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.
At the halfway point of the season, it is obvious that we are a very different team than last year. We still have eight games to play, though, and we haven't accomplished anything yet, but our play on the road so far has been especially encouraging. We're 3-0 on the road thus far, with wins over the Bears, Cowboys and Chiefs – three teams that were division winners last year and have strong home-field advantages in their stadiums. Last year, we lost our first seven road games before sneaking out a win over the Jets in New York in overtime.
There's an old saying in the NFL that defense travels (because the crowd noise has a bigger impact on visiting teams' offenses), and our defense has certainly played a big role in the road wins. Head Coach Matt LaFleur and General Manager Brian Gutekunst also deserve credit for the changes that have been made. I think our fans have also been a big help. Our fans travel to away games as well as any fans in the league (with the possible exception of Steelers fans), and they showed up in large numbers for our last three road games. Tomorrow, when we play the Chargers (a talented team that was also in the playoffs last year), I expect that well over half of the fans in the stadium will be Packers fans. Dignity Health Sports Park is a soccer venue and only holds 27,000, so the Packers fans will be very noticeable. The Chargers are relatively new to Los Angeles and haven't established a large fan base there yet. Also, a lot of transplanted Wisconsinites live in southern California and, since the LA market was without an NFL team for over 20 years, many Californians adopted the Packers as their team. When we played the Rams last year, over half of the 90,000 people in the LA Coliseum were Packers fans.
The atmosphere in LA tomorrow will be great, which should help us get the second half of the season off to a good start.
Now, on to your questions…
A question from Eric
Hi Mark, how is the venture with Microsoft progressing?
We're very excited about TitletownTech and think it can have a significant impact on the regional economy. It has been up and running for a couple of months, but Microsoft president Brad Smith was not available until recently, so we held the grand opening on Oct. 18. It was also a chance to announce 12 new investors in the venture capital fund. The companies are all Wisconsin-based and the fund is now up to $25M. In terms of the types of companies TitletownTech will invest in, the focus will be on sports, technology, manufacturing and water-related businesses. At the grand opening, a company called Oculogica was highlighted. TitletownTech has invested in this company that will manufacture devices that can detect concussions by tracking eye movement.
Bill from Milwaukee
I can't believe that you didn't make any trades at the deadline this week. We have a chance to win the Super Bowl this year and you just sat on your a--. Same old bulls---.
Well, Bill, you certainly let us know how you feel. We were interested in potential trades, but not at any cost. GM Brian Gutekunst is always looking for ways to improve our roster, but he also knows how important draft picks are to the future of the team. Also, just because the trade deadline passed doesn't mean we aren't still trying to improve our roster. We will look at players that have been waived (in 2010, we picked up Howard Green off waivers in the second half of the season and he helped us win the Super Bowl). We also have the opportunity over the next two weeks to add players from the injured reserve and physically unable to perform lists. We also believe that several of our younger players will show significant improvement over the second half of the season. Finally, the chemistry on the team is very good right now, and consideration should be given to how new players may affect the locker room.
Nancy from Waukesha, WI
Will the players support social justice programs again this year? I thought that was great last year.
Thanks for raising the issue, Nancy. We plan to do something similar to what we did last year. We recently met with our players, and they formed a committee to select the programs. We will again provide $250,000 to be split evenly among five social justice programs. I anticipate that we will make an announcement regarding this within the week. It is inspiring to see how passionate our players are about these issues, and we are pleased to help them make a difference in the Green Bay and Milwaukee communities.
John from Clovis, CA
Hello Mr. Murphy, I love our Packers uniforms and how they connect us to our history in the Lombardi days. I hope they never change! Our throwback jerseys are great and allow us to connect to another era of the Packers' long history. However, I am always a little disappointed in our all-white "color rush" jerseys. It gives our favorite team that's filled with so much heritage a chance to let our hair down a little and have some fun and be fresh and new for a game. I think it would be absolutely amazing to have an all-yellow or all-green jersey for that once-a-year occasion. It would make the game extra fun and exciting and be a real treat for the eyes. Is there a chance that could happen in the next season?
Thanks, John. I'm glad you like our alternate jerseys. I think the historic third jerseys give us a chance to highlight our history. We will have a new historic third jersey next year. I know that our players like the all-white uniforms, and I've heard from many fans that they like them as well. I'm not so sure about the all-green, though!
Jim from Evanston, IL
As a former Wildcat, you must be really pleased to see the former Northwestern players playing so well for the Packers. How did we end up with so many players from Northwestern?
It has been great to have so many Northwestern players on the team the last few years. Dean Lowry, Tyler Lancaster and Danny Vitale all play key roles for us, and I anticipate that Ibraheim Campbell will be activated soon off the physically unable to perform list. They are all not only good players but also good people. Wes Hodkiewicz wrote an excellent article this week about Lancaster on our website. Tyler is a great success story, starting as undrafted free agent who wasn't even invited to the combine. He made the biggest play in the game against the Chiefs on Sunday night, forcing and recovering a fumble. With regard to how we've ended up with so many players from Northwestern, I know that Brian Gutekunst and his staff have very good relations with Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald, and they have great respect for Pat and know that his players are well-coached and smart, solid individuals.