Green Bay brass rightfully obsessed with 49′ers

Losing twice in a season to the eventual 2012 National Football Conference champion San Francisco 49′ers has seemingly irrevocably harmed the Green Bay Packers to the point of near obsession as the 2013 season opener against the 49′ers is just a handful of days away.

The Packers brass led by general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy are going all-out in attempt to remedy the sorrowful Green Bay defensive performance in last year’s divisional playoff loss to the 49′ers 45-31.

Not only has the coaching staff traveled all the way to the Texas A&M college campus in the off-season to learn how to defend the 49′ers and quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s patented read-option offense that torched the Packers in the playoff loss, but they also have recently brought in two separate quarterbacks formerly from the San Francisco roster to help prepare the Green Bay defense.

The trip to Texas was born out of frustration in defending the read-option that baffled the Packers defense to the tune of 181 yards rushing from the quarterback Kaepernick as the young signal-caller with amazing speed blew by the Green Bay defense as if the Packers were standing still. The read-option apparently has its roots in the A&M coaching staff and the Packers felt the best way to defend it was to learn the offense in its entirety.

More recently the team has brought in quarterbacks Scott Tolzein and Seneca Wallace to both improve the Packers backup QB situation and to educate the Green Bay coaching staff about the 49′ers version of the read-offense.

Tolzein, a former Wisconsin Badger, has spent the last two seasons with the 49′ers and undoubtedly has become quite proficient in his understanding of the system. Wallace has only had little more than a week with San Fran this training camp until he was just cut this past few days, but he fits the read-option offense a bit more than Tolzen in ability.

Nonetheless, both will likely have first-hand knowledge of the intricacies of the 49′er version and its adaptability to defenses like the Packers employ. While the Packers management will probably deny its apparent strategy and claim both QB’s are on the roster simply based on their own physical abilities, the peculiarity of just recently signing the pair from SF, combined with its own extensive off-season tutorial, says otherwise.

The 49′ers are the class of the NFC at the moment and the Packers simply have to figure out a way to defeat them if they want to advance to the Super Bowl this 2013 NFL season. It appears as if the Green Bay offense can do some damage on its own against San Francisco, but the team and defensive coordinator Dom Capers have to find some way to stop the read-option and Kaepernick.

It was readily apparent in the 2012 season opener that the 49′ers were extremely focused and motivated to defeat the Packers as they started their NFC championship season by squashing Green Bay in Lambeau. It was revealing to see how fired up their head coach Jim Harbaugh was for a “simple” season-opening game last year. The Packers will have to match that intensity if they want to turn the tables on the 49′ers this opener on Sunday afternoon in San Francisco.

The wrinkles that Capers will employ this Sunday may tell if the 2013 Packers squad has any chance of advancing to the Super Bowl as a return match-up will again be likely this season in the playoffs with the 49′ers. A win Sunday could be the deciding tie-breaker if both teams finish the regular season with the same record. A home field edge in January on the “Frozen Tundra” would likely go a long way in slowing down the talented Kaepernick should the teams meet in Green Bay in likely frigid conditions.

One can sense immediacy from the recent actions by the Packers front office. It appears as if Green Bay will be ready to jump start this campaign on Sunday. Hopefully, the 49′ers are just a bit soft from their most recent run to the Super Bowl. Maybe they will look as dumbfounded and un-spirited as the Packers were against the 49′ers in last year’s opener in which the Packers offense and quarterback Aaron Rodgers still seemed to be reeling a bit from their post-season exit that ended their 2011 NFL year.

After watching rookie cornerback Micah Hyde run all over the defensive field this pre-season, it would not surprise that this newest addition, despite his rather ordinary fifth-round selection, will play some type of role in defending Kaepernick. Hyde is a bit slow to be a supreme cover corner, but he has the speed to stay with Kaepernick and has shown an excellent capacity to tackle effectively so far. Anyone that has watched the Green Bay secondary attempt to tackle the past couple seasons is well aware of the need for improvement in this area.

Packer Nation will soon see if the off-season education lesson was learned or if the 49′ers stay one step ahead of Green Bay with modifications of their own. The Sunday afternoon contest should definitely be a NFL showcase event in either case.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Return to 2010 splendor lifts Matthews, Williams and GB D.

Two weeks into the National Football League season and for at least two Green Bay Packer players, the brief stretch looks a lot like the 2010 Super Bowl season for pass-rusher extraordinairre Clay Matthews and cornerback Tramon Williams after sub-par 2011 campaigns.

Both Matthews and Williams played through hardship last year that excused their normal lack of production. Clay dealt with recurring hamstring injury issues and constant double-teaming as the 2011 Green Bay squad simply had no other pass rush threats to concern the opposition. Tramon suffered a serious shoulder injury in the season opener and played through pain and nerve damage that severely limited his aggressive physical presence. His effectiveness was clearly hampered with a lack of strength in his shoulder that could barely bench press thirty pound dumbbells, less than half of his normal weightlifting load.

While the offense clearly showed the way for the 2011 Packers, the defense failed miserably and ultimately cost the team a shot at repeating their 2010 Super Bowl season.

It was no secret that bolstering the defense through the draft would be a top priority, but a return to 2010 form from the squad’s arguably two best defensive playmakers was a necessity as well.

“Claymaker” Matthews looks unstoppable in his premier pass-rushing role with six sacks after two games that equals his entire 2011 total and looks to be on pace to surpass his 13.5 sacks of 2010. Williams has two interceptions already and clearly looks like a different player this year. He now resembles the “shut-down” corner that blanketed opposing receivers to near perfection in the Super Bowl season’s stretch drive and finished that glorious football year with 6 intereceptions.

Surprisingly it’s the offense that appears to be holding back the Pack at this youthful juncture of the 2012 football year. The vaunted passing game has yet to click and appears to be just a shadow of its once premier self as either opposing teams have figured out the scheme or the timing just needs to be fine-tuned.

Monday night’s contest against the Seahawks in Seattle will offer a bit more evidence of the team’s progress after a mediocre first two games. The defense should be well prepared with an unusually long ten day span between contests. One might reasonably expect the defensive effort against the Chicago Bears to carry over in tonight’s tilt as the Seahawks are mainly a one-dimensional running team with a rookie quarterback at the helm in Russell Wilson, the former Wisconsin Badger.

Look for the offense to continue its below average early season performance as the boisterous Monday night crowd in Seattle will likely cause havoc. Hopefully Aaron Rodgers and Co. can provide just enough offense tonight for the Green and Gold to prevail and as always, keeping turnovers to a minimum will be key.

The offense likely will come around in the next few weeks, but for now a return to 2010 splendor from Clay Matthews and Tramon Williams should be enough to keep the team’s defense from reverting back to its porous 2011 form.

Another strong performer from 2010 that regressed last year could be key as well. If cornerback Sam Shields can carry his weight in coverage and keep Jarrett Bush on the sidelines where he belongs, the defense might be able to get off the field once in awhile. Bush was notably absent in the defensive backfield last Thursday night and perhaps defensive coordinator Dom Capers has finally come to realize that Bush is a persistent liability in coverage.

Now if the team could only combine the 2011 offense with the improved defense we all could relive the fantasy that was 2010 and a Super Bowl trophy in hand. Unfortunately, lightning doesn’t usually strike the same place twice in sports, but why not return to splendor one more time?

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Prep plus little pep dooms Packers opener

Sunday’s 30-22 opening game loss to the San Francisco 49ers on a warm afternoon at Lambeau Field was quite an eye-opener for optimistic Packer fans that have been bombarded with pre-season prognostications that tout Green Bay as a Super Bowl favorite for the 2012-13 season.

The 49ers clearly looked the part of potential champion as they performed well in all aspects of the game while the Packers looked little different from the troubled squad that mysteriously showed up on Green Bay’s home turf in the NFC Divisional Playoff game that ended their season with a loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

If opposing teams were slow to catch on to the Packers dynamic 2011 offense before late season adjustments laid out a blueprint to stop Aaron Rodgers and Company, the full offseason of defensive preparation has rendered the Green Bay aerial attack nearly obsolete in design.

San Francisco played with a fiery determination that belied the first game of the season. Perhaps the ‘Frisco coaching staff astutely underscored the potential playoff ramifications of a win over the Packers as Green Bay will have to finish the regular season with a better record than the 49′ers to avoid the tie-breaking advantage San Fran will enjoy throughout this 2012 season.

Tight press coverage against the Packer receivers and a much deeper understanding of Mike McCarthy’s offensive design that comes with the territory of success has clearly stunted the previous years passing prowess to the point where dump off tosses appears to be the only successful counterpunch at the moment.

It’s also apparent that the Packers lack that intangible mental edge that portends championship-caliber play. After finishing last season with a 15-1 record before their opening playoff game defeat, the 2012 team has to fight the subconscious feeling that regular season dominance is not needed.

Many decades of observing patterns in all sports has implanted a troublesome historical impression that seemingly plagues all squads that dominate in the regular season only to come up short in the playoffs. The subsequent year almost always sees a drop in regular season production that places potential playoff chances in a precarious position.

A “not too hot” and “not too cold” plan of action is difficult to measure as the season progresses. Remember the Super Bowl bound 2010 Packer squad had to run the table down the stretch just to get in and you can easily visualize a scenario where the 2012 Green Bay team wakes up just a little too late to even make the playoffs.

It’s often cited that an NFL defensive back has to have a short memory to succeed as even the best cover corner is often beat in coverage. This season’s version of the Green and Gold will have to finally let go of the disappointment of the past postseason if they are to move ahead and play with the passion and excitement necessary to prevail in the highly competitive, parity driven National Football League.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy will have to adjust as well. NFL coaches have a well deserved reputation as a stubborn bunch. McCarthy’s pride will have to admit that opposing defensive coordinators have caught on to the Packer offense and adjustments are in order.

With an upcoming Thursday night game against the one team that seemingly always gives Aaron Rodgers a bit more trouble than the rest, the Packers team that shows up at Lambeau against the Chicago Bears must display an urgency that reflects the possibility of losing control of the season in a mere five-day span.

At least Green Bay has Jay Cutler landing in Titletown this week! Let’s hope he is in his usual giving mode that may allow McCarthy a bit more time to plan a counter attack against the effective adjustments that appear to be slowing down a once premier offense that now seems a bit stale.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Packers are in a “House” of pain

Although the Green Bay Packers are only through one week of the preseason the 2012 football year looks very similar to the 2010 Super Bowl championship run in regard to injuries piling up.

Nineteen players were held out of practice Monday due to injury concerns as practices have been cut short and contact extremely limited in a concerted effort to keep enough healthy bodies available to proceed with training camp.

Last week’s contest against the San Diego Chargers saw two potential defensive starters go down to physical ailments. Inside linebacker Desmond Bishop got caught in a pile of players and suffered what appears to be a likely season-ending hamstring and knee injury. Second year cornerback Davon House, a likely starter opposite Tramon Williams in the secondary, suffered a left shoulder subluxation or in laymen’s terms a slight dislocated shoulder. That ailment will keep him out of game action for at least two weeks and perhaps longer as the injury will be reexamined at that time to see if House can avoid surgery much like Williams did last season even though Tramon’s performance suffered after his setback.

Many of the nineteen injuries are somewhat minor, but caution is the name of the game this early in the year. The continued league-wide emphasis on concussion awareness is partially acknowledged for the number of players out of action, but the depth of the organization looks like it will be remarkably challenged much like the injury ravaged 2010 season.

Bishop’s loss will be missed, but the shoulder issues of cornerback Davon House could be a greater concern as nothing seems to negatively show up more than a loss in the secondary. The 2011 Packers team surrendered an enormous amount of big plays in the defensive backfield and House appeared to be solidifying the pass coverage according to all press reports coming out of the offseason workouts as star defender Charles Woodson will be moved to the safety position in most defensive alignments as well in order to get more speed in the defensive backfield.

Admittedly one preseason game doesn’t show much, but House looked extremely aggressive tackling and his 6 foot one inch 195 pound frame looks to be ideal in shadowing the larger wide receivers like Detroit Lions wideout Calvin Johnson that the team must contend with twice each season. His coverage skills needed improvement according to scouting reports coming out of college as a 4th round draft choice from New Mexico State and it looks like the well respected Green Bay coaching staff has improved the second year player considerably in sticking with speedy wide receivers.

House didn’t see much game action in his rookie year as he battled injuries throughout. A hamstring ailment slowed him in the early season and an ankle injury kept him off the field in the latter half as the newcomer was limited to mostly special team’s play in his brief two game-day appearances.

Both Desmond Bishop and Davon House have showed a propensity to injury as professional performers that always is a concern to the team and general manager of an NFL franchise. Certainly one can’t be faulted for recurring injuries, but ultimately the reputation as an injury-plagued player can be difficult to overcome.

As hard as it is to admit as a long-time Green Bay Packer follower, it was legendary Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Bud Grant that professed something to the effect that durability is an often overlooked quality regarding professional football players.

In the end it doesn’t do anyone good to have an extremely talented individual on its roster if the player can’t stay on the field long enough to have an impact that warrants keeping them around and of course, paying them a hefty salary as well.

Hopefully House will come back soon and be able to heavily contribute, but players like Bishop, House and someone like linebacker Frank Zombo that continually are unable to earn their salaries due to serious injury may have to be paid and rated accordingly by Green Bay General Manager Ted Thompson.

Davon House will be closely watched this season if he is able to play with a harness to protect his shoulder. As a physical corner like House can attest, the ability to jam wideouts at the line of scrimmage goes a long way in determining success or failure at the position and a strong shoulder is necessary to complete that technique effectively.

His performance could be a determining factor along with a hopefully improved pass rush as the team has been forced to address their defensive shortcomings from a year ago. Here’s to hoping that Lambeau Field is a “House of Pain” for the opposing road teams this 2012 season and not an apt description of the home team’s inability to field a healthy squad to make another run at the Super Bowl trophy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

All eyes will be on Packer defense Thursday

The 2012-13 National Football League season opens up tonight for the Green Bay Packers as they travel to San Diego to face the Chargers in a nationally televised preseason contest on ESPN.

Green Bay’s 2011-12 season was a tale of two diverse sides of the ball as the Packer offense carried the day throughout the year en route to a 15-1 regular season before the team bore little resemblance to the juggernaut that cruised to the number one seed and succumbed to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the playoffs. The defense was putrid at best throughout the year as the Packers offense overcame their defensive deficiencies on an almost weekly basis before even the Aaron Rodgers’ led offense failed against the Giants.

Many followers penned the defense’s penchant for provoking turnovers as its saving point before even the most ardent Packer fan eventually had to admit that the defense left a tremendous amount to be desired.

The flaws were evident for all to see as the club tackled miserably, had little or no pass rush and lacked the necessary team speed in the secondary to succeed against the high powered offenses aided by the ever easing NFL rules regarding passing legalities.

Green Bay General Manager Ted Thompson has never been one to bolster through free agency. The NFL draft has always been “silent Ted’s” preferred method of talent acquisition although he did dabble a bit in the open market with the addition of defensive end Anthony Hargrove this off-season. Unfortunately for the Green and Gold Hargrove will be suspended for the first eight games of the regular season for his alleged role in the New Orleans Saints “Bountygate” scandal pending some sort of legal adjudication that may reduce his length of suspension or clear him entirely. Thompson did take the bold move of drafting almost exclusively for defense in April’s draft.

While preseason games are lamented as pure exhibitions by most except for the league honchos that demand regular season prices for glorified scrimmages in these mostly meaningless games, the Green Bay defense will be under scrutiny by fans, media and Packer coaches along with Thompson as nearly everyone recognizes the importance of improving this unit to advance to the Super Bowl once again.

The premier addition appears on paper to be first round draft choice outside linebacker Nick Perry that was chosen 28th overall to provide immediate help opposite pass-rusher extraordinaire Clay Matthews. No amount of secondary coverage will ultimately prevail against a top-notch quarterback that has the time to scan the field and pick out open receivers. Improving the pass rush was undoubtedly Ted Thompson’s number one off-season goal.

Two second round additions that were acquired through an unusual trading up maneuver  for higher selections by Thompson must be valued accordingly by a man that values draft picks apparently as much as gold bullion. Defensive end Jerel Worthy and cornerback Casey Hayward should be expected to make an immediate impact as well.

Moving star Charles Woodson to safety and the expected emergence of second-year cornerback Davon House along with the rookie Hayward should improve the team speed in the defensive backfield as Woodson will replace departed safety Charley Peprah that was often one step late in coverage last season at the safety position.

Even though tonight’s game will be lessened by the expected injury “scratches” and coaches’ reluctance to risk any type of extended injury to veteran star players, the youngsters that will be counted on rather heavily should get extensive playing time as the Packers front office undoubtedly recognizes the necessity of fixing their dominant weakness before the regular season starts in September against the San Francisco 49er’s at Lambeau Field.

These eyes will be glued to Perry in particular tonight to see if the youngster flashes the supreme athletic ability on a consistent basis that scouts were unanimous in definition of the former Southern California Trojan coming out of college.

He might pair up with former Trojan himself, Clay Matthews to provide a dynamic outside rush duo if all goes according to Thompson’s hopeful plan. The “Trojan Tornadoes” might blow down opposing quarterbacks at will if the coaches can get Perry to sustain his energy level anywhere near Clay’s non-stop motor.

Defense is normally projected to be ahead of offenses this early in the year, but talent is talent and hopefully the top three Packer selections of the draft will exude NFL quality skills starting tonight in San Diego. The eyes will hopefully have it tonight or it might be another extremely frustrating year on defense despite an expected high win total 2012-13 season. Been there done that, now it’s time to finish what they started!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Winning formula holds but Pack doesn’t hold to form

All season long head coach Mike McCarthy would confidently state at his press conference that his team needed to win the turnover battle and finish each game with a higher quarterback rating to guarantee success.

This winning formula held true to form for his Green Bay Packer team throughout the regular season as his squad was turnover stingy on offense and proficient at intercepting errant passes en route to a 15-1 record.

Probable MVP Aaron Rodgers had a near perfect season as his pinpoint passes and play calling at the line of scrimmage made his offense nearly unstoppable for four quarters.

Unfortunately for the Green and Gold the team failed to hold up its end of the winning formula in their first playoff game of 2012 as the New York Giants once again crushed Packer hopes in the postseason with a convincing 37-20 victory.

The potion for victory worked to near perfection for the New York Giants as they only had one turnover compared to four coughed up by the Packers in an uncharacteristic showing.

Surprisingly Eli Manning outperformed Aaron Rodgers as well in the quarterback efficiency rating (114.5-78.5). Rodgers left several throws on the table at crucial times missing out on two potential touchdown passes and one important third down fairly deep in Giants territory. One of the potential touchdown passes to a wide open Greg Jennings was more of an offensive line issue, but the other errant pass cost the team 4 points as Mason Crosby was still able to connect on a field goal.

When Rodgers was on target the receivers had a tough time holding on as numerous drops prevented the Packers from continuing drives that could have kept the porous defense off the field.

Anyone that has ever read a securities prospectus is well aware of the disclaimer that accompanies every offering. “Past performance does not guarantee future results.”

Just as a stellar fund previously offered a great return, the Packers prior to Sunday had performed stupendously. One might reasonably expect that to continue, but there are no guarantees in business or in sports.

Nobody will ever know for sure why the Packers performed as miserably as they did on Sunday, but they were undoubtedly off on their offensive timing. Unfortunately, the one thing that did hold true to form regarding the team was the continually under-performing defense.

A golden opportunity slipped through the Packers’ fingers yesterday, both literally and figuratively, with no remedial course of action for a whole season. There is plenty of time to come up with a logical explanation why the team failed in the clutch, but today it just seems impossible to reason as emotional mending takes priority on the day after the season ended with an inexplicably sub-par performance.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nobody is more selfish than 2011 Green Bay Packers offense

The 2011 Green Bay Packers offense simply will not share their football with anybody else. It is this stinginess with the football that separates this year’s team from the competition and the trait that will likely lead to championship football this postseason.

Like every other offensive statistical category, quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads in stinginess with only six interceptions to go along with his 45 touchdowns thrown. He rarely even flirts with passes thrown into dangerous or contested spots.

The vaunted receiving corps has an even more remarkable zero fumbles lost after the catch and the steady running backs have only coughed up the ball twice, with Ryan Grant and James Starks each losing only one fumble apiece.

The only troublesome spot has been on special teams where Randall Cobb has been credited with three turnovers, although the rookie standout has provided more than his share of thrills with his return skills this season.

The Packers ability to limit turnovers has most likely saved their leaky defense from even more disdain from frustrated fans as a stronger special teams unit has combined with the stingy offense to force opposing teams to travel nearly the length of a football field to match the touchdowns produced by the dynamic offense.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy has strongly emphasized winning the turnover battle each week as a key to winning consistently along with a newly appointed determining factor of achieving the higher quarterback rating each and every game. This formula has held up throughout the season.

Comparing greatness in different eras is always troublesome, but the 1996 Super Bowl Championship Packer team had 24 turnovers in comparison to the 2011 12 turnovers through 15 games.

Of course everything gets magnified in the postseason and a poor showing in this defining category come January at a frozen Lambeau Field could render this amazing stat to insignificant status.

In this pass-happy era that gives secondaries numerous opportunities to intercept and when opposing defenses attempt to strip the ball on nearly every play, it truly is a credit to the coaching staff of the Packers that they have elevated this stinginess to epic proportions.

The New Orleans Saints have become a co-favorite along with Green Bay and appear to be on a collision course with the Packers on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field at the end of January. The Packers season-long edge in this telltale statistic could very well be the difference if this trait holds true to form and the Packers continue to be the NFL’s stingiest team.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lordy Lordy just how good is Jordy?

Green Bay Packer wide receiver Jordy Nelson has always been considered a supporting asset on the Packer roster during his four year career, taking a back seat to Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and of course, Aaron Rodgers.

It has taken awhile to unfold, but Jordy Nelson is no longer a role player. The wideout nicknamed “White Lightning” by his peers, has become a Pro Bowl worthy receiver.

Opposing defenses have focused on Jennings and matchup nightmare tight end Jermichael Finley, double-teaming that duo and leaving Jordy Nelson with single coverage for most of the season. Based on statistics the opposition might need to alter their strategy down the stretch.

Nelson has 51 receptions for 957 yards and 10 TD’s in 2011 and has become the big-play, highlight reel receiver for the Packers and Aaron Rodgers.

It is somewhat difficult to use statistics alone in comparing seasons throughout the history of the National Football League, but Aaron Schatz of ESPN has compiled a metric that shows Nelson has been 58.7% more efficient than the average wide-receiver would be in similar situations, a number that has not been topped by anyone in Schatz’s 20-year database of NFL receivers.

In some ways it should not be a surprise that Jordy leads his team. He was drafted in the second round, 36th overall in the 2008 NFL Draft. His early selection precedes the draft sequences of Jennings, Finley, Driver. James Jones and Randall Cobb.

Nelson’s athletic resume in high school included All-State honors in football and basketball. He was a track phenom as well. He starred at quarterback and defensive back before Kansas State converted him to a wide-receiver.

Nelson makes a homecoming of sorts as he returns to Kansas City this weekend where the Packers will take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium this Sunday.

With the injury to Jennings that will sideline him for several weeks, it should be interesting to see if Jordy can maintain his stellar play with the added attention he is sure to receive.

With no luck so far in stopping the Packers vaunted passing attack, opposing defensive coordinators might be wise to shift their focus to Nelson upon Jennings’ return regardless. Nothing else has been effective in slowing down Aaron Rodgers and Co.

Given Nelson’s history, it’s not surprising that he has been overlooked to this point. He and his teammates have even gone so far as to suggest the color of his skin explains the lack of respect he has been given by foes to date.

The final few weeks of the regular season should be illuminating. Just how good is Jordy? If there isn’t any drop in his numbers, Packer opponents might finally start learning their lesson against the apparently deceptive athletic skills of “White Lightning.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

UMD’s Connolly will always be Superior

The city of Duluth has been the beneficiary of a great family for some time, but to many in the Northland the name Connolly will always be tied to the city of Superior. UMD senior center Jack Connolly is superior on the ice as well as his two-time All-American status can attest.

A long-standing family-run grocery store and bakery just across Belknap Street with the nearby Superior Cathedral School and adjacent Christ the King Church where the Connolly’s were active participants in both units, laid claim to some of the most delicious treats imaginable.

Connolly’s Bakery in Superior was always known for excellence and the family tradition of superior quality has been transplanted to the city of Duluth for some time now. Both of Mark and Judy Connolly’s sons were excellent athletes at Duluth Marshall before going their separate ways. While Jack has thrilled Bulldog hockey followers for four years now, elder brother Chris has excelled at Boston University in their acclaimed hockey program as well during the same time period.

While Jack Connolly has attained All-American honors twice and most likely will be rewarded this year with his third such award, as strange as it might seem given the national acclaim, it seems as if the young man has not been giving the credit he deserves locally, for turning around the Bulldog men’s hockey program.

In the pre-Jack Connolly four-year period, the Bulldog hockey team was stuck in the low to middle teens for season long victories. Three straight years with 20-plus victories and another on the horizon with Connolly captaining his team this season are testament to his ability to rejuvinate the UMD hockey tradition.

Jack’s 57 goals and 105 assists in 141 career games played will be sorely missed after this season. One has to wonder if the Bulldog program will be able to maintain its lofty national status after the superior abilities of the senior center are shifted elsewhere.

This area has been fortunate to keep Connolly around for the full four years as apparently his smallish physical status has diverted National Hockey League teams from acquiring his services to this date. Funny how the same things were said of former UMD hockey greats Mark Pavelich and current UMD assistant coach Derek Plante before they played seven years and eight seasons, respectively, in the NHL.

Hopefully his time will come to shine in professional hockey, but for now Bulldog fans can be grateful for the “shortsightedness” (pun intended) of NHL scouts. In any case, the Connolly family will continue to maintain its brand of excellence and superior tradition.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

If ifs and buts were candy and nuts Packer foes would all have a merry Christmas

This expression made famous by Monday night football analyst and former Dallas Cowboy quarterback Don Meredith suddenly came to mind at a family holiday meal last week in Minneapolis.

Surrounded by Minnesota Viking fans last Thursday, it was all too apparent that the now seventeen game winning streak for the Green Bay Packers is taking its toll on Packer haters. It seems as if the venom rises against Packer fans in proportion to their success against the rest of the league.

Now Green Bay fans aren’t immune to this hatred either. One only has to go back to the 1970′s to empathize with these feelings. Growing up as a Packer fan in that time period was not easy as the Minnesota Vikings ruled the NFC and the Packers were mostly cellar dwellers. Excuses were plentiful and venom spewed against anything purple ruled the halls of junior high school in Superior.

The same sorry excuses always explain the dominance. The team gets all the luck. The referees are favoring the team. The league officials want this team to prevail and so on and so forth. It is treasonous to give an ounce of credit to the abilities of the dominant team. One can denigrate their own squad, but heaven forbid if one acknowledges the superior abilities of the rival foe.

Seventeen games and one Super Bowl championship is not a mirage, nor a lucky streak. A sample size this large only indicates that the Green Bay Packers are a very special team right now.

Any professional sports fan can attest to the suddenness that dominance can vanish in to thin air. Tiger Woods is the poster child for sudden demise in golf.

However, right now as we approach December 2011, the Green Bay Packers are the cream of the crop in the National Football League and will be extremely difficult to defeat in any game.

All the excuses in the world won’t alter that fact. Acknowledging brilliance by an arch-rival is an extremely difficult pill to swallow, but sometimes that pill might put an end to that hatred and bitterness more fitting for Ebenezer Scrooge during the Christmas season than an excuse-ridden NFL fan.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment