I have always hated when people talk about how young a team is because it is nothing but a number. If you understand modern professional football you understand that to play at the big boy level you have to be pretty damn good. Guys don't make the NFL by accident. By the time they play for the Green Bay Packers they have been conditioned for success. They were the best at their colleges and they have faced the pressure of playing big-time football.
Take for example someone like A.J. Hawk, who was everything at Ohio State. He played on one of the best teams ever assembled in college and he had to deal with the pressure of every game being a big game. I'm sure he grew up a lot because everything about football was magnified at Ohio State. Every game was a big game, and that went for so many of the players that were the foundation of the Green Bay Packers. Many of these ‘young players' grew up understanding the BIG TIME and everything that went with it, so it didn't phase them at the NFL level. It didn't scare them, they learned to thrive on it.
Often times we have heard Ted Thompson talk about Packer People and I think I'm starting to understand what that means. I think it means going and getting young players by age, but seasoned players by ability. I know many teams try to do the same thing, but I believe Ted has figured it out because look at the talent that he has assembled for Mike McCarthy. Don't get me wrong, just because he gets the talent Mike McCarthy still has to make it work, but it's a lot easier to work with when you have guys like James Jones, Greg Jennings, Atari Bigby, Aaron Rouse, Nick Collins and Ryan Grant, to name a few. The reason I named these guys is because Ted Thompson understood the hunger in these players. These guys had something to prove and Mike McCarthy gave them that platform. They saw that Greg Jennings had some great numbers in college, but they visualized what he could do in the pros and, for that matter, they did the same thing with James Jones. So far they have been more than right.
Now if you look at the safety position, this team probably has more strength in this position than it ever had. Two years ago it was one of the weakest positions and now, with the play of Bigby, Rouse and Collins if they can stay health this position is in good hands for the next 6 to 7 years at least.
Ted Thompson has enabled this team to insert a player here and there with no wholesale changes. The rebuilding has been complete, and it happened in a short time, didn't it? The Packers went from 4-12 to 8-8 to 13-3 and I believe because of the players that are part of the foundation there is no reason they shouldn't have a better season next year.
Understand that every move Ted makes isn't going to make us all dance because I'm still not sold on the Justin Harrell draft pick, or the re-signing of Cullen Jenkins last year. They gave him a bunch of money because he was a better run stopper than Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. But at the same time I have to say, so far, he has hit on more than he missed.
When I say ‘him' I should say ‘they' and throw Mike McCarthy in there as well because they have a great working relationship. Ted seems to know what Mike needs and, trust me, that's not always the case. I went threw those growing pains back when Wolf and Holmgren were together because Wolf didn't understand the type of players that was needed for the WEST COAST OFFENSE. He thought that an athlete would do, and the staff spent a bunch of time educating him and Ted Thompson on the difference between the two.
I believe that this team is, so far, ahead of the Thompson plan. I think he thought he hired the right coach in Mike McCarthy, and now he knows he has, but now the work is just starting. It's one thing to get there, but now they have to stay there and I believe they can stay as one of the power teams of the NFL for some time, especially if they stay on the same page and understand that AGE AIN'T NOTHING BUT A NUMBER, just ask Brett!!!!!
Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.