Packers Periscope: '23 Farewell, '95 in Dallas and More

What a run. While many of us are torn between "Hey, we're the youngest team in the league. We shouldn't have been there!" and "Man, we HAD that game. We should have won," in all, it was a fantastic run by a team that has the highest ceiling we've seen in years. The fact of the matter is, the Packers went toe-to-toe with the best team in the NFC and pushed them around for most of the game. While ultimately their youth showed and the Niners showed why they're the top dog, it's extremely exciting to see this team playing like one of the league's best in spite of their limited experience.

So for the final time this year, let's raise up the Periscope and take a look at the past, present and future of this Packers team.

The Past

At 2-5, these guys were toast. They were objectively a bad football team to watch. But after coming close in Pittsburgh and then eeking out a win against the Chargers, something happened. They went into Detroit and pushed around one of the NFC's best Lions and pulled off a huge and momentous win. It spurred the entire run. Yes, there were some clunkers in there, but this team had something had clicked with this team, namely the offense. Love looked more confident. The receivers were getting open. Defensively, the bend-but-don't-break was keeping the games close. The youngest team in football was learning not just how to play, but how to win in the NFL.

Wrapping up the season with wins in Carolina and Minnesota, then the finale against the Bears at home, they earned a playoff berth. And did they ever take advantage. Just absolutely throttling the Dallas Cowboys in every facet, they earned a spot against the 49ers. And while they ultimately fell short in that game, it feels like something has happened. We have our quarterback. We have a whole pile of a receivers who can flat out play. We have a 29-year-old running back who is going to force his way back onto a team when other running backs at his age would be let go. And while questions surely remain, especially in regard to defensive coordinator, the foundation has been laid and then some. They're ready. Now it's up to Brian Gutekunst to use his resources to make this team better. And for the players to put the onus on themselves to improve as well.

I'm left thinking about the 1995 team that went down to Dallas with something to prove after being beaten soundly by the Cowboys in the divisional round the year prior. After defeating the Falcons in the Wild Card, then went to SanFran in the divisional round and upset the Niners to earn a spot against their nemesis Cowboys. Leading the game entering the fourth quarter, a 14-point effort from Dallas ultimately put them in front and advanced to the Super Bowl. It was an extremely tough loss for a team that, like the 2023 version, seemed to be figuring it out. And the following season, the 1996 Packers were the best in football and got over that hump.

I'm not one to ever post highlights of a loss, but I'm including the 1995-96 NFC Championship. Watch it. Remember how much that sucked, and remember what came after. That's exactly how I feel about this team. They're rock solid, but need some pieces to get to the Super Bowl. But they, and their quarterback, are ready.

The Present

Well, Matt LaFleur did it. He fired Joe Barry. I always appreciated Joe and his candidness when we saw him, and by all accounts he was a very good guy. Just not a good enough defensive coordinator. I'm thankful that LaFleur saw what we all did. If he wants this team to be better and have a championship offseason, he needs to get a better defensive coordinator. While Barry's defense played well enough down the stretch, there are just too many cracks in how they operate to win a Super Bowl. We could all see it -- we certainly did on the 49ers final drive on Saturday. This team lacks the edge defensively to be one of the best in football. It remains to be seen if Barry's replacement will do that, but of the likely candidates, I feel good about it.

It's always a bummer when a tight-knit team like this one has turnover, but such is football. But the core will remain, and it's up to LaFleur and the rest of the locker room's established culture to ensure whatever new players who come in adapt to it. In case there were doubts about the culture with the team, just look at Jon Runyan Jr.'s interview yesterday.

The Future

With limited cap space and a couple big questions on the likes of David Bakhtiari, Gutekunst has his hands full. But I'm sure he and Russ Ball have had a plan, and will execute when the time comes. As for the Draft, a stockpile of picks will help both fill some immediate holes and continue the team's draft and develop philosophy. With how this year's rookies performed, there's no reason they can't find a couple immediate contributors with all the picks they have. And given last year's free agency losses, they could be getting as many as three compensatory picks as well. This team has the resources needed to improve and improve quickly.

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed writing this column every week, and glad so many of you liked it. To me, the history is what makes the Packers the Packers and I love to focus on it while researching cool old clips. So look for that to continue. In the meantime, find me on Twitter (I'll never call it X) @TonePackTone and I'll see you next season! Go Pack Go!




Tony Wilson takes pride in journalism training from 2/3 of directional-Michigan MAC schools. A former Sporting News writer, Tony now focuses on the Packers from his home in Toledo, OH. His beer of choice is a Miller Lite from the bottom of the cooler. You can find him on Twitter @GlassCityPack.


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4 points

Comments (3)

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Cheddarhed's picture

January 24, 2024 at 07:13 pm

I noticed that the amount of penalties dropped from earlier in the season also .

2 points
Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

January 25, 2024 at 08:26 am

RE: DC position…I think that the way the season played out will have eligible defensive coordinators salivating at the chance to win a ring in GB. The run we went on and the playoff success will have everyone take notice that we will be a force for the foreseeable future. Finally, compatible football…the offense’s performance will result in a better D in the future.

1 points
T7Steve's picture

January 25, 2024 at 09:11 am

Thanks Tony! I've enjoyed this all season and hope you won't desert us till next season. There're allot of history segments you could do about the Packers (team and players) trying to survive through off-seasons that would be interesting. Like some of the stories about the guys having to find work or go into the military service or the Packers being saved by our arch enemy George Hallas.

0 points