I had not planned on writing an article about Greg Jennings. I had not even planned on writing anything today, for that matter, but the timing is right and fruit is ripe for the picking.

Since yesterday, the Twitterverse, blogosphere, and sports media has been blowing up over this feud between Greg Jennings and Aaron Rodgers. Actually, it’s not really a feud because Aaron isn’t feeding into it. It’s more so a one-way attack from Greg directed at Aaron. Greg made some pretty harsh comments, including:

  • “Brett Favre? Receivers around him. Aaron Rodgers? Receivers around him. Christian Ponder? Receivers around him.” This quote was obviously meant that Aaron is only as good as his supporting cast. Brett must have been the best because he apparently didn’t have good targets to throw the ball to.
  • “You get respect when you give respect.” This quote is some veiled reference to how Greg feels disrespected by Aaron.

So, what’s really going on here? Is this some personal beef between Aaron and Greg? Maybe. There might be a little of that going on. But, what’s more likely is that Greg wants to be a big fish in a small pond.

More importantly, this isn’t about Greg being serious about big time football.

Green Bay has a very deep receiving corps. Ever since Ted Thompson arrived as GM, he’s made a point to stock the ranch full of stallions. Greg was part of this strategy since being drafted in the second round of 2006. However, Greg wasn’t the only piece of the receiving corps. Ted Thompson also spent high draft picks on James Jones (3rd round), Jordy Nelson (2nd round), and Randall Cobb (2nd round). Donald Driver was a low draft pick by Ron Wolf, but he was the consummate professional and all-around great teammate.

Greg is right about one thing. There is a very solid receiving corps in Green Bay. That is one reason why the Packers offense is so potent. However, where Greg went wrong is his decision to leave such a strong supporting cast. He’s just being selfish.

We’ve seen this all before.

It’s nothing new. If you analyze wide receivers in the free agent era, there is a repeated history of solid, but supporting-cast-type, receivers leaving their team in search of being a number one receiver elsewhere. The money certainly was an incentive, but a lot of it has to do with ego. They don’t want to rely on a supporting cast. They want to be “the man.”

Here’s a list of several wide receivers leaving via free agency to be “the man”:

  • Alvin Harper in 1995
  • Andre Rison in 1995
  • Desmond Howard in 1997
  • Bert Emanuel in 1998
  • Yancy Thigpen in 1998
  • David Boston in 2003
  • Antonio Bryant in 2006
  • Antwaan Randel El in 2006
  • Jerry Porter in 2008
  • Laveranues Coles in 2009
  • Greg Jennings in 2013

What do all of these men have in common? Besides leaving their supporting roles in search of being “the man”? They (with the exception of Greg Jennings, which is yet to be seen) all turned out to be huge busts. They never lived up to the hype. They never lived up to their lucrative contracts. They were all huge disappointments. They never became “the man.”

Those players show the big-fish-in-a-small-pond syndrome at its finest. Greg is no different. Sure, he wanted some money. But, I think his ego played a big part in it. By all accounts, Randall Cobb is a rising star. He’s fast. He’s electric. He’s young. More importantly, he seems to stay healthy, which Greg could not do as of late. The general feeling was Randall was likely going to start in the slot even if Greg remained on the team. Greg’s best position was also the slot. So, you can see the ego bruising going on.

Greg took a shot to his ego. He was most likely going to be relegated to playing split end or flanker, which are on the outside. That’s not his best position. But, he lost out to the rising star in Randall Cobb. Natural selection. Old Man Time. Whatever you want to call it, but time moves on.

Greg did what’s natural in the NFL, especially considering history as our metric. He left a solid team to try to be “the man” elsewhere. Will it work out? Only time will tell. He certainly doesn’t have a very established quarterback in purple (see what I did there?)

However, where Greg went wrong is he made it personal. He could have left in good graces, taken the money bags, and left it at that. Most of the other wide receiver free agent busts listed above did just that. But, Greg had to praise the quarterback who did not help him win a Super Bowl ring while putting down the quarterback who did help win the ring. Furthermore, Greg tried taking credit for just how good Aaron Rodgers is.

Will we ever know the true nature of the feud? Most likely not because we have come to know Aaron Rodgers as a private guy and certainly one who does not throw other players under the bus. All we can do is see how the situation unfolds and hope for schadenfreude.

In the end, this isn’t Greg being serious about big time football. If he was serious, he would have stayed in Green Bay and tried to make another serious run at the Super Bowl. This is all about Greg. It’s all about trying to be the big fish in a small pond.

I’ll conclude with a related, yet slightly unrelated, story. Between 1987-1989, Bill Curry was the head football coach at my a lma mater , Alabama. He had reasonable success, but left under very curious circumstances to be the head coach at perennial doormat Kentucky. He did nothing to get Kentucky out of the cellar.

In 1992, his Alabama successor, Gene Stallings, took the Crimson Tide to a National Championship. At this point, Bill crawled out from the woodwork and starting spouting off that those were “his players” that “he recruited.” He wanted credit for another person’s success.

Years later, Stallings replied, “If you’re a big time coach, you don’t go to Kentucky.”

So, Greg Jennings, if you’re a big time receiver, you don’t go to Minnesota. 

You try to win your job back as the slot receiver in Green Bay. See what you have and give it your all. If you want to be a coward and leave, don’t make it personal and attack Aaron Rodgers. If I remember correctly, Matt Flynn didn’t throw you those two touchdowns in the Super Bowl. I don’t think anyone else in the world could have threaded that needle on the first one. Don’t take credit for Aaron’s talent. It’s just tacky.

If the purple quarterback (see what I did there) isn’t Associated Press All-Pro this year, it must mean that Aaron Rodgers is pretty good after all.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite movies, “Fight Club.”

“You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We’re all part of the same compost heap. We’re all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”

Good luck being “the man,” Greg.

 

 

 

 

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  • Hyatt Lazear

    I enjoyed your article, but I disagree with the circumstances of your list. You call Jennings a “Second Fiddle” receiver leaving to pursue a #1 position. How quickly we forget that just 2 seasons ago, he was the Packers undisputed #1 receiver with 3 excellent seasons proving so. Then he got hurt. Last year, he was expected to come back and assume the #1 mantle again, but got hurt. Greg was expendable as you pointed out. The guys that left to be “The Man” are a different situation.

    This isn’t an Alvin Harper, Yancy Thigpen, Randel El, or Jerry Porter situation. Those are genuine second fiddles who did not produce as #1s. But Jennings clearly isn’t that. Let’s look at the rest of your list.

    Rison is the most applicable, as he was a 2 time all pro coming off a down season, though still considered a #1 receiver. He was 1st or 2nd team all pro from 90-93. 94 was still a 1000 yard season for him on a really mediocre Falcons team. Leaving in 95 to Cleveland was him going for more money, not a #1 position.

    Boston was coming off an injury filled season after 2 very good years, including a 2001 All Pro selection. He got hurt in 02, but still produced the most for any Cardinal receiver. He clearly was not looking for a #1 spot.

    Bryant had 1 good season, and shouldn’t be listed with any of these guys, as he was a failure in Dallas who broke out in cleveland after being traded.

    Coles left to join a squad in Cinci as a TJ Houshmanzadeh replacement when he left. In fact, Houshmanzadeh would be a decent addition to your list, even though it is not applicable to Greg.

    Again, enjoyed the Article, but let’s not marginalize what Greg was.

    • Jay

      You make some great points. Greg was the #1 receiver for several years. That’s my point. He was. The emergence of Randall Cobb meant Greg was no longer going to be the #1 guy in the slot. Greg’s injuries just accelerated that last season. So, he left. Rumors are Ted Thompson offered him $10 mil a year before he tested the market. Greg signed with the Vikings for less. So, it wasn’t strictly about the money. It was something more personal.

      Also, another point of mine was to show that free agent receivers often have trouble catching that lightning in the bottle on their new teams. Sure, it can happen. Look at Brandon Marshall. But, for every Brandon Marshall, there’s an Alvin Harper and a Yancy Thigpen.

      Thanks for your comments. They were insightful.

      • Jay

        Brandon Marshall was a trade (trade then sign to huge contract), not a free agent. But, my point still stands.

        • Satori

          Nice work again Jay,

          You hit the nail on the head – bruised ego is why Gerg is now wearing purple. And his family, his new team and his favre-ite former QB are all happy to egg him on in taking shots at the Packers.

          Kinda cool that he did it on TV too, its becoming a former- Packer-now-a-viking tradition to air your Packer grievances through the media. Feel the burn !

          The good news is he’ll get exactly what he deserves, not unlike he who came before him and followed the same script

          • Jay

            Hey Satori, glad to see you back here reading my column. I appreciate your comments and insights.

  • http://www.pocketdoppler.com Harland O. Dog

    But, you weren’t listening….he only left to give the younger receivers a chance. ;)

  • Stephen

    Love it, great piece Jay. It’s such a shame that he has turned like this – may be I wont be quite so proud wearing his jersey in the future after all.