Sailing the Seas of Cheese: Saying Goodbye to Another Great One
“If Nick were my son, I would not let him play.”
–Mike McCarthy to Jason Wilde
It’s a famous quote by now, and in retrospect was the beginning of the end of Nick Collin’s career as a safety for the Green Bay Packers. I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that the Packers released their All-Pro Safety today. They didn’t want to gamble on an impaired player, but I suspect they also didn’t want to put a player at risk when he has his whole life ahead of him.
It would be easy to complain about a so-called Logan’s Run conspiracy theory that Ted Thompson assigns a hard and fast expiration date to each player only to replace them with fresh meat in a future draft. Last year it was Mark Tauscher. Chad Clifton and Nick Collins have already hit their dates this year, and the jury is still out if time has run out for Donald Driver. No one has ever labeled Ted Thompson as a softie. They are all replaced at one time or another. It doesn’t matter if your last name is Jennings, Matthews, Woodson or Rodgers. Your time is finite and like every player that has gone before you, there is always someone waiting in the wings to pick up where you left off.
It’s the nature of the NFL, or any other professional sports organization. The average NFL career lasts only three years. Most players have their moment in the sun then are put out to pasture either because of injuries or simply because something better came along. The Packers are no different. Eighty men (ninety this year) will enter training camp each year, and a little over half remain come September. When I was one of the training camp catering monkeys in college, it was always sad when the mass cuts would start. The players that were no older than the kids behind the grill like me slinging hash seemed to always take it the hardest. Their dreams were dashed before they could started. If they were lucky, another team may pick them up. Seasoned veterans would be there one day and gone the next.
If that spectacular 2010 season taught us anything, it’s that the Packers firmly believe in the Next Man Up philosophy. One brother-in-arms falls, another rises to take his place. It seems harsh with an apersonal gladiator brutality to it. But no one ever claimed football was a gentle or humane sport.
Except perhaps Mike McCarthy.
When Joe Philbin’s son died this past winter, McCarthy never once sounded like a coach eager to get his assistant’s head back in the game. As that tragedy played out, McCarthy went on the record saying, “…and as we always have, we’re a family-first philosophy with our organization, with our program”
I can’t help wonder if these values factored into the decision to let Nick go today. If Ted Thompson is the emotionless automatron of a brain that finely tunes the Packers machine, then Mike McCarthy is its heart. It’s always been more than a game to him. Those guys out on the field aren’t pawns. They are his boys. He spoke this way when Aaron Rodgers was down with his second concussion, and he’s spoken in the same tone when he’s discussed Nick Collins.
Of course it isn’t all hugs and puppies over at 1265 Lombardi. But you can’t condemn an organization like some who are already gathering the pitchforks and torches to rage against Thompson’s latest roster decision. McCarthy is a father. I don’t question the love he has for his little girls. But so is Nick Collins. Remember those cute little kids making confetti angels on the field in Dallas after the Super Bowl? Those were Nick’s children. At the end of the day, isn’t it more rewarding to be able to wrap your arms around your kids and give them a hug or a kiss?
It’s hard to do if you’re a quadriplegic.
Yes, I’m sure there is probably a doctor–likely many–that will clear Nick Collins to return to play even it puts his very life in danger and will tell him what he wants to hear whether or not its evidence-based or solid advice. But it sounds like there are other that are more cautious or who haven’t cleared him and have told him that he could risk not only paralysis but perhaps even death if he doesn’t retire.
Sometimes that’s where a parent needs to step in. As parents it is often our duty to make sure our children have what they need, not necessarily what they want.
I can’t help but wonder if McCarthy played the role of the concerned parent. Unlike the Saints and their multitude of moral depravity these days, no one can ever accuse Mike McCarthy of ever selling his soul to the devil to Just Win, Baby.
I wonder how much of that protective instict came into play today when they told Nick it was time to let him go.