is within reach. The Packers are always balancing the short term with the long term, to get into that crapshoot as often as possible and take their roll of the dice. If you want guarantees, don't watch sports. Watch Netflix. Apologies for the rant.

Gary from Cross Plains, WI

Thanks for the great season of keeping us informed on all the Pack news. One thing I didn't notice was if Tramon Williams got into the game to become first to play in same playoffs for two different teams. Did he get in at all, even if just on special teams? Did any of the other playoff teams make a similar move and sign someone off a playoff team's practice squad?

I'm not aware of another team making a similar move, but I could have missed it. Williams did not play in the game. He did join the defensive players on the field for their turnover celebrations, though.

Rob from Muskego, WI

Other than David Bakhtiari, which of the players lost to injury during the season do you think would have made the biggest impact on the championship game?

There is no choice aside from Bakhtiari when the two opposing edge rushers combine for five sacks. Rick Wagner and Turner had admirable seasons and deserve plenty of props, but the absence of the best in the game at such a key position was going to show up eventually.

Noah from La Crosse, WI

What is one thing you are looking forward to next season? I'm looking forward to seeing (possibly) a full stadium of Packer fans.

It might never be appreciated more than the next time it happens.

Joseph from Salt Lake City, UT

Spent the last few days wallowing, replaying the regrettable moments over and over...tough to swallow. However, champions learn their lessons and set their eyes on the prize once again! So, good morning! After seeing some impressive Year 2 jumps this season, boy do we have some players to be excited about. I am at the edge of my seat to see Krys Barnes' offseason progress. Is there any player you are more excited about that him? (Josiah Deguara comes to mind as well).

That's a long list. Barnes and Deguara for sure, plus AJ Dillon and Kamal Martin. Can't forget about Dominique Dafney. Eager to see Jordan Love in (hopefully) some preseason action. Jon Runyan and Simon Stepaniak could figure prominently depending on what happens up front. There will be plenty to keep an eye on.

Jon from Waukee, IA

I was 15 when we last won it all. While I absolutely cherished that moment, I've come to realize that I took it for granted. It was almost an expectation that Rodgers would get another. Each year those chances sadly dwindle, and it's made me appreciate how tough of a task it truly is to win it all. The next one will be so sweet, and there will be a next one, but right now I mainly hurt for Rodgers. He deserves another one, and the fact that he outplayed Brady and still came up short is brutal.

As my father always reminded a young me, "Who said life was fair?"

Kyle from Osceola, WI

Is it time yet for wacky offseason ideas and banter in the Inbox? I've got a couple doozies ready to go...

Save 'em for after the Super Bowl, when I'm on vacation. Happy Wednesday.

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