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
The NFL established the NFL Kickoff concept 12 years ago and the game has evolved to have the defending Super Bowl champions "kick off" the new season by hosting a Thursday night game (the Ravens were unable to host last year due to a conflict with the Orioles). It is a chance to celebrate the start of the season and allow the Super Bowl champion's fans to unveil the championship banner. The NFL has always made this game a special event, but it has really grown in recent years. We've had the good fortune to play in two kickoff games, in 2011 and 2014, and I noticed a number of improvements in the quality of the event in those three years. The League held a number of events in Seattle in the days leading up to the game, and the event is beginning to have the feel of a Super Bowl. I would also note that it is much more enjoyable to host the NFL Kickoff than to play in it as a visiting team!
Since the NFL Kickoff game really serves as a coronation of the Super Bowl champions, the atmosphere in the stadium is electric and the home team has a significant advantage. In the 13 NFL Kickoff games that have been played, the home team is now 11-2 (the 49ers beat the Giants at Giants Stadium in 2002 and the Cowboys beat the Giants at MetLife Stadium in 2012).
So, while I was disappointed with our performance against the Seahawks on Thursday night, it was not a shock that we lost, and I do think we can learn a lot from the experience. First, we will play in a number of prime-time games this year, and hope to play in pressurized games in the postseason, and the experience of playing in the NFL Kickoff game will help us get ready for those games. Also, I think it is a real advantage to play a strong team like the Seahawks in the opener. You learn a lot about yourself and your weaknesses when you play a strong team, and we have time to make the needed corrections. The NFL season is long, and we will face many ups and downs, and you can't put too much emphasis on any one game, whether it be a loss or a win. There is an old football adage that the biggest improvement in a team is between the first and second games. I fully expect we will be a much improved team when we play the Jets in our home opener on Sept. 14.
Now, for your questions:
Torie from Louisville, KY
I'm originally from Henderson, Kent., but now I reside in Louisville, Kent. I've been a huge Packers fan since I was six. Now I'm 24. I want to know what your favorite Packers game is.
Thanks, Torie. I'm glad you became a Packers fan at such a young age, and it's great you've stayed loyal to us. In terms of my favorite Packers game, it's hard to top the win in Super Bowl XLV. The win over the Bears to win the division and get us into the playoffs in the last game in the regular season last year was pretty special, as well, especially considering the injuries and adversity we overcame.
Trevor from Raton, NM
What do you think will help the Packers this year?
Good question, Trevor. I think our pass rush will be a key factor in helping us win this year. I've been very impressed with what I've seen of Julius Peppers so far. I think he, along with Clay Matthews, will give us a much-improved pass rush this year, which will be a huge help to our defense. Of course, we have to stop the run to get the opposing team in passing situations.
Brandon from Rowlett, TX
What are the goals for this year and where do you expect the Packers to be a year from now?
As an organization, we have two main goals. First, we want to win championships, and that starts with winning the NFC North. Ultimately, we also want to win the Super Bowl. The other main goal is to ensure the team stays in Green Bay. For the team to stay in Green Bay, we have to be financially sound, and it is also important the local community is strong financially. For this reason, we do as much as we can to spur economic development in the local area and to support the local community through charitable donations. I think the Packers will remain strong, both on and off the field for the next few years. Financially, we will remain strong due to having seven years remaining on a very positive CBA, and we have several lucrative long-term agreements in place on both the national and local levels. On the field, we have a solid core of young players, Aaron Rodgers is still in the prime of his career and should be competitive for the foreseeable future.
Robert from Kansas City, MO
Mr. Murphy, do you ever foresee a future where Brett Favre's number and jersey will be retired in Green Bay? There had been a lot of controversy surrounding his departure when in all actuality it worked out for Green Bay with the selection of Aaron Rodgers. He has proven to be the overwhelmingly favorite QB for the team since Brett Favre left. Is it time to heal the relationship with Brett and bring him back home?
Thanks for raising this question, Robert. I'm glad I can finally answer it! We're very pleased to be able to bring Brett back into the family. I think retiring his number at the 2015 Hall of Fame induction ceremony is a great idea. It should be a very special, positive night. We will unveil his number during a game in the 2015 season to ensure our season-ticket holders have a chance to see Brett back at Lambeau Field. We're also hopeful he will come back for a game this fall. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the key role Bob Harlan played in making this possible. Having Brett back involved with the Packers is good for Brett, the organization and, most importantly, our fans.
Ken from Middleton, WI
I hope the NFL can start a new rule regarding a team's practice squad. Each year teams steal players from each other after the season starts. If the Packers see a player not developing, they can cut him. How can a team develop players or (a minor league) when the squad gets raided all the time?
Great question, Ken. As you may have heard, the NFL and NFLPA recently agreed to a number of changes to the teams' practice squads. The practice squad was increased from eight to 10, and changes were made to make more players eligible for the practice squads. In terms of stealing players from other teams' practice squads, I think the NFLPA would be very reluctant to change this practice. Practice squad players are, in essence, free agents and can sign with any team. In order to be placed on the practice squad, they have to first clear waivers. It is important to note if a team wants to keep a player when another team tries to sign him, they can free up a roster spot and move him to the active roster, or try to keep him by increasing his salary on the practice squad. On the broader issue of how to develop young players, this is something that has become more difficult under the new CBA. There are fewer practices in training camp and the regular season, and fewer practices in pads. Also, especially for certain positions such as quarterback and offensive line, actual game experience is crucial in the development of players. I anticipate this will be a topic of discussion with the NFLPA in the future.