Sailing the Seas of Cheese: The Curious Case of Jermichael Finley
He wants to be a great player and thinks he’s going to be a great player With his talent level, that’s half the battle. I look for him continuing to develop and establishing himself definitely as one of the tight ends, Pro Bowl tight ends, in this league.
Well, there you have it straight from the horse’s mouth. Jermichael Finley is going nowhere regardless of what anyone else has to say about the issue. Green Bay Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy has officially thrown his very public support behind his firebrand of a tight end. Love him or loathe him, Finley is here to stay. Pending an act of God, plague of frogs or Finley himself nothing will halt this reality.
But that’s not to say that Mr. YOTTO is not a source of controversy and the talk to sign him or kick him to the curb isn’t going to end until that expiring contract is remedied.
Why He Should Stay
Simply put, he’s the best the Packers have in the Tight End position. Quarless now has a giant question mark hanging over his head after his ACL injury. He was showing amazing progress this year, but there’s no guarantee he will ever be back to the same level of physicality after he is given the green light to return to play. Sure, there are some players that have been no worse for the wear after a knee repair. But there are no guarantees Quarless will be as lucky. Which brings us back to Finley being the top TE dog.
If you look at the statistics from the past season, Finley definitely was a large part of the offensive equation. Of all of the Tight Ends and Receivers, Finley was on the field the most. During the 2011 participated in 77% of all snaps. It’s not as though he’s not a main receiving target, he’s helping shore up the line. There is no question his blocking abilities have improved significantly (and for better or worse subtracts from his argument he should be tagged as a receiver in potential contract negotiations.)
When it comes to receiving productivity, there is no question Finley can be a reliable play maker. Getting down to the brass tacks of the season, Finley finished third in number of receptions (55), yardage (767 yards) and number of touchdowns (8) behind Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings. So it’s not like he’s a complete slouch that needs to be run out on a rail. And let’s face it. There’s something satisfying bout a giant, beefy Tight End totally dominating a mismatch with a scrawny cornerback.
Then there’s the decoy factor as well. If Finley wasn’t Aaron Rodgers’ target, he spent a lot of time drawing secondary coverage away from the true targets. Teams see him as a very large, deep threat. And if he’s getting routinely pounded by one or two defenders, that potentially frees up Nelson or Jennings for a reception. Look no further to the sign left behind in the visitor’s locker room this past Sunday that said something along the lines of Beat Up 88.
Where Finley Becomes a Problem
You know, Finley would probably have a better argument to get the franchise tag as a receiver if he, well, actually caught the ball more often. Don’t pretend that’s not the 600 pound gorilla in the room. For the record, he dropped 11 passes during the 2011 season ranking him as the fifth worst butterfingers in the league. With only 55 receptions on the year, that means, on average, he’s dropping the ball once in every six attempts to catch it. Not exactly a statistic anyone should be proud of. Yes, it seemed like every Packers’ receiver/TE had a case of the dropsies this year, but no other Packer even cracked the top ten (which includes about 22 receivers when you add in all the ties) in this category. And for the record, every team that has someone ranked 1-9 was never or is no longer in the playoff hunt.
That isn’t just an off day. That’s a hell of a lot of dropped balls.
Then there are the sloppy routes. You didn’t have to be a professional lip reader to see that Rodgers was not amused either and clearly chastised Finley to Run Your Route.
It’s one thing to realize that you are lacking focus and have a problem, but if you’re sitting atop the leader board for something dubious, you don’t start throwing other people under the bus for your own downfalls with statements such as the following:
As everyone can see, the chemistry’s not there with the quarterback.
As Colleen has already eloquently pointed out. Finley’s got a ball dropping problem because he drops balls. Period. And if he’s got such a horrible chemistry problem with his quarterback, perhaps the first step is knowing his name. It’s Aaron, by the way.
This brings us to what, in my opinion, is Finley’s biggest problem: his attitude and behavior. People write that off to his age, that most 24 year-olds don’t have to deal with the very public spotlight of the NFL and it’s just his lack of, well, life shining through. Then explain it to me that someone like Randall Cobb–who wasn’t even old enough to legally belly up to the many bars in Green Bay until the end of training camp–doesn’t have this type of problem? After all, Cobb is three years younger. And then there was Aaron Rodgers who was only a year older than Finley when he became the starting quarterback. Again, no one blamed that 6-10 season on his young age.
Age doesn’t determine your behavior. Your attitude does.
And then there was the stunt before the New Years Day game against the Lions where Finley surprised everyone including Mike McCarthy by dodging practice. He’s excuse was, “My legs really weren’t feeling right today…” No one knew what was going on with him, and he sat.
Not to go into full hyperbole mode, but My legs really weren’t feeling right today has a certain uncomfortable yet familiar ring to it. I’ll be honest. It sounded too much like Randy Moss’ famous declaration, Imma Gonna Play When I Wanna Play.
I’m perfectly aware that Jermichael Finley has never pretended to moon an end zone nor has he hit anyone with his car. But that egocentric behavior usually starts with more insidious overtones. You know, the passive aggressive stuff like blaming the quarterback and not calling him by name and also playing the obnoxious victim. That type of behavior can fester in a locker room and blossom into a full-blown malignancy if it is not cleaved off before it can metastasize.
Now I hope you clearly understand me; I am not condoning what happened to Finley or his wife on Twitter after the loss to the Giants. That was cyber bullying to the nth degree. But you can’t play the Whoa is Me victim then turn around the very next day and start kicking the hornet’s nest to hack off your critics. That, my dear, is also a form of trolling. Unless you’re talking grammar, two wrongs never equate a right.
By now you’ve saw the train wreck. The dregs of humanity piled on the Finleys which was followed by a very succinct column from CBS’s Mike Freeman condemning the dog piling. But Finley couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Later that night he started tweeting asinine jokes (which have since been retracted) about dropping stuff. First he joked about dropping the popcorn. And if we all didn’t realize he was breaking down that fourth wall trying to knock that hornet’s nest out of the tree, he followed it up with:
@JermichaelFinley88: I guess I have butterfingers. Lol just Thought I would give y’all something to talk abt.
Seriously, Finley, you are not helping your own image with these type of outbursts. Are you twelve or what? The again, no one has ever said he was subtle about anything.
Much Ado About Nothing
And this brings us back to the simple fact he isn’t going anywhere. A very wise person reminded me today that if the Packers are considering a future minus Donald Driver, one of the teams most tried and true offensive weapons, they sure as heck aren’t going to take a gamble by kicking Finley to the curb and hope something better floats their way. McCarthy summed Finley up perfectly in the quote at the top of the page. There is a lot of untapped potential in Jermichael Finley. He has shown some flashes of brilliance. But, as McCarthy pointed out, he still needs to be developed. He is still very much a work in progress–more focus on holding on to the ball, more commitment to running the proper routes, more filter before opening mouth and saying whatever comes to mind first.
The Green Bay Press Gazette’s Kareem Copeland has reported Finley’s agent is already going on the record that the packers want to ink a long-term deal instead of pulling the franchise tag trigger. Of course they’re still making the argument that he should be paid like a starting receiver should be compensated. But that’s between the Packers and Finley to decide because Mike McCarthy all but agreed with that assessment of how Finley fits into their offensive scheme.
So go ahead and gnash your teeth over the Curious Case of Jermichael Finley. I don’t claim to be his fan by any stretch of the imagination. Perhaps it’s because I refuse to be fluent in drama. Personal opinions aside, I will defer this decision to the Packers and am confident that they will make a decision that is in the best interest of the team.
Loving a football team is a lot like loving a family. There are some members of a family that drive you absolutely bonkers to the point that you want to punch them in throat. But in the end you don’t. And if push came to shove you’d actually defend them. Why? It’s not because you love them, or like them, or even tolerate them. In the end you may have to hold your nose and stick up for them. After all they are family, and they’re all you’ve got. In the end, blood is always thicker than water.
Like him or loathe him, Jermichael Finley is like that cousin you can’t stand yet you accept him, obnoxious lumps and all because that is what family does.