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The winning way is the hard way

This editorial on the winning way examines why more teams don't follow the Packers' lead.


INDIANAPOLIS — Win the Super Bowl and you instantly become the team everybody wants to copy. How did they do it? OK, that's how we'll do it. Well, not this year; at least not by everybody.

Why not?

Because the Packers' way is too difficult, too demanding to copy. It requires patience, and patience is something that's in very short supply in today's NFL.

"If you have stable people at the top, have patience and can sustain continuity, you have a chance to sustain success. You make your own luck," Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith said over a cup of coffee at 5:30 on a Sunday morning in the Omni Hotel coffee shop. Smith was on his way to Lucas Oil Stadium, to stake out good seats for his scouting staff for Sunday's evaluations of quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs.

Hey, Gene, your right eye is flame red. You really should try getting some sleep.

He said he'd try.

Smith is a workaholic. He's a hands-on general manager. He lives to scout and he loves what the Packers have done in developing a roster of young players that've come through the draft. The Packers' way is his way. All he needs is time.

"It's a good model," Smith said.

No, it's the model. It's how all teams should do it, as evidenced by the fact that both teams in this year's Super Bowl adhere to the model.

So why won't there be a rush to do the same?

Because doing it the Packers' way means having to stick with that way in losing seasons. It means not firing the head coach after a couple of non-playoff years. It means standing firm in the face of fan criticism. It means being so committed to the model that you never crack and go for the quick fix.

"It's a year-to-year league," Smith said.

Not for the good teams.

For most of the league, the quick fix is the model. Most of the teams in the league delude themselves into believing they're one player away from the Super Bowl. Those teams spend each offseason chasing that one player. It's the mistake the Jaguars made; now they're paying the price.

The smart teams think only in terms of draft and develop. They don't think in terms of one player, they think in terms of an entire roster.

Smith loves the Packers' model. He lives by the philosophy of drafting the best available player. He has the staying power to be patient and not chase that one player. He knows, though he won't admit it for the record, that he's more than one player away.

"You can be a good drafting team but you have to have a good teaching team. You have to have a willingness to work with young players. It was obvious at the end of the year that they had a lot of young people on the field in what is the defining game of our profession," Smith said of the Packers.

"If you have the draft-develop philosophy, you have to have patience. (The Packers are) willing to let young people grow. I thought it was wonderful to see two teams (in the Super Bowl) with the same philosophy. I think that's the winning way," Smith added.

The key to that way is being able to stand strong in the face of defeat. Few teams possess that inner strength. They question themselves and their pace of development. They take the short cut and that's when they get lost.

That won't change. Even though the Packers proved to one and all by winning the Super Bowl that their way is the right way, and even though the NFL is very definitely a copy-cat league, the Packers are not a team most will copy.


Because they know they can't.

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