Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

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Jennings says there is no love lost between he and the Packers
Jennings says there is no love lost between he and the Packers

Former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings played his first seven seasons for the Packers and was an integral part of the team’s rise to their latest Super Bowl championship in 2011.  After the 2012 season, Jennings became an unrestricted free agent and signed with the Minnesota Vikings.

Packers General Manager Ted Thompson had to consider that Jennings will turn 30 this season, which is an unspoken benchmark for a skill player’s abilities to begin to erode.  In 2012, Jennings missed half of the season with a core injury that required surgery and extensive rehab.  Legitimately, there were questions as to what Jennings’ value and contributions would be over the next five seasons or so.

Thompson decided that his biggest priority was to work on extending the contracts of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews and offered Jennings considerably less than Jennings was seeking.   It’s hard to argue that decision and the long-term contributions that both Rodgers and Matthews, if healthy, can provide the team.  It seemed all but certain that Jennings would be leaving to play elsewhere.  When free agency started, Jennings had stated that he was looking for a long-term deal in the neighborhood of $5-$7 million per year.  He received little interest and there was a real possibility that the Packers would end up being his only and best option.  The Vikings then swooped in and gave Jennings a fiver year deal worth $45 million and just over $17 million guaranteed.

Shortly after he signed that contract, Jennings took out a full-page ad in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that thanked the team and fans for their support during his time in Green Bay.  Jennings, for the most part (and aside from a rant on Twitter by his sister), was the consummate teammate while in Green Bay.  However, from some of his recent comments, it would seem that Jennings is still disappointed that the Packers didn’t do more to keep him in Green Bay.  Most athletes who play for their original team for a length of time come to expect the team to take care of them and let them play out their careers, on their terms.  That’s just not how professional sports, and especially the NFL, work.  The game has become a business and teams are constantly forced with the tough decision of letting go of a popular veteran and who has given their all to their team.  Packers fans need only see “July, 2008″ to understand this concept.

Jennings raised some eyebrows yesterday during a conversation with Pioneer Press’ Bob Sansevere.  Most of the focus has been on Jennings’ response when asked about playing with two potential Hall of Fame quarterbacks in that of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, and his now being paired with Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder.  Here is what Jennings said:

“When you talk about comparing quarterbacks, it’s hard to compare guys. I’ll take Brett. He did it for so long. I got there in a period of time where Brett already was there (as an elite quarterback). Then the guy they have now, he sat behind Brett and he learned so much. Christian didn’t really have that opportunity. He had to jump in. The way you compare them has to be a little different. The guy they have now (Rodgers) was (essentially) a veteran rookie. It’s a little different, but Christian has tremendous upside. I think what I see now is a quarterback who’s maturing and who’s growing and wanting to learn and grow, which is huge.”

“The guy they have now” that Jennings is referring to is none other than the the highest-paid player in the NFL right now: Aaron Rodgers.  By not referring to Rodgers by name, it appears as though Jennings has taken exception to a recent tongue-in-cheek response that Rodgers gave to a question about Jennings.  In April and at the second annual Wisconsin Sports Awards, Rodgers was accepting an award on behalf of teammate James Jones when he was asked about his thoughts on Jennings now being a Viking.  Rodgers responded with “Who?”, as if to pretend that he no longer associates with his former teammate.  While it may be lighthearted banter between the two, this only adds to the perception that there is disappointment that Jennings is no longer in Green Bay.

As for his favoring of Favre over Rodgers, Jennings played the first two of his seven seasons with Favre at quarterback.  Jennings clearly benefited from having a top-notch passer to help his career get started.  Jennings became an immediate part of the Packers’ offense during his rookie season of 2006 and was a go-to guy for Favre during the 2007 season when the Packers reached the Conference championship.  It’s fair for Jennings to give Favre the credit he deserves and after all, Favre is a lock for the Hall of Fame and arguably one of the best signal callers of all time.  Still, it’s hard not to wonder if that comment doesn’t come from a place where Jennings still feels like he was cast away by the Packers.

During his five seasons with Rodgers, Jennings caught 327 passes and 38 regular-season touchdowns.  Jennings had four touchdown catches in the postseason during that same time, two of which came in Super Bowl XLV.  Jennings’ only championship came with Rodgers at the helm and while football is a team effort, it’s unquestioned that Rodgers was one of the biggest reasons the team reached and won a Super Bowl.  Just three seasons earlier and on a frigid night at Lambeau Field, Favre’s last pass as a Packer in that NFC Championship game was a poorly-thrown interception that ended the team’s season.  It was one of many that Favre had been making during critical games and that he continued to do during his last few seasons with the New York Jets and Vikings.  But still, Jennings will take Brett over “the guy they have now”.

During a January interview with the Huffington Post, Jennings stated that he had a good rapport with Rodgers and that he had hoped that he would return to Green Bay.  He wanted to end his career “. . with the G on my helmet”, as he said.  That he’s now in a Vikings uniform means that things didn’t go as Jennings hoped and so clearly there is a level of disappointment.  As I said earlier, players have a hard time dealing with some of the business decisions that teams have to make.  As obvious as it was that the Packers had to draw the proverbial line in the sand with the money they could offer Jennings, he didn’t seem to agree that he shouldn’t be paid top dollar.

We all saw how the rift between Favre and the Packers divided the fan base and ultimately changed how many fans viewed both Favre and the team.  Time heals all wounds and Favre himself has admitted that he should have handled things differently.  I’m sure the team would as well.  Things appear to be on the mend between the Packers and Favre and we will surely see the two reunited in some way and at some point soon.  As for Jennings, simply stated, he’s not Favre and fans likely won’t be as forgiving of this former Packer continuing to throw jabs at his former team.

The break-up of the Packers and Jennings is another example of the harsh reality in the NFL.  What is today can very easily change and become yesterday’s news in a flash.  Jennings says there is no love lost between he and the Packers.  Many will eagerly be anticipating the first matchup between the Packers and Vikings in October where these exes will collide.  With both sides being somewhat outspoken so far, I’m certain we have not heard the last about this tough split.

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.com

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  • Nopainnogain

    I think Jennings’ statement is being taken a little out of context. “I’ll take so-and-so” doesn’t always have the same context like you’re selecting players for a pickup game. He is starting off his descriptions of each qb and introducing who his first subject is. He could easily be saying something akin to “Take Brett, for example…He did it for so long..” depending on his tone.

    If you look at the reporter’s question, it is more focused on Ponder and how he compares to Rodgers and Favre in development than about comparing Rodgers and Favre. From Jennings’ point of view, he wasn’t in Green Bay when Favre first started, so he can only really know what his own initial experiences were with each qb. Favre was already established, so Jennings is obviously not going to be giving him tips as a rookie. Rodgers was being mentored on the sidelines for a few years, so there was no need for Jennings to be giving him tips either (he was probably spending more time working with the guy that was the starting qb at the time). I mean, how many receivers have the extra time to allocate for mentoring the backup qb? Their job is to focus on their own current role in the offense.

    Jennings is just explaining that his initial relationship with Ponder is going to be different than his initial relationships with Rodgers and Favre because all 3 situations were different. The only Favre Jennings knows is the one that was already established, whereas he has seen all the highs and lows of Rodgers. And by the time Rodgers was starting, there probably wasn’t much the Jennings could have told him that Rodgers didn’t already know from his own years of experience as backup.

    Ponder was asked to start pretty much immediately so he is still going through growing pains and Jennings is sticking up for him and not rushing to critique him vs. HoF players.

    We needn’t be so quick to see offense in everything someone else says.

    • Ken

      I love this guys post! Why?..Because he nailed it on the head! Jennings was not dissing Rodgers, just as the comment Rodgers made was not diminishing Jennings accomplishments here. They are both consummate team players, and this exchange does not change that at all. I think the writer should have considered taking the high road and point out that Jennings DID NOT complain about anything…didn’t run anyone into the dirt… He is supporting the qb that he has now, and once again, that’s the consummate “team first” mentality that makes Jennings such a class act.

      • http://allgbp.com/category/authors/jason-perone/ Jason Perone

        Writing 101: Promote discussion. And thank you all for playing.

        Sure, this is light-heartedness between 2 former teammates and friends, but. …. if any of you don’t think there isn’t at least some disappointment on either Jennings’ or Green Bay players’ side, then congratulations! You’ve created, for yourself, a reality other than what is actually happening out there!

  • packett

    Seriously? Its simply no issue what G Jennings comments, and dumb to make this something to get riled up. I guess elite people have fragile egos.

  • Savage57

    If there was ever a doubt,

    Any question whatsoever,

    Even the smallest, most remote possibility,

    Then Greg Jennings just removed it.

    FACT – If you go to Minnesota you turn into an a$$hole.

    • mudduckcheesehead

      Amen, brother!

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      I’m not going to call him an a-hole by any means, but all during the season there were cracks in the beautiful porcelain image we had of Greg Jennings. He showed he was all about getting the most money he could – not that it makes him a bad guy.

  • aaronqb

    Deep down, I think Jennings is very hurt that he didn’t get big money from GB. Funny thing is, if he had signed the contract offered him by GB prior to the 2012 season, he would have been making more money this year in GB than he will in Minnesota.

    I think Favre and Jennings have developed a strange bond – both were discarded by Thompson and both now are trying to jam it down Thompson’s throat.

    I also think Jennings will end up eating crow. GB has a superior roster and coaching staff to Minn.

  • Gary

    The Packers offered Jennings $9M/yr. in 2011 he said no. Jennings was offered $8M/yr after being hurt for half the year. again Jennings said no. It seems the only one he has to blame is himself.

  • Stroh

    Couple things about the article…

    First the 30 yr old thing starts w/ RB. IMO the further removed from the ball the less it applies. In some cases players that are nearing or at 30 need to be let go if they already have some injury issues. In other cases, some players at positions that might be in decline can continue to play at a very high level past 30. OL w/ little injury history can continue to play well into their 30’s. DL that are run stuffers only can play well, but pass rushers might decline or lose effectiveness at 30 or soon after. I don’t know if I would apply the 30 yr old rule to WR in general. They don’t take a beating like RB do. So I wouldn’t say it applies to skill positions necessarily. Its more about the amount of contact they take and injuries. Jennings should continue to play very well into his low to mid 30s. However the decline starts shortly after 30 and those are also usually the players highest salary years, which is more why Thompson rarely re-signs player over 30 yrs old.

    Second, Jennings asked for a yearly salary in the 13-14M range, not the 5-7M. Hell Thompson offered Jennings a deal in the 8M range. IMO when Thompson offered that deal to Jennings and Jennings would have accepted, Thomspon would have let Finley go instead of paying him the 3M roster bonus. It was either Jennings or Finley and the choice was basically Jennings to make. He turned it down, so he walked and Finley got at least another year. Jennings didn’t get any interest at his 13-14M range but the Packers offered him about 8M. The fact he ended up getting 10M or whatever the vikes gave him.

    • Two Bears, One Cup

      One big exception to your “further from the ball” hypothesis: quarterbacks.

      • Stroh

        Well the NFL has largely made the QB a skirt wearing position anyway. They’ve effectively taken the vast majority of the physicality out of the game for QB’s. So that was kind of a given.

  • http://allpackers.com Nick Perry

    Personally, I think it just makes Jennings sound bitter. He could have signed for more money as pointed out previously, but greed set in, he wanted more. Free agency hit and no one bit, especially Miami who everybody thought would be a player for Jennings. Old OC and WR reunited. Nope, didn’t happen, not even a bit of interest. I think that in itself drove his price and interest down to where the only teams who wanted him were the Packers, but at their price and a receiver starved team like the Vikings. I’m sure he’s already regretting it after working a little bit with Ponder. I mean the guy threw for under 100 yards 3 or 4 times last year and not because Peterson was running wild in all those games.

  • GBPDAN

    Damn, I forgot how stupid Favre looked in that purple uniform. Whats his name..Craig Flemings? , will look just as bad.

  • fatalflaw

    The guy is with a new team, what’s he supposed to say ‘Aaron is God, Farve is Mohammed and Ponder just sucks’ …..that would win him some fans in his new home. Hey, try this on……even rogers is great, but not elite. His stats reflect the great job the qb and receiver coaches do in GB (look what happened when Flynn had his shot, and wonder if rogers had been out another few games……)? Also, thanks minnie, for shooting yourself in the foot by wasting so much salary cap on a risky proposition!

  • Jeff Lawver

    “The guy they have now” is the sticking point. Of course Jennings is hurt. Business comes first however, and Jennings wanted more than he deserved at this point due to his injury history. In spite of a recent ankle sprain,it’ll be interesting to see if he Pulls a Favre, and has a big year. The rivalry just heated up again.

    • http://allpackers.com Nick Perry

      He may have a big year stat wise but the Vikings will be 8-8 at best. Peterson isn’t coming close to what he had last season and Jennings can catch 100 balls, who cares when your team finishes 7-9 at best which is what the Vikings will be. I’m already looking forward to the 2014 season when the Queens play at TCF Stadium. That’s the stadium that knocked Brett Farve out and ended his streak. Like playing on cement come December. All that wanting to play in warm weather was just more BS from a bitter, selfish player that couldn’t handle the Packers did just fine without him and Cobb was clearly becoming the man. Please don’t get hurt before the Packers play the Vikings Greg because I’m really looking forward to the play that knocks you the F out!!! Sorry guys but greed is greed and bitter is bitter. Bothe describe Jennings to a tee!

  • Bearmeat

    Relax guys. Jennings comment “the guy they have now” is just a playful response to Rodgers “Who” response to a reporter’s question about Jennings a couple weeks ago.

    It’s just 2 friends messing with each other through the media.

    That being said, I hope Jennings sucks for Minny this year, simply because I NEVER root for ANY Viking.

  • jOE

    This is just the media trying to make a story out of nothing. All hype and no substance. Sorry Jason, but this whole article is kind of bogus.

    • http://allgbp.com/category/authors/jason-perone/ Jason Perone

      Nothing to be sorry about. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Both sides are prevailing in the media and social media. I say, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. In my opinion, there’s at least some smoke here.

      • jOE

        As a firefighter I would disagree with the “where there is smoke…..” oh, you meant that figuratively. My bad!!