Hello Wisconsin: Putting a Bow on the 2023 Season

It's been a great season. Now it's on to the next one.

With the Super Bowl this weekend, this will be my final Hello Wisconsin column of the season. I’ll be moving on to my offseason series (the 50 greatest games of the Favre/Rodgers eras) beginning next week, but for today, it’s time for a bit of reflection and a quick look at this weekend’s championship bout.

Now that the season is a couple weeks in the rearview mirror, it’s a little easier to get a holistic view of everything that transpired this season. 

So before we wrap the season officially, here’s my quick look at what the Green Bay Packers have accomplished this year and where they’re heading next.

It’s hard to see this season as anything other than a success. Coming into the season, I think this team probably had a few realistic goals:

  • Determine if Jordan Love is/can be the guy moving forward
  • Show positive progress on offense with young players
  • Set themselves up for a real run in the near future when they have more experience and salary cap flexibility

Check, check, and check.

As you may remember from my annual fan expectations survey, expectations were lower this year than they’ve ever been in the six-year history of my poll. They were also more spread out than they’ve ever been. Many more people than in previous years predicting win totals in the six or seven range. 

Optimists had the Packers perhaps making the playoffs, which they did. I personally had them winning nine games, making the playoffs, but not winning. So I was pretty darn close.

What I did not predict, however, was the path the season would take. The Packers came out guns blazing in week one against Chicago and made it look easy. It was hard not to get excited after that first game.

But from there, everything got more difficult for a while, before the season began to bottom out in October. The Packers lost multiple easily winnable games. Injuries were piling up. Jordan Love showed promise with his arm talent but simply was not elevating his level of play, and while I never got to the point where I questioned whether he was the Packers’ guy, it certainly wasn’t the obvious “yes” that it became by the end of the year.

Sometime around early November in that Rams/Chargers/Steelers run, everything suddenly started to pick up. It felt like the young receivers finally started to gel with Love and understand their role in the offense. In turn, the game slowed down for Love and he was able to trust his receivers and the plays his coach was calling.

From there, things took off in a hurry. The Packers and Jordan Love fully arrived in front of a national audience on Thanksgiving Day against the Detroit Lions, spanking the would-be division champs in their house in their annual showcase game. In another nationally televised game the following week in what felt like a playoff atmosphere, the Packers thoroughly outplayed the defending champion (and eventual AFC champion) Kansas City Chiefs.

The defense had big swings of play in the last month or two of the season, but for the most part, after the team figured it out in November, Love never really lapsed. He had a tough game in New York and in the fourth quarter against San Francisco, but even including those games/moments he was statistically one of the best quarterbacks, if not the best quarterback, in the game through November, December, and January.

Never could I have ever predicted something like that would happen this year. I felt reasonably confident Love would show signs of being a long-term starter for the team, but absolutely did not expect him to string together weekly MVP performances. 

So where do we go from here?

Really, the sky is the limit. Jordan Love has shown that not only can he be the guy, but he can be a premier player in the league if he continues to be on his current trajectory. In fact, he could have some decent MVP odds heading into 2024.  To know that already after year one is, frankly, insane, and better than what we thought the best case scenario was likely to be with him for this season.

We know also that the young skill players on offense are only going to get better. Jayden Reed, Romeo Doubs, Dontayvion Wicks, Christian Watson, Luke Musgrave, Tucker Kraft, Bo Melton… that’s a hell of a stable of pass catchers to move forward with. If the Packers can hold on to Aaron Jones, this could be the league’s finest offense next year.

Finally, the removal of Joe Barry from the coaching staff opened up a world of possibility for the defense. Simply put, the results Barry got out of his unit were atrocious and indefensible. I have no idea what to expect out of Jeff Hafley, but he and Matt LaFleur sure seem to be assembling a strong staff. It’s just good to see them trying something new and not hamstringing the team’s potential. Any defense led by Barry is essentially guaranteed to be a bottom-tier unit, regardless of talent level.

So if we’re investigating the state of the Packers, I think fans have to be feeling pretty good. Next year we’re back to having real expectations out of this team already. They’re going to be fully capable of contending for a champion. They will have some flexibility to make some moves in free agency. They’ve got a strong complement of draft picks. 

2023 ended up being a whole lot of fun, despite the numerous frustrations along the way. And with the first drama-free offseason in years (knocking on all the wood here) approaching, there’s nothing between now and the 2024 season except a whole lot of anticipation.

Thanks for a great year–and here’s to the next one!

Wisconsin Beer of the Week

I went out to my first fish fry of 2024 this past week, and even with it being before Lent, there was already a big wait for tables at one of our favorite local joints. My family and I braved the wait and I got to enjoy a delicious baked french onion soup followed by a fish fry featuring beer battered cod, potato pancakes, rye, and cole slaw.

And of course, I washed the whole thing down with a tasty local beer.

I was feeling like something malty, so in browsing that part of the menu I came across this one called Comfy Brewhouse by Company Brewing here in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood.

I haven’t had a whole ton of beers by Company. I’ve been to their taphouse once and enjoyed it, and have generally enjoyed the beers I’ve tried from there, but it’s certainly not one in my regular circuit. I’m always eager to try new stuff from local breweries, and this one paired perfectly with the fish fry atmosphere.

There are notes of coffee and caramel within it–it’s a pleasant, lighter, malty beer with just a hint of sweetness that makes it a perfect complement to a fish fry.

We’re almost getting to bock season, which I’m quite excited for. But until then, this is certainly a beer I’d recommend to pair with a fish fry, burger, or other pub style dinner. 

Super Bowl Outlook

So it’s come down to this. One final game of the 2023 NFL season, and it features the teams we probably should have had in this game a season ago. 

I do think this is about the most even matchup we could have gotten out of the final four teams. I don’t see any reason to believe the Ravens wouldn’t have waxed the Niners again, and I don’t like the Lions’ chances against either the Ravens or Chiefs (toss week one out the window, really). 

There’s no doubt that the 49ers are the most talented team in the league. They’re stacked at many key positions, which make them a threat in every single game they play, despite the (incredibly weird) underdog narrative their fans and the team itself have been pushing throughout the postseason.

But in these games, sometimes it’s as few as one or two small advantages that can propel a team over the edge. And in this one, the Chiefs have three.

Quarterback. Coach. Defense. The Chiefs have a significant edge in all three of those areas, and when you can definitively say you’re better in those three areas, I like your chances.

Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce in particular are playing like the Hall of Famers they are this postseason; their connection has been otherworldly. The Chiefs have also had the best second-half defense in the league this year, and especially over the last two months. If the 49ers flail early like they did against Green Bay and Detroit, they’re going to have a much harder time of catching back up.

So despite all of San Francisco’s talent, I’m taking the known commodity with championship experience and several key advantages. 

Give me Kansas City, 27-20.

Last week: 1-1

Season total: 172-111 (60.7%... ehhh, not my greatest season of picks)

 

__________________________

Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Comments (22)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
mrtundra's picture

February 08, 2024 at 07:31 am

This young team of ours, having gotten to the playoffs and knowing they could have gone further, are now officially HUNGRY! The sky is the limit! GO PACK, GO!!!

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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

February 08, 2024 at 10:59 am

GB's last Lombardi, the whole roster got the bitter taste of coming up short, worked their tukus off all off-season, and came back with a vengeance! Here's hoping that's what they're doing now 🍻

The champion is someone who's willing to pay a price nobody else is.

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porupack's picture

February 08, 2024 at 07:45 am

Well, thank you Tim for keeping us entertained with your CHTV posts during the season. Good stuff, and I'll need to fill in the gap months until we resume next year. Cheers...

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Guam's picture

February 08, 2024 at 07:49 am

The Packers have accomplished a miraculous turnaround going from a "last dance" with a HOF QB to launching a "new" team with Super Bowl aspirations in two seasons. Too many teams have wandered in the wilderness for years after a "last dance" effort but the Packers will not do so.

I have to give major props to Gute as the architect of this turnaround. His last two drafts have been nothing short of sensational and have stocked this team with a plethora of young talent. How many GMs find a starting left tackle in the seventh round much less the raft of other talent Gute has brought on board in the last two drafts? I wasn't sure about Gute during his first two drafts, but I am a believer today. Now if Murphy will just get out of the way........

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13TimeChamps's picture

February 08, 2024 at 09:58 am

That was a pretty damn quick "rebuild" wasn't it? Gutekunst and his staff deserve a ton of credit. And watching LeFleur evolve as a HC while installing his actual offense was fun to watch as well.

Good times ahead for this young, ascending team.

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Since'61's picture

February 08, 2024 at 07:55 am

It was an exciting season and it has left us with hope and looking forward to 2024 and beyond. The Packers have rebuilt their defensive coaching staff which was long overdue. Next steps will be who is retained and/or acquired In free agency followed by the 2024 draft.

Plenty to look forward to as this team moves ahead into the next few seasons. Tom Clements will be returning for the 2024 season which is good news for Love, the Packers and their fans. If he can keep Love's development on track the sky is the limit for Love and the Packers. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

February 08, 2024 at 11:01 am

Clements' return is indeed excellent news, thank you :)

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T7Steve's picture

February 08, 2024 at 07:55 am

Thanks for a good season of "Hello Wisconsin" Tim.

That's as good a wrap as any I've seen. From what I've been reading here most are over last season already and really excited looking into its future.

Looking forward to your best 50 series getting started. You're blessed and lucky to write about the team with the richest history in the NFL, so it's easy. I hope I can pass your final exam at the end.

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Razer's picture

February 08, 2024 at 08:36 am

The unknowns heading into this season were huge. Love, youth, rebuild made it unpredictable and exciting. I think you missed the question mark on Matt LaFleur and his ability to lead this team (without Mr. Rodgers). Matt LaFleur did a great job, especially when we hit the Giants/Bucs/Panthers spinout. A lot of negative and questioning the direction of the team. LaFleur kept the team positive and moving forward. His handling of Jaire was measured and clear. The Dallas win and his outcoaching of Kyle Shanahan was masterful. He then ended the season by making the tough decision to rebuild the defensive coaching staff. Got to say that was an honest day's work for our HC. Thanks Matt.

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 08, 2024 at 08:51 am

I'm going to miss the column. it is one of my favorites.

I felt like going into the season they could make the playoffs. I just didn't know if they would or not. Before the season no one knew what to expect. Anyone that said they knew were either time travelers or were trying to sound smarter then the rest of the room. No one knew.

It was up and down for a lot of the season. First game was great getting the W against the Bears after hearing all offseason from Bears fans how they were going to beat us. Follow that up with a tough loss to the Falcons. Follow that up with a great come back win against the Saints. Following that they went on a 4 game losing streak. Lions, Raiders, Broncos, Vikings. Sitting at 2-5, most thought the season was over. People were thinking we needed to tank the rest of the year to get one of the top couple of draft picks to get our new QB. People thought we should start Clifford at QB.

But that is when things started to change. They got the Win against the Rams. They lost against the Steelers but that game the offense seemed to find itself. Love seemed to have the light bulb go off. The numbers prove that too. Before the Steelers game Love was 155 of 260 (59.6%) for 1720 yards, 12 TD's, 8 Int's and an average rating of 85.45. Compare that to the Steelers game on, and Love was 217 of 319 (68%) for 2439 yards, 20 TD's, 3 Int's and an average rating of 108.4.

The first 8 games we were 3-5. The final 9 games we were 6-3.

The team is set up well for the future. With Gutey absolutely nailing these last 2 drafts that has created the new foundation for this team. With a great draft this year we should be on the trajectory of making late post season runs routinely. The offense looks primed to be steam rolling teams. They have a few pieces to add yet, but they are looking set up well.

On defense with a new direction philosophically, it could be what we need to get us over the hump. I will give Barry credit in that he has had his defenses playing well in the playoffs overall. But he hasn't been able to shut teams down when it mattered the most. Had his defense not given up a 5 minute TD drive to take the lead, who knows what happens. Maybe we are in this game and our talk is completely different.
From what I have been seeing of Hafley I am looking forward to seeing how he intends on playing defense. Also I like what i'm seeing from some of these coaches he is bringing in.

I'm looking forward to this offseason to see who they bring in now.

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13TimeChamps's picture

February 08, 2024 at 09:47 am

Friday night fish fry. That brings back some great memories. A true Wisconsin tradition!

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Spock's picture

February 08, 2024 at 11:05 am

Unfortunately, that brings back some BAD memories for me! I'm allergic to fish, shrimp, seafood, etc. and just the smell of them being cooked in restaurants made me extremely nauseous (I'm talking trying not to projectile vomit!) and my family was Catholic. Catholics (as you might know) during this time would apparently go straight to hell if they ate meat on Fridays, lol. We didn't go out to restaurants much, but Friday night fish fry nights were brutal for me when we did. Eating at home was nearly as bad as my mom seemed to think making tuna pasta salad and then picking out the tuna from my portion would somehow get the taste of the tuna out of the pasta (I'm feeling a bit nauseous just remembering).
Interesting thing about the Friday night fish fry tradition as told to my culinary class by one of our chef instructors: The Friday night fish fry came about because the whitefish were so dirt cheap on Lake Michigan that the bars could buy them for practically free and the plethora of Breweries in Milwaukee encouraged the bars to basically give away fried fish so the customers would drink more beer! Bars (and later restaurants) began making Friday nights the traditional night for this. Seems like that as Tim said above a beer was a great way to balance the salt! :)

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Leatherhead's picture

February 08, 2024 at 09:54 am

In 2005, we had a bad season, in 2006 it was better, and in 2007 we were in the Championship game.
In 2017, we had a bad season, in 2018 we were a little better, and in 2019 we were in the Championship game

In 2022, we had a bad season, in 2023 it was better. We'll see what 2024 brings. I expect we'll be in the Championship game.

The Packers Organization has demonstrated they understand what you have to do to rebound, and they're good at it. We're not like the Jets or the Bears or any other franchise that misses the playoffs all the time.

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T7Steve's picture

February 08, 2024 at 10:18 am

I like your trend theory.

How and when did you come up that? Were you just waiting for the right time to spring it on us?

WELL DONE!

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NFLfan's picture

February 08, 2024 at 10:43 am

I especially enjoy hearing about the regional enjoyments of the authors and posters-I've never heard of a 'fish fry.' Beer-battered cod, potato pancakes, coleslaw, etc. It sounds tasty and very Wisconsin.I love the midwest, esp. the people. We don't have fish fry events in CA that I know of-lol.

Anyway, my takeaway is that Matt is finally free, has matured and has taken real ownership of the team. Matt has always been a man of high character which is #1 for me.

Go Pack Go!

Agree with KC win-Patrick will likely put on his cape and with Andy Reid as his wingman, they are a cagey duo.

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Spock's picture

February 08, 2024 at 11:14 am

NFLfan, See my reply above to 13TimesChamps about the Friday night Fish fry tradition. Another 'tradition' that I actually miss is that the local food stores and bakeries used to (don't know if it still exists in Wisconsin, never existed here in Arizona) give each customer who bought a pound of hot ham a dozen potato rolls (or vice-versa, It might have been the other way around) on Sundays. When we moved to Tucson, AZ, in 2005 I was bummed that the ham & rolls thing wasn't a thing here! :)

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NFLfan's picture

February 08, 2024 at 02:11 pm

Midwesterners are noted for their graciousness (in my eyes).
Thanks for your comments.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

February 08, 2024 at 11:37 am

Tim quote: I went out to my first fish fry of 2024

Born in Wisconsin, but lived most of my life in California and the only time I get back is when I return for a Packers game. Last year my wife and I went to the thrilling Saints game which had us ecstatic.

Tim, we were there a total of four days and ate those great perch dinners every day. We absolutely love those fresh water perch and had a great time. We love the people of Wisconsin and meet new ones on every visit. In California they have ocean perch which in comparison maybe like comparing a wiener to a brat, only worse. Thanks for the memory.

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NFLfan's picture

February 08, 2024 at 02:12 pm

@FD:
I like the communal aspect of the tradition.

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CoachJV's picture

February 08, 2024 at 12:34 pm

Drama-free off-season... I don't remember what that is...

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BA4Pack's picture

February 08, 2024 at 11:42 pm

Tim,
I look forward to your musings every week being a Milwaukee native weened on PBR.
1 thing for each group this off season:
Offense - bring back Aaron Jones.
Defense - find a running mate for Quay.
Special teams - get a long snapper.
BA

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BA4Pack's picture

February 08, 2024 at 11:51 pm

PS
Johnson Powers in my draft crush.
Dominant RT and possible center if Meyer’s doesn’t hack it in his contract year.
BA

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