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The Real Reason Why the Green Bay Packers Have Drifted from Elite Status

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COMMENTARY | Here's a news flash -- the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl three years ago.

It's not easy to win it all. There have been 47 Super Bowls in NFL history, but only 18 franchises have been fortunate enough to take home the Lombardi Trophy. That's the key word: fortunate. You can have an elite quarterback, an elite defense and all the talent in the world, but a lot has to go right in order to win the pinnacle event in all of sports.

So when you read this piece by Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, sure, he has some valid points, but all in all, isn't it kind of…silly?

Think about this. Of the $121.9 million the Packers committed to their roster in 2013, over 15 percent of that total was devoted to Aaron Rodgers, the team's best player on offense, and Clay Matthews, the team's best defender.

Those two players missed a combined 14 games.

Before you lose Rodgers or Matthews for an extended period of time -- Matthews missed four games in 2012 -- it's difficult to really know what you have behind them in the depth chart. It turns out there wasn't much between Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien, Matt Flynn, Andy Mulumba, Nate Palmer and Nick Perry.

When you are paying Rodgers and Matthews this type of money -- it will only become greater as time progresses -- you can't afford to spend as much in other areas. Soon, more money will be needed to retain players like Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Sam Shields and Evan Dietrich-Smith should Green Bay choose to go down that route.

Defense wins championships, but there isn't a position on the football field more important than quarterback. That's why the signal callers get paid the big bucks.

Well, they don't in Seattle and San Francisco.

In case you didn't notice, those are the two teams set to square off in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

Get this -- Colin Kaepernick is making $1.4 million this season. That's the 28th-highest total on the San Francisco 49ers. In fact, he's making less than his backup, Colt McCoy. Russell Wilson? His number is a shade over $680,000. That's good for No. 26 on the Seattle Seahawks, lower than Tarvaris Jackson.

So what's the point? These teams can afford to allocate their money elsewhere. Look at the San Francisco defense. Stacked doesn't begin to do it justice. The same goes for the Seahawks, who have the best secondary, and perhaps best overall defense, in football.

But guess what? Kaepernick and Wilson, who are each top-10 quarterbacks, are going to get themselves paid, and that day is coming soon.

So will several other players, which ties teams up as far as how much talent they can keep. Yes, you can pay a quarterback tens of millions of dollars and still have yearly success, like with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, but the last time any of those quarterback won a Super Bowl, it was before they signed their current roster-restricting, colossal contracts.

There are very few quarterbacks that you can go to battle with knowing that as long as they are on the field, there is a chance to win no matter what. Rodgers is one of them, as are the three just mentioned. It's not impossible, but it's very, very difficult to win the whole shebang when you're paying them this kind of money.

There is certainly an opportunity for either Manning or Brady to win the Super Bowl this year, but an elite defense and better-rounded team trumps possessing an elite quarterback. Whoever emerges from the NFC this weekend ought to be the favorite to win Super Bowl XLVIII.

That brings us back to the Packers.

Yes, several areas need to be addressed this offseason, and with at least a dozen players entering free agency worthy of consideration to be re-signed, many difficult decisions await general manager Ted Thompson.

But by devoting so much money to top players, specifically at quarterback, it means Green Bay must rely even more on its draft and develop philosophy. You can't afford to shell out buckets of cash to players like Charles Woodson or Cullen Jenkins. You have to rely on developing youth, a keen eye for talent and the players you are paying millions to play up to that contract -- and stay healthy.

And sometimes, it's just the luck of the draw. Since winning Super Bowl XLV, the Packers managed to win the NFC North each season. But then, they have bowed out of the playoffs to the eventual NFC champion -- the team that got hot at the right time, just like Green Bay back in 2010 -- perhaps even this season with San Francisco.

Again, a lot has to go right.

Mistakes have been made and must be learned from moving forward. The Packers aren't eradicated from Super Bowl contention -- they still have that Aaron Rodgers guy. But facts are facts, and the margin of error is slim when there is less money to spread around.

The Packers aren't complacent, as McGinn suggests.

Their hands are tied.

Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.

You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe.

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