It is nice to honor such things but what this commemoration points out that it has been 10 years since the Packer won the whole thing. 10 years of Brett Favre at quarterback, 10 training camps, 10 drafts and 10 years of year-end disappointment. The loss to the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII, Favre's half-dozen interceptions versus the Rams in 2001, losing at home in the playoffs for the first time in 2002 and fourth-and-26 are all fixed in infamy.
The conventional wisdom is that no one can argue that the Packers have been as successful since Ron Wolf took over as any team in the league. The Cowboys, Patriots and Broncos have won more Super Bowls, but no one has been as consistent. The Ray Rhodes year was hard and last year was dreadful, but the Packers have been a model franchise since Wolf took over in the early '90's. They are near the top in wins, playoff appearances, attendance, income and many other performance indicators that gauge accomplishment. That is all nice but ultimately they have only achieved the championship once in the last 40 years. They have the history and lore that most teams would kill for. Their players and coaches are icons in the football universe. The stadium is legendary. What they need is to win it all.
Green Bay is appropriately called Titletown, USA, but that name was earned in another time. Here is a list of teams that have won more Super Bowls over the past 20 years:
Patriots – 2005, 2004, 2002
Cowboys – 1996, 1994, 1993
San Fran – 1995, 1990, 1989
Denver – 1999, 1998
Washington – 1992, 1988
Giants – 1991, 1987
Six teams have out-performed the Pack. Pittsburgh, Tampa, Baltimore, St. Louis and the hated Bears have all won once since the 1986 Super Bowl. The Packers are one of 11 teams that have achieved the pinnacle in the past 20 years. By weighing the number of championships and then looking at who has won most recently, I rank the Packers as the 10th best NFL franchise in the league over the past 20 years. The Steelers, Bucs, Ravens and Rams have all won the thing more recently. Only the Bears lag behind.
I do not want to be a critic or a downer to the Green and Gold faithful, but the name of the game is to win the Super Bowl. Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing, right? That become popular around here, didn't it? Curly won it six times in 30 years. Vince won it five times in nine years. The Packers are working on their fourth coach in under nine years. They have had arguably the game's greatest talent at QB. They have a glorious tradition, but they did not capitalize on their chances as fans would have hoped.
So the Packers can celebrate the 10th year anniversary of Super Bowl XXXI all they want. Let the marketing guys and PR department handle it. Let the old-timers come back to be seen. Let the fans buy the books and hats and T-shirts. What I want the players, coaches and scouts to worry about is winning another Super Bowl. Anyone who works for the Packers or cheers for them had better not find any fault with that. We can talk all we want about rebuilding years a long-term outlook and such, but nothing short of a championship should satisfy anyone. I know they cannot win it every year, but you can and should come pretty close. I will leave that up to the readers to decide where the Packers rank.
Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.