Fixing Jermichael Finley. What’s Wrong And How To Repair It

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Packers Jermichael Finley drops another pass
Jermichael Finley has the drops

The party’s over, folks.

For the first time in one day shy of a full calendar year, the Green Bay Packers lost a game.  The whole team was flat in a 19-14 loss to the 5-8 Kansas City Chiefs.   The Packers’ dream of an undefeated season en route to a second consecutive world championship came to a screeching halt at Arrowhead Stadium.

After having a chance to come to terms with the defeat, it interested me to see what the fan reaction was to the Packers falling to 13-1 on the season.  The responses were about what I expected.

Some were sad, some were sad yet relieved that the Packers wouldn’t have the pressure of a perfect season on them entering the postseason and others were on the ledge and ready to jump so to speak.   Being a fan is an emotional investment in a team and an emotional like this is expected to draw a wide range of reactions.

In particular, the reaction to one particular player’s performance caught my eye: tight end Jermichael Finley.  Finley had another rough game as his habit of dropping passes continued.  A few of his catches may (may) have cost the Packers some points.  We will never know for sure.

What was more alarming was fans’ reaction to his play.  Some were saying he is just going through a rough patch while others went way beyond that and were calling for Finley to actually be released.

Whoa, whoa, whoa.  This loss made a lot of people upset.  Finley happened to be a convenient scapegoat for fans to take their anger out on.  It’s been a long time since the Packers last lost a game, so maybe the fans (as well as the players) forgot how much losing stinks.

Still, they have a valid point.  Something is clearly wrong with Jermichael Finley.  Is it mental? Could his physical skills possibly have been overrated by everyone?

I don’t have the perfect answer.  Only Finley himself knows that.  What I can do, however, is try to diagnose what may be the problem and what solutions could possibly right his play and return him to his former Pro Bowl-caliber self.

Now, I’m not a football coach nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.  But after watching the game via DVR late last night, I will tell you what I am seeing from Finley.

Like a doctor, first we must discover the problem and what is causing it.  The question to start with is it a physical or mental problem?  I think it is definitely a mental problem with Finley.  We all have seen what he can do with his skills.  He is still the same matchup nightmare for opposing coaches. He still is in the right place to reel in the pass from Aaron Rodgers so he isn’t blowing it on his route running.

Since it is a mental error, the next step is determining what is causing these lapses.  Has Finley spent too much time firing his mouth off?  This is a point of much debate amongst the Packers faithful but Finley is indeed the Packer whom has the most potentially damaging stuff coming out of his mouth.  In Finley’s defense, he is only responding to reporters’ questions.  He still needs to think before he speaks, however.

The Twitter excuse would have been another potential problem except that not too long ago both and he and his wife Courtney announced they were done with Twitter until after Christmas.  We all had hoped this would help lift his play but the results just haven’t been there.

Is he too preoccupied with his contract status?  This is another possibility.  It’s not exactly a secret that Finley wants to be paid like one of the game’s best tight ends.  Problem is, he hasn’t been playing like it.  Finley has gone on record saying he wants to remain in Green Bay, but his pending free agency could be a distraction to the young tight end.

We really have no way of determining what is going on inside Finley’s head.  Only Jermichael knows the answer. All we as fans can do is hope he gets it straightened out because the tight end needs to step it up in the absence of Greg Jennings.

So how do the Packers go about fixing these problems with Finley?  There are several ways.

First, tight ends coach Ben McAdoo should spend some extra time with Finley and take him back to basics.  Catching the football is one of the fundamentals of the game and if you can’t do that, then all the fancy stuff like evasion and footwork don’t do a whole lot of good.  This will require Finley to make some kind of commitment and if his head is in a worse place than we all think, that could wind up being a challenge.

Some time with Rodgers wouldn’t hurt Finley either.  The Super Bowl XLV MVP went on record multiple times during the offseason saying how excited he was to have #88 back in the mix and how much more potent the Packers offense would be with him in the lineup.

Well, the Packers offense has definitely been explosive but we haven’t really seen that big breakout game from Finley yet that we were all expecting.   If Finley gets his act together, imagine the possibilities in the playoffs when Jennings returns following his injury.

Finally, in hindsight, I think Mike McCarthy could have pulled Finley from the game in Kansas City.  It’s normally a cardinal sin in coaching to voluntarily remove a playmaker from a tight game like that but a (temporary) benching would possibly have provided Finley the mental jump start he needs.   Tom Crabtree has been showing improved catching ability this season so the Packers would still have had an option at tight end in the passing game.

Basically Finley needs to get back to basics.  Forget the contracts and the celebrity and get back to what made you a star in the first place: catching the ball and making plays for your team.  If Finley can do that, then everyone will be happy—his coaches, his teammates, his fans, everyone.

Not to mention Finley still made some plays during the game.  The drops are the ultimate drive killer though, so that whether it is fair of unfair is where the focus remains until Finley cures his case of the dropsies.

So for those of you calling for the Packers to jettison Finley, please relax and come back to reality.  Someone like #88 doesn’t come around that often and letting him walk and still being on the hook for his salary would be one of the dumbest thing the Packers could do.

Let’s see what Finley does the remainder of 2011.  There is still time for YOTTO to go back from being the Year of the Total Oops to the Year of the Take Over.

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com.

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  • cow42

    he’s super-talented. he’s only missing one small skill… the ability to catch a football. keep him happy so he plays hard the rest of the season and then let his ass find its’ way to another team.

    • Kris Burke

      I disagree. I think we need to keep him around solely for the fact that his presence has opened things up for the wide receivers and f he does straighten things out, look out.

  • Tarynfor 12

    A well written piece Kris.

    However,it’s being to habitual as like many and their search for their LeBron TV show take of “The Answer” as to Finley.

    Every week we get the same diagnosis,it’s mental due to contract,targets,twitter,he’s only 24,he’s double teamed,he has potential,he’s physically dominating blah,blah,blah.

    He put what ever pressure there is on himself and the excuses are not as easily believable.He gets his targets,he signed off twitter,24 is not a kid when your signing your 2nd contract,he isn’t doubled as much as some assume any more as evident last week,he isn’t physically as dominating as proven two weeks ago and on other occasions and his potential is climbing at a record pace for drops.

    This is the NFL not the N”if’L as with Dave Dameshek.

    • Kris Burke

      Thanks Taryn. He can put up big numbers. The potential is there but maybe you’re right and we have overhyped him. We will see if TT agrees in the offseason

  • FireMMNow

    I have said this before on this website and i got blasted. Finley is very good, but he does not get the seperation that the elite TEs in the nfl get. He is not the elite athlete that a lot of people think he is. He actually has great hands, which make the drops even more painful and I will agree with you that his issue is mental.

    He makes tough catches at times because he has to. Rodgers is constantly throwing the ball away from defenders. The catch that Finley had was the first time that he was able to get behind a defender in a long time. Finley is a more than adequate TE, but he does not belong in the Gronkowski, Graham and Hernandez conversation.

    If Finley wants to be paid like a top 5 TE he can walk all day long as far as I am concerned. That money can be spent in numerous different places. If TT thinks he can franchise and trade Finley for a 2nd round pick that would be great. If Finley wants to take less money he can stay, but paying him like an elite TE would be awful.

    • Jer

      I’m a little disturbed that I just wrote basically the same thing as someone who calls himself “FireMMNow”. ;)

    • Kris Burke

      Perhaps. I think offensive line and secondary could be upgraded significantly with the money we would pay Finley

  • Jer

    I’m starting to believe we’ve just overrated his overall talent. Back in 2009 people were comparing him favorably to the like of Antonio Gates and other all time greats at the position. Now compare him to guys like Graham and Gronkowski. He just doesn’t get open like those guys do.

    Even on most of his catches, there’s a defender in his hip pocket. We’ve been told forever that he’s a matchup nightmare who is impossible to cover. Teams seem to be able to cover him just fine.

    • Kris Burke

      Hoping not. He can do it. Teams very well could have him figured out. If he can’t adjust his game, he is done for sadly

  • Ron LC

    Answer: Grasp both ears and yank, extracting head from small intestine.

    • Kris Burke

      THIS PLAYER NEEDS AN ENEMA! If jack Nicholson as the Joker would talk about Finley

  • Ron LC

    Seriously, Finley will get better when and only when, he learns to separate from coverage giving AR a half way decent target.

    • Kris Burke

      That’s a big part too. That’s why I think one on one time with Rodgers may help.

  • Tarynfor 12

    You all deserve red check marks.LOL

    • Ron LC

      Thank you I was feeling left out.

    • Kris Burke

      Flashbacks to my school report cards. No thanks.

  • Justin klatt

    It doesn’t help that he has multiple kids with multiple women and paternity tests to deal with during the season.

    • Kris Burke

      Source? Proof?

    • diesel

      you my friend are a jackass for that dum ass statement you put the man kidds on blast, that’s way over the line someone please get me a rope for thes ignorant redneck baster!!!!!

  • jonny

    TE on this Packers team is not the place to spend $. QB (Rodgers), OLB (CMIII), WR (Jennings) and maybe DL (?) are the places TT spends his $. Can any team have all four positions getting top 5 $$$?

  • http://httm bill from jersey

    just saying……..hes coming off major,that’s a major knee injury.it takes 2 years to fully recover from this.trouble separating because hes not close to full speed.you can see the way he runs and the way he cowers when hes about to get hit.i say keep him,he still must be accounted for and will only get better with time.hopefully for the playoffs..finley was a beast before he got hurt last year ,,,,REMEMBER,IT TAKES TIME FOR MAJOR KNEE SURGERY,AND FINLEY HAS NOT SAID A WORD ABOUT IT,HES JUST TRYING TO HARD[PRESSING] A WEE BIT.GOT TO KEEP HIM

  • http://httm bill from jersey

    PATIENCE PACK FANS,I THINK WERE KIND OF SPOILED.MAJOR KNEE SURGERY,MAJOR KNEE SURGERY……GIVE THE GUY A BREAK,I STILL THINK HE WILL BE A FORCE IN PLAYOFFS…….MAJOR KNEE SURGERY.NO ONE EVEN MENTIONS THIS….COME-ON MANNNNNNNNN

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      major knee surgery…

  • http://httm bill from jersey

    thought u professional football writers would realize this.stop blaming and harping on finley period.

  • FireMMNow

    bill has been nearly two years. finley was not that much different before he hurt his knee. he still did not seperate. he got a lot of targets and used his great hands to catch a lot of those. but could you explain to me how knee surgery affects his hands. if his knee is in his hands then we have major issues.

    • CSS

      I get a bit confused when you keep saying, ‘he doesn’t get separation.’ Unless you have coaches tape, the only time you get to see the end-product of the route Finley’s run are when he’s targeted. He’s only targeted 5.6 times per game. He’s running 30 routes per game.

      And when he is covered tightly it’s by a cornerback or safety that’s roughly 50 lbs. lighter than Finley and of course faster. Of course it’s tight coverage. Rodgers throws him the ball because of his size. He consistently gets separation from linebackers, sometimes even safeties, just never corners.

      I totally get the frustration with his lack of concentration, but the ‘separation’ thing feels like a strawman. Anything less than a DB and he has at least 2-3 steps, that’s substantial separation in the NFL.

    • CSS

      Here are highlights off the Packers.com website, shows his drops and catches:

      http://www.packers.com/media-center/videos/GameDay-Packers-Chiefs-game-highlights/fa939b11-09e6-407a-93f5-679f73f032d9

      He’s blowing by safeties and leaving them in their tracks on cuts. He has 2-3 steps (at least) every single time, even when doubled.

      His concentration is painful, the separation isn’t.

    • http://httm bill from jersey

      Ur name says it all.hmmmmmmmmm…been 2 yrs huh….did u watch the first 5 games in 2010,finley was DOMINATE,do some research,oct.10, 2010 finley got hurt.i think thats 14 months only 10 shy of 2 yrs.math major huh.i think u should change ur name to firefinleynow……hater