On the first Saturday of every month, Mark will write about a topic of interest to Packers fans and the organization, and then answer five fan questions. Fans are encouraged to email Mark with their name and hometown at: *MurphyTakes5@packers.com.*
With a 5-6 record as we head into December, the season so far has obviously been disappointing for all of us. Thanks to the parity in the league (especially in the NFC North), though, as well as a change the league made in the NFL schedule several years ago, we still have plenty to play for in December. I also think the win over the Eagles on Monday night could serve as a great confidence booster for us. Philadelphia has traditionally been a tough place to play, and the Eagles were undefeated at home prior to our game.
"On Any Given Sunday" has long been a motto of the NFL – that, on any given Sunday, any team in the NFL can beat any other team. It is really at the core of what makes the league so popular. The NFC North this year is a good example of this parity. Realistically, our best way to make the playoffs this year is to win the NFC North. This is where the NFL schedule change comes in. In 2010, the league decided to have all teams finish the season with division games – thinking that these games would have a better chance of being meaningful. The change has certainly had the desired effect. The Packers are a great example of how it has worked – in 2013, 2014 and 2015, we've played the Bears, Lions and Vikings in Week 17 with the NFC North title on the line.
So, as we head into December, we still have a chance to win the division and accomplish all of our objectives. Now, we have to play better (and string together good performances), but the schedule gives us a chance. Our last three games are all against NFC North opponents and three of the five remaining games are at Lambeau Field. As a player, coach or an executive, you want to be playing meaningful games in December. It should be exciting.
Now, on to your questions:
Jason from Minnesota
I was wondering if the Packers will get back on track. Clearly, they are not doing good. I am one of the biggest Packers fans in my school, and I still have faith. But right now, I am clearly losing faith. Making the playoffs is the only thing I want right now from the Packers.
As I mentioned above Jason, we are all disappointed in the performance of our team so far this season. It is a long season, though, and there will be many ups and downs. We have high expectations here (our goal every year is to win the Super Bowl), and it is disappointing when we fall short of our expectations. During the season, all teams will go through tough stretches. Most important is how the team responds to the difficult times, and that you play your best football at the end of the season. Thanks for not completely losing faith in us!
Charlie from Vancouver, Canada
When you reflect this Thanksgiving, what things will you be grateful for?
I have much to be grateful for, Charlie, including my family, friends and health. My wife, Laurie, and I spent Thanksgiving in Washington, D.C., this year with my sister (we celebrated her 60th birthday), my mother and two cousins. It is great to be able to spend Thanksgiving with family, although it is also exciting to play on Thanksgiving. I'm also extremely thankful for the tremendous support of our fans. (Excuse the gratuitous plug for our fans).
Mike from Marinette, WI
Mark, how do you handle your job differently if the team wins or loses each week?
Great question, Mike. Given that I am primarily focused on the long-term success of the organization, I try to handle my job the same, regardless of whether we win or lose. I have to admit that it is difficult. It was particularly challenging during our recent four-game losing streak. I think the stability and continuity of our leadership has been a real positive over the years, and it is best to take a long-term, big-picture view, and not be overly influenced by the setbacks.
Scotty from Lombard, IL
Great win over the Eagles on Monday night. Has consideration been given by the league to schedule only teams coming off a bye week to play on Thursday night? By the way, the Thursday night uniforms gave our team a professional, dignified look.
Thanks, Scotty. Needless to say, we needed the win, and I'm hopeful the win over the Eagles can give us some momentum as we head into the end of the season. With regard to the Thursday night games, I think the league will continue to evaluate these games. In putting together the schedule, the league office has numerous policies and procedures (i.e. bye week after playing in London, limits on consecutive road games) as well as requests from teams, so I'm not sure it is feasible to give every team a bye before playing a Thursday night game. The Thursday night package has changed quite a bit over the years. Initially it was only at the end of the season, and on the NFL Network. Now it is a year-long package, with games on NFLN, CBS and NBC. The league office has treated the Thursday night package differently than the other network packages. The league has kept the contracts for the Thursday night games short in order to be able to use the Thursday night games as tests or experiments for things like having the games streamed live on Twitter. With the ratings for NFL games down this season, the league is studying all of our TV packages to see what can be done to increase viewership. With the Thursday night games, for competitive equity reasons, the league now has a policy that each team has to play at least one short-week, Thursday night game. Is this policy resulting in poor matchups on Thursday night? There are only so many good games each week. I'm glad you liked our all-white uniforms for our Thursday game – a much better look than some other uniforms.
John from Orlando, FL
Hi, I just wanted to tell you how much appreciation I have and how thankful I am for the Packers organization. It was this team that introduced my 7-year old self to my favorite sport. It was this team that inspired me to start playing football. I am now on my varsity football team for my high school. To this day I always root for Green and Gold, no matter how bad we're playing. Thanks so much and keep inspiring other people! Happy Thanksgiving.
Thanks for sharing this story, John. As I've discussed here before, a big concern for the NFL (and football generally) is the drop-off in participation in youth football. Although the participation has leveled off in the last two years, there are definitely fewer boys and girls playing football than there were 5 or 10 years ago. Parents are concerned about the safety of the game, especially regarding concussions and the potential long-term effects on their children. While these concerns are legitimate, I think we tend to lose sight of the many benefits of playing football, including learning life-long lessons in teamwork, discipline and dedication. It is also incumbent on everyone in football leadership positions, at all levels, to do all they can to make the game as safe as possible and to ensure that players receive first-rate medical care. I hope you're having a great experience playing high school football. Your participation in football will be a big help to you later in your life, no matter what you decide to do after your playing career is over.