The Packers always have played in consecutive championship games. They were winners in the first two Super Bowls, then won Super Bowl XXXI before losing the game the following year.
So naturally, the talk around the team Monday—and almost immediately after the confetti hit the ground Sunday night—wasn’t about the win over the Steelers in Dallas. It was already about Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
Yup. They’re thinking about Pack-to-Pack titles.
“We’re looking to be back again next year,” cornerback Charles Woodson said. “I really believe that. I think we have the team, we have the nucleus, and we most definitely have the quarterback.”
The Packers were the second-youngest team in the NFL this season, so there is a pretty good chance that they’ll be contenders for the foreseeable future. They also plan on being a lot more healthy in the 2011 season. Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley, Nick Barnett, Mark Tauscher all will likely be back with the Packers after spending significant time on injured reserve in 2010.
Those guys undoubtedly want to be in next year’s Super Bowl team picture without an asterisk.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of starting again with his injured players back. “On paper, it’s a lot like this year. Coming out of training camp, this was the best football team that I’d stood in front of … Next year is going to be the same thing. I’ll be very excited to coach this group.”
“I feel like we’re kind of reloading,” Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers said of the return of players, including Finley, whom he called the best tight end in the NFL. “I think the core, the nucleus of this team, is intact to make runs like this for the next four or five years.”
Although that might be commonplace for the Packers, it has not been the trend in the NFC. The Packers on Sunday were the 10th different team to represent the conference in the Super Bowl in the last 10 years. No NFC team has appeared in back-to-back Super Bowls since Brett Favre’s crew did it in the 1996 and 1997 seasons. Since then, no NFC Super Bowl champion has even won a playoff game the following season.
But these are the Packers, who always order a double when it comes to Super Bowl shots.
“I look at history and tradition as an asset, and we feel very blessed in Green Bay to have a tremendous history and tradition, and that’s something that now we’re a part of, we’re permanently part of,” McCarthy said. “That will be something that we’ll use as a strength and an outlook.”
McCarthy said he doesn’t feel any pressure or stress to win and follow the path of coaches Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren. Of course, that path always led to another chance, at least, at a championship. And for both of those men, that path turned into streets named after them in Green Bay.
“We celebrate (tradition) as fine as any sports organization in the world, and we’ve added to it,” McCarthy said. “So to me, our tradition and history and our ability to repeat, that’s exciting to us. That’s the next challenge.”