Donald Driver: Is It Packer Nation Vs Ted Thompson Part Two?

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Packers WR Donald Driver
Have Packer fans seen the last of Driver's trademark smile?

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver learned a brutal lesson last week on the power of social media.

Driver, whose place on the Packers’ 2012 roster is most certainly up in the air, sent out the following message on Twitter this past Thursday:

“Hello everyone: I’m a packer for life. It will never change. Go Pack Go!!!!”

With that comment, Packer Nation immediately awoke from its post-draft slumber. Had the Packers decided to hang onto one of the most beloved players in franchise history or was this a way for Driver to cryptically inform Cheeseheads all over the world that his time in green and gold was indeed up?

Even after clarifications issued by Driver and his agent, Jordon Woy, it’s currently the hot topic around the water cooler for Packer fans everywhere. Some see things through the eyes of GM Ted Thompson and say that while they will always love Driver, the Packers are so deep at the wide receiver position that Driver has to be a casualty to keep players like Tori Gurley on the roster.

Others feel that Driver, whom is often cited as the only offensive player to actually “show up and play” during the playoff debacle this past season against the New York Giants, is still better than any of the other options on the roster.

I would fall more into the first group than the second, thought I totally understand where people who insist Driver must stay are coming from. Although I have to say that Packer fans have to realize they have seen this script play out before and it is not a good idea to be going down this road again.

Remember the Summer of Favre in 2008? Well, 2012 is appearing to be the sequel: the Summer of Driver. I’m not accusing Driver of being a prima donna like Favre. Far from it. Driver has handled this situation perfectly, no doubt taking cues from the PR disaster that was Favre’s divorce from the Packers. Not to mention Driver has always been one of the most decent guys in the NFL.

Fans are obsessing over this pending decision to the point that it is going to consume discussion even more than it has already. Just wait until the cut down days during the preseason. It is reasonable to believe Driver could at least make it to training camp where he will actually be allowed to compete for a roster spot.

Should the Packers decide to move on from Driver, which I personally believe is still a crapshoot either way, Thompson once again will face backlash from fans although it will not even come close to rivaling what he heard back in 2008. However, with a Super Bowl title now to his credit, Thompson should by now have earned the benefit of the doubt with fans.

Unfortunately when it comes to players with a stature like Driver, the front office person usually takes a lot of heat for it no matter how much sense it makes in relation to the product on the field. Some fans cling to players like Driver, Favre and Peyton Manning because they’re links to an era of excitement and success despite the fact that those waiting in the wings could bring just as much success or perhaps even more.

I’m not saying FIRE TED THOMPSON protests will break out again, but I think there will be some genuine anger directed at the Packers GM.

Thompson believes that sentimentality does not win championships. He believed it in 2008 and thanks to the team’s Super Bowl XLV title and it’s 15-1 record in 2011 likely believes it even more now. It’s definitely going to be a tough call to make given what Driver has been willing to give up to remain on the Packers roster, but sometimes the right decision isn’t the easiest nor is it the most popular.

I totally understand why some people will be so upset should Driver be released. I’ll admit he’s been one of my favorite Packers for the past ten seasons as well. What he had to overcome to get where is today as well as how he carries himself on and off the field are truly remarkable stories.

Honestly, I’d feel the same way with any player. After what the team went through with Favre in 2008 and what the Indianapolis Colts went through this past offseason with Manning, fans need to come terms with the fact that no player is guaranteed to finish their career with the team that drafted them and that it is becoming even more of a rarity for such a thing to occur.

That means even Aaron Rodgers could play somewhere else in the future. I’m hoping not, but anything can happen in the NFL. Who would have thought in 2010 Manning would be a Bronco in two years or in 2007 who’d have thought Favre would be a Viking? The NFL is too unpredictable to assume anything with anyone.

Maybe that’s why it is so much fun to follow.

If Driver is indeed let go, fans need to salute him and then move on. You never know what could be around the corner and waiting in the wings. That’s not to say Driver should be forgotten. His impact and legacy will be felt around the Packers an the league for decades to come. He will be elected into the Packers Hall of Fame and just maybe even the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It will be an emotional day for Packer Nation, but I ask all of you to keep things in perspective. The memories of Driver’s time in Green Bay will endure much longer than the story of this offseason and the debate over his future.

DD wouldn’t have it any other way.

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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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  • Mojo

    Although DD is very popular amoung GB fans, it is nowhere near what many felt (and still do) for the Dongslinger. I think I saw a recent JS poll that a significant majority of fans want DD back. However, I believe, most of those people understand the numbers game and would reluctantly let DD go without holding a major grudge against TT. You can probably get by at QB longer than a position such as WR which requires more athletic skill.

    I think if the fans see the Packers give DD a legitimate shot in training camp at the roster spot, they’ll live with the decision one way or another. Not matter who a fan likes, they certainly realize no one can play forever.

    And about the “Packer for life’ tweet, I may be a little cynical, but I do believe it may have been as much to grease up the fan base for his DWTS run than as any veiled attempt at a cryptic contract message.

  • James david Marsh

    It makes no sense to me for packer fans to hold it against players like Brett Favre who still want to play the game. If Donald Driver, Ryan Grant, Chad Clifton, and Nick Collins wish to continue playing and sign with the Minnesota Vikings, why should it matter to Green Bay fans? I loved to watch Brett play QB for Green Bay. I loved to watch Donald Driver play for Green Bay. What these players did for green bay is all that matters.

    • FireMMNow

      Brett Favre played for the Vikings so that he could stick it to TT and the rest of the organization. If driver has to play for the Vikings because that is the only team that will offer him a deal that is a different case. I will not like seeing him in a rivals colors, but I will cheer for him when he is not playing the pack.

    • Oppy

      Some would say that when you look at the big picture, in retrospect, it looked like there’s a possibility that Favre had already decided he wanted to play for the Vikings before he was told he wasn’t going to be able to just come out of retirement and take back his old job. Some seem to think Favre was manipulating the situation, figuring the Packers would just release him so he’d go away. Remember, the Packers had filed tampering charges against the Vikings with the league.. The league decided it was just Favre talking to his old pal and swept it under the rug. Fast forward to a year later, and where is Favre playing?

  • FireMMNow

    Drive’s time with the Packers should be over, and this is coming from a huge fan of his. The money side is one issue, but keeping a guy like Driver for an extra year or two can retard the development of your younger players like Cobb and Gurley. The Packers are an improve from within organization and the only way to do that is to allow the younger more talented players to see the field.

    Driver has been treated very fairly from what I can tell by the front office throughout his career. I hope the Packers do not have to cut him and he retires like the consummate pro that he has been. But if he really wants to keep playing he will just have to do it somewhere else.(hopefully outside of the division)

  • Big T

    the problem with letting Driver go is the fact that he is the only receiver on that roster that can consistently catch the damn ball. I am 100% sure Rodgers does not want to see him go. I ask you knuckleheads to watch last years playoff game and then if you can tell me with a straight face that Driver should be gone so be it….

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      “the only receiver on that roster that can consistently catch the damn ball.”

      Driver has had days when he had the same problem. You’re absolutely right about him in last year’s playoff game, but if you’re basing your opinion on one game, then I have to ask, who’s the knucklehead?

    • Oppy

      Four words:

      Single. Linebacker. Covering. Donald.

    • FireMMNow

      The first half of last season Driver dropped as many as he caught. And as Oppy says, most WRs should be able to make catches on out patters vs. linebackers. Overall Driver was the 4th best WR on the team last year. This year he will be the 5th best WR. that position should be held by a young guy with upside, not a guy who is clearly on the downside of his career.

      In order to stay on top teams have to make difficult decisions. Holding onto a guy one extra year for sentimental reasons can have a huge impact. DD was a seventh round pick himself. If at the time the Packers held onto an aging vet because he was well liked, DD could have easily been cut and playing for someone else. This is the NFL, not beer league softball. You cannot play until your are 50 just because you are fun to have around.

    • FireMMNow

      on the season out of the top 91 WRs in targets, Driver ranked 85th in catch percentage. He dropped 17.78% of the catchable balls thrown his way. Check…mate.

      http://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2012/01/17/drop-rate-2011-which-receivers-are-dropping-the-ball/

  • Ron LC

    Thankfully, this issue will be resolved by someone other than fans who seem to want to inflate the performance of those who have limited experience over someone who has performed year after year. Nothing against Gurley and Borell but you only have a few plays in pre-season to make a judgement on. Those have seen them and know so much more will be tasked with making any decision on DD. That’s the way it should be.

    The question that needs to be answered is this, “Is DD’s perceived value greater than any option being considered?”

    If not I’m sure real Packer fans will accept that reality and move on with no objections. In the meantime, I’ll be a fan of DD for life. But never will I reject the GB Packers because a decision was made that contradicts my preference.

    If I was that fickle, I’d have deserted after Harrel and Neal.

  • cow42

    a team’s 5th wr (not to mention 6th “pass – catcher”)needs to play special teams.

    • Oppy

      Cow, I agree, but to be fair DD is one of the most valuable assets on the “hands” team.

      But, yes, I know- how often is that ST package on the field.

  • Savage57

    I have all the confidence in the world that whatever happens, DD will play it out with all the grace he has shown over the years. A man’s character is measured by how he acts in the face of adversity, and this man has a lifetime of experience answering that bell with nothing but.

    Now as to my personal wishes. I think that DD still has gas in the tank, and that keeping 6 WR’s and ONLY 4 TE’s is the answer. What DD brings to the field in terms of savvy, experience, and even athleticism would be hugely beneficial to the development of Mssrs. Cobb and Gurley. Besides, Gurley can fill the special teams role of the missing TE.

  • Bobadger

    Ted Thompson’s decision process is more complex than many give him credit for. He replaced Favre with a younger QB who had a tremedous upside as a starting QB. Had Favre not “retired” before unretiring Bret would have returned as the starting QB. But he was wavering between playing/not playing and it was too important a position decision to allow an aging Prima Donna to complicate. In the case of Driver, we are talking about a 4th or 5th receiver position and a choice between Driver, who is a great team leader, and an untested, undrafted rookie. My guess is that Driver comes back this year. BTW, if Thompson was the cold, heartless GM many assume he is, there is no way that he would have released Nick Collins!

  • oldresorter

    Can DD get open as a primary option vs a #1 corner? I don’t think so. Can he get open as a 4th option vs a nickel or LB? I think so. How much is that worth vs Gurley who probably can get open as a second or third option? I don’t know, I have a bunch of faith in MM / TT to decide on this one. I wonder if Gurley might make the roster in place of a TE that we often keep, which would allow us to keep both?

  • gavinwca

    Donald Driver has so much Self Respect,personal honor, and respect for himself,Green Bay Packers, the fans,and the sport. WE Need people like Donald Driver playing Football to show players, fans, and the general public, what a real football hero should strive to be like.

    Donald may have slowed down a bit, but he has never lost the respect due him for his superior caracter. The sport sufferes evertime real men leave the sport. Bret Farve wishes he had this much self respect.

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