Murphy Takes 5 is a monthly column written by President and CEO Mark Murphy. 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
**This season has been a roller coaster ride for the team and our fans. The season started off with a hard-fought, tight loss on the road to San Francisco. We then won five of the next six games to get to 5-2. Next, of course, came Aaron Rodgers' broken collarbone and the loss to the Bears. We ended up going 0-for-November (although the tie against the Vikings ended up being crucial for us). The low point of the season was the loss to the Lions on Thanksgiving. We rallied to win three of our last four games, highlighted by the division-clinching win at Chicago on Sunday.
I've been very proud of how our team has played all season. Although we've certainly had our ups and downs, our players have continued to play hard throughout the season, and the team has overcome great adversity. I'm really pleased we are hosting a home playoff game for the second year in a row. It's great for our fans and the local community and, most importantly, it's a big advantage for our team. The home team always has an advantage, and I think the advantage is enhanced in the postseason because the home crowd knows how much is at stake. Last year, for the Vikings playoff game, the atmosphere was electric, and the crowd was, by far, the loudest it had been all year. Also, the forecasted cold weather Sunday should be an advantage for us.
Some pundits have said it is unfair that Wild Card teams have to play on the road against Division winners with worse records. In fact, a few years ago, there was a proposal at a League meeting to seed all six playoff teams based on their records. The proposal ultimately failed, because people wanted to continue to place a premium on winning the division, and to reward the division-winning team's fans with at least one home game.
Sunday's game has the makings of a classic. The 49ers and Packers have developed a great rivalry over the years. Over the last two decades, the 49ers and Packers have played seven games in January. More recently, this will be the fourth meeting between the teams since September 2012. I know our players are very excited about the opportunity to play the 49ers at home and exact some revenge, as the 49ers have beaten us three straight times. In both games last season, I felt the 49ers dominated us. They controlled the line of scrimmage in both games and were able to run at will. Although we lost in the opener this year, to me, the game had a completely different feel to it. We matched the 49ers physically and had a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter.
Based on the way we played them in the opener, and closed out the season against the Bears, our players and coaches are confident going into Sunday's game. Make no mistake, though, the 49ers are an excellent team. They're the defending NFC champions and were 12–4 in the regular season this year. They also might be the hottest team in the League, having won six games in a row. Another reason for our team's confidence is the fact we're playing at home. The atmosphere at Lambeau Field should be tremendous.
Although it will be very cold on Sunday, I encourage all of our ticketed fans to come to the game, bring great energy and cheer loudly. Our team is facing a strong team and a great challenge, and we will need a huge homefield advantage to come away with a victory.
Now, on to your questions:
Jim from Antigo, WI
With the anticipated "Ice Bowl" type of temperatures for Sunday's game, how big of an advantage is the cold weather for the Packers?
We will find out on Sunday, Jim. I think a lot of the advantage will be mental, in that we've practiced and played games in cold weather and know we can handle it. Also, although many of our players are from the South and California, they live and practice in the weather here, and I do think you acclimate to the cold weather. The 49ers have a strong running game, which should serve them well on Sunday, but it was in the 60's all week in San Francisco, and they haven't played a game in freezing weather all season.
Abraham from Tokyo
I'm a lifetime Packers fan from West Bend, Wis., who's been living in Tokyo for the past 20 years. Here's my question for you. Back in the '90's, you played a preseason game here in Tokyo. Why can't you come and play again?
While I wasn't with the team when the preseason game was played in Tokyo, I know everyone in the organization appreciated the opportunity to experience Tokyo and the Japanese culture. I believe those games were called the American Bowls and, throughout the '90's, several preseason games were played in Japan and Mexico. It was really the NFL's first effort to grow the game internationally. Shortly after those games were played, the NFL established NFL Europe. While the League was very successful in developing young players, the feedback from fans was that they wanted to watch real NFL football, not a minor-league version. More recently, the League has established the London series, with three regular-season games set to be played in London next year. With the additional games in London, I think there's a good chance the Packers will play a game (an away game) in the coming years.
Steven from Winchendon, MA
I'm 23 and a soldier currently stationed in Korea and I was wondering what was it like seeing Aaron Rodgers become the great quarterback he is today?
Great question, Steven. I feel very fortunate in that my first full season with the Packers was Aaron's first year as a starter, so I have been able to closely watch his development. It has been very impressive. He is obviously a very physically gifted quarterback, but what has been most impressive to me has been his growth as a student of the game. He is similar to Peyton Manning now, in that he almost always gets us into the right play and teams are afraid to blitz him. Aaron is extremely intelligent, and has an outstanding work ethic, and these factors have been just as important in his development as his strong arm. I've also enjoyed watching his development as a leader. I know this has been a challenging year for Aaron, and I was very happy for him that he was able to make it back and lead the team to victory over the Bears. His play on fourth-and-8 to win the game will be part of his legacy, and go down as one of the greatest plays in Packers history.
Question from Gale
I have always wondered why don't the Packers have a mascot? Maybe a big block of cheese? Or a mouse with a cheesehead? Just a thought. I'm ready to quit my day job if you are hiring.
Thanks, Gale; very interesting question. Actually we do have a history of mascots. We were among the first teams in the League to introduce a mascot. In 1919, a dog named Olive was our mascot. He was named Olive because he liked to eat Durkee olives. Over the years, we've had other mascots, but haven't had one for many years. I don't anticipate adopting a new mascot anytime soon, so I wouldn't quit your day job.
Chet from Syracuse, NY
As a proud Packers fan trapped in Giants-Bills-Jets country, I often have a hard time watching the Packers play. I make a point to travel to Green Bay at least once a year to see a game live, but the rest of the time I need to seek out ways to watch games on TV, games that are not normally the first choice in my market. I wish there was some way I could pay for the NFL Sunday Ticket (without DirecTV) or NFL Game Pass - and I would gladly pay - so I wouldn't miss a play in any game. Are there any developments with regard to expanding the delivery of NFL games via alternate channels for US viewers?
As a transplanted Bills fan (I was born in Fulton, went to high school in Clarence (Buffalo) and attended college and later worked in Hamilton), Chet, I feel your pain. I never get to see the Bills play. Of course, I'm busy on most Sundays, but that's another story. With regard to your question, I think you may see some changes in the coming years with the Sunday Ticket or Game Pass. Next year is the last year of our contract with DirecTV, and the League is presently in an exclusive negotiating period with them. With the changes in technology in recent years, I think there will be more flexibility for fans to watch out-of-market games. In the short term, though, I would recommend you go to Packerseverywhere.com and find a Packers bar in the Syracuse area. I often hear from fans about how great it is to watch the games with other fans at Packers bars.