When Packers fans look back on the 2008 season five years from now, they will see it as a success, despite their 6-10 record.
They will wonder how the decision to choose Aaron Rodgers over a declining Brett Favre was ever a decision at all, like Brady vs. Bledsoe or Aikman vs. Walsh.
They will look back and see the start of something special -- maybe not as special as the Favre era (certainly less hero worship) -- but a rare successful transfer of power from one elite quarterback to the next.
Make no mistake: 2008 Green Bay Packers were not your average 6-10 football team.
They outscored their opponents by 29 points, had a +7 turnover differential, and finished fifth in the league in scoring. In short, they were unlucky.
You can believe that Aaron Rodgers doesn’t possess some bogus trait that makes quarterbacks solely responsible for winning close game in the ultimate team sport, or you can see Green Bay’s seven losses in 2008 by five points or less for what it was: a fluke.
This power ranking is not based on Green Bay’s boffo preseason.
G.M. Ted Thompson built his offense up the right way, with homegrown talent all over the offensive line, and at the skill positions. Some of the picks weren’t popular at the time (Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson), but they have given Green Bay enviable depth at every position except tackle. Even tight end is deep, with emerging receiver Jermichael Finley a sleeper to score a half dozen times.
This is an an offense that should be in the top ten in scoring for a long time, so they just need their defense to be average in order to contend for the division title.
The Packers hired defensive coordinator Dom Capers to install a flexible 3-4 defense. Capers is a big upgrade in terms of coaching talent and the move should pay off in the long run, but it requires the majority of the defenders to undertake new responsibilities.
Green Bay has the linebackers necessary to pull off the move, and their defensive line has potential if first-round pick B.J. Raji emerges alongside Cullen Jenkins, one of the most underrated players in football. The secondary is hoping Al Harris and Charles Woodson don’t get old all at once.
If defense coalesces, it’s hard to find a weakness in this roster. The NFC North looks better than it has in memory, but there is nothing stopping the Packers from winning it.
We trust their head coach and quarterback a lot more than their rivals in Minnesota. Brett Favre said previously that he wanted to join the Vikings in 2008 out of revenge, but perhaps Rodgers and Thompson will be the ones exacting revenge for all the drama Favre has put them through the last four years.
Key Player: Rodgers. He doesn’t need to get better necessarily, but he does need to stay healthy despite a shaky situation at tackle.
Rookie to watch: Raji. He could split time between end and tackle, but he’ll be a key to the run defense at either spot.
Best veteran acquisition: None. Just not Ted Thompson’s style.
Key game: Week Eight, vs. Vikings. Do we really need to explain this one?