Donald Driver has provided years of highlights for the Green Bay Packers. Raymond T. Rivard photograph
The National Football League is cruel; it’s a business first and foremost – even for players as beloved as Donald Driver.
The Packers‘ veteran wide receiver who is currently still alive on the popular television dance contest Dancing with the Stars, may be the odd man out when it comes to earning a spot on the Packers’ 2012 roster.
And as difficult it might be in imagining Driver in another uniform, that day may be coming sooner than we realize.
When asked about whether Driver could be returning for the final year of his contract and his 14th year in the league, both head coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson declined to comment. Their lack of commitment is telling.
Why not bring him back? Because success in the NFL isn’t determined by the heart. It’s determined by youth, skill and numbers. In this case, Driver’s time with the Packers is running out not because of a lack of skill, but because of his age and being among a large number of really talented players who have huge upsides.
Realistically, Driver has one year left in him, maybe two. The Packers simply cannot risk losing one or two of their younger talents because they love Driver. They must keep Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and Randall Cobb.
In addition, I don’t see them giving up on last year’s practice squad talents Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel. With other teams seeking to sign both of those players off the Packers practice squad last winter, the team gave them huge raises to keep them around. It’s very difficult to think that they would have done so if they didn’t think they were going to bring them back.
Clearly, Double-D is the odd man out, despite showing incredible leadership last year and consistency on top of it all.
So, why has the team waited so long to make any kind of announcement? That’s an interesting question. Driver has said he would take a huge pay cut to stay with the team. That’s all well and good, but money isn’t the sticking point in this case. The issues are numbers, age and talent.
We all love Donald Driver. Next to Aaron Rodgers, his face is as much a part of the Packers franchise as anyone’s. He does funny television commercials, he dances with the stars, his smile is infectious.
But in the end, it’s probably not going to be enough.
Either the Packers let him walk and finish his career in another city or they bring him back and give up on other valued players who could give them years of production.
Donald, we love you. That’s why we have to say goodbye.