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:
On Dec. 20, the Packers became the first NFL team to clinch a playoff berth. With our victory over the Ravens (combined with a loss by the Vikings), we won the NFC North championship for the third straight year. Winning the division guarantees us at least one home playoff game. While winning the NFC North is important, we have larger goals left to achieve.
In Matt LaFleur's three years here, he has consistently stressed winning the division. Importantly, though, this is just the first goal, not the final one. We have two more championships left to win to achieve our ultimate goal. We have an opportunity over the next two weeks to clinch the top seed in the NFC (our magic number is two – either two wins or one win and a Cowboys loss – the Cowboys have the tiebreaker over us because they have a better conference record). Being the top seed would mean we'd have a bye in the first round of the playoffs and have home-field advantage throughout. As we saw last year, this doesn't guarantee that we will get to the Super Bowl. Having the other NFC teams come to Green Bay to play in the frozen tundra in a packed Lambeau Field is a big advantage, though.
There is a lot at stake over the next few weeks. It starts tomorrow night with a big game against the Vikings. They've beaten us the last two times we've played and they need a win to stay in contention for a playoff spot. I'm excited for our fans to have such important games played here in Green Bay.
Now, on to your questions.
Max from Madison, WI
With the win over the Browns on Christmas getting almost 30 million viewers (the second most-watched game of the season behind Raiders-Cowboys on Thanksgiving) and FOX having the rights to Christmas games "as the schedule allows" (presumably every year Christmas isn't on a Tuesday or Wednesday), should the Packers pursue hosting annual Christmas games in the same way the Lions and Cowboys host annual Thanksgiving games?
Interesting idea, Max. I don't see the Christmas games becoming a permanent game like the Thanksgiving games, however. It worked this year because Christmas fell on a Saturday. As you note, though, in the years when Christmas falls on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday, it could be tough. Even Sundays would be an issue since almost all the other games would also be on Sunday. The league often coordinates with the bowls on the college games during this time of the year. Also, the league likes to have flexibility to get the most attractive matchups, especially late in the season. We were pleased to play on Christmas this year, and glad that the ratings were so strong.
A question from Robert
Dear Mr. Murphy,
After 29 years on the Packer season ticket waiting list, I finally got season tickets roughly five years ago. That being said, I haven't been to a game since Covid started. I'm in the risky age group for dealing with Covid at age 66. With the way Covid has continued to surge in Wisconsin and with the large number of unvaccinated people in our state, I don't feel comfortable in crowds of strangers, even if it is outdoors like in Lambeau Field.
If the Packers aren't comfortable in requiring proof of vaccination to enter the stadium on game day, is it possible to come up with a way for season ticket holders who aren't comfortable around unvaccinated people to sell their game-day tickets? I don't want to turn in my season tickets, but as it is now, I'm paying for tickets that aren't being used. It might be foolish to continue doing so.
I'm hoping the Packers can make some kind of statement on this issue before next year's season ticket bill is due, so I/we will have time to think over what to do. I do realize that management is in a difficult spot with this.
Thank you … Go Pack Go!
Congratulations, Robert. Your patience paid off. I certainly understand your concerns about attending games during COVID. It is very easy to sell tickets on the secondary market. The league and the Packers have a relationship with Ticketmaster where you can sell your tickets. We would like you to be able to attend all games, but if you cannot attend, this is a good way to make sure that the tickets get used. We prefer that you sell your tickets to Packers fans. If you choose to sell your tickets through Ticketmaster as some other ticketholders in your same situation have done, our website has instructions on how to do so. Our ticket office team can also walk you through the process.
Dave from Escanaba, MI
Mr. Murphy, can you fill us in on a couple of numbers?
(1) How many copies of the Packers new anthology book(s) were shipped in these last few weeks for Christmas presents? A few of us were waiting for Mr. Christl to finish and are happy he took the time to be accurate.
(2) How many new shareholders and shares to date? A curious former shareholder (I passed mine on to my daughters) wants to know.
Sure, Dave. I agree with you regarding "The Greatest Story in Sports." Cliff did an excellent job with the book and took the time to make sure he got it right. We had 10,000 books printed and are close to having them all sold. Additionally, we will be ordering a second printing to ensure we have this book available in the future as it is a timeless resource that many Packers fans will want to have in their homes. Regarding the stock sale, as of yesterday, we had 164,920 purchasers and 182,054 shares purchased.
A question from Bill.
Since you were an accomplished NFL player with a career of eight years, I wanted to ask you some general questions about special teams.
You played for Washington at the end of the George Allen coaching era there. Coach Allen placed a large emphasis on ST and I just found out he even wrote a book about ST.
During your career, did you play on ST? Was playing on ST a chore that you were happy to leave behind when you became a starting or key defensive player? Did you ever play on ST for Coach Allen?
I hope you and your family have a great holiday season. Thanks for your insights and your willingness to answer such a wide array of questions from happy and unhappy fans.
Thanks, Bill. Yes, I was very fortunate to play my rookie year for George Allen. You're right, he was ahead of his time in terms of emphasizing special teams. I did play special teams my entire career. My first two years, I played on all four special teams (kickoff coverage and return, punt and punt return). My last six years, I played on the kickoff and punt teams. On the punt team, I was the personal protector. I called the signals for the punt team (and actually caught a pass for a first down once). The squads were much smaller then (I think 45 for most of my career) and it was more common for starters to play on special teams. When I became a starter, I still enjoyed playing on special teams. I viewed it as a way to help the team.
As I look back on my career, I realize how fortunate I was to play for Coach Allen. I learned so much about defense and special teams from him, even though it was only one year. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for a reason.
Steve from Nashotah, WI
Hi Mark, you've excelled in every aspect of your role in Green Bay. My question is not about the team with the best record in the NFL right now, but about officiating. Are there any new initiatives you would like to see to increase the quality of officiating for NFL players and fans alike?
Thanks so much, Steve. I appreciate your kind words. An initiative that I think would help improve the quality of officiating would be to add a sky judge to the officiating crew. This has been proposed before but didn't have quite enough support. It is really a matter of utilizing the technology that's available to make sure that the correct call is made. Interestingly, this year the league office has used the video assistant in a similar manner to correct obvious mistakes. It helps speed up the game by eliminating the need for replay reviews on plays where an obvious mistake was made by the on-field officials.
Bonus Question from Stephen in Palos Park, IL
Good morning Mark Murphy, can you please pass onto Brian Gutekunst that is was a great move picking up Rasul Douglas from the practice/offseason only squad of the Arizona Cardinals? He has been great on defense so far, including a couple of times that he has intercepted the ball, and then running it in for a defensive touchdown. Which includes the game coming out of our bye week against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field, and he even bit the hand that once fed him in the Arizona Cardinals game back at the end of October. In that game I had no idea who he is and had to look him up to see that we had gotten him off of their practice/offseason squad, and if he keeps playing the way he has so far, he will deserve to get a pay raise. Can he be the missing spark the Packers had the last couple of seasons, that had them in the NFC Championship Game the last two seasons, that saw them lose to the same team the Packers lost to coming out of the bye? This year that curse is over, since the Packers were scheduled to play the Chicago Bears coming out of their bye, and there is no way the Chicago Bears will be in the playoffs or even advance that far. And could he be the spark to maybe even get a Super Bowl victory? I hope everybody has a great holiday season, no matter what holiday they are celebrating this season, and a Happy New Year.
I've decided that MT5 will have a special bonus question this month. Consider it a holiday gift, Stephen. Brian Gutekunst has made many great moves this year, but adding Rasul Douglas may well have been the most impactful (and certainly the most surprising). I give Brian and his staff a lot of credit for seeing the potential in Rasul, and for continually working to improve our roster. Our coaches have done an excellent job with Rasul as well. A lot of credit obviously also goes to Rasul. It is truly amazing what he has accomplished this year. It's one of the great stories in the league this year.