The sting of an NFC Championship blowout loss will probably weigh on the minds of the players, coaches, and fans until next September for the Green Bay Packers. But even with such an emotional loss, we shouldn’t forget what the 2019 Green Bay Packers accomplished.
Their road to an unprecedented 13-3 record began before the season started towards the end of a disappointing 2018 campaign that saw Green Bay go 6-9-1 — and, ultimately, saw the firing of ex-head coach Mike McCarthy.
Don’t Forget About the 2019 Green Bay Packers
A New Face in Green Bay
General Manager Brian Gutekunst had an almost impossible task in searching for a new head coach for Green Bay. A head coach that would help return them to a competitive team after missing the playoffs for two-straight seasons.
Whatever was said during the interview process was enough to convince Gutekunst that former Tennesee Titans offensive coordinator, Matt LaFleur, was the right man for the job. Which of course was followed by the immediate backlash of everyone outside of Green Bay, WI in appointing the 18th head coach in franchise history — because LaFleur had never been a head coach, prior.
How would LaFleur and the face of the franchise, Aaron Rodgers, coexist in a series of first for the future Hall of Famer? As it turns out — quite well.
While Rodgers didn’t have the superhuman season we’re accustomed to seeing, he did have a solid season nonetheless throwing for 4,002 yards, 26 touchdowns, and just four picks. You could debate whether Rodgers’ stats are impressive or not, but one of the coaching strategies LaFleur brought over from Tennessee was his usage of running backs.
Focusing on the Running Backs
Lewis proved to be a viable option with over 900 yards of total offense but the main workhorse came in Henry. Henry finished the 2018 campaign with 1,059 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.
Derrick Henry is a BEAST!
That’s a 99-yard touchdown. 🔥pic.twitter.com/yVz8UWwYvb
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) December 7, 2018
If there’s one thing LaFleur executed to near-perfection, then it’s using his running backs as weapons. LaFleur would go from Lewis-Henry to Jamaal Williams–Aaron Jones in 2019 and would have similar success.
Where the 2019 Green Bay Packers might have struggled outside of wide receiver Davante Adams on offense, the duo of Williams and Jones would be quite the tandem in Green Bay. Williams proved to be more of a receiving-back with 253 yards and five receiving touchdowns — which tied with Adams for most receiving touchdowns on the team.
— Cougs in the Pros (@BYUpros) October 28, 2019
While Jones would go on to have the best season of his young career in 2019 topping the 1,000-mark with 1,084 rushing yards and a staggering 22 total touchdowns, including the playoffs.
— NFL (@NFL) January 13, 2020
Whenever Rodgers needed a second or third option, either Williams or Jones was there. It was a gameplan that LaFleur relied on heavily due to the wide receiver class performing subpar.
But when it worked — it paid off in huge dividends. Something LaFleur and his staff will no doubt work on for the 2020 season.
With their instant impact on the field with each totaling over 10 sacks for the season, and their infectious love for each other and their team during every interview — which they always did together.
Yes, it’s no secret that defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense got shredded against powerful running backs — well, really just against the San Francisco 49ers — but when they weren’t being torn to shreds, they were creating takeaways and sacks — which had been missing from a team used to getting torn apart.
Green Bay’s defense knows there’s still room for improvement, but if the 2019 season was any indication, it’s a major step in the right direction towards becoming an elite defense.
Whether or not you’d like to absolve Green Bay for eliminating the Seattle Seahawks during the playoffs is up to you, but winning 13 games is hard — and winning playoff games are even harder.
The beauty of winning 13 games allowed Green Bay to grab the No. 2 seed in the NFC and guarantee at least one home playoff game at Lambeau Field — in which they went 7-1 during the regular season.
It has been two-straight seasons without a playoff appearance for Green Bay, so a return to form was an added bonus. Green Bay defeated Seattle in an extremely entertaining game to head back to the NFC Championship Game.
Again, a new head coach, Rodgers having fun, a ground game, and a defense bending but not breaking had created all of this.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be as San Francisco kicked in the teeth of Green Bay from the beginning, but again, using this as motivation knowing where the gap is should be fuel for the 2020 season.
A look to the Future
As mentioned at the top of this article, it’s extremely hard to get over critical painful playoff losses. But failure is what brings a team closer knowing how close they were to play for a Lombardi Trophy.
If this amount of success was sustained by LaFleur and Co. then they’re in good hands to being an NFC powerhouse again in 2020.
They’ll know the importance of getting the No. 1 seed and playing the NFC Championship Game at home rather than the road.They’ll know they have two versatile backs in Williams and Jones that can lead an offense. They’ll know the Super Smith Bros. will whip this defense into shape to play their best football.
And they’ll know that the window for a championship isn’t closed, but perhaps as open as its been for Rodgers in a long, long time.
There’s work to be done for this Green Bay team to take the next step, but they’ll get there with another strong draft class from Gutekunst and modeling this team to be its absolute best. They’ll get there. Don’t forget the 2019 Green Bay Packers and what they accomplished.
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