After the Green Bay Packers brought home the Vince Lombardi trophy after beating Pittsburgh 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV in 2011, much of Packer Nation thought the good times were going to roll.
There was delusional talk of a dynasty — even though nobody had won back-to-back Super Bowls since New England in 2004 and ‘05.
Since then, the Packers haven’t even reached the NFC Championship game, much less the Super Bowl.
Now the talk, especially among my fellow reporters, is that the Packers’ Super Bowl window has closed, that they are incapable of competing with the NFL’s heavyweights — i.e. Seattle, San Francisco, New England and Denver.
I beg to differ. To this veteran scribe, the Packers are alive and well and poised to make another Super Bowl title run for the following reasons:
* Aaron Rodgers. Now 30 years old, Rodgers is in the prime of his career and is unequivocally one of the game’s elite performers at the most critical position in the game.
* The Packers’ offense. It’s always been explosive under coach Mike McCarthy and, next season, it could be downright scary. Great QB. Excellent receiving corps. A dynamic young running back. And, perhaps most importantly, an offensive line that is more of an exclamation point than question mark.
* Improved health. It’ll be almost impossible for the Packers to be as banged up next season as they were last season when they lost their two prime-time players — Rodgers and outside linebacker Clay Matthews, their one and only difference-maker on defense — for a chunk of games.
Yes, the Packers have some major issues on defense — they need a quality safety in a bad way, along with another solid interior linebacker and lineman — and it’ll be incumbent on Packers general manager Ted Thompson to address those concerns this offseason in the draft and free agency.
If Thompson does his job, there is absolutely no reason the Packers can’t be in the Super Bowl title mix again.
Perhaps Thompson’s most crucial offseason decision will be whether to retain talented tight end Jermichael Finley, who is recovering from fusion surgery to his neck. Finley becomes a free agent March 11.
I’d be inclined to roll the dice and re-sign the enigmatic Finley, although one has to wonder whether he is more concerned about his bank account than staying in Titletown.
“I said it once before, I want to be a Packer for life,” Finley said at the Super Bowl. “But we all know this is a business and the Packers are going to take it as a business. But at the same time, I was playing at a high level when I got injured.
“At the end of the day, I can go give any team what they need and take them to the Promised Land, I can guarantee you that.”
And that team might not be Green Bay.
Added Finley: “I mean there’s a couple of teams I would love and would be on the first flight out to play with but, like I said, the Packers are going to come at me with something and I’m going to go to them first and see what they’ve got and, if it’s not, I would love to be on the first flight out to good old Seattle.’’
Feeling a draft
A longtime NFL scouting director was kind enough to pass along his draft projections for four former Wisconsin Badgers and Northern Illinois standout safety Jimmie Ward, who was born in Racine.
The scouting director believes UW linebacker Kyle Borland will go in the second round, while Badger wide receiver Jared Abbrederis is a third-round candidate. He also envisions UW running back James White being picked in the fifth round and UW tight end Jacob Pedersen going in the sixth.
As for Ward, he’s been climbing NFL teams’ draft boards after an exceptional collegiate season and a dazzling Senior Bowl, where he was chosen the Defensive Back of Senior Bowl.
According to the scouting director, Ward is likely a third-round pick but could wind up in the second round with a strong showing at the upcoming NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
Ward, who moved to Mobile, Ala., when he was about six, has already had discussions with a slew of teams, including the Packers and Chicago Bears, who desperately need a safety.
Hammes’ advice sought
The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce has hired the Hammes Co., to assess whether to renovate the BMO Harris Bradley Center or build a new arena.
Racine native Jon Hammes is the founder of the Brookfield-based company.
The Hammes Co. has been heavily involved with the construction of health care facilities but has also been involved in the construction or redesign of athletic facilities like Lambeau Field in Green Bay, the Kohl Center in Madison and MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., site of Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Interestingly, Hammes has also been linked as a potential buyer of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Gery Woelfel is a sports reporter for The Journal Times. Gery can be reached by calling (262) 634-1713 or by email at email@example.com