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The Dynasty That Wasn’t Is Dead

A year ago, Aaron Rodgers was hearing chants of “MVP.” On Thursday night, he heard boos as an icy-cold reality struck following a loss to the Titans.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers were booed into the locker room. And they were booed off the field when Aaron Rodgers’ fourth-down pass to Allen Lazard landed somewhere between Lazard and Nashville.

A year ago, Rodgers was hearing chants of “MVP.” On Thursday against the Tennessee Titans, the frozen fans voiced their frustration and anger before heading to the exits.

“Interesting,” Rodgers said of hearing the boos.

The boos were about the Packers’ performance, a putrid 27-17 loss, and so much more. The standings will suggest the Packers have a shot to emerge from the muddled middle of the NFC playoff race. The reality, of course, is something different.

“I don’t even know what to say,” coach Matt LaFleur said.

Where do the Packers go from here?

“Home,” Rodgers said.

Literally and figuratively, that’s true, because this season isn’t going anywhere.

The fan reaction wasn’t just about the frustration over what transpired on Thursday. Rather, it’s rooted in years upon years of frustration. When the Packers won the Super Bowl in 2010, the franchise’s future seemed impossibly bright. Rodgers was only 27 when he held the Lombardi Trophy on that magical night in suburban Dallas. The trophy not only was going back to Titletown but it was destined to stay there or, at least, come back another time or two.

The 2011 team went 15-1 and lost in the divisional round. The 2014, 2016 and 2019 teams lost on the road in NFC Championship Games. Finally getting a title game at home in 2020, they lost that one, too. With homefield again in 2021, the Packers had everything in their favor – a filled Lambeau Field, cold and snow, and a jolt of talent from injured reserve – but lost in the divisional round.

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There have been all sorts of reasons, ranging from epic meltdowns on special teams, horrific performances on defense, uninspiring play on offense and untimely injuries. If David Bakhtiari hadn’t torn his ACL in 2020, and if Lambeau Field were filled rather than empty due to COVID, chances are they would have beaten the Buccaneers in the NFC title game.

But they didn’t. Every year, the Packers have entered the season with a chance to win the Super Bowl. Every year, they found a way to not get it done.

This season started with the typical championship aspirations. The trade of Davante Adams meant new challenges on offense but new opportunities on defense. Maybe that would be the winning formula. A power-packed defense would win games until Rodgers and a revamped offense found its way.

Instead, the Packers are 4-7. The defense might be the biggest group of underachievers in the NFL. The Titans entered the night ranked 27th in scoring and 32nd in total offense but piled up 408 yards and scored four touchdowns on their first six possessions. The offense, which was supposed to be a work in progress, has made no progress at all. Last week’s victory over Dallas seems like one of those any-given-Sunday flukes that are standard in the NFL.

The Packers should have been a dynasty. Rodgers should be wearing at least a couple of those Super Bowl rings that adorn Tom Brady’s fingers. With a realization that time was running out on his 38-year-old, four-time MVP quarterback, general manager Brian Gutekunst pushed his chips to the middle, hoping to hit the jackpot this year. Instead, this season has gone bust.

Rodgers is playing like an old quarterback. LaFleur looks lost. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry looks to be in over his head. It’s impossible to discern what’s worse between the Packers’ place in the 2022 standings and their 2023 salary cap.

An era has ended. A 12th season in pursuit of another championship is going to end with the title residing somewhere other than Titletown. Thursday was bleak. The future doesn’t seem any brighter, a fact as plain as the icy breath from the mouths of the boo birds.

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