By Kevin Gibson
Donald Driver, you just got your first Super Bowl ring in your memorable 12-year NFL career: What’s next?
Green Bay’s elder statesman has indeed had one heckuva career, and he’s signed for two more years of a total $17.8 million contract. However, at age 36, he’s clearly on the decline, having just completed what stands statistically as his worst season since 2001.
Not counting playoffs, Driver has 698 receptions for 9,615 yards in his career, numbers that will forever etch him as one of the best pass-catchers ever to don the green and gold. However, two things seem to be plaguing the Packers mainstay: injuries and drops.
A lingering quad injury limited him to just 51 catches for 561 yards this past season, numbers well below his impressive string of six straight 1,000-yard seasons. Then, after a solid playoff run, he got hurt early in this year’s Super Bowl victory over the Steelers and was a non-factor.
And let’s look at the 2010-11 season as a whole: After catching nine passes for 61 yards against the Bears in Week 3, Driver did not catch more than five passes in any regular season game. During that time, he clearly looked out of sorts, dropping balls he normally would catch and looking unable to break big plays (except for his key touchdown run against San Francisco). He also had a key drop in the near-miss loss to New England. One also might recall that he had three drops in last year’s barn-burner against the Steelers.
Here’s another stat to chew on: Donald Driver’s 3.06 yards after the catch average in 2010 was his lowest mark since 2004. Yes, the old man is beginning to slow down.
However, at times, he still makes ridiculous, one-handed catches, and still makes clutch receptions. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers clearly trusts him, which speaks volumes. And how can one measure the value his presence and leadership bring to the locker room and especially to the young receiving corps? Not to mention his position in the community. Let’s face it: There are stand-up citizens, and there is Donald Driver.
Also, it bears noting that he’s just 42 yards from breaking James Lofton’s team record for receiving yards; considering what he’s given to the Packers – and to Packers fans – over the years, he deserves at least another season.
James Jones just finished the last year of his contract. It will be interesting to see if they let Jones – no stranger to bone-headed drops himself – walk and keep Driver around as long as possible to continue mentoring Jordy Nelson and Brett Swain. And will the Packers try to draft a wide receiver in April to fill a future slot?
The Milwaukee News-Sentinel recently reported that the Packers “will try to get younger” at wide receiver soon. If that’s the case, the clock is ticking on a Green Bay Packers legend-to-be. But here’s guessing he has at least one more season in the tank.