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.*
Since our season ended with the overtime loss to the Cardinals in Arizona, I've heard from many of our fans. The comments on the season have been extremely varied, running the gamut from people saying that the season was a failure, that I've accepted mediocrity and that Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy and I should be fired, to others commenting that they have never been more proud of our team for fighting through adversity and playing our best football in the playoffs.
I appreciate the input I receive from fans, and know that their passion for the team is sincere. In my position, though, I think it is important to make a big-picture, dispassionate evaluation of the season. There were several aspects of the season that were disappointing. We failed to win the division for the first time in five years, and lost to all three division opponents at home. Also, after a 6-0 start, we ended the regular season winning only four of the remaining games. On the other hand, we made the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year (only the Packers and Patriots have done that and it is a franchise record) and overcame adversity with injuries to key players throughout the season. We won a road playoff game against a hot Redskins team, and lost a heartbreaker in overtime to a strong Cardinals team.
As I look to the future, I feel very confident that we can continue to compete for a Super Bowl championship. Yes, we haven't won a Super Bowl since 2010, but it is very hard to win games in the NFL, let alone to win Super Bowls. We have given ourselves a chance in each of the past seven years. We have great leadership and stability with Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy. We continue to have a solid core of players, led by arguably the best quarterback in the league, Aaron Rodgers. As an organization, we are sound financially, and can provide the team with all the resources it needs to be successful. So, while the ending to the season was disappointing, and we didn't achieve our ultimate goal, the season was not a failure, and we have much to build on for the future.
Now, on to your questions:
Wally from Wabeno, WI
I don't think it is fair to the defense that quarterbacks can throw the ball away when they are about to be sacked. Do you think the NFL will change this rule?
Given the focus on player safety, Wally, I think it is very unlikely that the intentional grounding rule will be changed. Actually, quarterbacks can only throw the ball away without penalty when they are outside of the pocket (and the ball must go past the line of scrimmage). Quarterbacks have never been more important in the NFL, and it is important to keep them healthy.
Charles from San Francisco, CA
I see that the NFL recently extended its contract for Thursday night football. Is this good for the game? We now have games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights.
Thanks, Charles. This is an issue that we've discussed here in the past. The concern is overexposure – that there are so many NFL games in prime time that each game is no longer special. So far, the ratings for the NFL games have remained strong, with all of the networks at or near record levels for ratings. The Thursday night games on CBS did particularly well this year, increasing by 61 percent over the ratings from last year. Next year's Thursday night package will have 18 games – and be split between CBS, NBC and the NFL Network (five games will be simulcast on CBS and the NFL Network, five games will be simulcast on NBC and the NFL Network, and eight will be broadcast only on the NFL Network). The CBS games will be in the first half of the season, while the NBC games will be in the second half. The advantage to the NFL of having both CBS and NBC televise the games is that they will heavily promote the games throughout the week. The NFL also has the right to stream the Thursday night games live on the internet, and is hoping to find a partner for this soon.
Neal from Waukesha, WI
What are your thoughts on the Pro Bowl? Should they leave it as is or add a skills competition and make it a rising stars game like the NBA?
Since our coaches were coaching in the game this year (and we had four players all on the opposite team), I watched the game pretty closely. The quality of play is not great, and it is certainly different than regular-season play. Also, there were 42 players who declined to play this year for a variety of reasons. The league has worked very closely with the NFLPA in recent years to improve the quality of the game. They moved to the Pro Bowl draft format so that the teams are no longer aligned with conferences, and instituted a number of rules to make the game more exciting. Overall, I think the changes have been successful, but the players are still very concerned about the risk of injury. Since the league moved the game from the week after the Super Bowl to the week before the Super Bowl, the ratings have improved and the game does help promote the Super Bowl. I think the game will continue to be played and the league will look at changes that can be made to make the game more exciting, including changing the location of the game (even possibly to an international location).
Riley from Syracuse, NY
Will the Packers be required to wear color rush jerseys next year? If so, will they be green or yellow?
Good question, Riley. If you recall, this year many of the teams playing on Thursday night wore the color rush jerseys. It was optional, though, so not all teams wore the jerseys. We decided not to wear them for our game against the Lions. For next year, though, it will be mandated for teams to wear the color rush jerseys. We will make an announcement regarding our jersey color after the schedule is announced. I know that many fans view the color rush jerseys as a gimmick, but they are very popular with younger fans (and Nike).
Marvin from Fallon, NV.
I just read a story concerning NFL cheerleaders. The N.Y. Jets just settled a suit for $324,000. How do the Packers compensate their cheerleaders? We have amateur cheerleaders, Marvin. Our cheerleaders are the cheerleaders from St. Norbert College and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. We provide them with their uniforms, and cover all their expenses. The Packers used to have more traditional cheerleaders in the past, but moved to college cheerleaders in the 1990s.