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.
NFC North is the Best Division in the League
After one quarter of the NFL season, it looks like the NFC North is the best division in the NFL. The NFC North and the AFC South are the only divisions with no teams with losing records, but the AFC South also has no teams with winning records (all four teams are 2-2, so they win the award for the division with the most parity). There is no weak team in the NFC North this year. The Bears, last year's division champions, look to have a dominant defense, had an impressive win over the Vikings last week and have won three straight games since we defeated them in the NFL Kickoff game. The Vikings also have a strong defense and have a solid running game with Dalvin Cook. The Lions have a very balanced team with an elite quarterback in Matthew Stafford, and gave the Chiefs all they could handle last week. All four teams are well coached with the resources needed to be successful.
So, what does this mean for the Packers? I think playing in a strong division is good for us. You have to play at a high level every week or risk falling out of contention. In 2010, the NFC North was very strong (the Bears won the division and we beat them in the NFC Championship game, and the Vikings were in the NFC Championship game the prior year), and the difficult division games prepared us well for the playoff games. There is still obviously a lot of football to be played, but getting off to a 2-0 start in the Division bodes well for our future. It should be an exciting season for all NFC North teams.
Now, on to your questions…
A question from Peter
Mark, several months ago you said that expanded replay would be good for the game. I realize that we need to expect to experience the beginning of a learning curve but I believe you will find few fans believe it is good for the game. In my opinion, the NFL would be better off using a system similar to college football. In fact, I believe all coach-initiated challenges should go away. Place another official at the stadium to monitor any calls/situations that should be reviewed. In short, players play, coaches coach, and officials officiate. With that said, I realize the NFL loves the drama and controversy the current system promotes.
Thanks for the suggestion, Peter. The expansion of replay to include reviews of pass interference has not been without its bumps. The officials want the standard for changing a call to be very high (clear and obvious, with substantial hindrance), but it is difficult to set a standard when the decision is subjective. This is why the rule was passed for one year. I don't see us moving to the college system (although in the last two minutes and on scoring plays and turnovers, it is the same). The limit on coaches' challenges ensures that the game is not stopped constantly for reviews, and that the games do not become too long.
A question from Jonathan
Dear Mr. Murphy. This may sound silly at first, but I am serious. I think the Packers should play a loud sustained mooing of a cow on third downs when the other team has the ball. It is truly Wisconsin, it could be disconcerting to our opponents, it says Wisconsin and Cheeseheads, and it is also whimsical.
I appreciate the outside of the box thinking, Jonathan. Enhancing our home-field advantage has been a priority for us this year (with an emphasis on third downs on defense), and we experimented with a number of ideas in the preseason. The fans blasted us for the foghorn. Loud, sustained mooing? Not sure how that would be received. I will run it by Kregg Shilbauer, who oversees our game entertainment, though.
Jack from Jackson, WI
Hello Mr. Murphy, The Wall Street Journal just published an article by Andrew Beaton about the Philadelphia Eagles having a large contingent of women in senior positions. The article points out that half of NFL fans are female but most NFL executives are male. The Eagles claim diversity of thought helps to bring them success (presumably on and off the field). What is the Packers' position on this kind of diversity and how does the organization compare to other NFL teams?
Thanks, Jack. You raise a very important issue. I think diversity is crucial for organizations today. The Eagles are probably the most progressive organization in the NFL (due to their owner Jeff Lurie), not only in this area but also with regard to environmental issues. Diversity has been a priority for us in the recent years in our searches, especially for leadership positions. We currently have two female Vice Presidents, Gabrielle Dow, VP of Marketing & Fan Engagement and Nicole Ledvina, VP of Human Resources. Also, Susan Finco currently serves on our seven-member Executive Committee. She is the first female to serve on the Executive Committee. Overall, we have eight women on our Board of Directors. On our leadership team, we have four women that serve as directors of their departments. Elsewhere in day-to-day operations, we have 14 women that serve in other leadership positions.
Ryan from Westlake Village, CA
Hey Mark, huge fan. A while back, I watched a video and they said there is a buried rule that if you catch a fair catch on a punt and want to kick a field goal, you get a free kick as a field goal. The other team cannot contest your special teams' line or your kicker, so basically a free kick. In the video, there was 4 seconds left in the half and decided to kick around a 75-yard field goal. The great part is, the kicker has a teammate hold it for him. Since Mason Crosby missed a 69-yard field goal I believe, barely missing, I thought if this situation ever happened to the Packers, would you guys try it out? Thanks for reading and get back if possible. I think it would be cool since no one has seen it live in forever. The video I was talking about was the 49ers kicking the ball.
Ah, the rare free kick. In my 50-plus years of following the NFL, I've only seen it used a couple of times. I absolutely think we would try it if the situation was right. The advantage to the kicking team is that there is no rush and the kicker can drive a lower kick farther. On Nov. 3, 1968, at Lambeau Field, the Bears beat the Packers on a 43-yard free kick as time expired. Also, as you note, Mason Crosby tried a 69-yard free kick against the Lions in 2008.
A question from Todd
Has the Packers Perks website achieved the intended goals? For me it has resulted in looking at content that I otherwise would not have checked out, which is great. I am guessing that the number of website hits has increased, thereby making advertising more profitable. However, it has frequently been plagued with issues that cause a lot of user frustration. Is anything being done to fix these problems?
Thanks for asking, Todd. We have had a great response to the Packers Perks program and are pleased more fans have engaged with the team through this initiative. However, it is not without its challenges. While it is a new website and it is not uncommon to have some challenges with launches, it is not up to our standards and we are disappointed. We have been working with the third-party company that operates the site on a daily basis to resolve these issues and ask for your patience while we do so.