Bears fans’ worst nightmare: Hated Packers figure to get even better
RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org February 7, 2011 10:18PM
Nick Collins, whose 37-yard interception return for a touchdown was a key play Sunday, basks in the glow of the Packers’ Super Bowl victory as fans cheer the team as it arrives Monday at Lambeau Field. | Mike Roemer~AP
The early line
Odds to win Super Bowl XLVI from Bodog.com:
7-1: Green Bay
8-1: New England
12-1: San Diego
14-1: Indianapolis, New Orleans, Baltimore
16-1: Atlanta, Dallas, New York Jets, Philadelphia
20-1: New York Giants
35-1: Houston, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Minnesota
40-1: San Francisco, St. Louis, Tennessee
50-1: Washington, Detroit, Oakland
60-1: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Jacksonville
100-1: Buffalo, Carolina
Updated: May 14, 2011 4:57AM
DALLAS — Other than a Super Bowl MVP award and a share of the Lombardi Trophy, the quarterback has no baggage.
The general manager actually knows how to build a team through the draft.
The coach has enough confidence in his players that he lets them be measured for Super Bowl rings the night before the game.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Packers are going to be very, very difficult to beat whenever the NFL decides to play football again.
The Bears lost to them in the NFC Championship Game, but no one with decent eyesight can say the teams are close. They’re in the same division, not the same league.
No one can question Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers anymore, not after he torched the Pittsburgh Steelers for 304 yards and three touchdowns Sunday in Super Bowl XLV.
No one can question GM Ted Thompson as a talent evaluator, not after the Packers finished the season with five starters on injured reserve and still won the Super Bowl. That’s called depth. Four of their first-round picks started for them Sunday. That’s called being right a lot. Three years ago, they traded legend Brett Favre so Rodgers could play. That’s called guts.
No one can question coach Mike McCarthy, who didn’t flinch when he lost wide receiver Donald Driver and cornerback Charles Woodson to injury during the game Sunday. He found a way to win.
Does any of this sound like the Bears? No.
We all know the NFL is a topsy-turvy enterprise. We all know that success one season doesn’t guarantee success the next.
But, man, do the Packers look good.
“It’s going to be exciting,’’ McCarthy said. “On paper, it’s a lot like this year. Coming out of training camp, it was the best football team that I had stood in front of. I knew that we were going to have an excellent opportunity to win the Super Bowl. When you look at our returning roster next year, it’s going to be the same type of situation.’’
Life isn’t fair, which is why Bears quarterback Jay Cutler forever will have to answer why he sat out most of the second half of the NFC title game. It’s a dumb question, considering he had a torn knee ligament and a long history of getting up after taking a beating.
But he was a major topic of conversation during Super Bowl week here, even though he wasn’t in attendance. That’s a good indication the debate isn’t going away. It’s one of several issues Cutler will have to address in the offseason, another being whether it’s time for him to take a good look at himself. Can he be a better leader? A better teammate? Is it possible his way isn’t working?
Are the Bears going to demand he change?
Rodgers, a team player to the hilt, only has to answer questions about whether the Packers are capable of repeating as champions.
“It’s a challenge, but I feel like we are kind of reloading,’’ he said. “We are going to have the best tight end in the NFL [Jermichael Finley] back into the mix here. We are getting, I think, 15 guys back from [injured reserve]. I’m sure a number of those guys will be back.
“It will be a different team. Every team has a different face to it. Every year, different players, guys come and go, but I think the core, the nucleus of this team, is intact to make runs like this for the next four or five years.”
Is Angelo taking notes?
The Bears hardly had any injuries in 2010, and chances are slim they’ll have similar luck in 2011. Packers starters missed 91 games, by far the most in the NFL. The odds would seem to favor them having better health next time around.
Bears general manager Jerry Angelo likely is staring at the Green Bay blueprint as we speak, but unless he learns talent evaluation through a correspondence course, he’s going to be behind his Packers counterpart.
Thompson found cornerback Tramon Williams, who went undrafted in 2006, on the Houston Texans’ practice squad. That was Williams breaking up Ben Roethlisberger’s last-gasp pass near the end of the game Sunday.
Thompson used a sixth-round pick this season on running back James Starks, who missed his senior year at the University of Buffalo with a shoulder injury. That was Starks tearing up the Eagles in a playoff game last month.
Thompson jumped at the chance to take Rodgers when 23 teams passed on him in the first round of the 2005 draft. You saw what Rodgers did.
“People are going to write stories about him 10 years from now,’’ Thompson said. “He’s pretty special. Even though he’s done so much, he’s still just kind of getting started.’’
Scary stuff for the Bears, or at least it should be.