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:
Although both teams are long shots to make the playoffs, there will be a lot at stake Sunday when the Packers visit the Bears. Each team has 786 regular-season wins, tied for the most in NFL history. The last time the Bears did not lead the NFL in all-time regular season wins was December of 1921. So, if the Packers win on Sunday, they will join the Bears and the Buffalo All-Americans as the only teams that have led the NFL in all-time regular season wins in the last 101 years. (No, the All-Americans did not become the Bills – they became the Bisons, then the Rangers and then the Bisons again, and eventually folded in 1929. The Bills joined the NFL when the AFL merged with the NFL in the 1960s.)
We greatly value our relationship with the Bears, and have tremendous respect for George McCaskey, Ted Phillips and their leadership team. Our rivalry with the Bears is the longest in the NFL and, in my mind, the best in the NFL. Regardless of both teams' records, you always know that our games will be hard-fought. That will certainly be the case on Sunday, with the Packers having a chance to make history in this great rivalry.
Now on to your questions.
A question from Larry E.
Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the league, and he needs help. He needs wide receivers PLEASE! Get him some help!
P.S. Sign me, check out my tapes.
I have heard this complaint from a number of fans this year. Larry sent this email the day of our Cowboys game. This is a good example of how quickly things can change in the NFL. Since then, Christian Watson has taken the league by storm, with 12 catches and six touchdowns in three games. He was recently named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month. Christian struggled with injuries in training camp and the early season, but it has been great to see what he can accomplish when healthy. Until he sustained a high ankle sprain in the Lions game, Romeo Doubs was off to a great start, with 31 catches and three touchdowns. We are hopeful that he will play against the Bears. Samori Toure has shown flashes this year as well. Going forward, we feel very good about our corps of young wide receivers. Also, I think Jordan Love has shown great progress this year. Although it was a short sample, his performance in the Eagles game was very encouraging. Thanks for the offer to sign you, Larry, but we will pass.
Jason from Hobart, WI
I know that you are a football guy, but have you watched much of the World Cup this fall?
Yes, absolutely, I've enjoyed watching many of the games from Qatar. During my 17 years as a collegiate athletic director, I developed a great appreciation for soccer. I also enjoyed watching my three daughters play soccer over the years, including my daughter Emily who helped her Hamilton Central School team win a New York state high school championship. It was a thrill to host the soccer friendly at Lambeau Field between Bayern Munich and Manchester City. I was glad to see the United States make it to the knockout round in the World Cup. Football is obviously the most popular sport in the United States, but we realize that soccer is king worldwide.
Jane from Milwaukee, WI
How are the television ratings for NFL games this year? It seems that more and more people are cutting the cord and watching shows on streaming devices.
You're right Jane, people are not watching television the way they used to. Television viewership overall is down. The ratings for NFL games are down (about 4%), but not as much as the ratings for television overall. Sports in general, and the NFL in particular, are the exception in that people watch games live. Of the top 50 rated television shows this year, 47 are NFL games. Our game against the Cowboys was the highest rated game through Week 10 with 29.2 million viewers. The Giants-Cowboys game on Thanksgiving had over 44 million viewers, the most ever for a regular-season game. Overall, the NFL is doing well in a changing landscape. The move of Thursday Night Football to Amazon has been a positive for the league and has allowed the league to reach a younger demographic.
Ted L. from Madison, WI
There seems to be two narratives going about Aaron Rodgers' thumb. Packers.com (the Insider Inbox and quotes from Coach LaFleur) are all bullish about how a four-time MVP can be an effective quarterback with a broken thumb and we have to play him to give us our best chance of winning every week (from the Jets game on down to the Bears this Sunday). The other narrative which is on all the click-bait sites but also Sports Illustrated and some other reputable sites is that this kind of thumb injury requires immediate surgery and Rodgers has rarely looked like Aaron Rodgers, his poor play has hurt the team, and playing him is a bad gamble. We have lost five of six games with the broken thumb on the field and there seems to be no talk of it healing (at one point Rodgers said it needed a week or two off to heal). Not being the kind of doctor (much less having examined the thumb), it still seems like the decision to play him vs. heal him involved some pretty big risks. My questions for you are: Who makes these calls? What is the calculus for making them? What does "accountability" look like when the dust has settled?
You raise a very important issue, Ted. Decisions on whether or not an injured player should play are extremely important to both the player and the team. First, and foremost, it is a medical decision. If our team physician, Pat McKenzie, doesn't think a player should play, he will not play. Pat looks out for the long-term interest of the player and has often said that he treats them the way he would his own son. In determining whether a player can play with an injury, the main issues are whether he will be able to protect himself and whether he will be able to play effectively. As you can imagine, many players will push hard to play. I have tremendous respect for Aaron Rodgers for his willingness and ability to play through injuries over the years. He is very much old-school in this regard. Playing through injuries is a great source of pride for him. When he broke his collarbone in 2013, he wanted to play again quickly, but we held him out until the final game of the season in Chicago when he led us to a win and a division title. As you note, there is always risk involved in these decisions, and a key is good, open communication between the player and the medical staff.
A question from Jason B.
Hello Mark. Since it is Cowboys week, I figured this would be the time to ask the question. Have the Packers thought about building an indoor practice field that would resemble the STAR that the Cowboys have? This would be something that could be used in Level 4 for the high school playoffs and also if the venue is big enough the WIAA state finals.
Great question, Jason. The short answer is no. We are very pleased with our indoor facility, the Don Hutson Center, and have put a lot of money into maintaining it over the years. The Hutson Center does not have any seating, but we do periodically allow college and high school sports teams to practice in it when the weather turns bad around this time of year. As I mentioned in a recent MT5, we are building a new football facility that will be complete next June, but it does not have any public aspect to it. We're very excited about the impact the new facility will have on our team.