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.
After missing the playoffs for two years, it is great to be back in the tournament again this year. Obviously, the fact that we won the division and secured a first-round bye has put us in a great position. The first-round bye is especially significant. History shows teams that secure the bye have an improved chance to make it to the Super Bowl. Our run to the Super Bowl in 2010 as a wild card with three road wins is really the exception. Since 2010, we have earned a first-round bye twice before this year, in 2011 and 2014. The 2011 season saw us finish 15-1 and clinch the top seed early, and we lost some of our momentum heading into the playoffs. The loss to the Giants was as disappointing as they come. This year is more reminiscent of 2014 when we finished the season strong and beat Dallas in the NFC Divisional round at Lambeau Field.
It is a real tribute to Matt LaFleur, his coaching staff and all our players that we are in this position now. General Manager Brian Gutekunst also played a key role in the turnaround with several key signings and a strong draft. Coming off two straight losing seasons, even the most optimistic Packer fans would not have predicted that we would win 13 games. It all starts over now, though, and it will be nice to watch the wild-card playoff games this weekend. There is something magical about playoff games at Lambeau Field, and I know our team is excited about the chance to win another game at home in front of our great fans. It should be fun.
Now, on to your questions…
A question from Jeff
Hi Mark, will the set of "standing room only" tickets be made available for any possible Packers home playoff game this year? This was offered during the 2014 postseason and I took advantage of the opportunity. Yep, I witnessed the Dez Bryant catch/no-catch in living color and would love to have another chance to obtain a home playoff game ticket. Thanks for taking my question, and Go Pack Go!
Yes we will, Jeff. In fact, we have already sold out the 300 standing room only (SRO) tickets available for the game. (I hope you were able to purchase tickets.) SRO tickets have worked well for us in the past, both in the regular season and postseason. We want as many people as possible to be able to experience a game at Lambeau Field (and the extra people do make the stadium louder!). Most of the SRO tickets are in the 400 level of the south end zone. We have to be careful not to add too many SRO tickets or they will negatively impact the experience of season-ticket holders in the area in terms of longer concession and restroom lines.
Eric from Green Bay
Mark, do the Packers practice outside on weeks when they play away games or in a dome? Do the players dress at practice the way they expect to dress for their next game? Perhaps one of the unique benefits of playing in Green Bay in January is that Rodgers can throw in the same weather and dress as they will be playing while the opponents cannot. Do you have any experiences to support that theory?
Great question, Eric. Coaches try to replicate the environment that players will be playing in on Sunday during the week's practices. So, for instance, we practiced in the Don Hutson Center the last two weeks of the season since we had games in domes for both games. We also pump up the noise to get players used to the noise level. Coaches also want to make sure that the practices are productive – so, if we are going to play outside on Sunday, we will practice outside unless the weather is so bad (e.g., heavy snow or rain) that it affects the quality of the practice.
Dave from Saint Peters, MO
Hi Mark! Would you be willing to grant Pro Bowl bonuses to our snubbed stars like Davante Adams, Za'Darius Smith, Kenny Clark, and Aaron Jones? Show them recognition and our appreciation with more than a pat on the back.
I like the way you're thinking, Dave. I was very surprised that we only had two players voted to the Pro Bowl. With a 13-3 team (10-3 at the time of the voting) you would normally have several more than two. While I like your thought, I believe it would be a salary violation if we granted players bonuses that they didn't earn. Hopefully they will be able to earn additional pay with a playoff run.
A question from Marc
Hi Mark, we are all obviously excited to be watching Packer football in January (hopefully February too!). I had an idea on how to fine players that target/illegally hit other players. Instead of the guilty player's fine going to charity, it goes directly to the NFL player he targeted (the irony!) and the NFL team he plays for matches the fine and that goes to charity. I am thinking of the hit Jamaal Williams took against the Eagles and it could have been career-ending. This could be one more way to slow down the targeting and illegal hits. Happy New Year!
Thanks for the suggestion, Marc. There is no question that we have to do a better job of taking the cheap shots out of the game. I think the NCAA has had some success with the targeting rule (and ejection of the guilty player). Of course, the NCAA can't fine players so they have to try to change behavior by taking players off the field. In the NFL, we can fine or suspend the offending player after the game. Officials do have the flexibility to eject players for especially egregious hits, but I think they are reluctant to take this step and impact the current game. While I appreciate your suggestion, it feels a little gimmicky to me. I would like to see more ejections for the really bad hits – this has a more direct impact on the behavior of players.
Mike from Sequin, TX
This is not a question, but a comment. Last Sunday the New York Times (a very anti-football paper) ran an interesting article on the history of the NFL; you should read it if you have a chance. What it failed to mention was that, unlike in baseball and the NBA, the NFL is truly competitive – every franchise, no matter how small has the ability to rise to the top. Until the other leagues adopt revenue sharing and a hard salary cap, the wealthy will always prevail. BTW I lived in Washington during your playing days. George Allen stood the entire community on its ear. I never saw an area so galvanized by a team. I grew up in the Bay area and (I'm 88) saw Hutson and many of that generation play. Couldn't conceive that the game would grow to what it has become.
I did see the special section in the New York Times on the history of the NFL, Mike. Like you, I thought it was really well done. I also agree with you regarding revenue sharing. Commissioner Pete Rozelle showed great vision and persuasion in convincing the owners that revenue sharing would be in the best interest of the league and all teams. The past two years have really been special for Packers fans, with the celebration of our 100th season last year, and this year with the "NFL 100" celebration. It is really amazing how the league has grown over the years. By the way, Don Hutson made the "NFL 100 All-Time Team." He was the only receiver on the team that played in the 1930s. Watching the clips of him, he looks like a modern-day receiver. He was really ahead of his time. Overall, we had eight players (Hutson, Brett Favre, Forrest Gregg, Cal Hubbard, Reggie White, Ted Hendricks, Emlen Tunnell, and Jan Stenerud) make the team as well as two coaches (Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi). Interestingly, I played in the Redskins' secondary with two players that made the "NFL 100 All-Time Team" – Kenny Houston and Darrell Green, and was fortunate enough to play for Joe Gibbs, also a member of the team.