The Curious Case of the Jekyll And Hyde Packers

To become true Super Bowl contenders, the Green Bay Packers need to play with greater consistency. 
Tommy DeVito and the Giants shocked the Packers last season.
Tommy DeVito and the Giants shocked the Packers last season. / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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With NFL offseason programs complete, optimism is about to reign supreme around 32 training camps as the 2024 season approaches.

Green Bay, Wis., will be no different.

The Green Bay Packers are beaming with positivity. They expect to be contenders for the Super Bowl. The public does, as well.

This time one year ago, that was anything but the case. Aaron Rodgers was gone, and Jordan Love was a great unknown. Now, Love is soon going to have a contract that represents a commitment to that of a franchise quarterback.

This all comes on the heels of the Packers going 6-2 during the second half of the regular season and winning a playoff game at the Dallas Cowboys before losing by three points to the eventual NFC champion San Francisco 49ers.

A strong finish and a playoff loss led to some what-could-have-beens but, mostly, positivity.

If the Packers are going to return to being bona fide Super Bowl contenders, they must answer one big question.

One of Robert Louis Stevenson’s greatest works is the classic The Curious Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Of course, the book centers on a man who has two distinctly different personalities: the inherently good Dr. Henry Jekyll and the evil Mr. Hyde.

Jekyll’s changes are infrequent enough to begin but can happen at a moment’s notice as the book progresses.

The question the Packers have to answer is whether they have exorcised their nature to be very Jekyll and Hyde.

Yes, the Packers finished the 2023 season winning six of their final eight games. That includes big wins in national spots over the Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions.

Those signature wins were closely followed by dominant performances against division opponents to close out the regular season as well as a playoff win against the Cowboys.

Between those big performances?

Two of the worst losses of the season in addition to the worst win of the year.

The Packers followed their 27-19 victory on Sunday Night Football against the eventual world champion Chiefs with a clunker on Monday Night Football against the New York Giants.

The Giants were essentially eliminated from playoff contention at that time and could not have been blamed if they had been thinking about beaches in Cancun instead of fighting against the Packers on a cold December night.

Instead of building off the momentum of their two big wins and coasting against an inferior opponent, the Packers were diced up by Tommy DeVito.

DeVito had gained some folk-hero status by that time, but the Packers game turned out to be the high point of his career. Two weeks after leading a comeback victory that delivered a setback to the Packers’ playoff hopes, DeVito was benched.

That performance was followed up by another clunker at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Baker Mayfield posted the first perfect passer rating by a visiting quarterback in the history of Lambeau Field.

While it’d be easy to blame Joe Barry’s defense for these two losses, the offense struggled, as well. They scored 42 points in the two games and turned over the ball four times.

A week later, they hung on for dear life to beat the woeful Carolina Panthers. Bryce Young led one of the worst offenses in the NFL to 30 points against Green Bay’s defense. The Packers survived when the Panthers failed to spike the ball in time to set up a game-tying field goal.

Wins are not easy to come by in the NFL, but it was hard to feel good about the Packers’ chances of accomplishing anything significant in 2023 with three consecutive uninspiring performances.

Even the best teams have hiccups. The Chiefs likely looked at their loss to Green Bay as an unnecessary hiccup. The 49ers lost three consecutive games in October before reaching the Super Bowl.

It is interesting to wonder how some of Green Bay’s losses would have been viewed under the 12-team playoff format that was the norm until 2020, when the NFL expanded the playoffs and allowed seven teams from each conference into the postseason.

The Packers, of course, were the seventh seed a season ago. Had they played under the previous format, they would have missed the playoffs and lamented their Mr. Hyde moments even more than they do now.

Alas, that is not the world we live in. The Packers did make the playoffs and did come within a few minutes of reaching the NFC Championship Game.

If they want to get back to the NFC title game and beyond in 2024, they will have to find more consistency.

More Jekyll than Hyde, if you will.

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Bill Huber

BILL HUBER

Bill Huber, who has covered the Green Bay Packers since 2008, is the publisher of Packer Central, a Sports Illustrated channel. E-mail: packwriter2002@yahoo.com History: Huber took over Packer Central in August 2019. Twitter: https://twitter.com/BillHuberNFL Background: Huber graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he played on the football team, in 1995. He worked in newspapers in Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells and Shawano before working at The Green Bay News-Chronicle and Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1998 through 2008. With The News-Chronicle, he won several awards for his commentaries and page design. In 2008, he took over as editor of Packer Report Magazine, which was founded by Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke, and PackerReport.com. In 2019, he took over the new Sports Illustrated site Packer Central, which he has grown into one of the largest sites in the Sports Illustrated Media Group.