GREEN BAY, Wis. -- You can’t win it if you’re not in it.
From where Mark Murphy sits atop the Green Bay Packers, the team president views that as vital.
Sure, most Packers fans surely want more than one Super Bowl title out of the Aaron Rodgers era; Murphy does, too. But he also likes the consistency the Packers have achieved under Rodgers, coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson with seven straight playoff appearances even though it produced only a single Super Bowl appearance.
Murphy is quick to point out that only the Packers and Patriots have made the playoffs each of the past seven seasons, and that number is two short of the NFL record held jointly by the Dallas Cowboys (1975-83) and Indianapolis Colts (2002-10).
Both the Cowboys and Colts won one Super Bowl during their respective nine-year runs, but the Cowboys also lost two others. The Colts lost once.
Since the 2007 season, the Packers have been in the playoffs eight of a possible nine years, but have only the Super Bowl XLV appearance. In that same stretch, the New York Giants have won two Super Bowls but have missed the playoffs in six out of nine years.
Which would you rather have?
It sounds like Murphy would pick the Packers’ path.
“You’re in the tournament, and you have a chance,” Murphy said during an interview last week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. “Obviously we’d rather have won a few more Super Bowls, but, yeah, it’s hard to achieve across the league. It’s the Patriots and us. But I know the expectations are high, and there’s disappointment, but I think realistically the league is designed so you can’t have consistent success.”
Murphy said the Packers' consistency is due at least in part to Thompson’s approach to building the roster through the draft and supplementing it with the occasional free-agent signing. Murphy said he has not asked Thompson to take a more aggressive approach to free agency this offseason even after consecutive overtime playoff losses -- first in the NFC title game following the 2014 season and then in the NFC divisional round after this past season.
“At the end of the day, Ted oversees all of football, so he’s got to make decisions that he’s comfortable with,” Murphy said. “Sometimes it does bother me that there’s this perception that all we care about is the draft. Look at Julius Peppers, look at the difference he’s made, and obviously Charles Woodson. So we’ve done things -- not to the degree other teams have done -- but there are a lot of examples across the league where it hasn’t worked out.”
Although McCarthy said last week at the combine that “we might shock you this year” in free agency, Thompson didn’t sound like someone who was ready to make a drastic change of course.
“I think you have a philosophy, and I think you stick with that philosophy,” Thompson said. “It doesn’t make sense to me. Everybody is talking about how we’ve been in position to be fairly successful for some time. You can’t do that if you’re changing all the time. I don’t necessarily ascribe to the theory that we’re one-sided, and the only thing we do is try to draft. I’m a big believer in trying to help our team in free agency as well.”
There’s a balance between building a long-lasting winner and taking a win-now approach. That doesn’t mean the two are mutually exclusive.
“This window [of opportunity] stuff, I don’t look at it that way and I don’t buy into it,” McCarthy said. “So much can happen in one season. I’m not really interested in, ‘OK, let’s be competitive for the next however many years.’ That’s not the way I’m wired. I stand up in front of our football team and demand excellence. These are the things we feel we need to do to win a championship, and I would like to think everybody in the building is going about it the right way. We’re pouring everything we’ve got into this year, regardless of who we sign and how we draft or how it goes. It’s all about winning this year. But you also can’t sell the farm out.”