When Donald Driver is good, he's really good. But, at age 36, is he running out of gas?

Will Donald Driver be Back?

By Kevin Gibson

Donald Driver, you just got your first Super Bowl ring in your memorable 12-year NFL career: What’s next?

Good question.

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.

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Tags: Aaron Rodgers Brett Swain Donald Driver James Jones James Lofton Jordy Nelson Packers Receiving Corps Super Bowl

  • Joey

    I am sorry to say but this is retarded he just got an extension and he has already said hes coming back. Obviously the packers want him so another dumb question

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  • clint

    this article is written by an 8 th grader. If you don’t see the value of driver going over the middle and making tough catches, something that does not show up in your stat sheet, then you are an idiot. Also, decling numbers in an aging receiver? No kidding. Shocker. You nailed it. That its why you go beyond stats and actually analyze. But nice junior high essay

  • RJ

    The only place Donald Driver is a legend is in his own mind. He has been a good receiver for a long time; nothing more, nothing less. He’s never even been the best receiver on his own team. It’s time to move on unless he is willing to take a massive pay cut. The team can’t afford to lose younger and better players due to Driver’s excessive salary. They made the right decision to cut ties with the greatest quarterback in team history. This shouldn’t be nearly as difficult a choice. Hopefully they handle it with a little more class this time.

  • Jim

    There’s noting wrong with running the numbers on productivity on the players.Remember, full squad + 16 on IR = tough decisions. That said, Mr. Driver is one of the finest practitioners of the run after catch in the game. He can handle the scrutiny and should be given the opportunity to return.
    I live in Viking land where receivers obediently fall down or step out of bounds to save their careers and hairdos. That’s one of the things that made Randy Moss look like such a standout. In those days, he was the guy who turned upfield when the others didn’t or wouldn’t.
    The Green Bay tradition is to turn upfield and if there is no upfield available, punish the DB to force them to tackle. This tradition goes through Dale, McGee, Lofton, Sharpe, Freeman, Jennings and even Bill Schroeder. Mr. Driver is a big part of that tradition.

  • http://www.artbyjoel.com jkc

    Thompson should re-work Driver’s contract next season and give him a few more years at a reduced salary, and re-sign Jones. Despite his drops, he’s a good guy to spread the field with.