By Robert Zeglinski
When Aaron Rodgers launched a 60-yard pass to Jordy Nelson to help propel the Packers past the Bears last December, it was an all-too-familiar recent refrain in this rivalry.
Green Bay hasn’t necessarily had the better overall team of late than their Chicago counterparts, but they have had maybe the greatest quarterback of all-time in Rodgers. In retrospect, with a 15-4 record and 103.2 overall passer rating against them, Rodgers has been the one to continually launch daggers into the Bears’ collective heart at every opportunity—with an unmatched track record to boot.
But somehow, as the Bears and Packers sit tied in their all-time series at 94-94-6 – the first time the series between the NFL’s two charter organizations have been tied since 1933 – the two teams sit in the same respective position, waiting to launch.
The Packers, of course, can take the lead over their long-time rival for the first time since 1932 on Thursday night. Yet, as much as they’ve dominated the Bears recently, it certainly seems like they’re just as stuck in the mud.
While the Bears have “enjoyed” a quarterback carousel for the better part of a quarter century that’s featured names in an endless cycle such as Rex Grossman, Jay Cutler, and even now Mike Glennon, Green Bay is on a familiar and frustrating hamster wheel regarding a Hall of Fame quarterback.
For perspective, former Packers great and Hall of Famer Brett Favre won three straight NFL MVPs from 1995-1997. In that span, Green Bay played in back-to-back Super Bowls, winning and losing one respectively. They never returned to the big game or enjoyed the same kind of success with Favre again. No doubt an irritating blemish that the organization could only capture one championship with one of the best ever under center.
Flash forward to the modern era: The surefire future Hall of Famer Rodgers might be football’s most talented and efficient quarterback ever. The 33-year-old has capture two MVPs to this point in his career and won a Super Bowl in 2010. Following that championship, the Packers and Rodgers were supposed to start a dynasty and control the league, or at least the NFC, with an iron fist.
Since then, due to a variety of factors from poor roster construction, injuries, and general misfortune, Green Bay has suffered heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss in the postseason, not yet returning to the big game with the NFL’s premier player. At this rate, wasting away the talents and efforts of what can be properly coined as “Rodgers-magic” in his prime.
With each passing defeat in January, the angst in Wisconsin only grows. Given early injury decimation yet again – the Packers’ top three offensive tackles will be out against the Bears on Thursday, for example – it certainly feels like Green Bay is already prepared to bow out in the early winter yet again.
At this rate, it can equally match the fervor surrounding the Bears, though in a slight reverse of circumstances. While the Packers have their superstar in Rodgers under center and have failed to effectively build around him for a long time, the Bears likely have the rest of their quality team in place but refuse to play their potential star at quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky.
The proof is in the pudding: An embarrassing blowout loss to the Buccaneers aside, Chicago took the Falcons and Steelers – two of the very best teams in football – down to the wire on the strength of their defense and explosive running game. This without any threat of a tangible passing game whatsoever. With a more competent quarterback not named Glennon, it certainly feels like the Bears are finally right there, ready to make the leap back into consistent relevancy as a contender. They just have to get out of their own way.
And how appropriately that’s coined for both Chicago and Green Bay.
What is the NFL’s oldest rivalry in Bears-Packers? What was once the NFL’s premier, marquee matchup of two titans has now turned into “they just have to get out of their own way.” Cue the depressing trombone.
When Thursday night comes around, there’s no doubt this game still means something tangible to both teams however.
Early season injury adversity can be overcome by Rodgers’ Packers.
It’s what they did in 2010 on the way to that lone Super Bowl, after all. It’s not about how you start, but how you finish and seemingly no one has done that better in the regular season of late than these Packers. A jumpstart victory over the Bears, even at incomplete parts, could go a long way towards building positive momentum through the rest of the season.
On the other side, a tug of war at quarterback notwithstanding, the Bears finally have the pieces to beat the Packers in their house of horrors.
A stout front seven led by Leonard Floyd, who could take advantage of the Packers’ injuries at tackle. An explosive running back duo of Jordan Howard and rookie runner Tarik Cohen a.k.a “Rumble Pak” and “Joystick.” The table is set for success against an ailing rival.
Chicago has two paltry wins at Lambeau Field in the past decade but Green Bay is as vulnerable as it has been in a long time. With current standing and history on the line, that’s all the Bears could ask for. “Thursday Night Football” has never seemed so simultaneously anti-climactic and crucial.
The Packers and Rodgers have bigger fish to fry while the Bears merely want to slay their long-time torturer and Goliath to finally step into their rightful spotlight.
They just have to get out of their own way. R.
Robert is your guy for all things Bears. Find him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.