Do you know how gifted, fortunate or lucky you have to be to get to the NFC Championship Game and ultimately the Super Bowl?
A lot of things have to go your way.
First off, you must be gifted, talented enough, and the Packers are every bit of that. With one of the best offenses in football, first in scoring and sixth in yardage last year orchestrated by league MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, on paper the Packers are a Super Bowl-caliber team.
Secondly, sometimes things have to go your way, even if you have nothing to do with it, like when DeSean Jackson took a punt 65 yards to a game winning score to help the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New York Giants in the Meadowlands in 2010.
Without that return, the Packers don’t even make the playoffs, much less win the Super Bowl.
Third, you have to be lucky in terms of the bounce of the ball going your way in a game or two, but more importantly team health — few injuries. The Packers last year were one of the healthiest teams in the league.
It is my opinion that while training schedules and athletes taking care of themselves, outstanding doctors and athletic trainers make a difference; in the collision sport of NFL football injuries are the residue of luck!
All-Pro wide receiver Jordy Nelson is indeed out for the season with a significant right knee injury, as the Packers announced Monday. ESPN's Adam Schefter says the injury was, as first reported, an ACL issue, with other ligaments intact.
The Packers are already behind last year’s team in this critical category of health.
The road back to the NFC Championship Game and ultimately the Super Bowl just got a whole lot more difficult for the Packers if Nelson cannot return this season.
Talk all you want about “next man up,” but when you lose a Jordy Nelson or an Aaron Rodgers (2013), chances are good the next man up won’t be that caliber of player.
The next man up is Davante Adams, the second-year receiver out of Fresno St., and he is having a great camp.
But in order to keep Randall Cobb in the slot, the Packers need another outside receiver in their three-receiver sets. The Packers ran three-wide sets 90% of the time when on offense last year!
Jeff Janis would appear to be a good candidate to be the “next man up” at one of the outside positions.
At 6-3, 219 pounds, the second-year receiver out of Saginaw Valley State has the size they crave.
He is fast, talented, has flashed in this camp, but appears at this early stage in his career to lack the play-to-play polish and technique needed to be successful in this offense.
I don’t know if he is ready; more importantly I don’t think they (coaches and QB) know if he can step into that role today.
The Packers run a lot of “no huddle” as they up-tempo the game, so you need experienced receivers who know where to be and when to be there. This is tough on any young player, much less a couple of second year receivers like Adams and Janis.
Ty Montgomery - the third round draft pick out of Stanford - is a candidate, but he appears more suited for the slot than outside at this juncture.
Cornerback Sam Shields called Montgomery a “bigger Randall Cobb,” but he did not catch a pass at Pittsburgh after making two receptions for 28 yards at New England the week before.
It’s asking a lot of a rookie to step into a major role and produce consistently in this offense.
Myles White is another good looking receiver who played in seven games in 2013 and spent all of last year on the practice squad. He has familiarity with the intricacies of this offense, but he is slight of build at barely six feet and 190 pounds.
None of these candidates brings Nelson’s experience, savvy, relationship with the quarterback and unique skill set to the field — at least not at this stage in their careers.
With Nelson gone, the Packers lose the obvious: Over the past two seasons he has caught 183 passes for 2,833 yards and 21 touchdowns. Those are tangible numbers every football fan can understand.
What’s not so obvious to you or even me is the intangible loss a season-ending injury to Nelson is to this football team.
You should know Jordy is one of the most beloved people on that squad. The pain on the faces of his teammates yesterday was palpable. No one wants to ever see a respected player like this go through all of the offseason preparation and commitment (in the case of Jordy recovery from hip surgery) and have his season end before it starts.
This is one of the toughest things for a teammate to see.
Also, Nelson is one of the core leaders in that locker room. Every team needs a handful of leaders and for the Packers, he is one of “those” guys.
If you lose Jordy Nelson, you lose a whole lot more than the incredible offensive numbers he has provided this team in the past two seasons.
I know some of you might be thinking that Jordy can stay in Green Bay, rehab his injury at Lambeau Field, take part in all of the meetings, be on the sideline to give advice during games etc. etc. etc.
Yes, he can do all of that, and nose tackle B.J. Raji did the same last year. So Jordy can still lead right?
No he can’t!!
In the dynamic of team sports at the highest level, in order to lead you must play. If this knee injury is “worst case” and Nelson’s season is over, he won’t play for the 2015 Packers.
He can stay in Green Bay, he can advise, coach, support, cheer, but he cannot lead.
Leaders are players plain and simple. That is just the way it is at this level.
The Packers have lost one of their best leaders, and that aspect of Jordy Nelson will be missed every bit as much as the numbers he puts forth on the field.