“They’re both great organizations,” he said. “The Patriots do a great job, and obviously the Packers have done a great job, too.”
But Bennett’s mere presence in green and gold this season is perhaps evidence that the Packers are still chasing. They’ve won the NFC North title five of the past six seasons. They’ve been to the playoffs eight straight years. But six seasons have passed since Aaron Rodgers won his lone Super Bowl.
While the team has its deep-seated organizational philosophies and is among the league’s steadiest ships, it’s also capable of change. This year the Packers — a team that typically depends on the draft to reload its roster — signed five free agents, a much more aggressive offseason than fans typically see from Ted Thompson, who is in his 13th season as Green Bay’s general manager.
“You kind of try to do a self-evaluation as you go through life,” Thompson said. “Your work, my work, whatever it is, you try to be the best, be the best you can. I would hope I do some self-evaluation and improve over time.”
The end result is a stacked roster that could give Coach Mike McCarthy and the Packers their best shot at returning to the Super Bowl in years. They’ve upgraded the personnel around Rodgers by signing free agent tight ends Bennett and Lance Kendricks. They tried to shore up the interior offensive line by adding 12-year veteran guard Jahri Evans. And on the defensive side, they added cornerback Davon House and defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois.
To avoid last year’s sluggish start, coaches hope the new pieces jell quickly with the established players and the organization’s reliable cornerstones – namely Rodgers on offense and Clay Matthews on defense. Like the Patriots, the Packers have had the good fortune to have a quarterback – like Brady, a guy who will go down as one of the all-time greats – who is reliable, consistent and showing no signs of slowing down. And like the Patriots, they’ve wisely surrounded him by weapons that will help him shine.
Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb should be healthy, and Davante Adams is coming off a breakout season (997 yards, 12 touchdowns). Adding Bennett means Rodgers will have his best set of pass-catchers since at least 2011, when he won his first MVP award.
“I think Marty fits in really well in the locker room,” Rodgers said. “The guys really appreciate him, enjoy his personality. …He’s the fun-loving guy who, when he gets out there on the field, he really wants to put the work in.”
The team hopes running back Ty Montgomery, a converted wide receiver, picks up where he left off last year. He took over the starting job in Week 14 and wound up leading the league with an average of 5.9 yards per carry. (The Packers drafted three tailbacks, just in case: Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and Devante Mays.)
It can be a copycat league, but the Packers don’t feel like they need to imitate any other team. Their model works, and they hope a slight evolution of thought helps them finally lock up home-field advantage and gives them the final push back to the title game.
“It’s hard to say, ‘Oh, we should do it that way, too,’” said tackle Bryan Bulaga, who’s played seven seasons in Green Bay and never missed the playoffs. “I feel like the way the Packers have done with Coach McCarthy — I think we’ve had a very successful setup here. Obviously, we want more wins, more in the postseason and to get to that championship every year. So does everybody. But I’ve never felt we need to match what others are doing because we’ve had something really good going here.”