Jennings “shocking” comments on Packers organization highlight reality of winning teams

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Vikings running back Adrian Peterson carried the Minnesota Vikings through the 2012 season. Photo by Matt Blewett/The Minnesota Sports Report

Vikings’ receiver Greg Jennings’ comments should not shock, the comments may have highlighted a key difference between successful teams and the rest.

The media has been wringing their hands in corporate shame over comments made by Vikings receiver Greg Jennings’ about the prevailing philosophy and culture of his former team, the Green Bay Packers.

The comments start at the 33:18 mark of the interview between Jennings, Paul Allen and Ben Leber on Paul Allen’s show on KFAN at Vikings training camp in Mankato, Minn. on August 7, 2013.  Below is a transcript of the exchange between Leber (italics) and Jennings.

Now you played on championship football teams, obviously you won Super Bowls.  Now you are over here on kind of the rival of Green Bay.  What do you see out of this team, do we have championship type qualities with this team?

Jennings replied “We do, we do, we really do, and one of the things that obviously drew me to…coming over here was…the makeup of the team and when I came over here I kinda had…uh I was kinda brainwashed. There was no kinda to it, being over in Green Bay you are brainwashed to think that you know anyone in the division was just tiers below…and so coming over here I meet the people and within the organization I’m like wow, these are really great people, we’re real people over here…”

“It’s like everything that you know in Green Bay is like the best, the best, the best, the best, the best,”

First, isn’t this the definition of a good team?  Good teams find a way to win and playing division opponents six times per season almost guarantees an inter-division rivalry.

The iconic rivalries are fueled by frequent meetings and rivalries tend to bring out the extra effort in players so why would a coach not encourage the notion that their team is superior to the others in the division.  What makes a Yankees vs. Red Sox game so appealing?  How about Joe Frazier vs Mohammad Ali, Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson, the Lakers vs. Celtics, the magic of the Miracle on Ice – USA vs USSR.

Rivalries are the glue that keeps sports fans interested because they tend to bring out the best performances and often feature unlikely or super-human performances.  The iconic introduction to ABC’s Wide World of Sports says it all:  “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition… This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports!”

Second, look at the Green Bay Packers’ record under head coach Mike McCarthy.  The team is 74-38 and that includes the ten loss season of 2008.  The team won the Super Bowl in 2010.  Take the 2008 season out and the Packers are 68-28, a winning percentage of over 70%.  The Packers have developed a culture of winning.

One of the few NFL coaches that has a better record than McCarthy is New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, who has a 151-57 record as a Patriot including three Super Bowls and two AFC Championships in 13 years.  Is there any doubt that he has instilled a culture that breeds winning through the “brainwashing” of players into believing that they can win against anyone?

If that is called “brainwashing” maybe it is a technique teams would benefit from, in that sense the media may have been given a tip into the motivation and glue that successful teams use to bring several dozen players together to act as one team…and they are focused on the story of Jennings taking “shots” at the Packers.

While some are wringing their hands in feigned shock and outrage over Jennings’ comments and reading into the comments the fact remains that maybe confidence and a certain amount of arrogance breeds team cohesiveness and success.  Rivalries have existed in all of sports and the teams that come out on top of the rivalry tend to have a confident elitism about them that they back up on the field.

Can anyone, even fans of Packers’ rivals, not agree that the McCarthy era in Green Bay has been successful?  If one reads into his comments as a negative about the Packers, could one read into his comments that they were directed at the Vikings organization where such thinking may be lacking?

The Vikings are looking forward to the 2013 season with a third year quarterback and a much improved (on paper at least) receiver group and the one of the best offensive lines and running games in the NFL.  It is a season that will define the career paths for many on the team, including quarterback Christian Ponder.  It may also be the last season in Purple for many Vikings players as the Vikings have 27 players scheduled to be free agents in 2014.

I hope that the Vikings can develop the swagger and confidence Jennings described and start to view themselves as a team that is able to dominate every opponent.  If that means the team has to “brainwash” the players into that confidence by making telling them that opponents are “just tiers below” them, so be it.  If the outcome is similar to Jennings’ old team I am sure that Vikings fans will be happy.

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