Jermichael Finley: Overrated or Underperforming? All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley drops the ball as Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Sean Jones defends.

This season, there seems to be no other Green Bay Packers player more controversial than tight end Jermichael Finley. In the final year of his contract, coming off a season spent mostly on injured reserve, he has been under intense scrutiny by fans. Number one, can he stay healthy? And number two, can he be the offensive juggernaut he was predicted to be?

I think we’ve found out the answer to the first question: yes, he can stay healthy. He hasn’t missed a single game all season.

It’s that other question, though, that has fans arguing the most.

While I was sitting in the upper deck of MetLife stadium on Sunday, I couldn’t believe the number of passes I watched Jermichael Finley drop. After his third one, both my older brother and I looked at each other with mutual frustration. And in the heat of the moment, I even called for him to be taken out of the game.

This, of course, is why I am not a coach. Finley’s first-down reception in the Packers’ final possession was a crucial jump start to the game-winning drive. He obviously has the talent and ability to make those big plays, and we’ve seen them all season.

But we’ve also seen the drops.

According to STATS LLC., Jermichael Finley has 8 dropped passes so far this season, tying him for sixth place in the NFL. (He’s third in the NFC behind only Roddy White and DeSean Jackson.) No other Green Bay receiver has more than three drops this year, providing a stark contrast to this issue.

Additionally, has Finley listed at just a 62.7% catch rate, ranking him 17th among tight ends and 70th among all receivers (who are on pace for at least 30 receptions or 60 pass targets). Guys like Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Fred Davis, and Jason Witten seem to be more dominating – at least statistically – than Finley. They’ve outdone him in catch rate, targets, and total yardage, and both Graham and Gronkowski each have more touchdowns.

Isn’t he supposed to be this monster tight end who should be impossible to defend? Haven’t some of us been touting him as the best tight end in the league?

Yes, some of those statistics are products of different offenses. The Packers have a very deep corps of receivers, and it’s very much a team mentality as far as who gets the ball. Still, New Orleans and New England are two teams with similar offensive muscle that don’t have many problems spreading the wealth among their players.

And really, it’s not even about the statistics. They’re just mainly support for what we’ve been witnessing the past few weeks. How many times have we groaned lately at a drop by Jermichael Finley?

Too many, if you ask me. Peter King, in his Week 13 “Monday Morning QB,” even wrote: “Jermichael Finley’s not in the class of Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham, in my mind. Drops too many.”

“But wait!” some of you might say. “He still had 6 receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown against the Giants!”

True. He’s also had more touchdowns so far this year than any other year in his NFL career. And he’s averaged about the same number of yards per game as he did in 2009. (Though to be fair, his catch rate in 2009 was also 75.3%, heads above this year’s rate.)

The big stat, however, is his yards per catch. At 14.3, it stands above the four tight ends mentioned earlier, with Gronkowski edging the closest. So when he does get the catches, he is making a lot out of them.

It also seems to highlight the way the Packers utilize Finley. He has been spread out as a wide receiver probably more times than any other tight end in the league. (If someone can find the stats to confirm or deny that claim, feel free to post it.) Finley’s not going to be the type of tight end that takes the dump off passes and short routes on most of his snaps. His role in many cases is to stretch the field vertically and perhaps draw coverage towards him. We saw the Denver Broncos focus so much on him that other receivers were left to run free.

Putting all that together, we have to ask ourselves: is Jermichael Finley simply underperforming, or has he been overrated by fans and the media?

Let me set the disclaimer out right away: we’re not going to know this year the definitive answer to that question. And we might actually never know depending on his future with the Packers, because it will require us to compare this year with more samples of his ability than we already have.

At this point, though, I am going to lean towards Finley being an underperformer with a sprinkling of being overrated.

Look, the biggest thing against him this year is the drops. He doesn’t have a fumble to his name, he’s making good yardage on his completions, and in most respects he’s performing better than he did in 2009 when he actually played for most of the season.

That said, I also think comments about him being the best tight end in the league is simply short-sightedness on the part of Packers fans. Finley has a long way to go and a lot to prove before we can suddenly bestow such a title upon him.

The silver lining is that drops can be corrected. We’ve seen it very recently with James Jones, a receiver who still has last year’s reputation. This year Jones has dropped very few of his targets, and while he hasn’t been as involved as much as last year, you can tell that those days are behind him.

And then look at a guy like Adrian Peterson. He had 19 fumbles in his first three years with the Vikings; however, after working to correct it, he has just two fumbles over the past two seasons.

Look, I have been very frustrated with Jermichael Finley’s performance this year. But I think we have to step back and look at the whole picture.

We tend to remember the big plays, both negative and positive, while we conveniently forget the rest of what happens. And drops are big plays. They stick out in our memory, because they are so frustrating to watch, especially on key drives.

But the truth of the matter is that it is correctable. Jermichael Finley has been known for his great hands, and for all intents and purposes, we have to at this point consider these drops to be an anomaly. He could very well be this year’s James Jones and come bouncing back next year with a catch percentage rate back in the mid-70’s.

The bad news is that Jermichael Finley is not achieving his potential this year. The good news is that the potential exists, and he just has to get there.


Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski


28 thoughts on “Jermichael Finley: Overrated or Underperforming?

  1. It is not just the drops, it is the KIND of drops. they are catches YOU and I made in middle school. They are right in his gut. It is not like those drops that are counted against the receiver but if he made the catch you would still say nice catch. Finley’s drops should be automatic. Poor AR puts the ball right there and the drive is killed. I would be more forgiving if owned up; but no, his remarks are hey drops happen. but the drops look like errors of concentration, which i suppose is correctable, but the Jermike does not seem like the most easily coachable guy; thinks he already is too great to learn. In any event he is not a Graham in any event; but i assume his price is coming down with each drop. We got more important guys to keep.

    1. It’s funny, we had this debate last year with Jones, who was also looking to sign a new contract. He made some great catches, but missed some stupidly easy ones. I think Finley comes into the discussion with more base value, though, which stirs things up a little bit. People aren’t as quick to dismiss him as they were Jones.

  2. sorry for the dropped words and repeats. my brain goes south to meet up with jermichael’s when he is the topic

  3. To me it’s a “rose is a rose thing.” When you evaluate JF it’s not hard to think of him as great based on potential and lousy based on performance on key possession plays. Another fear I have is whether a big contract will give the Packers that “Gates” type TE for a long period or will he lose his motivation and become a very expensive average TE?

    After 4 years, the discussion continues about his value, I tend to have reservations about predicting his future value. GB can’t afford too many financials erorrs. I guess we’re lucky that we have TT and MM to make those decisions.

    Thanks for the indepth analysis Chad. You certainly wrapped the JF issue up in to a nice compact package.

    1. Thanks, Ron.

      I think you on the catalyst for this debate. In any other year, we’d be frustrated with the drops, but the arguments wouldn’t be so inflamed as they currently seem to be. However, with him in a “contract year,” the projection of his future value is of significant importance. How is he going to be evaluated by teams, and what does this year’s performance level do to that value?

      1. Exactly, which is why TT may let him find out what he’s worth before bringing him back. Kind of a larger scale J Jones.

  4. his drops are beyond frustrating, and we all know (including him) that he has to step it up. i think he will. that catch in the last drive is something to build upon. by the way… does anyone else notice that his gloves look like giant floppy mittens? everyone else has these slick looking, form-fitting gloves. his just look like they get in the way. but, when we talk about his value… it’s really not just about yards and drops. it’s about what he does for our offense as a whole. I’m talking about how he reveals coverages for AR, the amount of penalties he draws, and most importantly freeing up our receivers for 1:1s. you sort of mention it in passing, but in my opinion, that’s really the way we have to judge him. jordy doesn’t have the year he’s having without JF in the lineup. jordy is killing it in 1:1s with no safety help, but he’s also getting a ton of those situations that may not be there without the respect for JF. I agree that graham and gronkowski are playing better individual seasons, but at the same time NO and NE don’t have the receivers we have. With Finley in there, our receivers are doing DAMAGE. in NO/NE, the TEs are essentially the featured receivers. if we don’t resign him, are defenses really going to focus double teams on quarless or dj or crabtree? no. in this situation, his reputation (overrating) helps the team a lot. you can tell that mm and rodgers fully understand this, and if ar made a push for jones this past offseason, i can’t imagine the heavy campaigning we’ll see for JF. yeah, he might be expensive, but to have his versatility, size, and speed and to be an expert in our offense… it’s worth it. when he goes on a run with little/no drops coming up, there will be no debate. I’m not saying he’s the best TE in the league, but he’s the best TE for our offense and team and that’s all that matters to me.

    1. thanks mm for calming me down. Silverstein made many of the same points. still, no excuse for those drops. none. notice how jordy has pretty much cured himself of the dropsies this year too. i guess i just do not want him overcompensated. we will need a ton of reserves to renew or to renogiated AR’s contract, which will come close to Manningesque levels.

    2. mm above pretty much stated how I feel about the Finley situation. I do think there will be critical games in the near future were we will be glad JMike is on the team. I can live with him being slightly overpaid if it makes the whole offense better.

      I have noticed that Finley has the hardest time catching balls that are right on him. When he has to stretch slightly he does better. No excuses, but I wonder if the balls that are right at the numbers are spatially more difficult to judge for all receivers.

      1. They are, and Jennings (among others) have articulated why. Rodgers throws with a great deal velocity and the balls coming right at the center of your jersey cause a moments hesitation: do you go palms up and position your hands to basket the catch or palms facing the QB where you get to the ball sooner.

        Receivers say that moments hesitation of up or down when the balls on you quickly, right in the numbers, can lead to drops. They don’t use this as an excuse, just a matter of fact.

  5. Overrated or Underperforming?

    This is like the coin toss at the beginning of each game.Finley has become a coin toss in the scheme of things.
    Does he attend the coin toss,as it seems he plays to the outcome…heads up or tail dragging.

    1. I watched that before I posted and I get what he says and I no how you totally agree with his words.
      However,CSS,I have stated many times how good Finley is and can be,but I also recognize what he isn’t at times in games.
      Commanding a double cover is great but IMO,it doesn’t excuse the end a drive drops and the other mishaps that in all honesty,should not occur as often as appears/seems/does,depending on how much one is in his corner of defense.
      My take of him being a coin toss as to his play may seem a little too cut and dry for some as was apparent for you.
      But you remain consistant in reading too much into all my posts and that itself makes you more consistant than Finley.Happy Days.

      1. “But you remain consistant in reading too much into all my posts and that itself makes you more consistant than Finley.Happy Days.”

        I posted a link to Butler’s commentary without even referencing your post, Taryn. Also, when was the last time I even commented on one of your posts either here or elsewhere? A year ago? Longer?

        Get off the cross.

  6. “Finley’s first-down reception in the Packers’ final possession was a crucial jump start to the game-winning drive. He obviously has the talent and ability to make those big plays, and we’ve seen them all season.”

    Here’s where some fans fall short in their analysis of Finley. Do you realize, on the very next play where Nelson had the deep reception down the sideline, that the Giants were so concerned about Finley pre-snap they sent a safety in motion with him (along with the DB/LB already covering him) that Nelson was single-covered running free down the sideline?

    Great route by Nelson, but it was the Giants fear of Finley that singled Nelson up on that route. Stats, as always, are a part of the conversation but not the resolution to any debate.

    1. Question?If Nelson doesn’t hold onto that pass that was thrown to him by the assumed faer factor of Giants as to Finley and we lose the game.Will you blame Nelson for his one drop or Finleys mutiple at points that would/could have made the one mentioned…unnessessary to begin with.

      1. I don’t understand your point, Taryn. Reality: once again Finley pulled coverage accross the field, including the safety, and it allowed a really good receiver in Nelson to be single covered down the sideline. No ‘what ifs’ necessary.

        I can’t even begin to understand your ‘what if’ scenario. How would a hypothetical drop by Nelson cause me to not be frustrated by Finley. This doesn’t follow on any level at all.

          1. WHY DO YOU HATE READING? See my clear criticism of him posted below. He lacks focus, combined with obvious pressing in a contract year, and it’s showing.

    2. I absolutely agree. It’s similar to what we’ve been seeing with Clay Matthews this season. Sometimes being a disruptive force is more indirect than we want it to be.

      I finally got around to watching the 5 Questions segment, and Butler is right. The primary thing that I am concerned about, and which inspired this post, is his drops this season. And really, I think people get so focused on those that they forget the rest of the things he does (a la James Jones, 2010).

      Still, the drops are uncharacteristically high. Perhaps I could have made it clearer, but my basic premise is: are our expectations for him to never drop a pass beyond his limits? Are we overrating him in that way?

      Or is he simply having an off year with his receptions, but one that is correctable?

      I think it’s mostly the latter, but somewhat the former, since it is expecting a lot from receivers to catch every single ball thrown at them.

      1. Chad, I’ve been a critic of Finley on a mental level. It’s only been 2 months since Rodgers called him out for his mental errors (reading coverage, positioning, precision in his routes when he’s not primary and his focus). It’s frustrating for me to see him miss the little things pre-snap and as the play unfolds when he’s NOT the primary receiver. He’s not shown maturity in that department, though I think he’s progressed.

        As of this year, seems obvious he’s pressing. He knows there’s a sizable payday out there and he’s pressing to make plays after the catch. That’s no excuse, he needs to catch the ball. But there’s nothing more obnoxious than fans calling for his head or saying he’s overrated when all they do is watch where the ball goes and not the impact the kid has away from the ball.

        Defenses have game-planned for 12 consecutive weeks now to take Finley away as a primary, even secondary read for Rodgers. Speaks volumes about the kid. He’s only 24.

        1. P.S. – Chad, not lumping you in with any ‘fans’ calling for Finley’s head. I understand the question you’re asking and it’s certainly fair game.

  7. Interesting arguements going on here. One thing I think we can all agree on is, Finley is a monument to inconsistency and it hasn’t changed over 4 years.

  8. Underperforming or overrated? Neither. He’s playing fairly well. Not perfectly, but he’s one reason the Packer offense is burning up the league.

  9. I wouldve thought Finley would be benefitting from our talented WRs, not the other way around. Still, either Jordy or Finley will benefit, which is good cuz theyre both on my fantasy team.

  10. an item that really brings out the fans opinions…what other TE in the entire NFL could have a game like he did against Cards in playoffs 2 years ago? I dont think he’s 100% recovered from knee..YAC would be up a little…seems like his presence is helping entire offense work better than last season…im hoping he returns after this season..i think the fantasy players look at football from a different planet basically…12=0

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