“The Green Bay Packers have been officially eliminated from the playoffs.”
It’s a statement that we haven’t heard since 2008—the first year with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. With an eight-year playoff streak broken this past week, let’s take a look back at the joy and heartbreak that comes with being a Packer fan.
2009-2010: Heartbreak in Arizona, Part 1
The transition from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay was ugly—Packer fans were infuriated that upper management turned their backs on Favre after he changed his mind about retirement (they even held a rally in support of Favre), and didn’t have high hopes for Rodgers. The Packers went 6-10 in Rodger’s first season, but turned things around in season two, leading the Packers to an 11-5 record and a playoff matchup with the Cardinals—Rodgers and Kurt Warner dueled back and forth until the very end, but it was the Cardinals defense that made the biggest play, strip-sacking Rodgers to win in OT 51-45, the highest combined playoff score to date.
2010-2011: The Lombardi comes home
The first and only Super Bowl for Aaron Rodgers was one that almost didn’t happen—DeSean Jackson’s Miracle at the New Meadowlands punt return allowed the Packers to control their own destiny, but Green Bay owes their playoff appearance to the Lions—Detroit kicked a walk-off field goal to beat Tampa Bay, which kept the Buccaneers out and made room for the Packers. As the 6th seed, it was truly a magical run—from Tramon Williams’ game-sealing interception in Philly to domination in Atlanta to the B.J. Raji pick six in Chicago, Packer fans will never forget this season, and hope Rodgers can someday return to the top.
2011-2012: Eli spoils fantastic regular season
So much promise thrown away in the year after a Super Bowl win—Rodgers cruised to his first MVP season, the Packers averaged 35 points per game, and it looked as if they were poised to repeat as Super Bowl champions. But unfortunately, Green Bay ran into Playoff Eli—the Packer’s defense simply had no answer for Manning (and Hakeem Nicks), who shredded them for 330 and 3 touchdowns, with 165 and 2 touchdowns going to Nicks. If it’s any consolation, both times the Giants have beaten the Packers, they’ve gone on to win the Super Bowl…
No, it doesn’t ease the pain.
2012-2013: Kaepernick runs Pack out of the playoff
The NFC West has been the Packer’s kryptonite for the past decade, although one game was a controversy that is still discussed today—the Fail Mary against Seattle will forever mar the replacement refs’ stint in the league. The Packers would go on to have a solid season, but there have been few more embarrassing moments than what transpired in the divisional playoffs in San Francisco—Colin Kaepernick rushed for 181 yards (the most rushing yards in a game by a QB all-time) and 2 touchdowns as the 49ers topped the Packers 45-31. Dom Capers simply had no answer for the read option, and Green Bay was sent home wondering how they could recover.
2013-2014: Rodgers’ return not enough as 49ers best Packers again
Many thought the 2017 season would be a repeat of 2013—Rodgers goes down, the backups hold down the fort, and Rodgers returns to lead the Packers to the playoffs. Unfortunately, the NFC was much stronger this year, and 8-7-1 is nowhere near good enough to reach the postseason. But in 2013, it was—the Packers went 2-4-1, and Rodgers came back in week 17 to lead the Packers to the NFC North title, thanks to a touchdown on 4th and 8 to Randall Cobb with 38 seconds to beat the Bears. But the Packers ran into those 49ers again in a frigid Lambeau atmosphere, and lost on a last-second field goal.
2014-2015: R-E-L-A-X…and shed a tear
After the Packers started 1-2, Rodgers uttered one of his infamous phrases to Packer fan, telling them to “R-E-L-A-X, we’re going to be OK.” Well, it worked—the Packers would go on to win 11 of their next 13 regular season games, and defeated the Cowboys in the divisional round on the shoulders of the controversial “did Dez catch it?”—we’re still arguing about that rule today. What transpired the next week in Seattle will not soon be forgotten—the Packers were up 19-7 with 5 minutes in the fourth, and had just picked off Russell Wilson for a fourth time. Surely it was over. But after a Packers three-and-out, Seattle scored with two minutes to go. Surely it was still over. I almost didn’t believe it when Brandon Bostick dropped the onside kick. It hurts to type these words. Seattle would go on to win in overtime—Rodgers has lost to the NFC West in the playoffs 5 times, none more heartbreaking than this.
2015-2016: Heartbreak in Arizona, Part 2
The Packers started 6-0, and many believed they had shaken off the heartbreak of the NFC Championship loss. But after the bye week, they just looked…off. They went 4-6, and lost to all three divisional opponents in Lambeau. They reached the postseason as the 5th seed, and many expected them to lose to the Redskins in the Wildcard round. After taking care of business in Washington, Green Bay headed to Arizona for a game that seemed too good to be true for NFL fans. A hard-fought, back and forth game saw Arizona up 20-13 late in the fourth, and with the Packers facing fourth and 20 deep in their own territory—but you can never count out the Bad Man, who completed two of the craziest passes to Jeff Janis you’ll ever see, including the game-tying Hail Mary. But it wouldn’t be a Packer game without ecstasy to agony, as the Cardinals scored on their first possession in overtime.
2016-2017: Run the Table
If you ever need proof that it’s never over till it’s over, take a look back at the Packers’ last season—at 4-6 after four straight losses, Green Bay was dead in the water—the defense couldn’t stop anyone, and it seemed like the end for Dom Capers—but when Aaron Rodgers said “I feel like we can run the table. I really do.”, the dynamic of the season changed. His words inspired the team, as the Packers ripped off six straight wins to win the NFC North and reach the playoffs. The Packers would beat the upset-hungry Giants, as Rodgers casually threw another Hail Mary to end the first half, followed by one of the most thrilling playoff games in recent memory, as Rodgers hit Jared Cook on the sideline to set up Mason Crosby for a game-winning field goal to beat the Cowboys. Green Bay would be no match for the Falcons in the NFC Championship game, but a roller coaster of a season nonetheless.
Packer fans can complain about the lack of Super Bowls, and yes, they absolutely should have more with Rodgers at the helm. But to make the playoffs eight years in a row in nothing short of spectacular, and it’s something we as fans take for granted—these are memories that will last a lifetime, thrilling moments and unbelievable heartbreak that makes being a Packer fan great. It’s been an incredible eight years. No, they won’t be in the playoffs this season—but here’s to the start of another streak next season!
Stats courtesy of ESPN