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MT5: Disappointing ending to a very successful season

Murphy Takes 5 is a monthly column written by President and CEO Mark Murphy

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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.

In the NFL, it is often said that only one team feels good about the way their season ends. Our loss to the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game was certainly very disappointing. Now that it's been nearly two weeks since the loss, the sting of the loss has subsided and I'm able to look back at the season from a broader perspective. Although we didn't achieve our primary objective (winning the Super Bowl), we still had a very successful season. After two straight losing seasons, and with a first-year head coach in Matt LaFleur, most experts picked us to finish third or fourth in the NFC North. Not only did we win the NFC North, we were 6-0 in the division (for the first time since 2011), won 13 games (seven more than in 2018), earned the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and beat Seattle in the divisional round. Coach LaFleur deserves the lion's share of the credit for our success, but this successful season is also a credit to our entire coaching staff and our players, as well as GM Brian Gutekunst and his staff who added key pieces to the team this year through free agency and the draft.

I've heard from many fans that we were very fortunate this year (few injuries, teams we played against were missing star players), and that next year will be much more difficult. While there may be some truth in that, as every year brings its own set of challenges and we will play the first-place schedule, I am still very confident regarding the future of our team, primarily due to the leadership of Brian and Matt. They are both young, rising stars in the profession, and have established a great working relationship.

I'm optimistic that 2020 will be another exciting, successful year for the Packers.

Now, on to your questions…

Jon from Pewaukee, WI

I am surprised to see that the Cowboys named Mike McCarthy as their head coach. How do you think he will do with the Cowboys?

I was not surprised with the hire, Jon. The Cowboys are a talented team that was in the playoffs last year and was in the hunt to make the playoffs this year right up until the last week of the season. Jerry Jones wanted an experienced head coach who has had success in the playoffs. Also, some of Mike's best wins during his tenure here were either against the Cowboys or in AT&T Stadium, so Jerry is very familiar with Mike's ability as a coach. I'm very happy for Mike. This is a great opportunity for him and I think he will do well. He had a great run with us, and I'm sure he is energized after spending the last year out of coaching. He's added several former Packers coaches and players to his coaching staff, including Joe Philbin, Rob Davis and Al Harris, so it will be fun to watch the Cowboys next year.

Mike from Kalamazoo, MI

Hello Mark, I have always wondered about players' health care. When a player is under contract, does it cover the player's dependents? Is that a separate negotiating subject to work out? Is it up to the individual to get private coverage for family? Thanks for all you do.

The health insurance for our players is very similar to insurance that is offered to employees at large companies. If a player is under contract and makes the team, he will qualify for insurance – single if he is not married, or family if he is married with children (dependents). Also, vested players are able to extend their health insurance coverage beyond their playing days.

A question from Darin

Mark, here is something to take to the competition/rules committee for targeting and flagrant injuries. If the NFL wants to cut out the cheap shots and other flagrant injuries, why not make the rule that if a player suffers an injury that is deemed intentional/flagrant or a cheap shot and the affected player is sidelined, make it so the person that did the offense is out until the affected player returns. This would make guys think twice about the headshots and/or taking them out at the knees.

Very interesting suggestion, Darin. Reminds me of "an eye for an eye." While I appreciate your thought process, it is really hard to determine a player's intent or what is truly a cheap shot. It would be a very heavy penalty if a player had to miss a season because a player he tackled had a season-ending injury. I do think, however, that we are all frustrated that we haven't been able to take these type of hits out of the game. We do have the capability to change behavior, though, by immediately ejecting players for especially egregious hits or fining or suspending them the week after the game.

Jason from Appleton, WI

Mark, I'd like to make an unpopular suggestion (which I'm sure you've heard many times before). I think at some point it would be great to eliminate the bench seating in the bowl. People are getting bigger and, quite frankly, it's often difficult to keep your neighbor off your lap. It's also extremely uncomfortable for anyone with back issues – even with a back rest. I do understand we'd lose seating capacity, so I have a solution. Why not expand the north end-zone seating to mirror the south end? This might make up for any loss of seating on the main bowl. I'd love to hear your perspective on this issue.

I do periodically hear from people regarding the bench seating in our bowl, Jason. We have studied changing the benches to chairs with seatbacks, and estimate we would lose 10,000-12,000 in seating capacity. We would also have to put in handrails to bring the bowl up to code, and the handrails would block the view for many fans. With regard to adding seats in the north end zone, it would be a challenging expansion. In 2003, when the major renovation was done, we reinforced the beams in the south end zone to allow for a future expansion. In 2013, we were able to add just under 8,000 seats in the south end zone. To do something similar in the north end zone would be much more expensive and would not make up for the number of seats we would lose in the bowl. First, we have indoor club seats in the north end zone, so there is less space for additional seats. Also, although the seats in the end zone would be more comfortable, I don't think many people with sideline bowl seats would give them up on their own to sit in the end zone. Moreover, the seating bowl is the signature part of Lambeau Field (and so unique in the NFL) and I think people like the fact that, when they are seated in the stadium bowl, they are having the same experience as our fans did when they were watching Lombardi coach. There are some stadium seats with cushions and backrests that have come on the market in recent years that fans have found to be comfortable. It might be worth giving one of those a try.

Emily from Marinette, WI

Who do you think will win the Super Bowl? It would be great to see Andy Reid win.

I would also love to see Andy Reid win on Sunday, given his ties to the Packers. It's hard to believe that it's been 50 years since the Chiefs were last in the Super Bowl. I'm really excited about the game and think it should be a great matchup. Both teams are very talented, and Patrick Mahomes is such a special player that he will keep the Chiefs in the game. In the end, though, I think the 49ers are too strong for the Chiefs and will win a very close, high-scoring game.

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